HC Deb 05 March 1970 vol 797 cc627-770

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [4th March]: That this House approves the Statement on Defence 1970, contained in Command Paper No. 4290.—[Mr. Healey.] Which Amendment was, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: deplores the policies of Her Majesty's Government which involve a continuing reduction in the effectiveness of our defence forces to the detriment of national security, interests and commitments "—[Mr. Rippon.] Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.

Mr. Speaker

May I make one announcement. There are still many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who wish to speak in the debate, including many who sat right through the whole of yesterday. I hope that when the general debate begins the speeches will be reasonably brief.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)

In opening his speech yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence said that he considered there was evidence that we are entering upon an era of negotiation. I am inclined very much to agree with him, and I welcome it.

In 1963, we, with the Americans—and in this my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) played a leading part—negotiated the partial test ban treaty. I felt at that time that there was an opportunity—and this was indicated in our discussions then with the Soviet Union—for making further progress; not with a grandiose, all-embracing scheme, but item by item; not in a large general conference at Geneva, but by representatives of those directly involved together discussing these matters. I felt at that time that the Soviet Union would have been prepared at least to probe the possibility of doing this, but the opportunity was lost, the Americans became preoccupied soon afterwards with other matters, and no further progress was made.

Since then there has been the non-proliferation agreement, and now there are the talks on the limitation of strategic arms, the discussions which we hope will start with the Federal German Republic about East Berlin and, in N.A.T.O., as the Secretary of State said, there is an attempt to keep talks going on the limitation of forces. I repeat, I welcome this wholeheartedly. This makes it all the more strange that the Foreign Secretary is taking no part in this debate, as used to be the custom always in defence debates, to explain what will be the proposals of Her Majesty's Government in this situation, and to tell the House what part they propose to play in the negotiations, if they are to play any direct part. I do not see any other Foreign Office Minister on the Front Bench, let alone the Foreign Secretary.

I say in all earnestness to the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to read the debate, that no Government have ever given so little information as this Government to the House of Commons and to the country about the proposals which they have put forward in international negotiations, not only on defence, but in other most important spheres, such as the Middle East, on which we are now pressing for a debate. No Government, certainly during recent times, have done so little to encourage public discussion of these all-important issues, and to provide the basis on which a satisfactory discussion can take place.

If some progress is being made in this approaching era of negotiation, the world has also witnessed the occupation and subsequent domination of Czechoslovakia. So we have to consider the position from which we negotiate in this forthcoming era, our posture while negotiations are going on, or afterwards should they not at first succeed, and our responsibiliites in spheres outside the main areas of negotiations and beyond the present categories of international discussion. I refer, in particular, to the Gulf and to Singapore and Malaysia. It is to these three points that I wish to address myself this afternoon in what I hope will be a comparatively brief intervention.

Perhaps the Minister of Defence for Equipment will excuse me if I do not follow the speech which he made last night. When I heard his remarks about the costs which often had to be written off when approaching the frontiers of knowledge, it occurred to me that the speech must have been written by the same people who have been writing it for the last 20 years.

I deal, first, with the posture from which we negotiate. The Secretary of State said that some readjustment of defence burdens as between North America and Western Europe is inevitable during the new decade. Indeed, it has started with the reduction of Canadian forces. If that is the firm conclusion of the Secretary of State—and I explained my own views of what is underlying present American attitudes in the course of the debate on the European Economic Communities—it is incumbent upon the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence to explain how they intend to urge upon the alliance the means of dealing with this new situation. It was this which was lacking in the right hon. Gentleman's speech yesterday.

What hope of successful negotiation on force levels can there be if the Soviet bloc believes that a Western reduction in force levels is inevitable in the near future because of the intentions of the United States authorities? It is true that President Nixon has said that there will not be a reduction until the middle of 1971, and then we may work on the basis that methods of reinforcement will be available. But even in the middle of 1971, there is all too short a time available for the alliance to make provision for this eventuality and to make the necessary dispositions.

The Secretary of State may argue that, if a balance is to be kept, this means massive additions of British forces and the reintroduction of conscription in Britain. I do not believe that there is any justification for such an argument. Again, as I said in the debate on the European Economic Communities, I believe that this readjustment to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred can be brought about without that and without weakening the Western position. If the Secretary of State puts forward that argument, it is even less justifiable after his announcement yesterday of the movement in the autumn of 6 Brigade and the other British forces to Germany. It is certainly not justifiable and less so in the light of that announcement.

That announcement means that at last, from next October, one of the oft-repeated figures of the Secretary of State will be legitimised. All the rest of his figures remain but the natural offspring of his crooked mind. However, this at any rate has become legitimate.

The proportion of the gross national product which is spent by us on defence is still greater than that of our other European allies. Of course, part of it is spent in the Near East and Far East, but that serves not only the interests of the countries there and our own, but also those of our allies and of the West. It serves peace in Cyprus, stability in the Gulf and Malaysia and Singapore, and on that stability depend the fuel resources of so much of Western Europe and the United States as well as ourselves, and the trade of other countries in Western Europe and in the Western world outside it. Other countries recognise this.

That is why the United States and members of the Commonwealth want us to continue to carry out our obligations outside the European theatre. The Europeans also recognise the services of our forces outside Europe. The Europeans themselves do not take the view of those so newly converted to Europeanism that their objective must be to retire into a fortress Europe. They know that part of what we have to bring to a European entity is our connections with the outside world and our ability to discharge our responsibilities there.

No. To say that the readjustment must not lead to a change in balance while negotiations are going on does not mean conscription in Britain. I hope that the Secretary of State will firmly confirm that view tonight. It means, as he hinted, a fresh opportunity for thrashing out these problems and reaching a solution with a new French Government. There has been great emphasis on the importance of a new Federal German Govvernment. I believe that it is equally important that there is a new French Government, and that Her Majesty's Government should not be slow to take advantage of having discussions with that Government about it.

This means that some of those rather rabid anti-German voices which are sometimes raised behind the Secretary of State must be defeated in their opposition to the part which the Federal German Republic plays in N.A.T.O. It means, in any case, that there should be proper provision of reserves in this country behind the British forces. One of the greatest failures of Her Majesty's Government in defence lies in the provision of the reserves. As the Secretary of State knows, it is on this ground that we criticise him most severely.

In dealing with the first point to which I want to address myself, namely, the European balance while negotiations are being carried on, I urge Her Majesty's Government to take the initiative in this, to move speedily and to make practical preparations for the readjustment of the balance if, as the Secretary of State has confidently said, it is inevitable. We cannot have a successful negotiation with the Eastern bloc, however much we desire it, unless that is done.

The second matter to which I address myself is our defence posture while the negotiations are going on, or in the event of the failure of negotiations. To a considerable extent, the debate has concentrated on nuclear strategy. It has been described not only on this occasion but previously as rather similar to a theological disputation. No one who has listened to the debate would deny that sometimes it takes on such aspects. Nevertheless, neither can anyone else deny that on such a discussion, and on the decisions taken as a result of it, could depend the future of hundreds of millions of the human race.

Such arguments and such judgments about nuclear weapons, whether in tactical or strategic form, if we accept that difference, seem to involve the deepest workings of the human mind both of free men in a democratic society and of men living or in positions of responsibility in an authoritarian régime. These weapons, which are so awesome and the workings of the human mind, which at times are wellnigh unfathomable, make it seem to me that dogmatism in these matters is inexcusable and that an attitude of some humility is not altogether out of place. Surely this view is supported by the evidence of the way in which attitudes have varied and the emphasis has changed as the discussion has waged to and fro over the past 20 years.

In this respect, we in Britain are far less informed than elsewhere. Our discussion is less vigorous than elsewhere, whether it is in North America, especially in the United States, or whether it is in Europe. This Government have done less than any other in the alliance to give a basis for an informed discussion about the problems of nuclear weapons.

Before I come to the general problems which arise on strategy, I want to deal with one point about the British position—the independent British deterrent. When I use the word "independent" I mean independence of control. I hope that we are agreed upon that. I read in a prominent newspaper that the Prime Minister was to answer my challenge on this point. I was not aware that it was a challenge. I was asking for information. The news item went on to say that the right hon. Gentleman was to do so, rather typically, through the Secretary of State for Defence, who dealt with it yesterday, rather characteristically, by not mentioning it. The fact is that the Nassau Agreement—

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. He will be aware that I dealt with this question in an intervention when his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) was speaking. I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman was not here, or was not awake at the time.

Mr. Heath

I said that the Secretary of State did not answer it in his speech. He took no initiative to deal with it. Only when my right hon. and learned Friend dealt with it did he jump up to make an intervention. If he was under instruction from his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to deal with it, I would have thought that it was worth a passage in his speech.

What the Nassau Agreement did was to give power to the British Government to use the independent deterrent, not on anyone else's authority nor with anyone else's permission, but in case of vital national need on their own decision.

The Prime Minister says that he regards it as not usable unless N.A.T.O. breaks down. The Secretary of State says that it is independent, but that it has been integrated into N.A.T.O. The facts are these and they should be put on record. The Nassau Agreement has not been renegotiated; it remains in its original form. Whether the Prime Minister's intention is only to use it if N.A.T.O. breaks down, or whether the Secretary of State says that it has been integrated into N.A.T.O., does not alter the fact that legally and practically the British deterrent can be used by a British Government under the conditions laid down in the Nassau Agreement.

Mr. Healey

indicated assent.

Mr. Heath

That is the plain fact of the matter and I am glad to see the Secretary of State nodding.

We believe that the Prime Minister is right to maintain that position and congratulate him upon doing so. What we cannot understand is why he cannot simply stand up at that Box and say so instead of kow-towing to the back benchers below the Gangway. He has done what is right. Why does not he stand up and take the credit for it? Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene? Apparently not. I was mistaken. The Prime Minister is, as ever, modest and merely wishes to refresh himself.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

If the right hon. Gentleman did not get a fuller answer last week, and if I did suggest that this could be better dealt with in the debate, it was because the right hon. Gentleman twice purported to quote my right hon. Friend's answer and, in a way not in accordance with the custom of the House, gave the first half of the sentence and not the second.

Mr. Heath

The Secretary of State has just nodded in agreement with what I have said. The Prime Minister cannot get out of it like that. Let him cease being so modest and stand up and say that the Nassau Agreement has not been renegotiated as promised and that the Government now conclude that it was right not to renegotiate.

Turning to the N.A.T.O. strategy, I believe that the discussion on this has been bedevilled by the impression given by the Secretary of State that this is not argued on its military merits, but on the basis of expenditure. This, I believe, is what really leads to misunderstandings by so many hon. Members below the Gangway. Of course, the cost of an alternative is vitally important. But, at the same time, in giving options to the House of Commons, or to the country, or to our allies, costs ought to be indicated. An endeavour ought to be made to weigh up the risks of being involved in nuclear warfare against the impact of the additional cost of large conventional forces. This is the only true analysis which can enable us to face the problems which are involved.

This has not happened, and I regret that it has not. But one has to try to clear one's mind of the arguments which are based purely on the cost of conventional weapons. After considering, as best I can, the problems involved, I want to say that I accept the present N.A.T.O. strategy in the present state of thinking, including the use of tactical weapons. I have said that I think that past history shows how views and emphases change as one tries to think further and further through these immense problems. What I would question would be any assertion that it is always possible in all circumstances to use tactical weapons to secure a pause or that they could always be distinguished as such in use or in targeting.

What I am issuing is a word of caution against a deduction which may be made from the approach now set out in the Secretary of State's speech, and the White Paper, that this is a nice, ordered progress which will work in this way.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend did not say that.

Mr. Heath

I am perfectly entitled to warn how these matters could be interpreted. That is what I want to say about the attitude towards the use of tactical weapons. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not always held this view. They themselves have had doubts about it.

I remember, when I was at the Foreign Office, being violently attacked about making a distinction between tactical and strategic weapons. The Secretary of State himself and the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, constantly talked about a considerable increase in conventional forces in order to raise the threshhold to deal with this particular problem. I make no complaint about this. I do not blame them in any way, because I emphasise that these problems are of such complexity and intricacy that we are all bound to change our attitudes from time to time. But what we should do is try to think them through and consider their impact on strategy.

My other point about the use of tactical weapons is that I do not accept the view that they are bound to lead to escalation to strategic weapons, which is the other side of the extreme in this argument. I do not accept that automatically they will lead to such a rapid escalation as to be hardly discernible in time, although it is possible.

My next point about strategy is, "Is it, then, incredible that strategic nuclear weapons could be used?" This dogmatic statement is made by some hon. Members and in the Press. They say that it is quite incredible, that there is a doubt about credibility. To those who hold that view I reply in his way. To any aggressor there must also be a doubt about the incredibility of the nuclear weapon. It is this which acts as a deterrent just as much as saying that it is absolutely credible that it will always be used. No aggressor can be absolutely certain that it will not be used.

It is, therefore, the element of doubt in the incredibility of the nuclear strategic weapon which means that it still remains a deterrent. In my view, there is too much at stake for the aggressor to be absolutely certain in these matters, and it is that element of uncertainty which remains the deterrent in the strategy of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Healey

May I say that I totally agree with the right hon. Gentleman and that I have argued this in the House repeatedly in the last few years. But I also remember that his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) pointed out yesterday that for three years, as spokesman of the Conservative party in opposition, he argued that what the right hon. Gentleman has just said was a theological illusion and totally unjustifiable.

Mr. Heath

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is entitled to express his own view in whatever way he likes. What I am trying to do, as Leader of the Opposition, is to express views on the current controversy about N.A.T.O. nuclear strategy; and if the Secretary of State could raise himself to that level, I should be grateful.

I therefore believe that it is right in present circumstances to rely on a strategy which involves the present balance of orthodox forces and the tactical and strategic weapons.

The Prime Minister

The point is that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), from whom the leader of the Opposition has dissociated himself, was the Opposition's official defence spokesman. He was dropped from that position not because of his defence views, but because of his immigration views.

Mr. Heath

If the right hon. Gentleman wants an argument about the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, he can have it. If he examines my right hon. Friend's statements on defence, he will see that my right hon. Friend never took up the absolute position as Shadow Defence Minister which the Secretary of State has outlined. What I am putting forward are the views on N.A.T.O. strategy and they are put forward on behalf of the Opposition.

The conclusion, then, is that risks are worth taking not only to avoid blackmail, but because of the deterrent element which remains in nuclear weapons. Even with massive conventional forces, the risks, in my view, would still be there. I cannot conceive of a conventional warfare with massive forces which did not flow to and fro in the usual way that history has shown, and in which there might not be a risk even in these circumstances of escalation through nuclear weapons. So the risk would still be there.

The Secretary of State is right to point out the evidence of the last 25 years, which has, to me, been achieved in conditions of absolute superiority of one side in nuclear weapons. What I regret—and this is the point I made in my intervention yesterday—is that he did not address himself to the modern situation in which we are dealing with what President Nixon has described as a sufficiency of nuclear weapons instead of a massive superiority. This, I believe, as do others, could introduce a further element of risk into the situation. So, it is the proper limitation of strategic nuclear arms which is the best way of limiting the risks, and hence the importance of the talks now being carried on.

In view of this, what remains of the Secretary of State's accusation, both in the House and outside, that Conservative policies mean conscription? Absolutely nothing whatever remains of that accusation. That statement was a deliberate electionering trick, false in substance, unjustifiable in argument, squalid in motivation and comparable only to the libel on Sir Winston Churchill at the beginning of the 1950s—"Whose finger on the trigger?" How long will it be, in his attempt to nobble the 18-plus vote, before the right hon. Gentleman tries that one again?

I have accused the Secretary of State and the Government of limiting information to the country. I have one happy contrast to bring to the attention of the House. Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) put down Question No. 31 to the Secretary of State. It was not reached and the Ministry of Defence, in the usual way, sent a copy of the Answer to my hon. Friend, for which he was very grateful. But a new development of Government policy also came into effect at the same time, because the right hon. Gentleman also sent two foolscap sheets containing the supplementary questions he was advised might be asked, together with the supplementary answers which he might give.

This is very illuminating. The two sheets contain 10 possible supplementary questions with the suitable answers. There are round brackets in case the Secretary of State should feel benevolent in the supplementaries, and square brackets in case he should be hard pressed as to what he should say, and, of course, there are suitable warnings that "other examples might be quoted"—a happy warning phrase.

This is a development we welcome. It tells us not only the information we can have, but the information we ought not to have. But, as is so often the way, the one supplementary question to which this list does not give an answer is the one which my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury was going to ask. We do not wish to discourage the Secretary of State.

We hope that this new development of policy will be continued. At least, it will put us on a level in the House of Commons with his own private Press conferences.

Mr. Healey

I am delighted to discover that the Government are sometimes guilty of the same errors which the Opposition were guilty when they were the Government. But I should like to correct the right hon. Gentleman on one point of fact. Question No. 31 was reached yesterday, but the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) was not here to ask it.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

We are not on a point of order.

Mr. Heath

I am glad to know of this new development of Government policy. It might suit me to ask my hon. Friends to stay away most of the time at Question Time in order to get such very full information.

The Prime Minister

It is good that we should develop this new form of parliamentary participation and, of course, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, it has happened before. However, by a strange accident of a similar character, very full and voluminous briefs for the questions which the Leader of the Opposition should put to me at Question Time fall into our hands on occasion, but I have thought that perhaps it was not very gentlemanly for me to use them in the House. Does the interesting precedent now being made by the right hon. Gentleman today mean that he feels that I should now be free to give the House information of the type I have mentioned when it comes into my hands?

Mr. Heath

Perhaps the Prime Minister has not noticed that these papers were sent officially to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury by the Ministry of Defence. Perhaps he would like to say when any sort of information from me has been sent officially to his office.

Of course, we know what will be involved in carrying out the new policy for which the Secretary of State is responsible—it will mean, no doubt, huge imports of newsprint, the employment of masses of new clerks to type it all out and no doubt direction of labour by the Government in order to provide the stuff.

The Secretary of State had better realise that the sort of nonsense he has produced in the figures he has given to the House from time to time is equivalent to the sort of nonsense his Ministry has just perpetrated—none bigger than the figure he has produced of the alleged savings on Tory expenditure which he has achieved since taking office.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said yesterday, quite rightly, that the Secretary of State might as well have gone on from 1951, from the time of the last Labour Government, and projected how much the Conservative Government saved. In fact, the figures have been worked out. The right hon. Gentleman likes to say that he has saved £3,000 million, nonsense though he knows it is. During the 13 years following the projections of the Attlee Administration in 1951, we saved £12,190 million, thereby proving ourselves to be four times as good a Government as the right hon. Gentleman's. How can a man of the right hon. Gentleman's ability lend himself to such disreputable nonsense in the figures he has produced? It is an abuse of his office, and those he uses to serve in it, to produce such fantasies and perpetrate them in public.

Nowhere are the right hon. Gentleman's fantasies greater than in his attitude towards Conservative policy in the Persian Gulf and Southern Asia. The reason is simple to understand. The policy we shall carry out is the policy that he himself fought far and for which we paid tribute to him at the time. It was right then and it is right now, and he knows it to be so. The Prime Minister himself is on record on innumerable occasions as saying that this is the right policy to follow. The Prime Minister need not sigh. I do not propose to quote all the occasions on which he said it, but I will quote one, his speech to the Australia Club dinner in June, 1966, because it is important in the context of what we have been discussing about Europe: We recognise that it is in the Far East and Asia that the greatest danger to peace may lie in the next decade"— and it is the next decade that we are discussing in this debate— and that some of our partners in the Commonwealth, including Australia, may be directly threatened. We reaffirm our belief that it is right that Britain should continue to maintain a military presence in this area. I give the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister credit for that, because it was right. I wll not quote "eyeball to eyeball", or that phrase about the British frontier being on the Himalayas, because those could have been said to be metaphors used in a rash moment. But in that statement he was right.

The Secretary of State was right. In his heart of heart he believes it still, but he is a beaten man. He should have resigned. He knows that he should have resigned, and he excused himself to himself and to others with whom he was working by looking round at his colleagues and saying, "Look at what worse will befall if I resign". Ever since that day he has had to live with the lie in the soul, so he reacts by trying to take it out of his opponents by fabricating figures, on every possible occasion, to prove that what he knows he himself ought to have done cannot be done by anybody else.

What an extraordinary speech was the right hon. Gentleman's yesterday which did not even mention the wishes of the four other Commonwealth Governments involved. And why not?—because he dare not. He knows that they want a British presence to remain in Singapore and Malaysia. When the right hon. Gentleman attacked the Opposition, he did not mention the new concept of a five-Power force either because he has not grasped the content of it, or because the plain fact is that he was not able to achieve it himself in the battle he fought. That is the explanation.

I want now to deal with these points one by one. First, the policy is right. The Commonwealth countries concerned believe it to be right and want it to be carried out. Secondly, our purpose. The Government are still bound by the Malaysian defence agreement. It was negotiated by us as a Government. It does not concern internal affairs; nor do our proposals concern internal affairs. Why, having reached that agreement, as a Government should we want to change our position now, in opposition.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)rose

Mr. Heath

No; I am trying to cover the ground quickly.

If the Secretary of State intends to renegotiate the Malaysian agreement in the time that remains left to him, let him tell us what the Government propose to put in a new Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement. They have responsibility at the moment, but they have done nothing to renegotiate since Singapore left the Federation; so let the Secretary of State say now whether the Government will try to negotiate in the short time left and, if so, what is going into the agreement.

Mr. MacLellan


Mr. Speaker

Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, will the hon. Gentleman sit down.

Mr. Heath

You have already said, Mr. Speaker, that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak.

The next point about the five-Power force is that there is not to be a British predominance. It is to be one part of a five-Power force. Other Commonwealth countries are committed to it. Australia and New Zealand have announced that they are to keep forces there after 1971. The Governments of Malaya and Singapore are building up, as best they can in these circumstances, their own forces.

The facilities for a five-Power Commonwealth force can be provided by the countries there taking part in the force. This force does not depend on a British carrier force. All Commonwealth countries recognise that. But we do say that in general terms of strategy there is every reason why we should get value for money out of the remaining life of the carrier force instead of being prepared to throw away the vast expenditure that the Government have incurred on refitting the carrier force.

So much for the argument of the Secretary of State about the need to expand dockyards, and his announcement that what is set out in an official document as the cost of the carriers, £13 million, should suddenly, to controvert our own proposals, become £60 or £70 million. That casts doubts on any kind of figures the Secretary of State proposes. As for the source of the forces, what is he doing with those that came from the Far East? He has pushed some into Hong Kong, which has not had them previously, and which they do not regard as being necessary of their own accord.

For the rest, the Government are to push naval forces into the Mediterranean, where they are not necessary, and will do so to get them out of Singapore and the Far East. They are not there at the moment. They are in the Far East and are not serving any purpose at all in N.A.T.O. strength. That cannot be denied. These are the points about the actual position now in the Far Eastern force.

The Secretary of State says that he will meet the problem in a different way. He is to have a general capability for reinforcement, but what is the credibility of this force? In the Far East, it is nil. When a Government have broken their word three times about the forces it is to have there, why should anybody believe that they will bring forces from thousands of miles away in an emergency? They do not believe it, nor would this force be available, apparently, for dealing with external subversive elements if it was required quickly—and surely the timing must be one of the most important things.

I understand from Press announcements that an exercise is to take place there. A force is to be flown out on 11th April. It will then do jungle training for acclimatisation purposes from 26th April to 5th June—six weeks—and will be there for one week before doing an exercise. Of course, any general capability to be flown out to the Far East has to be acclimatised. This is the first thing against it. Secondly, it is to take this amount of time to fly out.

There is no intention of keeping weapons for the force available on the spot and, therefore, the resources have to be made available to fly their weapons out. This is not a proper reflection of the position because the naval element is now there, on the spot. What is the time to be if the naval element has to be moved out as well?

If the intention is genuine, therefore, it is quite apparent that this is not a satisfactory method of coping with the peculiar problems which, as the Secretary of State knows, are threatening the stability of the whole of that area. The Secretary of State makes against us the accusation that our five-Power force may need reinforcement. Equally, his force may need reinforcement. Of course it may. When he has flown out what is available under his present exercise plan he may have to reinforce it; and where are his reinforcements to come from? They have to be moved from other commitments, as we had to do over confrontation.

Just for a moment the Secretary of State's real view peeped out yesterday when he admitted on the spur of the moment—it slipped out—that the forces in confrontation were used to good effect: and so they were. They were used more economically than any other forces in that area and they achieved more; and they have never had credit for it.

Mr. Healey

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that I have not always given credit to the superb work of our forces in confrontation, because he will know that that is totally untrue. I have always emphasised the superb rôle of our forces.

I have also pointed out that it took 55,000 men to fulfil a commitment which flowed directly from the Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement which was not foreseen by the British Government of the day when it made that agreement. That is why I have insisted on the right hon. Gentleman "coming clean" about whether or not he intends to maintain that commitment. He says he does and in that case he must be prepared to pay the price in men and money to fulfil it.

Mr. Heath

I have asked the Secretary of State what commitments he is prepared to have with his general capability. He has given no answer to that question. Let him answer it tonight; but in any case the decision reached at the time was in the hands of the British Government and the Cabinet in particular. The extent to which British forces are used under these agreements on these occasions has always been in the hands of the British Cabinet. To those who say that any use of a force like this will escalate into a Vietnam, I say that that risk applies just as much to the Government's proposals as to ours. That is inescapable. But British Cabinets have had to handle situations like this for many years.

There is another specific example which some will recall. When the struggle in Laos was going on there were those in the United States who held the view that Laos ought to be reinforced in the same way as later Vietnam was reinforced and that this force should be put on the Mekong. It was not the view of the British Government at the time that that should happen. There was then a discussion between Mr. Macmillan and President Kennedy at Key West at which it was agreed that the forces would not be put on the Mekong, that they would not be built up there, and Laos did not escalate. Instead, there was a long conference at Geneva in which Mr. Averell Harriman and Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, with others, thrashed out an agreement. It was not tidy; it was messy. The situation is still messy, but we were not bogged down in Laos or on the Mekong, and the situation was not allowed to escalate.

These are the fundamental decisions which any British Government have to take. We must face that, whether it is the Secretary of State's scheme or our proposals. What I argue is that our proposals are militarily more sound, more effective, and a better deterrent to subversion from outside than the proposals put forward by the Secretary of State.

With the present level of forces in that area now—well over 40,000—the cost is said to be £240 million a year. The Secretary of State knows full well that our proposals are infinitely more modest than that as part of a balanced five-Power force.

I have discussed with the Prime Ministers concerned what they conceived to be the rôle that they can play, but it can only be formal negotiations in Government which finally settles the amount. The cost will be infinitely smaller than the present Administration are spending in that area. Nor is it an additional cost to defence expenditure, because, in the same way as the present cost comes from the present defence budget, so the forces which we want, which the Government are at present dispersing into other areas, can be used by us in the specific areas of Malaysia, Singapore and the Gulf.

There are three alternatives. The first is to do nothing, which is what some people would urge because there are risks in whatever we do. I do not believe that that course is acceptable. The second is to follow what I can only describe as the Government's half-baked proposals which give us the worst of all worlds. The troops would not be on the spot to act as a deterrent, but they run the risk of being brought in after a great deal of the damage has been done.

The third is to follow the new concept of a five-Power Commonwealth force using facilities provided by other countries because they want us there. So long as they welcome us, I believe that it is a responsibility which we can and are able to carry out in our own interests and in the interests of those other countries. That is a responsibility which we should accept.

I want the Secretary of State to do two things when he winds up the debate tonight. First, to withdraw his completely unjustifiable accusations that the policies put forward from this side of the House involve conscription. Nothing could be further from the truth. Secondly, to withdraw, or at any rate to stop using, entirely bogus figures as to the cost of the Far Eastern policy put forward from this side.

We condemn the right hon. Gentleman's policies, first, because of the absence of reserves to deal with unexpected situations and, secondly, because of the failure of the recruiting policy which he has described, which is not only a question of money—though the new salary rates will help—but also the fact that Service life becomes unattractive to many people when it seems to consist of nothing but commuting between Aldershot and Rhine Army. The fact that there will be other openings for Servicemen in a modest presence in the Gulf and the Far East will be effective in securing our recruiting aims.

Let the Secretary of State differ from us on policy issues by all means, if he wishes, or if he conceives it to be his duty to do so; but let him deal honestly with defence in the national interest.

4.35 p.m.

The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

The Leader of the Opposition was most passionate in his speech when he said that a single set of phoney figures invalidated an entire argument. That came immediately before the figure of what he outlined as the savings that his Government might have achieved as a result of the long-term costings extrapolated from the Attlee Government. The fact is that the long-term costings did not begin until 1957—six years after the Attlee Government left office. If the right hon. Gentleman simply invented the figure and tells the House so, I am sure that we will forgive him.

For the rest of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition has repeated this afternoon the same criticisms and the same half-promises which, during the last three years, he has hawked around this country and, indeed, around the world—

Mr. Heath

The hon. Gentleman should read his speech!

Mr. Hattersley

I wrote that the right hon. Gentleman is predictable. The fact that I can go on to make my speech shows how predictable he is.

I want to deal, first, with the half-promises, the vague commitment to South-East Asia which is so imprecise that it can be interpreted in whatever way is most convenient to the right hon. Gentleman's cause.

Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hattersley

Certainly not.

Mr. Rippon


Mr. Hattersley

I will not give way.

An Hon. Member

They cannot take it.

Mr. Hattersley

The intention of the right hon. Gentleman's imprecision is so that at one moment he can describe it as Great Britain fulfilling her world rôle and at another as a marginal, indeed trifling, addition to the defence budget.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend asked the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr. Rippon

How can it be costed if it is so imprecise?

Mr. Hattersley

Yesterday my right hon. Friend asked the Leader of the Opposition a number of precise questions.

Mr. Rippon

How can it be costed if it is so imprecise?

Mr. Hattersley

I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I heard and understood his question. I shall answer it as my speech proceeds.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend asked the Leader of the Opposition a number of specific questions about his Far Eastern policy. They were not matters of 10 per cent. one way or another—a figure about which the right hon. Gentleman is so sensitive—but matters of general principle as to how the policy would be operated. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have them clear in his mind and he ought to make them clear to the country if his Far Eastern policy is to appear anything other than a simple paragraph in his election manifesto. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has a duty to make clear a number of general issues. He has a duty to this House, a duty to the people of Great Britain whom he is asking to sign a blank cheque, and, above all, a duty to the Servicemen whom he is asking to accept this new and additional obligation.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will recall some of the reactions to his Asian policy when he first peddled it through the Far East. I quote two Australian reactions—one of the countries with which the right hon. Gentleman hopes to form a Five-Power defence force.

The Sydney Morning Herald accused the right hon. Gentleman of introducing a new note of uncertainty into regional defence policy"—

Mr. Heath

Is the hon. Gentleman also going to state the Australian Government's view?

Mr. Hattersley

The Australian Government's view has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not dissent from his interpretation of it. The only point I make is that the view that he holds is not universally held in the Far East and it is not universally held by the leader writers of these two newspapers. Yesterday in this House newspapers of this country were quoted like Holy Writ and I intend to quote two from Australia.

The first, the Sydney Morning Herald, accused the right hon. Gentleman of introducing a new note of uncertainty into regional defence policy and said that he did a disservice to the cause of realistic regional defence planning by encouraging the regional governments to wait and see before they committed themselves to the assumption of responsibility for their own security. The second example which I intend to quote comes from the Canberra Times which called the right hon. Gentleman a raiser of false hopes … setting out vague ideas at a particularly sore time … adding confusion to the defence problems of South-East Asia. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman enjoys having that reputation. If anyone is to believe that his Far East policy is genuine and credible, there are questions which he and his party must begin to answer. I say again that many questions were asked by my right hon. Friend yesterday, but they have not yet been answered. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) can do better tonight.

If the right hon. Gentleman has time to answer only one of the as yet unanswered questions, I hope that he will choose that which deals with the safety of British forces. The real question—not a matter of 10 per cent. either way—is what arc the forces going to do? What commitment will be involved? In one sense, perhaps, it is unfair to ask the Leader of the Opposition to tell us, for he has obviously not yet vouchsafed the information to his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Horne). According to The Times of 16th February he is off to Malaysia and Singapore to … find out … how this military presence can be most usefully employed ".

Mr. Heath

indicated assent.

Mr. Hattersley

I gather that the Leader of the Opposition approves of his right hon. Friend's statement. It seems to some of us that the party opposite should have some idea of how this force is to be most usefully employed before hon. Gentlemen opposite advance such passionate arguments about its existence.

If deterrence is the object, as the right hon. Gentlemen implied, what is to happen if deterrence fails? It was not successful before confrontation, when we had over 45,000 Servicemen in the area. If it fails, does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that British troops should cut and run, or does he accept that a permanent presence carries with it an automatic need for a reinforcement capability? My right hon. Friend made it clear yesterday that both our forces and our commitments are being reduced as the rundown proceeds. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as if they intend to reduce one and keep the other.

The difference between us—and this is the point which the Leader of the Opposition has not understood—is that we envisage a policy whereby we retain the freedom of movement and decision to despatch our forces to the area if we consider that the circumstances demand it and our commitments allow. Hon. Gentlemen opposite want to retain our commitments in the area but they are unwilling to provide adequate force to meet them.

The right hon. Gentleman has an absolute duty to ensure that if he insists on permanently maintaining a force in South-East Asia it is provided with whatever reinforcements are necessary to ensure its safety and, indeed, its survival. Of course, for £100,000,000 we can have a force, of sorts, in South-East Asia. But at that price it could not possibly be large enough to meet all the demands that might he placed on it. We could not leave a small British force in South-East Asia as a hostage to fortune.

Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)

What about our force in Hong Kong? Is it to be left as a hostage to fortune?

Mr. Hattersley

We shall maintain it, but for reasons opposite to those which the Leader of the Opposition outlined. I do not think for a moment that even the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell), whose interest in these matters is well known, would suggest that the object of the force in Hong Kong is comparable with and equal to the risks that would be involved in a force being in South-East Asia.

Mr. Heath

What is its purpose in Hong Kong if it is not to deter an attack or subversion there? What about reinforcements and the taking of decisions? These questions apply and the Government are landed with them.

Mr. Hattersley

I gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for understanding these matters. The object of the force in Hong Kong is not to be prepared to fight the sort of war about which he spoke, in terms of the Malaysian and Singapore Peninsula. If he believes that our forces are there, for example, to fight and defeat China, then he is suffering from a misapprehension. The presence of a British force on the Singapore mainland must mean that there are ships and combat aircraft within easy call. To provide such support is an expensive business. It would cost at least three times as much as the right hon. Gentleman thinks.

To promise cut-price defence for South-East Asia is, as the two quotations I have given rightly imply, to raise hopes that are unlikely to be fulfilled. In the unlikely event of the right hon. Gentleman having an opportunity to fulfil these hopes, he would be asking British Servicemen to accept risks which no party since the war has dreamed of asking them to accept. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] It would be a very high price indeed to pay for 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. on the opinion polls.

There is another question which the right hon. Gentleman must answer, and that is how he would provide the manpower for his extended commitment. We have been told that, in the Opposition's view, British forces are overstretched even now, a Point with which I will deal later. In speech after speech from hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have been told of the absolute necessity of increasing our ground forces committed to N.A.T.O

Mr. Heath

indicated dissent.

Mr. Hattersley

The Leader of the Opposition is not the sole occupant of the benches opposite.

Simply to say that this can be achieved by avoiding the amalagamation of further regiments is, of course, nonsense. To meet the right hon. Gentleman's extra commitments we would have to provide a bigger standing Army. To provide that over the next five years, we would have to achieve recruiting levels which, by any standards, are impossible if we are to rely simply on volunteers.

Of course, recruiting figures are improving. The disappointingly low figures of 1968–69 were followed by results which, during the present financial year, seem likely to produce 35,000 recruits by 1st April. But there is still a considerable leeway to make up. I have no doubt that, with concentrated effort, we can so expand our recruiting that we can meet all the obligations that this Government accept.

But it is inconceivable that voluntary recruiting could be extended to meet the demands of the right hon. Gentleman's policy. The Opposition talk as if recruiting is somehow a function of the Government who happen to be in power at any given time—as if a Conservative Cabinet, by its very nature, attracts young men to the colours, whereas a Labour Government drive them into coffee bars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That may be a comforting illusion for hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the statistics do not confirm it.

Mr. Sandys (Streatham)

Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the policy which a Government pursue has an effect on recruiting?

Mr. Hattersley

Of course I do. I accept that and, to a degree, the adjustments that have been made under Labour have had their effect on recruiting. I said yesterday, and I repeat, that to a large degree the denigration of defence by hon. Gentlemen opposite has had a considerable effect on recruiting. [Interruption.]

There are more important causes, however, of our recruiting difficulties than any of these factors. The hard fact is that the number of young men in the age groups from which the forces draw a majority of their recruits is falling. The Services have always drawn a preponderance of their recruits from young men in the 15 to 24 age group. In 1966 there were 3,172,000 between those ages available for employment. Now there are just over 3 million. In 1974 there will be about 2,700,000.

Our task, therefore, is to recruit an increasing number of young men from a diminishing pool. To meet our target me must recruit about 1.4 per cent. of that pool of available young men. Since the end of conscription the average has never exceeded 1.3 per cent. We must, therefore, produce a very considerable increase. And we have to do it against a background of increasing opportunities which compete for a young man's interests and attention. I have no doubt that we can succeed in terms of the demands of our own policy, but there is no evidence whatever to substantiate the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite that we could expand voluntary recruitment to meet the needs of the Tory programme.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

Would it not go a long way to meet my tight hon. Friend's target if the hon. Gentleman kept the Gurkhas, whom he is proposing to disband?

Mr. Hattersley

We have made it clear—the Prime Minister said this a year ago and my right hon. Friend said it six months ago—that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong to make that assumption. We said that we would consider the Gurkhas' position at the end of 1971; and the right hon. Gentleman's assumption is, therefore, his own.

When I suggested to the House that recruiting was not a function of the Government in power, many hon. Members opposite—the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) in particular—cried that it was. He was one, I suppose, who made noises to imply that under a Conservative Government there were more potential sailors, soldiers and airmen. Let us look at the figures. I examined them yesterday by courtesy of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who asked me a Question on this topic earlier in the day.

In 1964—before we took office—the shortfall in Service manpower—trained requirement versus trained strength—was over 15,000. In 1963 it was 13,000. During the last five years it has averaged about 6,000. This is clearly not a satisfactory record, a shortfall of 6,000 over five years, but at least it is twice as good as that of the party opposite in their last years of office. Why should we believe that a new Tory Government would recruit Servicemen more successfully than the old? In times easier for recruiting than now, their Armed Forces were grossly under-strength.

On Monday the Shadow Cabinet offered the nation the bland assurance that their policy did not depend on conscription. An hon. Member opposite said that it was a denial "almost before the Secretary of State made the allegation." [HON. MEMBERS: "As soon as he made it."] I am quoting the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), and if he looks at HANSARD he will find that exact glowing phrase. They denied it, but we still await the justification for that bland assertion. Simply to say that it is so will not make it so.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

If the hon. Gentleman's argument is right and the defence policy of the Government has no effect on recruiting, how is it that his Ministry in its memorandum to the Select Committee on Estimates drew attention to the serious effects on recruiting of misunderstandings due to contraction and reduction of the forces?

Mr. Hattersley

Had I said what the right hon. Gentleman suggests I said there would have been serious inconsistencies between my speech and the memorandum. There is no question that the record will show that tomorrow.

The changes in British society which have come about over the last 25 years have an influence on our recruiting policy. They are changes with which we as the Department responsible must come to terms. We have to demonstrate that the increased prosperity, the increased freedom, the increased education—and perhaps most of all the increased social mobility which has characterised British post-war society—are consistent with membership of the Armed Forces.

Of course there must always be restraints and obligations placed on soldiers, sailors and airmen which civilians can avoid, but a Service career need be neither restrictive nor repressive. This becomes very clear to most Servicemen once they have joined.

Re-engagement for a second or third term in the Forces increases. In the Navy the rate at the nine-year point rose from 31 per cent. in 1968 to 33 per cent. last year. At the 12-year point, 51 per cent. of sailors elected to serve for a further 10 years in 1968. Last year that had increased to 57 per cent. Similar improvements were found in the Army. In the R.A.F., where re-engagement figures have always been high, the percentage remained at a steady 44 per cent.

If we are to maintain our recruiting targets, it is essential that young men in the Army should be enthusiastic to extend their engagements—particularly so if we are to offer young men a short engagement which enables them to discover their suitability for a life-long Service career. During the three years of their initial engagement it is absolutely neces- sary to spare them unnecessary restrictions and inessential duties which earlier generations of Servicemen found so irk-some.

This is particularly important at a time when the new short engagement structure attracts increasing numbers of recruits. It is essential that the short term recruit prolongs his engagement. The evidence of willingness to do so is most encouraging. By the end of last year, 3,005 men had joined the Army on the new three-year engagement introduced on 1st April last year. By September last year 32 per cent. of those who had enlisted under the new scheme had prolonged their term of service for a further period.

Of course we anticipate that the pay award announced last week by the Secretary of State will result in a substantial improvement in the recruiting figures, but it is hardly conceivable that it would bring in enough recruits to support a volunteer Army big enough to meet the demands of the right hon. Gentleman. As the group from which we recruit contracts, all our efforts will be needed to increase recruiting to a level consistent with our own policy.

Much is expected from the new military salary, but it would be quite wrong to say, as the Daily Telegraph said last week, that in the absence of a substantial recruiting improvement the policy has failed and the money spent has been wasted. Yesterday the right hon. and learned Gentleman for Hexham echoed the Telegraph's grudging tone. He said, we welcome the proposals in so far as they will encourage recruitment, … and reengagement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797, c. 452.] In its third report, the N.B.P.I. puts the position in better perspective. Recruiting, it says is not the only consideration. It is of equal, if not greater importance that men who have committed themselves to Service life should have the continual assurance of an adequate and fair reward. There are considerations of simple justice. Justice has now been done. I hope that before the day is out some Opposition spokesman will feel it appropriate to express his approval that justice has now been done.

A month ago the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) referred to the Government's special obligation to ensure that Service pay—pay to existing as well as potential Servicemen—did not fall behind in comparison with those professions whose members are free to voice their own demands. I accepted that obligation. I believe that by the implementation of the N.B.P.I. Report it has been discharged. Last week and again yesterday the report received a grudging welcome from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hexham. The right hon. Gentleman for Harrogate even went so far as to question whether or not it was really an improvement on what the Forces would have received under the old pay scheme.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

If I am fortunate in catching Mr. Speaker's eye, I propose to compliment the hon. Gentleman on what he has done for military salaries.

Mr. Hattersley

I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Clearly there is no doubt in his mind as to the size of the award, but should any doubt remain in darker places I remind the House again of its extent and value.

Had the old Grigg system governing Forces' pay continued from 1966 until 1970 the forces would have been entitled during those four years to increases totalling about £75 million. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Harrogate, misunderstanding an earlier statement of mine, suggested that this £75 million would represent an increase of 25 per cent. What I actually said was that we estimated that the index of average industrial earnings, which governs the movement of other ranks pay under Grigg, would have moved 25 per cent. in four years. One of the major defects of the Grigg system was that it increased only basic pay. The percentage increases arising from the recent report of the N.B.P.I. have been expressed as percentage increases in the total value of basic pay; of marriage allowance; of ration allowance; and, in addition, of the cash value of food and accommodation at present provided in kind.

In 1968 and 1969 the Forces received interim awards amounting to £47½ million, £44 million directly comparable with what they would have received under Grigg. Therefore, to keep pace with Grigg this year's award needed to be at least £31 million. In fact it will be four times as great—£121½ million net. The immediate payment—about £90 million—is three times greater than the remaining Grigg entitlement.

Over five years, including the final payment in 1971, the Forces will have received in real terms about £170 million. Even allowing for a calculation made over the entire period, including the interim payments made before job evaluation was complete or the military salary implemented, the Forces have done more than twice as well as they would have done under the Grigg formula. But the military salary has provided more than the simple, if substantial, increase in pay.

Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)

While I welcome the pay increases the Government have introduced, which are naturally needed to meet the appalling rise in the cost of living, does the Minister agree that all experience shows that while pay increases may help recruiting for a few months the graph then levels out again? Looking back over 20 years or so, that has always been the case.

Mr. Hattersley

I do not believe that that is a reasonable judgment on pay increases of this sort. The increase within the package to which I particularly referred means that for the first time the young single man coming into the Army gets a wage comparable to that which he might have received in civilian employment. Since it is the young single man we have particularly to attract if recruiting is to improve, I believe that this will have a spectacular effect. I emphasise that the advantages in terms of recruiting are only part of the things that are admirable about the Report. Another is the justice it provides for the Services.

The N.B.P.I. does something else as well which is long overdue. In its third Report it recognises what it describes as the … greater breadth, versatility and supervisory responsibility required by the Services in their employees. By the revised structure we are for the first time properly rewarding Service skills, not least—and for the first time adequately—the skill of the infantry N.C.O., who has long been under-valued in terms of pay, though I do not think that he has been under-valued in terms of public esteem.

As we were told yesterday, a major reorganisation of pay cannot be brought about without some difficulties and criticisms. Some men will believe that they have been wrongly graded. There is still work to be done in determining and clarifying the pay of certain groups. But two major achievements have resulted from the new pay code. First, the Forces get a wage which is related to the job they do and provides a salary, if not equal, in some ways comparable to what they would receive in civilian life. Second, the Serviceman is increasingly treated as a responsible and educated adult freed from the unnecessary paternalism of his employers. He now receives full wages and not payment in kind. Within the limits imposed by Service discipline, he can spend his own money as he chooses.

I shall deal briefly with three criticisms we have received of the military salary since the debate began. The first concerns the X factor, or at least its size. I frankly admit, as does the N.B.P.I., in its third report, that the size of the X factor—5 per cent., as it turns out—is not capable of precise justification. Five per cent. is a figure which has been decided experimentally, but it is one which we are committed to judge against the test of time. The X factor is not decided for ever at 5 per cent. One of the tests by which it will be judged is whether it sufficiently compensates for the disadvantages of Service life to attract recruits from the competing, and now about equally paid, areas of civilian employment.

Second, we have been told that some of the old pay differentials between trade and trade, group and group, have been changed or blurred. This is inevitable in any major revision of pay. It is the unavoidable consequence of changing an archaic pay structure and replacing it with a rational one.

Third, we have been criticised for staging a small part of the award. Staging relates solely to those increases to single men which form part of the major structural change, the central issue of the military salary. The Government have always accepted that where the economy or any part of it is asked to bear a huge pay increase for the purpose of fundamental structural change some payments may have to be staged. That was accepted, if not suggested, in the N.B.P.I. third report. Lest there be some dissatisfied unmarried Servicemen who believe that had the N.B.P.I. not suggested that staging they would have got the extra £31 million here and now, we should make it very clear that without the sort of examination the N.B.P.I. made it is inconceivable that so radical a wage revision would have come about at all.

Rear Admiral Morgan-Giles

The hon. Gentleman talked a few moments ago about the X factor and the possibility of alterations in the percentage allowed for it. One of the factors not included here is the possibility of overtime. I am not advocating overtime, but if it turns out that the Serviceman falls behind civilian earnings—not civilian rates of pay—will the Government consider increasing the X factor?

Mr. Hattersley

We must examine the X factor in the light of the job it is supposed to do, which is to meet certain problems Servicemen face. I do not think that we can regard the X factor as an instrument of wage regulation. I think that that must be done by the two-yearly review. The X factor is likely to move—I do not know which way—from the figure of 5 per cent.

Since last year's defence debate British soldiers have been engaged in what is for the Army a unique experience. They have been committed to internal security duties within the United Kingdom. Nobody can speak sufficiently highly of the way in which British troops have carried out that operation. Within a few days of their involvement, their G.O.C. predicted that the honeymoon would not last for ever and that, given the special situation and problems of Northern Ireland, sooner or later there would be complaints about the way the troops were organised. This is the only judgment of General Freeland with which I think the House would choose to quarrel. Because of their conduct and the way they have been commanded by the G.O.C. they have retained virtually universal respect in Northern Ireland.

There is, of course, the occasional extremist who uses a trivial incident as an excuse for complaint. But apart from such occasions there has been universal praise for what they have done and how they have done it. Without them, there would undoubtedly have been loss of life on a scale which hardly bears contemplation. Their achievements have been made under most difficult circumstances. Most of the accommodation available was inadequate. The psychological pressure of performing military duties in what seemed to many of our soldiers just like home was immense. Now the quality of the accommodation has improved. The worst was taken out of use completely as lessening of tension allowed a reduction in the garrison size from 10 to seven major units.

It is only just over three months ago that the House debated our proposals to form a new regiment in Northern Ireland, a part of the British Army which would support the regular forces in Northern Ireland should circumstances so require in protecting the border and the State against armed attack and sabotage. The Ulster Defence Regiment had a stormy political beginning. On the one hand there were those in Ireland and in some parts of the House who regretted the abolition of the B Specials and wished to retain them as a para-military force—indeed, wished to retain them as a symbol as well as an instrument of security. On the other hand there were those who insisted that the Ulster Defence Regiment would be no more than a reflection of the old B Specials, discredited before it began.

I say with relief rather than in self-vindication that the worst fears expressed by some of my hon. Friends have proved totally unfounded. The Ulster Defence Regiment will assume operational duties on 1st April.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

Is it a fact, as I hope it is, that Catholic recruitment is coming along well, in reasonable proportions?

Mr. Hattersley

I was about to tell the House that recruitment patterns in general are such that they would commend themselves both to the hon. Gentleman and to me. Recruits are coming forward in large numbers from among Roman Catholics. Our present estimate is about 20 per cent. They are coming forward in large numbers from among men who have had previous military experience. But only 40 per cent. of recruits or potential recruits to date were members of the B Specials.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Will not the Minister on reflection withdraw what he has just said about the B Specials? Is he aware that for 50 years they have protected the Border and many key installations in Northern Ireland from vicious and cowardly attack and have performed a wonderful service in protecting Northern Ireland against attack from outside?

Mr. Hattersley

I have said nothing remotely discreditable about the B Specials. On many occasions in the House I have paid my own tribute to the way in which they have behaved. I said that they were a political symbol, and the fact that they can never be mentioned without someone jumping to his feet and demanding that they be applauded proves what a political symbol they are.

I must make a comment not in praise of the B Specials but an organisation which is to succeed them—the Ulster Defence Regiment. It will bring to the people of Northern Ireland a military force on which they can place absolute reliance. It is part of the Army; it is controlled by regular officers; it will aspire to the standards of the Army itself. It makes possible the assurance that security from internal and external threat can be preserved.

Finally, a word about the third subject which has dominated the debate so far, the cost of the relative defence programmes—the subject about which the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham believed himself to be so scathing yesterday. He claimed that to cost his party's defence programme on the assumption that they intended to allocate 7 per cent. of the gross national product to defence was wrong. Seven per cent., he said, is a mythical figure. … which involves projecting forward ad infinitum a forward costing exercise based on the continuance of confrontation with Indonesia…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797, c. 445.] when he knows very well confrontation began in 1963. The 7 per cent. figure was first determined in the 1962 White Paper.


That is the figure for five.

Mr. Rippon

That is exactly what I said. I said that the forward costings were based on the situation as it then was and on the percentage of gross national product devoted to defence at that time. It is a mythical statistic which one ends up with, just as my right hon. Friend's suggestion of £12,000 million was a little high.

Mr. Hattersley

The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it is the situation as it was at that time. I therefore have to tell him that, since he said that the long-term costing figure was based on an assumption of confrontation, I took the trouble today to find out the exact parameters of this costing, and to find out the exact hypotheses upon which it was based. Not only was it based on the assumption that confrontation would shortly come to an end. It was also based on an assumption which actually gives a date on which it was expected that confrontation would come to an end, a date very shortly after the previous Government left office.

For reasons of convention which the right hon. and learned Gentleman understands very well, I cannot quote that figure to the House, but my right hon. Friend will be happy to give it to him privately. I do assure him that it is an absolute refutation of his theory that 7 per cent. was the figure determined by and dependent upon confrontation.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, South)

The Minister answered a question of mine yesterday, saying that in that year, 1963–64, we spent 6.7 per cent. and the same the following year.

Mr. Healey

Incompetent management.

Mr. Hattersley

Not only that. The hon. Gentleman has been wrestling with me in correspondence about the definitions of defence expenditure, and if he will return to the long correspondence in which I have tried to explain this to him I think that he will see that the figures are consistent. But I must continue by reminding the right hon. and learned Gentleman of some of the things which were said at the time.

In February, 1964, the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield-Digby) congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, then Secretary of State for Defence, on having reduced defence expenditure to the 7 per cent. figure. In a reply to a supplementary question, the then Secretary of State was explicit when he said: This is what is being spent on this … at the present time, and it looks like staying around 7 per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1964; Vol. 689, c. 1176.] That was the logical price of Conservative defence policy.

Yesterday, later in his speech, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that there were serious gaps in our defences—the result, as he saw it, of getting further away from the "sensible" defence policy we inherited. There is no doubt what the cost of that so-called "sensible" policy would have been. The then Secretary of State said on 26th February, 1964, c. 448: We shall continue to spend about £2,000 million on detence … not much in excess of 7 per cent. No wonder the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham is hedging about costs.

Yesterday, he told the House about his attitude to the fifth Polaris submarine. He said that the Opposition were keeping their options open—a phrase which has sometimes been greeted with a certain amount of criticism by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. He said that the final decision could only be taken in office, and added: Last year, I said that we wanted to keep that option open…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797, c. 450.] I am, of course, open to correction, but since yesterday I have read the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech of a year ago and sought in vain to find a phrase which could possibly mean that his options were being kept open.

There was, it is true, a passage about a fifth Polaris submarine. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to its fire-power, and said: It is, therefore, perhaps surprising that the Government refuse even to consider the purchase we intend … With five, we could be certain of having two on station. If that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman regards as keeping his options open, he does it in a particularly imprecise way.

There is another element in defence costs which should exercise the Opposition. On 2nd February, the Leader of the Opposition appeared on television. Page 7 of the transcript ought to be required reading for every Conservative candidate. Mr. Michael Charlton asked the right hon. Gentleman: The present Government is spending more on education than defence. Will you be able to say the same when you come to power? The answer was sharp, to the point, and decisive: Well, I would like to look at the figures. Eventually, the question was answered: I didn't say I wasn't going to spend more on defence"—

Mr. Rippon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister said that he was open to correction. He has misquoted me and now he refuses to give way.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Hattersley

Nothing gives me more pleasure than an excuse to read once more this passage from "Panorama": I didn't say I wasn't going to spend more on defence. What I said was"—

Mr. Rippon

Why does the Minister not give way when he has lied?

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

On a point of order. It must be in your knowledge, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman called out, "You have lied". He has got to withdraw that in this debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I did not hear the precise words, but if the right hon. and learned Gentleman did, in fact, use those words then, obviously, he would be required to withdraw them.

Mr. Rippon

As I said yesterday, it is contrary to the rules of order to use words of that kind, and I do withdraw them. The Minister did, however, say that he stood ready to be corrected, and I simply cannot understand why he refused to allow himself to be corrected.

Mr. Hattersley

What fascinates me about the right hon. and learned Gentleman is the sort of social phenomenon he represents. Behaviour like that by the Conservative Party is regarded as a com- mitment to one form of belief or another. In other walks of life this is regarded as hooliganism.

Mr. Rippon


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must remain seated. If the Minister is not prepared to give way, then the right hon. and learned Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. Rippon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If a Minister quotes, as he alleges, from HANSARD, and then offers to withdraw, to be corrected, he ought to withdraw, because I allege that he has misquoted me, and he denies it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order. If the hon. Member who has the Floor is not prepared to give way, then other hon. Gentlemen must remain in their seats.

Mr. Hattersley

So that I may reduce the right hon. and learned Gentleman's blood pressure, let me give way, but I must remind him that the speech of his right hon. Friend will be repeated, uninterrupted.

Mr. Rippon

I said, c. 251, HANSARD. 4th March, 1969, … it is perhaps surprising that the Government refuse even to consider purchasing, as we intended, the fifth submarine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 251.] And, of course, it is known that in 1963–64 that was what we intended. Inside and outside the House, as I said yesterday, I have spoken about the need to keep this option open.

Mr. Hattersley

The House will realise, as its stunned silence confirms, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's correction took the form of repeating exactly what I said.

Mr. A. Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

The hon. Gentleman said, "As we intend."

Mr. Hattersley

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said: I didn't say that I wasn't going to spend more on defence. What I said was we shall still be spending more on education than defence. I absolutely support that principle, but I cannot believe, and I do not believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends can believe, that the principle of spending more on education than defence is consistent with an expanding defence budget. Even by his own costings, the defence programme of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will catch up with and overtake present education spending.

If the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham chooses the option of the fifth Polaris submarine, the Leader of the Opposition's pledge to keep education expenditure ahead of defence will require the new Conservative Government to build 730 primary schools. To consider that sort of equation makes the House realise, I believe, that Conservative promises are becoming increasingly bizarre and that Conservative policy is becoming increasingly discredited.

5.21 p.m.

Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)

To use the word employed by the Minister in his closing remarks, his speech was a little "bizarre". Among other things, he said that recruiting was now no worse than under the Conservative Government. But I remember that when I was Minister of Defence I actually raised the ceiling for the Army because I was reluctant to turn away so many recruits. The records of the two Governments just do not compare. As I said in an intervention earlier, the rate of recruiting is closely related to the policies pursued by the Government and to the degree of security and stability which the Government's policies create.

I propose to concentrate on a single aspect of the defence problem, namely the question of the credibility of the nuclear deterrent. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition reaffirmed the independent status of the British Polaris force. I was at the Nassau talks; and I can vouch for the fact that the then British Government never for one moment considered accepting any limitation on our freedom to use these missiles as our national interest required. It is true that President Kennedy was most anxious to secure an undertaking that these weapons would be used exclusively within the framework of N.A.T.O. and only with the agreement of the North Atlantic Council, which would, of course, have meant an American veto.

However, Mr. Macmillan firmly resisted this request, with the unanswerable argument that, having in the past had to defend ourselves alone, we could not be expected to place a vital element of our armoury under outside control. It was eventually accepted that, while Britain's Polaris submarines would naturally be assigned to N.A.T.O., the British Government must be entitled to withdraw them at any time, like any other British forces. We are thus completely free to use these missiles where, when and as we like, with no restriction of any kind.

The purpose of the nuclear deterrent, as the name implies, is to deter. Its function is not so much to win wars as to prevent them. The effectiveness of the deterrent depends on the aggressor country believing that its aggression, even if confined to conventional forces, might provoke retaliation with nuclear weapons. Certainty is not necessary. It is enough for this to be a serious possibility.

Therefore, in examining N.A.T.O. policy, we must try to put ourselves into the minds of the men in the Kremlin. There is, I am sure, one overriding consideration in all Soviet military planning, namely, to avoid an all-out nuclear war. With the exception of Britain's Polaris submarines and nuclear aircraft bombs and France's small force de frappe, all the nuclear weapons of the West are under rigid American control. The men in the Kremlin have therefore in their turn to try to guess the intentions of the men in the Pentagon.

The Americans, like all other members of N.A.T.O., are pledged to treat an attack on one of their allies as an attack upon themselves. Nevertheless, Soviet military planners might well doubt whether, when it came to the crunch, the President of the United States would be prepared to launch a strategic nuclear counter-attack against the centres of population in Russia, thereby provoking in return the annihilation of some of America's greatest cities.

On the other hand, the use of tactical nuclear weapons would not involve a comparable danger. In view of Russia's obvious desire to avoid an all-out nuclear interchange, the American President could reasonably assume that the use of tactical nuclear weapons against military targets on the territory of Russia's satellites would be unlikely to provoke a strategic nuclear offensive against the homeland of the United States. The Russians would thus have to reckon with the probability that tactical nuclear weapons would, if necessary, be used against them. Faced with this prospect, they would, I believe, think many times before embarking on such a perilous adventure.

That is the assessment on which the present strategy of N.A.T.O. is based. Like my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I believe that thinking to be sound and realistic. In any case, what is the alternative? It is said that we should not rely so much on nuclear weapons. It would, of course, be a very good thing if the conventional forces of the West were much larger and more powerfully equipped. This might give the N.A.T.O. Governments a few more days, or at least a few more hours, in which to try to persuade Russia to call off the attack, although I cannot believe that the Soviet Government, having taken the fateful decision to start a third world war, would be likely at the last moment to change its mind.

But conventional forces, however great, will give us no security unless we also possess nuclear weapons and make it clear that, in certain circumstances, we are prepared to use them. What those circumstances are should, of course, not be revealed in advance. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said yesterday, our plans and intentions regarding the use of nuclear weapons must be shrouded in uncertainty.

There are those who go so far as to say that we should declare that we will never be the first to use nuclear weapons, whether strategic or tactical—

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

We have said that many times: the right hon. Gentleman has said it too.

Mr. Sandys

I have never said that. Nothing could be more foolish or more dangerous. The only effect would be to encourage the Russians to invade us. It would make them feel that they could safely attack the West with conventional forces without any risk of encountering nuclear resistance. If their conventional attack failed, it would give them the option to initiate the use of tactical nuclear weapons with the immense advantage of firing first.

Those who claim that the possession of nuclear weapons is useless and futile are wholly mistaken. It would be better if nuclear weapons had never been invented or if everyone would agree to give them up. But, since countries which are ill-disposed towards us possess nuclear weapons, we have no option but to arm ourselves in the same way. Nothing could be worse than to be a non-nuclear power faced with a nuclear opponent.

There is certainly no doubt that the balance of mutual fear deters nuclear powers from going to war with one another. This is one of the main factors which over the last 20 years has maintained the peace of Europe, while Asia, Africa and the Middle East have been torn by successive wars. Our security will continue to be assured so long, but only so long, as the Russians believe that nuclear weapons would be likely to be used to resist aggression.

I am not questioning the readiness of the Americans in present circumstances to honour their obligations to their allies. But we cannot expect them indefinitely to provide Western Europe with a nuclear umbrella. Nor should we wish to do so. Europe surely cannot be content to remain for ever a protectorate of America, dependent for her very existence upon decisions taken in the White House. Europe must make up her mind to become a full partner of the United States; and that means that she must be prepared to bear her full share of the burden of Western defence, nuclear as well as conventional. In return we shall get our full say in the great decisions which shape the course of history.

We must, naturally, not neglect our conventional forces which have a vitally important part to play. The gap which will result from the expected reduction in American forces in Germany will have to be made good. But, for the reasons I have explained, I have no hesitation in saying that, in any major plans to strengthen our defences, first priority should be given to increasing the nuclear power of Western Europe. Only in this way can we in the long run assure our security, our independence and our self-respect.

5.33 p.m.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

It was inevitable that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) should intervene in this debate. In the context of the principal arguments used in the debate, he is the villain of the piece. He started all this controversy. No doubt he can recall the occasion. I shall tell right hon. and hon. Gentlemen how it happened. In 1957, the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Defence—he was one of nine Conservative Ministers of Defence between the end of 1951. when I relinquished the task, and 1963.

The right hon. Gentleman introduced the White Paper of 1958 and I propose to read an extract from that memorable document, the most memorable item in that memorable document. Without this information it is difficult to come to any conclusion one way or the other about the defence policy of our Government, or, for that matter, the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition. Here is the extract and I hope hon. Members will not mind if I read the whole of it. It says: The West, on the other hand,"— there is a reference in the previous paragraphs to the formidable build-up of Russian defence in manpower equipment and nuclear weapons— relies for its defence primarily upon the deterrent effect of its vast stockpile of nuclear weapons and its capacity to deliver them. The democratic Western nations will never start a war against Russia. But it must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only,"— note the reservation— they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. In fact, the strategy of N.A.T.O. is based on the frank recognition that a full-scale Soviet attack could not be repelled without resort to a massive nuclear bombardment. In that event, the rôle of the allied defence forces in Europe would be to hold the front for the time needed to allow the effects of the nuclear counter-offensive to make themselves felt. There is very little difference between that extract and the policy adumbrated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in his speech. As someone remarked during the debate, there is precious little difference between the Government and the Opposition on this issue.

Mr. Rippon

The right hon. Gentleman is the only man out.

Mr. Shinwell

I will not be deterred by interruptions. This is a serious debate.

For the first time in my recollection—and I have taken part in every defence debate since the last war, and in debates before then—we have really begun to discuss defence strategy, although only on the fringe of the subject. In the past, we debated whether the recruiting figures were up to expectations, whether we required aircraft carriers, and there were the usual arguments which are so familiar now that they are as much use as cold porridge. We are discussing strategy for the first time.

I have said that there is precious little difference between the Government and the Opposition on this issue. Most of the arguments in this debate are related to nuclear strategy, particularly strategy based on the use of tactical nuclear weapons, and are founded on assumptions, doubts, conjecture and speculation. No one has any right to dogmatise on this issue. Whether the Soviet Union would retaliate if we used tactical nuclear weapons, is open to speculation. There can be no credibility about this matter. It would depend on whether they regarded it as advisable in certain circumstances and, in particular, whether they sought to force surrender by the Western Alliance. But who can tell?

The right hon. Member for Streatham spoke with certainty. He said that the Russians would do this or that. How does he know? It is just conjecture on his part.

Mr. Sandys

What I tried to make clear was that it was the element of uncertainty which constituted the strength of the deterrent.

Mr. Shinwell

It is precisely because there is uncertainty, which I accept—I have understood that from the beginning of this argument in 1957—that nobody has the right to dogmatise.

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the Russians must look to two fronts, particularly in the Far East, which worry them much more than the Western Powers?

Mr. Shinwell

I agree. That is stating the position factually, but, if I may say so, it is irrelevant to the argument with which we are concerned.

We are concerned with whether, in the event of a conventional attack, be it deliberate or accidental—perhaps because of intervention by the German Democratic Republic—we decided to launch an attack and we suffered retaliation. The assumption is that the Russians would use their massive coventional forces and defeat us. If that happened, let it be clearly understood—and this is not conjecture—that our forces would be liquidated; we would not have a chance. It would seem, because of what I have just said, that we must have something in reserve. But what is that reserve? First, is it the nuclear deterrent?

There is reference to the nuclear deterrent in the paragraph which I have read. But what was that nuclear deterrent in 1957, when the right hon. Member for Streatham produced his White Paper? Tactical nuclear weapons were almost negligible. I remember our debates on this subject. We were unable to obtain accurate information about what tactical nuclear weapons were at the disposal of the Western Alliance, otherwise known as N.A.T.O.

Even now, 13 years afterwards, no accurate information is forthcoming either from the Government, who must be in possession of it if it exists, or from the Opposition, who pretend to have information which justifies the assertion that we have tactical nuclear weapons which we can place at the disposal of the Western Alliance and which may be regarded by the Soviet Union as an effective deterrent. I shall tell the House what the nuclear deterrent is and what it has been from the outset. It has been the American nuclear deterrent—and why pretend otherwise?

In the past, we have spoken of tactical nuclear weapons such as Honest John, Thor, Sergeant, and a number of others. All that we have known about them, in so far as they existed and were capable of effective use, was that their range, related to the capabilities of the Soviet Union in the use of their nuclear weapons, was almost derisory.

Mr. Sandys

I am not clear about this. Is the right hon. Gentleman arguing against the desirability of having a British nuclear deterrent? He nods. It was under the Labour Government, when the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Defence, that the first British nuclear bomb was made—and we give them credit for it.

Mr. Shinwell

I am surprised by the right hon. Gentleman. I regard him as a very intelligent person, although I hardly ever agree with anything that he says. I wish to be objective in the debate. The right hon. Gentleman speaks about the atom bomb which was used by the United States at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the decision subsequently by the British to create an atom bomb. It is irrelevant to this issue, which is this—and I am open to challenge: in the event of the discovery that our conventional forces are incapable of facing the formidable conventional forces at the disposal of the Soviet Union, shall we use tactical nuclear weapons?

I propose to give the answer of the Labour Party. None of my right hon. Friends is on the Front Bench at the moment, but perhaps those who are will convey what I am about to suggest to the Secretary of State for Defence. What has been position of the Labour Party from the beginning of the debate on this subject? I take it from the record. I am sorry about using a note, but that will disarm my criticis who say that I do not use notes because I cannot read.

First, I wish to deal with the Nassau Agreement. I recall the debate in the House when Mr. Harold Macmillan told us all about the agreement and what was negotiated with President Kennedy. What was the attitude of the Labour Party? I hope that my right hon and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will note this, in view of what was said yesterday and of what might be said tonight. Perhaps this will prevent it from being said tonight—who can tell?

In 1963, we had another White Paper, a Conservative White Paper, on defence. It mentioned the Nassau Agreement. This was our Amendment: This House has no confidence in a Government"— a Tory Government— whose defence policy has collapsed and which, at Nassau, entered into an agreement … which continue the illusion of an independent British nuclear deterrent …".—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 30th January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 975.] That is what we said at the time, but what is the position now? I gathered yesterday that we believed that we had an independent deterrent and were rather proud of it.

I said a moment ago that the right hon. Member for Streatham was the villain of the piece, but what he wrote, or what somebody else wrote for him, in the White Paper of 1957, transformed our whole defence policy, I think to our disadvantage. I could, if there were time, quote various declarations of Labour Party conferences. I will take just one, which was in 1960: At present, the NATO armies in Europe are perilously dependent on nuclear weapons. We regard this as both wrong and dangerous."— Front Bench, please take note— We believe that all forces, including the American divisions, should be armed and trained to defend Western Europe without immediate reliance on nuclear weapons. That is an excellent doctrine. It is not merely the doctrine of the Left wing; it is the doctrine of the Labour Party.

I read that extract because I want to come to the crux of the question, which is this: what is the alternative? Some say that the alternative is conscription. For example, my old colleague, and faithful devotee, my old Parliamentary Private Secretary, now Lord Wigg, believes in conscription, but why? This may disarm some of the criticism directed again Lord Wigg. When he spoke from the Opposition benches, and demanded conscription, I do not suppose that he believed in it. Both he and I believe that it is a military nonsense. He argued the need for conscription because of the failure of the Conservative Government to recruit up to their expectations, particularly for the Army.

The Tory Government of the time were inspired by the Grigg Committee, which declared that we could never reach a figure above 130,000. So my right hon. Friend, now Lord Wigg, said that if we had only 130,000 men, what was the use of standing up to the Russians, with all our commitments east of Suez, with S.E.A.T.O., CENTO and all the paraphernalia associated with our foreign policy? When we talked of 130,000 men in the Army, or 180,000, which was what the Conservative Government wanted, what did we mean by that? Were these combatant troops? Of course not. I should like a little information about this from the Minister of Defence for Administration. What is the length of the tail in proportion to the teeth? When he speaks of 150,000 or 100,000 men, how many of those are combatant troops?

To make a necessary, if not important, digression, the Secretary of State said yesterday that our troops are the most highly trained, the most mobile and the best equipped in Europe. Of course, he is right. That is the difference between a volunteer force, highly trained as we can train them in this country, and conscription. During the last war we had, reluctantly but necessarily, to adopt conscription, but almost every other country in Europe which had conscription was defeated. Why? I must not indulge in derogatory language about conscription or National Servicemen. Far from it; they did heroic service to the country, but there is nothing like men who are highly trained and mobile with the right equipment. Incidentally, when the Germans drove us back in 1939 and 1940, it was not by masses of infantrymen but by their armour, their hardware; that is one of the difficulties here.

I am coming to the alternative. Although I have said that I want to speak objectively on defence and sweep politics under the carpet, we are concerned about the interests of our country and about security. May I say to my hon. Friends who have sought to reduce expenditure, and particularly to my devoted hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), who has spoken many times on this subject, that I can understand the extreme pacificist who wants to abolish the whole lot, but what I do not understand for the life of me, probably because of my imperfect education and intelligence, are those who would reduce defence below the level at which it would be worth while.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

If our present military expenditure were doubled or trebled, could we even then withstand either a nuclear or conventional attack by a great Power?

Mr. Shinwell

How right my hon. Friend is. As if I did not know that. I started in this business at the War Office 40 years ago and I know some of the tricks of the trade. I accept that at once.

We could build up a force of 300,000 or 400,000 ground troops, yet we would have to face the formidable might of the Soviet Union.

May I make this further point before I come to the right conclusion? How do we know that the Soviet Union wants to be aggressive? I may be told about Hungary, about Czechoslovakia, I dislike intensely the purges, the blood-baths and the repression of the Soviet Union. I wish that we could fight against it and destroy it, but we cannot; we have to put up with it. I am not concerned about Russia's ideological views; I can accept ideological views; but when they are associated with repression and the absence of liberty and freedom, I dislike them intensely.

Why should the Soviet Union go to war to subdue a new territory? The Soviet Union is now penetrating the Middle East and getting what it wants without going to war. It may penetrate into Africa and get what it wants. Why should it go to war against Europe? To create more satellites? The Soviet Union is in enough trouble with its existing satellites. It is an unfounded assumption. If an outbreak of hostilities occurs, it may not be in Europe, it may well be in another area; it could be in Hong Kong. By the way, consider the massive force we have in Hong Kong to deter aggression by the Republic of China! I am sorry for our poor fellows there if that should happen.

The trouble could occur east of Suez—who can tell? I do not want to enter that subject, except to make one comment. I agree that we were right to withdraw in the circumstances, but I wish that we could still have consultations with the Governments in that area and hammer out something, not at great cost but to afford a measure of security to our kith and kin in Australia and New Zealand.

What is the alternative? Conscription? Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary asserted that the Opposition want conscription back. I may get into trouble with my party for saying so, but I regard that as a bit of political propaganda. I do not believe that the Opposition want conscription. Suppose that by a mischance—I could use a stronger term—they came to office again after the next election. Heaven forbid the thought, but one can never tell with a fickle electorate. Does anyone suggest that they would begin by imposing conscription? Of course not. We dare not do it, either. Besides, it is military nonsense.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Ask Lord Wigg.

Mr. Shinwell

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) arrived, I had anticipated his intervention. I disposed of it to the satisfaction of the House.

Even with the most intensive recruiting campaign, or with the higher rates of pay and better amenities, all of which our Servicemen deserve, I do not believe that we could build up a conventional force capable of facing the capabilities of the Soviet Union. But we can build up our reserves. I think that the Government made a fundamental error in reducing the size of the Territorial and auxiliary forces.

I have had some association with those forces in the past. What I disliked was the amateur organisation in control, the people who were more concerned about social amenities than with security or defence. It was one of the best clubs in Europe, an even better club than this House. These volunteers were associated in the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association, but needed effective control and proper training. It is no use having reserves unless they are properly trained.

This is the alternative, in my view, particularly because, in the face of aggression by the Soviet Union, without the use of nuclear weapons against Europe or this country, we should have something in this country to afford at least a measure of security. What have we now? We have about 45,000 in the T.A.V.R. I understand that most of them are earmarked for foreign service. What would we have for home defence? Practically nothing.

It is not conscription that we need, nor the use of tactical nuclear weapons—these will not prevent the Russians from taking action if they think fit—but the presence of a large body of reserves in this country intended for internal security. In this debate, it seems to me that there is little to choose between the Government and the Opposition. It is perhaps a matter of cost, but, after all, what are we driving at? Just to get rid of the Opposition, to sweep them under the carpet at the next election. Their purpose is to do the same with us.

Meantime, the problems of defence remain. That is why I speak objectively and why I wish that the House would address itself in an objective fashion to the question of what we can best afford out of our limited resources—which may improve as the years pass—and with our limited manpower, although I think that we should extract more from our manpower resources than we have yet done for defence. Let us decide the best course of action. Let us not indulge any more in assumptions or credibilities—the assumptions used by both my right hon. Friend and by the Leader of the Opposition in what I think was the most effective speech he has made in this House for a long time, although he could correct that in future. Let us not indulge in assumptions, conjectures and idle escalations. Let us come down to brass tacks and a conclusion. I offer one to the House.

6.6 p.m.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I decided, at the age of 58, that I was getting "too long in the tooth" and that it was time to leave the House of Commons and make way for someone younger. The right hon. Gentleman is the exception which proves the rule, because we always enjoy the vigour, forcefulness and common sense of his speeches. The Government should bear in mind that two of the most senior Privy Councillors on their side of the House have both in this debate come out much in favour of different aspects of Conservative policy for defence.

After 20 years of listening to defence debate, and many hours of listening to the present Secretary of State for Defence, this must be my last defence debate unless the Prime Minister clings to office to the extreme. It is, therefore, a sad time for me, as such occasions always are. I have spent one-third of my 20 years in either the Air Ministry or the Admiralty, roughly one-third as a Government back-bencher and roughly one-third in opposition, so I have a fair proportion of experience in all three capacities.

It has always been my desire to give my colleagues every possible chance of taking part in a debate, so, throughout these 20 years, I have never spoken for longer than 20 minutes. I hope that I shall keep to that time on this last occasion, but if I exceed it a little I hope that I may be allowed some dispensation. Owing to a prior engagement made many months ago, I shall not be able to stay for the remainder of the debate and I make my apologies to the House for this discourtesy.

I add my voice to that of the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir D. Foot) and implore the House seriously to consider the setting-up of a Select Committee on Defence, with a balance of both sides. After 20 years' experience, I say this for three reasons: first, defence is getting ever more complicated and technical; secondly, if errors are made, the gestation period for a new weapons system is now 10 years and it takes an immense amount of time to get an error corrected; thirdly, the defence budget of £2,400 million is so large that it is impossible, within the time of the House in general, to probe all the facets of expenditure and policy.

Every Government, when they take office, oppose this notion, and I cannot understand why. Every Minister worth his salt would welcome the probings, since these might uncover aspects of his Department that he was not aware of, just as Questions help a Minister to know and learn about his own Department. A Select Committee of balanced, responsible Members wishing to specialise in this way would perform a service for our nation and for the prestige of the House. For the sake of back benchers, I add that it would give the younger ones an opportunity of speaking when, sometimes in debate, the older ones and the Privy Councillors, may, owing to the custom of the House, take priority. Otherwise, how are we going to attract young and interested people into the consideration of defence? Already, only too few hon. Members on either side take an interest. A Select Committee could help rectify that position.

First, I should like to comment on the Ministerial structure which is proposed in this White Paper where, in paragraph 57, there is a further proposal that we should cut the number of Ministers. When I first came into the House there were three Ministers at the Admiralty, three at the War Office and two at the Air Ministry—a total of eight. Today, with an immensely larger and more complicated defence budget, it is now proposed that this should be cut to four—the Secretary of State with one Minister underneath him and then we are to have two Parliamentary Secretaries.

From experience, I am very much in favour of moulding the three Services together at the top, but I still think that there is great merit in having one person—perhaps at Parliamentary Secretary level—who will specialise on the one Service and can talk for that Service and make representations into the highest counsels of the Government on behalf of that Service. He can also, if he feels inclined, resign on behalf of that Service. One cannot resign because one does not agree with the personnel, logistics, or equipment decisions, but one can resign on behalf of the Service and, I hope, stick to one's beliefs and integrity by so doing.

I would suggest that such a person should not be called a Parliamentary Secretary. I was called that for some time and nobody knew what exactly I did. When one goes overseas everyone thinks that one is in the Reporters' Gallery making notes. They muddle one up with the Parliamentary Private Secretary which is an unpaid form of life or with a Principal Private Secretary. The title "Parliamentary Secretary" does not, in this day and age, accord with the responsibilities one has. I suggest that they should be called Financial Secretaries, because they probe into every corner. That title gives one the excuse to look at everything, because everything in the Defence Department costs money. I found the title was invaluable when I was Financial Secretary to the Admiralty.

I now turn to the Secretary of State for Defence. This is his last defence debate as a Minister, just as it is mine, and he has had an opportunity of introducing nine White Papers during the last five and a half years. What is astonishing is that in one White Paper he argues how vital it is that we should be in an area or have a weapon; and in the next White Paper he explains how it is equally desirable to withdraw from that area and cancel the same weapon at vast expense. The Minister never says, "I am sorry. All this had to be done for Treasury and for economical reasons and I have to accept this and I regret it." He seems to take particular intellectual delight in turning a political somersault and producing an intellectually satisfying argument as to why he believes in the latest political somersault.

On 21st February last, the Economist put this well when it said: … Mr. Healey chose to present each shift in policy as if it were a final, intellectually satisfying conclusion. The outward, sometimes arrogant, manner in which he expressed his own conviction about the rectitude of each decision went behind the normal politician's habit of putting the best face on things. This has been a characteristic all through the Minister's reign of office. I am surprised how much he gets away with. I think that his appearance helps him. He looks to be a nice, avuncular character, fond of children. When he appears on television his approach is very smooth and very compelling. Now that colour is with us his ruddy complexion makes him look like a rather bucolic English farmer. This all helps the image of veracity and truth.

But this White Paper, particularly the early paragraphs, is just one network of untruths. I do not know whether any hon. Members have time to watch television, but every Thursday at 8 o'clock, on B.B.C. 2, there is a very good panel game called "Call my Bluff" with Robert Robinson in the chair. I suggest that the Secretary of State should join one of those panels, because one has to detect whether the members of the panel are telling the truth or lying and the Secretary of State for Defence would win every time in the company of those who do not know him. We in this House know that an element of what he says is not true, as I shall seek to show.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Gentleman is wasting his 20 minutes.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

In the White Paper, in paragraph 2, the Secretary of State tells us that an historic decision was made to withdraw our forces from bases east of Suez. We know that this was not an historic decision, but a very sordid manoeuvre in his own party to square the Left wing over health charges. I believe that it has been done to the detriment of our defence position in that vital part of the world. The Secretary of State said in the Labour election manifesto—and this was not the 1964 manifesto, which told us how the Government were to build up our conventional forces, but the manifesto of 1966, after he had been Secretary of State for Defence for 18 months—under one of seven major headings for Labour's defence policy that Britain must not fail to contribute to peace keeping outside Europe. This was what Labour Members were elected on, but it is not what they have done. So was the statement that this was an "historic decision taken with forethought", true or false? It is false.

The next statement in the White Paper, in the next line but one, is that the nation is getting better value… for money. This is astonishing. We have the TSR2 cancellation at £178 million; the P1154 at £21 million; the 681 at £4 million; the F111 at £13½ million; the Anglo-French VG at £2½ million; the Chinook at £1½ million. I have not the figure for the Buccaneers and the carriers have cost £60 million to modernise and they are now to be retired and thrown away in a year or two. Is this getting value for money in defence? True or false? The verdict, again, must be false.

The third statement in the White Paper, still in paragraph 2, must, I am sure, have been written personally by the Minister, because no civil servant would stoop to it. It is: … thus, despite the reduction in expenditure imposed by our economic needs we have been able to increase our contribution to the defence of Europe … Again, this just is not true. After a good deal of correspondence and a good deal of probing by means of Parliamentary Questions, I finally tied the Minister down to the number of people actually serving in B.A.O.R. on 1st October, 1964. It was 50,150 and on 1st October, 1969, five years later, it was 48,100, or 2,000 fewer. I agree that he may get on side later when he moves back to Germany the troops he took out in 1968 and placed in Catterick. It may then be marginally better in numbers than it was in 1964. But to pretend that our withdrawal from east of Suez, our ratting on our defence pacts in the Persian Gulf in Malaysia and in Singapore, have enabled an entirely new look and a strengthening in Europe is not true either from the facts as given in this White Paper or our knowledge in answer to Parliamentary Questions.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness) rose

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

I will not give way.

Mr. Booth

It is on the point of cancellation.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

The hon. Gentleman can take it up on another occasion.

I come to the next paragraph—paragraph 4, on the first page, which contains a number of quotations on costs which must be very difficult for any hon. Member to follow. What I want to quote briefly is the speech which the Secretary of State made to the Royal United Services Institution in October, 1969. It said, on page 2 paragraph 7: When the present Government assumed power in October 1964, it decided that there were overriding grounds of national interest for reducing the percentage of her national wealth which Britain spends on defence… As you all know, in the end we fixed on 5 per cent. of the Gross National Product as our target. Perhaps when the Secretary of State winds up the debate he will tell us how this was fixed. First, surely, the amount spent on defence depends on the virility and effectiveness of one's alliances. Today, N.A.T.O., without France, without the strong Canadian contribution and with threats of a United States withdrawal, is not very strong or united; secondly, it must depend on the strength and effectiveness of the enemy forces; and, thirdly, on the numbers which the United States contributes in Europe.

The régime of the Minister of Defence has been plagued by fixing targets irrespective of these important factors and then trying to stick to them through thick and thin. It is an arrogant attitude of "dixi"—"I have spoken." The Minister stated £2,000 million as being the maximum that we can afford on defence. We shall stick to that at 1964 prices irrespective of what happens in other spheres." Here, he says, "We shall stick to 5 per cent. irrespective of our alliances, the strength of our enemies, or anything else."

In the 1966 Defence Review, which was meant to be the review to overtake and reform all Defence Reviews, it was solemnly said: We plan, therefore, to bring our defence coverage to a stable level of about 6 per cent. of the gross national product. In the manifesto on which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were elected there was a reference to … bringing defence spending down to a stable level of about 6 per cent. of our national wealth. They were elected on that, and their Defence Review suggested that 6 per cent. was possible. Why, now, are we to be taken down to a figure of 5 per cent.? It is not surprising that hon. Members on these benches are critical.

Perhaps I might quote the figures which have been given me. In 1963–64, the percentage was 6.7. It was 6.7 again, 6.7 again, then 6.6, 6.6, 6.6, and, in 1968–69, 6.3. Those were the outturn percentages. It is estimated that in the current year it will give us about 6 per cent., and that next year, according to a reply to a Parliamentary Question, it will be marginally less than 6 at 5⅔ per cent. This must depend on the growth of our industrial production, and that is why, in our last year, when industrial production and therefore the G.N.P. was growing at an enormous rate, we did not spend our full 7 per cent. and it only turned out to be 6.7 per cent. That is a direct reflection of the country's expansion in the last two years of Conservative rule.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition dealt with the craziness of figures of our costs being flung across the Floor. That does not do either party any good. Presumably right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides are trying to go before the country as responsible citizens doing our best to defend our commitments and obligations.

Yesterday, when talking about defence in the Gulf and our possible presence there, the Minister said, about the foreign exchange costs: The hon. Member for Hendon, North has put these at about £11 million a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797, c. 441.] I tried to intervene, but the right hon. Gentleman refused to give way. Perhaps I might take this opportunity of correcting what he said. I did not make that estimate. I took the figures from an Annexe H of the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper last year, which puts the cost in foreign exchange at £11 million and which, this year, puts the same cost at £10 million.

I have made the point in an article and in speeches that the whole cost, both budgetary and foreign exchange, was offered by the shiekhdoms there who were anxious to have us in that part of the world. They were called "white slavers" by the Minister when they offered to pay for our forces last time. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has apologised and withdrawn that.

I mention one more point, and that concerns the carriers. If I have a chance of catching Mr. Speaker's eye in the debate on the Navy Estimates, I will develop this at greater length. But it is important, because it covers the defence of all our forces, and I ask the Government to consider whether matters have not completely changed since their decision to phase out our carriers. It was done for economic reasons, but surely our economy is stronger now. It was done before the growth of Russian naval strength became so evident in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. It was done in the hope that a counter to surface-to-surface missiles would be developed for our own use or bought from someone else.

That has not happened. It was done before Russia developed missile-firing fast patrol boats and supplied them to many of her allies and friends. Syria, Egypt and many other countries are equipped with these missile firing boats, and, as the Israelis found on their ship "Elath" when four missiles fired from a range of 15 miles all hit their target, they are very effective and cannot be countered without manned aircraft. Finally, it was done when we were hoping to have the F111 which, we were assured, would provide coverage to the fleet.

The Government's decision leaves a serious gap in our defences because we lack a long-range missile which Russian cruisers have and a short-range missile of the sort that about 200 craft have which have been built by Russia.

My last point concerns the cuts which have been made in defence research and development. I do not take pride in the fact that there has been a slash in this area, as the Minister for Defence for Equipment did. As a country, we will not feel the result of this slashing for many years. What is seed today does not become corn for 10 years or more in our weapons system.

When right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite came to power we were spending £2,209 million a year on defence and in 1966–67 we spent £275 million, or 12½ per cent., on research and development. That was quite healthy. Now, out of a Defence Vote of £2,400 million, we spend £222 million, which is a fall to less than 9 per cent. This is taking a grave risk, and I would direct attention not only to surface-to-surface missiles which are so badly needed but also to the importance of updating our Polaris fleet. We initiated the multi-headed Polaris, and this has now come to fruition.

The Americans have found it necessary to bring in the multi-headed independent re-entry vehicle, or MIRV, which is much more sophisticated. The Polaris fleet costs us only 1¼ per cent. of our Defence Vote. Surely it is a wise investment, especially after what we have heard today, to devote R and D to updating the fleet so that it can continue to act as a deterrent not only for ourselves in extremis but, above all, for N.A.T.O. as well.

I am sorry to leave the House at a time when our defence programme is in such disarray. If I may make a final appeal, it is to say that the Minister showed some signs of grace in saying: I know that many of my equipment decisions have been controversial and some may be proved mistaken. As that is so, I ask him to leave open as many options as possible. Do not let us have the sort of political spite that we saw when the TSR2 jigs and tools were destroyed just before the last election and as was done with "Victorious", which was broken up within a few hours of arriving at the breaker's yard. Do not let us have political strife. Let the three parties be united in wanting to do the best for our defence, our forces, and our allies.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that there are still many hon. Members who wish to speak.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)


Mr. Speaker

Order. If the right hon. Gentleman finds it difficult and painful to stand, he may remain seated while addressing the House.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am obliged to you. Mr. Speaker, but I think that I can stand.

We are debating defence, not defence for the next election or the election after that, but for the generations to come. We are debating defence, not to prevent a military defeat, but to prevent the outbreak of a war. The Secretary of State said it many times yesterday afternoon. During the last 60 years we have had two world wars, wars to end all wars. On each occasion, when they were over, the statesmen of the world agreed that their supreme objective must be to fulfil that pledge to the 30 million men who died in battle. They established international institutions to settle all disputes. They drew up a code of law that made aggression a crime. They agreed that drastic general disarmament under international control was the indispensable condition for the proper working of the institutions and for the proper maintenance of the law.

I want to deal with three points that affect the working of the law and the institutions of the United Nations. The first may seem to some hon. Members to be a minor matter. I believe that they are wrong.

The Foreign Secretary's Written Answer on 2nd February, on the use of "CS and other such gases" is the first point I wish to raise. That Answer purported to give a new interpretation to the Geneva Protocol of 1925. Of course, no unilateral declaration by one party can do that. The Written Answer alters nothing in the obligations by which this country is bound; and still less does it alter the customary and The Hague convention international law which was simply restated by the protocol—restated because poison gas had been so widely used in the First World War.

The purpose, and the only purpose, of the Foreign Secretary's Answer, and its only paltry effect, was to give some kind of respectability to the illegal and barbarous chemical campaign conducted by the United States forces in Vietnam. Let hon. Members understand what this chemical campaign has meant. Every fact I shall give has come to me from American experts, who are among the highest authorities in the world and who have opposed the chemical campaign since it began.

C.S. is not a "smoke". To use the word makes no military sense. In Vietnam, it has been very evidently a heavy irritating poison gas of the kind that the Geneva protocol explicitly forbids. It is used in very heavy concentrations delivered in 6-in. shells and aerial bombs. Let me read an extract from a U.S. soldier's letter to his family last year: I hope you all had a groovy 4th July. Ours had a real groovy time. They walked into about 600-1,000 gooks and did not have anybody killed. We dropped a ton or so of C.S. gas and had a little turkey-shoot. We killed about 40–50, but we drove the gooks out of bunkers and the gunships have been having, fun ever since. A concentration from 6-in. shells or aerial bombs is so heavy, so intense, that if Vietnam soldiers had stayed in their bunkers they would probably have died. In other words, it was utterly intolerable for them to do so; and when they came into the open they were slaughtered by the gunships or by concentrated artillery and machine-gun fire. This bears not the least relation to the riot control of which members of the Government have spoken. In Vietnam, C.S., directly and indirectly, has been one of the biggest killers of all the weapons used.

What about the "other such gases" of which the Foreign Secretary spoke? They are the herbicides and defoliants used by U.S. forces. Last week, I was at a Congressional conference in Washington, attended by Senators, Congressmen and some other leading figures in American public life. I heard a moving speech by Professor Galston, of Yale. He is recognised as perhaps the highest authority in that country on plant physiology and on the herbicide and defoliant campaign. He told the conference that 50,000 tons of these chemicals had been used in Vietnam. They have destroyed the crops, they have made grievous shortages of food for the old, the babies, the children and the sick. They have made the fields sterile for a year or more. They have caused heavy soil erosion with its long-term effects. They have depleted the microbial population of the soil and thus, perhaps, he said, have done irreparable harm.

Of the defoliant campaign, Professor Galston said the chemical 245T kills nearly all the trees with a first dose. A second dose kills them all. He said that in the wooded areas what he called "weed bamboo" was taking over, and Vietnam might never again have the lovely forests for which it was renowned. And 245T has been proved by experiments on rats to cause cancer and deformed offspring. There is already much evidence that deformed human babies are being born in Vietnam.

That is what the Foreign Secretary, by his Answer, calls on Britain to approve. I am told, I hope incorrectly, that pressure is being brought on Canada to do the same. Mr. Trudeau would betray half a century of Canadian tradition if he yielded. Professor Galston ended his very powerful speech by saying that international law should have provision against a new crime. To match genocide there should be added the crime of ecocide, the murder of the ecology of a nation, as was happening in Vietnam. I hope that the Government will listen to his protest and to what I have said. I hope still that they will withdraw their unhappy declaration of 2nd February and will oppose the pressure brought on Canada, if such there be.

I speak with some feeling, because I was in Geneva in 1925 when the Geneva protocol was made. I helped to draft the documents on which Arthur Henderson and Robert Cecil took their stand in 1930; and I know that the so-called "legal" arguments used to defend this unhappy declaration are empty nothings which, to foreigners, will only show the Government's contempt for international law.

I turn to a far graver matter, with which I will deal far from adequately, N.A.T.O.'s plans for using nuclear bombs. I want to read again, since they are very important, the words which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Mountbatten, wrote the other day in The Times: The actual use of tactical nuclear weapons could only end in escalation to total global nuclear destruction, and for that reason, no one in his senses would contemplate their use. Of course, the same thing was said by other great commanders. I remember Lord Tedder saying it in another place, and President Eisenhower said very much the same.

I want briefly to review what the Secretary of State has said about nuclear weapons in recent years. In 1965, when he was new to office, he told us that if nuclear war should happen life in these islands would be extinct within three days". In 1967, he told us that: … a Western nuclear response to deliberate aggression in Europe would be inevitable. Then he made this astonishing statement: … there is no country on the Continent which does not believe that a prolonged conventional war would inflict damage on it quite as difficult to bear as the damage resulting from a strategic nuclear exchange."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 112–3.] I wish to God that that was true.

In 1968, the Secretary of State said that if there was an all-out Soviet attack on Western Europe N.A.T.O. exists to ensure that nuclear weapons would be used to resist it and tactical weapons have a rôle in this respect. My right hon. Friend explained that that was primarily a question of taxation; no N.A.T.O. country was ready to bear the cost of the conventional forces that would be required. He used another phrase that I should like to quote: … not only victory or defeat on the battlefield, but even the survival of the human race as a whole might depend on the West prolonging to the maximum the period of effective conventional resistance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 61.] I thought that was a very strange sequel to his argument about taxation.

In 1969, my right hon. Friend told us that, if Russia attacked, nuclear weapons must, of course, be used, but that he had persuaded N.A.T.O. that they could not be used on the battlefield; even the tacticals would produce such chaos that the battle simply could not go on. Therefore, he was working out new guidelines about how they could be used. He did not tell us what they were.

Also in 1969, my right hon. Friend made his Munich speech, in which he told us that his reliance on the nuclear stockpiles was still complete. He asked what I thought was his terrible question, what he called the "unanswerable question", Why change a strategy which has worked and shows every sign of continuing to work very well? He said that the H bombs had given us 20 years of peace. What kind of peace? He added that it would give us 20 years more. How can he know?

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend told us that the nuclears would be used, but that the targets would be different. He said they would be used first for tactical purposes, and only later, if required, for strategic purposes as well. What does all this add up to? That the nuclears will be used, at first for a tactical purpose; but they will be used even if that leads to escalation which would destroy the human race. The Secretary of State said that there is no way out of this dilemma except conscription and a massive increase in conventional arms. With great respect, I would say that there is another way out.

I should like to quote what Lord Mountbatten said when in 1962, he was invited to give the first Annual Lecture on Defence in the University of Edinburgh, with another eminent naval member of the Royal Family in the chair. Lord Mountbatten began his lecture thus: In this University, what you should be concerned with is survival. A third world war would be suicide, after which there would be nothing left of our civilisation. If the West can destroy Russia several times over, it is not much good, if Russia can destroy the West once over … I think that eventually we must come to nuclear disarmament. In 1961, while Lord Mountbatten was Chief of Staff, and at his instigation, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers made the following declaration, which I think might be historic: The Prime Ministers held a full discussion on the problem of disarmament. They recognised that this was the most important question facing the world today. The aim must be to achieve total world-wide disarmament, subject to effective inspection and control. In view of the slaughter and destruction experienced in so-called conventional wars, and of the difficulty of preventing a conventional war, once started, from developing into a nuclear war, our aim must be nothing less than the complete abolition of the means of waging war of any kind. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers went on to say: All national forces and armaments must be reduced to the levels agreed to be necessary for internal security. Once started, the process of disarmament should be continued without interruption until it is completed …". That declaration by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in 1961 was due to Lord Mountbatten. It was decisive in persuading President Kennedy—and I know the facts of this matter—to make his plea to the United Nations General Assembly in favour of the total disarmament for which the Commonwealth Prime Ministers had declared. It was decisive in persuading the United Nations Assembly to endorse the McCloy-Zorin principles as the basis for disarmament negotiations. It was also decisive in persuading President Kennedy to put forward, with our support, the draft Treaty for general disarmament which he presented to the Committee of Eighteen in April, 1962.

If, when he came to office two years later, the Secretary of State had made that draft treaty the basis of his policy, history might have been very different. I find the present prospects of which he speaks rather bleak. Everyone hopes that the strategic arms limitation talks will succeed. But I have watched negotiations on disarmament since 1919, and I say with confidence that the two Powers have chosen to deal with the most difficult of ail armament problems, to deal with it in isolation and, as history shows, by the method least likely to give results.

Mutual troop reductions by N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact in Europe are envisaged in the White Paper and were mentioned in the Secretary of State's speech yesterday. Of course, if it happened, we should all rejoice. But does it relate to troops in Europe only? If so, does that make sense? Is it to include nothing about the 7,000 nuclear weapons in Central Europe? Can Russia accept reductions without China, without the CENTO Powers, without the rest of Asia?

I will not spend time on the pathetic section of the White Paper headed "The Search for Disarmament". It speaks of long debates in Geneva about the seabed, when the sea itself is full of proliferating warships, surface vessels and submarines whose nuclear warheads may soon be multiplied by ten. Forty years ago, Lord Grey of Falloden, who spent 10 years trying to stop the outbreak of the First World War, when it was over, said: The nations must disarm or perish. The modern arms race has brought that very near. The first Resolution adopted by the League of Nations on the subject, in 1921, said: Disarmament, to be successful, must be general. Everything that has happened since has proved that to be true. I go further back. John Stuart Mill, once a Member of this House, said: Against a great evil a small remedy does not produce a small result—it produces no result at all. That is what is happening with the arms race now.

Our only hope is to go back to the Commonwealth Prime Minister's declaration and to the two draft treaties, Russian and United States, of 1962. There is still time for the great remedy to be adopted. But the time is getting short.

6.51 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I am sure it will be the wish of the whole House that I should extend our sympathy to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) on his physical discomfiture and to hope that he will soon be free of his crutches—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] However we may differ, we all recognise the deep sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman in everything that he says. My difficulty, when he speaks, is to put practicality into some of his pacifist ideas.

I loathe war. I think that anybody who has participated in war loathes it. The monopolisation of the love of peace, in which some people indulge, is infuriating to those who have experienced war in one of the three Services, or, indeed, in recent times as a civilian under bombing attacks. Nobody likes or wants war. The debate is about how to prevent it.

As many hon. Members have reminisced for a while, may I say that I do not recollect my father, because I was only six months old when he was killed in the first battle of Ypres. Many of my relations fell in World War I and in World War II. I had the privilege of being in the 1941 Greek campaign in World War II. I know how deeply attached to that country is the right hon. Member for Derby, South.

We are considering how to prevent happening again the kind of things that have happened even since World War II. For example, the ghastly business of the taking away of tens of thousands of children from Greece by the Communists. Where have they gone? We want to stop these horrors happening in the world, but we will not stop them by abandoning our military strength.

The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked: Does anybody suppose that the Russians want war? Of course they do not. But we know what they would do if the Western allies were to pull out the whole of their N.A.T.O. strength from Europe. They would fill the vacuum of power very rapidly. This is what they and other Communist countries have tried to do wherever a vacuum appears. For these reasons, we must ensure that our defences are adequate.

The greatest danger contained in the White Paper is the decision to move our commitments out of the territory east of Suez. The official Opposition have been challenged several times in the debate on why they take the view that this is a mistaken policy and that they will do their best to rectify it. I will give my reasons, which I believe are shared by others.

The one thing that we in this country have to recognise is that because of our land centrality and the smallness of our territory we cannot live upon our own resources. We rely upon the long lines of communication around the great land masses of the world. If other hon. Members are prepared to leave the securing of these long lines of communications to others, I am not. This is why I believe that the most important aspect of our defence policy is a naval and maritime problem rather than anything else.

I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy is present while I am speaking. He will know that in the Select Committee on Science and Technology we have been discussing defence research. I endorse what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said at the beginning of the debate. I hope that what the Minister of Defence for Equipment said last night will not be regarded as an adequate debate of the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology's report on Defence Research.

I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy to bear in mind that naval projects are very important. If I had the choice—and I confess considerable ignorance of naval matters—I would go flat out to build as many hunter-killer submarines as we could possibly afford, bearing in mind the vastness of the Russian submarine fleet today. I ask the hon. Gentleman to remind his right hon. and hon. Friends of the time that projects are apt to take. The White Paper, on page 49, paragraph 11(d) states: Work will continue on the following major research and development projects", one of which is the Mk.24 torpedo. It is worth realising how long that has been going on and how many years have yet to elapse before we are likely to see it. I think that I am right in saying that it started over ten years ago and it is not yet over its troubles.

I know that I must not talk about these matters too elaborately on this occasion, but it is the answer to the points put last night by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), who wants to see research and development cut down. If we continue cutting down on research and development we will not only deny the Armed Forces today of their weapons, but we will also make absolutely certain that in perhaps ten to fifteen years time the security of this country will be wickedly imperilled because we had not the "guts", to put it bluntly, as taxpayers to afford the money for what was necessary.

I come back to the decision to pullout east of Suez. The Government, very properly, have said that they want to pay more attention to operational analysis than they have before. Operational analysis is an important new technique for deciding whether we should take this, that or the other decision. It is worth realising that the decision to move from east of Suez was taken midstream in the operational analysis that was being carried on at West Byfleet in the Defence Operational Analysis Establishment.

To prove this, I will make one quotation from the second report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on defence research. At page 460 of the report, question 1987, I asked the witness whether the decision to move out from east of Suez had been taken after or before the study had been completed. His answer was: We had completed the study up to 1975. It was very much an examination of our capability with current equipments. We were then going on to consider the post-1975 situation in which a completely new set of equipments was possible, both in terms of aircraft and ships. Before the decision was made the pre-1975 study was available in the Ministry of Defence and had been sent to the Secretary of State before the decision was made. Now we know that the decision was taken far too early in the day. If any hon. Member believes that a major change in strategic thinking can be made on an operational analysis for only three years ahead, he should go back to his books and study the history of the nation.

It was grossly irresponsible of the Government—I go further and say that it was monstrous of them—not to have declared that the operational analysis was incomplete. I wonder if they told certain hon. Gentlemen opposite of this fact, remembering that they were trying to pacify a certain element on the benches opposite at that time? What a soul-destroying exercise it must be to work at the West Byfleet Establishment, knowing that at any time the Government are capable of taking a major decision when an operational analysis, which is designed to give them a full picture of the situation, is in the middle of preparation.

I am sure that Sir William Cook, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Defence, would agree that it is no good having an operational analysis unless the results are available before major decisions are taken. The quid pro quo is that if an operational analysis is commissioned, the Government should wait for the full report to be presented before taking a major strategic decision. I severely condemn the Government for their behaviour over this matter.

In connection with the report of the Select Committee, I must mention the rôle of the Treasury. The right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) made what I thought was one of the most honourable speeches I have heard in my 25 years in the House.

He, as it were, absolved Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, from blame for having failed to prepare the nation for World War II on the grounds that as fast as he asked for money for rearmament Neville Chamberlain, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, refused to let him have any.

During the years that I have been alive the hands of the Treasury have dripped with the blood of their fellow countrymen. No Department in Government has been more responsible for the Forces being sent into action ill-equipped and often inadequately trained. The reason is that the Treasury has not given and still will not give, priority to defence.

In the evidence which we in the Select Committee took from the Treasury this was made clear to me. I asked a Treasury witness if that Department gave any priority whatever to defence from the scientific point of view in connection with research and development into equipment. His answer was "No". In other words, the Treasury does not regard it as the least important to make any distinction between civil, military and scientific effort. Instead, those responsible in the Treasury sit like a collection of Pontius Pilates washing their hands of responsibility in such a way that other Ministers must take the blame for errors and omissions.

I say without hesitation that unless we get this right our defence policy will never make sense in this modern age. If we are to have the sort of equipment we require for our Armed Forces in the years to come, the Treasury, under a Conservative or Socialist Government, must be brought to heel by Parliament. The Treasury loathes Select Committees and is almost insolent to them.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman, with respect, that it is unusual for hon. Members to attack people who cannot defend themselves.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

On a point of order. Might I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend was referring to the Treasury and that it will be within your knowledge that in statutes the Treasury is referred to as a Minister? This is because the Treasury is a Minister, being a short expression for the Lords Commissioners. I submit, therefore, that my hon. Friend is in order in that he is attacking the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, who are responsible to this House.

Mr. Speaker

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's observation.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention, but I take note of the reason why you called me to order, Mr. Speaker. I suppose that we must remember that the Prime Minister is also the First Lord of the Treasury.

Some of us have given many hours' attention to the problems which confront the Department of Defence, and particularly the Minister of Defence for Equipment, who spoke last night. I want him to know that the answer which he gave last night will not be regarded by the Select Committee as an adequate reply to the recommendations that we made. I hope that he will pay the greatest possible attention to our recommendation that the moment it is decided by the Cabinet that a certain policy should be followed, the Treasury will be as fully committed to promoting that exercise as any other Department.

We must stop this business of the Treasury acting as a monitor and brake, being able to stop certain policies being achieved, as that Department has frequently done in the past. The various Departments of Government must work together as a team, and the Treasury must work in co-operation as a fully committed member of that team.

7.7 p.m.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

I wish to return to the main issue of the debate, I know that I am speaking on behalf of a number of Labour hon. Members—

Mr. Ramsden

Where are they?

Mr. Allaun

They are not far away.

I know that I speak for a number of my hon. Friends when I say that we are totally opposed to the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances. The proposal to use them first is even more terrible.

While no doubt aiming to prevent a nuclear holocaust, the current N.A.T.O. proposals are more likely to bring it about. The initial launching of nuclear weapons would provoke and not deter decimation. They would be suicide weapons. The current argument is that if Soviet Russia began a massive conventional invasion of Western Europe, which even The Times this morning considers highly unlikely, the West would drop a tactical nuclear weapon, or several of them, to show that if the Russians continued to advance, all-out H-bomb warfare would result. It is believed by the generals and Defence Ministers that this warning would cause Soviet leaders to have second thoughts. In my view, the probable effect would be the opposite.

These "small" atom bombs would be of the size of the one which wiped out Hiroshima. Does anybody seriously believe that if such a bomb were dropped anywhere in Eastern Europe or Russia the Kremlin would set up the Soviet equivalent of a Royal Commission to examine the size of the bomb, the exact nature of the target, and the particular source from which it was fired? Of course they would not. Hon. Members may recall Aneurin Bevan's saying, "There is no label on an atom-bomb".

Mr. Tapsell

Does the hon. Member also recall the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan saying that he did not wish to be "sent naked into the conference chamber"?

Mr. Allaun

Yes I do, but I prefer his earlier sentiments. Aneurin Bevan never agreed to the first use of nuclear weapons.

The Russians would proceed quickly to retaliate with similar bombs or to escalate to the use of hydrogen bombs. The possible sources would include Britain, since we are a base for nuclear bombers and for Polaris submarines. This would condemn our people to an instant or lingering death.

I ask the Secretary of State to clear up, when he replies to the debate, a remaining confusion on a vital issue. Yesterday, at Question Time, I asked him: Will the Minister at least give the House an assurance that the decision for the initial use of nuclear weapons will not be left to commanders in the field rather than to statesmen, as that would be even more alarming? My right hon. Friend replied: I am delighted to give that assurance, and, in doing so, flatly to deny the report to the contrary in The Times this morning".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797. c. 388.] At first, that assurance seems satisfactory, although, of course, it is not so to those who, like me, are opposed to the initial use of nuclear weapons whoever gives the signal to launch them. My right hon. Friend's reply could mean two things. First, it could mean—and I hope it does—that it has been agreed that the decision to fire them must be taken at top level, at Government or President level, at the time. I repeat the words "at the time". The second meaning could be that the guidelines have been drawn up and the circumstances determined now at Government or Presidential level on which the commanders in the field could take the decision without obtaining further sanction from the statesmen at that time. Will my right hon. Friend give us the assurance that the first and not the second position is correct? I feel sure that he could do this without any breach of security.

Without any such assurance, I am most alarmed that it could be the second proposal. For otherwise I cannot see much point in deciding in advance in which circumstances the tactical nuclear weapons would be used. Implicit in the agreement by America and the other N.A.T.O. countries to guidelines must be permission in advance for commanders to use the atom bombs, as events in a crisis might be moving too fast to allow time for consultation.

I believe that it used to be the policy of the Labour Government and the Labour Party that we should never use nuclear weapons, strategic or tactical, first. On 5th December, 1967 the late Mr. Emrys Hughes asked the Prime Minister: If my right hon. Friend states that we ourselves will never use nuclear weapons first, how will we be in a position to use them second? To which the Prime Minister replied—and I ask my hon. Friends to note this: The statement about our use of nuclear weapons represents the view always held by this side of the House and, indeed, by our predecessors. As to the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the matter is not quite as simple as he has in mind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 1134.] I should like this question, also, to be dealt with by my right hon. Friend.

Some Conservative Members said yesterday that if we reject the case for early use of atom and hydrogen bombs we must greatly increase the size of our conventional forces and reintroduce conscription. That was not said by the Leader of the Opposition, but certainly by hon. Members who sit behind him. I do not accept this. I am opposed to both. We have no fewer than 376,000 men and women in the forces plus an almost equal number of civilians employed by the Defence Ministry. Even if we trebled or quadrupled those large numbers—and completely bankrupted ourselves—we still could not prevent nuclear missiles landing on Britain. In any case, I do not believe that the Eastern countries of Europe have any intention of invading the West or vice versa.

I do not believe that the Opposition would introduce conscription, certainly before an election. No party would be daft enough to announce that before a General Election, because it is so unpopular. Conscription is a colossal waste of manpower. It has led to all kinds of trouble. Many hon. Members here today were in the House at that time. M.P.s' advice bureaux were filled by invalid parents who had been left without sons to attend on them, and young wives and children of conscripts, sometimes wives on the verge of nervous breakdown.

Conscription also involves a vast addition to present military expenditure. I remember a Conservative Defence Minister admitting that it was most unpopular with the officers because regular Servicemen were upset by close contact with conscripts, who were mostly dissatisfied and were thinking only of the time when they could get out of the forces. Finally, conscription in peacetime is a gross interference with human liberty.

Fortunately, there is a third way which could avoid both nuclear weapons and big conventional forces. It is particularly attractive to those of us who are adherents neither to the Soviet nor to the American way of life. That is to proceed without further delay with an East-West security conference. I do not want to go into this at length, because I wish to allow time for other hon. Members to take part in the debate. The present time is extremely propitious for holding such a conference. The international situation is favourable. I cannot see why both sides do not get on with it.

A final word on total arms spending. To believe that it has been drastically cut is, unfortunately, to make a big mistake. It has risen year by year approximately by £90 million to £100 million a year to the all-time record this year of £2,415 million. Admittedly, prices have risen also. So that in real terms this expenditure has remained roughly the same. But there is certainly not the drastic cut in arms spending which the Labour Party conference urged in its resolution, or the T.U.C. asked for very recently.

I refer to the T.U.C. General Council One would have thought that ending our military bases east of Suez, which we on this side of the House warmly welcome, would have brought about some large reductions in real expenditure. As this has not taken place, it is clear that in other parts of the military budget there has been an actual rise.

This is the only sphere in which the Government can cut expenditure without hurting ordinary working people. Public opinion polls have shown that there is overwhelming support for the policies I am advocating. If it is asked where cuts in arms spending could be made, I point to three big items. First, there is the £222 million a year devoted to military research, which was welcomed by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). In contrast, how much does medical research get? It is £15 million a year. This should have priority rather than the other. Secondly, there is the £650 million minimum to be spent on the M.R.C.A.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Allowing that Britain has to have military planes, would it not be better for her to have British planes, produced cheaply but well, than to buy, say, American Phantoms, which they would replace at twice the cost even acknowledging that they would be made in the United States?

Mr. Allaun

I appreciate the point, but there are others. There are the V-bombers which are still in service.

Mr. Ronald Atkins


Mr. Allaun

Cuts could also be made in B.A.O.R., which involves £210 million a year direct expenditure. If we include the "hardware"—the weapons—and the overheads, we can at least double that sum.

I conclude by saying that this policy would not only permit the transfer of resources to other and better things, but would help to lessen tension throughout the world.

7.20 p.m.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)

The views of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) are well known. I do not share many of them, but I shall show that I at least share some of the apprehension he expressed early in his speech.

The debate has rightly centred on the major considerations of our defence policy and the rôle of nuclear weapons. There has been no mention of the wide general public who seldom discuss defence policy or even how much they as taxpayers pay towards defence. But many of them want the answer to one simple question: are we, and are they, adequately defended? In a very moving speech yesterday, the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) reminded us of his responsibilities in the 1930s. I certainly hope that his speech served to remind us of ours today.

The question centres now on Europe, in B.O.A.R., where our main defence is concentrated. Have we enough, and is it of the right kind? I am very concerned about whether our present strength there is adequate to match the right need. Does it allow for adequate, or even any, reserves? We must all accept that there is a climate which suggests that we cannot continue over the next decade to shelter beneath an umbrella provided by America. If we are to look to less help in that direction, we must recognise that our forces in B.A.O.R. are still stretched, and if there is cause to rejoice in a move from the trip-wire policy to that of flexible response, there is certainly cause to ask whether the forces available can meet that change, a change that could necessitate the holding of massive conventional forces by our conventional forces.

I do not quarrel with the change, but like the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten, and right hon. and hon. Members, I have always doubted the reality of a tactical nuclear exchange without certain escalation. That is perhaps the one point I have in common with the hon. Member for Salford, East. I first expressed these doubts in the House more than six years ago at a time when only a few thin voices sang to this tune. I do not wish to go into the limitations in our tactical nuclear field, but my suspicions as to the credibility of those weapons if used were first aroused on seeing Corporal fired. My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) spoke earlier about selected targets. I recall my very limited experience as leaving me with a firm impression that a target would have to be conveniently very wide. I was not consoled by being led on at that time to find Honest John associated with a calibration baloon. I had been so associated myself in years of war, and the process was wearisome. We heard yesterday from the Government Front Bench that Lance is not available and Sergeant has been judged unsuitable.

The over-riding question is a likeli-hood of a tactical nuclear exchange leading to certain escalation. Holding the practical doubts which I have expressed, I am the more convinced of the lack of wisdom in this course. So we turn to the major strategy of a nuclear exchange. We must all be agreed that this is mutual suicide. We must eliminate it as best we can and leave its use in the ultimate field of deterrence where I think it has a very important rôle to play.

So we come to the question of our conventional forces. Are they adequately protected themselves, and have we reserves adequate for a conventional confrontation? If one discredits tactical nuclear weapons as I have done, however well the guide lines may be drawn, and one rejects the mutual holocaust of our all-out nuclear strategy, our forces must be adequate for conventional war for at least as long as gives time to attempt settlement. What of our reserves? Here at once the question that has been raised from both sides of the House comes very much to the fore. What else is there? Is it not tragic that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should have hammered and closed down the great organisation of the Territorial Army which brought so many willing men and women to voluntary national service? What is it that confines hon. Gentlemen opposite to thinking in terms of a pattern and plan which might so easily be tried and in that very moment of trial might need the strength and reserves which could hold a conventional attack over the vital time when one hopes that a rational agreement might be reached?

I am not suggesting that in such a case a Territorial Army as we knew it would descend on Germany like the Gillies from the Hill at Bannockburn. Every regular reserve will be required and there will be no one to take on the many and immediate emergency measures for which we are quite unprepared.

There is no time in a major debate of this kind to discuss the many aspects of defence most closely related to the minds of our own constituents, but I must mention two matters affecting Scotland, both of which illustrate Government follies. How can the Government find this year, the year when so many people are turning to think in terms of conventional need, to disband one of the best-recruited infantry regiments we have? How can they require and accept our South African base while withholding from South Africa the frigates for her defence which we wish to build on the Clyde?

Double-talk and partial deception, both of which we have seen far too much in the White Paper and during the debate, are not the language of adequate defence. All the savings spent on social schemes, however good, are useless if through such spending the savings on defence leave us defenceless.

7.29 p.m.

Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)

The hon. Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) will forgive me if I do not at the outset address myself to the main theme of her speech, though I think that I shall refer to points she made during my speech.

I congratulate the Government on the evidence of their increasingly firm financial control of our defence programme. This is obviously something to be welcomed in the modern atmosphere of concern amongst all politicians for a stern eye on public expenditure. Obviously, to be sound, a defence policy must be related to what we can afford. Obviously, too, a Labour Government must at all times approach their defence policy in the context of their overall social priorities.

During the past two days certain points have become indisputable. First, I think that there is wide recognition on both sides of the House that in our post-Imperial status defence and foreign policy can be conducted only in the context of international organisations and international agreements. We can no longer afford alone to police the world or even significant parts of the world, but we remain as vulnerable as ever to miscalculations by those who are more able to do so than we are. Petulant reactions to the condominium of the United States and Russia as it emerges are absurd. Talk of an independent European deterrent is most unwise. The real challenge surely is to influence the giants and to keep them constantly aware of the significance of interdependence in the age of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. If we are to do this, N.A.T.O. is essential, and within the framework of N.A.T.O. we should press constantly for meaningful negotiations with the Warsaw Pact, but not to the exclusion of those bilateral consultations and negotiations which could help to prepare the ground for fruitful collective discussion.

The expressed willingness, as underlined in the White Paper, to initiate the use of the nuclear deterrent is disturbing. First, it is disturbing because it seems to me questionable whether countries which claim to be civilised can really base their defence on the threat indiscriminately to kill and maim millions of innocent men, women and children who are largely guiltless of the crimes or policies of their totalitarian Governments. Secondly, to initiate nuclear action will make counteraction inevitable, and this would clearly amount to suicide for a nation such as Britain.

Because of the inevitable chain reaction following the first nuclear shot, so called "tactical" or not it is highly dubious whether the United States will be prepared to die for Europe. It is equally dubious whether we ourselves would follow crisply the logic of our own position. We are likely to become prisoners of our own policy, frozen into impotence, compelled to appease advancing hostile forces. Strong conventional forces are essential to the credibility of N.A.T.O.

If we examine the likely way in which hostilities could occur, I think most would agree that head-on confrontation between the super Powers is unlikely. They realise what is at stake in nuclear warfare. Cuba and Czechoslovakia, both tragic situations, have underlined the reality as seen by the super Powers.

The real danger remains the possibility of indirect confrontation, escalation from so-called local conflicts such as Vietnam, Nigeria, the Middle East, or future possibilities in the African continent. All of these contained or still contain the seeds of this potential escalation. We cannot afford to dismiss crises, wherever they may be, however many miles distant, as beyond our concern. If we accept this contention and agree that it is impossible any longer to act effectively alone, there are certain things we must do. We must promote international peace-keeping machinery to higher priority in defence policy.

Let us just examine one crisis, that of the Middle East. There is widespread acceptance in the House of the value of the November 1967 Resolution at the United Nations, as spelling out a possible solution to that crisis, but we know that one of the things that has made it impossible to move towards the fulfilment of the terms of that Resolution has been the very understandable misgiving on the part of Israel as to how its terms could in fact be implemented effectively. Clearly, if we are to back up a Resolution of this kind, sound viable international peace-keeping machinery is absolutely essential.

We must also dig the disarmament section of the Foreign Office out of its remote and dusty corner and promote it to the front line of our defence policy, because the fundamental principle of the age in which we live—it is no longer possible to regard this as a romantic idealistic pipedream—is that the only certain defence policy is the achievement of comprehensive international disarmament.

The reason I say this is that every one of us in the House must recognise that, even if we were theoretically to define the limits within which nuclear weapons would be used, even perhaps to move towards the elimination of existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, we can never eliminate the technical ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. Therefore, if we really are looking for peace and security in the interests of our country, we have to tackle the problem of dealing with the basis from which escalation could occur. This includes, inevitably and inescapably, facing up to the issue of comprehensive international disarmament.

There are four points I should like to mention at this stage as related to specific parts of the White Paper. First, I should like to join with those who urge the Government to look again at its civil defence policy. All Armed Services are intended to have deterrent value. How is our readiness to act to carry conviction if we have largely dismantled the machinery for dealing in Britain with the consequences of conflict? These civilian services could be geared to vital action in civil emergencies in Britain as well.

Secondly, I should like to join with those who ask the Government at least seriously to re-examine its policy towards the territorials and the reserve Forces. Perhaps, in the nuclear age in which we live, Forces of this kind have a greater significance than ever before. Last August I was in Rumania on the day on which it was celebrating the anniversary of its revolution, and I watched the tedious, hours-long procession of military equipment. As I saw the more sophisticated weapons passing by, I was struck by the futility of the public expense on weapons of this kind. What could they do against their potential enemies or invaders? What impressed me most as I watched that parade was the long line of civil defence volunteers, of popular militia volunteers, who were spelling out the message to any potential invader, "Come if you will, but meet the consequences of your coming. We shall fight in the streets, in the factories, and in our villages." This is a lesson which we ought to look at seriously ourselves.

The third point I want to mention in relation to the White Paper is not directly related to either of those two points. The White Paper refers to the rôle of boy Service men and also to cadet forces. A good deal has been said in the debate about boy Service men. I want to ask the Government to look very closely at its policy towards cadet forces.

I am not altogether happy—many hon. Members will share this feeling—about inducing youngsters, before they have reached an age of rational decision, to an involvement in the Services, but what I am clear about is that if this is done it must be done on a genuinely voluntary basis. It disturbs me, although there is an increasingly smaller number of such schools, that some schools, as part of their regular activity, expect young people to join a cadet force. In my view, cadet forces—I was a member of one during my school days and enjoyed my membership—must be voluntary if they are to be effective. Apart from the principle at stake, it may be counter-productive if they are not organised on a voluntary basis.

My fourth point concerns our N.A.T.O. partners. Apart from contradicting the purposes of the alliance, which are to preserve freedom and democracy, the presence of Portugal and Greece undermines its moral fibre. Portugal—I trust that this is in order, because it is central to our whole participation in N.A.T.O.—is internally a dictatorship and externally conducts cruel wars of colonial repression. I believe it is leading N.A.T.O. into indirect involvement on the wrong side in the African continent. Our willingness to connive at this policy makes an interesting contrast with the Government's wise and firm stand on the embargo on arms sales to the Republic of South Africa.

By the Portuguese action in the African continent and our connivance at it, we are helping to make Communism synonymous with the legitimate aspirations of subjected people fighting for their elementary human rights and for elementary justice. If we are to be effective in our defence policy and if we are to look to the future stability of the African continent, we should not discard the possibility of a new Vietnam-type crisis developing in the Southern half of that continent, with the East on one side and the West on the losing, minority side. This is something very central to our participation in N.A.T.O. and I hope that the Government will make this view constantly known to our partner, Portugal.

I have the honour to represent a constituency with a very rich tradition of service to the defence of Britain. It would be wrong of me to speak in this debate without mentioning two points which have become very clear to me in the course of my constituency work. The first, not unnaturally, concerns the dockyard. Yesterday, the Minister told us that we are now to have established a dockyard board. Of course we want streamlined, effective yards to service a streamlined and effective modern Navy. The recent improvements in conditions of service have been appreciated by many working in the yards, but it would be wrong to pretend that morale is good. It is not. If the current productivity talks are to succeed, it is essential—I had to emphasise this in a supplementary question yesterday—to demonstrate the Government's determination to see conditions of service really competitive with those outside the yards.

If the proposed large-scale capital investment is to prove worthwhile, it is essential to re-examine the whole structure of the yards. The administrative structure is still too remote, inflexible and impersonal. It is part of a vast, amorphous Civil Service system, stretching back to Bath and Whitehall, a system totally unsuited to the yards' industrial task. If there is to be a sound future for the yards servicing the Navy efficiently, there must be more local accountability. There must be delegation of authority to individual yards. There must be meaningful local bargaining between management and unions, and there must be an emphasis on local solutions to local problems. With the establishment of the dockyard board, the time has come to consider the possibility of establishing an independent, industrially-orientated corporation with real autonomy, akin to that now enjoyed by the Post Office.

My constituency experience also leads me to speak about pensions for service personnel and their widows. In an Adjournment debate a few weeks ago, I raised the issue of the pre-1950 widows of Servicemen. I beg the Government to consider how these people will see the considerable new public expenditure on improved conditions of service for serving personnel. They will not begrudge these improvements, but they will ask whether, if the country can afford improvements like this, a little contribu- tion, even the most modest, could not be made in their direction, enabling them to enjoy better prosperity in their remaining years, in the recognition that both the widows of Service personnel, and the older Service pensioners themselves, gave their service to this country to defend the values on which we pride ourselves, in a time when service was very tough compared to the conditions enjoyed today. I beg the Government to look at this issue and see whether there is not some possibility of improvement.

7.47 p.m.

Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)

In the earlier part of his speech, the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) referred to a criticism which a number of his hon. Friends made yesterday and today of those of us who object to the Government's proposed withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia. He implied that we had some hankering to police the whole world. Many of my earlier speeches, at the beginning of the '60s, were in support of the "Wind of Change" policy which my leaders were then pursuing but which was extremely controversial in my party at the time, although I believe that its timing and execution has now been justified as a considerable act of statesmanship. So I hope that the hon. Member will acquit me of any hankering to police large areas of the world just for the sake of doing so.

I am a firm supporter of the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) that we should continue to remain in the Far East as a modest part of a five-Power Commonwealth force. I am not suggesting that the level of forces which we should maintain in Malaysia and Singapore should in any way resemble those which we had there during confrontation, or that we need to keep the great complex of the Singapore base. This is a part of the world which I have known intimately for the past 10 years. I have visited it on business six times in the past 12 months and keep in close touch with all the leading politicians and military figures in the area.

I anticipated the Secretary of State by nearly a year when, in the debate on the 1967 Defence White Paper, with confrontation only just ended and the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister still professing themselves fervid east of Suez men, I said: nearly one-third of the gross national product of the great, thriving city of Singapore comes from our expenditure on the base. Eight months after the end of confrontation it still seems to be the intention to keep large forces based there at very heavy cost for a good many years. I concluded my speech with the words: … I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman takes a long look at our Singapore base and its future rôle in British defence strategy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 188, 189.] It is not for me to criticise him for following that advice. What I do blame him for is the way in which it was done and the reasons for which it was done.

The right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) admirably described the situation in which that decision was taken. Many other hon. and right hon. Members have also described it. The problem facing us now is not whether the overgrown base should be reduced, which was the point I was making in the 1967 debate, but the very different one as to whether there should be a total withdrawal by this country from Singapore and Malaysia by the end of 1971. Contrary to what has been said by everyone so far, I believe that the choice offered to this country, and to Singapore and Malaysia, is not quite so dramatic as our party political process leads people to suggest. The strange truth is that the Secretary of State has deliberately chosen to present his Government's position and policies on Malaysia and Singapore in the worst possible light—reminiscent of the notorious White Paper on the balance of payments issued by this Government in autumn, 1964 and also of the recent way in which the Secretary of State, who I am glad to see has just returned to his place, has played down our continuing power under the Nassau Agreement.

For reasons which I will suggest, he has presented his plans for the 1970s in the Far East in a very unfavourable light. Even under his plans, I understand from my visits to the Far East that two full infantry battalions would each spend up to 10 weeks training each year at the jungle warfare school in Malaysia and in addition 10 infantry companies each year will go to the school from the considerably reinforced battalions which are to be kept in Hong Kong. This would be so even under the Secretary of State's proposals.

The R.A.F. will almost certainly continue to operate large numbers of aircraft out of Tengah. The Royal Navy will almost always have a unit in the vicinity and, whatever the Government may say, Ark Royal, after its £30 million refit, £22 million of which has been spent in the past two years, will almost certainly, whichever Government wins the next election, spend a large part of its time east of Suez, alternating with the Australian carrier.

So even under the proposed plans of this Government, there will at almost all times be British defence units helping to maintain the security of Malaysia and Singapore. In addition, as the right hon. Gentleman has made clear, there will be a general capability to send forces to the Far East, in a hurry, if necessary. The Brigade exercise from the United Kingdom later this year, to be held in Malaysia, is intended to demonstrate this very clearly. Against this background it is disingenuous, to say the least, for the Secretary of State to pretend that the Conservative proposal to maintain a modest, permanent contribution to a five-Power Commonwealth force in the area is likely to be of a very different order of costs from the arrangements that he proposes in his White Paper. Any calculations based on a projection forward of "confrontation" levels of expenditure are entirely bogus.

Our proposals would be a great deal cheaper, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made clear, than the current level of British military expenditure in the area, and I would suspect not much more costly in practice than the proposals of this Government for the Far East after 1971. The great difference between the two alternative policies upon which the country will be asked to pronounce in the next General Election will not be in the expense or military capacity involved, but in the presentation of these policies at home and to the Far East.

This is fundamental because it may well represent the difference between failure and success. At present there is no confidence in the policies or personalities of this British Government, either among the people and leaders in South-East Asia or among the British businessmen in the area, whose presence represents such a vast capital investment for this country and earns us such large amounts of foreign exchange. Our capital assets in Malaysia and Singapore are estimated to be worth about £800 million and it is thought that our foreign exchange earnings last year were £170 million, both of which would be threatened by uncertainty and upheaval.

Time and again leading statesmen in the area, and everyone to whom I have spoken, have stressed that the election of a Conservative Government and the knowledge that a modest British contribution would remain permanently in the area will, in the vital psychological sense, make all the difference between confidence and stability on the one hand and uncertainty and probable discord on the other. Why does the Secretary of State go to so much trouble and plan to spend so much money, tie up such resources and undertake such continuing commitments while deriving almost none of the benefits of influence and prestige for this country which should flow from such decisions?

As has been so often the case, it is part of the price which Britain has to pay for the Left Wing of the Labour Party. The right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich made this clear in his speech. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the Secretary of State has never believed in either the politics or the military good sense of a withdrawal from the Far East, or even in its financial necessity. It was forced on him by an unholy and improbable alliance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Left Wing of the Labour Party.

The Secretary of State has always been, to his credit, an unrepentant east of Suez man, as was the Prime Minister. Following devaluation, late in 1967, he was forced to acquiesce in a squalid deal. In return for the acceptance of prescription charges and cuts in social service plans by his hon. Friends below the Gangway, he agreed, in January, 1968, to announce withdrawal from Malaysia and Singapore. To do him justice, he has tried to salvage something from the wreck. It is important for the British national interest in the Far East, where they do not follow our party politics with quite the same degree of sophistication as we do in this country, that it should be realised that whatever the outcome of the next election, Britain will retain some important and influential powers in South-East Asia.

The continuing military contribution which the Secretary of State plans to make has to be played down and camouflaged because of Labour Party politics—not because it is in the interests of Britain, because it is not; not because it is in the interests of Malaysia and Singapore, which it is not, as all those in the area are the first to emphasise. Consequently, though the proposals contained in the White Paper mean we have to continue to meet the costs and to run the risks of a Far Eastern involvement, as the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich made clear, we may not have the capacity to carry out our plans or meet our commitments. We are certainly robbing ourselves by this Government's method of presentation of the potential benefits of the policy.

The crux of the situation that the right hon. Gentleman has created by his policies is an almost total lack of confidence in the Labour Government and its Ministers. The fundamental fact which makes the Far Eastern situation different from those we have faced elsewhere, and the reason why I take a different attitude to it from that which I adopted towards our position in Africa a decade ago, is that the people and Governments of South-East Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, want us to stay. They regard our threatened departure as a gross breach of faith and friendship.

What in practice are the dangers which the Commonwealth five-Power force, of which we would be only one and by no means a dominating part, is likely to face in the foreseeable future? Obviously, we cannot anticipate every eventuality, but there are four main dangers which could occur. The first is a full-scale invasion by China of the Malaysian peninsula. Neither Mr. Lee Kuan Yew nor anybody else to whom I have spoken in South-East Asia anticipates such an event. However, if it should occur, there is no suggestion that the five-Power force as constituted, or reinforced, could possibly cope with the situation. It could be dealt with only by the intervention of the United States and probably by the use of nuclear weapons.

Secondly, there is the possibility of a new confrontation with Indonesia. I was the first Member of this House to go to Jakarta after confrontation when it had not even finished formally and when President Soekarno was still nominally in power. I then formed the view, as I said in the defence debate in 1957, that there was very little likelihood in the foreseeable future of a further attack by Indonesia on Singapore or Malaysia, certainly while General Suharto and Mr. Malik remained in charge of affairs in Indonesia. Nothing which has happened since has led me to change that view.

The third danger which the Commonwealth force might possibly have to face is that of a pirate raid on Singapore by a rebel Indonesian General based in Sumatra and out of the control of his Government in Jakarta. This is a fear which has been expressed to me by a number of Singapore Ministers from time to time, although I think it is a most improbable event. Nevertheless, if it should occur, I have little doubt that the proposed Australian, New Zealand and British forces in the area would have a very stabilising influence on morale, and our maritime presence and the contribution we could make to the radar system and other sophisticated equipment would be of immense and perhaps crucial importance and value.

The fourth and, I think, most probable danger which could occur in the area in the foreseeable future was mentioned by an hon. Member opposite yesterday and stems from the fact that there is a hard core of about 600 Communists, who have been based in Southern Thailand ever since the end of the Malaysian emergency, some of whom are from time to time infiltrated into Malaysia and who, if we were completely to withdraw from the area, would almost certainly be used to stir up trouble.

No one on this side of the House suggests that we should get involved in major internal security problems in Malaysia, certainly not of a communal nature. I was in Kuala Lumpur on 13th May last year when race riots occurred and about 200 people were killed in three hours in the immediate vicinity of my hotel. I observed these extremely disagreeable happenings at close quarters. I recognise that it would not be possible for British troops to be used to intervene in racial riots of that kind. No one suggests that they should be so used. Obviously, when the next Conservative Government negotiate the terms on which the Commonwealth force will operate with the other four Commonwealth countries, proper precautions will have to be taken to ensure that it is clearly understood by all our friends in the area that we shall not be used to prop up particular Governments or régimes against their own people.

But if there is a recurrence of the sort of emergency which we had in Malaysia, when we were still the imperial Power in the area, there is no doubt that the presence of British troops, the intelligence skills which we have built up over the years, the advice we could give to Ministers, and the general sense that old and valued friends were close at hand would have an immense effect on the morale and stability of the two Governments. This has been stressed to me by the very men who would have to take these decisions if such a situation arose. If they believe this to be so, I do not see why we should dispute the fact.

An invited military presence by us would provide seven real advantages. It would give the local Governments an additional sense of security which would help these newly independent nations to settle down and thus protect our enormous commercial interests in the area. It would make it much less likely that China or Russia would be able to stir up trouble or move into a power vacuum which they are extremely anxious to exploit—witness the fact that in the last year the Soviet Union has opened missions in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore which are staffed in such enormous numbers that they cannot be performing purely diplomatic rôles.

Thirdly, it would enable us to play an ameliorative rôle should tensions develop between the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore, with the leaders of both of which countries we are on the best of terms and who like and trust us as a people. Fourthly, it would put us in a position to offer advice on policy in a vitally important part of the world.

The absence of our capacity to offer advice in a really influential way in Vietnam over the years has been a loss to the whole of the free world and to the United States in particular.

Fifthly, it would strengthen our business interests and general commercial position against Japanese and other competitors. Sixthly, it would keep us in close working relationship with Australia and New Zealand during a period when our possible entry into the European Economic Community may be imposing strains on those traditional and valuable links. Seventhly, and finally, it would make the Armed Services of this country more attractive as a way of life and thus help recruitment generally and provide us with some first-class training areas of which we are now very short.

For all those reasons, a modest contribution by us to a five Power Commonwealth force in Malaysia and Singapore is very much in our national interest as well as being most welcome to the other four Commonwealth countries concerned. The cost, despite the wild exaggerations of the Secretary of State, would be well within the resources of a Great Britain led by a Conservative Government.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)

The bona fides of the hon. Member for Horn-castle (Mr. Tapsell) in race matters are well known and respected on this side of the House. His remarks about the unwisdom of intervening in countries' internal affairs in a way which commends itself to many of his right hon. and hon. Friends were welcome. Beyond that there was very little, if anything, in his speech with which I was able to agree.

It is nice for one who is an habitual critic of Government defence policy to be able to say a few pleasant things about the Secretary of State's policy. Some of my hon. Friends and myself who signed the second Amendment on the Order Paper can rightly feel that we have secured a modest victory in the withdrawal from east of Suez. It is three years late, but nevertheless, it is welcome. We can only hope that the economic benefits which will accrue from it will not accrue to another Government, which has happened in days gone by when Labour Governments have made their best decisions late in the day. That modest and moderate welcome for my right hon. Friend's policy is about the last favourable thing that I shall say.

This is probably the last Defence White Paper of this Parliament and the last opportunity in this Parliament for the Labour Government to repudiate nuclear weapons. Many of us have fought hard for years to try to convert the Labour Party to support nuclear disarmament. I am a convert to this doctrine, thanks to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and his singularly horrifying White Paper of 1957. I never thought the day would come when a Labour Government would contemplate the initial use of nuclear weapons, and I wonder how the ex-C.N.D. members of the Government—and there are several in fairly high office—can square their consciences, having marched to and from Aldermaston in the 1950s and early 1960s. I wonder what they now think when they are confronted with this White Paper. None of them seems to have been sufficiently disturbed to resign from office. I would like to know their inner thoughts about this.

Not only is the use of the nuclear deterrent expensive and dangerous, but many of us would regard it as positively obscene that any Government should contemplate its use. Everyone knows that war is an ugly thing, and many of us will respect the sincerity of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) in his remarks earlier this evening to that effect, but it is one thing to engage in the selective and limited killing of human beings for a political end, but when the killing is as indiscriminate as even the most limited and low powered nuclear weapons must inflict it is totally unacceptable and morally reprehensible.

For years the leaders of the Labour Party have rebuffed the idealism of the young, and I suppose they wonder why not only hon. Members opposite but they themselves get a rough handling from student and other demonstrators; yet they peddle a policy of this kind. Perhaps on reflection they will realise that after having looked to the Labour Party for a lead and having been confronted with this White Paper people have become exasperated. It is nearly ten years since Mr. Gaitskell's prima donna performance at Scarborough, but he departed and we expected a more reasonable and more sensitive attitude to nuclear weapons.

Not only is there this decision to contemplate the possibility of using nuclear weapons pre-emptively, but Greece and Portugal are still in N.A.T.O. and we still have the Simonstown base. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) was right to draw attention to the anomalous position of Portugal. Greece is a squalid little Ruritania, but at least it is in isolation. Portugal, residually, is a world power, and it is engaged in the kind of warfare in which, if we had to take sides at all, we would most certainly be on the opposite side. Yet we are in military alliance with the Portuguese, whose gallant service in two world wars is well known. We know how useless they were in the First World War and how, despite the ancient Treaty of alliance between Britain and Portugal, they made no contribution whatever in the Second World War.

May I repeat to my right hon. Friend a question put to him yesterday by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth)? In the event of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, what parts of this country are regarded as expendable? There can be no gainsaying that even the smallest nuclear weapons must involve vast destruction, at least equal to the destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are many weapons in existence which far exceed the obsolete atom bombs used on those occasions nearly 25 years ago. We want to know what the Secretary of State regards as being expendable. The electors are entitled to know which of them and which parts of this country are likely to be written off in a nuclear war.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Phillip Noel-Baker), whose moving speech commanded the respect of even hon. Members opposite who disagree with him, said that survival after a nuclear encounter might be for no more than three days for the whole country. Will my right hon. Friend say whether he regards this as the likely outcome of the use of nuclear weapons? Even if it were supposed that, by a freak of good fortune, nuclear tactical weapons, once used, could by the tacit agreement of both sides in the struggle be continued to limited objectives, what guarantee is there that there would be any limitation of the outflow of radiation? Even if it can be said that there are finite limits to the destruction caused by a nuclear explosion, one knows that, as a result of climatic changes, prevailing winds, and other meteorological circumstances, it is quite impossible to put a limit to the area of radiation hazard. Even the peace-time use of nuclear resources entails hazards that cannot yet be determined. Some years ago there was the Windscale scare, and not long ago there was a scare near Chicago which presented the civil authorities of that city with the possibility of having to evacuate 1½ million people. That was a purely peace-time situation. How can anybody vouchsafe a guess at the limits of radiation exposure resulting from the use of weapons in the way my right hon. Friend seems willing to contemplate?

The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) yesterday estimated that there are about 7,000 nuclear war devices in Europe, the key to which was held by President Nixon. That is bad enough, but suppose anything happened to President Nixon and the key were handed over to Vice-President Agnew—could anything be more appalling to contemplate than that? [Laughter.] It is all very well for the Under-Secretary to laugh, but is this to be refuted? Is the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone incorrect in saying this? If he is correct, it does not say much for the independence of the British nuclear deterrent. I regard the independent British nuclear deterrent as a nonsense, but I regard the thought of a nuclear deterrent based in this country and operable from this country, the key to which is in the hands of the United States Government, as marginally more disturbing.

As a nation, we have managed to be on the wrong side of the firing line in practically every war since Korea and the death of Stalin. I do not know whether all my hon. Friends agree with me, but I think that as long as Stalin was alive we were right to go in Korea. Except perhaps for the Malayan emergency, which started before Stalin's death in 1948, and the more recent confrontation in North Borneo, in every case we had to abandon the positions which we had expensively fought to maintain and had to get Out hurriedly. We had to get out of Aden belatedly with bad grace, having spent a lot of money. Generally speaking, having built up military bases in countries where we were trying to maintain a military foothold, we had to give away or sell our equipment there at cat's meat prices.

The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) talked glibly about standing by our friends. He named a number of them and reeled off a pretty impressive roll of the most unsavoury nations scattered around the world. It may be that some of his enemies are enemies of those of us on this side of the House. What is certain that most of the people he calls his friends are not regarded as friends by myself and those of us on this side of the House who have signed our Amendment.

When it comes to the Division, my hon. Friends and myself will help to vote down the Conservative Amendment. It is ridiculous, it is mischievous and is intended to make a bad defence policy even worse. I suppose that every argument relating to it and the absurdity of trying to remain east of suez has been gone over in this debate. At least it can be said that once we are out of the area we will at least know the limits of our commitment. Even if it is true that the cost attributed to that area is high in terms of foreseeable commitment surely the real point is that if one maintains a military presence in a particular area and a military situation arises, then the commitment becomes open-ended. This is surely true, as the Americans must now realise with regard to Vietnam. When the Americans first took over the situation from the French in 1954, I do not suppose they ever envisaged at that time that they would have military forces in that area of anything like the magnitude that in fact happened. Having got themselves into a military situation there, it became diplomatically and politically very difficult for them to extricate themselves. In the meantime, the fact that they had to be there meant that militarily they had to be there effectively. Some of us may doubt that they ever managed to be effective in the sense one would expect from a military power of that size. But they had to make the attempt to be effective, with the result that the commitment has been open-ended. They have now been involved in a war longer than any war in which the United States has been engaged since 1783.

Finally, I wish to put forward this argument against those who seem to think that it is only by military means of one kind or another that one can provide any effective counter to the Communists. If one looks at the history of the last 25 years, the fact is that on the three occasions on which the Communists have suffered the great reverses, none had anything to do with N.A.T.O. or with any military activity threatened by this country or the West.

The first occasion involved the repudiation of the Comintern by the Yugo-slays in 1948. N.A.T.O. was not in existence then. The second occasion was the overthrow of the Communists in Indonesia in 1965. There was not an American marine within thousands of miles and the Communists then suffered the greatest reverse they have ever suffered in any part of the world. The third matter, which is a continuing matter that will be of the profoundest importance whatever defence policy we pursue, is the Russo-Chinese row.

I feel that were right to assist in the Korean conflict at the start, though the war went on longer than necessary, but I believe that, ironically, the effect of our intervention, was to defer the Russo-Chinese row. Once the world began to be de-tensioned after the Korean war was over the lines of cleavage between the Russians and the Chinese began to assert themselves. The more we can lower tension between East and West, the more is it likely that the Russians and Chinese will be at each other's throats—not necessarily to the point of military conflict, but to the point of directing their attention more to each other than to matters outside. It is worth while bearing in mind that those are the occasions on which the Communists have suffered their greatest rebuffs. Those rebuffs owe nothing to the defence policy of this country or indeed to the defence policy of the West in general.

I end by making one quotation, which is apt in the sense that it is only a few weeks since Bertrand Russell's death. I quote the words he used when giving his blessing to the Nuclear Disarmament Movement in the early 1950s: Remember our humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise. If you cannot, nothing lies before you but universal death. For that reason when the call is made on the substantive Motion tonight, if the Opposition do not call I will. And if the Opposition call, I certainly intend to abstain.

8.26 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

Listening to most of a defence debate for two days can produce a sense of non-belligerence, if not of total paralysis. Therefore, I shall not pick a quarrel with the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee), although I disagree with almost every word that he has said.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the overthrow of the Sukarno régime and the immense defeat suffered by the Communists in Indonesia. He said that this was not in any way caused by the defence policies of this country or of the United States. Those who know the area well would agree that it was the British presence in Malaysia during confrontation, the set-back that Sukarno suffered then, and the further cover given to that area by the Americans in Vietnam, that led to the conditions which resulted in the overthrow of President Sukarno and the destruction of the Communist Party in Indonesia.

I agree with the hon. Member for Reading on one point, when he referred to the fact that the Government were now pursuing a different policy from that which many members of the Government had advocated when in opposition before the 1964 General Election.

It is fair to say that it was then official Opposition policy to renegotiate the Nassau Agreement, to get rid of the so-called independent deterrent and to adopt a policy not very far different from that advocated at the moment by the Tribune Group. The intention was to cast aside British nuclear weapons with the same abandonment that members of the cast of "Hair" divest themselves of their clothes. That policy did not survive the election for very long.

Before the 1966 election, we had moved from what might be called the Government's "Hair" policy to their "Oh! Calcutta" policy when our frontier was to be on the Himalayas and we were to remain in South-East Asia for ever and a day to prevent an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the Americans and the Chinese.

The "Oh! Calcutta" policy did not long survive the 1966 election and the resulting economic crises. We then had the withdrawal into Europe and the curious play on figures that accompanied it. One might refer to the Government's defence policy today as being a "Fiddler on the Roof" policy. Certainly, every figure that the Secretary of State referred to in his opening speech, as we all know, was lamentably "fiddled".

I must admit that, for the last two years, the Government have followed a policy which, if one cannot support and applaud it, has at least been consistent. The question is whether it will survive the next election, even if by a curious mischance the Government were to be returned. In my view, it will not, because there is one tremendous flaw in it.

A flexible response in Europe depends for its relevance upon the presence of large numbers of American ground forces. On the Continent of Europe there are now more than 310,000 American soldiers with 7,000 nuclear warheads. America's expenditure on the defence of Europe amounts to between 13 and 15 billion dollars a year. The United States is spending more on the defence of Europe than all the major continental Powers in N.A.T.O. put together. It is spending more than Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Benelux combined.

Naturally, people in the United States ask why, after 25 years of peace, America should continue to bear this enormous burden. Once that question is seriously asked, there is no sensible answer which can be given to it. It may be that there will be no major withdrawals for the next 15 months, but we know that support is growing in the United States for the Mansfield Resolution, which calls for a rundown of American forces in Europe from 310,000 to 50,000. There is probably a majority in the American Senate which supports that policy.

It is in our national interest and that of the alliance to do everything possible to stem the growth of isolationist feeling in the United States and to stop it withdrawing very large numbers of men from the Continent. So what message comes from our Ministry of Defence in Whitehall to the American Government and American public opinion? The message that comes from the Ministry of Defence is a message of withdrawal, a message of abandonment of alliances, a message of pulling out of the Far East and leaving the United States there relatively uncovered. Will that encourage the feeling in the United States that it should redouble its defence efforts? Or, if it is right for this country to withdraw, why should it not be right for America to withdraw? The feeling of withdrawal is indivisable. If it is right to go from Asia, then it is right to cut down in Europe.

Again, what message do we send to the United States from the Persian Gulf, where, thanks to a British presence, since the end of the Second World War there has been less bloodshed than in any other part of the Arab world, despite the explosive mixture of Arabs and vast quantities of oil and vast quantities of money? Yet there has not been trouble there, because the presence of British troops has enabled the local rulers not to push their internal conflicts to the point of bloodshed and, at the same time, the British presence there has meant that the local rulers have not had need to build up their own defence forces.

We know that in the Arab world it is the security forces that are the major factor of insecurity because it is there that the revolutions start. But now our withdrawal from the Persian Gulf is leading inevitably to an arms race in that part of the world and the United States is inevitably being sucked into it financially, and perhaps, alas, physically as well.

British forces have been protecting American interests there, as well as British interests and the interests of stability for the whole world. Will a British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf really encourage the Americans to stay in Europe? Again, I think that it will have precisely the reverse effect. If it is right for us to cut down on our commitments there, then it will encourage the voices in Washington calling for a withdrawal from Europe.

I fear that after all these years the Government are hardly likely to change their policy and to reform their ways. But, as every hon. Member knows, there is likely to be an election during the next 12 months and it is, to put it mildly, more than probable that after that election there will be a Government in office who want to change their defence policy rather than a Government who will be compelled to change their defence policy.

During the next few months, the Defence Secretary can make life much more difficult for the next Government by closing options, by speeding up withdrawals from the Middle East and the Far East, by scrapping ships and cutting down on training programmes and even by reorganisation in the Ministry of Defence. We do not expect reformation, but we are entitled to ask that during these months, he should at least try to minimise the amount of damage that he intends to do.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

I cannot accept without substantial qualifications two views expressed in this debate and in many other defence debates. One is that the struggle between the Eastern and Western Alliances are entirely about freedom; the other is that the hottest front in the world is in central Europe.

It is true that the majority of the Western Alliance nations are democracies; it is also true that all of the Eastern countries are not democracies and, indeed, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, have never known democracy. But that is a position that is all too common in the world. The great majority of nations are in that category. But when we look at the Western Alliance, let us not forget that at least two countries in it have a record of tyranny that is exceeded by no other country and that their standard of living is so low that one must go outside Europe to find its equal.

The real difference between the Western and Eastern Powers is an old-fashioned one, one which we knew all too well in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is merely a question of the balance of power, and in the maintenance of that balance both sides are capable of any amount of cynicism in supporting régimes which they think will help them in it. It is important to establish this fact because once we do so we have a more realistic picture of how we should regard the increased armaments on both sides.

My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has implied that the need for greater effort by the Western Alliance arises from two recent events in Europe. One is the withdrawal of Canadian forces, but let us not forget that Canada is still in the alliance and that, if we are able to deploy armed forces to the Far East, so can Canada deploy forces across the Atlantic to Europe. The United States has said that she herself is capable of doing this.

The second event my right hon. Friend refers to is the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, but it does not seem to me that this loads the balance in favour of Russia—indeed, the very reverse. Before, Czechoslovakia was in the Russian alliance and found it fairly acceptable. She is still in the Russian alliance, but is resisting the Russian Government. Indeed, the Russian troops are there to keep the Czech people down. The position of Russia is, therefore, very much worse.

Moreover, if it is true that Russian troops are in the Eastern European countries in order to keep the people down, then their numbers should not be considered as any danger to the Western Alliance, since their position is a weak one because they have the opposition of the local population. Such opposition, incidentally, is one reason why we felt it wise to withdraw from east of Suez.

Let us look at the position of Russia and how it has changed during the last year or two. During that time, Russia's greatest enemy has become China, the most powerful country in the world in terms of population, with 700 million people. It is a country that feels all the enmity that certain members of a family feel when they quarrel with each other. It feels that Russia has betrayed Communism and, therefore, the feeling between Russia and China is intense.

The hot front that has really developed in recent years is in the Far East, with perhaps 20 or 30 divisions facing each other on each side. That is the chief reason for the Russian Government's increased expenditure—not so much because they are concerned with the Western front. In talking of numbers, let us remember, too, the numbers Russia has to face in China, as well as the enormous amount of territory that she has to cover.

In these circumstances, I do not feel that there is much likelihood of Russia being at all a danger in the West, despite what has happened in Czechoslovakia. After all, it is not the same as Russia wanting to invade France, Germany, or a country like that. When I look at this situation in the Far East, and realise that our presence there was barely worthy of a sneer, I say thank God we have left, or are to leave, our position east of Suez. If it has done anything at all as regards commerce, our presence has spoiled our chances in the Far East because of the name associated with imperialism.

Instead of helping our security, our small forces there have been a sitting duck, likely to draw us into a really serious conflict; and it has given the Communist argument strength when we have said we were there for imperialism alone. I am glad that the Government have accepted the advice which I and some of my hon. Friends gave two years ago to withdraw from east of Suez.

There is a further advantage of our withdrawal, because from becoming a country with lines of communication, as regards military affairs, more extended than any other, we are now reaching a position where we have the smallest lines of communication. We should look at that aspect in considering numbers. We no longer have any need for larger numbers of men. Our commitments have been enormously reduced and with this should go reduced manpower. Only one commitment has increased over the last year, the commitment we have in Ulster, where British troops have had to go because Ulster was suffering from the results of half a century of Tory law and order policy. Let us hope that our Armed Forces will not have to be used elsewhere because of any future policies of that kind imposed on our nation.

With this new rôle, far from not having enough manpower we may have too many men. If we are to believe the Viscount Montgomery we will have, even in 1975, 200,000 too many. In this matter, I would prefer to take the opinion of the field marshal rather than of the colonels, particularly since the field marshal is one of the most distinguished soldiers that this century has seen. He is not likely, for reasons of prejudice, to demand reductions in the manpower of the British Army.

Lord Montgomery realises, of course, that numbers are not everything. History is full of examples of better equipped minorities defeating less well-trained majorities; and we do not have to turn to history, either. This kind of thing is happening in Israel, where a small well-equipped mobile army—incidentally, trained and supplied with weapons from the West—is more than holding its own against much larger numbers.

To be fair to the Secretary of State, his claim that he is getting value for money is just. Reading the White Paper, I am impressed by the reorganisation that is bringing this about. His future plans promise good value for money.

It is unfortunate that hon. Members opposite should compare the multi-role combat aircraft with the TSR2. I know that that was an excellent plane technically, but no one could say that it was value for money, because it was so expensive. But the M.R.C.A. is a different proposition.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) should have attacked this scheme. The plane, at £1.2 million, is not only cheap, but very versatile. It replaces the Vulcans, the Buccaneers and the American Phantoms. It has a single basic design which has logistics and training advantages. The sharing of the cost with Germany and Italy will make it much cheaper. In fact, it will be the foundation of our aerospace industry which would barely survive without this scheme. My hon. Friend mentioned the V-bomber as an alternative. I can only imagine that he has not studied the problem very deeply since that is an aeroplane of the last generation which will hardly be a suitable substitute for the multi-role combat aircraft in 1976.

Having said some nice things about my right hon. Friend, I must now quarrel with him on two points. The first concerns his attitude about the British Army of the Rhine. It seems most unfair—what I am about to say is confirmed by no less a person than Mr. Fred Catherwood, the Director-General of the N.E.D.C.—that we should have to meet the cost of so many British troops in Germany with inadequate offset agreements. The fact that we have to send another division to Germany seems even more unfair in view of the prosperity and strength of the Germany economy. If we can deploy troops in the Far East, it should be easy, if the Germans do not pay up, to maintain most of the British Army of the Rhine in this country and deploy them in Germany as and when they are required. After all, they have only to be transported across the narrowest part of the North Sea.

The second matter on which I disagree with my right hon. Friend—this disagreement is shared by many hon. Members on this side and in the party outside—is his statement that we would be the first to us nuclear weapons, if necessary. Since I have dealt with the important question of keeping the balance of power where it is, it seems unfortunate that, when a détente is needed, we should get statements of this kind. It is similar to the statement that we had last year about the Russians being blown out of the Mediterranean. If this has any effect, it will result in, say, more divisions of Russian soldiers being recruited or more SS9s, those shocking instruments of destruction, being made.

I cannot see how statements of this kind can be helpful in any way. It seems incredible logic to argue that if in a conflict we find that our conventional forces are inferior, we will bring into use weapons over which the enemy has tremendous superiority. The only satisfaction that that sort of action could give is to bring America to use strategic nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union in reply. That may satisfy feelings of vindictiveness, but it does not make us more secure or represent a sensible defensive arrangement.

We should try once again, and harder, to get some sort of detente with the East and renew our faith in the United Nations. I hope that that will be the aim of future Government policy and that they will not emphasise the use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, I hope that that concept will he abandoned.

8.57 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

During the few minutes available to me I wish to refer to a matter which, to my surprise, has not received much attention from hon. Members. I refer to the pay and conditions of the greatest single factor in our discussion of this matter; the soldier, sailor and airman.

I have been among those who have often criticised the Government for allowing the pay of Servicemen to fall behind their civilian counterparts. Indeed, I was suspicious about the new military salary scheme, though having examined it since it has been published I find it very much better than I had supposed. It is a complicated scheme and will be difficult to administer. Like any brand new scheme, it will contain some unpleasant discrepancies and injustices, but I am sure that the Government recognise this.

For example, married majors and equivalent ranks seem to be little better off and, after paying tax, senior officers may find that they have gained very little. The X-factor, at 5 per cent., seems to be low and to take no account of the important fact that a Serviceman, however enterprising and however much he wishes to go forward, cannot be paid overtime. This is a big difference from outside-the-Service life.

I am not advocating overtime, but we should remember that the Serviceman works cheerfully for long hours and in conditions which would astonish many civilians. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be realistic in examining the X-factor, should it be found that the pay of Servicemen is falling behind at a time of rapidly rising earnings. The whole question of recruiting is dependent on the Serviceman's pay and conditions not falling behind.

The report says nothing about various other conditions, such as free or reduced fare travel warrants and leave entitlement. There are reports that many men—perhaps including some of the more senior men at N.C.O. level, chief petty officers, and so on, and particularly those in nuclear submarines—find it difficult to take their full entitlement of leave.

Having made those points against the military salary, I must say that it will have substantial advantages. Men in the field and in seagoing jobs will at long last derive an advantage. What we have tried to do for sailors has always been of assistance to men in shore billets, but at long last an advantage will be produced for those in seagoing jobs.

The award amounts to a fairly massive increase in the total amount paid to Servicemen. In these circumstances, it would be churlish to remark that the fact that the amount is so large is an indication of how far we have fallen behind, so I shall not emphasise that. I hope that the Services will give the scheme a "go" and that it will be a resounding success in recruiting.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

In some respects, this has been a curious debate. On the one hand, the House has shown itself prepared to face the difficult and continuing problems of defence in a mood of high seriousness and without undue partisanship. Of this, the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) yesterday was typical. On the other hand, I suppose that it was inevitable that we should have speeches which reflected what one can only see as the near approach of the hustings.

I thought the speech of the Secretary of State yesterday did less than justice to the former mood of the House and paid exaggerated deference to the latter. I choose my words carefully. The House has at any rate got used to the right hon. Gentleman. We know what he can do at his best. I thought that yesterday he was below his best. I hope that he will not disappoint us when he speaks tonight.

This debate has centred to a surprising and certainly unpredictable degree on the problems of nuclear strategy and the defence of Europe. I shall say a word about that later and about some of the other major areas of controversy which the debate has traversed, but before doing so I want to deal with about one or two smaller but none the less substantial issues.

First, I refer to the new pay arrangements, dealt with by the Minister of Defence for Administration at some length this afternoon. Having had the opportunity to study this latest increase, may I say that we on this side of the House welcome it because we feel that it is bound to stimulate recruiting and will help to put in the proper perspective the value of the work that Servicemen and women do for their country. I think that it helps for that to be appreciated.

I do not think that Service men and women will ever want to be regarded as civilians, but this scheme will help to put into perspective the value of their work against that of the civilians. So we welcome it. The preparation of the new scheme has been a difficult operation and those who did the detailed work deserve the appreciation of the House. There are bound to be some anomalies and unfairnesses. These can be ironed out and the Secretary of State should see that they are. Because it is inevitable that they are there, it is important for us to appreciate the value of this increase in its due proportion and neither to exaggerate it, as I thought the Secretary of State tended to do the other day, nor to underplay it.

The Report of the Prices and Incomes Board makes the point that the Services have hitherto been seriously underpaid. That is so. The Government's failure to implement the old system to the full over the past four years has contributed to this situation and to the present serious shortage of recruits and the manning problems which stem from such a shortage. The right hon. Gentleman is fond of doing costings for other people. He might care sometime to cost the involuntary savings which have arisen from shortfalls in recruiting due to his failure to secure comparable rates of pay for the forces and thus to keep them fully manned.

The Government have decided to pay the present increases by instalments. The effect of that decision is that the disparity between married and single men will persist for another year. The second Report from the Prices and Incomes Board strongly advocated the removal of this disparity, because it pointed out that it was a disincentive to enlistment, but it has not been removed.

We read about the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in getting the full proposals past his colleagues. Apparently he was unsuccessful. This is a pity, because recruiting will now not get as strong a shot in the arm as it otherwise would have done, and—heaven knows!—at the moment it needs all it can get.

There is no great party point in this, because one effect will be that if it falls to us to do more to stimulate recruiting next year we shall have this further increase planned and ready to our hand. But it would have been better to give it now. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite shrank from doing so, in order to keep the total of this year's defence budget down, and to be able to produce a respectable amount of saving in comparison with the last, I think that they are very much to blame.

Mr. Healey

The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that the increase we are giving this year is three times that ever given by previous Governments, and that his own Government staged an increase of half this size over two years. That remark requires to be withdrawn.

Mr. Ramsden

I am not criticising the size of the increase, but merely saying that recruiting needs all the stimulus it can get, and that the Prices and Incomes Board recommended something bigger than the right hon. Gentleman has found himself able to give.

Whoever is in charge of the Ministry of Defence next year, recruiting will need the most anxious and serious attention. I draw attention to two figures which I would call barometers. The first is the figure for the entry into Sandhurst. There were 259 cadets last year, and only 90 are expected there this April. The other is the figure for the Navy's recent performance, which has been unexpectedly and unprecedently bad. There were over 7,000 recruits to the Royal Navy in 1964, 1965 and 1966 and under 5,000 in 1968 and 1969. What is the explanation? The answer, I think, is one word—confidence. The carrier decision, in the absence of an alternative defence for the Fleet against long range attack, which is admitted by professional opinion, has torn the Navy apart. The continuous rundown of the Army, including the disappearance of famous regimental names, has not gone unnoticed by parents, careers masters and others who advise the young about their future.

We can put this right, but it will need a change of Government to do so. It will need a change of Government to restore confidence and to give to defence policy a fresh impetus and a new life, to demonstrate to the country that defence is no longer to be the whipping boy of Socialist Chancellors, the victim to be offered up in appeasement to the Left wing when prescription charges are imposed, or wages held down by Statute. My hon. Friend the Member for Horn-castle (Mr. Tapsell) made this point very well earlier.

The Secretary of State quoted some words of mine to the R.U.S.I. about the difficulties of recruiting in modern conditions. In reply, I remind him of something I said later in the same speech. I said: The Ministry of Defence recent memorandum on recruiting draws attention to the misunderstanding arising from the contraction of the Services' rule and their size. I believe that an Election fought on the issues as I have sought to define them ought to go a long way not just to restore the position but to give recruiting a positive fillip. This afternoon my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition defined the issues, and when they are endorsed by the country I believe that recruiting will find due benefit from that decision.

I will not waste time on the right hon. Gentleman's charge that it would be out intention to reintroduce conscription. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), in a remarkable speech, brushed aside this assertion with his customary robust common sense. We abolished conscription, and for five of the most hectic years in post-war military history we raised and equipped and were responsible for the handling of voluntary forces with unvarying success—and we managed to reduce taxation at the same time. The Secretary of State was not addressing a serious argument to the House on the subject of conscription, and he knows it very well. He was setting up the type for the front page of some Socialist newspaper on the morning of the next polling day.

I wish to say something about the proposed internal changes in the Ministry of Defence—incidentally about the only new thing in the White Paper in connection with which the Press found matter for comment. I am surprised that we have had no comment from any of the Ministers who have spoken on this subject. I should have thought that, if it was worth mentioning proposed changes in the Chiefs of Staff system in the White Paper, then it was worth giving the House rather more details about what was intended. If nothing significant was intended, then why put it in the White Paper?

Personally, from what I can read, I am not happy about the prospect of a change in the position of the Chief of Defence Staff in relation to his three Service colleagues. It is a change which could mean a profound difference in a critical set of relationships which have worked very well for a long time. There is no doubt that, whatever political criticisms have been made, one thing that has been uniformly successful over the last 15 years has been the Chiefs of Staff system in its ability to provide the right sort of forces for the right sort of contingencies, in the right place and at the, right time. So any change in this system, I think, requires considerable justification.

In particular, I hope very much that it is not the intention that future Prime Ministers should be denied the benefit of direct advice from all three heads of the Services as well as from the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. It boils down, I think, to a question of personalities. Some very remarkable men come up into the top jobs in all three Services. There is only room for one of them at a time in the top job. Certainly, I would have thought that the two Prime Ministers who occasionally I was able to watch handling these great affairs would have been less well advised, and would have felt themselves to be so, without the chance of regularly meeting and regularly hearing from all thee Service chiefs, and not simply the Chief of the Defence Staff.

As regards the Ministers, I think it is right to have one and not two on the second tier. The new post of Minister of Defence for Equipment—I mean nothing personal to the hon. Gentleman—has never seemed to me to put down very firm roots, probably because this is not a post which corresponds with the realities of decision-making. The top decisions about equipment are tied up with tactics, if not with strategy. They are General Staff decisions and not "Q" decisions. If the organisation at the top is to mean anything and be worth anything it should reflect this reality. I do not think that it does at the moment. Judging from his speech last night, the hon. Gentleman is not very good at taking any decisions in any circumstances.

So a single Minister is right, and I would call him the Minister for the Armed Forces. Why put in the word "Defence"? Everybody knows that he is in the Defence Department. The previous names have been tautologous and rather inelegant. As for the junior Ministers, one might as well have three, one for each Service. They themselves would be more at home with a Service background and, anyway, they will have responsibilities across the board, because the Services themselves now exercise tri-Service responsibilities across the board.

I was interested in some words in paragraph 58 of the White Paper about the Ministers: … it has been concluded that decisions would be reached with greater speed and efficiency if these Ministers were replaced by one or more Parliamentary Secretaries … I thought that an odd thing to find in any White Paper. It seems to carry plain speaking to a considerable extreme even judged by the comradely standards of the party opposite—

Mr. Healey

Read the next six words.

Mr. Ramsden

I am happy to read the next six words: If these Ministers were replaced by one or more Parliamentary Secretaries with responsibilities covering all three Services. I have already covered that.

I want to come now to the main theme of the debate, the strategy for Europe, the rôle of British forces elsewhere and the implications for both these problems of our now entering an era of negotiations, if such is to be the case, with the prospect of less direct reliance upon assistance from our American friends. What will this change imply? I was disappointed yesterday when the Secretary of State raised these questions, but, instead of developing them and leading the House on, he gave us two or three columns and then embarked on a long and, I thought, rather improper public argument involving one of his former distinguished advisers—

Mr. Healey

Who started it?

Mr. Ramsden

The Secretary of State has done it. I wish that he had told us more about his thoughts for the future, I admit that I find the argument about N.A.T.O.'s absolute reliance on tactical nuclear weapsons an extremely difficult one. Having heard the speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the House, I can see that I am not alone in this. I do not mean that the short-term argument is difficult, that in present circumstances and given present disparities the only response to a full-scale attack which makes military sense is the nuclear one. That is indisputable: I accept that.

I also accept that the more flexibility in determining what the response should be that we can have the better. That is the N.A.T.O. doctrine, and there is nothing new in that. Already, while I was at the Ministry of Defence, we were developing the "forward" strategy, which the right hon. Gentleman has pointed up and in connection with which he has developed the political arrangements.

But the Secretary of State makes the acceptance of the argument more difficult for us by not bringing in more explicitly the most basic assumption of them all, that a war in Europe is in no one's interests and is almost totally unlikely without considerable changes in the political situation, of which we might expect to have warning. The right hon. Gentleman has put forward that argument before. He did not do so this time, perhaps because he wanted to develop his point about conscription, but the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) had it right—with unreliable allies, and with the Chinese breathing down their necks, the Russians simply do not want a war. It is not in their interests.

I do not believe that there is great danger of a war in Europe without a worsening of the political situation, which could hardly be expected to come about overnight. In a sense, we might be said to be back to the position of the 1920s and early 1930s, when the assumption was that there would be no major war for a given period of time. Only in a sense, however, because the armies are there in Europe, they are formidable, they are confronting one another, and they both have tactical nuclear weapons in large numbers.

Therefore, they have to have a doctrine for the employment of these weapons, there has to be political machinery for taking decisions about their use. Above all, our Western commanders need to have plans for their use if they are attacked in overwhelming force. They must have a directive, a military solution. Some hon. Members have found it easier to assent to the use of tactical nuclear weapons with their minds than with their hearts. I made my own views clear in the debate last year. I tend to be more of a non-assenter, for example, than my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). None the less, I can accept the present N.A.T.O. doctrine because its basic postulate is that there is not likely to be a war unless the political situation deteriorates; and that we need not at present fear and, also, we need not fear the onset of a war without prior political warning.

If we get such warning, if the storm clouds do blow up, I have no doubt that we should rearm as hon. Gentlemen opposite rearmed at the time of Korea. N.A.T.O. would raise the nuclear thresh-hold and that is why hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and Lord Wigg in another place, are right to emphasise the present disparities, the weakness in the conventional forces in the West. If the West ever became seriously frightened it would be up to N.A.T.O. to change all that. It does not need to change it now, but we need to be more ready than we are to change it. This is why my hon. and right hon. Friends and I lay such stress on the necessity for adequate reserves.

Here, also, we have the right hon. Member for Easington with us. This is why we condemn the Government's lack of provision. We need the 100 or so voluntary units which the Government have reduced to cadre strength; we need to keep alive in the Fleet the techniques of air reconnaissance and strike, even with one carrier, especially while there is no other defence. We need to keep, throughout the nation, a conscious identity between voluntary service and the needs of defence. We need genuine Territorials, civil defence, voluntary fire services, not on the scale of training and equipment and expense which the Government have laid out for their Rhine Army reserve, but we need to keep something, some provision for the unforeseen—an awareness at the least that there may be an unforeseen—one step along a road which, one day, if danger were to threaten in earnest, we might once again have to tread.

But it is the problems of disarmament, not rearmament, which seem likely to confront us in the 1970s. We have been reminded by the Secretary of State that the Americans may withdraw part of their strength from the Continent and look to Europe to bear a greater share of its own defence. If the Americans do withdraw, what happens then? Presumably, there will be negotiations directed to securing agreement on the redistribution of burdens. Does anyone in the House believe that the negotiations would have only one item on the agenda, and that that item would be Europe? If there is one outstanding fallacy in the approach of hon. Members opposite to these problems it is that by turning their backs on South-East Asia and on the Commonwealth and concentrating upon Europe, they have ignored the relevance to Europe of the defence of South-East Asia.

I do not mean that in the sense that what may happen in South-East Asia poses a vital threat to this country's interests in the way that what may happen in Europe can pose a threat to them. But the enemy is the same and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said, we cannot rely on the enemy to advance by the hardest and most heavily defended road.

What about the Americans? We can plan no defence anywhere without their assistance, and to them the control of Communist expansion in South-East Asia, if not in the Gulf as well, is certainly of equal interest with the control of Communist expansion in Europe. If we do less for the common cause in Asia, they will surely look to us to do more in Europe. Yet it is in Asia, alongside Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Australia, for reasons of history and of our experience, for the simple reason that they still want us there beside them, that we can still do most, at any rate for a time for a less proportionate outlay of men and material resources than we can in any other theatre of the world.

I believe that in their hearts right hon. and hon. Members opposite recognise that. I believe that they know that the end-of-1971 decision was premature and that already, as we enter the decade of 1970s, with all its uncertainties, it is beginning to be overtaken by events.

We shall divide the House tonight not just because of what is in the White Paper, which is anodyne enough, but because we recall the other White Papers in the Government's series. This is perhaps the first defence debate for some time in which the Secretary of State has not been obliged to defend announcements of inconsistencies, reversals of policy and cuts. Our Amendment therefore brings under review the unfolding of his policies as a whole over the past five years. We recall the contrast between the promises on the strength of which the Labour Party obtained power and its performance once it got it: the deterrent retained; the conventional forces and reserves cut, cut and cut again. We recall the reversals in policy: the P1154, held up to the Royal Air Force as the core of its future re-equipment programme, cancelled a year later; continuing assistance proferred to Commonwealth countries and the Gulf States and withdrawn a month or two later.

We recall the shortfalls in equipment accepted by the Secretary of State when economic times were bad; the cut in the Fleet submarine building programme; the running down of war and contingency stocks—yet not a hint that any of these will be restored as times improve.

What we have witnessed has been a long, difficult and degrading downward road. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State gave his own version of events in a speech last October. He quoted some words of mine to the R.U.S.I. I return the compliment and quote some of his to the same audience: When the present Government assumed power it decided that there were overriding grounds of national interest for reducing the percentage of her national wealth which Britain spent on defence then planned as about 7 per cent. for the indefinite future to something more nearly approaching that of our major political partners in Western Europe. As you all know, in the end we fixed on 5 per cent. of the gross national product as our target. That appears to be an almost incredible over-simplification of the content of our defence debates over the past five years. The French have an expression—"un terrible simplificateur". We censure the Secretary of State, along with the Govern- ment, in our Amendment. I believe that the country will endorse our verdict.

9.29 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

As usual on these occasions, this has been an interesting and, as the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) said, in some respects even a curious debate, in which views on some of the main issues have crossed party lines. I welcome very much the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) when he spoke about the Military Salary, and also those of the right hon. Member for Harrogate. Indeed, I welcomed the tone and moderation of his whole speech, except his peroration, and he would not expect me to welcome that. It made a pleasant and dignified contrast to those of his right hon. Friends earlier in the debate.

I take very seriously what the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester said about the size of the X Factor and the need to review it, when Service pay comes up for review every two years, in the light of progress which has been made in recruiting and anything more which can be learnt about its relevance to Service pay and conditions. If he will excuse me, I should like to press on. Many questions were raised in the debate, and I will seek to answer the more important ones.

I enjoyed what I heard of the speech of my right hon. Friend, if I may so call him, the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He is at least consistent in one thing, and that is his loyalty to his late Parliamentary Private Secretary. What was most refreshing to me, however, was the very large number of excellent speeches by my hon. Friends supporting the Government's policy. This has not been so in every defence debate over the last five and a half years. I would single out the speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle), Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who—and if he is not here no doubt someone will tell him—is a very welcome recruit. I hope his support for the Government will grow both in strength and consistency.

We also had two very interesting and well-argued speeches from the Government benches in criticism of one aspect of the Government's policy. I am thinking of the speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) and Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). All I would say to them, to follow up what I said yesterday, is this. I and the whole Government share their objectives, and we are working for them, but I and the Government have to deal with the world as it is now. The possibility of a Soviet attack on Western Europe was admitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) in an intervention yesterday. If there were such an attack, a successful conventional defence is not possible with the existing forces of the Alliance. The only alternative in that case to so big an increase in N.A.T.O.'s military manpower as to require the introduction of conscription in Britain is reliance on the deterrent power of nuclear weapons, both strategic and tactical.

The hon. Member for Salford, East asked me to clear up some uncertainties left in his mind by what I said yesterday on the implications of the political guide lines laid down by the N.A.T.O. Council at its last meeting for the initial use of tactical nuclear weapons. First may I tell him in the clearest and firmest terms that the decision to authorise the use of these weapons in these circumstances could be taken only by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, as the only Heads of Governments who actually own these weapons—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I hope hon. Members will listen to what I have to say on these serious matters as carefully as we listened to the right hon. Member for Harrogate. I know that all hon. Gentlemen opposite were not here throughout the debate—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is fair. It hears both sides equally.

Mr. Healey

Effective consultation before the final decision is taken by the Heads of Governments which own these weapons will have to take place in a fairly short time, and the purpose of the nuclear guide lines is to enable Governments to reach agreement in advance on the doctrine which might govern the initial employment of these weapons. The guide lines to which I have referred and which have been discussed a good deal in this House embody such a doctrine.

I say this to those of my hon. Friends who agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East and who have signed the Motion to which his name is attached. I respect their views, but they know that I cannot share them. I ask them to consider how much of the Government's policy they agree with and how much of the Opposition argument they disagree with before they finally make up their minds how to act when the Division is called.

I now turn to the major issues which have been raised between the two sides of the House. First of all, I take up again the attempts which have been made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite to wriggle out of responsibility for the cost of the plans which we inherited. It has not been disputed that the total saving on the Conservative long-term costings by 1972–73 will be £5,000 million.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot deny that this is so. They are attempting to persuade the House and the country that the long-term costings are meaningless because they imply simply the extrapolation of a current year's expenditure. If that were indeed the case it would throw an appalling light on the way in which the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) attempted to control public expenditure in the previous Administration. But it is not true. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition purported to quote a Conservative saving on Labour's long-term costings in 1951. He has made it up because there were no long-term costings in 1951. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong."] Ten-year costings—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) was heard without interruption.

Mr. Healey

The 10-year costings were not introduced until 1960 and they represented a serious attempt by the Government of the day to plan public expenditure ahead. The defence castings of the previous Government were based on a planned percentage of gross national product over the whole period. This was not just a planning assumption. It was a firm decision of the previous Government announced publicly in the 1962 White Paper as 7 per cent. for the following five years—that is to say, from 1962 to 1967. This decision was taken before confrontation. It had nothing to do with confrontation whatever. The decision to base defence spending plans on 7 per cent. of G.N.P. was repeated in the next two years in the White Papers of 1963 and 1964.

Colonel Sir Talton Beamish (Lewes)


Mr. Healey


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Healey

The hon. and gallant Member has not attended our debate, and many hon. Members who have spoken and have asked me questions have the right to hear the reply.

Hon. Members

Give way.

Sir T. Beamish


Mr. Speaker

If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) must keep to his seat.

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Healey

As my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration pointed out this afternoon, the 1964 costings assumed that confrontation would end long before it did. Yet they carried forward not only to 1966; they carried forward to 1973. Those are the facts.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite claimed that they would have cut them if they had stayed in office. But the fact is they have attacked every cut that we have made and have imposed a three-line Whip in the House to carry home their attacks. Yesterday, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said again that the weakness of our forces which he claimed exists at present was due to the fact that we did not carry through the very sensible programmes which we inherited. The plain fact is that these savings are savings on very carefully prepared plans by the previous Administration.

The main issue in this debate is not Conservative plans in 1964 for 10 years but Conservative plans for the next five or 10 years, if the British people were mistaken enough to elect them to power again.

The Leader of the Opposition asked me to deal with several specific questions—

Mr. Heath

In fairness to my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who is unable to be here, will the right hon. Gentleman now acknowledge that while my right hon. Friend was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, indeed, while my right hon. and learned Friend for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was a steady decline in the proportion of the gross national product which was spent on defence, that there was a downward trend and that was while confrontation was going on, and that the percentage went from 7.11 to 6.86 to 6.72? Those are the facts of the proportion of the gross national product spent.

Mr. Healey

What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is that the success of the party opposite in power to carry out its defence plans was so imperfect that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite never succeeded in spending the money that they pledged themselves to spend in every Defence Vote. That is proof of bad management, not of good housekeeping—[Interruption.]

If the House will allow me, and if the Opposition will allow me, I will now deal with the specific questions raised today by the Leader of the Opposition. I will concentrate on the two issues on which he concentrated: first, the question of the N.A.T.O. strategy and of the policy east of Suez as a whole; and, secondly, the implications of that for manpower and for money devoted to defence.

We had some very interesting contributions on N.A.T.O. strategy from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were divided into two camps. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), and the hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), attacked the N.A.T.O. strategy. It was strongly and powerfully defended by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), and even more powerfully by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). Many of us were waiting for the Front Bench opposite to weigh in, as they have so often in the last five years, on the side of the critics of what they have called in so many debates "the Healey strategy".

We wore told by the Parliamentary correspondent to The Times twice last week that they intended to do so. On Tuesday of last week, he reported: Mr. Rippon, shadow Defence Secretary, said … he will take up Lord Mountbatten's criticisms when the Commons debate the defence White Paper next week. … He will say that Mr. Healey and the Labour Government, by cutting defence to a budget rather than adapting the budget to the risks, have exaggerated the costs of an effective British contribution to a European defence system which would be able to cope with situations falling short of nuclear war. On Friday of last week, he said: Mr. Heath will also follow Admiral of the Fleet Lord Mountbatten of Burma's letter to The Times in strongly challenging the implications of the Healey doctrine"—

Mr. Rippon

Will the right hon. Gentleman concentrate simply on what I said in my speech yesterday, which was in very clear terms, as I think that he might acknowledge? I said that we accepted the N.A.T.O. strategy as he enunciated and as set out in the White Paper.

Mr. Healey

That is exactly the point I am coming to. The fact is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend sounded very different from what was predicted for the last two days. [Interruption.]

The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that he did not quarrel with the strategy of the Alliance as expounded in the White Paper. He called it the strategy of the Alliance and not the Healey strategy as on previous occasions.

Mr. Rippon

I never called it the Healey strategy.

Mr. Healey

The Leader of the Opposition accepted the power of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons to deter. He sharply warned me not to assume that this would all be a smooth and tidy process. I can assure him that I do not. I have been discussing this matter in defence debates in the House since 1955. Incidentally, the right hon.

Gentleman was grossly unfair to those English experts who have discussed these matters over the last 15 years in suggesting that public understanding in Britain falls behind understanding in the United States and Europe. This is far from being the case.

The interesting point is that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West pointed out yesterday, in all the debates until this one the Front Bench opposite has been on the other side of the argument. He said quite truly in his intervention yesterday: This is something that this party has been urging throughout these debates for the last four Or five years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797, c. 468.] That was about the "nuclear illusion", and he went on to say that our forces would need to be expanded because the least probable contingency was that we would opt for suicide. That was the way in which he described it, and right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will recall this, and when the right hon. Gentleman argued this case he was supported by other right hon. Members on the other side of the House. He was arguing the case as the defence spokesman for the present Leader of the Opposition. He was doing that. Now we have a complete change in the whole position and there were many other very surprising changes in what the Leader of the Opposition said about N.A.T.O. He said nothing whatever today about the Anglo-French nuclear force. I presume that he has now accepted that this is not possible before France comes into N.A.T.O.—a point which I have made to him on many occasions in the past.

His most astonishing remark this afternoon was when he attacked the Government for moving ships from the Far East into the Mediterranean on the grounds that they were not needed in the Mediterranean. But the need to counter the build-up of the Soviet Fleet in the Mediterranean has been the main theme of all the Opposition's previous debates on this matter.

Why are we seeing this volte face in the attitude of the Opposition on N.A.T.O. strategy? The answer is clear. They are increasingly worried about the effect of the manpower and money implications of the posture which they have taken until now, on their prospect in the next General Election. They are particularly worried about the implication of their pledge on the Far East. We all hoped Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the House would like, if it can, to obey your injunction to be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, but may I have your confirmation of my impression that we are not obliged to sit in silence through partisan nonsense of this kind?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is anything but a point of order.

Mr. Healey

We had all hoped, and some of us, including myself, had expected, that some precision would have been given to the Opposition's policy in the Far East during the debate. We have learned not one more thing about it. We still have to work on the evidence we can piece together from statements made by Opposition leaders in the recent past.

I want to deal, because the Leader of the Opposition asked me to do so, with the cost of his presence east of Suez. He has admitted that the forces on the spot would cost £100 million give or take 10 per cent. He cannot deny that the forces we might have to keep in the Gulf, if the local Powers accepted his invitation, could cost another £30 million or £40 million. That is the cost of our forces there at present. It is difficult to imagine any Government who have accepted responsibility for the safety of British troops exposing fewer than the present number in an area whose dangers were graphically outlined to us yesterday by several hon. Members opposite. It is very easy to show, as I did yesterday—I will be glad to take the Leader of the Opposition through the costings if he wishes—that to run on the existing carrier force through this decade would cost between £60 million and £70 million a year.

But the most serious failing of the Leader of the Opposition in the last two days is his failure to answer any of my questions about the rôle of the forces and about the commitments they would be intended to fulfil.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the House—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to hear the point of order.

Sir D. Glover

When the House, by its courtesy, gives the Secretary of State the opportunity of speaking twice in the debate, do we not expect to have a separate speech, or is the right hon. Gentleman allowed to give the same one over again?

Mr. Speaker

That, too, is not a point of order.

Mr. Healey

Quite apart from the statement made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) which I quoted yesterday, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said yesterday: We envisage the provision of maritime air support and the sophisticated technical assistance which"— the local Powers— cannot provide for themselves. This was the Government's policy also up to 1968."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1970; Vol. 797, c. 457.] But when we planned it, we knew that it would cost well over £100 million, and this was at a time before we committed to N.A.T.O. the forces which would be needed to reinforce its presence. But the right hon. Member for Harrogate and the Leader of the Opposition said that they should be used also against subversion and infiltration.

Mr. Heath


Mr. Healey

External—although the right hon. Gentleman did not take the opportunity to deny the Reuter report this afternoon. Let us assume that it is external subversion and infiltration that he means.

Mr. Heath

I denied it yesterday and I will deny it again today. It is not the intention to deal with internal affairs. It was not the intention when we negotiated the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement, which still exists and by which the Government are bound. I will repeat my denial every day if the right hon. Gentleman cannot understand it now.

Mr. Healey

I accept the right hon. Gentleman's denial, but operations even against external subversion and infiltration are very expensive in troops and very difficult to control. In Borneo, when dealing with external subversion and infiltration, we had to use 55,000 men over three years. In Vietnam, the United States had to use 500,000 men and the war is not over yet.

The real question is that of the nature of the commitments of the Government. We, as I said yesterday, are getting rid of all our automatic commitments to give assistance in the Persian Gulf and the Far East. The right hon. Gentleman plans to keep them, and this is the crux of the matter. It is no good talking about Mekong or Laos. We never had the commitment to intervene there and we never had troops on the spot who might have been involved whether we had commitments or not. We have a commitment now in the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement, but I put this to the right hon. Gentleman, because its implications go far outside the confines of this House: the Agreement in its present form involves an automatic commitment. It gives to the other signatory of the Agreement a blank cheque to call on British troops. It is a commitment which applies to Britain alone. It does not apply to the Australian and New Zealand Governments, and there is no chance that they would accept a commitment of this type. Therefore, this commitment would provide no basis for the presence of their forces once we have gone.

This is why the Government are seeking release from the commitment and intend to do so before our forces finally retire next year; and we are seeking a new form of political framework within which the four Commonwealth countries could co-operate in the area and which Australia and New Zealand would be prepared to accept. But even if the right hon. Gentleman changed the commitment given the presence of British forces and his declared intention to commit them to counter-insurgency operations, it means that he must have a reinforcement capability or he is putting the lives of our own soldiers at risk. That is why to cover the cost of what the right hon. Gentleman proposes we must double the £100 million to which I referred earlier. Of course he does not like that and may-be he is appalled by it; but it simply illustrates the danger of jumping into commitments without any clear idea of their full implications.

I come next to the question of the manpower implications in the right hon. Gentleman's policy. To run on the carrier force alone would require another 8,000 men. No presence of less than 6,000 in the Gulf would be safe for the British forces who composed it. If the right hon. Gentleman intends a presence of even about half the size of our present force in the Far East—and they are only half what they were in 1964—that means about 20,000 men; and he must have 20,000 men at home to reinforce them or he is exposing them to unacceptable risks. Now we are beginning to see the real reason for the somersault on N.A.T.O. strategy, because the right hon. Gentleman is himself tumbling to the fact—[Interruption.]

Mr. Heath

What somersault?

Mr. Healey

The somersault on N.A.T.O. strategy compared with the strategy put on behalf of the Front Bench opposite by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. The fact is that he is beginning to realise himself that his defence policy means not only a massive increase in the defence budget, it also means conscription.

Mr. Heath


Mr. Healey

The real issue in this debate on defence is really that of the General Election, which boils down to the simple fact—[Interruption.]

Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)

On a point of order. The use of the word "conscription" is a filthy electioneering smear.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That did not sound to me like a point of order.

Mr. Healey

The whole policy of the Opposition at this election is a phoney prospectus. No price is given at all in manpower or money for any of the commitments they have accepted, either in defence or anything else, and the fact that they are not prepared even to have the central point made, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is purple with fury that I have made it, is clear proof of what I am saying.—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Neither side is doing Parliament any good at the moment.—[Interruption.]

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 231, Noes 289.

Division No. 73.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gibson-Watt, David Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Glover, Sir Douglas Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Glyn, Sir Richard Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Astor, John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Awdrey, Daniel Goodhart, Philip Murton, Oscar
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Goodhew, Victor Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Gower, Raymond Neave, Airey
Balniel, Lord Grant, Anthony Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Grieve, Percy Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Batsford, Brian Gurden, Harold Nott, John
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hall, John (Wycombe) Onslow, Cranley
Bell, Ronald Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Harris, Reader (Heston) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Biffen, John Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Biggs-Davison, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Harvie Anderson, Miss Peel, John
Black, Sir Cyril Hawkins, Paul Percival, Ian
Blaker, Peter Hay, John Peyton, John
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Llonel Pike, Miss Mervyn
Body, Richard Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Pink, R. Bonner
Bossom, Sir Clive Heseltine, Michael Pounder, Rafton
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Higgins, Terence L. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hill, J. E. B. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Braine, Bernard Hirst, Geoffrey Prior, J. M. L.
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Pym, Francis
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Holland, Philip Quennell, Miss J. M.
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hordern, Peter Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hornby, Richard Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Bryan, Paul Hunt, John Rees-Davies, W. R.
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Iremonger, T. L. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bullus, Sir Eric Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Burden, F. A. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Ridsdale, Julian
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Jopling, Michael Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Robson Brown, Sir William
Carlisle, Mark Kaberry, Sir Donald Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Cary, Sir Robert Kershaw, Anthony Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Channon, H. P. G. Kimball, Marcus Royle, Anthony
Chataway, Christopher Kitson, Timothy Russell, Sir Ronald
Chichester-Clark, R. Lancaster, Col. C. G. St. John-Stevas, Norman
Clegg, Walter Lane, David Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Cooke, Robert Langford-Holt, Sir John Scott, Nicholas
Corfield, F. V. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Scott-Hopkins, James
Costain, A. P. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sharples, Richard
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Crouch, David Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Silvester, Frederick
Crowder, F. P. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Sinclair, Sir George
Currie, G. B. H. Longden, Gilbert Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Dalkeith, Earl of McAdden, Sir Stephen Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Dance, James MacArthur, Ian Stainton, Keith
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Stodart, Anthony
Dean, Paul Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) McMaster, Stanley Summers, Sir Spencer
Digby, Simon Wingfield Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Tapsell, Peter
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Michael Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Donnelly, Desmond McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Doughty, Charles Maddan, Martin Temple, John M.
Drayson, G. B. Maginnis, John E. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Tilney, John
Eden, Sir John Marten, Neil van Straubenzee, W. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Maude, Angus Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Emery, Peter Mawby, Ray Vickers, Dame Joan
Errington, Sir Eric Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Waddington, David
Eyre, Reginald Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Farr, John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Wall, Patrick
Fortescue, Tim Miscampbell, Norman Walters, Dennis
Foster, Sir John Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Ward, Christopher (Swindon)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Monro, Hector Ward, Dame Irene
Fry, Peter Montgomery, Fergus Weatherill, Bernard
Wells, John (Maidstone) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Younger, Hn. George
Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Woodnutt, Mark
Wiggin, A. W. Worsley, Marcus TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Donald (Dudley) Wright, Esmond Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Wylie, N. R. Mr. Jasper More.
Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Abse, Leo Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lawson, George
Albu, Austen Ellis, John Leadbitter, Ted
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) English, Michael Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Alldritt, Walter Ennals, David Lee, John (Reading)
Allen, Scholefield Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)
Anderson, Donald Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Faulds, Andrew Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Armstrong, Ernest Fernyhough, E. Lipton, Marcus
Ashley, Jack Finch, Harold Loughlin, Charles
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Luard, Evan
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.) Lubbock, Eric
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Foley, Maurice Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Barnes, Michael Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Barnett, Joel Ford, Ben McBride, Neil
Beaney, Alan Forrester, John McCann, John
Bence, Cyril Fowler, Gerry MacColl, James
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Fraser, John (Norwood) Macdonald, A. H.
Bidwell, Sydney Freeson, Reginald McElhone, Frank
Binns, John Galpern, Sir Myer McGuire, Michael
Bishop, E. S. Garrett, W. E. Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)
Blackburn, F. Ginsburg, David Mackie, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Golding, John Maclennan, Robert
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Booth, Albert Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Boston, Terence Greenwood, Flt. Hn. Anthony McNamara, J. Kevin
Bottomley, Rt. Ha. Arthur Gregory, Arnold MacPherson, Malcolm
Boyden, James Grey, Charles (Durham) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Bradley, Tom Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Brooks, Edwin Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mapp, Charles
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Marks, Kenneth
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hamling, William Marquand, David
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Harper, Joseph Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Brown, F. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Buchan, Norman Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Maxwell, Robert
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Haseldine, Norman Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hattersley, Roy Mendelson, John
Cant, R. B. Hazell, Bert Milian, Bruce
Carmichael, Neil Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Miller, Dr. M. S.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Heffer, Eric S. Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Castle, Fit. Hn. Barbara Hilton, W. S. Mitchell, F. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Chapman, Donald Hooley, Frank Molloy, William
Conlan, Bernard Horner, John Moonman, Eric
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Crawshaw, Richard Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Cronin, John Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Morris, John (Aberavon)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Huckfield, Leslie Moyle, Roland
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Murray, Albert
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Newens, Stan
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Hynd, John Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Davies, G. Effed (Rhondda, E.) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur Norwood, Christopher
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Oakes, Gordon
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) O'Halloran, Michael
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Janner, Sir Barnett O'Malley, Brian
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oram, Bert
Delargy, H. J. Jeger, George (Goole) Orbach, Maurice
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.) Orme, Stanley
Dempsey, James Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Oswald, Thomas
Dewar, Donald Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Padley, Walter
Dickens, James Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Dobson, Ray Jones, Dart (Burnley) Paget, R. T.
Doig, Peter Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.) Palmer, Arthur
Driberg, Tom Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pannell, Fit. Hn. Charles
Dunn, James A. Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Dunnett, Jack Judd, Frank Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Kelley, Richard Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Peart, Fit. Hn. Fred
Eadie, Alex Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Pentland, Norman
Edelman, Maurice Latham, Arthur Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg Short, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton, N.E.) Watkins, David (Consett)
Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Weitzman, David
Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Silverman, Julius Wellbeloved, James
Price, William (Rugby) Skeffington, Arthur Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Probert, Arthur Slater, Joseph Whitaker, Ben
Rankin, John Small, William White, Mrs. Eirene
Rees, Merlyn Snow, Julian Wilkins, W. A.
Rhodes, Geoffrey Spriggs, Leslie Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Richard, Ivor Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Robertson, John (Paisley) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Rodgers, William (Stockton) Taverne, Dick Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Rose, Paul Thornton, Ernest Winnick, David
Ross, Rt. Hn. William Tinn, James Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Rowlands, E. Tomney, Frank Woof, Robert
Ryan, John Tuck, Raphael Wyatt, Woodrow
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Urwin, T. W.
Sheldon, Robert Varley, Eric G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Mr. J. D. Concannon and
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Mr. Ernest G. Perry.
Short, Rt. Hn, Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Wallace, George

Main Question put:

Division No. 74.] AYES [10.13 p.m.
Albu, Austen Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hooley, Frank
Alldritt, Walter Dempsey, James Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Allen, Scholefield Dewar, Donald Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Anderson, Donald Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Dobson, Ray Hoy, Rt. Hn. James
Armstrong, Ernest Doig, Peter Huckfield, Leslie
Ashley, Jack Dunn, James A. Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Dunnett, Jack Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Hynd, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur
Barnes, Michael Eadie, Alex Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Barnett, Joel Edelman, Maurice Janner, Sir Barnett
Beaney, Alan Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bence, Cyril Ellis, John Jeger, George (Goole)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) English, Michael Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Binns, John Ennals, David Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Bishop, E. S. Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Blackburn, F. Faulds, Andrew Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Fernyhough, E. Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Finch, Harold Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Boston, Terence Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Istington, E.) Judd, Frank
Boyden, James Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Kelley, Richard
Bradley, Tom Foley, Maurice Lawson, George
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Ford, Ben Leadbitter, Ted
Brooks, Edwin Forrester, John Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Fowler, Gerry Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven) Fraser, John (Norwood) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Freeson, Reginald Lipton, Marcus
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Galpern, Sir Myer Loughlin, Charles
Buchan, Norman Garrett, W. E. Luard, Evan
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Ginsburg, David Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Cant, R. B. Golding, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Carmichael, Neil Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Carter-Jones, Lewis Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) McBride, Nell
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony McCann, John
Chapman, Donald Gregory, Arnold MacColl, James
Conlan, Bernard Grey, Charles (Durham) McElhone, Frank
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McGuire, Michael
Crawahaw, Richard Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Cronin, John Gunter, Rt. tin. R. J. Mackie, John
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Maclennan, Robert
Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Dalyell, Tam Hamling, William McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Harper, Joseph McNamara, J. Kevin
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) MacPherson, Malcolm
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Haseldine, Norman Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Hattersley, Roy Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hazell, Bert Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mapp, Charles
Delargy, H. J. Hilton, W. S. Marks, Kenneth

The House divided: Ayes 251, Noes 230.

Marquand, David Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Taverne, Dick
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Pentland, Norman Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg Thornton, Ernest
Maxwell, Robert Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Tinn, James
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Tuck, Raphael
Mendelson, John Probert, Arthur Urwin, T. W.
Milian, Bruce Rees, Merlyn Valley, Eric G.
Miller, Dr. M. S. Rhodes, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Richard, Ivor Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Wallace, George
Molloy, William Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Watkins, David (Consett)
Moonman, Eric Robertson, John (Paisley) Weitzman, David
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'clas) Wellbeloved, James
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rodgers, William (Stockton) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Whitaker, Ben
Morris, John (Aberavon) Rose, Paul White, Mrs. Eirene
Moyle, Roland Ross, Rt. Hn. William Wilkins, W. A.
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Rowlands, E. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Murray, Albert Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Oakes, Gordon Sheldon, Robert Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
O'Halloran, Michael Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
O'Malley, Brian Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Oram, Bert Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Orbach, Maurice Skeffington, Arthur Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Oswald, Thomas Slater, Joseph Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Small, William Winnick, David
Padley, Walter Snow, Julian Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Spriggs, Leslie Woof, Robert
Paget, R. T. Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Wyatt, Woodrow
Palmer, Arthur Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Parker, John (Dagenham) Strauss, Rt. Hn. C. R. Mr. J. D. Concannon and
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Mr. Ernest C. Pervy.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Crouch, David Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Crowder, F. P. Heseltine, Michael
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Currie, G. B. H. Higgins, Terence L.
Astor, John Dalkeith, Earl of Hill, J. E.B.
Awdrey, Daniel Dance, James Hirst, Geoffrey
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Dean, Paul Holland, Philip
Balniel, Lord Deedes, Pt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Hordern, Peter
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Digby, Simon Wingfield Hornby, Richard
Batsford, Brian Dodds-Parker, Douglas Howell, David (Culidford)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Donnelly, Desmond Hunt, John
Bell, Ronald Doughty, Charles Iremonger, T. L.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Drayson, G. B. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Eden, Sir John Jopling, Michael
Biffen, John Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Biggs-Davison, John Emery, Peter Kaberry, Sir Donald
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Errington, Sir Eric Kershaw, Anthony
Black, Sir Cyril Eyre, Reginald Kimball, Marcus
Blaker, Peter Farr, John Kitson, Timothy
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Body, Richard Fortescue, Tim Lane, David
Bossom, Sir Clive Foster, Sir John Langford-Holt, Sir John
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Fry, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Brains, Bernard Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gibson-Watt, David Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Glover, Sir Douglas Longden, Gilbert
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Glyn, Sir Richard McAdden, Sir Stephen
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. MacArthur, Ian
Bryan, Paul Goodhart, Philip Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Goodhem, Victor Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Gower, Raymond McMaster, Stanley
Bullus, Sir Eric Grant, Anthony Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Burden, F. A. Grieve, Percy McNair-Wilson, Michael
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Gurden, Harold McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hall, John (Wycombe) Maddan, Martin
Carlisle, Mark Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maginnis, John E.
Cary, Sir Robert Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Channon, H. P. G. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Marten, Neil
Chataway, Christopher Harris, Reader (Heston) Maude, Angus
Chichester-Clark, R. Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mawby, Ray
Clegg, W alter Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Cooke, Robert Harvie Anderson, Miss Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Corfield, F. V. Hawkins, Paul Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Costain, A. P. Hay, John Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Miscampbell, Norman Pym, Francis Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Quennell, Miss J. M. Temple, John M.
Monro, Hector Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Montgomery, Fergus Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Tilney, John
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Rees-Davies, W. R. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Vickers, Dame Joan
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Waddington, David
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ridsdale, Julian Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Murton, Oscar Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Robson Brown, Sir William Wall, Patrick
Neave, Airey Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Walters, Dennis
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Ward, Christopher (Swindon)
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Royle, Anthony Ward, Dame Irene
Nott, John Russell, Sir Ronald Weatherill, Bernard
Onslow, Cranley St. John-Stevas, Norman Wells, John (Maidstone)
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian Scott, Nicholas Wiggin, A. W.
Osborn John (Hallam) Scott-Hopkins, James Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Page, Graham (Crosby) Sharples, Richard Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Shaw, Michael (Sc'h'gh & Whitby) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Silvester, Frederick Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Sinclair, Sir George Woodnutt, Mark
Peel, John Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Worsley, Marcus
Percival, Ian Smith, John (London & W'minster) Wright, Esmond
Peyton, John Stainton, Keith Wylie, N. R.
Pike, Miss Mervyn Stodart, Anthony Younger, Hn. George
Pink, R. Bonner Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Pounder, Rafton Summers, Sir Spencer TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Tapsell, Peter Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Price, David (Eastleigh) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Mr. Jasper More.
Prior, J. M. L.


That this House approves the Statement on Defence 1970, contained in Command Paper No. 4290.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Dobson.]

10.25 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

On a point of order. As the last Division figures have shown that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence has lost the confidence of the country, and as the Prime Minister will not apparently remove him, could you advise me, Mr. Speaker, what steps I should take to impeach the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Speaker

I could advise the hon. Gentleman what steps to take, but I had better not.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)


Mr. Speaker

Order. An hon. Gentleman has the Adjournment debate. Points of order come out of his time.

Mr. Wellbeloved

On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance on the events that preceded the vote being taken on this vital matter—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may criticise it in his own mind, but it is not a point of order.


On a point of order.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Test)

Sit down!

Mr. Wellbeloved

The matter upon which I seek your guidance is that I was unable to hear the closing words of my right hon. Friend because of the organised attempt by the Conservative Opposition to stifle free speech in the Mother of Parliaments. During the last few minutes of his speech, the House was subjected to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is probably aware that Mr. Speaker was in the Chair and knows all this. The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend has the Adjournment. We cannot go over the debate which has finished.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Further to that point of order. The point I seek your advice on is that hon. Members on this side of the House are sick and tired of the drunken behaviour of hon. Members—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman seeks my guidance. He must contain his impatience. The noise comes from both sides of the House.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I would like to put my point of order.

Mr. Speaker

I am seized of the point of order. I have ruled on it.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I must ask for your specific guidance on the point I am just about to reach, Mr. Speaker. In view of the drunken disorder—

Mr. Heath


Mr. Wellbeloved

—I wonder whether you could order the bars in the House to be closed to hon. Members before the winding-up speeches?

Mr. Speaker

I have no power to do so.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)rose

Mr. Heath

Further to that point of order. In raising this point of order I apologise to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), who has the Adjournment debate, but is it not disgraceful that the hon. Gentleman should accuse hon. and right hon. Members of this House of drunken behaviour and to ask that the bars be closed when he as well as everyone else knows perfectly well that that is a grossly untrue allegation?

Mr. Speaker

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman.

Hon. Members


Mr. Wellbeloved

indicated dissent.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)

Turn around and look behind you.

Mr. Heath

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Faulds

My point of order is—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I said earlier this evening that noise does not do Parliament any good. We all of us in our own way like Parliament.

Mr. Heath

If there were drunken behaviour in this House it is the responsibility of the Chair to deal with the matter. If the hon. Gentleman accuses this House of drunken behaviour it is also a reflection on the Chair, which is just as completely unjustified as it is on hon. and right hon. Gentlemen.

Mr. Speaker

Point of order. Mr. Faulds.

Mr. Heath

The hon. Gentleman should withdraw.

Mr. Faulds

My point of order is—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) must not seek to control the Chair.

Mr. Faulds

My point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Heath

With great respect, I raised a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will call the right hon. Gentleman. I have called the bon. Member for Smethwick on a point of order.

Mr. Faulds

My point of order, following the exchanges that have taken place, has to do with the conduct of the business of the House of Commons. You are well aware, Mr. Speaker, that there was a concerted effort tonight to drown the final words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I can excuse, and I make no accusations about, the post-prandial exuberance of certain hon. Members opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The conduct of the hon. Member about which I want to speak is that of the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber), who was sober—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is doing what I asked him not to do.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart) rose

Mr. Faulds

I have not finished—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is one order that the House will preserve. It is that when Mr. Speaker is standing hon. Members will keep their seats. It is not in order to hold an inquest on what took place at the end of the debate. There was noise from both sides of the House—and we are using the time of the hon. Member who has won the Adjournment.

Mr. Faulds

Mr. Speaker, the House will lose less time if I am allowed to finish putting my point of order, and the quicker we can proceed. The point is that this gentleman made quite unsubstantiable accusations across the Chamber. This is the gentleman who, a few weeks ago, used—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not going to follow this any more—

Mr. Faulds

I have not finished—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not refer to a right hon. Gentleman as "this gentleman".

Mr. Faulds

I want to ask for your protection—

Mr. Heath

I rise too—

Mr. Faulds

I am sorry, but—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must obey the Chair.

Mr. Faulds

I had not finished my point of order—

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)

Sit down!

Mr. Heath

I rise further to my original point of order, Mr. Speaker, to put it to you that the language used by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford that this was a drunken House of Commons was absolutely unjustified and, moreover, was a reflection on you in the Chair. I asked you what action was to be taken about this, and again I ask you whether or not you are here to protect the good name of the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that Mr. Speaker devotes himself entirely to protecting the good name of the House of Commons. He even calls the attention of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from time to time to the fact, if the House is too noisy, that they are hurting the good name of the House of Commons.

Mr. Heath


Mr. Peart

I would hope that hon. Members would—[Interruption.] I think that that reflection on all hon. Members is wrong, and, therefore, I hope that we can proceed with the next business.

Mr. Heath

Mr. Speaker, I must ask you to request the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford to withdraw his accusation that this is a drunken House of Commons.

Hon. Members


Mr. Wellbeloved

If in any way I have given the impression that I consider this to be a drunken House of Commons, of course I withdraw it. If in any way I have given the impression that I accuse a large number of hon. Members opposite of being in a state which I consider to be drunken, I do not withdraw it. In my judgment, the disgraceful behaviour in silencing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and the suppression of free speech in this House, aided and abetted by alcoholic drink, is a scandal.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has withdrawn at least the exaggerated way in which he made his criticism. Discourtesy about political opponents is never any good to anyone. He could have withdrawn it in a more graceful way.

Mr. Heath

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask you what protection right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House have who are wrongfully accused by the hon. Member of being drunken.

Mr. Speaker

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's first point of order, I agreed with what he said about the unfairness of the criticism raised by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford.

Sir D. Glover

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) must withdraw a great slur on the House of Commons, both sides of it. He must withdraw it.

Mr. Speaker

Order.—[Interruption.] Order. I took it from the last intervention of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford that he did withdraw the gravamen of the charge.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order to ask for a supply of breathalysers to be brought in to verify my hon. Friend's criticism?

Mr. Speaker

This is degenerating. The remark was unworthy of the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens).

Mr. Tapsell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I was absent when the orignal remark was made, since I have been in the Chamber the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has specifically accused right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, or some of them, of being drunken. Ought he not to be told to withdraw that remark?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford withdrew it. Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell


Mr. Heath


Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Heath.

Mr. Heath

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Again, I apologise to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford has not withdrawn the accusation that he made against right hon. and hon. Members on this side, and which was completely without justification. If the Chair is not able to ask him to withdraw, will the Leader of the House repudiate him?

Mr. Peart

I ask the Leader of the Opposition to appreciate that I accept the view that an accusation was made against hon. Members on both sides. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am trying to help. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) will withdraw his remark. I have said so already. This is why I hope that we can now proceed. I think that accusations at this time of night, in view of the heat of debate, are sometimes made in anger, and I hope that, on sober reflection, my hon. Friend will withdraw his remark.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford can contribute to the good will of the House and end the incident by withdrawing what he said.

Mr. Faulds

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mere repetition does not enable an hon. Member to be in order.

Sir D. Glover

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise in great sorrow. This, I believe, is a very serious matter for the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford has refused to withdraw. If he will not withdraw, I ask you, as Mr. Speaker of this House, to name him.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The last thing that the Chair would wish to do on a night like this, after all the excitement, is to name a Member. I ask the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford to withdraw.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The situation before the vote was taken was such that I am clear in my mind that one of two things was taking place. There was either a deliberate attempt to suppress free speech, or the behaviour of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite can only be excused on the ground that they were "under the influence". It was one or the other.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making his position worse. He must withdraw the second part of that allegation. I am asking the hon. Gentleman to withdraw. If not, I must ask him to leave the Chamber.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that, because of the pressure to which the Chair has been subjected by the Leader of the Opposition—[Interruption.] Am I to understand that under the pressure exercised by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker has now changed his mind from the original position that he adopted?

Mr. Speaker

Order. When the hon. Gentleman reads tomorrow the passage that has taken place, he will find that Mr. Speaker has been of the same opinion from the beginning, when his attention was first called to the matter. The hon. Gentleman has no right to accuse this House of being a place of drunken Members of Parliament. He must withdraw or leave the Chamber.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Under the pressure that you, Mr. Speaker, are putting on me—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Under the pressure that you, Mr. Speaker, are putting on me, provided that it is clearly understood—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that it was either suppression of free speech, or at least the appearance to me—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. It is easy for withdrawals to be wholehearted. The hon. Gentleman must just withdraw.

Mr. Wellbeloved

It is very difficult for me, Mr. Speaker, to withdraw in view of the disgraceful conduct—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—to which this House has been subjected in this deliberate attempt to suppress free speech.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult, but the hon. Gentleman must withdraw.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I withdraw to this extent, and I am not prepared to go any further—[Interruption.] I withdraw any imputation that this House is a place of drunkenness.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell


Mr. Faulds

Perhaps I may finish my point of order, Sir. I was making no accusations of such a nature. I was merely asking for protection for the House. When some of us want to listen to a major speech by the Secretary of State for Defence, what can we do when the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber), who took part in a concerted effort to silence the debate, and who used false trade figures a few weeks ago to try—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman really must be careful. If he wants to reflect on the conduct of a Member, the only way that he can do it is by a Motion on the Order Paper. His comment is most disorderly and it must not continue. I will not take any further point of order.

Mr. Faulds

May I finish my point of order?

Mr. Speaker

Order. No. I will not take any further point of order.

Mr. Faulds

I merely want to ask for protection—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Faulds

I want to ask for your protection—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Faulds

I am sorry that you will not let me ask for your protection, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

May I now raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

Order. If anyone has a right to raise a point of order, it is the hon. Member who has lost his Adjournment.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker? You will be aware that I originally lost my Adjournment on this subject when, on Friday, 20th February, the House was counted out. [HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"] Who was responsible does not matter at this point.

About six minutes remain for this Adjournment and that is insufficient to enable either the Minister or I to do justice to the subject. Is there any way by which this Adjournment, on the subject which I wish to raise, can be postponed until a later date?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman was unfortunate to lose his Adjournment on Friday, 20th February. I have power to select an Adjournment on a Thursday, and it was for that reason that I chose this subject this week. However, I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman one next Thursday, because a subject for that day has already been chosen. I can only tell him that he will have to wait and see.

Mr. Mitchell

In those circumstances, I waive my right to have what remains of this Adjournment and throw myself on your mercy for a future occasion, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

On a point of order. Would it not be worth while to refer this whole matter of an hon. Member losing his time on the Adjournment in circumstances such as these to the Select Committee on Procedure? That Committee could then consider the possibility of awarding injury time, as it were, on occasions of this kind.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at fourteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.