HC Deb 19 March 1973 vol 853 cc44-170

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [15th March]: That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1973, contained in Command Paper No. 5231.—[Mr. Ian Gilmour.]

Amendment proposed, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: expresses its concern at the sharp inflationary increase in defence expenditure and, while paying tribute to the three Services and civilian personnel, particularly for their outstanding service in Northern Ireland, and maintaining that they should receive adequate remuneration, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take urgent action within the Alliance to bring our defence spending into line with that of our European allies, and further to seek to ensure that total West European expenditure should reflect any improvement in the security situation following the European Security Conference.—[Mr. Peart.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

4.8 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Lord Lambton)

We had an interesting debate on Thursday. I feel that I should begin today by apologising to the Opposition on behalf of my two hon. Friends who spoke in that debate. I regret that they made the error of discussing the Opposition amendment which those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who put it down obviously thought was a breach of good taste. They went out of their way to avoid discussing it themselves and appeared greatly to resent the fact that my hon. Friends went into its implications at some length. In future if the Opposition put down an amendment and do not want to discuss it, perhaps they will let us know through the usual channels. Alternatively, if they want to put down an amendment but do not want to discuss it, will not it be better not to put it down at all?

That is all that I have to say about the amendment, which I am sure will please the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), whose maiden speech in his new Shadow post we had the pleasure of hearing on Thursday.

The right hon. Member for Workington and some of his colleagues felt that the Defence White Paper should have dealt at greater length with the main principles upon which our policy was based. I shall do my best to meet the right hon. Gentleman's wishes today.

I turn first to what is not the least of our achievements, namely, stability in our defence policy, aims and dispositions. It is not necessary for us continually to define our aims in broad terms because they remain the same. Above all, I think that we on this side of the House are united in our defence aims, even if some of our supporters do not see precisely eye to eye over means, and therefore we can maintain our objectives even if that means finding marginally increased resources.

Shortly after we took office we issued the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970 which defined our objectives, and those still stand. Our main aim— as it was then—is the support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation through the improvement of our own military contribution to the alliance and co-operation with our allies and Western Europe as a whole. I think that few would quarrel with the recent statement in another place by my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that a major aim for European nations during the next four years must be to rethink and refurbish the alliance which has underwritten our security for the past 25 years and which will, we believe, continue to fulfil the same purpose.

I think that it is common ground among a large proportion of those hon. Members who are interested in defence that nothing which is likely to happen in the foreseeable future will erode the overriding importance of the link between Western Europe and North America in the alliance. It is true that we must not appear to take the American connection for granted, but there are no grounds for acting as though that connection does not exist. Throughout his term of office President Nixon has constantly made his own position clear. In October 1970 he gave a formal assurance that, provided we Europeans did likewise, the United States would maintain and improve its forces in Europe and would not reduce them except in the context of reciprocal East-West reductions. He repeated that assurance as lately as last December.

It is of some importance that those have not been mere words. The Americans increased their force levels in Europe by about 7½ per cent. during 1971, and maintained that level during 1972. At the same time, one saw the tenacity and purpose with which the President handled resolutions of Congress proposing troop reductions. I think, therefore, that it would be intolerable for Members to doubt his personal aims and his ability to fulfil them.

But the defence of Western Europe necessarily starts with the efforts of Europeans themselves, and this is something that we are sometimes inclined to forget. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, at the moment 10 out of every 11 Servicemen in Europe are Europeans. It would make neither political nor strategic sense for the Americans to continue their support of the alliance if it ever became clear that we in Europe lacked the determination and the confidence to make our own contribution to Western defence. This is the purpose and the point of the President's proposals for reciprocal effort, and we believe that as long as that reciprocal effort is forthcoming the security of the alliance will be preserved.

I think we can also claim that we are stimulating this reciprocal effort on the European side. Our own force contributions to NATO have been spelled out in recent White Papers and I shall not weary the House by going into them again because I am sure that that is not the detail wanted by the right hon. Member for Workington. Among the middle-sized powers in the alliance, our capability is extremely versatile, comprehending not only conventional naval, air and land forces, but also amphibious and airborne forces and both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. The last capability may be more limited than that of either of the super powers but it is, none the less, valuable.

I understand the interest of hon. Gentlemen opposite in the future of our Polaris submarines—these were mentioned by my right hon. Friend, and also by the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) who I do not see here today but who made an interesting speech —but I think that their enthusiasm for the announcement of immediate decisions of the purchase of Poseidon or other improvements is misplaced. They have been told many times—and I can only repeat the assurance yet again—that we keep under close review all the factors affecting the efficiency of Polaris and all the options for improving it. When we reach a conclusion on the need for such an improvement, we shall take the necessary decisions. Meanwhile, Polaris continues to be wholly effective and wholly credible both in the Royal Navy and in the United States Navy where 10 Polaris submarines will remain in service after the completion of the Poseidon conversion programme.

To turn to Europe, we are doing more than most countries to promote corporate expression of its defence effort. As hon. Members know, it was the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who devised the Eurogroup and gave it the essential characteristics which it retains to this day. Eurogroup is still active, and we have found it most useful. There is no doubt that it has served a most distinct and useful purpose in Europe, and I am glad to pay tribute to the work done in this direction by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.

We are also active in less spectacular ways. For example, we started the extremely useful practice of holding bilateral defence and staff talks with our principal allies. These have been almost embarrassingly successful, and so many nations are now trying to join in them that we are finding it difficult to extend the talks further. These are not the sort of arrangements which command headlines or are reported in sensational terms, but they are invaluable in establishing a common understanding of defence problems and operational concepts between allies.

I now turn to another objective announced in the 1970 supplementary statement, and that is our intention to review our defence objectives with the aim of enabling Britain to resume, within her resources, a proper share of responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world. We remain determined to carry out our obligation to our dependencies. We regard regional defence arrangements, which enable the participants to defend themselves effectively, as of great importance. They help to deter aggression and give the members confidence to resist blackmail and other pressures short of armed attack. NATO is the prime example of such an arrangement. On a smaller scale, the continued support for CENTO, SEATO, and the Five-Power Defence Agreement in the Far East, are justified in the same way.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite have raised the question of the Five-Power arrangement in the Far East. They will know that my right hon. and noble Friend has recently returned from a visit there. They will also know that the Governments of Australia and New Zealand have said that they will honour the terms of the Five-Power Communique. The New Zealanders have decided to maintain their present contribution to the ANZUK force. The Australians have announced their intention not to replace their infantry and artillery battalions now in Singapore once their tour of duty finishes at the end of the year, but they will retain their naval and air elements and a contribution to logistic support for the force. As my right hon. and noble Friend made clear, while our partners do the same we are determined to keep British forces in the area as long as they are wanted by the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Will the Minister now reply to the question to which his hon. Friend did not know the answer on Thursday? What will be the level of Australian and New Zealand naval and air forces in Singapore?

Lord Lambton

I have just read it out.

Mr. Dalyell

No, the hon. Gentleman has not. What is the level? Is it more than a token force?

Lord Lambton

Yes. I think the hon. Gentleman has been told that three times.

Mr. Dalyell

So that my mind is finally at rest, could we know what the level is? Could the hon. Gentleman answer the Question?

Lord Lambton

I have already told the hon. Gentleman that the precise levels are being maintained, with the exception of the Australians who announced their intention not to replace their infantry and artillery battalions now in Singapore once their tour of duty finishes at the end of the year, but they will retain their naval and air element and a contribution to logistic support for the force. Precisely what that level is going to be we cannot tell at the moment.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman cannot tell me because it is very small. It is a token force, is it not?

Lord Lambton

It is not a token force. It is precisely the same as it is now. I have given a perfectly simple answer.

Outside these formal arrangements for regional defence, Britain continues to play her part in promoting stability by providing personnel to serve on loan with the United Nations force in Cyprus, with local defence forces in the United Arab Emirates and in the Oman. This assistance helps in the maintenance of security and helps to promote good will in countries with whom we have trading and other links We also provide training assistance to help our friends in developing their capability to defend themselves. In addition to the loan of personnel, we undertake the training of many foreign and Commonwealth military students in the United Kingdom.

In sum, we have made good progress in achieving the objects which we announced in 1970. The measures which I have described have an effectivness out of all proportion to their costs, and we intend to continue with them because they benefit us and because our friends have made it clear that they welcome this kind of assistance.

On Thursday the right hon. Member for Workington spoke at length about the need to give the House more information about programmes and costs. I know that this is a subject which has come up in the House on a number of occasions, and it is a subject on which a delicate balance must be struck between a proper desire for informed debate, on the one hand, and, on the other, the necessity for a certain amount of discretion imposed by considerations of security and international relations.

The present arrangements whereby information is given to the House in specialist committees are the outcome of many years' efforts by Governments of both political sides to strike a correct balance. It is almost traditional for a party in opposition to demand a greater degree of disclosure than that party practised when it formed the Government of the day, and, while it is plainly the duty of this House to press for more information wherever possible, it is also the duty of the Government to decide how far it is prudent to accede to these requests. This is a serious matter to which the last and the present Government have given the most thorough consideration. In continuing the practice of the last Administration, we have tried to do more. We have sought, and will continue to seek, to give specialist committees of the House a deeper insight into defence matters and to develop closer relationships with them.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Ninth Report of the Expenditure Committee and expressed concern about the mounting pressures on the defence budget in the late 1970s. Pressures on defence budgets are always greater than we would wish, both because of the costs of an effective defence programme and because we accept that that programme must not impose an unacceptable economic burden on the country. The whole theme of defence budgeting for many years has been the reconciliation of these twin aims both in the short and in the longer term. In relation to a subject where any programme will immediately be criticised by those who desire more defence spending and those who desire less, there is no easy way of satisfying all opinions. We believe that our presently planned level of expenditure is right, given the contribution which we believe Britain should make to peace and security in Europe and elsewhere.

The same considerations guide us when looking at the extent of future programmes, for many of these programmes are at an early stage of development and many opportunities will exist to reconsider the phasing of costs before any commitment to them becomes absolute. I can assure the House that it is not our intention to allow the defence budget to expand out of hand in the late 1970s or to allow individual programmes to result in peak expenditure of an unacceptable order.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

Is my hon. Friend saying that MRCA will not go ahead in principle unless the cost analyses satisfy Her Majesty's Government? It is a programme on which the future re-equipment of the Royal Air Force is wholly dependent.

Lord Lambton

No, I was not saying anything of the kind. I can see no circumstances in which MRCA would not go ahead. Those who seek any firmer guarantee on either more or less expenditure in the future must know that no Government sensible of the national interest could give any other reply than that which I have given within the constraint of the twin aims which I have stated, and we shall continue to spend no more and no less on defence than the national interest requires.

I also assure the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and others, who may be alarmed by imputations that less attention may be given in future to the monitoring and control of defence expenditure, that we are always seeking to improve control in this difficult area, and that the disestablishment of the Controllerate of Guided Weapons and Electronics within the Procurement Executive will not mean any relaxation of the watch kept on projects in this area. Responsibility for the latter projects will pass to the other Procurement Executive Controllers to whom the requisite staff are being transferred.

Several other hon. Members apart from the right hon. Gentleman expressed concern last Thursday about redundancies arising from the plans for the first stage of rationalisation of R and D establishments announced in this year's White Paper. I know that other hon. Members who equally have the interests of their constituents at heart could not be present last Thursday and that some recent difficulties over the publication of the OFFICIAL REPORT will not have helped hon. Members to study the assurances given by my hon. Friend in his closing speech that day. Therefore I should like to repeat the salient points which he made.

Rationalisation of R and D establishments will affect some 2,000 staff; 700 to 800 of these are mobile and will be offered employment at other R and D establishments; many of the remaining 1,300, who are non-mobile, will be eligible to take up jobs in other establish- ments where nearly 900 new posts will be created. If they choose to move they will qualify for the allowances appropriate to mobile staff.

The process of redeployment will take up to three to five years to complete, and clearly staff wastage will help to reduce the size of the redundancy problem. We shall endeavour to find employment, in conjunction with other Departments, for those who do not move. Some of these Government Departments are substantial employers of labour in the areas affected.

I know that what I have said still leaves anxieties in the minds of some hon. Members and their constituents concerning loss of defence employment opportunities. I assure the House that it is our desire to minimise the effect on the individual of changes which are essential if we are to continue to do our present work using less resources. Clearly hon. Members will wish to take up detailed points concerning the rationalisation. I think these detailed points could best be handled in correspondence between Ministers and Members, as it would be difficult to do them justice in a debate such as this.

However, I cannot leave this subject without saying that while one appreciates the concern of hon. Members opposite on this point, what we always have to do in the Ministry of Defence is to try to save money in every field where it is possible to do so. My hon. Friend has already spoken about some of the important equipment programmes now in hand or under study, and others are listed in the Defence White Paper. I do not propose to go into the details of this programme, and I mention re-equipment only as a further reminder that consolidation and economy implies no slackening of the drive to provide the Services with the most modern and effective weapons systems.

In Thursday's debate, navy matters, as always, excited a great number of questions. I do not doubt that there will be a full exchange of views on these topics in the debate on the Royal Navy which is to take place in two days' time, and I do not, therefore, propose to deal with them today. However, as some confusion appeared to exist in some quarters about through-deck cruisers, I will give some information regarding this class of vessel.

It was stated in the 1970 Defence White Paper that the through-deck cruiser is intended to succeed the present converted "Tiger" class in order to provide three main capabilities: the deployment of antisubmarine helicopters; command and control of naval and maritime air forces; and a contribution to area air defence. The through-deck cruiser also provides an option for operating V/STOL aircraft. The requirement for this class of vessel does not depend on decisions on maritime V/STOL aircraft, although they would clearly add an additional dimension to its capabilities.

As announced in this year's White Paper, an order for the first of these cruisers is about to be placed. Further orders are likely, but decisions on numbers and timing have yet to be made. I know that my Navy colleague has taken note of the desires of hon. Members that contracts for this and other naval programmes should be used to maintain employment in their regions. If all goes well, the first of the new cruisers should be accepted into service before the end of the decade and the phasing out of "Ark Royal".

Mr. Dalyell

Might it not be more candid to mention that each of these ships will cost at least £75 million? For the sake of accuracy, ought that not to be added to the statement?

Lord Lambton

I do not know what authority the hon. Gentleman has for stating costs. I do not think that it is possible to say exactly what the costs are before one knows precisely what is going in these vessels. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman does not know the figures which he has given.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the Minister say I am wrong?

Lord Lambton

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman takes his opportunity to make a somewhat longer speech on this subject in the debate later this week.

I turn now to personnel matters, on which also there were a great many comments last Thursday. I am grateful for the concern which hon. Members show for the welfare of Servicemen and their dependants. Although these are housekeeping issues, they have a significant effect on morale, which in turn affects efficiency. Everyone will agree also that our Servicemen very properly desire to be well looked after.

Several hon. Members referred to the increasing proportion of the defence budget taken up by manpower and other support costs. Others have rightly stressed that the effectiveness of the Armed Forces depends upon the provision of the most modern equipment. We are fully aware of this problem of manpower costs, to which we have given the closest attention for some time. Plainly, if equipment programmes are to be afforded, savings in manpower costs are essential, and a major effort is being mounted to that end.

I turn, first, to the Royal Air Force. The RAF's exercise in self-scrutiny is particularly noteworthy. Manpower economy campaigns have been a continuous fact of life in this Service since the war, and it is greatly to the RAF's credit that, by seriously reconsidering the need for activities which have long been an accepted feature of the Service, it has been able to cut its requirement for manpower by about 6,000 posts, with the prospect of even more to come.

An even more remarkable feature is its success in giving effect to reductions in strength by natural wastage and the limitation of recruiting. In consequence, redundancy measures have keen kept to a minimum, with little or no compulsory redundancies. These manpower savings will make a major contribution to the costs of the extra Jaguar, Buccaneer and Nimrod squadrons which are on order to strengthen the front line.

There was a full review of Service pay last April, as a result of the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Board. The next biennial review will be due in April 1974, though the Review Body has said that it will keep Service pay under continuing review and will feel free to put forward recommendations on particular aspects of the subject whenever it believes them to be necessary.

Now that the second stage of the Government's incomes policy is in prospect, the Services, like everyone else in the community, are involved in that policy, which means that any improvements in pay or conditions of service during phase 2 will need to take account of the guidelines.

We hope that the Review Body will continue its work during phase 2. During this stage, we shall want to consult the Review Body and the Pay Board about the arrangements which should apply to the future. In the meantime, if the Review Body makes recommendations for a pay review in the light of the pay code, the Government will be prepared to agree to increases which comply with that code.

Improvements in pension schemes may be negotiated outside the pay limit. Significant improvements in retired pay and in pensions have been introduced with effect from 1st April 1972 as a result of the first stage of our review of the Armed Forces pension scheme, and we are pressing on with that second stage. We hope shortly to be able to announce substantial improvements in invaliding benefits and in the provision for death or injury attributable to service.

I should have liked to give hon. Members more information about these general improvements today, but this is not yet possible. However, I am able to give further details of the payments scheme for Servicemen injured and for the widows and children of Servicemen killed in Northern Ireland as a result of terrorist activities since August 1969.

As the House knows, there are various forms of benefit and compensation available in these Northern Ireland cases. These include "attributable" and "war widows" pensions and allowances paid by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, and invaliding pensions under the Armed Forces occupational pension scheme for men who have completed certain periods of service. There are also awards under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act 1968, some of which have been very substantial.

Even so, injury or death may leave the Serviceman or his family hard up, especially in the case of fairly young and junior men without much service. The major improvement in pensions which we hope to announce shortly will make better provision for such cases, where the men concerned give service on or after 31st March this year; but we wish also to do something for casualties in Northern Ireland going back to August 1969.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

I very much welcome that statement, and I shall hope to say a few words on the matter later. There are, however, certain anomalies within the pension itself in the matter of periods of service—the three-year period, and so on—and anomalies as between ranks, so to speak. I have in mind the 12 years for men in the ranks and 10 years for officers. Is the Minister considering this, with a view to bringing things closer together?

Lord Lambton

The three years does not apply here. We are anxious to help, and, if the hon. Gentleman has any anxieties, we should be only too pleased to see him and give an explanation. I think that the detail in matters of this kind can be better explained in personal conversation than in debate across the Floor.

The Government have therefore decided to introduce a special scheme of ex-gratia annual payments from the Ministry of Defence, to supplement existing benefits for those who are most in need. This will be effected by making an individual review of each case of a regular Service man or member of the Ulster Defence Regiment killed or invalided as a result of terrorist activity in Northern Ireland on or after 1st August 1969.

We propose to make these special annual payments in addition to any pension paid under the war pensions instruments administered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. War pensions assessments will not be affected by these special payments. The special payments will be designed mainly to help the young junior men and their families who have no entitlement under the occupational pension scheme. For those few Service men already qualified for occupational pensions, the pension will be taken into account when assessing ex-gratia awards.

We shall also need to take some account of lump sums awarded as compensation by the Northern Ireland courts, because these have ranged up to £20,000 and more in the case of widows.

The amounts of the ex-gratia payments will go up to a maximum of £400 a year for a disabled man, depending on the degree of disability, and up to £300 a year for a widow, with £100 a year or more for each dependent child up to a maximum of four.

Although these special annual payments will not be pensions in the strict sense, we propose to apply to them the provisions of orders made under the Pensions Increase Act as though they were pensions. We shall review each case and assess these payments as quickly as possible, and there is no need for anyone to apply for consideration. I hope that we shall be able to notify the results to each eligible person during May, and payments will be effective from 1st April 1973.

I have described the main changes in pay, pensions and like payments which we are introducing. The cost of any other improvements in terms and conditions of employment would have to be included within the overall limits of the incomes policy. It will be for the Armed Forces Pay Review Body to consider whether any of the total amount available for improvements to income should be set aside for other improvements than the ones I have mentioned. As usual, my Department will be discussing with the Review Body the Service aspects in this case.

In the meantime, we had agreed, before the standstill, to introduce one important improvement in the arrangements for schoolchildren's visits to their parents during school holidays. In future, all children whose parents are stationed overseas will be able to visit them three times a year at public expense, instead of twice as at present, subject to a parental contribution towards the cost of the fare for the third visit of the first or only child. This is an improvement which we have long wanted to introduce. I am sure that it will be very welcome to Service families, especially as it first came into effect for the holidays last Christmas.

In addition to these improved measures, we have continued with the programme to provide modern, well-equipped married accommodation. Older married quarters and their surrounding estates are also being improved and refurbished. In Germany, the number of hirings is expected to reach 22,300 by the end of 1973–74—an increase of almost 9,000 in three years—and the waiting time for public married accommodation is gradually being reduced. We are hopeful that, in the foreseeable future, waiting lists for married accommodation in Germany will virtually disappear.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) has suggested that hirings are an expensive way of meeting the requirement for married accommodation in Germany. There are special reasons for acquiring so many hirings in that country. Under present arrangements, we are not allowed to own land in Germany and the alternative to hirings would be to build married quarters on federal land. If and when such quarters became surplus to our needs, we should have no interest in them to sell and we might lose the whole of our investment. We are currently examining a recommendation by the Expenditure Committee that we should seek federal agreement to our purchasing land in Germany on which to build married quarters. This would change the situation but until it is changed there does not seem to be any real alternative to the present policy.

I should have liked to be able to tell the House that we are in sight of ending all shortages of married accommodation, but many hon. Members will be aware that the situation in Gibraltar is less satisfactory. The closure of the frontier with Spain has led to a sharp increase in local civilian demand for housing which has affected our ability to obtain hirings to meet Service needs there. Nevertheless, we are anxious to make good existing deficiencies in Gibraltar, and the recommendations of the Expenditure Committee on this are being studied and will be taken into account in our planning of married quarters building programmes.

Improvements to single accommodation are not being neglected. New standards have now been adopted for new building and conversions based on the barrack flat concept—a group of single or four-person bedrooms with sitting room, bathroom facilities and utility area. Planning for the first barrack flats is well advanced.

As my hon. Friend indicated in his closing speech on Thursday, a great deal has been done to improve accommodation in Northern Ireland and to provide more amenities. The right hon. Member for Workington also referred to these improvements which include five new hutted camps, new barracks, swimming pools, squash courts and other amenities. I have spent some time on the measures which are being taken to improve the quality of life of Service men and their families both because of the interest which hon. Members have shown in them and because we believe that they enhance the prospects for maintaining a satisfactory rate of prolongation of service and of recruitment from civil life. I do not think one could overestimate the importance of quarters at this stage for both of those aims.

As the House already knows, it is the policy of the present Government, as it has been of previous administrations, that the Services should be manned by full-time professionally trained personnel, recruited on a voluntary basis. Despite the continuous reduction in manpower strengths over the last decade—the total Services strength in 1965 was 423,000 and it is now 370,000—and the further manpower economies which are now being achieved, it remains absolutely essential to maintain a regular flow of new recruits in order that there should be a balanced distribution of age, experience and skills.

I should like to deal with another point raised on Thursday by the hon. Member for Pontypridd. He asked for further information about the study of wastage. This study is being undertaken jointly by psychologists on the staffs of the three chief scientists of the Services. The causes of wastage are very complex, the study is only in its early stages, and I should not like to forecast when it will be complete. The hon. Member also referred to rates of wastage in 1972 which he found alarming. The figures which he quoted related to wastage in the first 12 months of service during which the recruit has the opportunity to reconsider his earlier decision to enlist. This type of opportunity has been extended by the introduction of the Donaldson option.

In fact, the figures for 1972 are generally rather better than those for 1971 and the wastage under the Donaldson option is pretty close to what we expected. So, although I do not think there are any grounds for complacency—of course, we regret that it is as high as it is—I do not consider that there is any cause for excessive gloom. The continued improvement in prolongation rates of those who do not leave in the first 12 months gives encouragement that manning needs will be met.

Hon. Members will have noticed that overall recruiting has fallen from the record level of 46,500 Service men in 1971–72 to an expected 39,000 in 1972–73. To be perfectly frank this is not as high a figure as we hoped to reach, yet it is as good as, or better than, the performance in four out of the last five years. We are, in general, meeting our needs, though I will not deny to the House that there are still shortages in some trades and branches.

It is also worth pointing out that there are distinct differences between the Services. In the Royal Navy, recruiting has gone up and not down. In the Army, the recruitment of juniors has reached a record level, and because of our past success and the continued improvement in re-engagement rates, the strength of the Army has increased. The RAF has had no special problems in meeting the restricted intake targets set as a result of its economy measures and is at the moment getting a first-class selection of recruits. Recruitment is not an exact science and the policy of maintaining an all-volunteer force gives added importance to the meeting of market forces.

For the last few years we have been more successful in our recruiting efforts than for some time and the undermanning, which had become a serious and apparently insuperable problem has been substantially reduced. But it would be foolish to assume that this success can continue indefinitely without a sustained effort to remind the general public of the importance to this nation of our Armed Forces. In future years, the Services need on average to recruit well over 40,000 men a year, including 2,500 officers; and the Women's Services need more than 6,000 recruits a year, some 400 of them officers.

I recall that in a past Defence debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) himself a former Minister of Defence, made the telling point that successful recruiting must depend to a significant degree on the demonstrable validity, security and stability of the Government's Defence policy.

There have been, I think, considerable differences in the attitude of the present Government and the last one to the Services. I am not trying to make a party political point here, but the last Government, when it came to power, planned to continue things very much as they were in defence matters and it was as a result of a number of severe economic crises and primarily for economic reasons that defence policy came to be changed. Sometimes, as in the Gulf, these changes were announced a dramatically short time after statements to the opposite effect. Unfortunately—and I think that the Labour Government came up against this —the result of these rapid changes of direction in defence policy, coupled with the impact of withdrawals and re-organisation, was to create in Service circles a feeling of uncertainty about the future. This inevitably had an adverse effect on the morale of some Service men.

I believe that our record over the last three years and the policy which we announced in this year's White Paper fully demonstrate that the present Government takes a realistic view of defence commitments which will encourage a favourable attitude to the idea of undertaking or continuing a career in the Services.

The morale of the forces is now high, and has been movingly demonstrated by the bearing of troops in Ulster. Many hon. Members from both sides have paid tribute to their bearing in Northern Ireland and I do so today.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, it is our aim to deter and that is why we need to spend the money. Nor do I believe that we can seriously cut expenditure as long as the great build up continues behind the Iron Curtain.

4.51 p.m.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

The House is always interested and grateful for details given by Ministers about the welfare and conditions of our troops. We welcome the details which we have been given this afternoon. It would be wrong of me, and perhaps invidious, to distinguish between the speeches of Government Ministers. I hope that it will not embarrass the hon. Gentleman if I say that there was a better attempt today to face the responsibilities of a Minister to explain to and inform the House, and to seek to justify Government policies, than there was from the Treasury Bench on Thursday.

The hon. Gentleman made an odd remark when he related the changes of policy of the previous Government and prayed in aid—as an illustration of our dramatic change of policy—our policy regarding the Gulf. It was my understanding that the Government have carried out that policy to the full. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman might have chosen a better example than that which he chose. I am sure that that does not please or bring cheer to some of his supporters.

I wish to make what I hope is a fundamental constitutional point. This year I complain, with, I believe, greater justification than ever, at the absence of the Secretary of State. He is the head of a major spending Department, and he is absent from our deliberations. We are not trifling with mean quantities of public finance. We are dealing with £3,365 million, which is 5¾ per cent. of our gross national product. That is an increase from last year's 5½ per cent. I was not enamoured with the hon. Gentleman's remark that the present planned expenditure is right. The Government said exactly the same last year about 5½ per cent. If the figure goes up even further next year I suppose the same explanation will be given.

We are faced and concerned with a sharp inflationary increase in defence expenditure. It seems that some Government Members feel that it is unworthy or unpatriotic to criticise defence expenditure. But that is what the House is constitutionally about. It is the granter of supplies after grievances have been heard. That is precisely what the other place is not about. It is not the granter of supplies.

The more defence expenditure goes up, the greater the claim of this House that the man who shoulders the responsibility and who is charged with our defence expenditure should be here to justify that expenditure. He should not be in a place which has no responsibility for public expenditure. It is our responsibility. I hope that this view will be seen as coming not only from the Opposition side of the House but from both sides. I see some hon. Members on the Government benches nodding their heads in support. It is fundamental that anyone who heads such a Department, with such a major claim on public resources, should be here to answer and to justify that claim.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)


Mr. Morris

The hon. Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) says "Trivial". Perhaps £3,000 million is a trivial matter to the hon. Gentleman.

Concern about defence expenditure is not the prerogative or the monopoly of the Opposition. It is certainly not the prerogative or the monopoly of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), who takes a great interest in these matters. Indeed, the Treasury Bench devoted a good half of their speeches on Thursday to try to rebut the speech which my hon. Friend has not yet made.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who elevated the standard of the debate on Thursday, drew attention to the Ninth Report from the Expenditure Committee. No one would describe the members of the Committee, some of whom are present, having returned from their travel in distant parts, as pacifists, unilateralists or in any way unconcerned to ensure that our forces are properly armed and able to defend us properly. When they come to a conclusion they do not reach it because of dogma or prejudice. They must come to their conclusion upon evidence. At page 2 of its Ninth Report the Committee says: We feel that we should draw the attention of the House to our increasing concern over the mounting financial pressure which is developing for the Defence Budget for the late 1970s. These costs could be even further exacerbated if there were to be increased spending over this period on the strategic nuclear forces. That is the Committee's conclusion and its warning. Perhaps, more than any other sphere of public expenditure, defence is the most important where we must not consider one year in isolation because a trend may last for many a long year—for example, the conception of a project to delivery. We must take a long view of defence expenditure. That is what the Committee has done. If the Government can ignore a conclusion of the Expenditure Committee in a cavalier fashion, perhaps there is something wholly wrong with the procedures of this House. An additional claim for the presence of the Secretary of State is so that he can answer the conclusions reached by the Expenditure Committee.

The House will know that there are in the Ministry of Defence long-term cost-ings. They ensure that if a project is started, finance is available year by year, and that it is slotted in with other demands as the years unroll. From conception to delivery of many of our most expensive projects there is a span of eight or even 10 years. The House must be concerned with what are to be the major claimants upon this money in the late 1970s. In fact, we know that they are the multi-role combat aircraft—the MRCA— and the cruiser programme.

I approved and was interested in the hon. Gentleman's observation that the cruiser programme is not dependent upon having VSTOL capabilities. I was surprised by the pained expression on the hon. Gentleman's face when my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) suggested that the expenditure on each cruiser would be about £75 million. It may be that that expenditure will be even higher when we take into account the helicopters which will be on board, and the possibility of VSTOL aircraft. Expenditure may well be running at not far short of £100 million for each of these ships.

It may be that the Minister does not know. Perhaps he has not studied this aspect. But when I observe the expression on his face and recall the incredulous view he took of the observations made by my hon. Friend, I wonder how much he and other Ministers realise, as the Select Committee realised, the immense pressures which will be on the defence budget in the late 1970s.

The Committee was very concerned with this aspect when considering the need to replace in the early 1980s what will by then be our ageing air transport fleet. There has been great expenditure on this fleet and we have had from the aircraft and their crews wonderful service in many parts of the world, not least where civil aid has been required. But the Select Committee, examining the need for replacement of the air fleet, emphasised that a major replacement programme in the late 1970s would come at a time of great pressure on the defence budget, since it would coincide with big expenditure on the cruiser and MRCA programmes, amongst other things.

Read-Admiral Morgan-Giles

The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the Labour Government when the through-deck cruiser was dreamed up. Can he recall what price the Labour Government attached to these vessels?

Mr. Morris

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is obviously anxious to know what the position is now. I was concerned with the matter as far back as 1968 and 1969, when these cruisers were very much in their conceptual stage. Early approval was given to consider these matters and for the necessary investigations, and I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that if ever they came to be built they would have to be contained within the totality of the defence budget. [Laughter.]

Lord Lambton

When the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister, did he ever disclose the cost of any project?

Mr. Morris

All I would say is that after projects have been built the hon. Gentleman will see, in the defence White Papers of the Labour Government, indications of costs. He will also note that where one is embarking on a major departure of this kind, such as the MRCA programme, some indication should be given to the House that one has passed the planning stage and some indication of what we are in for. What is the House of Commons for otherwise?

We are not here dealing with problems where commercial secrets have to be guarded, where one is negotiating with producers about costs of articles to be produced, and where one wants to ensure that the negotiators are not handicapped. We are here dealing with vast sums of public money, and when the Government are about to embark on a scheme, having passed the early planning stage, there should be a broad indication—I am not asking for figures down to the last £— of the amount of expenditure involved. That is all I am asking for.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

The right hon. Gentleman complains that the MRCA programme will reach its peak at the same time as the cruisers. Does not he recall that the MRCA programme will reach its peak at that time because the Labour Government cancelled the TSR2, the F111, and the AFVG?

Mr. Morris

It would not be right for us to fight all these old battles and campaigns again at this stage. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we do not need the MRCA now, perhaps we can argue that at another time. But I do not think that that is argued seriously.

As I was pointing out, defence is not, as some hon. Members opposite seem to believe, a sacred cow, immune from examination as to how much public expenditure we can afford on it. Where there are highly significant and major schemes, we should be told approximately how much they are to cost. We are not asking for particulars of commercial secrets but for a broad indication of what is involved. I hope that the Select Committee, when it resumes its discussions, will be able to advise the House of Commons in due course even if Ministers cannot tell us now.

I believe that the Ministry of Defence today is suffering from some form of political paralysis in that there is galloping escalation, for example, of research and development expenditure. Every year more projects are embarked upon in the Ministry than can ever be completed. That is how the system operates. Projects require investigation, and the Ministry has to ensure that no stone is left unturned, because many good ideas are put up. Many of them are found wanting in the end—and there is nothing wrong in that. There are those which are simply not feasible or are not cost effective. Only the best survive and they have to be contained within the approved costings and the money available. From some of the laughter by Ministers earlier, it seems that they do not appreciate this procedure and the way decisions have to be taken.

It is no service to the Armed Forces to allow projects to be multiplied, to allow expenditure to escalate, only to find that some day some Government, Labour or Conservative, have to make cruel and drastic cuts because the evil day has been postponed. In 1970, when we left office, our proposed research and development for the year was £222 million. It is proposed for 1973–74 to have a total of £418 million. For the current year, 1972–73, in terms of today's prices, the figure is £370 million, while in 1971–72 it was £315 million. Thus, in two years, in the same price terms, there has been an increase of more than £100 million on research and defence expenditure. Of course there are increased costs and of course there is a building-up effect as the years go by. But this is what Ministers are for—to select the good and to ensure that projects which cannot be afforded because they do not match performance with expectation or are simply too expensive are throttled. If such unwanted children are not throttled then, it becomes too late or even more expensive.

The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. Ian Gilmour)

It is easy to cut down research and development expenditure by buying equipment abroad. I do not imagine that the right hon. Gentleman is advocating that course.

Mr. Morirs

The hon. Gentleman knows that that observation does not represent reality. The choice which perennially faces Ministers is whether to buy off the shelf, whether to collaborate or whether to produce oneself. That applies to every piece of equipment. There is evidence here of lack of political decision in the Ministry of Defence, with the result that project after project has been allowed to continue. If the process goes on year after year, eventually some Government, whether Labour or Conservative, will have to take much greater decisions because of the Micawberism, delay and inactivity of present Ministers.

Mr. Wilkinson


Mr. Morris

No. I cannot give way again.

Mr. Wilkinson

It is a serious point.

Mr. Morris

No. I have already given way several times. I wish to get on with my speech. I have always previously given way to the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot do so now.

As evidence, perhaps, I pray in aid what has been said on a previous occasion. I hope that these remarks will endear themselves to hon. Members: … I sometimes have the feeling that the only thing one knows about research, development and production of a sophisticated weapons system is that the eventual cost will be more than one ever envisaged even in one's darkest dreams."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 22nd February, 1972; Vol. 328, c. 403.] The person who said those wise words was no less than the Secretary of State for Defence himself in last year's debate in another place. That is the dreaming which is going on in the Ministry of Defence now. In the last debate he made the equally wise observation that the size of the defence budget must be limited by very proper calls by other Departments. That message has gone unheard in the Minister's absence in other parts of the world in the last few months.

The Select Committee observed that the dilemma in the late 1970s would be exacerbated by possible expenditure on strategic nuclear forces. My right hon. Friend probed this issue on Thursday and asked whether the Government had reached a view about the Anglo-French nuclear deterrent. Whatever hallucinations the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had in his great committed days as Leader of the Opposition, as exemplified in the Godkin Lectures, the House of Commons should now be told what the position is and should be taken into the Government's confidence.

My right hon. Friend asked a Question on this subject last month. He asked: Will the Minister say when a decision will be made and when an announcement will be made to the House? The Minister replied: All I can tell the right hon. Gentleman is that we are not now at the point of decision." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February 1973; Vol. 851, c. 214.] That could mean that a decision was taken in the past—I hope that that is not the explanation—and it could mean that it will be taken in future, but there is no assurance that the House of Commons is to be told.

That is what we are here for. We should be told, and we should be taken into the Government's confidence as the Secretary of State took the Tory Party Conference into his confidence when on 13th October 1972 he told it, Western Europe has its own nuclear Powers in ourselves and France. I foresee one day that the evolution of European defence must include some kind of nuclear force.

Mr. Wall

Hear, hear.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Hear, hear.

Mr. Morris

I hear those cheers from hon. Members opposite. If that is still the philosophy of the Government, why do they not come clean and tell the House? Why do they not tell us of their negotiations with France? Why should the Tory Party Conference be told of the aspirations of the Government when in the House of Commons the matter is ignored, except for the pathetic answers to my right hon. Friend and the vacuum in the Defence White Paper?

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

My right hon. Friend has not yet given way to an hon. Member on this side of the House and it is kind of him now to make an exception. Would he not agree that the proposals that Government supporters are now making in connection with a European nuclear force would be a breach of our undertakings under the non-proliferation agreement?

Mr. Morris

That is my understanding of the treaty. That may not be a literal interpretation, but it would be wholly against the spirit of that treaty.

I welcome the success of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the bilateral talks in which we did not participate. However, I should like the Government's observations on one possible side effect of those talks. I understand that they give an extension in time, although not in degree, to what credibility the British Polaris force has. That arises from the agreement to limit anti-ballistic missiles. I believe from the point of effectiveness of the existing force, as opposed to availability of improved systems, the date of decision to acquire the new can be postponed. If I am right, perhaps the House may be told. If the Government have obtained this bonus from the SALT negotiations, they cannot expect the Russian planners to have shut their eyes to it; and I wonder whether our submarines will be a bargaining counter to be spotlighted in SALT II, for one follows from the other.

If the Government cannot help us about their thinking on this matter, perhaps they can reply to criticisms that have been made in the past, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) about the balance of the fleet, between surface ships and submarines. Many of us are concerned that there should be greater emphasis on hunter-killer nuclear-powered submarines. So far as the super-Powers are concerned, their submarines and nuclear missile systems will become the most important part of their deterrent forces.

They will want to maintain that balance and they will be especially concerned about the growth of antisubmarine warfare. In order to maintain the status quo, they will want to limit advances in this respect both in numbers and areas patrolled. Hence the importance of any observations about the increase in the number of hunter-killer submarines, which are the capital ships, the battle ships, of today and the latent custodians of our defence. I should like to know the Government's thinking on this subject. How far have Ministers understood and taken on board the result of these international negotiations and how far has their philosophy on shipbuilding been affected by them?

I am glad that today we have had more Government observations on the MRCA. I was wholly dissatisfied with the statement last Thursday. It is plain that the project has now reached an important stage in its life and yet on Thursday the Minister refused, or was unable, to answer even the simplest questions. The House is entitled to know in some detail the numbers contemplated at this stage, whether our partners, Germany and Italy, are still going ahead on the same basis, whether they are satisfied with the specifications and how they are being met, whether the plane will come into service about the end of the 1970s, and whether there has been any substantial slippage.

I hope that spares and back up will continue to be provided on an international and certainly not a national basis. This is an important joint venture. I wonder whether the Government have considered a similar joint venture in training. With the more sophisticated planes, pilot training is a problem that arises with sales to foreign countries, and the cost per pilot may be £50,000 upwards or even £100,000 upwards. Have the Government and their partners considered training pilots for the MRCA on a joint international rather than a national basis?

I welcome some of the observations by the Government about trying to bring the operational thinking of some European countries and our own more into line. I am proud to have played some part in the development of the MRCA. Just as we worked together with the MRCA, I suggest that it will not be possible, when the time comes to replace the Chieftain tank, for this country to go it alone. Equally, I think that the Germans, who made an unsuccessful attempt to make an arrangement with the Americans, will be unable on their own to replace the Leopard tank. I hope that those who are responsible will have their heads knocked together to make them appreciate that we need some common denominator and that no single country can afford to produce a tank on its own.

In this country we have traditionally emphasised the need for armour on tanks. The philosophy of European countries has been wholly different in that they attach much greater importance to mobility. The same kind of considerations, different in quality, apply with the operational needs of the MRCA. Given that this new European tank will be called upon in the late 1980s to operate on the same lines I cannot understand why we cannot produce the same kind of article with the same kind of operational thinking between the partners and the Allies who will man the defences of Europe.

I turn now to the Far East. Last year the Secretary of State was able to tell us of the "finalisation"—that is the word he used—of our Five-Power arrangements. Since then I have had the opportunity of visiting the Far East and seeing what is happening in those parts of the world. The Secretary of State told us of the components, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and the command structure. It was a far cry from the £100 million-give or take £10 million—envisaged by the Prime Minister in his opposition days. Before the ink was dry on the "finalisation" of these arrangements and despite what I am sure was the great pressure brought to bear by the Secretary of State upon Australia and New Zealand during his visits to the Far East, Australia is preparing to pull out. It is pulling out its only battalion in Malaysia and Singapore and its only battery of gunners.

This is the reality of the situation. The whole arrangement is coming apart at the seams. What is being left are a few hundred men for logistic support. Australia's ships will remain. I forget how many there are. I think it is one on permanent patrol and an occasional visit from another.

One of the principal tasks of the Royal Australia Air Force at Butterworth is to train the Malaysian Air Force. I understand that there are 18 months to go before it achieves that mission. Will anyone be surprised, once that mission is accomplished, to see a large part of the Australian Air Force withdrawing from Malaysia? No wonder the Ministry of Defence, its speech writers and the Secretary of State, have begun to play down the significance of the Far East arrangements. Last year the force was described as "a significant contribution to the stability in the area". In the speech we had on Thursday and in the speech by the Secretary of State a few weeks ago it was demoted to "a useful purpose". Shades of things to come! These words are chosen carefully by those responsible for vetting ministerial speeches, certainly opening speeches.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles


Mr. Morris

I have given way a number of times and have taken up a great deal of time. The Minister of State failed to answer the point which was of the utmost significance, namely, how will the command structure in Malaysia and Singapore operate now that the Australians are pulling out? He did not seem to know or did not want to tell us, or he said the matter would have to be looked at again.

The truth is that the Australian admiral, charming and effective man as he is, and the whole command structure, were put in on the basis that Australia would take the leading role in the arrangements. Now that it is pulling out, now that its role is much less important, will the same arrangements continue? Can the Minister prophesy that the situation will be the same in a year's time? That is the reality of the situation and it is about that which we should be told now. We should not be brushing it under the carpet as if it did not exist.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. After all, he was talking about admirals. Bearing in mind the Labour Government's White Paper remark that no country with a sense of international responsibility would abandon the area, can he say whether he is castigating the Government for remaining or for withdrawing?

Mr. Morris

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must remember the anger which he and his colleagues expressed about our withdrawal plans. What his Government have done is a mere fraction of what he wanted done. I believe it is high time to carry out a complete reappraisal of our commitments in the Far East and to understand that the arrangements reached as recently as 1972 can hardly hang together. Now that one of the principal partners has departed the others may well depart too.

It is all very well for the Government to say that they would stay for as long as the Singaporeans and Malaysians want them. The odd thing is that the two host countries will have nothing to do with one another in defence matters. The Singaporeans are not allowed to train in Malaysia. There are no over-flying rights. Neither of the two host countries will enter into any joint arrangements. Perhaps the truth will out when, this time next year, the Government will have to announce a complete change in the arrangements between ourselves and our four partners.

I come now to Northern Ireland. Tributes have already been paid to our troops there for the way in which they have conducted themselves. Many of their tasks must involve utter misery. As sure as day follows night it was obvious that before long they would be accused by both sides of partiality. They have shown great patience and bravery. I hope that we shall also think of the wives and families who, when their menfolk go out on patrol know not how many and who will return. Our boys in Northern Ireland must be uppermost in our thoughts today. They have carried out a difficult operation and deserve the highest praise.

I much appreciated the announcement made last Thursday about death and injury benefits, the details of which we have had today. It is vitally important, if there are tragedies, that they should be dealt with honourably and that we should in no way expect to get our soldiers on the cheap. I was aghast when on 8th December one of my constituents wrote to me and said that the men of the First Battalion Welsh Guards, returning from Germany had found themselves having to pay duty on such articles as motor cars, involving sums of between £100 and £200. Everyone knows that when troops serve abroad for more than one year they have the privilege of buying free of duty articles that would normally be liable to purchase tax.

Because those soldiers in the last year of their period in Germany had had to go on an assignment to Northern Ireland, leaving their wives and families in Germany, and had then returned to Germany they were called on to pay duty upon these articles at the conclusion of their German tour. Imagine the misery of those troops during the whole of this period despite Questions and protests in the House. It was not until after Christmas that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army was able to tell me at Question Time that these men would no longer have to pay the duty and would be able to recover any sums paid. That is the kind of bureaucracy which caused such misery over Christmas to our soldiers called upon to carry out tasks of the highest distinction. I am grateful to the Government for belatedly correcting the position and to the Minister for his interest.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Peter Blaker)

The right hon. Gentleman is being a little ungenerous. Is it not right to say that as soon as the matter came to light it was rapidly put right?

Mr. Morris

I do not detract from the praise which I gave to the hon. Gentleman, but the reality is this—and he can do his best to defend himself: the cars were impounded on 8th December or the troops had to pay the duty. Questions were tabled on two or three occasions in the following week. I made a speech in which I said that the House should not adjourn for the Christmas Recess. The Leader of the House told me a week before Christmas that I had made a very good case. It was not until about 22nd January, which was the first opportunity I had at Question Time of tabling a further Question because of the inactivity of the Ministry of Defence, that the Minister was able to satisfy me. That did not happen as a result of voluntary action in the Ministry.

In the same week, well before the end of January, after the newspapers had spotlighted and welcomed the Government's announcement, my constituents wrote me saying that individual soldiers had not been informed, although the Question had been answered in the House. If the hon. Gentleman takes pride in the speed at which the Ministry tackled the matter, his pride is somewhat misplaced.

There should be some appraisal of the effect on our troops of service in Northern Ireland. Plainly there is an effect on morale, as anyone who has spoken to troops in Northern Ireland or after their return from Northern Ireland must know. It must have an effect on the overall efficiency of our troops and the way in which they serve in Germany. I do not know what view NATO commanders and our allies take about how our soldiers have been able to carry out their exercises individually or jointly with other nations or to what extent they have been affected by service in Northern Ireland. I asked last year at Question Time— and I had every expectation that we would have it this year—for an appraisal in the Defence White Paper of the effect of continued service in Northern Ireland on our troops.

When we took the decision to withdraw our forces from the Far East it was important that we should not lose the knowhow and expertise of fighting in warmer climates. When the jungle warfare school was reopened in Malaysia in 1972 it was planned that two major units and five minor units should go there each year for training. I am given to understand that we shall not be able to find one of the major units. The Select Committee has spotlighted the problem that one of the major units will have to be made up of cooks, ambulance men and possibly territorials. They all need training, but they would have come under the minor unit heading, and I should have expected, had there not been the problem of long involvement in Northern Ireland, that we would be able to send two major units. That is why it is important that the House should have an appraisal in the Defence White Paper of the effect of service in Northern Ireland upon our troops.

We shall return to many of these points and make others in the Estimates debates. We believe that the defence of Britain is of vital importance and that is why it should be properly discussed and the debates should be properly answered in the House. The defence of Europe and a negotiated reduction in tension must be furthered within the alliance. If there is security and confidence, there is a foundation on which to build, and that security and confidence have been, and will continue to be, provided by the alliance. We want to lift the burden of arms and the fear of war from the people of Europe. We are anxious for progress and results.

We live in rapidly changing times, and, despite the undoubted difficulties which will be before us and other partners, we have expectations in the MBFR negotiations. Time will be needed to achieve results, but the aim must be the lowering of tension and the maintenance of security. We attach importance to the European Security Conference as an opportunity of establishing a better and safer relationship between European countries. The SALT 2 talks are of the utmost importance, and I hope that there will be results from the Geneva chemical warfare negotiations. I trust that with time and patience we shall be able to reap worthwhile results in lowering total Western European defence expenditure it is in that context that our contribution, both in negotiations and in money terms, must be made.

I close, as I have closed on previous occasions, by wishing our troops well in whatever part of the world they serve, and I am sure that that will be echoed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

I do not propose to take up the comments of the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris). I have followed him in debates on previous occasions which will be in his recollection. I have promised to be brief, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not commenting on his speech. I wish to adduce a brief argument and to make one point.

In the last 12 years, since I have been taking part in these debates, the bulk of our defence expenditure has been related to the confrontation with the Iron Curtain countries, mainly in the NATO context. However, it is interesting to reflect that, where there have been active operations, the troops have been used, not in that context, but in a number of very different ones. I have in mind the operation in Cyprus, the Borneo confrontation, the Cameroons, the East African mutinies. Aden and, more recently, Ulster.

One common characteristic of those campaigns has been the objective of the forces in carrying them out—to stabilise a disturbed political situation, to contain certain elements which were prepared to resort to force in order to disrupt the normal political process, and to enable that process to be peacefully resumed. Those are difficult and disagreeable operations for the troops engaged in them. Tributes have been paid in the debate to the conduct of our forces in Northern Ireland, and I join in them. It is also fair to pay tribute to the general staffs and those responsible for planning force levels and other resources.

Twelve years is a long time, and although in the NATO context our efforts in the provision of adequate defence have continually been the subject of argument in the House, as they have been again today, where operations have been necessary and our forces have been engaged, the broad judgments made by the military about the necessary force levels and resources have—and here I touch wood—in the main been right. In these situations we may not always have got the politics right, but the military judgments have been vindicated.

I am tempted on the basis of that experience to look into the future and to ask some questions. Are we today living, I wonder, in the sort of world in which the kind of threat which in the last 12 years has got our forces involved in these situations is likely to grow less or to disappear? Will it be replaced by something more instant, more dangerous? I should judge not. If I have the House with me I could shorten my argument and abbreviate my speech at that point. I should judge not: I do not think this is a world set fair for a greater degree of stability. I think that could be an understatement.

So what should we do? How should our defence planning be guided by this experience? What should our priorities be? I would say in terms of defence in its widest sense that far and away the highest priority must be the organisation of intelligence. Good intelligence, it seems to me, is not only indispensable to the conduct of operations when operations are necessary but almost the only means open to society of avoiding situations in which operations might break out. Once those who are bent on disruption have managed to exceed the ability of the civil police to contain violence and got the forces involved, then they have won the first round and society has already suffered a defeat.

I hasten to say that I am no great expert on intelligence. I doubt whether any of us in this House are. When I was in my hon. Friend's Ministry I never asked questions about these things, and they never told me unless I asked. I think that is right. As one of our colleagues said to me today, intelligence is one of our invisible assets—a great one, but, rightly, invisible.

So I simply say this. Intelligence directed to the maintenance of security should, in these days, have a very high priority. Well run it will not be cheap, but in relation to the very large sums of money about which the right hon. Member for Aberavon was talking, in relation to the cost of our defence effort as a whole, it is peanuts. In my view, at any rate, it is our single most important operational arm. In this debate, when we are talking, as the House has to do, about the allocation of resources, I would say simply that if there is any one branch, section or division or whatever which is making a bid for more resources, more manpower, more to satisfy the needs of its requirements, I believe that there would be the assent of the whole House to saying that intelligence demands should be met.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)

The Opposition's amendment can only be described as reasonable and moderately critical, with an objective to which, I would have thought, there would have been no opposition from any quarter of the House, namely, that, within the alliance we should bring defence expenditure in line with that of our European allies. I would not have thought that unreasonable. Therefore, there is no case in this two-day debate for heated acrimony, nor is there any reason to make small, inconsequential party political points. The purpose of the amendment is to address ourselves to the kinds of purpose which the nation would expect us to develop.

Therefore I quickly move on to one or two things which will fall in line with that kind of thinking and that kind of approach. The first is that in regard to our troops in Northern Ireland we have to think far more positively, far more pertinently and far more urgently than we have done of the need to get a political solution there. Those of us, on both sides of the House, who have had to meet the parents of young sons and the wives of young soldiers who have been killed in Northern Ireland know full well the heartache and the misery and the frustration the problem of Northern Ireland brings. We know there cannot be a military solution. Just as clearly we know that our troops have to be admired for the excellence of their work in what has been virtually a policing job, and a first-class one. Nevertheless, at the end of the day there must be a political solution.

It is from that point of view that 1 immediately pass to Europe, because while there are talks going on in Helsinki, the prefatory talks for the European security conference, while there are talks going on in Vienna about mutual balanced force reductions, while there are other talks going on, principally between the two blocs, on strategic arms limitations, we see inevitably, immediately we examine them, that no military solution is possible in Europe, that there must be a political solution and a political reappraisal. This is apparent whether we consider the balance of forces or their deployment or the provision of logistic support systems.

The corollary is clear, that they are out of step with one another and that they have been deliberately put out of step in time. For instance, one of the objectives arising from the relaxation of East-West relationships and of meeting political needs was mutual balanced force talks going on in parallel with the preparatory talks for the European security conference, but when Dr. Kissinger came back from Moscow what happened? Parallelism was halted and one set of talks was started two months before the other. What is the consequence? We already have difficulties in Vienna; there is disagreement between America and Moscow on the question of progress with the mutual balanced force objectives; already there is a wrangle going on whether Hungary shall be an observer or an active member of the talks.

So it seems quite clear that we in this country should bring this situation forward and crystallise it so that we can avoid what might be entrance into a further cold war phase. After all the good work that has been done by both the Labour Government and this Government, making great contributions to the relaxation of tension, I suggest that it is imperative that we should avoid going in for a another phase of cold war.

We must recognise the reality of what is happening this year. It is hoped that in November we shall get on with the agenda for the European Security Conference. Those talks will come to nought if they are divorced from the talks in Vienna or if in the SALT negotiations the concept of immutability remains between the two blocs.

Furthermore, it might be wise to have more frankness about the discussions which took place between the Prime Minister and President Nixon on Poseidon and our Polaris submarines. Certain arrangements about nuclear know-how arise from the MacMahon Acts and the Nassau agreement. It is not clear whether we have accepted a commitment. The French Defence Minister, M. Debré, has, perhaps deliberately, confused the situation. If France and Britain have a joint nuclear objective—and the Prime Minister has long talked of this—there is a danger that Russia will say that either Poseidon, or a French/British nuclear marriage, are contributions towards the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and all the work of the past few years might fall to the ground and hardened situations result.

That is a brief indication of how we should address ourselves to the talks. Let us set up a standing commission in Europe as an umbrella over all the talks, within which could be appointed committees to examine the processes of access, armaments inspection, diplomatic signals, observation of manoeuvres, the passage of knowledge between scientists and technicians and the greater flow of information which is already going on in many parts of Europe. All these subjects could be integrated within the standing commission which would act as an umbrella over the mutual balanced force reduction talks and the SALT negotiations so that there is a comity of relationships and activities in which the political objectives will not get lost.

To come a little nearer home, I hope that the Minister will take to heart what has been said about training by the committee which examined defence expenditure whose report was published last year. There is a case for the centralisation of training in certain areas. I have no wish to break up the sense of pride in each of the Armed Forces—the Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force—but centralised training would produce economies of scale where common training considerations apply. Full details of that suggestion have been made known to the Minister.

I am sorry that following the Rayner Report the Procurement Executive has decided, after only seven months, to take a fragmented approach to the rationalisation of research and development. The closure of the Signals Research Development Establishment at Christchurch and the Services Electronic Research Establishment at Baldock—no doubt strenthening the Royal Naval Establishment at Malvern—the closure of the airfield at Pershore and the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment at Langhurst are geared to a three to five-year programme.

The Procurement Executive intends to look at the rest of the research and development in a second phase, but it might do better to consider research and development rationalisation as a whole. Perhaps it will listen to the scientists and ancillary staffs of the executive, and the staff side and the trade union side of the Joint Industrial Council, which have raised serious objections. The object should be to secure in our research and development establishments manpower promotion and deployment objectives which will ensure continuing confidence among those who service the forces requirements.

Rationalisation must take into account the effect of closures on other parts of the United Kingdom. The transfer from Pershore to Farnham is made where there is already an overloading of air space. The transfer of research and development from one part of the country to another may result in the congestion of roads and may produce social costs which should be taken into account. In addition to a cost benefit analysis there should also be a social benefit analysis to enable us to arrive at the right decisions.

This is an opportunity for the House to show the nation and Europe that in this vital year we have a great contribution to make in discussions on military deployment. With the great financial pressures caused by the burden of arms and the necessity for supplying manpower, all European countries are aching with the need for a political solution and this year we could be successful if we take heed.

5.58 p.m.

Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)

May I first extend a word of thanks to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House? He knew that the Defence Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee was going to America and he extended the defence debate until today to enable the members of the committee to take part in it. I apologise to my hon. Friends who sat through Thursday's debate—as I did not—and I will keep my remarks brief.

What is defence for? It is for us as a nation not to make an attacking war but to be prepared to defend ourselves. That is the objective that we should always keep in mind. Our place is with our allies in NATO. In spending money on defence on whatever single objective we should always have this in mind. None of the three Services provides a shelter for an easy life. Since our last defence debate my committee, in addition to visits to our forces at home, has visited Cyprus and Gibraltar. The morale of all our defence forces in all ranks is extremely high.

I was grateful to the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) for the obvious care with which he read our report. He touched on the main point of the Defence Sub-Committee, namely, to gather together from both sides of the House men who are dedicated to the welfare of our defence and to seeing that the money we vote is properly spent. That has been our object and we are grateful that the right hon. Gentleman takes such an interest in our work.

I wish to pay tribute to the Ministry of Defence for the way in which it received our report and dealt with many of our recommendations for further economies. The Ministry has its own teams which are continually on the lookout for ways of doing things more economically.

I should like to turn to the White Paper, Chapter I of which refers to the various talks which are now taking place. I was recently involved in this subject when, wearing my other hat as vice-chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in January we visited Helsinki together with all the European nations which are concerned with this subject. I thought that we witnessed something of a breakthrough in terms of the Warsaw Pact countries, perhaps because they feel that they now have parity with us—a parity which they did not previously have. However, the talks will not be easy and will continue for a long time. We must realise that this is a fact and that nothing good will happen overnight.

I am grateful that the White Paper draws attention to the strength of the Soviet Union in conventional terms, which is very considerable. Although many Russian troops are tied up on the borders with China, the Soviet Union has never lessened her conventional weapons on the Western Front.

We have heard a good deal about integration of weapons supply, which has been slower than the Ministry or our committee would like. Each country seeks to produce its own arms and we must press ahead with integration as fast as we can.

I should like to say a word about the Procurement Executive. I am sure I speak on behalf of all the Members of my committee in complimenting Sir Derek Rayner who gave evidence to the Select Committee. We found him a most impressive man. His report has been acted upon and I am glad that we still have his services in a non-executive capacity, I am sorry that we do not have his full-time services. What Sir Derek has begun must be supported to the hilt. I wonder whether we were wise to consent to one fewer Minister in the Ministry of Defence to deal with procurement. My hon. Friend the Minister of State was specially appointed to the procurement task, but he has now relinquished it. I hope he will be able to find time to deal with both sides of his appointment.

I was surprised to find only one short paragraph in the White Paper on the subject of the nuclear strategic force with its contribution to the western strategic deterrent. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to Washington to see President Nixon there was a good deal of ill-informed comment on this topic in the Press. The four ships involved are undoubtedly a strong deterrent. If, heaven forbid, they had to be used for the purpose for which they are designed, then I believe, from all I have read, that they would give a very good account of themselves.

Criticism has been made of the Minister for not giving more details about what is happening. However, perhaps because of a little pressure from my committee, we have now had a five-year programme setting out defence expenditure. This will be roughly at the same level of Polaris missiles over the next four or five years. I am sure that if the Secretary of State were thinking on different lines, he would inform Parliament. Because of pressure of time I shall not say anything about the ANZAC forces, but I merely wish to emphasise from my own knowledge that the two frigates which we have in the West Indies are welcomed by the people who live in that area.

There is also the question of quarters for our troops, many of whom are married. Since the demand for quarters is so great, every effort must be made to help men in Germany, and particularly in Gibraltar, to obtain accommodation and, where possible, to get them into their own homes which are of a reasonable standard.

I should like now to deal with the visit which the Select Committee paid to America within the last fortnight. We first visited Canada where we had an interesting discussion with General Hull and General Graham about defence forces. The Canadians have progressed far more than we have done in the past few years, and so they are at a stage of unification. At one time their defence budget was frozen, but it has now been unfrozen and they are spending rather more. I believe that the Canadians had to move rather more quickly on this score than they would have liked. I believe that there are lessons for us to learn from what has happened in Canada.

I agree with the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) that more could be done in terms of support. The Select Committee examined the training of troops on various subjects. We felt that there was an ingrained desire by the three Services to keep each Service's training separate. Even on the question of catering we were told that there were difficulties in integration. We were told that cooking in a galley is very different from cooking in a tank or in a lovely RAF mess. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton, (Dr. David Owen) questioned witnesses on the lines that cooking came under basic training and that wherever one had to cook one had to start from basic principles. I must say that on my small boat it is much more difficult to cook breakfast for my crew than when I do any cooking in my flat. In Canada some of these schools had to be closed and I understand that the new system is going extremely well. We were told that the new training at Suffield was going very well.

We went to the United States where the system involves a number of very strong committees. It was interesting to see that they were changing over to voluntary forces and they faced the same problem as we face in this country. In the changeover to voluntary forces they are having to spend more money to pay their troops and this means that they will probably have less to spend on hardware. Nevertheless, the Chiefs of Staff were determined not to drop out of the race with Russia unless the talks were very much more successful, and they still intend to keep up expenditure on hardware.

We visited the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Those committees are large and they have the advantage of an enormous secretariat which is paid for by the State but which is entirely at the disposal of those committees. We have started along those lines in our Expenditure Committee, but nothing like to the degree experienced by members of committees in America. We were extremely interested to learn that any senator or congressman who went abroad on armed services matters could call upon a commissioned officer of colonel or equivalent rank to accompany him. What is more, we were told that committee members could move by themselves and take evidence by themselves.

On our visits so far we have always gone as a Committee of eight. It might be worth exploring the possibility, through our full committee, of just two of us taking evidence and reporting back to the Committee. The system of taking a commissioned officer is beneficial to the Member of Parliament and to the officer concerned, who is able to see problems from a civilian and a political point of view.

We did not see any troops. We moved only amongst representatives of the Pentagon, the State Department and the Department of the White House. Nevertheless we were left in no doubt that the morale of the American forces is extremely high.

Today we are examining our Defence Vote. We do it in a very short time. When the Americans look at the whole of their defence expenditure they start 15 months ahead. They are part of a year ahead before they get to the next year. It is looked at by the Defence Department, by the State Department and by the White House staff. Perhaps the most important is the Appropriations Committee, which looks at it and decides whether it is enough. The chairmen of committees are very important. They are called in by the Secretary of Defence, and they sort out the proposed expenditure with a degree of give and take here and there.

We are very well briefed. I do not say that we were told any secrets. However, people there talk very freely and on all matters, whether they be civil servants, senators or congressmen. I remember one senator saying that this country was regarded by them as the lynchpin in Europe of the NATO Alliance and that if we failed in any way the Americans would feel that the whole of Europe had been let down.

It is very interesting and morale raising to see a whole committee of senators or congressmen. Possibly the Congress has the greater power and the greater control and perhaps we hear rather more of the Senate and not enough of the House of Representatives. But we were well received by everyone. We shall issue a report on our visit. We hope that our deliberations as a Committee have been of use to the House and to the Ministry of Defence, and we hope too that we as a Committee of eight are playing our part in the life of this Parliament.

6.14 p.m.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Most people in our country are unaware of the severity of the burden which the arms programme thrusts upon the average family. I want to give an astonishing figure, but one which I have had checked carefully. In the financial year starting this April the average family of four will have to pay no less than £4.64 a week in income tax or indirect taxation to cover the military programme. That is an increase of £1.12 a week on the figure for two years ago. It may not seem a lot to some hon. Members but it is a hell of a lot to most ordinary people. Last year there was a huge increase in military spending. This year the Government have announced an even more terrific growth. These two increases total the sum of £843 million a year. What could not we have done with it?

With that sum we could have built 170,000 homes for families desperately in need of them, completely rent free—in other words, at a nil rent. If we had devoted this increase in expenditure to our pensioners, it would have provided the single old-age pensioner with an extra £2.12 a week and a married couple with £4.24 a week. Most Conservative Members and most newspapers are exceedingly vocal about other forms of spending, but they never utter a squeak about these increases in arms spending. It seems to be sacrosanct. It is a sacred cow.

I want to deal fairly with the argument of the hon. Member for Plymouth. Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers). She and her hon. Friends say that if we slashed our military spending too severely we should have no houses, hospitals or schools but only "a heap of cinders". That was the hon. Lady's phrase—

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

When I said that, I was quoting some words of my own Minister.

Mr. Allaun

Whoever said it, my argument still applies. But I am glad that the former Minister to whom the hon. Lady referred also said that he saw no likelihood of the Red Army advancing across Europe. The question which I want to ask the hon. Lady, the Minister or anyone else is how it would benefit Moscow to obliterate London or vice versa. What evidence is there that either NATO or the Warsaw Pact has the slightest intention or desire to invade the other?

The hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) said that our arms were purely defensive and that we did not want to attack anyone. I am sure that he was right. I am equally sure that the Warsaw Pact countries say exactly the same—

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

What about Hungary?

Mr. Allaun

What about Hungary?— and what about Czechoslovakia? I opposed events there publicly. But while both were wrong, part of the motive, certainly in the case of Czechoslovakia, was the fear of NATO breaking through the Warsaw Pact. The intensity of preparation by both the Warsaw Pact and NATO had led to a situation where the possible departure of Czechoslovakia would have had this effect, which the Russians so feared. Moreover, it must be accepted that both military blocs have such powers of overkill that confrontation at a far lower level makes sense from both the economic and the security angles, if confrontation is to continue at all.

Another argument was raised on Thursday by the Minister of State, who referred to the declaration of Lloyd George in 1914. I reply to that by referring to the statement of another statesman in 1914—the Foreign Secretary at that time. It was Lord Grey who said that it was the competitive race in arms between Britain and Germany which made the outbreak of war inevitable.

I suspect that even if we were to double our arms bill and completely ruin our economy there would still be some hon. Gentlemen opposite who would say that we were not spending enough. One can go on spending indefinitely on arms. There is no limit to the amount that can be spent or the number and kind of weapons that can be produced.

It was sheer hypocrisy for the Secretary of State for Defence to write in his paper of diminishing the causes of instability and tension in Europe at the same time as he and the Cabinet are proceeding with this colossal increase in armaments. The Secretary of State uses the old argument, and he quotes it in the White Paper, that: Only negotiation from strength is likely to produce equitable agreements. I am sure that there are hon. Members who agree with that, but it is a logical impossibility for both sides to be stronger than each other. If the NATO and Warsaw Pact Governments both take that view there will be no chance of agreement and mankind will be condemned to an acceleration of the arms race, and that is what I fear.

Let us consider, too, the timing of this announced expansion of the military programme. It comes on the eve of two international series of conferences, on European security, and on arms reductions. If ever a man has thrown a spanner into the works it is the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and I do not think that he did it without having consultations with the Prime Minister. His action could be regarded as sabotage; it is to be hoped that other nations will not so regard it. If, on his wedding eve, a bridegroom were to declare his intention of putting tintacks in the bridal bed, his desire for a happy marriage would be subject to some doubt, yet that is exactly what the Government are doing. The present détente in Europe offers a great opportunity for disarmament, and it would be criminal to throw away such a favourable situation by moving in the opposite direction.

The argument has been used that this year's increase is something of an aberration, that there are special circumstances this year which have caused the Government to bring forward arms contracts from future years. That is not so, because the Cabinet is planning an even greater growth in military spending. Let no one think that this year's increase is the last. The Govenment's survey of expenditure up to 1976–77, published last month, provides for an increase of 10 per cent. in arms spending in real terms. If that is worked out in financial terms, at the present rate of inflation it comes to £4,450 million a year by 1976–77. In sharp contrast, public spending on housing is to go down by 13 per cent. in the same three years. On Thursday the Minister avoided any mention of our great overseas military spending, which is a serious item in our worsening balance of payments deficit.

One of the important factors in the growth of arms spending is the constant clamour by the armament firms for further orders for new weapons on the excuse of keeping their capacity available and their research teams together. This may be for periods of as long as 10 years from concept to completion of a new missile or aeroplane. Miss Mary Kaldor, in a paper published by the Institute for the Study of International Organisations, has shown that there is something self-generating about this pressure in the nature of armaments contractors and in their relations with Governments which results in the latter succumbing to the demands of the former for more and more sophisticated and expensive weapons, even if some of them are cancelled before completion. She also deals with the escalation of costs from the original estimates for these weapons.

The official Labour Party policy is to cut arms spending, and we have been asked where the cuts would take place. First, there should be a cut in spending on military research and development. There has been a sharp growth in R and D provision in the last two Defence White Papers. It has grown from £315 million to £370 million last year, and to £418 million this year. One could say that this is the real growth industry in Britain today. It is using—and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) for this information—such a high proportion of our total R and D capacity and our best brains in the scientific world as to jeopardise the survival of our advanced civil industries in international markets.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting, as his hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) did—contrary to the view of his right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart)—that the rationalisation of R and D establishments, as envisaged in the White Paper, should be encouraged?

Mr. Allaun

If rationalisation results in an increase in spending of the kind that I have mentioned, I do not want any rationalisation. This increase in military R and D is largely why, in contrast, Japan surges ahead in the industrial export field. She is not wasting her brains and resources on military R and D. Earlier this afternoon we had a statement on BSA. Everybody knows that Japanese motor cycles, to say nothing of their electronic and other goods, are sweeping through the markets of the world, and that is because she is keeping her arms spending to 0.9 per cent. of GNP. Japan has devoted her research and development and her brains to other than military projects.

Secondly, there has been a reference to the through-deck cruiser programme. One hon. Gentleman suggested that the cost would be £75 million each, and an even higher figure has been suggested. The Minister gave no indication of the sum involved but he must have an approximate idea of what it is. I do not think that he would be giving away any military secrets by telling us the cost. The Russians would not pounce on it as giving them some security advantage if the Minister were to say that the figure was about £75 million per cruiser. 1 think that that is the kind of thing which this country cannot afford.

Thirdly, I question the value of the multi-role combat aircraft programme. It was estimated a long time ago that £600 million would be spent on development. That is an under-statement. In the view of some accountants, including some in the Ministry of Defence, that is a phoney figure, and has long been out-dated. As a former accountant I know that there are many ways of understating and concealing expenditure—and all this before a single plane has been produced.

Fourthly, there should be a reduction in the numbers employed by the Ministry of Defence. No one is suggesting that Service men are not entitled to good pay and conditions. I should be the last to suggest that. As the White Paper says, a high proportion of the Ministry's expenditure goes on pay—49 per cent.— but that is all the more reason for reducing numbers. The Ministry has 708,000 employees, just over half of them in uniform, the remainder working as civil servants or in ROFs or Naval dockyards. Would it not be better for our country if a proportion of these men, money and materials were switched to civilian work? I know from personal experience that most of the men engaged would greatly prefer to work on civilian contracts. It is a poor excuse to say that extra numbers are required because of the situation in Northern Ireland. The numbers engaged there are tiny compared with the total of 370,000 men in uniform.

Lastly I wish to refer to recent allegations that civil servants may have been offered posts or prospects with the big oil companies that benefited from the sale of oil concessions in the North Sea. What about Ministry of Defence civil servants and generals who retire and then go into private arms contracting firms by using contacts which they made in their Departments? It is true that if they wish to do so within two years of leaving the Ministry, they must get the permission of the Permanent Secretary. But is that a sufficient safeguard? Should the period not be increased to at least five years? I was given by a previous Minister of Defence the number of civil servants who had left to take up senior posts with companies with contractual relations with the Ministries. I should like to know whether this number is growing. Certainly in America it has become a national scandal.

I conclude with a question. Why should Britain spend a higher proportion of her gross national product on arms than any of her NATO allies in Europe, with the single exception of Portugal which is deeply involved in its African wars? I believe that we are right in condemning this further increase in expenditure and in proposing to bring down the share of our resources devoted to arms to the average share of the other NATO Governments, thus saving £600 mililon a year for other and better things.

6.32 p.m.

Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Lichfield and Tamworth)

I apologise to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) for not following his remarks, but I am sure that he would not expect me to agree with some of the sentiments which he has expressed.

I should like to come down to earth. I support the White Paper, but I should like to make certain comments on it. The first relates to manpower. In Chapter IV of the Defence Statement there is a clear warning that we are facing a possible shortage in recruiting, and even a shortage in people prolonging their service engagements. This may be due to the effect of Northern Ireland, where battalions are going for a fourth and fifth tour. Another factor is the decision not to accept the 15-year olds—a decision which I think is extremely bad from a Service point of view. Should proof be required, one has only to look at the chart which appeared in last year's White Paper, which showed that 20 per cent. of the entry came from that age group.

We should face these imponderables and try to find a way round them. What is stopping people joining and prolonging their engagements? Nowadays people get married very much younger than in years gone by, and in any Service those on engagements of six years or over are probably married by the time they leave, and in many cases have started a family. I believe that, nowadays, before the young man joins he gives quite a bit of thought to it, and one of the things he probably asks himself is, "What will happen to me when I come out?"

The Defence Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee in December last considered resettlement. The Ministry of Defence produced two papers detailing what happens. In fact, people are divided between sheep and goats. The lucky people are the qualified people—those who in their Service life are tradesmen and perform duties which have civilian counterparts. At the end of their service they have the option of a resettlement course of four weeks. Each Service runs its own courses. These men attend a course while they are serving and, therefore, they receive Service pay. It is not a right but, provided they can get permission from their commanding officers and provided they are available and are not serving abroad, the chances are that they get the option of attending these courses.

The other people are non-qualified. They may be on long-service engagements; they may be warrant officers and senior NCOs, general duty ratings, infantrymen or gunners, marine commandos or members of the RAF Regiment, whose normal combatant training has not a civilian counterpart. These people have the option of the Department of Employ- ment training opportunities scheme. This is probably a little longer in duration than four weeks. They attend this scheme after they have completed their service. Therefore, they do not receive any Service pay during that time. There is, therefore, a great disparity between the two. When we took evidence on this point we found a further disparity. In the Royal Navy people were eligible for this training after nine years' service, whereas in the Army and the Air Force the period was five years.

When we inquired about the number of people who had applied for these courses and had not been offered the opportunity we received replies which were, to put it mildly, sketchy. We were told that only 10 per cent. in the Navy were refused the opportunity. At the same time, however, we were told that out of 6,000 who had left during the last year only 1,000 had attended courses. We were told that in the Army 64 per cent. had attended the courses, but that it was not known how many of the remaining 36 per cent. had applied for them. We had much the same information from the Royal Air Force, the figures being 60 per cent. attending and 40 per cent. not doing so.

We asked what would be the cost to produce a course for all those who were eligible, and we were given a figure of £3½ million. Later, we had another paper from the Ministry of Defence saying that this scheme had been shelved. It is quite obvious that not every soldier, sailor or airman leaving the Service wants to go on a course, but there should not be this disparity.

Therefore, I suggest that we scrap the three Service resettlement establishments. Let this be the responsibility of the Department of Employment. Let everyone be entitled to attend these courses, whether he is a tradesman or not, during the time that he serves. I suggest that the cost of these courses should be borne by the Department of Employment and should not be a charge against the defence budget.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) and the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) mentioned our work in conjunction with training and our attempts to get some form of rationalisation among the three Services in their establishments. In certain places, ranging from Hong Kong and Singapore to Cyprus and Gibraltar, we have seen on our visits overseas, either on parliamentary tours or as a Committee, that rationalisation does take place and that one Service looks after the interests of others in certain respects. At home, however, we have found little such evidence.

Twelve months ago we took evidence on this matter in Committee. We tried to find scope for savings and we focussed our attention not on the fighting units, which were quite beyond our interests, but on the administrative units which would be common to the three Services. I quote here a short passage from our Report: It may also be true that much training should be on a single Service basis, if it relates to a skill which is peculiar to one Service or if it is necessary to instill a spirit of loyalty to that Service. We would, however, question the fundamental assumption that 'single Service training is absolutely right'. To foster excessively narrow loyalty to one particular Service is not in the best interests of the forces as a whole. In our Ninth Report, we said, in Recommendation 7: The Defence Training Committee should actively seek out areas for co-operation in and co-ordination of training by the three Services and should not wait until it is compelled to act. In due course we received a reply to that recommendation and the final paragraph of it read: The Defence Training Committee will continue to seek out areas in which there may be advantages in rationalisation or inter-Service co-operation; however, in the past few years the field has been so widely reviewed that the scope for further action of this kind is unlikely to be large. We were not particularly enchanted by that reply, and our lack of enchantment was exacerbated when we went to Ottawa and discovered what had been done there. It is not my intention, or my business, to comment upon the unification of forces which the Canadians are carrying out, but I emphasise that there is a great difference between unification and integration. We discovered that the Canadians had been able substantially to cut down the number of their training establishments, establishments of the kind to which I am now referring which up to now have been triplicated, and had combined them.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye referred to cooks. That is but one example. We made further inquiries. In response to a question which we had raised during the taking of evidence—we had asked whether driver training in this country could be carried out on a combined basis—we were given a number of reasons explaining why it could not, ranging from the problem of concentration of vehicles on the road to the possibility of handing over the contract to civilians, though the latter was no good because they could not teach people to drive lorries or to go across country; so that was shelved.

The cost of our forces, and of their pay in particular, is so excessive an item in our defence budget that it is of paramount importance to effect savings. They may be only small savings, but they all add up. We must reduce the proportion. We must save manpower, and we must become cost-effective.

In certain respects, this has already been done. In computer training, for instance, the ADP training has been done at Blandford for all three Services. The Royal Air Force is carrying out fixed-wing training at Church Fenton for naval pilots, and it is doing the training of naval pilots in Buccaneer and Phantom. The RAF is also doing a certain amount of driver training for naval drivers at St. Athan.

I believe that there is greater scope for this sort of co-operation and co-ordination, and I put my suggestions under seven headings. I have already spoken of driver training and of cooks. What about the fitters and mechanics who look after the vehicles? The uniform they wear does not matter. Why should they not be trained in the same establishment? What about people employed in the medical and dental service? It is the same for all three Services. Let them be put under one establishment. I understand that the Edwards Committee is considering this now.

What about clerks? Why should they not be treated in the same way? If, at the end of their training, they can be given special Service training, that is fine; it should not take long. The same goes for the education service. Why should not all education people be trained in one place? They are all doing the same job.

Finally, I come to what I call the four Ps—those employed on pay duties; on provost and police—including dog handlers—on postal duties, and on physical training instruction. Training organised in this way would effect manpower savings and cut down overheads.

I turn now to the TAVR—the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. I admit that I have a direct interest here, because I am chairman of a county association and I am honorary colonel of a yeomanry regiment. The White Paper reports that on 1st January the strength of the TAVR was 59,000. I have every reason to believe that it has since increased. The force is efficient. It is going extremely well. Recruiting is going well. There is enthusiasm, and people are prepared to give their private time to serve. But they need encouragement. Service overseas has been a great success. In about one year in three they do their camp overseas.

The new headquarters here—the United Kingdom land force headquarters —is at present carrying out a review to tidy up the anomalies in organisation, and the outcome should do a great deal on a no-cost basis to spread the load of equipment and instructors between the newly formed 10,000—unfts which were resuscitated by this Government—and the old.

In the TAVR we have a disciplined, uniformed, efficient body of men. They are spread over the country. They have communications, and they have mobility. They have local knowledge. At present, however, they can be called out only if there is a national emergency, and then only in toto. In my view, this is a waste of a force. They have qualities which could be of enormous use.

They are quite happy at the moment training for war—a war which we hope will never come—and in doing that they are a useful insurance for the nation. But they want still further encouragement. They could be of great use and help to the civil power, whether it be at a time of accident or of national disaster. One can think of 101 such occasions. But legislation will be required to amend the present call-out rule so that they could be called out in part, and locally. If that were done, it would give the TAVR a great fillip.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) always brings to the House a touch of realism based on his own long and gallant service in the country's forces. He started by asking a question that so many Service men pose to themselves as their period of service comes to an end: "what is to happen to me when I leave the Service?" I only hope that some of them, at least, follow the example of the hon. and gallant Member and of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) and get themselves elected to the House so that more often we can hear a speech on defence affairs that comes from deep knowledge and understanding of the problems that face those who serve in our Armed Forces.

I want to devote most of my speech to dealing with some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), but, first, it seems to me to be quite outrageous that on a matter so important as defence, in which the security of the nation and vast sums of money are involved, we do not have the benefit of hearing a senior Government spokesman. I understand that the debate tonight will be wound up by a Minister "imported" from the Foreign Office. In a debate of this importance and magnitude, with the Secretary of State for Defence in another place, the Prime Minister should either open or conclude.

Opening the debate last week the Minister referred to Sir Derek Rayner, and tributes have again been paid to him today. I join in those tributes. I only hope that the Government will implement many of his recommendations and will ensure that every major project has a project manager who will see it right through to the end. It is now a major task of the Ministry of Defence and the defence staffs to eliminate waste, duplication and constant modification of specification on project after project. There can be no room for that sort of thing when we are faced with such an inflated cost escalation. The message that must go out to the defence staffs is that they must use every effort to reduce, to go in for the tri-Service training referred by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and other things, all of which can begin to eat into this ever-escalating cost.

I want now to turn to some misconceptions that have crept into defence debates because of the 28 years of peace we in this country have enjoyed. I believe that peace and freedom, like good housing, educational opportunities for all our children, adequate social services and full employment are essential features of national life. We enjoy peace and freedom, not by accident but because we have as a nation the will to preserve them. We must also have the ability to preserve them. That means defence expenditure. Therefore, defence expenditure based on clearly defined criteria is a matter of national policy as vital as any other Socialist policy which my party may put to the electorate.

I understand and I respect the arguments of pacifists. These are the people who reject force, who say that they sincerely believe that in no circumstances would it be right for them to take up arms and to bring force to bear against other human beings, and that all defence expenditure is therefore wrong. That is an honourable position to take, and it is one which men and women have suffered and died for. It is a perfectly honest argument. Pacifists do not argue about how much we should spend on defence: they say that there should be no defence at all except that of moral example and the absorbing of aggression by moral example. Unfortunately, this is not a pacifist world. There are men in Europe and in Ireland who do not renounce the use of force as an instrument of political action. Prague yesterday, Belfast today, somewhere else tomorrow—we do not know where the challenge will arise.

The British people are not by nature aggressive. We no longer permit our military and political leaders to embark on adventures inspired by an outdated sense of grandeur and mission. Nor are the British people pacifist by nature. They are prepared to defend their country. They are determined to defend their democratic institutions. They are determined to preserve their way of life. I believe that they are prepared to pay a reasonable cost for defending that democracy, those institutions and that way of life.

That being so, I believe that a defence debate should concentrate on four vital areas. First; is the expenditure for defence and not for aggression? That question must always be posed and answered. Second; do those with whom we are allied within NATO or within any other defence alliance share the same ideals that we claim to defend? Third; is our defence effort within our economic ability? That is a question that must continually be put and answered. Fourth; no effort should be spared in the search for a genuine reduction in tension and a genuine mutual reduction both in weaponry and in force levels.

A debate such as this needs to be on a little higher level than the crude suggestion that savings on defence can be used, as the argument is put, for more houses one day, for more expenditure on education the next day, and, next week—to another audience—for more expenditure in some other desirable area of national life, in the sure knowledge that the audience to which the speech is being made will respond to such arguments because it is desperately anxious to see more spent on the particular purpose for which the meeting has been called.

Our men and women in the forces and men and women who work in jobs connected with defence deserve a higher level of discussion than that. They are human beings with families and with hopes and aspirations. They worry about their jobs and the security of their families in all sorts of respects—education, housing, and the rest. They are as much concerned with defence expenditure as we are, and they are also voters. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East referred to the nearly 1 million people involved, in one way or the other, with the defence effort. Those 1 million people have a right to express their views at the polls, and those views should not be ignored. Those men and women should not be subject to this continued kicking around on defence, and this putting into question the whole idea of our determination as a nation to maintain peace and freedom.

I want now to deal with the argument about tying our defence expenditure to the average percentage of GNP spent on defence by our European allies. This is not a very wise policy for those who wish to see a substantial reduction in defence expenditure. The reason why our percentage of GNP is higher than that of most nations in Europe is that our GNP is among the lowest in Europe. Therefore, if this country enjoys increased growth as our GNP goes up, if we are tied to an artificial level—the average of our European allies—we could end up spending more rather than less on defence. But there is a far more serious point. One of the great debates now taking place within NATO is the point which is being legitimately put forward by the United States—that if Europe is to be defended the European nations themselves must carry a greater weight of the burden of defence expenditure. That is the real debate now going on. I believe that as a result of this debate we shall see a growth in the defence expenditure of European nations. The average proportion of the GNP that our NATO allies spend on defence will rise. If we are tied to that we automatically become tied to an increase in expenditure. That would be an unwise policy. It would not be a wise policy to rely upon the average European percentage of GNP spent on anything—defence, education or health.

I have some interesting figures from the Western European Union's 18th Ordinary Session Assembly, which show that compared with France and Germany we have a lower defence expenditure per head of population. I accept that it depends from where the statistics are drawn. For example, the Institute of Strategic Studies presents a different table. The figures given by the Minister of State in his correction at the beginning of the debate today present another picture. But it is significant that whichever of those sources is used as the yardstick among the Western European allies the United Kingdom is not among the highest in defence expenditure per head of the population.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Does my hon. Friend realise that if we are to provide anything like a credible answer to the Russians—and a credible answer would possibly be an inferiority of two or three—we should not merely have to increase defence expenditure; the whole of Europe would have to considerably more than double its armaments expenditure?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I shall be coming to that point later in my speech. But in the matter of GNP and the average ex- penditure per head of population, Sweden is an interesting example. On a per capita basis its expenditure is considerably in excess of expenditure by the United Kingdom. To use the average European percentage for GNP as a yardstick of defence expenditure would, in my view, be as unwise as it would be false, because it is not a sensible basis on which to take decisions.

There are so many other factors that come into it—the size of our manpower commitment, the salary we pay to our forces and whether we have conscription or a voluntary armed force. There are so many things which fall within the standard NATO definition of defence expenditure that we would need a high-level inquiry to be satisfied that all these percentage figures are based upon the same criteria.

The other argument put forward was that if this country were neutral—if it were non-aligned and non-nuclear—we would save millions of pounds in defence expenditure and be able to use it for all other desirable things. I can give my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East an example of a European nation which fits precisely those criteria—non-aligned, non-nuclear and neutral. Of course, I refer to Sweden—a nation which has not had a major war for more than 150 years and which has had the benefit of a democratic socialist government for the last 42 years.

It spends more on defence per head of population than the United Kingdom, or indeed any other Western European nation. In Europe only the USSR and, perhaps, some of its satellites, whose figures we do not know, spend more on defence per head of the population. Sweden has compulsory military service for all males and also compulsory civil defence service for all its men and women. It has one of the highest levels of taxation in Europe—so the price for neutrality can be very expensive. Providing that we are determined that this country is worth defending—and I assume that we all accept that it is—non-alignment and nuclear disarmament would not mean less expenditure. It could mean more, providing we are not pacifist and that we are determined that the British nation should have an option to surrender, if ever faced with an aggressor. We cannot get defence on the cheap.

Mr. Frank Allaun

I am most flattered by the attention my hon. Friend has given me. He said that it would be wrong to reduce our arms spending and to spend more on housing, pensions, schools and so on. I wish to make two points. First, it is not the policy of the party to which he and I belong. I remember that we decided that we should cut our spending east of Suez and have drastic arms reduction. We did the former but have not yet done the latter. Significantly, the point about reduction of the share of the GNP was included in Labour's "Programme for Britain", at the conference which my hon. Friend attended. Is he approving this unilateral increase in arms spending which the Government are proposing?

Mr. Wellbeloved

My hon. Friend paid attention to the points which I directed at him but obviously he did not pay the same attention to my opening remarks when I made certain criticisms about the Government's escalation of defence expenditure. I believe the Government's inadequacies in controlling the situation have thrust defence back into the area of controversy between the parties. On the other part of my hon. Friend's intervention, my argument is not that we should not control defence expenditure but that defence expenditure is just as necessary a part of the fabric of our life as any other expenditure. Peace and freedom are as essential to a full life as is housing, education, social services or anything else. My hon. Friend will not succeed in placing me and my argument in a position where I must choose between a series of options. The defence of freedom and preservation of peace are essential factors in our national life—things we all wish to enjoy. A price must be paid and, as I have illustrated in the case of Sweden, the price is much higher in a country which has had a Socialist Government for 42 years and peace for 158 years than it is in this country today. That may be an argument for going it alone, but it is not an argument for the reduction of defence expenditure. That must be the argument to which my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East and other of my hon. Friends must address themselves in this debate, unless they take the view that this country should have no option but surrender because we abandon defence.

I now turn to a matter about which there may be some unity between myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East. I am always interested in preserving the unity of the party which we both love so much. I refer to the allies with whom we stand in the great cause of the defence of freedom. We must take a long and hard look at some of the countries to which we are allied. It is difficult, and it becomes more nearly impossible, for people like myself to talk about the defence of freedom when we are allied to countries where freedom does not exist. When the time comes to renew our treaties, we must do so with the clear intention that if we and those who stand with us are to maintain expenditure on defence to preserve freedom, our allies must give to their people the freedom which we claim to be defending.

That is an argument which if put into effect could well mean perhaps more expenditure rather than less. If the argument is put clearly, squarely and fairly to the electorate, they might well choose to agree to further taxation so that those countries attached to NATO and other defence alliances, who claim to defend the great principles of freedom and democracy, stand together.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

Is it not just as unreasonable for us to be allied with Portugal or Greece as it is for the USSR to be allied with Czechoslovakia? Is it not a far more reasonable proposition that we should argue for the dismantling of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact?

Mr. Wellbeloved

There is one slight difference between Portugal, Turkey and Greece being allied with us and the countries allied with the USSR. The Governments of Portugal, Turkey and Greece choose to be allied with us, and we choose to be allied with them. I doubt whether the same options are open to the Governments of, for example, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria.

I have this much in common with my hon. Friend. I long to see the day when neither the Warsaw Pact nor NATO is any longer necessary.

The real hope of mankind lies not in some phoney, unwise and massive unilateral reduction of expenditure on defence, but in pursuing with patience and determination the talks which are now going on in Europe, which will become even more meaningful if we reach a real conference on security and co-operation in Europe. There is nothing more open to us which will lead to a reduction throughout Europe in manpower and weapon levels than for there to be genuine mutual and balanced force reduction, and a genuine attempt for a free exchange of information and ideals. The reduction in tension in Europe could lead to balanced reduction. However, it is no good having the fine intentions which are declared by NATO or by the Warsaw Pact unless those intentions are backed by a reduction in capability.

I do not take seriously the man who says, with his hands behind his back, "I shall not thump you in the eye", and then brings his fist forward with the glove already clenched to do just that. I have no doubt that in the Warsaw Pact there are politicians making just the same statement about NATO. We must ensure that in the talks we pay more attention to the reduction in military capability than we do to any fine-sounding declarations which are not backed by meaningful reductions.

Mankind stands at the crossroads. It has reached the road which could lead to a lowering of tension in Europe, which could bring about what we all desire throughout the whole of my party and throughout the nation—a reduction of the tensions that divide the nations of Europe and a reduction in the amount of money which we all have to spend to defend the things which we hold dear in each one of our countries. It is only through such talks, and only with that desire and determination, that we will achieve the security that we all require. It cannot be achieved by unilateral disarmament. The lesson of Sweden is loud and clear. If we want to defend our country and if we want to keep our institutions free from aggression, we must be prepared to pay the cost.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

We have listened to the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) making a powerful speech, and one with which I should like to be associated. I listened on Thursday to the debate for as long as I was able to do so. I went away at half-past eight to hospital. I thought, if I judged the mood of the opinions expressed in the debate, that hon. Members wanted more expenditure rather than less. Today that has been shown again, apart from one or two speeches to the contrary.

My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson), my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James) wish to be associated with my remarks. The debate has been wide, full and interesting, but I wish to turn to the effect of paragraph 29, page 8, of the White Paper on my division in Christ-church. In that paragraph we read with sadness and distress that the Signals Research and Development Establishment will be closed down within three to five years. It has brought a great deal of distress, and will bring about a great deal of disruption not only to those employed at the establishment but to the community in general.

The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford urged greater efficiency. However, where rationalisation takes place there will not always be efficiency. Indeed, there could be greater expenditure. Various Government Members and the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) mentioned with regret the closure of the SRDE. Possibly its closure could be considered again. I do not believe that the Government are taking the right course.

The whole idea is to economise and perhaps to have the better use of resources. I wonder whether this will be the case. The establishment has proved itself to be viable and efficient. It has set a record of achievement and service to the nation. Over many years, it has developed a highly effective communications system which has been used throughout the Services and is used today in the British Army of the Rhine. The three Services used with great effect in the Second World War the No. 10 microwave radio set invented in the department at Christchurch.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister of State knows my opinion that this highly important establishment should not be closed. With all the strength at my disposal, I resist the closure because I know something of the hardships and difficulties that closure will create in the area. The establishment easily pays its way, and has always done so. The whole project, with its fully-manned and well-equipped buildings, is compact, well-organised and successful. Its work earns foreign currency. The townspeople of Christchurch are exceedingly proud of the establishment and have awarded it their highest possible tribute by presenting it with the freedom of the town.

The establishment is also the biggest employer of labour in the area. Will better use of resources take place if it moves, as is proposed, and as was proposed under the Labour Government, to Malvern? I do not believe that it will. In the policy proposals in the White Paper for the better use of resources and for economies at large, what I cannot understand is how this can be achieved by moving the establishment to Malvern away from the area of its customers. It is an incredible decision.

For example, the School of Signals is at Blandford, the School of Artillery is at Larkhill, and the Tank Training School is at Bovington—all within an hour's journey of the establishment at Christ-church. These schools are the users who specify the operational requirements for the specialised equipment that the establishment must then design. The definition of the equipment is a continuous process requiring frequent visits and consultations with the users, and it is also obviously necessary to be in close contact with the contractors as well, who are all situated in the southern counties.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. Does he not agree that there is a very strong case, if anything has to be moved, for moving the facilities at Malvern to Christchurch?

Mr. Cordle

I agree. I wish my hon. Friend the Minister of State would give consideration to that point. We have 170 acres of excellent land set aside for the special experiments of research in the Christchurch area. The land is there ready to be used. We could house many more people in Christchurch than perhaps can be housed in the Malvern area. To suggest that there will be better use of resources, greater economy and greater efficiency at Malvern is nonsense. I wonder whether the Minister is aware that Malvern is over 110 miles away from the schools I have mentioned, which are the establishment's main customers.

Furthermore, the closure of the establishment will have a devastating effect on the social and economic life of Christchurch town. The staff of the establishment are deeply integrated with the local community and have been for a lifetime. The establishment was formed in 1903 and moved to Christchurch in 1917. Since then, it has grown not only in stature but in grace as well. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister of State before coming to a final decision to refer the matter to the Select Committee on Science and Technology. Let that committee pursue the matter and give him its views.

We should consider also what the decision will mean to Malvern. It will be a very big operation. There are human and sociological problems. Over 900 men are employed at the establishment, devoted and committed men, 300 of whom are highly qualified mobile civil servants, the remainder being made up of industrials and unskilled labour. The consensus is that no one wants to make the move. They are content to go on working at Christchurch. They see no attraction whatever in leaving Christchurch or going to Malvern. The Ministry will have to think about housing availability if it is to move at any rate part of the 300 men to Malvern. It will have to think of the additional investment to set them up in premises and buildings. Has all that been thought out?

If the closure has to take place, what plans has the Ministry for those who remain? The Government must get down to the practicalities. What is the Ministry doing now? It just cannot fob of its responsibilities to another Government Department. I am told that the matter is being given consideration. We heard this afternoon from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry's great concern. I heard last Thursday night that the papers were being passed to another Department. This is not good enough. In my view, strong consultations should be taking place between the Departments, and special arrangements should be under way in order to attract additional industry into the area, with industrial development certificates being provided if necessary, so that the buildings could immediately be taken over by like industries and other jobs found to absorb the redundant workers. Have talks begun with the Department of Trade and Industry? What is the outcome at present?

I have referred to what closure will mean to Christchurch town. Wages and salaries paid in the establishment amount to about £2 million per annum. Closure will mean that this cash flow in local shops, entertainments, and other pursuits will cease. That is a very serious matter indeed, affecting the whole local economy. The loss of rate contributions will be another serious matter, as will the loss of career opportunities. As I said in a recent Adjournment debate on this subject, the effect on Christchurch will be devastating. In addition, over 100 of the wives of employees at the establishment have been absorbed over the years in local important jobs of the service type. With the disbanding of the establishment, community facilities are bound to suffer.

Thus, hardship and disruption will occur in the town and I hope and pray that something will be done to relieve the pressure. A large percentage of the industrial staff who will be asked to move will be over the age of 45. Of course there is the possibility of their being retrained, but I do not think that this will be particularly attractive to men of experience and of such calibre.

If the closure does take place, I believe that the best thing would be to find one of the " big boys " in industry, who makes electrical devices and needs expert knowledge of electronics and specialises in radio instrumentation, to take over the buildings and the land of the establishment amounting to about 250,000 sq. ft. This would be a great relief to those who work in the area and it could absorb some of the residual labour.

Another important consideration is that 60 to 70 acres of open space by the sea shore could be handed to the local authority and could be made an attractive feature for the people of the area and for visitors. Landscaping could be undertaken inexpensively and a car park or two could be provided quite easily. Near the industrial site another hundred acres could become available. This could be used partly for residential purposes and partly for light industries.

I plead with the Minister to refer this subject to the Select Committee and to have second thoughts. In these days when we cannot get defence on the cheap, this would be a disastrous move. It would mean the closing down of a thoroughly efficient and worthy establishment that is providing vital, up-to-date technical advice and research in these days of progress and high speed communication.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) and the consortium of fellow Members for whom I understand he is the spokesman today are concerned to keep the SRDE in Christchurch, if that is possible. I well understand his feelings on that matter, because these upheavals cause distress to the town itself and removals cause inconvenience, expense and upset to the people who are removed. I hope that the Minister will be certain in his own mind that this move to Mal-vern is in the interests of efficiency.

The hon. Member has of course engaged in a constituency log-rolling exercise, and quite right, too, but he justified the exercise partly on the ground of the extra cost that might result from rationalisation in research establishments. Throughout the debate today, the debate on Thursday and the debate in the other place, the main emphasis of speakers, not only on this side of the House, but on the Government side—apart from Northern Ireland—has been on the subject of cost.

In peacetime, this almost invariably happens. People are concerned with increasing the social services, with increasing expenditure on housing, with increasing expenditure on regional development. When in a period of comparative peace they are told that the money is just not available, they naturally say to the Government, "Cut defence spending and get your money in that way." In such an atmosphere, which obtains in periods of comparative peace, I am sometimes surprised that the Services themselves do not lose heart, that they do not lose faith in the job that they are doing, which is keeping themselves prepared to meet eventualities that may never arise.

It is an enormous credit to the Services that they can keep their faith. When an emergency does arise, as in Northern Ireland, it may be even more surprising in the circumstances of that operation that they can keep faith at all. Our soldiers are faced with the nauseating spectacle of kiddies, egged on by their elders, throwing abuse and stones and, worse than that, they are faced with the possibility of being fired at by both sides. I could wish that the people of Northern Ireland as a whole would realise that, but for the presence of our troops in Northern Ireland, the Northern Irish people would be cutting their own throats at an even greater rate than they have been.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I remind the hon. Gentleman that they are their troops, too? The troops rightly belong in Northern Ireland because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mallalieu

They are British troops and it is about British troops that I am talking. I am delighted that on both sides hon. Members realise what a service the Army is performing, and that we all give it praise and support.

None the less and in spite of what I hope is my self-evident good will to the Services, especially to one of them, I must say that I, too, am puzzled and disturbed by the increase in real terms that the Government propose in military expenditure in these Estimates. I remain puzzled after listening to Government speeches here and in another place explaining the reasons for the increase.

Apart from Northern Ireland and the cod war, international tensions seem less today than they have been for some years. That may not last and this is certainly not yet the time for making any unilateral reduction in defence expenditure. But we are on the verge of talks on mutual and balanced force reductions in central Europe. While I understand the argument that one must not throw one's cards away before even starting to play the hand, it is a little odd to choose this time, when we are about to enter negotiations about reductions, in arms, to propose an increase.

The only considerable reason that I have heard is what has been called the challenge of President Nixon—that, provided Western Europe itself would increase its expenditure on defence, the United States would increase its. But that challenge was not made only to the United Kingdom. It was made to the whole of the Western Alliance. I listened with total fascination first of all to the figures put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and then subsequently to the figures put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). I do not know which set of figures is correct but I have a strong suspicion that we are paying a disproportionate share towards the defence of Western Europe.

I would have thought that in meeting the challenge of President Nixon we might first of all have made absolutely sure, by whatever tests are satisfactory and available, that the increase could not be made by making other people come up to the share that we have reached.

That brings me to my main point, which is the inadequacy of the information which this House is able to derive from the Estimates. We are asked to vote increased money for defence but we are not able to tell from the Estimates whether that increased expenditure is necessary.

We know that the main job of our Services is to help contain any military action which Russia might conceivably contemplate against Western Europe. We know that we are not expected to do that on our own but in conjunction with our NATO allies and with others such as France. This House is simply not competent to judge, on the basis of these Estimates, whether the array of forces in NATO and its associates is adequate to do that job. Unless we know, for example, what French forces will be available, what is the strength and the make-up of the combined NATO forces, how efficient these forces can be, to what extent equipment among them is standardised, how regularly they are engaged in joint exercises, we cannot be in a position to say whether expenditure by this country is adequate, excessive or inadequate.

During my time in this House there have been many changes in the way in which we present these Service Estimates. For example we no longer have separate Estimates for the three Services. They are combined and this is an improvement. An even greater improvement is now required. Will the Minister consider, with the Secretary of State, whether he cannot produce for Parliament a document which puts our spending in the United Kingdom into the context of the total NATO spending and which combines our Service strengths with the total strengths available to the Western Alliance? If only he could do that—and I believe it is possible and right that he should—then the House will be able to make a considered judgment on whether we are spending enough, too much or too little. If he cannot do that then I believe that these debates on the Estimates will continue to be largely meaningless.

7.46 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

These annual defence debates contain a great deal of interesting material, and the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) was no exception. They do not, however, usually contain much amusement, and I would like to start by congratulating the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) not only on his new Front Bench appointment but also for tabling, on Thursday, an amendment which is an absolute riot of fun. It was fascinating to watch him —like a boyhood hero of mine who used to try to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

The White Paper is pleasant enough, and I pay tribute to the improvements which the Government have made, particularly over recruiting. The pay and allowances are satisfactory for the forces, and I certainly welcome the improved compensation arrangements outlined today. I am delighted to hear of the bilateral staff talks with our allies and the increased naval construction programme. I was particularly pleased to hear of the success the Secretary of State had when he visited Australia and New Zealand with regard to the five-Power arrangements in Singapore and Malaysia.

All in all, our Ministers are very nice, well-meaning chaps. I must tell them that there is only one thing wrong—they are not, in my submission, spending enough on defence. In political terms, we spent our time in opposition castigating the Labour Government, quite rightly, for cutting down on defence. Now we spend only about the same money, or very little more. The White Paper shows an increase of about £400 million, but of this only about £167 million will be an increase in real terms. The remainder will be due to inflation. On the figures so often given we may spend about 5¾ per cent, of our GNP on defence, which is more than most of our NATO allies.

That is not the significant figure, however. The significant figure is the percentage of men of military age in the forces. In terms of the percentage of men of military age it is rather interesting to see that France has a figure of 5.1 per cent. in the forces, Germany has 4.1 per cent. and the United Kingdom only 3.4 per cent. Incidentally, Russia has 7.1 per cent.

We are not spending enough to make up the serious leeway incurred over the six years of the Labour Government, and we are not spending enough to make our full contribution to the prevention of war, which surely must be what it is all about.

In military terms it is all too obvious that we do not spend enough, considering the degree to which the Army is overstretched in Northern Ireland. We have heard many tributes—which I echo —to the Army in Northern Ireland. But a young infantryman should not have to spend about four months of each year in such extraordinary conditions in Northern Ireland that he cannot go to a pub; or see a girl without her throwing something at him.

The Royal Air Force is very short of strike aircraft and interceptors. The air defence of Great Britain is very thin.

The Navy is being compelled to pretend that it can fulfil its role without organic air support, but it cannot do so. I shall not go into the Harrier story—in the hope of being called again on Wednesday— but I make the point that the P.1127, the direct ancestor of the Harrier, first flew from the " Ark Royal " in February 1963 —10 years ago. I apologise to the Minister for not sending a congratulatory telegram on the tenth anniversary last month. After 2½ years in power, there has been no decision from the Government, let alone any action, to reassure the Fleet Air Arm and the Fleet that they will get something in the way of organic air support.

I wish to highlight one outstanding strategic defence policy omission from the White Paper. It is the one which worries me most of all, namely, the failure to make adequate provision for defence of our trade routes. The huge Soviet naval build-up world-wide, which White Papers from successive Governments have highlighted, has produced an undeniable large-scale threat to our maritime trade, particularly to our oil supplies. The noble Lord Lord Caccia speaking in the debate in another place on 1st March, said: … what is defence about in this modern industrial age if it does not among its primary targets seek to provide some protection for essential energy requirements … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 1st March 1973; Vol. 339, c. 798.] The Secretary of State gave no satisfactory reply to the noble Lord. In the White Paper there is no mention of the word "oil", except on page 5 where there is a reference to enforcing the United Nations embargo on the importation of oil to Rhodesia … This pathetic reference to a pathetic patrol in fact shows how easily a blockade can stop oil supplies.

Recently the Royal Navy presentation team has been touring the country and has had a long and successful season going round various cities. I heard the team's presentation and thought it was splendidly done. Its message was the importance of the defence of trade. The script which accompanied the lecture said: … But if the heart of our interests is in Europe, the arteries on which that heart depends for health, prosperity and indeed life itself spread out like tentacles world-wide, and there is no point in defending one without the other. In fact of the two, the arteries are probably the most vulnerable.… I ask the Minister whether the Government agree with what the team said?

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

How does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suppose the Japanese defend their trade?

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

They have no adequate defence for their oil supplies and they are very worried about it, as we know from the Japanese Press— as worried as we should be.

In Annex C of the White Paper, despite some clever draftsmanship, it is apparent from the map that the Cape route is unguarded. In one defence debate after another some of us from these benches have asked for recognition of the importance of surveillance of this trade route, but it seems impossible to make our Ministers, charming chaps though they are, understand this basic and historic fact about the importance of the defence of our trade. One bright spot is that the South African Government do understand. They have just built —some of us have been to see it—a splendid modern combined maritime headquarters at Simonstown, which would be of the greatest use in any emergency.

South Africa lacks modern maritime weapons, particularly Nimrods, for the proper surveillance about which I have been speaking. I thought that the Secretary of State gave a most disingenuous reply about Nimrods in the debate in the other place on 1st March. He said: The question of supplying Nimrod aircraft on sale or lease has not been raised with us by the South African Government; but we should carefully consider any such application within the context of that statement."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 1st March 1973; Vol. 339, c. 853.] I believe that the South African Government do want Nimrods, but do not wish to embarrass themselves or our Government by asking for them openly—because they have been given the brush-off behind the scenes: I fear that the Secretary of State was being misleading about this.

I am not "asking for the moon", or for defence spending for its own sake. I realise that the Government have many other preoccupations and that there are more immediate dangers to the nation— for instance, on the industrial front. I recall that in the 1930s the great Winston Churchill was unable to alert the House of Commons or the nation to a threat which was far greater and more obvious than the current threat.

However, I accuse the Government of complacency about defence, of half-measures, a refusal to look unpleasant facts in the face and, specifically, of ignoring the defence of our overseas trade. In the White Paper the Government offer something closely akin to the Labour Party's policy. I cannot agree that it is adequate, and therefore regret hat I shall be unable to support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

7.58 p.m.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)

We have been enjoined by the Secretary of State, speaking in another place, to rethink and refurbish the alliance. No one speaking in this debate can be unaware of the fact that in recent history there have been substantial changes in the European security scene. One has only to think of the Berlin Accord which was signed, the West German Treaty with Poland and the fact that the preliminary stages of three major conferences are in process. The Strategic Arms Limitations Talks are going into phase 2 and the preliminary discussions about mutual and balanced force reductions are under way. The preliminary negotiations for the European Security Conference are also taking place. Against this background, it is legitimate for the House to consider our defence posture.

I believe that it is right and proper for Britain to try to reduce its defence expenditure. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) that this is difficult, but, despite what he said about the dangers of comparing the proportions of gross national product spent on defence in different countries, it is indisputable, with all the qualifications, that Great Britain spends a substantially greater percentage of its GNP on defence than its major European Economic Community partners.

It seems to me wholly reasonable that looking towards the years ahead, with the approach of European integration—there has even been talk of monetary union— we should recognise that we shall not be able to afford to pay a disproportionate amount of defence expenditure compared with that of our major European Economic Community partners. My right hon. and hon. Friends in their amendment have drawn attention to that, and I think that they have drawn attention to a quite legitimate cause for concern.

However, we also have to face the fact that there are pressures building up now in the United States which will not long be held back, and we should not just rely on the pledge given by President Nixon, strongly though he meant it, and strongly though I think he will fight to uphold it. Congressional pressures are changing and already a call for a 50 per cent. reduction of United States troop levels in Europe has been made by Senator Mansfield—and it was defeated by only 54 votes to 39. A recent democratic congressional caucus in the Senate made it clear that the balance of opinion has shifted quite dramatically in favour of substantial changes and I think that even in the House of Representatives opinion is changing as well.

It has to be frankly admitted in this House that it is wholly inconsistent to look for defence reductions in our own Budget and at the same time to insist that the United States retain its force levels at their existing position. Indeed, if I were a United States senator or congressman I have no doubt that I would be calling for reductions. I do not personally think that they need to be, and I hope that they would not be, as much as 50 per cent., for which the senators have called, for I believe it is in the vital national interest of America to sustain troops in a European context, and I endorse the conclusion of a Congressional report published only last summer that US forces in place in Europe are the psychological epoxy of the Alliance, the glue that holds NATO together. But I do not think we can go on relying indefinitely on that glue, assuming that it will be inviolate and that there will not be changes. Indeed, in some ways the current United States debate is reminiscent of the debate over the east of Suez posture of this country.

If we hold out for and insist on no modification, no form of change, and if we take, as successive American Presidents have taken, very little countenance of the internal pressures building up, we shall be faced in Europe with a unilateral and precipitate withdrawal with a lack of confidence in the whole of NATO.

It is better for us in the face of the recognised pressures for American troop reductions to take the attitude that we wish the reductions to be kept to the minimum, and that we understand the Americans' concern about their balance of payments, although I do not think that is the only factor in the Americans' wish to withdraw their troops. Also I do not believe they will save very much money in withdrawing their troops, the fact is, though, that the balance of payments argument is beginning to sway a number of politicians in America. It is natural that the Americans should consider this when their balance of payments is in deficit, and we should make some compensating mechanism for the balance of payments cost for American troops and their establishments in Europe.

Having said that, I would also say that it is for Great Britain to say that it is up to the other European members of NATO, who currently spend a substantial lower percentage of their gross national product than we, to start increasing their percentage.

It is hard to say what particular specfic changes there could be in the first two years in the British defence budget. That has to be faced honestly, but I do not rule out the possibility of further reductions—and quite substantial reductions— if we can achieve a changed climate in the context of mutual and balanced force reductions.

The Government's attitude to MBFR is one of which I am intensely critical. They have been hostile to it from the start and they are in danger of being seen to be. This could cause considerable strain in the NATO Alliance. I would prefer a unilateral United States decision agreed by the allies on troop reductions at the start of the security conference of 15 per cent. and that should be our bargaining posture in the early stages of MBFR. To try in the early stages of a scheme of mutual and balanced reductions to achieve balanced reductions which are really cosmetic and unilateral reductions desired by the United States could be very disruptive to the very process of negotiation.

In exchange we might as a return gesture get some of the collateral agreements which have already been discussed. We might get agreement to limit troop movements, to give advance notice of major manoeuvres and have a settlement on the crucial question of warning of any offensive action which might be taken by the Warsaw Pact.

I think we get substantial warning of troop movements already through the satellite surveillance and the infra-red detection of vehicle movements so that I think we can exaggerate that matter.

As to the balance of forces in Europe I would prefer to take my stand on the interpretation of the existing balance along with the recently published Brook-ings Institution book on "United States troops in Europe": It is reasonable to conclude that any current advantage to the Warsaw Pact in forces readily available in Central Europe is partially offset by other factors that favour the West. Even if there is not a ' balance' in the narrowest military sense, there probably is a balance in the politico-military context of defence. It is to the maintenance of this political-military balance that the European Security Conference in part and also the MBFR in particular should be addressed.

What steps can be taken? First and foremost we have to look at the position of France. France is currently spending nearly 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. of her total defence budget on nuclear arms. She is in many ways reproducing research and development which has already been done by the United States, and in part by this country. I would wish there were less talk of Anglo-French co-operation and much more talk of French-American co-operation. I would wish this could be Government policy to persuade the United States that it is desirable even only in the interests of atmospheric pollution that the use of existing United States test facilities should be shared, with the offer to France of access to their underground testing facilities and technology. It is a very serious situation that a nuclear Power should be continuing to pollute the atmosphere with atmospheric tests, particularly when the other nuclear Powers have already signed the test ban treaty and have underground test facilities. This might lead to France signing the test ban treaty and eventually to signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

There is another cause for major concern and that is over the French tactical nuclear weapon Pluton. There is urgent need for talks to take place in Europe preferably in a new forum of a European NPG over the basic question of Pluton. It would have interlocking membership with the NATO NPG. It might lead to France beginning to play a more active part in European defence matters.

France, by military numbers and in her military budget, could be an important element in Western defence, particularly if she would spend more on conventional forces and would then add substantially to the effectiveness of the present Western alliance.

There is no doubt that we must have a ministerial decision—a Heads of State decision—in Europe that they will have the same operational requirements agreed in NATO for major weapon systems, that they will have agreed joint research and development and that the design and standardisation of weapons will be forced through, giving the power to SACEUR to come to the Heads of State, to argue with them and to make them aware of any deviation from a policy of total standardisation. That has now become an urgent priority within Europe. Just as much as we need a combined logistic command, and we have to look at all forms of rationalisation of our effort.

Personnel costs now absorb about 50 per cent. of defence budgets. That is one pressure which has been building up in the United States defence budget since the United States has decided to go for volunteer armies. I am delighted to hear that the RAF has been able to reduce personnel by 6,000. The Army and the Navy should be put under just the same pressure to reduce personnel. It could be done throughout Europe and it could be done to the American forces currently in Europe with advantage to us all.

We in this House should try to put ourselves in the position of the United States. It is no use our calling on the United States for defence support unless we, too, are prepared to accept our share of the burden. That share of the burden must be equally shared. I am surprised that the Government should attack my hon. Friends for placing on record the need for European spending, within limits, to be equal across the main EEC countries. That should be our primary objective.

Many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate and I do not want to deal in detail with other aspects of our defence policy. Suffice it to say that a re-adjustment in the United States role in Europe is coming. I would prefer it to come with consent by the Allies rather than as a result of an enforced unilateral decision in the United States—a decision regarded as being in their best interests, leaving a level of troops that can be sustained politically inside the United States, agreed within Congress by both major parties and, if possible, endorsed to some extent by Congressional resolution.

Europe could then plan against a fairly fixed level of troops in Europe. There is a dilemma in any reduction in force levels which we must face honestly. We cannot advocate a substantial reduction in defence expenditure, which of its nature must involve reductions in men, without facing the problem of reducing the nuclear threshold. I have always been prepared to accept that. The will does not exist within democratic countries, either in the United States or in Europe, to build up substantial land forces and other armed forces to match Warsaw Pact levels man for man, troop for troop. As I have said, we must go for a politico-military balance. We must try to achieve an atmosphere of detente and if necessary take on-the-margin risks in the hope that the Warsaw Pact countries will match some of our reductions. The risk cannot be too great, but we have the need of the nuclear strategy on which to rely.

We shall have to look at tactical nuclear weapons in a totally different way. I prefer to see them as "declaratory" nuclear weapons. There is something to be said for putting such declaratory nuclear weapon forces to sea. This is an area which will have to come up in the discussions about forward base systems either in MBFR or possibly in SALT, although its bilateral nature will pose great problems for this country.

In short, I do not see any immediate reduction in our defence budget if we are to have United States troop reductions. Once we have United States troop reductions, it is possible for us in Europe to look at our own troop levels, and I believe that we then can have reductions and that that should be our long-term aim.

The Government's enthusiasm for MBFR should be far more marked than it has been hitherto. I understand the Government's reluctance to negotiate within MBFR troop reductions that could destroy the unity of the European Alliance, and to some extent I concur. The Government will obviate that danger if they face more realistically the inevitability of changes in force levels in the United States and adopt an attitude to it now that will enable us to plan those cuts, absorb them into our strategy so that they will not come as a psychological shock and will not endanger the Alliance.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) was right to draw attention to the uncertainties of American intentions and on this I agree with him.

I last spoke in a defence debate two years ago. In rising tonight I plead the virtue of consistency in making the same point now as I did then, namely, that this country is trying to do too much with too little from the military point of view as opposed to the financial angle.

For all the tremendous advances that have been made over those two years— and I pay tribute to the success of my hon. Friends in what they have achieved in changing the atmosphere in the Services—I am in contact with all three Services and know that to be true—for all the improvement in recruitment, training and equipment and, far more important, in morale, we are still trying to do too much and our resources are spread too thinly. This is particularly true of our commitment east of Suez and in certain categories of weapons.

Two years ago I thought that time was short in the context of our commitments east of Suez. I have been proved wrong, mainly because of the protraction of the Vietnam war and because of the efforts that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the other leaders of Western nations have made in pursuing a successful policy for the maintenance of peace in the world. We have, therefore, had a new breathing space which two years ago I did not think would occur.

The world is at peace now and when history comes to be written this period will be described as one of reduced tension. We may sometimes find this difficult to appreciate, but it is true. In Vietnam we hope that the conflict is nearing its end. The Indo-Pakistan war has been contained. In Southern Africa there is a certain amount of growling but no overt aggression. In the Middle East, which is by far the most dangerous flashpoint, there appears to be an uneasy peace. This is lucky for us. Otherwise, the choice in Northern Ireland would be an agonising one. Nothing shows better how thinly our resources are spread than the difficulty of finding troops to carry out operations in Northern Ireland.

One does not have to be a prophet or a Cassandra to forecast the future course of events, particularly in the Far East. It is undisputed that the settlement in Vietnam, if it comes, as I sincerely hope will be the case, will be followed by a period of exhaustion. Following that, there is every chance that subversive infiltration will start again in South-East Asia. In those circumstances, what shall we do in Malaysia? Do we reinforce the Five-Power force we have there at the moment? The situation there is extremely damaging, both to ourselves and to the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore. It has the makings of a Munich-type situation. I beg my hon. Friends to reconsider the position— particularly now that the Australians have made their recent moves—and to take the same action that I supported them in taking in the Gulf by relying on a martime presence in this area to help our friends.

We have a special problem in Hong Kong, which is taking up a considerable strength of our forces in the Far East. Everybody realises that Hong Kong and the New Territories are totally indefensible to a mainland attack and our forces there are carrying out an internal security role only. I hope that it will be possible to have a progressive reduction of land forces in Hong Kong and their substitution by a para-military police force.

For rather different reasons I question the rôle of bases on those turbulent islands, Malta and Cyprus. I cannot accept that these bases are viable tactically, particularly when we have at our command bases in NATO countries very close by. These islands do not want us, and I do not believe that we need them. The danger of these land-based commitments overseas is that they detract from the twin priorities of our defence effort—namely, the security of Western Europe and the protection of our trade and commerce. We and our allies in NATO are failing on both these grounds.

It would be bad enough if we were facing simply a continental power with an enormous land and air potential, but we are now facing a maritime threat as well. Surely we must ask ourselves why such an enormous country as the Soviet Union, which is totally self-sufficient in resources, is indulging in this enormous construction programme of naval ships. This cannot be for defence. I believe that it can only be for attack.

This requires a major rethink by ourselves and our NATO allies, and I am glad that the Secretary of State for Defence said this in another place. The nuclear stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union is a fact and there is no point in enlarging our contribution to the strategic nuclear deterrent. This can be no deterrent in terms of the Societ Union. I do not believe that Europe should attempt to join the big league. I believe that we should be concerned only with keeping in step with those smaller States which have, or are about to obtain, their own nuclear weapons.

We are faced therefore with deficiencies on land in Europe and they will be accentuated if the pressures on the United States Government result in a withdrawal of troops from Europe. But at the same time NATO must look to its maritime defences. If the United Kingdom is to carry a greater burden in this respect, then there must be some compensating drop in the effort required from us on land.

That brings me to the amendment. The only thing I accept about the amendment is its insistence that a percentage of the gross national product is the proper way to measure a country's defence effort. I agree that this is a necessary yardstick, but this means persuading our European allies to raise the ante rather than that we should reduce ours. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was right on Thursday to say that the will is not there, and this is my impression too.

The fact that the will does not exist on the continent is the most worrying aspect of the present situation. Throughout Western Europe fewer and fewer people are still living who experienced the horrors of the last war and, as a result, fewer and fewer people believe in the necessity for defence. Therefore, it is vital to make defence both understood and acceptable to the people of this country and to our allies in Europe. And it is only the politicians who can do this, rather than the soldiers, sailors or airmen.

Apart from the straightforward defence arguments—strong as they are—I believe that there is a great need to explain to the people the need for disciplined forces which can play a part when there is a national disaster, whether it be in the form of floods, air crashes or whatever it may be. We do not hear enough of the role that defence spending can play in reducing unemployment and regional imbalance. So often we hear negative arguments about defence spending, so let us occasionally emphasise the positive side of such spending.

I hope therefore that the White Paper will become a milestone in this task of reappraisal. At the moment the defence of this country reminds one of the charge of the Light Brigade. C'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas la guerre. We have the finest forces in the world, but in my view they are not being deployed in the right way.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

This has been a curious debate. t takes place on an official Opposition amendment calling on Her Majesty's Government—and this is the key phrase— to take urgent action within the Alliance to bring our defence spending into line with that of our European allies… This means reducing our defence expenditure by several hundreds of millions of pounds. Yet, having listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) on the Opposition Front Bench today, and having read what was said by the Opposition spokesman last week, I did not feel that they were addressing themselves very closely to the question to which we must address ourselves. The question is—if we wish to reduce our defence expenditure, precisely how do we propose to bring it down by several hundreds of millions of pounds?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon did not deal with this problem at all, though he made an interesting speech. Last Thursday my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), in summing up for the Opposition, went so far as to suggest that it was all right to argue for an increase as well as for a decrease in expenditure. He backed the horse both ways. Let me quote my hon. Friend. He said: I believe that those of my hon. Friends who have said that too much money is being spent on defence—and I include my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun)—and also those who have said that too little is being spent have provided a valuable service to the country in bringing their views forward."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 15th March, 1973; Vol. 852, c 1596.] He implied that an increase was of equal value. But that is not what the amendment says. The official Opposition view is that we want to reduce expenditure. My hon. Friend therefore is not right to suggest that it is equally in order for us to say that we want to see expenditure rise, for we do not.

Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

My hon. Friend must not distort what I said. I was addressing my mind to the argument that was being adduced by Ministers. I was saying that in the scrutiny of defence costs Parliament must fulfil its traditional role. I was not arguing for an increase in expenditure. I was saying that in arguing in Parliament about defence expenditure we perform a valuable service—and for my hon. Friend to distort my view is to show less than his usual fairness.

Mr. Jenkins

My hon. Friend is mistaken in his recollection. I have his exact words—

Mr. John

Do not distort what I have just said.

Mr. Jenkins

I accept what my hon. Friend just said. I welcome the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd to our debates. Those of us who are saying that we want to see a reduction in defence expenditure can now say that we have somebody on the Front Bench who agrees with us. My hon. Friend does want defence expenditure reduced. However, what he has not done and what no other of my right hon. and hon. Friends has done is to say precisely how our defence expenditure should be reduced. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree, even though he has just said that a reduction in defence expenditure is right and, as the amendment says, "urgent", that this note of urgency has not been detectable among Opposition Front Bench spokesman. I believe that we have a duty, since we are speaking to an official Opposition amendment, to supply that urgency from the back benches if it does not come from the Opposition Front Bench.

There is no reason why this country should bear a greater burden of armaments than any other country. The Government recommend that our taxpayers should shoulder that burden, and they go on to say that it should be increased. But there is no good reason, and the Government have not advanced one, for their proposal that a massive increase should be shouldered by the taxpayers about whom right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite profess to be so tender.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington proposes a second Western European capability independent of but in addition to the American nuclear network. What will be the result of that? The establishment of such a force would render the non-proliferation treaty inoperative and unleash the threat of nuclear war. It would place a West German finger on the nuclear trigger, which would be a signal for Soviet nuclear mobilisation. It would also increase world armament expenditure astronomically, including this country's share, even above the enormous levels which the Government have decided to impose upon the people now. It is therefore astonishing that such a proposal should have been mooted by Lord Carrington and endorsed by the Prime Minister.

Why should this country take a leading part in plunging the world into nuclear peril? Why start a nuclear arms race? No shred of evidence has been presented about the need for such a proposal. Lord Carrington seems to assume that nuclear armament is good in itself and that the more we have of it the better. That is the sort of instinctual substitute for reasoning which brought about the extinction of a species of dinosaur which had a brain the size of a walnut and developed so much armour that it was unable to search for food and eventually became extinct as a result of starvation.

The Government are starting on that course and it is right that the Opposition should knock down that argument. It is the only way that we can reduce the level of our defence expenditure to one which we can reasonably shoulder. The only way that we can carry out our rôle in the world is by adopting a drastic approach of that kind.

There is a rather palaeozoic effluvium emanating from the Government Front Bench, but it must not encompass the nation. The Labour Party is committed to the removal of nuclear bases from this country.

I have a great personal admiration for my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). But personal esteem and friendship are not enough. We need from the Labour Party a Front Bench which expresses and identifies itself with party policy and is not afraid to tell the Press and television that their opinions do not rate a Harvey Smith with us in the Labour Party. In the Labour Party we are in favour of reducing defence expenditure. But we are not in favour of reducing Service pay. So we have to face the challenge: what, then, are we to cut?

It is no good saying, as the Tories did before the last General Election, that we will save administratively. That was their cry whenever they were asked how they would save. The electorate fell for that once and elected the Tories, and they are sorry for it now. They see that administrative expenditure has increased wholesale. Political promises of that kind are now properly distrusted. So we have to point out a substantial change of policy which will permit real defence expenditure cuts.

Shall we get rid of the Royal Air Force? Shall we dispose of the Navy? Shall we withdraw from Europe? That is the kind of change, comparable with our withdrawal from the Far East, which is needed to cut expenditure. But none of those courses is practicable, and certainly not immediately. There is only one way which is both practicable and desirable, and that is to get out of the nuclear arms race.

There are two objections to that course. The first is that to do so would make it necessary to maintain our manpower commitment in Europe or even to increase it. I think that it would do that in the short run. To do that we should have to withdraw from Northern Ireland. In my judgment that would be wise in itself because the only effect of our military presence there has been to increase rather than decrease the bloodshed.

The second objection is that withdrawal from the nuclear race would mean that we would shelter even more under the American nuclear umbrella. I do not like sheltering under anyone's nuclear umbrella. It gives me no sense of security. But we are already under it. Our nuclear contribution, crippling to us, is minuscule as a proportion of the great American total, and it serves only to make this country a prime nuclear target. There are a thousand nuclear warheads around Glasgow. The people in that part of the country are living on a powder keg, and it is right that the Easter march this year will take place there. My wife and I will be present. We might as well get rid of our nuclear weapons and all the cost that they involve, as a move towards getting out from under the American nuclear umbrella. It is far safer in the open, with Switzerland, Sweden and India.

Opposition Members cannot prevent the Gadarene swine opposite from dragging this country towards a nuclear doom. We can only hope that a General Election will take place before they reach the edge of the cliff. What we can do is to indicate the course which we would follow in office. That must involve a change of direction. Tinkering will not be enough. Even the drastic proposals which I have made would not immediately reduce our expenditure to a level near to that of our European allies. Over a period of time it would become possible, but without a change of policy any talk of a reduction in expenditure is meaningless.

It is possible for the two Front Benches to talk to each other, to joke with each other and to smile at each other. That represents all too much the reality of the defence position in this country, but it will no longer do for the Labour Party.

The Times has pointed to a resurgence of interest in nuclear disarmament, and I believe that that is the case. People recognise that what the Government are contemplating—though they have not admitted it yet—in substituting Poseidon for Polaris is the replacement of a second1 strike weapon by a first strike one. This; would be a grave move. We already know that American submarines, are based in this country and that they carry Poseidon missiles. We do not want to have that missile attached to our own submarines.

There is a motion on the Order Paper referring to the removal of nuclear bases. It is signed by 70 or 80 hon. Members on this side of the House, and it represents their considered opinion. It also represents the considered opinion of the Labour Party. It is that policy which will eventually be carried out in this country, and the sooner the better. I invite my hon. Friends, when they go into the Lobby tonight in support of the amendment, to recognise that they are marching in line with the opinion of the annual conference and are taking the first step—

Mr. Wellbeloved

My hon. Friend referred to the policy of the Labour Party. Is he aware that the conference which passed that resolution defeated an amendment which called for the withdrawal of this country from NATO and for the abandonment of the manufacture and storage of nuclear weapons and their use? There is, therefore, still a debate going on within the Labour movement on this matter.

Mr. Jenkins

I take the view that this country should be non-nuclear. I do not agree that that means that we should immediately withdraw from NATO. That is not my position. I do not think that that is necessary, and to those who think that it is I point out that there are a large number of nations in NATO— indeed, the majority—who do not have nuclear weapons.

I have been led to go beyond my time. That is all that I want to say. I hope that in going into the Lobby my hon. Friends will recognise that this is the turning of a page and that for the first time we in the Labour Party will say that we intend to get rid of the threat of nuclear weapons and in so doing to relieve this country of the great burden of armaments that it is now carrying.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) turns every defence debate into a debate on disarmament. It is clear that he does not want any armaments. At least, he is clear about his own views. I suggest that it would be more realistic if he castigated his friends in the USSR as much as he castigates this House, for they are spending 10 per cent, of their gross national product on defence—nearly twice as much as the Americans are spending. If he were to talk more to his friends in the USSR we might pay more attention to what he has to say here.

The White Paper is an adequate review of the year, but it tells us very little about the real problems of defence. I suppose one could criticise every White Paper for that. The trouble is that the Labour Party hates defence because it is divisive, and the Conservatives are apologetic about defence because it costs a lot and does not carry many votes. Yet it is any Government's first duty to defend the State.

We now have to look eight or 10 years ahead, because it takes eight to 10 years to produce an aircraft, a tank or a ship. I am glad that the Government realise this and that they are spending a little more—£523 million more—on defence this year. But that is a false figure. As is said in the White Paper, £350 million is due to inflation and pay increases, £28 million is due to Ulster, and other lesser amounts are due to other special reasons.

Even the whole defence figure does not give a true picture because, as the Expenditure Committee pointed out in its report, military hospitals take in 18,000 civilians, and only 3,000 Service men go to civilian hospitals. The Ministry of Defence is five-sixths civilian and only one-sixth Service. For a cost of £129 million, the Meteorological Office gets back only £2.7 million. I should like to see all the non-military expenditure removed from the defence budget. Then we would get a genuine costing and a true figure of what has been spent on the hardware, pay and pensions of the men serving in the defence forces.

I suggest that the tone of the White Paper is far too apologetic. I do not know why Conservatives always have to apologise for spending money on defence. We are told very little in the White Paper, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State told us very little more in the debate on Thursday. I intend to ask some questions to which I should like answers tonight, because I believe they should be answered. If I do not get a reply I shall have to withhold my vote, along with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles).

The threat that we are faced with is shown in paragraph 4 of the White Paper. I remind the House that the USSR spends 10 per cent, of its GNP on defence. Of that, only 25 per cent, is spent on personnel. The figure for the USA is 6.75 per cent, and 56 per cent, is spent on personnel. Our figure is 5.75 per cent., of which 63 per cent, is spent on personnel. In one year the USSR have added eight inter-continental ballistic missiles and six nuclear submarines fitted with Polaris missiles or the equivalent. The Russians already have enormous nuclear power, as is shown in the White Paper. Our answer is to spend 5.75 per cent, of the GNP on defence.

Why are we spending so much? There is a very good reason; it is that the previous Government made drastic cuts in our defence expenditure. In an intervention earlier I mentioned the cancellation of TSR2, the Fill and AFVG. That is why the MRCA slipped badly in the programme, and that is why we are soon to meet a peak of expenditure. When they were in power the Opposition cut the Army by an equivalent of about 26 battalions. They have to be rebuilt. The previous Government almost destroyed the Territorial Army. The TAVR has to be rebuilt. When we add inflation and increased pay we realise why the defence estimates are up this year.

There are two basic problems which we must face. They are historic problems, which have always faced this country— on one side, a continental strategy, and on the other side, a maritime strategy. I shall take each of these in turn.

In Central Europe, NATO is at a disadvantage, in terms of divisions, by 61 to 95 compared to Warsaw Pact countries. In tanks, NATO is at a disadvantage of 7,750 to 21,700. In aircraft the disadvantage is 2,850 to 5,360. The only advantage for NATO is in nuclear warheads—7,000 to 3,500— and here the Soviet Union and its allies are rapidly catching up.

From these figures I deduce that our need in continental warfare is to have better anti-tank weapons. Are we going ahead with smaller helicopters equipped with the American TOW? I think that the war in Vietnam proved that TOW is the best anti-tank weapon in the Western world today.

In aircraft, the Government are already doing a great deal to reduce the disparity. They have brought forward the two squadrons of Jaguars and they are now ordering another squadron of Harriers. But in tactical nuclear weapons, although NATO is at an advantage in nuclear warheads our Honest John is obsolete. I want to know the stage reached in the negotiations to buy Lance, which many of us saw recently on our visit to the United States.

About 10 days ago I attended a conference in Washington on MBFR's. All the American Senators and Congressmen with whom we had discussions said that they believed that even if there was agreement there there would be no short-term savings, because defence expenditure is rising as wages are rising. It is clear that the Americans intend to cut their forces in Europe—they have to because of political pressure—and it is equally clear, as some hon. Members opposite have said, that Europe should learn to defend itself.

One should always remember that the MBFR discussions concern Central Europe only. The moves for detente and the discussions going on for a European security conference and for MBFR's concern Central Europe only, and the threat, therefore, lies in the sphere of maritime strategy, in the danger to the flanks of NATO. If there is detente in central Europe, or, if one cares to put it like that, if there is lasting nuclear stalemate, then the flanks are in danger.

On the northern flank, Norway faces the Soviet Union, which has, based at Murmansk, 186 submarines, 72 of them nuclear-powered, and in land terms in northern Norway the disadvantage is in the ratio of four Soviet divisions to one Norwegian brigade group. The threat to Iceland and Greenland is already clear from the political pressure being exerted on Iceland at the moment.

To digress for a moment, the House-should realise that there is more in the-cod war than meets the eye. There is a coalition Government in power in Reykjavik, consisting of the People's Party and the Communist Party. The Communist Party is doing its best to inflame the dispute so as to have an excuse to take Iceland out of NATO. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will remain firm. We want to negotiate. We want to bring the cod war to an end and in a sensible way, as defined by the International Court. But we cannot go on having these incidents. We must not cry "wolf" too often. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider having a naval demonstration inside the 50-mile limit with a number of our frigates to show that they are there. They could then go outside the 50-mile limit again, and should not interfere with the Icelanders. That would show the Icelandic Government that we mean what we say—that if there were any more harassment, then the Navy must go in to protect our ships on their lawful occasions on the high seas.

I now turn my attention to the southern flank of NATO, which, as the House knows, is outside the NATO area, which ends at the Tropic of Cancer. The southern flank of NATO is now the Cape of Good Hope. In February 1972, 1,855 ships passed the Cape. Of these, 20 per cent, belonged to this country, 58 per cent, to NATO, and only 1.1 per cent, to South Africa. In July of that year, 1,030 ocean-going ships called at South African ports. In other words, at that rate, in one year 24,000 ships—or 66 a day— passed the Cape. In war, that would mean something like a one million ton convoy a day passing the Cape.

NATO's Iberlant headquarters at Lisbon would receive convoys for Western Europe and it is estimated that it would have five convoys in any one day in its area, of which four would have rounded the Cape. These are the facts. Why this vast number of ships? The answer is oil. It should be remembered that 57 per cent, of NATO's oil comes round the Cape, and an increasing quantity of American oil will reach about the same percentage by 1980. Europe needs re-supply within 16 days, otherwise its industries and armed forces cease to act because of lack of oil. These are the facts of life in this respect, and I suggest that they are facts to which the Government are not giving full consideration.

I do not suggest that the Soviet Union will suddenly start cutting supply lines, but I do suggest that the size of the Soviet Union's fleet is such that the Russians can blackmail this country, and indeed all the NATO's maritime countries, by mere threat. That is an impossible situation for any of the allies to be in. I am arguing the need for a flexible response at sea. We have a flexible response in central Europe but I should like to see it applied also in the maritime sphere. I welcome the proposal by the North Atlantic Assembly that Saclant should plan in the South Atlantic and the South Indian Ocean, and I was glad to see that the Secretary of State in another place also welcomed this recommendation.

I wish to raise a number of points which are not answered in the Statement. They are posed by the pamphlet, which I hope my hon. Friend has read, "In Defence of Peace", written by officers of his own party's defence committee.

First, we must have a nuclear deterrent, because it is really the only safeguard against the possibility of blackmail or the cutting of our maritime supply routes. Second, are we going ahead with Poseidon or do we intend to jump it as I think we should—and go for Trident which is perhaps 10 years ahead, and which might give us better value in the long run. I shall not worry now about VSTOL on cruisers, but whether the figure is £75 million, as has been suggested, or a lower sum, I wonder whether this is the right amount to spend or whether it would not be better to spread the money around by, for example, having platforms on tankers and container ships from which anti-submarine helicopters could operate. I believe that in terms of anti-submarine protection these, or even vertical take-off aircraft spread around the 24,000 ships annually passing the Cape, could do more good than three cruisers, however efficient.

Again, when do we intend to speed up the building of a fleet of hunter-killer submarines? Will the Government try to do something about the law in regard to tanker design? At the moment these vessels are just vast bath tubs with an engine at the back, and they are incredibly dangerous. A torpedo put into a 500,000-ton tanker would probably cause an ecological disaster even worse than an atomic explosion. There should be an international law governing the protection of these vessels.

Next, long-range aircraft would be required for maritime protection. The range of the MRCA is far too short, as we know, because it is the product of a joint agreement with two other nations, and we have been sold short on this project. It is vital to have some form of aircraft on these routes, either from ships or land bases. Sixth, we need airfields in the area of the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

The Simonstown Agreement gives us the use of South African ports in time of war but does not give us the use of South African airfields. There is the need, therefore, for better co-operation with South Africa. The South Africans want some more Buccaneers. We had a long debate on this subject when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition, and he condemned the policy then being followed. When are we to supply Buccaneers to South Africa, and at least let them see Nimrod, which is vital for the surveillance of submarines in that part of the Atlantic?

There are means of cutting expenditure in order to compensate for some of the increases for which I have asked. For example, the Strategic Air Transport Force could be handled by BOAC or by civil airlines, except for the heavy freighters. We should have a standard frigate hull for all NATO nations. The time is coming when one nation will have to make all the tanks for NATO, and another all the frigates, or we shall never solve the economic problems looming ahead.

In my submission the key problems are not discussed in this White Paper. I hope that next year we shall not have an annual progress report but that the country will be told how it is intended that it should be defended in the difficult years that lie ahead.

I welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) back to our defence debates. We were very sorry to lose him to the Foreign Office. I hope that he will be able to answer some of my questions tonight.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Having pressed for it in the past I welcome the Government's decision to improve facilities for children visiting their Service families. It is important and justified.

I should like to express agreement with the Government on another controversial subject. I do not know about Christchurch, but I have visited the Services Electronics Research Laboratory at Baldock. The work which is duplicated between Baldock and Malvern should be amalgamated. It is high time this was done because it would provide the sort of saving many of us have been pressing for for some time. We have been talking about curtailing expenditure, and research is one of the major items of expense. It is therefore no use saying that a particular establishment cannot be closed down because it gives employment in a certain constituency. I have seen the work duplicated at Baldock and Malvern and I do not believe that is right.

I should like to ask one non-hostile question. What is to be the future of Op Mace—Operation Military Aid for the Civil Community? I understand very well that because of the Northern Ireland requirement Op Mace, which looked like getting off the ground three or four years ago, has gone somewhat into limbo. I hope however that it is not entirely forgotten.

On the White Paper, 1 should like the Government to know that some of us thought that its tone was unduly sabre-rattling, and I address that remark to the Under-Secretary. From the tone of the White Paper it would seem that there had been no such thing in the last two years as Ostpolitik. Our relations with the Russians could be and should be greatly improved. As one who has been involved in seeking better relations with China I must advise the Government that it is silly to let our relations with the Russians get into disrepair and to produce that kind of language in a defence White Paper.

Finally, because I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) said about French tests, which fill some of us with horror, I should like to make one specific point. It concerns the question of nuclear safety. On Friday 16th February the following Answer was given by the Minister of State: On Tuesday, off Cape Kennedy, HMS "Repulse" carried out a routine firing of a standard A3 Polaris missile, without its nuclear warhead, to test the ship's system following her refit. There was a failure of the missile during the first stage of its powered flight and it was destroyed. There was no danger either to the submarine or of any other kind. The launch itself was successful and the incident was not the result of any failure on the part of the ship's company or equipment. The precise cause is being investigaed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February 1973; Vol. 850, c. 435.] If it was not a failure on the part of either the ship's company or the equipment, one must ask whether it was an act of God. Did it happen by itself? As far as I know no answer has been given to the investigation which was promised. Tonight's debate may provide an opportunity to give it, but that kind of sheer silliness in an Answer creates grave dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Defence that I for one, taking a serious interest in defence, would not welcome. One cannot say that this event, which could have been dangerous, was the fault neither of the equipment nor of the people concerned. How one can say that before an investigation takes place beats me. The Ministry of Defence must realise that they lack credibility about nuclear safety. Let them put that right tonight.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) for the brevity of his remarks. However, with his characteristic skill he has deployed some serious points in the last few minutes of this wide-ranging debate.

The greatest challenge to democracy in this part of the twentieth century is presented by the development of modern technology. How can we continue to make the vast and impressive technological systems with which we are confronted accountable to democratic government? Nowhere is that question more urgent than in the field of defence.

As I understand it, the purpose of a major debate like this is to spell out our defence objectives and to analyse any potential threat which we believe may exist so as to justify the existing level of our defence commitment. I suggest in all charity that the Government have totally failed to do this.

I hope that hon. Members opposite will forgive me if I am forced to the conclusion that despite the valiant efforts made today by his hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State to try to regain some status for the debate, the flippant superficial style set by the Minister of State for Defence last Thursday can be explained only by a kind of nervousness on his part in finding himself exposed to the rigours of the House without the protective wing of the Secretary of State.

Let us consider the situation with which we have been confronted in the last 10 days. The indispensable hospital workers have been told by senior Government Ministers that there is no question of giving them an increase in their basic pay beyond £2 a week. That would still leave them with basic pay below £20. Yet when we debate an increase in defence expenditure of more than £523 million over the Estimates for 1972–73, not one senior Minister sees fit to speak to the House. That is a disgrace.

The House cannot be expected to tolerate much longer the handling by remote control from another place of getting on for 6 per cent, of the nation's gross national product. The place for the Secretary of State for Defence is in this House, and this House only. The sooner the Prime Minister recognises that the better.

It is appropriate to dwell for a moment or two on some of the matters which have been raised in this wide-ranging debate. There has been a great deal of common ground in the unlimited respect and tribute to the men who have been serving in a most difficult situation in Northern Ireland. I represent a constituency which has a long tradition of involvement with the Services. I have seen in personal terms the impact which exposure to that situation can mean for ordinary families as they lose a dear one. I am sure that all hon. Members welcome the Government's decision to provide more generous compensation for those who are disabled, and more generous compensation for the widows and families of those who fall in the tragic conflict across the Irish Sea.

We have also had a good deal of agreement about the need to provide adequate conditions of service for men and women serving in all three Services, wherever they may be. We want to achieve proper pay and proper living conditions. I know that I speak for all my right hon. and hon. Friends when I welcome the Government's proclaimed commitment to secure improved conditions. One of the most significant changes achieved in recent years in this respect was the introduction by the last Government—very much to their credit—of a military salary.

I also speak for the Opposition as a whole when I say that it is not only those in uniform for whom we are concerned. We are also concerned for the civilian personnel who give such valiant and loyal service to the Armed Forces and without whose work it would be impossible to fulfil existing commitments. Sometimes we are inclined, I believe, to take their loyalty too much for granted in terms of the standard of living on which we expect them to survive. As has been emphasised, as rationalisation takes place in changing defence policy, it is of paramount importance that the needs of those affected should always be in the forefront of our minds. That is why I support those who have argued that the Government need to look very carefully at the human implications of their decisions affecting the research and development establishments at places like Pershore. Christchurch and Baldock.

Another point which I single out from the first day's debate is that which was made by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers)—her plea, not for the first time, in respect of the predicament of the widows of Servicemen who retired before 1950. So far, Governments of both political parties have found themselves unable to move on this matter, but I believe that there is a genuine problem of human distress here, which we must not forget. It would be wonderful if the Government could now have a change of heart on the issue.

Not so much has been said about the Nugent Committee as might have been expected. Its report is due out soon, so perhaps that is understandable. We shall no doubt want a major debate to consider its findings on Service land. From my direct experience, this is not only a problem of releasing Service land for recreational facilities; it is also one of recog- nising where Service land is required, sometimes in quite generous measure, in the vicinity of major urban areas, where there is desperate need for it for the immediate housing of people who have often traditionally served the Armed Forces, so that they can have a more adequate environment and proper living conditions

When the Nugent Committee reports, I hope that we shall not see any attempt by the Government to profit out of the release of Service land and that it will be made available as a transfer from one public use to another, thus enabling us to cut down the inflationary prices of housing land wherever it is decided to build houses on released Service land.

One of the most significant and worrying aspects of the debate has been the concern about the disturbing cumulative effects of so many development projects, referred to in the White Paper, which are all in the melting pot at the same time—projects like the MRCA, the through-deck cruisers, the Harrier, the lance tactical nuclear weapons and the Fleet submarines.

One question posed by many hon. Members is: what will happen if the peaks in expenditure of all these projects are reached at the same time? The point was made effectively by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris), when he said that to take firm action now will avoid massive and dislocating readjustments later.

Then there is the issue of research and development. The Government have virtually thrown back at us an argument with which some of us would agree—that if we are to have a meaningful defence policy, it is important to have industries in this country related to our defence needs. At the same time, however, we see the Government broadening their participation within the Euro-group. There is a potential clash of policies here, at least on the surface. We need to have a great deal more detailed thinking by the Government in this respect.

I turn now to the technological priorities of the Government. In my private and informal conversations with people in the Services over the years I have sometimes heard the anxiety that the Services are becoming too boffin-oriented and too over-sophisticated—or, to put it another way, that the Services are in danger of becoming muscle-bound, that technology let loose may have adverse effects on the flexibility and versality of the Services to meet the sort of contingencies that we know may arise. In other words, it is said that we might become prisoners of our own technology. It would be interesting at some point to hear the Government's thinking on that front.

As we have heard, we must examine the issue of recruiting. The Government have tried to be fair and candid with us about certain difficulties that are being encountered, particularly in recruiting more mature men. We have been fencing in the dark a little and it would be helpful to have more detailed and researched information at our disposal.

This might be an appropriate point to mention training. One of the features that has struck me—and this may apply particularly to officer training—has been that along with the emphasis on technology that I have mentioned there is a tendency to squeeze out from officer training the wider educational traditions which have been applied in places such as Dartmouth and Sandhurst. That may have long-term adverse effects on the quality of our leadership and it is a development to be considered seriously.

One of the major issues of the debate has been the future of the nuclear deterrent. What the Opposition find unsatisfactory is the suggestion that we might be drifting into a commitment to Poseidon, or the undersea long-range missile system without any clearly thought-out policy decision by the Government about the future. The British deterrent has many implications for the future that we should examine more carefully.

What are the implications for the future of our deterrent of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks? No doubt the Government will argue that as a result of the first round of those talks, with its ceiling on anti-ballistic missiles, the effectiveness of Polaris will be prolonged, and from their point of view that is a benefit. On the other hand, we have to take into account the fact that the Russians have categorically stated that any extension of the British nuclear capability will be regarded as an extension of the American nuclear capability. That, naturally, has far-reaching consequences for the future course of disarmament, and it will be interesting to hear the Government's thinking.

I come now to operational issues, and I begin with Iceland. Not only in this debate but in the context of the answer to the Private Notice Question this afternoon, the Government at times have seemed to make pretentious generalised announcements without having thought out the implications resulting from a drift in the situation. I can think of nothing more potentially dangerous than a situation in which the parties to a conflict adopt aggressive attitudes which seem to be drifting out of control without any firm and clear-cut line of control over further escalation.

There is a similar situation in the Far East. We have heard no convincing arguments from the Government about what their policy adds up to at the moment. Understandably, hon. Members on both sides of the House are anxious about a situation in which we are in danger of becoming exposed in an area in the context of non-viable alliances. Nothing is more irresponsible than to ask the British Service man to be exposed if the context in which he is operating is not viable, and is seen to be not viable.

Summarising these specific comments, I would say that on many of them there are indications of the drift in Government policy and expenditure under the self-generating momentum of the existing pattern of commitments, many of which are spread widely and thinly. There is altogether too little sign of rigorous political control, hence our amendment on the level of expenditure. We are in favour—and if it is any reassurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) I hope he will listen to this—of the most far-reaching and rigorous review of our existing commitments. I extend that to saying that we are also in favour of a searching review of the system of contracts with private industry on which we are so dependent for the supply of armaments to our Services.

So much for the tactical issues raised in the debate. What, now, of the strategy of our defence considerations over the past two days and into the future? All of us who consider the past 25 years must be forced to the conclusion that in one sense the story of NATO is indisputably one of success. Through the rationalisation of the East and West into the NATO alliance and the Warsaw Part we have seen stability which in 1948 it might have been difficult to foresee. Of course we must accept that an overemphasis on the negative deterrent and nuclear stalemate must be profoundly unsatisfactory to any thinking, civilised man or woman.

We look at the resources which could be used in so many other directions. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) spelled out most eloquently some of the priorities for expenditure if we could divert our arms expenditure to the social services and to civilian research and development for the strength of the economy. We could also consider the improved expenditure that might be possible in the fight for decent living standards for the majority of humanity which is still destined to exist at the most ghastly and grotesquely primitive level in the so-called developing countries.

In 1945 there was a qualitative change in the nature of human existence. That qualitative change, which we shall never be able to eliminate, was that for the first time human society mastered the ability to destroy itself completely. We have to recognise that even if all existing nuclear stocks were eliminated we could not destroy the potential for re-creating the weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, it is disarmament to which we must be committed, and if it is to mean anything it has to be guaranteed disarmament. Guaranteed disarmament and the negotiations necessary for it demand tremendous political will and a far greater priority than has been evident in the case advanced by the Government.

It is the obvious scepticism of the Government about our chances of progress on this front which we find deplorable and which has led to the second part of our amendment, on which we shall be dividing. If we are committed to disarmament, let us look at the prospects for a moment. They are not altogether discouraging. We have had the first round of SALT and now we see the super Powers engaged in the second round. These are the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions. There is also the security conference. As my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) pointed out, there is an inter-relationship between these two.

There has been the outstanding success of Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, which even two or three years ago many people might not have judged possible. How have we achieved this progress? I would argue that it has been achieved on the basis of bargaining with confidence in the context of the stability provided by the balance of power. What is the key to that balance of power? It is again, indisputably—as it has been for some years—the inter-relationship between the Western European and the American physical presence in Western Europe and the United States' deterrent. There may be a temptation to take short cuts towards disarmament at this juncture because of the improved atmosphere and the relaxed tension. But dramatic gestures, even if matched by similarly dramatic gestures on the other side, might deny us—I implore some of my hon. Friends to consider this—the key to the long-term effective policy which we want, because policing and guarantees are likely to be secured only as a result of tough, painstaking and detailed negotiations.

Therefore, at this time of all times, we should not be contemplating undermining our bargaining position by any fragmentation of the alliance. This is a lesson which we must accept and which we must drive home to our American friends in their understandable mood of questioning all their overseas military involvements in the aftermath of Vietnam. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) referred to all this very interestingly in the light of his recent experience.

Pending disarmament, we might spend a moment or two examining Russian objectives. It is clear that the Russians do not contemplate any physical invasion of Western Europe; they have enough problems in their empire already. But there can be little argument that the Russians, pending effective disarmament, would not object to a situation within which Western Europe increasingly fell into their sphere of influence—the Finlandisation of Western Europe, it has been called. If this were to happen, their heavy expenditure on naval development in recent years could prove valuable in terms of the presence of the Russian fleet in the Atlantic to put their seal on the Finlandisation of Western Europe.

Faced with this possibility, it is inevitable that politicians within Western Europe will start to talk about the need for closely integrated Western European defence systems, perhaps with their own Western European independent deterrent. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon spelled out what the Secretary of State said at the Conservative Party Conference last autumn in this respect. It would be an absolutely disastrous development. That is why the alliance must not be fragmented at this juncture. As several of my hon. Friends have argued, the development of a Western European deterrent could set back by decades the whole process of detente which has been painstakingly built up over recent years. We need to say this very clearly to our friends across the Atlantic.

But even if most of us on this side of the House were to see the scenario in this light, we have tabled our amendment because we believe that it would be absurd so to overstrain our economy by doing too much that we fundamentally undermined our own social, political and economic stability. We believe that there is room for much greater fairness in the distribution of the load in Western Europe and we are convinced that Britain has been expected to carry more than her fair share. That was put very clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Hudders-field, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu). Furthermore, we believe—and this is why the amendment is before the House—that we should spell out our overall objective, in the mutual and balanced force reduction talks and the security conference, to move away from essentially negative public expenditure to the use of these resources in more socially productive directions.

I wish finally to put two points before the House. First, we must look at the expressed objectives of NATO, which are to preserve freedom and democracy as we understand them. It would be pointless to go on discussing the external defence of the alliance if the system was beginning to crumble from within. That is why I applaud part of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). In a speech in this country last year, Dr. Luns said: We want a two-way exchange based on an equal footing leading to a lasting and genuine improvement in relations and exchanges. When we talk of the freedom of movement of people, we mean the free movement of people, and not carefully rationed exchanges of hand-picked delegations. When we talk of cultural exchanges, we mean freedom to write and publish. We seek a set of conditions in which our democratic way of life and its free institutions, laboriously built up over the centuries, will not be undermined or threatened. We want to increase political stability and not lessen it. How, in the context of those remarks by Dr. Luns, can we go on without questioning the existing political situation in Greece, in Portugal, and—alas, increasingly—in Turkey? We must recognise that oppressive totalitarian rule wherever it happens has corrupting effects, and not only where it happens—hon. Gentlemen opposite are sniggering—but in the places where it is condoned. Either we are committed to the defence of freedom and democracy or we are not.

We should not underestimate the difficulties. For example the relentless techniques of urban guerrilla warfare. Those techniques leap over, as it were, nuclear strategy, because we cannot start flinging around even tactical nuclear weapons in our own urban centres.

In this context the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Rams-den) had some very interesting remarks to make about the increasing importance of intelligence. We must not play into the hands of extremists by an over-response, because they calculate that there will be just such an over-response and indiscriminate application of authoritarian rule, and it is exactly on that reaction that they flourish. We have to determine to preserve the highest standards, just as we are trying to do in Northern Ireland, in face of extreme provocation wherever it happens within the western community, for urban terrorists can operate successfully only in the context of a widely-felt sense of injustice amongst people who, though not themselves prepared to participate in terrorism are nevertheless prepared to condone it. We have, therefore, to renew our determination to remove the remaining economic, social and political injustices in the western community. In the meantime, in the immediate and practical sense, we must recognise that coercive régimes are bad and unreliable allies, because they use so much of their time and energy in repressing the opposition that they are not reliable when the alliance as a whole comes under pressure.

One other point: in our preoccupation with the possibility of a direct confrontation in the theatres which have been traditionally the main areas of our concern we must not blind ourselves to the dangers of indirect confrontation. There is time to take only one or two examples. The Middle East still contains the seeds of a potential international crisis of the worst kind, because there the super-Powers are involved but not in control. None of us can intelligently debate defence without recognising that unless we can get in the Middle East a solution based upon acceptable principles of justice in the interests of all the communities involved we shall have to live with a potential danger of nuclear escalation for a long time to come.

Similarly, we should look at the issue of southern Africa, because our direct or indirect military and economic involvement with oppressive minority régimes in countries like Mozambique, Angola and South Africa itself is ensuring that we are provoking the very thing we wish to prevent. We are provoking the spread of Communist influence. When the majority of people in the African Continent are determined to win through eventually one way or the other we are extremely foolish to ignore the danger.

If I were asked to pick the largest single long-term problem in the social and economic sense it is this. In the developing countries as a whole there are unemployment rates in excess of 30 per cent., and by 1980 there will be 225 million more people of working age. That cannot be prevented: they are already born. These people are determined to secure a greater share of justice, in terms of the allocation of the world's resources and in terms of prosperity. They are demanding justice in world trade—not simply the charity of the industrialised countries. Unless we can answer this challenge the eventual social and economic explosion will certainly hit us, and also the Western community as a whole.

Perhaps it is fitting to conclude my remarks with the thought that it was a former Canadian Prime Minister, the distinguished statesman, Lester Pearson, who, when remarking on political priorities in the West, said: We prepare for war like prodigious giants and for peace like retarded pygmies.

9.30 p.m.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Balniel)

In introducing this debate on the White Paper on Defence Estimates my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence said that "defence policy must proceed in step with foreign policy". The link is so close that it is appropriate that a Minister who for some years served in the Ministry of Defence and is now at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should wind up this two-day debate.

During my remarks I will try to comment on many of the points which have been made. If time does not permit the answering of some of the detailed questions, the Ministers concerned will write to the hon. Members or will study their comments before the single Service debates take place.

The debate has been enhanced by the contributions made by members of the Committee on Expenditure. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison), the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) and the hon. Member for Plymouth (Dr. David Owen) have had an opportunity of examining defence functions in a way which has not previously been available to back benchers. I have no doubt that those who have listened to their speeches realise the value which this committee has contributed to the debate and will contribute to future defence debates.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hal-temprice (Mr. Wall) asked several questions which relate largely to maritime and air matters. They will arise during the single-Service debates. But my hon. Friend asked about the negotiations on Lance. He is correct in saying that Honest John has been in service for some time. As appears in the White Paper, negotiations are proceeding with the United States with a view to the possible purchase of Lance. My hon. Friend also asked about Tow, which is a helicopter attack weapon directed against tanks. He has put down a Question on this on the Order Paper for answer tomorrow, so perhaps he will wait until tomorrow for the answer. The fundamental question which he and several hon. Members asked was on nuclear matters—Poseidon, Trident and Anglo-French co-operation— and I will deal with that later.

In broad strategic terms major changes are taking place today. We see with satisfaction China taking her place in the United Nations and the steps which she is taking in developing international contact and co-operation. We see the formal ending of the war in Vietnam, and we hope at long last that that unhappy country will possibly live in peace. We see Britain's entry into the Common Market and the opportunity that a stronger, a more united and an enlarged Western Europe might play a greater rôle in world affairs.

The international situation is more fluid than it has been for many decades. The political alignments to which we have grown accustomed are certainly less rigid.

Britain's political and defence interests are by no means confined to Europe— but it is in Europe, where our defence commitment is greatest and most concentrated, that new opportunities are opening up for diminishing tension. There are a number of reasonably encouraging signs—some of the steps and talks I shall be referring to—and these might lead to a better relationship between ourselves and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Equally, we cannot ignore the fact that there are also some rather discouraging signs. Not the least of these is the fact that while NATO's military expenditure has remained fairly static for a number of years, Soviet military expenditure has steadily increased by 2 to 3 per cent. per annum in real terms in the last few years. The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) gave many statistics showing the proportion of GNP spent by countries on defence. The one notable omission from his catalogue of figures was the Soviet Union, which is spending about 8 per cent. of its GNP on defence. There is no sign at all of its intention to slacken this increasing rate of expenditure in the immediate future.

Mr. Frank Allaun

I do not like to see 8 per cent. of a nation's GNP, as in the Soviet Union, being spent on defence. But the Minister of State forgets that the comparison is not between Russia and Britain, France and Italy. The comparison is between Russia and America. I am not defending the Russian expenditure, but the expenditure of GNP by the United States is very high as a proportion and, moreover, the United States is a wealthier country than Russia.

Lord Balniel

The United States has been involved in one of the most serious wars in modern times, and that is one of the reasons for the high United States' expenditure. I believe that I was entitled to call attention to the notable omission from the list of statistics advanced by the hon. Gentleman.

Paragraph 4 of the White Paper sets out the main figures of the Warsaw Pact defence strength. They are fundamental to this debate and cannot be ignored either in debate or in reality. I do not argue that the existence in one country of an armed force twice or three times the size of that of its neighbour proves that the former is about to attack the latter. But nor is it safe to rest on the most favourable assumptions. We should ask ourselves what would be our situation if the imbalance of military strength were to develop to a point where the nations of Western Europe were existing in the deep shadow of Soviet power. In this sense I think it is right to speak of the Soviet threat.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden)— whose point about intelligence I noted with great care—that the main activities in which our forces have become engaged in recent years are of a different kind and, given success in the talks and changes which are taking place in the world, we may be able to look forward to a greater degree of stability than we have seen in the past.

The changes have been very remarkable. Last year we saw the first agreement of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, and the second stage is now under way. We saw the treaties between the Federal Republic and the Soviet Union and Poland. As the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) pointed out, we saw the treaty establishing relations between the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic. We welcomed all these steps and assisted in some of them.

Now we embark on the next stage— the two major multi-lateral talks on mutual balanced force reductions and the European Security and Co-operation Conference.

Mr. Dalyell

If all this is so, and 1 do not doubt it, why did not the Foreign Office succeed in toning down the rather aggressive style in which the Ministry of Defence wrote the White Paper, as if it had not heard of the Ostpolitik?

Lord Balniel

If the hon. Gentleman says that, it looks as though he has not read the White Paper. It is remarkable how prominently the talks on détente, the Ostpolitik and the treaties with the German Democratic Republic feature in the White Paper.

I should like to say a few words about these two conferences—the Security and Co-operation Conference proposed by the Soviet Union and the mutual balanced force reduction conference proposed by the Western Powers.

A whole generation has grown up which is too young to remember the war and to have personal knowledge of the events which led to the division of Europe into Western Europe and Eastern Europe. For 25 years our defence effort has achieved the supreme object of allowing this post-war generation to grow up in peace and freedom in Western Europe. But it has certainly involved a great strain on our resources.

The overall objective from which we must not depart one iota in these talks is the maintenance of undiminished security. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) put it very well in our recent debate on foreign affairs when he said that the only test he would apply to the MBFR was that we should all feel as safe at the end as we felt at the beginning.

Both these series of talks will be very complex. There is no doubt that the running of these two series of negotiations in parallel, with different memberships and with subjects which are different but which bump along together, has its disadvantages. However, if out of all the discussions we can move towards dismantling the barriers of distrust in Europe and reduce the threat and so safely and mutually reduce expenditure on defence, we shall have helped to strengthen the peace.

The Conference on Security and Cooperation can help to create an atmosphere of greater confidence and renewed hope. If it is to be worthwhile it should not be a new forum of propaganda. It should concentrate on practical measures to improve co-operation and promote closer contracts among the peoples of Europe.

The conference will of course be concerned with security in the wider sense of the word. But a conference of 34 countries cannot be expected to produce solutions to the fundamental problems of military security in Europe. In particular it would not be the right place to tackle the difficult question of force reductions which must primarily be for the member countries of the two military alliances.

It might seem as if the preparatory talks are going at a slow pace. But a wide-ranging conference of this kind— which will be based on an agenda covering all the points which are acceptable to the 34 Foreign Ministers, who wish to raise a wide number of subjects, is a vast undertaking. Reasonable progress has been made at Helsinki—and we are confident that the Conference itself will take place—perhaps at the end of June.

On the MBFR, the House will know that exploratory talks began in Vienna on 31st December. As hon. Members know, we and certain of our allies invited certain Warsaw Pact countries to take part in these talks last November. We received no reply until mid-January, when the Warsaw Pact countries raised a number of new points about participation in the talks and the areas with which they should be concerned. The aim of the exploratory discussions is to prepare the way for serious negotiations which are now expected to begin in the autumn.

I listened with the utmost care to and will study the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton who said that rather than see what he called a cosmetic MBFR he would prefer a unilateral 15 per cent. United States reduction of its forces in Europe. I shall study the hon. Gentleman's comments again with care in case I have misunderstood them. It seems to me that his remarks are based on the assumption that President Nixon cannot hold the position in the United States, whereas every public statement by President Nixon has been along the line that he can hold the position. The real danger behind the hon. Gentleman's argument is that a proposal of this kind lowers the nuclear threshold, and surely that is not something upon which we should embark, except with the utmost care and thought.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—in particular the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) and the hon. Member for The Hartlepools—my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice, and many others, asked for a statement about the Government's position on Poseidon and on Anglo-French nuclear collaboration. I propose to deal first with Poseidon and Trident. On Thursday afternoon my hon. Friend told the House that our Polaris force confronts a potential enemy with the absolute certainty of unacceptable retaliation and that we shall do whatever is necessary to ensure its continual effectiveness. If and when we reach the conclusion that the Polaris system needs to be updated, the purchase of Poseidon is likely to be one of the options from which we shall have to choose. But so far we have not decided to update Polaris by the purchase of Poseidon, or by Trident, or by any other means.

I now turn to the subject of Anglo-French nuclear collaboration. Such collaboration has been discussed between ourselves and the French only to the extent that we have agreed, and have both announced publicly on several occasions, that the problem of nuclear collaboration between us is one for the future.

Perhaps I might mention two important reasons why it is not an immediate possibility. First, there are the differences between us in our defence policies and our attitudes to NATO. Secondly, neither of us needs to contemplate early replacement of our existing strategic nuclear submarine forces. For those reasons there is no concrete or detailed discussion of nuclear collaboration between the French and ourselves.

I have spoken about Europe, and the defence of western Europe is our main commitment. Only last week end I returned from almost a fortnight in the Middle East, and I should like to say something about this area, both the Mediterranean area and the Gulf. The area of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean is of growing importance to us and to Europe. The stability of the Middle East matters for many reasons, because of our long-standing trade, because of their oil resources, because of the danger of internal conflict spreading outwards and affecting other nations, and not least because the Mediterranean and the southern flank of NATO are important targets of Soviet attention.

In the Mediterranean today there are, for instance, 47 ships of the Soviet fleet operating, and last week there were 53, including throughout this period about 10 submarines. Admittedly, these are rather exceptional figures but they are an indication of the scale of Soviet naval activity which we now witness and which my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice emphasised.

There is a great deal on which we can build in this area. Our relations with the four countries which I visited—Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon—are excellent. In the case of Egypt we have had our ups and downs, but relations are now better than they have been for many years. Above all, this is an area where a solution of political problems could have a significant influence on our defence policy. A strong and stable Middle East sharing many common interests with Europe would be a substantial new factor for peace in the world.

The House knows of the Government's special concern about stability in the Gulf. We are maintaining close contact with the newly established states of the Gulf. There have been continuing visits by Her Majesty's ships, by aircraft and by Army units on training exercises. In the Lower Gulf, which in the past has caused us so much concern, there has now been well over a year of quiet and orderly development since we withdrew our forces and established our new relationship with them.

As the House knows, we are also supplying military assistance to the Sultanate of Oman. The future of many of the smaller states in the Gulf depends on the ability of Oman successfully to resist the attacks being made on her. For some years the State of Oman has been subject to attack from a Marxist revolutionary organisation. It has as its aim the overthrow of every régime on the Arab shore of the Gulf. The organisation receives shelter and support from Southern Yemen. The help that we are giving to Oman with British loan Service personnel and through a British Army training team, which is training the Sultan's local levies, is a great help to the stability of the important Gulf area as a whole.

I have spoken about the European security conference and MBFR. We have entered these talks with a determination to make them succeed. But the amendment proposed by the Opposition constitutes just about the worst possible preparation for the negotiations that one can think of. I am quite sure that the Opposition want a diminution—[Interruption.] It is embarrassing to the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), is it not? I am sure they want to see a diminution of tension, but were we to accept their advice in their amendment one would almost guarantee that the talks would end in failure. This perhaps explains why not one Front Bench spokesman opposite spoke in favour of the Amendment; and, indeed, I think the House, listening to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West thought that he was speaking against his own amendment.

Mr. Peart


Lord Balniel

No, I cannot give way. I have only five minutes. It is noticeable to the House how the right hon. Gentleman who is most reluctant—

Mr. Peart


Mr. Speaker

Order. Not two at a time, please.

Mr. Peart

I think the Minister was rather unfair. He was not here and did not hear the debate. The amendment was moved and speeches were directed to the amendment. I believe the Minister is trying to make a cheap party point.

Lord Balniel

Far from trying to make a cheap party point, we want to achieve mutual balanced force reductions. Instead the Opposition amendment implies a unilateral British force reduction. If we make unilateral Western reductions without compensating reductions from the Warsaw Pact, we do not strengthen stability or advance the cause of détente.

Mr. Peart

Absolute rubbish.

Lord Balniel

The right hon. Member for Workington emphasised the importance that he attaches to the military link with the United States. Does he really believe that a unilateral British reduction will do anything except strengthen the voices in America which are calling for greatly reduced military commitments in Europe? The withdrawal of American Forces from Europe is, I suppose, the greatest prize to which the Soviet Union is trying to reach out to achieve.

The Soviet reaction to a reduced British defence effort would, surely, be one of incredulity. Even before negotiations— [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should speak to his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East. He does not think that. Even before negotiations open, soft talk about security and warm words about detente would have lulled the British, and our example would be followed elsewhere in Europe, into making concessions. We should have destroyed our negotiating position even before sitting down at the table.

The Opposition's amendment has already been torn to shreds in the debate, but, before we bury it with the vote in a few minutes, let us spend a moment or two on its obituary. We agree, naturally, with the tribute to the Services and civilian personnel in Northern Ireland. If the security situation improves in the future, British defence policy should be amended to reflect a new situation. But the words of the amendment—I am studying them carefully—show little meaning in the demand that the Government should take urgent action within the Alliance to bring defence spending into line with that of our European allies". As my hon. Friends have pointed out, the MBFR talks are meant to be between the West and the Warsaw Pact countries. They are not meant to be force reduction talks within the Western Alliance and NATO itself. The whole premise of the amendment—

Mr. Judd


Lord Balniel


Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way.

Lord Balniel

The whole premise of the amendment is wrong. The criterion by which we should judge our defence and foreign policy effort depends not on the energy or lethargy of any particular ally at any given time. The criterion of the effort we should make should be related to our assessment of the threat and the scale of the effort of any potential enemy.

Mr. Judd

Will the Minister give way?

Lord Balniel

No. The words do not even make clear what the Opposition intend, except the obvious intention of giving way once again to their Left wing. If their purpose is to take the proportion of GNP spent on defence by the smallest countries in Europe and the largest, and then to equate our figure with an overall national average, this would mean reducing our defence expenditure to 4.2 per cent. of our gross national product. This is what the hon. Member for Salford, East suggested in his letter to The Times when he quoted the figures which I gave. I am glad that he was robustly destroyed by his hon. Friend the

Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved).

The figures for other countries reflect the fact they have conscription. This reduces the cost of their military effort, but it imposes a strain on their manpower. We do not believe that that is necessary in this country. The alternative course is to cut down on certain functions. To bring defence expenditure down to 4.2 per cent. of GNP means cutting it by £850 million. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] There is the answer in those cheers.

The folly of the Opposition is to confuse their optimistic dreams with realistic facts. They call on us to sacrifice security not because the massive forces of the Warsaw Pact countries have melted away but because we are to hold a security conference next June. They call on us to cut down on defence not because everything is suddenly peaceful but because there is no peace in the Labour Party.

Question put, That the amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 264, Noes 301.

Division No. 83.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Concannon, J. D. Fisher, Mrs.Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Corbet, Mrs. Freda Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Armstrong, Ernest Crawshaw, Richard Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Ashley, Jack Cronin, John Foot, Michael
Ashton Joe Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Ford, Ben
Atkinson Norman Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Forrester, John
Bagler Gordon A. T. Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Fraser, John (Norwood)
Barnes, Michael Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Freeson, Reginald
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dalyell, Tam Galpern, Sir Myer
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Darling, Rt. Hn. George Garrett, W. E
Baxter, William Davidson, Arthur Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Gold ing, John
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Gourlay, Harry
Bidwell, Sydney Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Bishop, E.S. Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Deakins, Eric Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Booth, Albert Delargy, Hugh Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Hamling, William
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Boyden, James(Bishop Auckland) Doig, Peter Hardy, Peter
Bradley, Tom Dormand, J. D. Harper, Joseph
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tie-u-Tyne,W.) Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Driberg, Tom Hattersley, Roy
Buchan, Norman Duffy, A. E. P. Heffer, Eric S.
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Dunn, James A. Hilton, W. S.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Dunnett, Jack Horam, John
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Eadie, Alex Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Edelman, Maurice Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Cant, R. B. Edwards, Robert (Bllston) Huekfleld, Leslie
Carmichael, Neil Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Ellis, Tom Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) English, Michael Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Evans, Fred Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Clark, David (Coine Valley) Ewing, Harry Hunter, Adam
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Faulds, Andrew Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Cohen, Stanley Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Janner, Greville
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Mikardo, Ian Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Millan, Bruce Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Miller, Dr. M. S. Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
John, Brynmor Milne, Edward Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, ltchen) Sillars, James
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Silverman, Julius
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Small, William
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.) Moyle, Roland Spearing, Nigel
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Spriggs, Leslie
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Murray, Ronald King Stallard, A. W.
Judd, Frank Oakes, Gordon Steel, David
Kaufman, Gerald Ogden, Eric Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Kelley, Richard O'Halloran, Michael Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Kinnock, Neil O'Malley, Brian Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Lambie, David Oram, Bert Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Lamborn, Harry Orbach, Maurice Strang, Gavin
Lamond, James Orme, Stanley Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Latham, Arthur Oswald, Thomas Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Lawson, George Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Taverne, Dick
Leadbitter, Ted Padley, Walter Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Paget, R. T. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Leonard, Dick Palmer, Arthur Tinn, James
Lestor, Miss Joan Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Tomney, Frank
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Parker, John (Dagenham) Tope, Graham
Lipton, Marcus Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Torney, Tom
Lomas, Kenneth Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Tuck, Raphael
Loughlin, Charles Pendry, Tom Urwin, T. W.
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Perry, Ernest G. Varley, Eric G.
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Wainwright, Edwin
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Prescott, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
McBride, Neil Wallace, George
McCartney, Hugh Probert, Arthur Watkins, David
McElhone, Frank Radice, Giles Weitzman, David
McGuire, Michael Rankin, John Wellbeloved, James
Wells, William (Waisall, N.)
Machin, George Reed, D. (Sedgefield) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Mackenzie, Gregor Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Whitehead, Phillip
Mackie, John Rhodes, Geoffrey Whitlock, William
Mackintosh, John p. Richard, Ivor Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Maclennan, Robert Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
McNamara, J. Kevin Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Robertson, John (Paisley) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'dnor) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Marks, Kenneth Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Marsden, F. Roper, John
Marshall, Dr. Edmund Rose, Paul B. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Mr. Donald Coleman and
Mayhew, Christopher Rowlands, Ted Mr. James Hamilton
Meacher, Michael Sandelson, Neville
Adley, Robert Brewis, John Crouch, David
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Brinton, Sir Tatton Crowder, F. P.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Amery, Rt. Hn. Juian Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen.Jack
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Bruce-Gardyne, J. Dean, Paul
Astor, John Bryan, Sir Paul Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.
Atkins, Humphrey Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M) Digby, Simon Wingfleld
Awdry, Daniel Buck, Antony Dixon, Piers
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Bullus, Sir Eric Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Burden, F. A. Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Drayson, G. B.
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward
Batsford, Brian Carlisle, Mark Dykes, Hugh
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Bell, Ronald Channon, Paul Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Chapman, Sydney Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Chichester-Clark, R. Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne.N.)
Benyon, W. Churchill, W. S. Emery, Peter
Berry, Hn. Anthony Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Eyre, Reginald
Bitten, John Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Farr, John
Biggs-Davison, John Cockeram, Eric Fell, Anthony
Blaker, Peter Cooke, Robert Fenner, Mrs. Peggy
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Coombs, Derek Fidler, Michael
Body, Richard Cooper, A. E. Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Cordle, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Bossom, Sir Clive Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Fookes, Miss Janet
Bowden, Andrew Cormack, Patrick Fortescue, Tim
Braine, Sir Bernard Costain, A. P. Foster, Sir John
Bray, Ronald Critchley, Julian Fowler, Norman
Fox, Marcus Le Marchant, Spencer Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ridsdale, Julian
Fry, Peter Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D Longden, Sir Gilbert Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Gardner, Edward Loveridge, John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Gibson-Watt, David Luce, R. N. Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk C.) McAdden, Sir Stephen Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) MacArthur, Ian Rost, Peter
Glyn, Dr. Alan McCrindle, R. A. Russell, Sir Ronald
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. McLaren, Martin St. John-Stevas, Norman
Goodhart, Philip Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Goodhew, Victor McMaster, Stanley Scott, Nicholas
Gorst, John Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice(Farnham) Scott-Hopkins, James
Gower, Raymond McNair-Wilson, Michael Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Gray, Hamish Maddan, Martin Shersby, Michael
Green, Alan Madel, David Simeons, Charles
Grieve, Percy Maginnis, John E. Sinclair, Sir George
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Skeet, T. H. H.
Grylls, Michael Marten, Neil Soref, Harold
Gummer, J. Selwyn Mather, Carol Speed, Keith
Gurden, Harold Maude, Angus Spence, John
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mawby, Ray Sproat, lain
Hall, John (Wycombe) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Stainton, Keith
Hall-Davis A. G. F. Meyer, Sir Anthony stanbrook, Ivor
Hamilton Michael (Salisbury) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Hannam, John (Exeter) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Miscampbell, Norman Stoddart-Scott, Col, Sir M.
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Mitchell, Lt-Col.C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Stokes, John
Haselhurst, Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stuttafor, Dr. Tom
Hastings, Stephen Moate, Roger Sutcliffe, John
Havers, Sir Michael Money, Ernie Tapsell, Peter
Hawkins, Paul
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hayhoe, Barney Monks, Mrs. Connie Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Monro, Hector Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Heseltine, Michael Montgomery, Fergus Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Hicks, Robert More, Jasper Tebbit, Norman
Higgins, Terence L. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Temple, John M.
Hiley, Joseph Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Morrison, Charles Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Mudd, David Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Holland, Philip Murton, Oscar Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Holt, Miss Mary Nabarro, Sir Gerald Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Hordern, Peter Neave, Airey Trew, Peter
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Nicholls, Sir Harmar Tugendhat, Christopher
Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Nott, John Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Hunt, John Onslow, Cranley Vickers, Dame Joan
Hutchison, Michael Clark Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Waddington, David
Iremonger, T. L. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Osborn, John Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
James, David Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Wall, Patrick
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Walters, Dennis
Jessel, Toby Parkinson, Cecil Ward, Dame Irene
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Peel, Sir John Warren, Kenneth
Jopling, Michael Percival, Ian Wells, John (Maidstone)
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Pike, Miss Mervyn White, Roger (Gravesend)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Kelett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wiggin, Jerry
Kershaw, Anthony Price, David (Eastleigh) Wilkinson, John
Kimball, Marcus Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Winterton, Nicholas
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Proudfoot, Wilfred Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Kinsey, J. R. Quennell, Miss J. M. Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Kirk, Peter Raison, Timothy Woodnutt, Mark
Kitson, Timothy Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Worsley, Marcus
Knight, Mrs. Jill Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Knox, David Redmond, Robert Younger, Hn. George
Lambton, Lord Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Lamont, Norman Rees, Peter (Dover) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Lane, David Rees-Davies, W. R. Mr. Walter Clegg and
Langford-Holt, Sir John Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Mr. Bernard Weatherill.

Question accordingly negatived

Main question put:

The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 264.

Division No. 84.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fell, Anthony Lamont, Norman
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Lane, David
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fidler, Michael Langford-Holt, Sir John
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Le Marchant, Spencer
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Astor, John Fookes, Miss Janet Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Atkins, Humphrey Fortescue, Tim Longden, Sir Gilbert
Awdry, Daniel Foster, Sir John Loveridge, John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Fowler, Norman Luce, R. N.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fox, Marcus McAdden, Sir Stephen
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) MacArthur, Ian
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fry, Peter McCrindle, R. A.
Batsford, Brian Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. McLaren, Martin
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Gardner, Edward Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Bell, Ronald Gibson-Watt, David McMaster, Stanley
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Macmillan, Rt. Hn.Maurlce (Farnham)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McNair-Wilson, Michael
Benyon, W. Glyn, Dr. Alan McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Maddan, Martin
Biffen, John Goodhart, Philip Madel, David
Biggs-Davison, John Goodhew, Victor Maginnis, John E.
Blaker, Peter Gorst, John Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernes:
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Grant Anthony (Harrow, C) Marten, Nell
Body, Richard Gray,Hamish Mather, Carol
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Green, Alan Maude, Angus
Bossom, Sir Clive Grieve, Percy Mawby, Ray
Bowden Andrew Griffith's, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Braine, Sir pernard Grylls Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bray, Ronald Gummer, J. Selwyn Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Brewis, John Gurden, Harold Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Miscampbell, Norman
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hall, John (Wycombe) Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moate, Roger
Bryan, Sir Paul Hannam John (Exeter) Money, Ernle
Buchanan-Smith. Allck(Angus,N&M) Harrison Brian (Maldon) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Buck, Antony Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Monro, Hector
Bullus, Sir Eric Haselhurst Alan Montgomery, Fergus
Burden, F. A. Hastings, Stephen More, Jasper
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Havers, Sir Michael Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray & Nairn) Hawkins Paul Morrison, Charles
Carlisle, Mark Hayhoe, Barney Mudd, David
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Murton, Oscar
Channon, Paul Heseltine, Michael Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Chapman, Sydney Hicks, Robert Neave, Airey
Chichester-Clark, R. Higgins, Terence L. Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Churchill, W. S. Hiley, Joseph Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Nott, John
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Onslow, Cranley
Cockeram, Eric Holland, Philip Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Cooke, Robert Holt, Miss Mary Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Coombs, Derek Hordern, Peter Osborn, John
Cooper, A. E Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Cordle, John Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, John Parkinson, Cecil
Costain, A. P. Hutchison, Michael Clark Peel, Sir John
Critchley, Julian Iremonger, T. L. Percival, Ian
Crouch, David Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Crowder, F. P. James, David Pink, R. Bonner
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen.Jack Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Dean, Paul Jessel, Toby Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jopling, Michael Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Dixon, Piers Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Quennell, Miss J. M.
Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Kaberry, Sir Donald Ralson, Timothy
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Drayson, G. B. Kershaw, Anthony Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kimball, Marcus Redmond, Robert
Dykes, Hugh King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rees, Peter (Dover)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kinsey, J. R. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kirk, Peter Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Kitson, Timothy Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Emery, Peter Knight, Mrs. Jill Ridsdale, Julian
Eyre, Reginald Knox, David Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Farr, John Lambton, Lord Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stoddart-Scott Col. Sir M. Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Stokes, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Wall, Patrick
Rost, Peter Sutcliffe, John Walters, Dennis
Russell, Sir Ronald Tapsell, Peter Ward, Dame Irene
St. John-Stevas, Norman Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Warren, Kenneth
Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Scott, Nicholas Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Scott-Hopkins, James Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Shaw, Michael (Sc' b'gh & Whitby) Tebbit, Norman Wiggin, Jerry
Shelton, William (Clapham) Temple, John M. Wilkinson, John
Shersby, Michael Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Winterton, Nicholas
Simeons, Charles Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Sinclair, Sir George Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Skeet, T. H. H. Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Soref, Harold Trafford, Dr. Anthony Woodnutt, Mark
Speed, Keith Trew, Peter Worsley, Marcus
Spence, John Tugendhat, Christopher Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Sproat, lain Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Younger, Hn. George
Stainton, Keith Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Stanbrook, Ivor Vickers, Dame Joan TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Waddington, David Mr. Walter Clegg and
Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Walder, David (Clitheroe) Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Abse, Leo Doig, Peter Jeger, Mrs. Lena
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Dormand, J. D. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Armstrong, Ernest Douglas-Mann, Bruce John, Brynmor
Ashley, Jack Driberg, Tom Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Ashton, Joe Duffy, A. E. P. Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Atkinson, Norman Dunn, James A. Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dunnett, Jack Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Barnes, Michael Eadie, Alex Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Edelman, Maurice Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)
Baxter, William Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Ellis, Tom Judd, Frank
Bennett, James(Glasgow, Bridgeton) English, Michael Kaufman, Gerald
Bidwell, Sydney Evans, Fred Kelley, Richard
Bishop, E. S. Ewing, Harry Kinnock, Neil
Blenkinsop, Arthur Faulds, Andrew Lambie, David
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Lamborn, Harry
Booth, Albert Fisher, Mrs.Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lamond, James
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Latham, Arthur
Boyden, James(Bishop Auckland) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lawson, George
Bradley, Tom Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Leadbitter, Ted
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Foot, Michael Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Ford, Ben Leonard, Dick
Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Forrester, John Lestor, Miss Joan
Buchan, Norman Fraser, John (Norwood) Lewis Ron (Carlisle)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Freeson, Reginald Lipton Marcus
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Galpern, Sir Myer Lomas' Kenneth
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Garrett, W. E. Loughlin Charles
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Lyon Alexander W. (York)
Cant,R. B. Golding, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Carmichael, Neil Gourlay, Harry Mabon Dr. J. Dickson
Carter, Ray (Birmingh' m, Northfield) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) McBridge, Neil
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McCartney, Hugh
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) McElhone, Frank
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) McGuire, Michael
Cohen, Stanley Hamling, William Mackenzie, George
Concannon, J. D. Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Mackenzie, Gregor
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hardy, Peter Mackie, John
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Harper, Joseph Mackintosh, John P.
Crawshaw, Richard Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Maclennan, Robert
Cronln, John Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hattersley, Roy McNamara, J. Kevin
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Heffer, Eric S. Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Hilton, W. S. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Horam, John Marks, Kenneth
Dalyell, Tarn Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Marsden, F.
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Davidson, Arthur Huckfield, Leslie Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Davies, Denzil (Lianelly) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mayhew, Christopher
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Meacher, Michael
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Davis, Terry (Bromagrove) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Mendelson, John
Deakins, Eric Hunter, Adam Mikardo, Ian
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge HIM) Millan, Bruce
Delargy, Hugh Janner, Greville Miller, Dr. M. S.
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Milne, Edward
Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds. S.) Summerskill, Hn. Or. Shirley
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rhodes, Geoffrey Taverne, Dick
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Richard, Ivor Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff,W.)
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Moyle, Roland Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) Tinn, James
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Robertson, John (Paisley) Tomney, Frank
Murray, Ronald King Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor) Tope, Graham
Oakes, Gordon Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Torney, Tom
Ogden, Eric Roper, John Tuck, Raphael
O'Halloran, Michael Rose, Paul B. Urwin, T. W.
O'Malley, Brian Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Klimarnock) Varley, Eric G.
Oram, Bert Rowlands, Ted Wainwright, Edwin
Orbach, Maurice Sandeison, Neville Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Orma, Stanley Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Wallace, George
Oswald, Thomas Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Watkins, David
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Weitzman, David
Padley, Walter Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wellbeloved, James
Paget, R. T. Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Palmer, Arthur Sillars, James White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Silverman, Julius Whitehead, Phillip
Parker, John (Dagenham) Skinner, Dennis Whitlock, William
Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Small, William Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Pendry, Tom Spearing, Nigel Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Perry, Ernest G. Spriggs, Leslie Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Stallard, A. W. Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Prescott, John Steel, David Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Price, William (Rugby) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Probert, Arthur Stoddart, David (Swindon) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Radice, Giles Stonehouse Rt. Hn. John Mr. Donald Coleman and
Rankin, John Strang, Gavin Mr. James Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this house approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1973, contained in Command Paper No. 5231.