§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Secretary of State for Defence I ought to inform the House that I have selected the Opposition amendment.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I note that you have not selected the amendment standing in my name and the names of a number of my hon. Friends, which means that many of us will be deprived of the opportunity of expressing a point of view about which many of us feel very deeply. I am aware of the precedents which apply in cases of this sort, but I wonder whether it would be possible for further consideration to be given to this matter, since it prevents the debate from accurately reflecting points of view held by many hon. Members and which are widely held outside the House.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Further to and in support of that point of order, would you not, Mr. Speaker, agree that it would be helpful if the Procedure Committee were quickly to report on this matter, which has been referred to it, for the assistance of minority parties and groups within the parties?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is certainly the case. With regard to today's debate, I am afraid my selection must stand. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) said that certain hon. Members ought to have the opportunity to express their opinions. If the hon. Member persists, he may very easily catch my eye and be able to make a speech during the debate.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Roy Mason)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Secretary of State for Defence's Statement on Tuesday 3rd December 1974.It might be for the convenience of the House if we included in the debate the Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts (Continuation) Order 1974.
On 3rd December I made a statement to the House about the progress made so far in the defence review. Today I should like to explain more fully some of the background to the review, which has been, I believe, the most comprehensive examination of our defence commitments 1148 and the resources available to meet them since the post-1945 rundown.
In the broad historical perspective, it will, I think, be seen as part of the process through which Britain adapted itself politically, psychologically and economically to a new rôle as an influential middle-rank Power without post-Imperial pretensions.
As part of that process, the Labour Government, in 1968, took important decisions on our world-wide defence commitments, designed to achieve a complete withdrawal of our forces from east of Suez—with the exception of Hong Kong —by the end of 1971.
In his supplementary statement on defence policy in 1970, the then Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Carrington, reversed or modified a number of those decisions. Therefore, when I came into office in March of this year I inherited a programme which included forces stationed in a number of places throughout the world on a scale which was no longer in keeping with Britain's economic and political position.
I inherited a defence budget of £3,667 million for 1974–75, representing about 5½ per cent. of our gross national product. Morever, the long-term costings for 1974, projected forward for 10 years, showed that to maintain and progressively reequip forces on the scale then planned would cost at 1974 public expenditure survey prices £4,300 million a year, or about 6 per cent. of the GNP, by 1978–79, and about £4,500 million a year, or over 5½ per cent. of the GNP, by 1983–84. In other words, in terms of the proportion it took of our national wealth, the burden of the defence expenditure on the British economy throughout the 10 years would have been half as much again as that borne by West Germany and a third greater than that borne by France, both of whose economies are richer than ours and are expected to grow significantly faster than our own. It was clear to the Government that the economic situation of the country and the burden of defence expenditure at the level of the plans costed in February 1974 were incompatible, and, from the succession of short-term cuts made by the previous Conservative administration in their last year of office, it seemed that the penny, or the pounds, had begun to drop with them as well.
1149 On 17th December last year the then Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a £178 million reduction in defence expenditure, and this was on top of cuts totalling £72 million imposed in the previous May and October, adding up to a total of £250 million, or £291 million at 1974 prices. But, unlike the policy of the then Government, I was determined that the process of adjustment to the realities of our economic, strategic and political position should not be by a series of arbitrary cuts. Above all, I wanted to make sure that our defence priorities were seen to make sense and that our forces were seen to be tailored to what Parliament, the British people and our allies accept as essential to our security and that of the North Atlantic alliance.
Even while the review has been under way, the international economic environment in which Britain must survive and prosper has become even more unfavourable. Over the past 12 months there have been further increases in the price of oil charged by the producing States, and for this reason, among others, the terms of trade are now about 11 per cent. worse than they were 12 months ago.
While it was essential that the review should take account of this economic reality, I also had throughout in the forefront of my mind the other reality of the continuing threat to Western security posed by the massive and growing military power of the Warsaw Pact.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the economic side, will he now admit that, far from there being a real reduction in spending, his review will mean a considerable increase in both real and cash terms compared with the estimate which he has just mentioned for this year of £3,667 million? Did he not admit last week in a Written Reply to a member of the Opposition that next year in real terms the spending will go up to £3,700 million and in the following year to £3,800 million, and that it will remain at that figure for at least seven years? Is that an increase or a reduction?
§ Mr. Mason
My hon. Friend has a point, which I must recognise. I have always said—I said it in my statement. 1150 I have reiterated it publicly since, and I have repeated it in answer to Questions in this House—that we have cut back defence expenditure on the proposals and plans which we inherited and that in 1975–76 the increase in defence expenditure was to rise to £4,000 million. We have cut that back to £3,700 million, effecting a saving of £300 million, on the plans and proposals which we inherited. Yes, there is bound to be a small increase in the real expenditure on defence, and I acknowledge that, but it is on the proposals which we inherited that we are effecting the savings.
I was explaining that there are two sides to the coin. One is the economic realities of the situation. The other is the threat posed to which we have to have a credible defence posture.
I must stress that the Western alliance of which we are a member is a defensive alliance. Its aim throughout has been to preserve stability and peace by deploying military forces in sufficient strength to deter aggression on whatever scale and in whatever form it may occur. If we were to reduce our contributions too far, and this example were followed by other countries, there would be a serious risk that the credibility of NATO strategy would be destroyed. We would risk undermining the cohesion of the alliance as a whole. From the outset, therefore, I have been at pains to emphasise that the review should be—and it has been, I believe— conducted calmly and rationally.
For example, we did not attempt to make easy economies through arbitrary raids on the equipment Votes, or through across-the-board adjustments in procurement schedules to produce short-term savings which would make little military sense. Instead, we started by reviewing strategic and military priorities among our defence commitments, and against these priorities we examined alternatives with an open mind. In the process we analysed every aspect of our defence policy. This is why our review has taken so long.
It was clear from the outset that our search for economies would have to extend beyond our military deployments outside the NATO area. It was equally clear that we could not abandon our obligations towards our remaining dependent territories, nor withdraw 1151 entirely and at short notice from our commitments to other non-NATO allies and partners. But we believe that the commitments that we propose to retain to our allies and partners outside NATO are the maximum that we can afford given the high priority that we attach to our NATO contribution.
As for our non-NATO allies and partners, consultations are still in progress, and I cannot at this stage give more information. It is my hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will cover the reasoning behind our proposals on our non-NATO withdrawals, in view of the fact that he has been especially involved in this stage of the consultation process. But we believe that the proposed reductions in our forces will not threaten the security of any of these allies and partners.
§ Sir Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
I have just returned from talks at the highest level in both Malaysia and Singapore, where there is some resignation to the Labour Government's attitude and the decision which they have taken. However, there is total bewilderment about the decision which the right hon. Gentleman has apparently taken to withdraw the Gurkha battalion from Brunei. This decision will save the taxpayer no money at all, especially as the battalion is administered from Hong Kong. As a result of this withdrawal, the stability of Eastern Malaysia may be put at risk, plus the fall-out on commercial interests in the whole area. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain a little more the cuts in this non-NATO area?
§ Mr. Mason
I cannot give much more detail than hitherto. But the hon. Gentleman will recognise that I feel that there was a recognition by the rive-Power defence arrangement countries that once a Labour Government were returned with a working majority they were likely to carry out the 1968 commitment, and they were resigned to that fact.
As regards Brunei, we propose to cut back the strength of our Gurkha forces. The Gurkhas are stationed in Brunei at no cost to us. We have made the proposal that we would like to withdraw them from Brunei and concentrate Gurkha forces in Hong Kong. This is still subject to consultation with the Sultan 1152 of Brunei, but that is the proposal before the countries of the Far East. We shall have to wait to see what the consultation process reveals. But in view of the fact that we are planning to cut back the Gurkhas by about 1,000 and that we would like to concentrate on Hong Kong, we felt that we could sensibly withdraw from Brunei. That is still subject—
§ Sir Anthony Royle rose—
§ Sir Anthony Royle rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is a senior Member of the House and he knows that if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way he must resume his seat.
§ Sir Anthony Royle
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I wanted to thank him for his assurance that the decision over the Gurkhas in Brunei is not final and is now being reconsidered.
§ Mr. Mason
I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not try to push it too far by saying that this is being reconsidered. I said quite clearly that this is a proposal. We have to go through the consultative process. By the time the White Paper is prepared we shall be able to take a decision. I have given the hon. Gentleman a lengthy reply and I hope that he will not push it too far.
Within the NATO area we are concentrating our efforts on those commitments and capabilities where we judge our contributions to be most effective and essential. These priorities are, first of all, our land and air forces in the central region of Europe, where the Warsaw Pact confronts the alliance with a marked superiority in manpower and conventional weapons. It has a superiority of about 2½:1 in tanks and 2:1 in field guns and aircraft. The Warsaw Pact has over 20 per cent. more soldiers and 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. more soldiers in fighting units. In addition, the Soviet Union enjoys formidable advantages of geography and reinforcement over secure and relatively short routes and continues 1153 to introduce ever more sophisticated army and air force equipment. That, therefore, is our first priority.
Our second is with our sea and air forces in the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas, where we provide the bulk of the maritime "ready" forces available to NATO, and where, if our alliance is to deter the Soviet Union in times of tension, not only from open acts of aggression but from the range of opportunities for exerting pressure by means short of aggression which sea power so readily provides, we and the other European navies must be able to preserve the use of the high seas for NATO and make it possible for the United States to reinforce Europe by sea as well as by air. This calls for an evident ability to counter the growing maritime power of the Soviet Union, particularly its submarine force, which already out-numbers that of NATO by nearly 2:1.
Our third priority will be our sea, land and air forces for the direct security of the United Kingdom, including the ability, which will not be imperilled by the review, to continue to deploy adequate numbers of troops in Northern Ireland. We must also assure the use of the home base for operations in support of our NATO allies. In addition, we propose to maintain the effectiveness of our Polaris forces. This force is assigned to NATO. The premium is not large. The cost of operating and maintaining an effective Polaris force over the next 10 years is a tiny fraction of the defence budget.
In our examination of NATO commitments we have looked particularly hard at our planned reinforcement and intervention capabilities by sea and air, an area in which we felt it would be possible to make savings without prejudicing the viability of contribution to NATO. Our specialist reinforcement and assault forces were originally developed to meet our worldwide commitments, as an alternative to maintaining large garrisons overseas. They comprised, in addition to the land element, large air transport and helicopter forces and an amphibious assault capability. But we cannot in future afford to provide the army element of these forces with all the heavy and sophisticated equipment they would need to play a full part in a 1154 mobile, mechanised European war. Nor can we afford to provide all these reinforcements with the air and other transport capability to enable them to be deployed worldwide or even throughout the whole NATO area. We therefore feel that we should reduce the size of these specialist forces, thereby making savings in their support and specialised transport. We plan, therefore, to reduce the land element of the United Kingdom Mobile Force assigned to NATO to about one-third of its present capability.
§ Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)
If the Government have approached this problem with an open mind, as they say, in view of the statistics which the right hon. Gentleman has given us on the comparative strength of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO allied countries how can they now wish to cut defence expenditure?
§ Mr. Mason
I must stress that, although I gave the Soviet and Warsaw Pact figures, it is not Great Britain alone against the Soviet Power and that of the Warsaw Pact. We are playing a part within the NATO alliance. We want to play our part according to what our economy can bear. Therefore, not being able to effect the savings we want from non-NATO commitments, we are obliged to look at NATO. During the course of this we have tried to maintain a credible defence posture within NATO and to look at the areas which we can sensibly cut back. I am now outlining to the House where I think our cuts can be made.
I have said that we shall reduce the land element of the Mobile Force assigned to NATO to about one-third of its present capability. Secondly, we shall withdraw our present Joint Airborne Task Force contribution. We want to maintain a limited parachute capability. We propose making no change in our contribution to the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force of 1 Battalion Group, its supporting units and helicopters, and the Harrier air element. This allied force can be deployed in the NATO area at the discretion of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, either in the centre or on the flanks.
The Royal Marines, which provide the landing forces element of the amphibious force, would be reduced by about 1,200 men, including the disbandment of one Commando in due course. We should no 1155 longer plan to replace our existing amphibious ships with new purpose-built vessels. The three remaining Commandos will remain committed to NATO, and the Royal Marines will continue to perform its traditional rôles. We shall be examining the best means of deploying the Commandos in the longer term without the use of purpose-built transport, when the existing amphibious ships reach the end of their useful life. The "Fearless", "Intrepid" and "Hermes" are planned to remain in service for some years to come.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)
In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the cuts in the Royal Marines, will he tell the House what amphibious rôle he sees for the Marines outside Europe?
§ Mr. Mason
I do not see a big rôle, for the Royal Marines outside Europe. The reduced forces—the Commandos and the assault forces—will be available for the northern flank. Those forces will be committed to NATO, and I would see that as their main task in the future.
There will still be a small intervention capability outside NATO but it will be small, and if it is to be effective it will be slower than it has been in the past. We shall not be able to move assault forces into any non-NATO area as rapidly as in the past. I am afraid that once we cut back defence expenditure in this fashion, although we have done it in what we think is a sensible and rational way, we have to recognise that the NATO rôle will be our main rôle and the assault forces, including the Commandos, will be committed to NATO, mainly to the northern flank.
The reductions we have proposed in our maritime forces both outside the NATO area and in the Mediterranean will enable us to maintain the strength of our contribution to the crucial sea area of the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel. I believe that that contribution is still a substantial one, amounting currently to an average of 40 surface ships and 20 submbarines which form the backbone of NATO's "ready" naval forces deployed in these forward areas.
The current strength of the RAF Nimrod maritime patrol force based in the 1156 United Kingdom is to be maintained and we shall refit these aircraft so that they can counter the more sophisticated submarines of the future. We mean to maintain that contribution as a balanced force, including high quality ships. The fact is that the quality, as well as the size, of the Soviet Navy is advancing by leaps and bounds. If our fleet is to continue to contribute to the deterrence of Soviet sea power we must have quality too. For this reason the nuclear-powered submarine programme will be continued, as will the cruiser programme. The anti-submarine capability of our new cruisers, for example, will be very much greater than that of all the frigates we could purchase with the same money. If our Navy is to be credible in the eyes of both the Soviets and our allies its capabilities must be recognised. Therefore, although there will be some reduction in the rate at which new ships and weapons enter service, there should be no basic change in the planned shape of the fleet.
The Army's re-equipment programme, much more than those of the other Services, consists of a large number of relatively small projects. Numerous and substantial modifications will have to be made to this programme in order to reduce the growth of its cost. I do not propose to recite a list of the changes, particularly as final decisions have, in many cases, still to be taken, but I have already announced that the likely measures will include reductions in the planned purchases of light helicopters and reconnaissance vehicles, including the cancellation of Vixen, and withdrawal from the collaborative RS80 general rocket support system. We are consulting our partners and suppliers on these matters.
The Army's other main collaborative projects—the FH70 towed gun and the SP70 self-propelled gun, both of which we are developing with Germany and Italy, are unaffected. We are proceeding, with several of our European allies, with the purchase of the Lance tactical nuclear missile system from the United States as a replacement for Honest John.
Our proposals for the Army would reduce the manpower by about 12,000 compared with the strength in April this year. But the extent of the reduction, and its timing, is a matter on which we 1157 shall be consulting our partners and allies.
One point which I should emphasise is that we do not propose, in advance of a satisfactory agreement on mutual and balanced force reductions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, to reduce the forces which we maintain in Germany in accordance with our Brussels Treaty obligations. We shall retain our ability to reinforce BAOR in time of emergency or war.
No reduction in the size of the TAVR is proposed. Indeed, with a smaller regular Army, it will be an even more important and effective partner for the regular Army than before. We shall look to improve its present strength, and we plan a major recruiting effort in the New Year.
So far as possible, we shall achieve the reduction in Army manpower by structural adjustment—that is, by such measures as pruning overheads, reducing the size and number of headquarters and extending spans of command. This process of adjustment will cover the Army as a whole, but it will mean some major changes in organisation. However, its objective will be to preserve combat strength and efficiency and, where possible, to increase it. We shall also make every effort to avoid a significant impact on the loyalties and traditions of the regimental system.
§ Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)
Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Parachute Regiment will continue in existence as a regular body, or is it intended that the parachute capability will be confined to the regulars of the Special Air Service?
§ Mr. Mason
I passed that matter some minutes ago. The hon. Gentleman just caught up with it. I said that the commitment of the parachute battalions to NATO would be cut back and we would retain a limited parachute capability. That is one of the savings we are effecting.
Our proposals for the Royal Air Force will inevitably affect the strength and deployment of the Royal Air Force. The review of commitments and priorities which we have undertaken will make it possible to reduce the air transport fleet by half and allow some reduction in the planned helicopter strength.
1158 The final extent of the reduction and the composition of the residual force are matters which must await the outcome of consultations with our allies and partners, but, clearly, changes of this order will enable us to achieve economies in engineering effort and numbers to be trained for air crew and ground duties, and by these and other rearrangements reduce the number of RAF stations by about 12.
Again, the proposed changes in overseas deployments will inevitably lead to some reduction in the Royal Air Force Regiment and, in the longer term, in maritime patrol aircraft. But by making the most of the economies which flow naturally from the review of our commitments we can concentrate our air power on our major priorities in NATO and so preserve in all essential respects the combat strength of the Royal Air Force in RAF Germany and in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth) rose—
§ Mr. Mason
I have given way enough. I should make progress.
It is by means of this policy of greater concentration on our essential NATO commitments that we are able to continue with the current Jaguar re-equipment programme, introduce the Phantom into the air defence rôle, and so improve the combat capability of the RAF. To ensure that that capability is maintained in future, we are continuing with the MRCA collaborative programme—a project which I believe most hon. Members on both sides recognise as being of major importance to the RAF and to the future of the British and European aircraft industries.
We currently plan to have 385 MRCAs. But as we plan the RAF budget over the years ahead we expect to have to spread the costs over a somewhat longer period. We shall, therefore, be discussing with our German and Italian partners some slowing down in the rate at which we will take delivery of the MRCA.
The general prospects so far as the RAF is concerned, apart from the transport fleet reductions, are encouraging. The proportion of combat forces within the total will be increased. Its front-line combat strength in the United Kingdom 1159 and Germany will be maintained in numbers and quality, and it can look forward to a substantial re-equipment programme. Throughout all three Services we have also sought economies in overheads, headquarters staffs and support. Considerable economies have been made in the past, but I am determined that, following a major re-shaping of our front line, we shall pursue new economies in this field.
My proposals would result in a reduction of about 35,000 Service men from the strengths at 1st April of this year and about 30,000 directly employed civilians. Of the Service figures, 5,000 will come from the Royal Navy and Marines, 12,000 from the Army, and about 18,000 from the Royal Air Force. Of the civilians, about half will be locally entered, serving abroad.
I wish to stress once again that these figures are approximations at this stage and will be determined according to our consultations over the next few months. Only after the process of consultations is over shall I be able to give firmer estimates but we expect to make the bulk of the reductions, Service men and civilians, in the course of the next five years.
I have stressed in the House before that the morale and well-being of the Services and of the civilians employed by the Ministry of Defence is one of my primary concerns, and I shall be taking all the steps I possibly can to ensure that the process of adjustment will be largely achieved by normal wastage, and, where necessary, some adjustment to recruitment targets.
Fair terms will be offered to those made redundant, and we shall be looking into the help that the Government can give with resettlement of Service men into civilian life.
The Services will still continue to offer a wide range of rewarding career opportunities for young men and women. We shall continue to need men and women of the highest calibre for the Armed Forces. We shall need to maintain a satisfactory balance of ranks, ages and skills and good career structure. We shall continue to recruit keenly and provide full and worthwhile careers for all those we recruit.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
On the question of resettlement, is my right hon. Friend aware that those who represent new towns are finding a trend whereby it is increasingly difficult for ex-Service men to be accepted on new town housing lists? Will the Ministry of Defence exert some pressure in this regard?
§ Mr. Mason
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. We are aware of the problem and have been working with the Ministry of Housing on it. We are trying to encourage local authorities to put Service men on the waiting lists when they have completed their engagements. That will be all the more essential as we work through the proposed programme.
I trust that what I have said will be borne in mind by young people all over the country and by those who advise them on their careers, and I earnestly hope that the House, in debating our proposals seriously and responsibly, will do nothing to undermine public confidence in the Services, which is so important both to them in the difficult rôle they have to play and to all of us who rely on them to such a great extent.
In our deliberations on the defence review we have been very conscious of the industrial and employment implications of our proposals and have weighed them very carefully in coming to our provisional conclusions. They will be borne fully in mind when we take our final decisions. It may be some time before the adjustment to equipment proposals, which will be a properly planned and orderly process, is fully reflected in the work load of individual firms or factories, but talks have already been begun with the firms engaged on the projects that I mentioned in my statement.
Among these is Westland, at Yeovil. The main effect of cuts in requirements for helicopters will be felt by Westland towards the end of this decade. Rolls-Royce's engine production at Leavesden will also be affected. On the aircraft side I also mentioned the MRCA. A reduction in the planned rate of delivery for the Royal Air Force will affect the production of BAC in Lancashire, and of Rolls-Royce at Bristol, which is responsible for the RB199 engine. In the vehicle industry and in the conventional armaments I mentioned the 1161 tracked reconnaissance vehicle, which is the responsibility of Alvis at Coventry, and the RS80, which is the responsibility of Hunting at Bedford.
I shall be in close touch with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Industry and Employment over any particular difficulties that may arise, but in general I feel confident that these problems will prove manageable. Much will, of course, depend on flexibility in switching to civil work and the success that we are able to achieve in our vital export markets, both civil and military.
I am satisfied that the financial savings against the previous plans will be very large indeed and will be found as a result of a positive redirection of our defence effort to areas where it will be most effective for the security of Britain and of the alliance as a whole. That has been made possible only through the vigorous analysis of capabilities against firm priorities which has been achieved.
Compared with the long-range estimates of defence expenditure as they stood in March, I shall be able to save about £300 million in 1975–76 and similar sums in each of the two succeeding years, about £500 million in 1978–79, £600 million to £700 million in each of the succeeding four years and about £750 million in 1983-84, in all a total of £4,700 million. I do not believe that anyone can say that that is not a very large contribution to the resources needed for improving the balance of payments, for productive investment and for economic growth. By reducing defence spending by several hundred million pounds a year over the next 10 years, I shall have fulfilled the Government's pledge to reduce the cost of defence as a proportion of GNP.
Within the total resources that we can devote to defence, we are putting forward to our allies at this stage provisional conclusions rather than final decisions. Final decisions will not be taken until the process of full and meaningful consultations with our allies has taken place. In my recent statement I briefly indicated how consultation is to be fulfilled, but I should like to elaborate a little on the procedures involved and the timetable we have in mind 1162 In parallel with the statement of 3rd December, we informed our allies outside NATO of the proposals which involve them or their interests. We invited them to make their views known to us and offered to discuss with them our views on minimising any problems which our proposals might create for them. The review has been received with a sympathetic understanding of our problems and the situation which has led us to carry out this review.
Arrangements are already in hand for further consultation. Some talks at official level have already taken place with New Zealand on the practical consequences of our withdrawal from Singapore, and further detailed planning will probably take place early in the new year. The visit to London of the Prime Minister of Australia this week will offer an opportunity to hear his views. We have already begun the detailed consultations with our NATO allies on the changes we propose to our NATO commitments.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that these are true consultations in the full meaning of the word and not briefing sessions and, therefore, that all the matters he has mentioned are open to some degree of change?
§ Mr. Mason
Yes, I thought that I had stressed that early in my speech. They are genuine consultations. Our allies are being made aware of our proposals, and now consultations are to begin.
There is an established procedure for this, involving, first, an appreciation by the NATO military authorities of any proposals by a member country which constitute a major change in declared forces. This is followed by political consideration of the military assessment by the NATO Defence Planning Committee. A presentation was made to the NATO Military Committee and to the NATO Defence Planning Committee in Permanent Session on 3rd December when I made my statement to the House. I have already participated in ministerial discussions in Brussels last week. I took the opportunity to emphasise our firm commitment to the alliance, and to explain to my colleagues the basic principles which have guided us in the defence review.
1163 I believe that those meetings were both successful and important to them. They really believe that we are involved in genuine consultations with them. We have given them eight weeks to consider our proposals.
As many hon. Members will be aware, one of the main topics of discussion was the question of standardisation and increased collaboration on equipment. I stressed the importance of progress in this area and made some specific suggestions, relating, for example, to the FH70, SP70 artillery projects, the Anglo-French Lynx helicopter, and the new light-weight torpedo which we are developing.
There was general agreement—and in this I include my colleague the United States Defense Secretary—that progress on standardisation of equipment must involve genuine "two-way" traffic between the European allies and the United States. At the Defence Planning Council meeting during the past week, I thought that it was a breakthrough that the United States Defense Secretary should at least acknowledge that principle.
No one present doubted that there was much to do, but all within Eurogroup were determined to proceed along these lines with greater vigour than hitherto. I shall have perhaps a special opportunity to do so, since I have accepted the invitation of my Eurogroup ministerial colleagues to act as their chairman during the coming year.
Our NATO allies are now considering our defence review proposals in detail. If we are to give them, as I am sure we must, adequate time to digest what we propose and to give us a considered reaction, we shall not be in a position to set out our final decisions until the White paper.
In conclusion, let me stress the following points. We have framed our proposals responsibly and with full regard to the need to maintain the viability of our contribution to the Western alliance and the security of the home base. They do not imperil the security of the State. If anything, I believe that this retrenchment enhances our ability to concentrate upon our defence priorities, particularly our rôle as a European Power, irrespective of whether we stay within the EEC.
1164 What we have proposed, however, will certainly start to release resources to help us gain our economic health, without which no defence posture in NATO or elsewhere would be of any use. But I must emphasise to all who believe in a reasonable defence posture for Britain, to all who believe in the NATO alliance, to all those who recognise that we cannot go on policing the world, that a new clearly denned defence rôle is necessary. and that is inherent in our review.
We promised the electorate that we would save several hundred million pounds over a period, and that our defence burden would be brought into line with that of our main European allies. We are now bent upon that task. I know that many may ask" what price survival?" Let me say that a Government's greatest service to their people is that of the preservation of life and freedom. The Government value that concept dearly. They are satisfied that my proposals do not imperil the security of our nation but strengthen our defence posture, and will enable us to play our part in the defence of the West and its freedoms, I believe, much more efficiently than before, and, after all, a country's defence will only be as strong as the economy permits.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:and regrets that the proposals contained in the Statement will imperil the nation's security.I first thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State and the Government for agreeing to extend the time for the debate so that more hon. Members on both sides of the House can contribute to it. I believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have received no fewer than 40 applications from hon. Members wishing to speak in the debate, and this indicates how desirable it would be to have another day to debate this topic soon after the Christmas Recess.
The review which the right hon. Gentleman has just defended was a review which we always looked upon with considerable fears and anxiety. It would be true to say that the worst of our fears have not been met in that I suppose the worst of our fears were that the right hon Gentleman might have produced a review 1165 that had resulted in his hon. Friends below the Gangway deciding not to move an amendment at all. The fact that they have put forward an amendment shows that the right hon. Gentleman has not gone to the irresponsible extreme to which he was urged to go by both the Labour Party conference and a large number of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party prior to the February General Election.
Our basic fears of the review are illustrated by the events and the announcing of cuts by the Secretary of State. The first thing that was wrong with the review from our point of view was that it was not a review conducted to see what were the defence requirements of our country. It was a review conducted to see how best the Government could comply with the expressed wish of the Labour Party to reduce expenditure on defence. This has put the Secretary of State at a basic disadvantage in that he was not free to look at our defence needs and say what was required. He was free only to argue what reductions should not take place and what reductions—perhaps many of them—he had reluctantly to concede.
The second outstanding weakness of the review concerned the basis behind it. It must be the first defence review in history in which the basis was the strength of our allies, not of our enemies. The whole attitude, from the commencement of the review, was to try to bring us in line with what the allies were contributing, not with what our potential enemies were doing. That is no way to conduct a review of the defence arrangements of our country.
The third factor was the constant manner in which the basis was concerned with GNP comparisons. This is a "phoney" method of dealing with the problem. It is "phoney" for a number of reasons. First, I judge by the peroration to the Secretary of State's speech that he would never concede that investment in defence should go up and down according to the strength or weakness of the economy. Even firms in dire straits would continue to pay their fire premiums even though they could not afford other expenditure. The Secretary of State must agree that defence is a fundamental and basic form of expenditure which should be diminished only if the world situation enables that to happen. But it is a 1166 "phoney" comparison to look at the GNP of other nations.
It is a fact that many of the comparisons made are with countries that have conscription, not voluntary Services. In those countries with conscription the actual payments paid to the armed Services are much lower than we pay in this country to our volunteer forces. Other countries put in separate budgets much of the social expenditure involved in the armed Services. Other countries, like France, do not put the whole of nuclear costs into the defence budget, but spread them throughout other budgets within the Government system. For all those reasons comparison on a GNP basis was nonsense.
With regard to future projections, it is interesting to learn from one of the few Written Answers that actually give answers to Questions that this proportion of GNP is based upon an assumption that over the next 10 years the nation's GNP will rise by 3 per cent. per annum. Judging from the present form of the Government in relation to the economy, if they remain in office we shall not reach that figure at all. The other argument on which figures are based is that of constant prices, and there is no need to comment on that. But it means that, as an hon. Gentleman below the Gangway complains, figures for savings in, for example, 1976–77 of £270 millions are unlikely on these projections to be met in reality.
What of the argument that we are paying more than our share of the security of the Western world? If we take this on a per head basis we find that we are paying rather less than our share. The United States is paying £152 per head, Germany £81, France £76, and the United Kingdom £63, almost identical to Norway. France is spending £250 million more on defence than we are. Western Germany is spending £1,300 million more than we are. Therefore, for this Government —bearing in mind the present figures, not those in the review as outlined by the Secretary of State—to decide on further substantial cuts on a unilateral basis, and not on the basis of negotiation with the Warsaw Pact countries, is a thoroughly bad example to the Western alliance.
The reality is that world wars do not start because of the aggressiveness of democracies. The political leaders of the democracies are far too close to the 1167 people they represent and share with equal anxiety their repugnance of war. In this century it is the totalitarian régimes —of both Left and Right—which have been the real threat to world peace. World wars start, therefore, when the democracies are too unprepared, too frightened, and too cowardly—or just too tired.
The major totalitarian Power in the world today, in terms of military might, is the Soviet Union, and it is significant that the Soviet Union has described the present defence review as being a step in the right direction—
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
If the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble to visit the cemetery in Leningrad, where there are 450,000 dead Russians as a result of the last war, he would not talk so airily about the indifference of the other people to war.
§ Mr. Walker
Perhaps I would if any of the 450,000 had ever had the right to vote in a democratic election.
Let us look at the attitude of the Soviet Government to the problems we are considering. The Soviet Government are not pursuing a course that the hon. Gentleman and his Friends constantly urge upon British Governments. They are not embarking on a course of disarmament at present. Year by year, as talks on disarmament continue, Soviet military might is increasing. A Soviet nuclear submarine is produced every month, and Soviet naval activity spreads throughout the world. In the Indian Ocean it has quadrupled in the past six years, and in our seas Soviet spy-ships photograph our vital North Sea installations. The Soviet Union invests millions of pounds in a new port in the Indian Ocean, and Britain, under pressure from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, seeks to abandon her facilities in Simonstown.
We have a situation in which as the Secretary of State said, the Soviet Union at present has twice as many submarines as the Western Powers. The Secretary of State's response is to reduce the number of aircraft suitable for chasing and destroying submarines—
§ Mr. Newens
Will the right hon. Gentleman state some of the things that 1168 the United States is doing to spread its military power throughout the world? The right hon. Gentleman does well to speak of Soviet growth and investment in the Indian Ocean. Will he also mention that in the Government's defence review we have agreed to further development by the United States at Diego Garcia, for them to have a base there? It is not one-sided. I am not defending the Soviet Union—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman hopes to catch the eye of the Chair later. Long interruptions mean fewer speakers.
§ Mr. Newens
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to make smears which he cannot justify about another hon. Member?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It is never in order to imply unworthy motives, but I do not think that that is what the right hon. Gentleman was doing.
§ Mr. Walker
I am delighted that at last the hon. Gentleman considers that being criticised by Pravda is a smear.
I hope that hon. Members and the country at large will realise just how much the defences of the West have been eroded in the past decade compared with the Soviet Union's. In 1964 the United States had four times as many intercontinental ballistic missiles as the Soviet Union. Ten years later the Soviet Union had half as many again as the United States. In 1964 the United States had more than three times as many submarine-launched ballistic missiles as the Soviet Union. By 1974 the Soviet Union had many more than the United States. In the same decade the United States reduced the number of men under arms by 500,000. The Soviet Union has increased the number of men under arms by 125,000. The West constantly cuts back on its investment in research into new weapons. The Soviet Union year by year increases its investment in improving the effectiveness of its offensive weapons. Project this trend a further decade, and we see that Soviet military might will be 1169 so dominant as to enable its Government to dictate to the Western world.
I hope that when the Secretary of State prepares his White Paper he will consider the inclusion of an illustration of the current strength of the Warsaw Pact Powers. It would be interesting for the country to see in a White Paper not just the known strength but a projection of that strength if over the next 10 years the Soviet Union continues to increase its military might at the same pace as it has done over the past five years alone. The picture of its expanding military strength in a period when we are contracting ours would very much alarm our country.
In the face of all that, we have the review, described proudly by the right hon. Gentleman as the most thorough review that has ever taken place in peace time. It was a wrong review, because it was not to review our needs but to reduce our expenditure. Even in that context, it has been ineffective. Normally, it would probably have been completed by June or July, but it was postponed until after the General Election and then until after the Labour Party conference.
One would have expected such a time lag at least to enable the Government to come to conclusions. But a week of Written Questions since the Secretary of State's statement has shown just how uncertain has been their approach. What information has been given to the House over the past week about the Army, for example? We have been told that it is not possible to give an estimate of the phasing of the 12,000 reduction in manpower or to say where it will take place.
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army gave a remarkable reply to a Question asking specifically how the reduction of 12,000 Service men is to be spread between Army regiments. He said:I cannot at this stage provide details about the composition of the expected reduction in Army manpower. However, I confirm that it is our intention to achieve the reduction to the maximum extent possible by pruning overheads and by structural adjustment and we shall make every effort to avoid a significant impact on the regimental system with its historic loyalties and traditions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December 1974; Vol. 883, c. 62.]Before completing the review, the Undersecretary should have known whether a 1170 reduction of 12,000 men would have that effect.
Nothing is known about the phasing of the reduction of 12,000 men. There is no indication of when their numbers will be reduced, or how. The Government's position on the Army can almost be described in the words of the song "Don't know where, Don't know when." The Government only hope that the cuts will take place some day. No final decision has been taken about the reductions in helicopters and reconnaissance cars.
We are told that the Government do not know when the 5,000 reduction in Navy manpower will take place. They have not yet considered the effect on the RNVR. That is under consideration. No information is available on how the reduction of one third in support ships will be made. No decision has been taken on the future of the "Ark Royal", and the position of HMS "Bulwark" is being considered. It is not known whether the through-deck cruiser will be a one-off project or will become one of a series and a class. No decision has been taken on the future of the maritime Harrier. With that mass of uncertainty surrounding the future, how can the Secretary of State put forward firm figures as to his reduced expenditure?
I turn to the RAF. We are told that reductions in maritime patrol aircraft have not yet been decided. The extent of the slower phasing of the MRCA is not known. The phasing of the halving of RAF transport depends on eventualities, and the increased need to charter aircraft as a result is not known. It is not possible to give details of the phasing of the 18,000 reduction in manpower. The extent and speed of reduction of the RAF Regiment is not clear. As to the closing of the 12 RAF stations, it is not known which stations will close, and we are told that the information cannot be given until all relevant figures are carefully considered. If the Government have not considered the relevant figures, why did they decide to close 12 stations?
As to the civilian staff, the Minister's knowledge, after the most detailed review in peace time, is as non-existent as it is for the Armed Services. The phasing of the 30,000 reduction cannot be given, nor can the locations of those affected. We are told that it is too early to say 1171 which shipbuilders will be affected, and too early to judge the effects of the change of policy on ship refitting. Ministers have told us that they have not decided the effects on the Royal Ordnance factories. When we asked questions about where 10,000 jobs would be lost in industry, and which firms would be affected, we were told that the 10,000 figure was a "broad order of magnitude". As for the 10 per cent. reduction in research and development, we are told that the Government have not decided which projects will be affected.
If ignorance is bliss, we must have the most contented group of defence Ministers in our history.
We dispute the international strategy which has supposedly come out of the review. The view taken increasingly by the Secretary of State, that the defence of this country is almost totally concerned with the position in central Europe, is dangerous. Ten years ago the late President Kennedy said that we must learn to think inter-continentally. That is true of NATO. The oil crisis should have taught the West the vital importance of securing our raw materials and the safety of our sea routes.
Let us look at the way in which the changes have taken place. Listening to the Secretary of State today, one might almost have believed that he had withdrawn everything throughout the world and made substantial savings. He has not. He has kept most of the overseas obligations, but has weakened the ability of the Services to meet them in time of difficulty. There is no decision about the magnitude of the reduction in Hong Kong. Does the right hon. Gentleman not consider that the garrison there is not too large to meet some of the potential problems which could arise?
The decision about Brunei and the Gurkha battalion is remarkable. We are pleased to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that it is not final. We are glad that he will consult the sultan and consider the position. The countries in that area are good allies of ours, and they judge this move as being beyond comprehension, particularly as the present situation does not cost the British taxpayer one penny. Recently, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member 1172 for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle), who, while at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, had a great deal to do with that area, the reply by the Secretary of State lacked only one thing—any logical reason for his decision.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Exactly what are the Opposition proposing? Am I right in thinking that their suggestion is that we need more troops in Hong Kong?
§ Mr. Walker
It is our view that the garrison is not too large. The Secretary of State is suggesting a reduction but we do not know by how many men. It has not yet been decided that there will be a reduction, but our view is that the garrison is not too large to meet some of the potential problems which may arise.
One gathers that a very small number of men is to be left in Singapore but that we are to keep all our treaty and defence obligations in that area. If the Secretary of State insists on withdrawing our forces from the area, I hope that he will consider whether there is not something to be said for retaining at least enough to look after the facilities out there on a care and maintenance basis.
The proposals for the situation in the Indian Ocean will weaken our position. We must await the results of the renegotiation of the Simonstown agreement. If it results in all our facilities at Simonstown being preserved under different names and different treaties, perhaps our criticism will be somewhat subdued. But, in fact, the renegotiation is purely political and is being carried out in order to please the Left. If facilities at Simonstown are preserved, there will be considerable relief in the light of the Soviet naval activity in the Indian Ocean. Simonstown is valuable to us because of the security information which comes from our facilities with the South African Government and which is of immense importance to protecting our sea routes.
I turn now to our position in NATO. I hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would say something about the criticisms he received, seemingly, at the ministerial conference last week about some of his decisions. We gather that the Italians were critical of the manner in which he is going to weaken our position in the Mediterranean, and that the Germans 1173 and Americans were critical of the manner in which the northern flank will be adversely affected by the decision to do away with the amphibious force we have now. The flanks of NATO are of immense importance to the defence of the whole area. I hope that the representations made to the right hon. Gentleman by our NATO allies concerning our contribution to the northern and southern flanks will be carefully considered.
We were all relieved by the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the importance he places upon the Territorial Army. If the right hon. Gentleman pursues many of his decisions—we hope that he will not—there is no doubt that there will be increasing need to have available reserve forces and forces which can assist if necessary at a time of mobilisation. When the Government are reducing the forces to the degree they propose now, one has grave concern about the mobilisation capacity of the country in an emergency.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
It would be of assistance to us if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us whether he is aware that during the period of the Conservative Government from 1970 to 1974 the total personnel of the Armed Forces fell by 20,000. My right hon. Friend now proposes a reduction over 10 years of 35,000. He is, in effect, proposing to reduce the rate of reduction in the Armed Forces which he inherited from the Conservative Government.
§ Mr. Walker
We considered that the changes we made in defence expenditure were the maximum that could be undertaken in the light of our commitments. The present Government are to make further substantial reductions without reducing any of our major commitments. Added to that, we are seeing no success and no breakthrough in the disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union, and a considerable build-up in its activities in many areas. For example, month by month we see an increase in Soviet sea power. Yet the Government have decided to make some of their biggest cuts in the Royal Navy. We condemn the nature of many of these cuts.
In terms of the capacity to mobilise, I ask the Secretary of State to tell us 1174 whether, when he does decide which 12 airfields he is to close, after having looked at the relevant facts, he intends to keep some or all on a care and maintenance basis at least so that they could be used again if the need arose.
Our condemnation of the defence review is that it reeks of a series of expediencies to meet the pressures from one section of the Labour Party. The losses from any such expedient actions always far outweigh any temporary gains. It is not juggling with the mechanics and finance of defence which makes a nation secure, but the determination of the Government to defend the nation. The nature of this review leaves us with grave doubt about the inner spirit and determination of the Government to secure the safety of our nation.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I wish to support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) and other of my hon. Friends. I regret to have to tell my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that the cuts he has referred to in his statement are "phoney". We have been misled, or—let me put it another way—many people have been misled into believing that this defence review will mean large reductions in spending on arms. I again regret to have to say that the truth is the exact opposite. People have been misled on the matter additionally because of the way the Press has treated this point.
The savings of hundreds of millions of pounds which are being claimed are fictitious, because they are not savings in comparison with our present vast arms spending; they are savings compared with the even more fantastic proposals of the Conservative Government for arms spending over the next five years. Secondly, far from reducing spending, there is a real and cash increase compared with the £3,660 million estimated for this year last winter. Indeed, in reply to a Written Question which went almost unreported in the Press, my right hon. Friend admitted that next year, in real terms— that is, current terms—the spending is to be £3,700 million, and in the following year £3,800 million. He stated that that level is to be maintained for the next seven years.
1175 That is spending in real terms. God knows what it will be in terms of pounds and pence. If the current rate of inflation—18½ per cent.—continues for the next five years, at the end of that time we shall be spending more than £8,000 million a year on arms. This is no minor matter, but one that threatens us with bankruptcy. Last week, an all-time record deficit of £534 million was reported in our monthly trade figures. In this serious economic situation we cannot afford to continue, never mind increase, our present rate of spending on arms.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
There is no disagreement on the Government side of the House about the importance of a strong economic base for our defence forces. How would my hon. Friend explain to 70,000 civilian and Service personnel that they are liable to lose their jobs as a result of the review? How are these cuts "phoney"?
§ Mr. Allaun
I shall come to that if my hon. Friends will wait a few moments. I do not think that anyone who considers this matter has overlooked the problem raised by my hon. Friend. I do not want to dodge such an important question, particularly as many of my close personal friends in the engineering industry may be affected. The answer is that we believe in different employment, not unemployment.
We were to have had a two-days' debate on defence. It is ironic that this debate has been cut to one day to allow for a debate on the economic crisis. To forgo the real reductions that we can achieve is the height of lunacy.
I shall be brief, because I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Far from lessening tension, an increase in arms spending by this or any other country, in the East or West, will increase tension and reduce our hopes of detente. Some recent Press editorials make me sick. The talk about detente while simultaneously demanding the intensification of war preparations.
§ Mr. Allaun
The same as America is doing, and I regret it more than the hon. Gentleman does.
1176 Whether or not they like it, hon. Members on both sides of the House must admit the truth of every one of the points made in our amendment. They may not like them, but these are factual points that cannot be denied. They are statements of fact.
When addressing the North Atlantic Assembly on 14th December the Prime Minister said:In our economic situation we can no longer afford to bear a higher proportionate burden than that of our major Western European allies.I have been in touch with a couple of high-powered statisticians. One of them is Dr. Frank Blackaby, the Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. They assure me that if we were to reduce our share of the GNP spent on arms to that spent by other Western European allies we should save £1,180 million a year. We need that money to re-equip our industry, to provide houses and schools and to reduce the rate of inflation, because nothing can be more inflationary than an arms programme of the present magnitude.
§ Mr. Mason
I do not want to interfere with the theme of my hon. Friend's speech, but I do not want him to believe that these are "phoney" cuts. They may not represent the savagery that my hon. Friends wants, but I hope his doctor colleague is not advising him wrongly.
If my hon. Friend wants to cut defence expenditure in real terms, he must realise that he has to stop projects that are now being built, that he has to axe Service men tomorrow and that he has to create unemployment in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries immediately, because no alternative employment is available and we have not made any plans to find other employment for those who would be made redundant.
If we were to resort to savagery in making defence cuts, the result would be higher redundancy pay and the severing of contracts. We should have to recompense the industries concerned, and in the first 12 months the saving would be very small. In the meantime, however, we should increase purchasing power by paying a higher rate of redundancy pay, increased unemployment, sever contracts and cause disarray and confusion in the defence industries.
§ Mr. Allaun
I recognise the reasonableness of my right hon. Friend's interjection. Having suffered a little unemployment myself, just as my hon. Friend has, neither of us is anxious to make people unemployed. But the Prime Minister said at the Dispatch Box that the dockyards can be employed on non-military work. Cammell Laird and Vickers could be engaged on building rigs for oil development, or giant oil tankers. I am glad to note that my right hon. Friend agrees with me. I accept that all this cannot be done in three months, but my right hon. Friend has been referring to a period of 10 years.
The second point of my right hon. Friend's interjection must be answered. He said that these are not "phoney" cuts. Gentlemen in the Press Gallery have reported that my right hon. Friend will save £4,700 million over 10 years. I am saying that that is a "phoney" cut, and a few moments ago, in reply to a question from me, my right hon. Friend said that there was a slight real increase in spending. It seems to me, therefore, that he has admitted the case that I am making.
My right hon. Friend's statement refers to certain savings. One of these is a manpower saving of 70,000 but, compared with the total of 700,000 employed in the Ministry of Defence, that is only 10 per cent. over 10 years.
There is a reference to savings in manpower and bases. If there is to be a reduction in certain spheres but the total bill is to increase it must mean that there will be a large increase in certain other spheres in the defence budget. I think I know what those are. Perhaps the Minister of State will deal with this matter when he replies to the debate.
I suspect that there will be a huge increase in our already vast research and development programme of £400 million a year. We know that certain items will grow. For instance, if we buy 385 multi-rôle combat aircraft, it will cost far more than the Channel Tunnel, which we agree that we cannot afford. Moreover, some of these low-flying aircraft are now highly vulnerable to missiles, as the recent Middle East war showed.
There will be an increase in the outlay on the through-deck cruisers which, with 1178 their complement of aircraft, are estimated to cost £140 million each.
In our election manifesto, to which reference has been made by my right hon. Friend, we stated that as a first step we would seek the removal of the United States Polaris base from Britain. Why is there no mention of that in the defence review? Presumably because it will continue for 10 years. Yet we all know that it is a suicide weapon. Once released it will mean the extermination of our people. Moreover, there is no protection against similar weapons directed at this country. Indeed, it makes our whole nation highly vulnerable.
§ Mr. Allaun
The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech. I maintain that we are indefensible because we can be wiped out by a dozen hydrogen bombs in the first few minutes of the next war.
Many hon. Members and a great number of people outside this House are asking not that the Secretary of State should now say, "Very well, here and now I will cut my Estimate", but that, before producing his White Paper in March, he should have taken these views into consideration.
The Opposition are saying not that we are spending too much but that we are not spending enough. I wonder how much they think we should spend. I suggest that if we doubled our spending on defence, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, with very few exceptions, would still say that we were not spending enough.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if we increased our conventional forces we would reduce the risk of having to use our nuclear forces—which should be his aim?
§ Mr. Allaun
I do not believe that there is any need for either. We could get into a long debate on this matter. I do not think that it is possible to defend this country any longer by military means. We are far more likely to have influence in the world if we are economically viable rather than economically bankrupt though militarily strong.
I repeat the question, which I hope will be taken up: how much do right 1179 hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite want to spend on arms? It is a bottomless pit. We could go on spending more millions, and still they would say that it was not enough. This country would still be indefensible. It would merely have the effect of increasing arms spending by other nations.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
A possible answer to the question posed by my hon. Friend is that the Opposition want us to spend as much as is necessary to wreck the economic plans of any Labour Government.
§ Mr. Allaun
I do not know whether that is their conscious motive, but that would be the effect.
We utterly reject the view of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and strongly support the amendment.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)
I rise for the first time in this House to plead a cause about which my constituents and I feel most strongly. Before doing so, I wish to pay tribute to my predecessor, the right hon. Christopher Chataway, who served our country and this House for over 12 years, first as Member of Parliament for Lewisham, North and, for the past five years, as the right hon. Member for Chichester, During that time he rose to high office as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications and, more latterly, Minister for Industrial Development. Though I may lack his athletic prowess and his appeal to television audiences I shall certainly strive to maintain the same high standards and purpose that he displayed throughout his parliamentary career. I hope that this House will join me in wishing him every happiness and success in his new ventures.
It is also proper that I should tell the House a little about Chichester. It is, of course, familiar to those who enjoy sailing at Bosham and Itchenor, to those who enjoy the racing at Goodwood, to those who have visited our famous Festival Theatre, and even to those who have enjoyed rambling over our beautiful downs. Spreading for 500 square miles from the coast, Chichester is primarily an agricultural constituency surrounding the historic cathedral city. It is without 1180 doubt the most beautiful constituency in the country, but it shares with other areas many of the same social and economic problems.
We have an efficient and productive horticulture industry which will be hard hit by the decision not to continue the growers' oil subsidy next year.
We have many small pig and beef producers who have been forced to sell their stock without the benefit of the new guarantee payments.
In common with many other parts of the country, we have a large number of families in need of housing, and, at the same time, many houses lying vacant or under-utilised.
We have the pressures of urbanisation, transport and development, which are gradually eroding the tranquil nature of our countryside and the aesthetic appeal of our city and villages.
Despite these pressing problems, I have chosen to speak on a subject which, at first sight, may appear divorced from the matters that I have mentioned. Yet my constituents have never taken for granted the state of peace that we have been privileged to enjoy for some years, nor have they been the last to respond to the call in time of need. Indeed, since Alfred the Great routed the Danes from Wessex and set up fortifications, we have been mindful of our responsibilities and zealous of our security.
I regard defence as the primary responsibility of the Government. I consider the proper and adequate security of our people to be the prerequisite to all other policies or ambitions of the Government. Without that security, those policies or ambitions may never be realised.
Moreover, I believe that we are entering a changing period of world political structure—a time when planetary politics will become a reality. We have already seen the grouping of the oil-producing countries under OPEC and the first indications that primary producing countries are becoming a collective force. We see world conferences discussing people's needs rather than their interests, and we see a recognition, both nationally and internationally, that collective economic force and power can change the balance of the world. I believe that we should welcome 1181 all these changes, but we would be foolish not to recognise that they bring grave problems and threats to national security and to our prospects for peaceful co-existence.
I have three principal objections to the proposed cuts in defence expenditure which have been announced by the Secretary of State for Defence. My first and major concern is that these cuts will reduce the nuclear threshold—that is to say, the point at which conventional warfare will escalate into nuclear warfare. Although the definitions of nuclear and conventional warfare have become somewhat blurred, my main fear is that a major reduction in force levels will leave a gap in our defence network and strategy which can be filled only by the nuclear deterrent. The reduction in the number of the Royal Navy's frigates and destroyers by one-seventh, the reduction in the number of conventional submarines by one-quarter, the cancellation of the RS80 long-range artillery rocket and the reduction in the rate of deliveries of the MRCA, about which we heard today, provide exactly such a gap in our front-line forces.
The British Government have played a full part in the Geneva Conference on Security and Co-operation and the Vienna Conference on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions, and have had consultations with the United States in regard to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Today we have heard of the importance placed on the Western alliance. But the House must ask for far more visible evidence that limitation and non-proliferation of armaments is being undertaken before we, as a House, sanction the unilateral dismantling of our own armaments.
My second objection concerns our inability to counter the massive build-up of Soviet armaments and forces throughout the world. I am reassured genuinely that the present Government accord high priority to our NATO contribution. But NATO does not cover many parts of the world where Soviet forces extend. Indeed, in the last 10 years the Soviet deployment of warships in international waters has increased by over 10 times. Soviet industry is building over 700 fighters a year. Massive sums are being spent on the production of the new swing-wing bomber, called—somewhat optimistically—"Backfire", for which there is no equivalent in 1182 the West. Research and development— we have heard again today—account for one-third of Soviet defence expenditure. Indeed, it was the present Secretary of State for Defence who was moved to say in the House of 2nd July:I warn the House that there is on its way a new generation of sophisticated advanced weaponry coming from the Soviet Union."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July 1974; Vol. 876, c. 256.]Negotiating from strength has always been a basic element of Soviet foreign policy. Yet no one should be deluded that this build-up is for ceremonial purposes. In central Europe alone the Soviet forces that are evident are far more than are needed to deter attack, and in the Indian Ocean far more than our joint and token contribution with the United States in Diego Garcia can hope to contend with. In these circumstances, is it surprising that a reduction of 35,000 in the number of British Service men and a reduction in the planned defence programme will be welcomed only by the Soviet Union?
Thirdly, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle), I much regret the Government's proposal to withdraw our forces stationed under the five-Power defence arrangements in South-East Asia—particularly the withdrawal of over 3,000 Service men from Singapore. The White Paper on Defence last year concluded that Britain'sworld-wide political and trading interests cannot flourish without stability outside Europe.We seem to have forgotten or ignored that it is barely 10 years since we were defending Malaysia against Communist infiltration from Indonesia and from the mainland further north, and that we successfully defended Malaysia and our interests therein.
The air bases in Singapore provide excellent runways for tactical and strategic bombers, as well as dispersal facilities for aircraft with nuclear capability. The naval base has provided valuable facilities for ship refitting.
Having lived for a number of years on one such base—RAF Changi, in Singapore—and having had the privilege of travelling extensively throughout the Far East, I feel to some extent qualified to tell the House of the value and reassurance that our presence in that island affords to many, many people whom I 1183 have met from other countries which are signatories to that five-Power agreement —that is, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia—and not least to our countrymen who live and work in that part of the world.
As a young man, I recognise that I cannot draw on the experience of many who will wish to contribute to the debate, but I believe that I can say with genuine concern that decisions taken now will have to be paid for by my generation and future generations. I urge the Government most strongly to think again before undertaking such an irrecoverable course of action. History should surely have taught us that defence has always been easy to cut but never easy to build up in a time of emergency. Who among us is brave enough to say, at a time of increasing international terrorism and military insurgence and aggression, that such an emergency will not again exist for this country? Greater voices than mine have pleaded in the House for adequate defence for this country. However, the kind of attention which hon. Members have afforded to me this afternoon encourages me to hope that this time, perhaps, these words of warning will not fall upon deaf ears.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
It falls to me to congratulate the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) on his speech. I do so with great pleasure. I agree with him very much about the beauties of his constituency—just about as strongly as I disagree with him in his views on defence Nevertheless, I think that the whole House will have recognised the sincerity with which he expressed those views. All of us will look forward to listening carefully to what he has to say in the future.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) said, today's debate is taking place against a background of economic gloom and acute anxieties about the future of our country. All around there is a rising chorus of demands to tighten belts, to roll up sleeves and to stop living beyond our means. Yet any impartial observer would search in vain for evidence on the Opposition side of the House that the compelling impending peril of the economic situation has 1184 penetrated the consciousness of many of those who discuss these defence matters.
The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), I fear, is too politically illiterate to understand that there are some people who can oppose defence expenditure without being spokesmen for Soviet policy. I myself, having in the past denounced such crimes as the Soviet intervention into Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the way in which, at the same time, the Soviets have developed their armaments, strongly resent the suggestion that the views which I am expressing now are merely a reflection of the views of Moscow. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends will take that into account in the future.
The present Government came to power committed by a manifesto which said that we would seekto reduce the proportion of the nation's resources devoted to defence so that the burden we bear will be brought in line with that carried by our main European allies.Such a realignment, we were told, at present levels of defence spending—not future levels—would mean achieving annual savings of several hundred million pounds, over a period on defence expenditure. As my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East has shown, the savings which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has postulated are economies on future and not present levels of expenditure. As such, many of us do not regard what he is doing as being in line with the promises which we made in the manifesto.
The defence review does not mean an immediate reduction, either, in the proportion of the nation's resources devoted to defence, as compared with that of our main European allies. It means merely the designation of a distant target. The projections on which that target is based, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East has shown, are estimates of economic growth in the United Kingdom, Europe and elsewhere which are highly tendentious. They also depend upon assumptions of a degree of stability and predictability in international affairs which is absent and upon the ability of one Defence Minister to bind his successors, which he cannot.
In these circumstances, the major economies which we have heard are to 1185 be made are not for immediate realisation but for future achievement. They certainly will not satisfy people like myself, either in the House or in the country at large. The prognostications of my right hon. Friend about what will happen in 10 years' time are no better guide to the situation as it will be at that time than are the speculations of Old Moore's Almanac.
My right hon. Friend has not announced the cancellation of, or drastic changes in, any major weapon projects. He made it clear that he will carry on, albeit with some delay, with the MRCA, the through-deck cruiser, and so on. The result is that savings will be insufficient to help even to stabilise the present level of costs.
Although my right hon. Friend has said that we will concentrate on NATO, we are still prepared to shoulder a whole variety of commitments east of Suez. I refer to one in particular, namely, the commitment in Oman. British forces, whether seconded to the service of the Sultan of Oman or posted to British bases there, are engaged in operations to suppress the liberation movement in Dhofar. The Labour Party manifesto published in October 1974 said:We will continue to support the liberation movements of Southern Africa.How, then, can we justify the suppression of liberation movements elsewhere? The argument is advanced that this particular liberation is supported from abroad and receives Soviet arms. Does not the same argument apply to some of the liberation movements in Africa? If the major objection is to intervention by external powers, do we view with equanimity the introduction of Iranian forces from across the Gulf into Oman?
I believe that we should seek to neutralise the area and initiate talks for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, including the British, from Oman. As long as we are prepared to continue to support that régime we can expect only that those who oppose it will seek reinforcements and armaments from abroad.
My right hon. Friend has said on numerous occasions that the purpose of defence is to defend democracy. What democracy, in any sense that we can understand, exists at present in Oman?
§ Mr. Newens
I agree that in many of those areas of the world there is no democracy and that we should be seeking to help in any way that we can to lead those people forward, but we shall not do it merely by supporting the most reactionary forces in those countries, as we did in the 1950s and 1960s in the case of the South Yemen, thus driving the people there into the arms of the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
To clarify the mind of the House on this matter, will the hon. Gentleman agree that there is no democracy behind the Iron Curtain, and do his remarks apply there also?
§ Mr. Newens
I agree that the degree of democracy behind the Iron Curtain, as in many other parts of the world, is very unsatisfactory from our point of view. I am not prepared to justify everything that happens in the Soviet Union, in the United States, and in those countries which happen to be in the orbit of the United States round the world. I endeavour to judge those countries in an even-handed manner.
The decision to permit the expansion of the United States to the Indian Ocean, which we are at present countenancing by allowing Diego Garcia to be developed, is totally wrong. The majority of nations bordering the Indian Ocean wish demilitarisation to occur there, yet we permit the United States to build up on Diego Garcia as a base. It may be that this is some sort of quid pro quo for Simons-town, as David Wood suggested in The Times today, but I believe that it is part of a policy which the United States embarked upon even in the 1960s to establish a base in that area from which she would be free to send forces to any part of Southern Asia where she wished to preserve what she regards as stability.
I turn to the question of Soviet naval bases in that area. If previous British policies in Aden and South Yemen had not been entirely in support of the sheikhs and the forces of yesterday, we might have enjoyed much more sympathy in that area than we do today. We must ensure that British policy throughout the world is put in tune much more with the progressive movements that are not necessarily dependent on the Soviet Union and which 1187 are inevitably coming to light in all the under-developed countries.
At present, the major expenditure is occurring in Europe. As one who does not believe in British membership of NATO, I say that we cannot continue indefinitely to support the heavy burden in foreign exchange costs involved in the maintenance of forces in Germany. Every year for several decades Western Germany has received an inflow of funds against our outflow produced by Great Britain's accepting a burden of which western Germany is free. We all know that in recent years western Germany and Japan have achieved much higher rates of economic growth than we have. One of the reasons for that is the comparative freedom those countries have enjoyed, for many years, from the military burden which we have been prepared to shoulder.
We must recognise that we cannot go on with this burden indefinitely and that sooner or later we shall have to cut those forces back on economic grounds. Does it make sense to allow funds to be drained from this country while we have to go cap in hand to Saudi Arabia and Iran and ask them to keep their investments here so that we can somehow avoid economic collapse? That is not the sort of strength that the British people believe in. I believe that sooner or later there must be a change. I am anxious that we should press for its achievement rather than that things should be allowed to drift on as at present.
I accept the argument about the buildup of forces by the Warsaw Pact. I should say, in all fairness, that the figures reveal that most of the European members of the Warsaw Pact, except the GDR and the Soviet Union, spend a lower proportion of their GNP on defence than does Great Britain. The Russians spend considerably more. As far as possible we should seek to bring about the earliest possible withdrawal of all Soviet forces from eastern Europe—[HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear Conservative Members supporting that. I hope that they will be prepared to support what I say is the corollary. If we are to bring about that withdrawal we must work for the withdrawal of the forces which are at present deployed by the United States and by NATO in western 1188 Europe. We cannot expect anything to occur if we allow the present situation to continue.
I believe that many people in eastern Europe would welcome unilateral action by Britain. That would enable them to bring additional pressures to bear on the Soviet Union to withdraw its forces. Anyone who does not believe the desire of many people in eastern Europe to get rid of Soviet forces should examine the case of Romania.
§ Mr. Viggers
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the United States has ever perpetrated an act on any country in Europe comparable with the act that Russia perpetrated in Czechoslovakia?
§ Mr. Newens
I think that the United States has been guilty of perpetrating an act in Vietnam even worse than that which was perpetrated by the Soviet Union on the people in Czechoslovakia. The people of Vietnam are every bit as important, as individuals and human beings, as the people of Czechoslovakia. Therefore. I denounce both the United States and the USSR. I only wish that the same principles would apply amongst Conservative Members.
I believe that we must seek to achieve the withdrawal of all forces from western and eastern Europe to their own countries and the neutralisation of an area separating the Powers concerned. If we allow all the initiative to be taken at summit level we shall be accepting a position in which we have no independence of action ourselves. When we remember what occurred recently at Vladivostok we see that the situation is one in which the super-Powers are making all the decisions between themselves on the development of arms. The countries of western and eastern Europe are acting as though they were members or parts of mere spheres of interest. I believe that the present Government should be prepared to embark on real initiatives to help to bring about mutual force reductions on both sides.
We are now facing an economic crisis which is fraught with great political potential. When we consider the past of Northern Ireland—and Ireland as a whole —we see that the failure to take steps at an appropriate time merely stored up trouble for the present generation. It might be said that dragons' teeth were 1189 sown. In my opinion Britain and the world at large are sowing dragons' teeth. In Britain there are problems gathering momentum in housing, education and welfare. It is clear that we are breeding an even larger and more significant minority of young people who feel alienated from the society in which they are being brought up because they are being denied proper homes, proper education and proper services. We could provide those services if we were prepared to make more far-reaching defence cuts.
Unless we reverse the present tendency we shall be faced with a far greater problem in dealing with our own affairs than anything which threatens us from abroad. The world is going along the wrong road. It seems that we are concerned primarily with the problem of possible aggression and possible war occurring as a result of the Soviet Union's build-up of arms. The real problems of humanity which threaten chaos throughout the world are those of hunger, uncontrolled population explosion and our failure to deal with the demand for development which could provide decent conditions for everyone.
Generations to come will deplore the shortsightedness and the biased concentration by many men, including leading statesmen throughout the world, on military expenditure when we might have used the resources at our disposal to deal with the real problems that mankind is facing. The amendment which was not called sets forth many of the ideas which my hon. Friends and I feel should have come to the fore in the defence review. We are extremely disappointed that they have not. Let us make no mistake about it—the position in the country at large is that the people will not be prepared indefinitely to tolerate ever-increasing expenditure on military ends. Sooner or later this House will have to take note of that attitude and make the sort of cuts which we, below the Gangway, have been demanding for so long.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) on his maiden speech. It was a speech which was well thought out and articulate. On this occasion the hon. Gentleman had the benefit of not being interrupted. Anyone 1190 who blandly says in this House that his constituency is the most beautiful in the country will in future be interrupted on more than one occasion.
It is difficult to argue with the hon. Members for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) and Harlow (Mr. Newens). They both take fundamentalist views, which I suspect are not capable of influence one way or the other. Essentially, they are not views with which I concur.
The hon. Member for Salford, East has a long and honourable record of supporting pacifism in his party and in the country. I do not condemn him for that, but I and my party do not believe that that is a realistic stance to take at present. Nor do I accept what was said by the hon. Member for Harlow, namely, that he sought to judge the United States and the USSR in an even-handed manner. I do not accept that that is posible. One is a great and massive dictatorship and the other is an incompetent kind of democracy which—I do not dispute this —has perpetrated bad things in parts of the world. But it is an open society. One thing that Watergate has demonstrated clearly and beyond per-adventure is that it is an open society. That would never happen in the USSR. Therefore, I do not think that we should talk about "We in eastern and western Europe", as the hon. Member for Harlow did.
I accept entirely that all of us in the developed countries, whether East or West, spend far too few of our resources on dealing with the problems of the world's hunger and over-population and the other problems that the hon. Member for Harlow rightly emphasised. But it is important to the House and to the country that we stand for freedom and liberty, and that we oppose the kind of brutality and oppression that—let there be no mistake about it—have occurred and are occurring in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellites.
Because of the pressure of time, I shall confine myself to four or five observations. The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) rightly asked what was the basis of the review. It appears to be based purely on bringing our ratio of GNP to expenditure on defence into line with that of our NATO allies. The right hon. Member quoted the per capita figures to indicate that 1191 although our GNP is, pro rata, less than that of Germany and the Netherlands, it could be fairly argued that our expenditure on defence per head of the population—which is as good a standard measure as any—is less than that of our main allies. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) smiles, but I assure him that that is so.
The per head expenditure on defence in Britain is $155 and the corresponding figures for France and Germany are even higher while in neutral Sweden it rises to $211.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook
I had not intended to interrupt, but the hon. Gentleman has almost invited me to do so. Does he regard GNP as an artificial measurement of the industrial and economic activities of the countries concerned? If it is not artificial, but relatively accurate, does he not accept it as a reasonable measurement of the relative amounts that we can afford to spend on defence?
§ Mr. Johnston
All I am saying is that both measures are dubious. Certainly our GNP now and in the 1980s may be entirely different. That equally goes for per capita expenditure. What I am saying is that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence has made that the total basis of his defence review, and that seems to be objectionable on economic as well as defence grounds.
There is plainly not the time to deal with each Service in turn, and I should like to take as an example the manpower reductions in the Army. The Army is to be reduced by about 12,000 men. As the right hon. Member for Worcester demonstrated by quotations from Written Answers, it is still unclear where and when the cuts will fall, as presumably they will. On what basis is this reduction to be made? For example, is it on the basis that there is to be a political solution in Northern Ireland? I should have thought that a very germane consideration when considering the size of the Army was one's prognostication of that situation, which is tying up a large part of our forces, and I should like Ministers to give us some idea of their views in that respect—because, let us face it, the situation there could get worse and we might have to commit even more men to it.
1192 Secondly, there is the Soviet threat, on which the hon. Member for Harlow expostulated. Is that now regarded as a weakening threat? The most serious criticism of the defence review, either in the House or outside, is that the northern flank of NATO is being weakened, because the British contribution is to be reduced. One is entitled to ask whether, despite the figures showing that the Russians are producing more submarines, more aircraft and more tanks, we are right to reduce our commitment to NATO, particularly on what may be one of the most exposed parts of the NATO line of confrontation.
On that subject, I also mention the European concept of our defence system. The Liberal Party goes along with the Labour Party view that we must recognise that we can no longer police the world. That, we all have to accept, as we Liberals have accepted it for many years, but I should have thought that the fact that the Government were in the middle of negotiations about our position within the European Community would have some effect on their thinking about our relationships within NATO and towards our European allies.
Standardisation of equipment has so far been too little emphasised. It seems to be the only sensible way, in the long term, to reduce defence expenditure without reducing effectiveness, yet the subject has hardly been mentioned. The Secretary of State said rather more about it today, and listed what we had done already. One hon. Member referred to the cuts in research and development, reputed to be about 10 per cent. Why should we not talk in terms of R and D on a NATO basis, or at least look forward to it, for that would save money without reducing the effectiveness of the R and D in question?
The Government have been reorientating the basis of our defence posture towards Europe, but many people within the Armed Forces themselves still appear to have their thinking oriented towards previous roles. I doubt whether there are more Europeans in the staff colleges now than there were in the 1950s.
I come, thirdly, to the subject of the North Sea. When the statement on the defence review was made, the Secretary of State indicated that a further survey was 1193 being undertaken, but I should have thought that to consider his review adequately we needed a better indication of his attitude on the subject. This is not just a matter of a Soviet threat to the oil installations. Because of their exposed position, the installations are open to sabotage of various kinds. We seem to lack naval vessels of the kind that would be able effectively to protect the installations from such attacks. If they were suddenly subjected to a sabotage attack, there would immediately be a tremendous upheaval, and attempts would be made to improve the situation, but the thing to do is to make that improvement before the attack occurs.
My fourth subject is Polaris. Its future is unclear. I recall the test in the United States, made, I suspect, rather contrary to the holy writ of the Labour Party manifesto. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that Polaris would go on its merry way for 10 years, but we ought to have a clear statement about its future. The Liberal Party has not advocated scrapping Polaris now, but we certainly do not advocate improving it and moving to the next generation, because that would be beyond the country's economic capacity. I should like some indication of what the Minister regards as the period of time after which Polaris will become obsolescent, and what the attitude will be towards that weapon and to the submarines which operate it.
I accept the logic of the withdrawal east of Suez. Despite what the right hon. Member for Worcester said, it is highly debatable whether Simonstown genuinely occupies an important strategic position for this country. Certainly we can no longer for any length of time continue to maintain commitments so far away from our own shores.
I should like to know whether the Government visualise a future commitment to any United Nations peacekeeping forces and whether that is a factor which may have influenced the Government's attitude, for example, towards making available the paratroopers and mobile forces generally.
Reference has been made to consultations within NATO.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
Before the hon. Member leaves 1194 his point concerning the defence of overseas trade routes, will he say whether it is the policy of the Liberal Party—the great apostles of free trade everywhere— to take no heed whatever of the way in which it should be defended as it passes overseas?
§ Mr. Johnston
Obviously, no. It would be a foolish apostle who paid no heed to how anything is defended. I said that I thought the view was held by many people that the threat to the South African coast route is not a real one in the event of a medium-term conflict, which we were speaking about. A full-scale conflict would imply a completely different situation, in which, basically, our defence mechanisms would have failed to prevent the war which we would all wish to prevent.
The Opposition amendment suggests that this review imperils the security of the country. That is not a view which we accept. We consider that there are elements which give us cause for concern, but we would find the general direction of the review acceptable.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
The criticism of the Liberal Party spokesman of the Secretary of State's views and actions on the standardisation of weapons is somewhat naïve. The Secretary of State said he was engaged in negotiations with the United States on this matter, and no one can be in a stronger position to do so than the Chairman of the Euro-group.
The United States is well entrenched in the provision of arms to Europe. I am sure that the Secretary of State is right to tackle the problem in the way he has described. I congratulate him on the proposals he has put forward. Considerable economies have been made, and there will be a considerable reduction in the number of people employed.
I regard the civilised treatment of public servants as an essential requirement of a Socialist. The fact that they are soldiers, airmen or people who make tanks does not make them any less qualified to receive careful and humane treatment when they are made redundant.
I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State stress particularly that he plans 1195 to cause the minimum hardship to Service men and people employed in ordnance factories. I would have welcomed a little more information concerning the improvements in the process of the resettlement of Service men when redundancies arise.
Reference was made to the need to provide houses for Service families when Service men leave the Armed Forces. I think that a strong circular should be sent by the Secretary of State for the Environment to local authorities and to the new town corporations asking them to pay special attention to Service men and their families. I speak with considerable experience of the worries of Army men and their families when they come to the end of their engagements and seek new jobs. Not only do they experience difficulty in finding jobs; they experience problems in regard to the education of their children. Most of these ex-Service people are still fairly young, and their children need to continue their education. These people need houses. They experience difficulties in acquiring furniture and other basic goods, apart from the loss of jobs. When this problem arises fairly suddenly or unexpectedly, in the way it will happen now, it will need special attention.
I therefore put it to the Minister that the resettlement courses for ex-Service people need strengthening and improving. Much more thought needs to be given to the equivalence of Service qualifications with those in industry. I know that the trade unions are very good. They accept many trades carried out in the Services as being basically equivalent to those of industry, but greater thought needs to be given to this because there are still anomalies and areas where a Service man with a reasonable qualification is not acceptable in industry. Would the Secretary of State apply his mind to teaching more skills, which would be useful to industry, to the general duties Service men employed in the Air Force, the infantry and the Army, for such people probably have the greatest difficulty in finding employment. I would suspect that the axe falling on the Army will affect the infantry as much as any other body.
I ask very seriously that there should be an increase in the amount of money spent 1196 on the resettlement of Service people who will no longer be needed because of the cuts.
If I could make a suggestion as to where to find money for that purpose, this will only be in the way of saving candle ends but it might help. This is the moment for Ministers to direct Chiefs of Staff to make economies in ceremonies and martial music. I have always felt that there were too many military bands. I have also felt that there were too many central schools of music. From my experience on the Expenditure Committee I discovered that there was such training not for three Services but for four. The Royal Marines had their own ideas of training as well as the three other Services. I have a distinct impression that there are four central schools of music.
§ Mr. Boyden
I am very glad to hear that, since it means no doubt that the Royal Marines and the Navy have one school of music between them. There could be a serious argument, since I have made a point concerning the Army, in favour of establishing Kneller Hall as the central school for the Ministry of Defence.
In all senses a further review of the position of Service bands should be undertaken. Economies could be effected there.
I make the same point concerning ceremonial. The Service chiefs will find themselves in a somewhat weak position to make their own economies. They need to experience pressure from Ministers. They are very conscious of the need to maintain morale. They perhaps exaggerate the role played by bands and ceremonial in maintaining morale. Morale is a very subjective matter. I hope that pressure will be applied by Ministers to ensure that serious economies are made. I can suggest some. I have always thought that the Royal Air Force Queen's Colour Squadron was superfluous. I know that the reason for it is that station commanders do not like using their ordinary men for ceremony and display and much prefer to have people trained entirely for the purpose. But it is arguable at least that it might be better to have people on stations taking part in ceremony than people who are not connected with those stations.
1197 As regards the Army, I venture high heresy in that possibly the Royal Horse Artillery Troop in Regent's Park might be dispensed with, and I shall commit high treason by suggesting that the Guards regiments might spend less time on ceremony. Bringing matters down to an operational level, I am sure that the protection of the Sovereign and of London by the Guards is not as effective as the police protection which is given. There could be effective economies in horses, men and operational efficiency in reconsidering this kind of ceremony and tradition, which is ingrained in the Army.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
Surely the hon. Gentleman is not asking us to believe that he, as an ex-Army Minister, feels that the Guards are used purely for ceremonial duties. Surely the hon. Gentleman is not throwing cold water on the fighting ability of the Guards when it comes to a showdown.
§ Mr. Boyden
Of course not. It is one of the keys to the success of their ceremonials. I agree that they are amongst the best fighting regiments that there are. But I suggest that they could be relieved of many ceremonial duties with some economy and possibly an increase in their operational efficiency. I may also say to the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) that perhaps the Navy could fire fewer guns in South Africa.
I put this forward as a serious point. It will save only candle ends—it will not save the economy in the way suggested by one of my hon. Friends—but it would have a useful by-product in that it would concentrate the minds of the Services on getting greater military efficiency from their organisations.
At meetings of the WEU and other international bodies which I have attended, I have found that Conservatives generally always push to one side in any consideration of defence any thought of what the Warsaw Pact countries might think of what they are saying about detente and balanced force reductions. My right hon. Friend is right to concentrate on NATO and to regard it as a key bargaining power in terms of force reductions. In a debate of this description, it is essential to continue steadily, as the present Government are doing, to 1198 press in NATO and with the Americans for continuous and better negotiations with the Warsaw Pact for force reductions.
For years in this House I have heard no references made to the Geneva disarmament conference. The Conservative Party tends to write it off. In the past four or five years, it has had some successes as regards chemical warfare, and it may have others in other areas. The very fact that the Geneva conference is in session and is attended by the representatives of a great many nations helps towards ultimate success in achieving balanced force reductions.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
But if we want to make progress in these negotiations, it is more likely to come if we do not announce reductions unilaterally.
§ Mr. Boyden
My right hon. Friend has announced slight reductions in NATO, and I remind the right hon. Gentleman that two of my colleagues have attacked him for them. But NATO remains the absolute linchpin of Government policy, and this is a clear and sound argument in relation to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. In any consideration of reductions in defence expenditure there must be reference to continuous negotiations.
There is one other matter to which I hope my right hon. Friend will direct his mind. He referred to it in passing, as did an Opposition Member. It is the need to look carefully at our reserves in the TAVR. I want especially to refer to the medical branch. The Defence Committee, dealing with medical services, is very disappointed about the time that the Services and the Ministry of Defence have taken to implement the Jarrett Report. It was published some time ago. Progress in rationalising the hospital service for the Services and in making changes in medical training and the training of nurses has been going far too slowly.
I throw into this pool the need to consider the position of doctors on the Reserve and the need to widen the reserve of doctors for BAOR. It is a serious weakness in our Services in NATO that we are short of doctors and that we do not have a sufficient reserve of medical staff. In my days in the Ministry of Defence, bandsmen were remustered as partial medical assistants, but that was 1199 not quite enough. Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friend to look into the state of our medical services since they are so vital for the morale of Service people and for NATO.
Considerable economies are being made. There will be considerable redundancies. The fact that my right hon. Friend is proposing to take this gradually and carefully is a tribute to the defence review and not a criticism of it.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. David Walder (Clitheroe)
Taking up one point made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), perhaps I may quote Kipling. Part of the hon. Gentleman's discourse was devoted to the principle,'Thank you, Mr. Atkins,' when the band begins to play.I agree, and I do not cross swords with much of the rest of the hon. Gentleman's speech.
It is a pity that, rather like the captains and the kings, the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) has left us. In my innocence and simplicity, I had thought that those hon. Members who favoured his amendment, rather in the terms of that excellent book, "1066 and All That", had hitherto thought of the USSR and its position in eastern Europe as a good thing. However, I was surprised to discover that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends do not think that. In my view, therefore, any basis for their argument disappears, and what they say is completely without validity. I am mystified. For that reason, I shall deal not with the band but with Mr. Atkins.
Whenever we discuss defence in this House, there is disagreement between the Conservative and Labour Parties. In a previous defence debate, I can remember the Minister of State saying, with obvious sincerity, that in the heart of every Socialist there was a pacifist. I feel that that is something of a luxury, because pacifists enjoy a society which is preserved and defended by men and women who are not pacifists.
I accept that a nation has to gear its defence expenditure to the state of its own economy and to what it can bear, especially in a democracy. However, I 1200 am sure that Mr. Brezhnev's reported aside to the French that one in three roubles is spent on defence is not one which we would think either desirable or possible in the Western world. I accept also that a nation can be destroyed economically as well as militarily.
Throughout the two debates on defence and the defence review, so far, the Secretary of State has banged away at the theme that NATO is the linchpin of our defence posture. I agree with that. I sometimes wonder how some Labour Members regard that. I sometimes get the impression that they do not take the view that we and the Secretary of State take—that NATO is essentially a defensive alliance. They do not seem to share our occasional puzzlement over attempts to make the NATO organisation and the Warsaw Pact appear equal when NATO's actions throughout have been defensive. With the Warsaw Pact we have seen the situation in Czechoslovakia and in Hungary. We notice how the Soviet Union is immediately alerted when there is a crisis in the Middle East, if there are NATO exercises in the North Sea, or if there seems to be a crisis of some sort brewing in the Mediterranean.
Can we really think that this interest displayed by the Soviets is for peaceful purposes—for purposes beneficial to ourselves in the West, or ourselves in this country? I would hardly have thought so. One would have to be very innocent to believe that.
I can see that it is militarily logical to maintain the Western alliance but I would have thought it rather naive to argue that by reducing the capability on the two flanks of NATO we thus increase the capability on the central front. That, as I understand it, is the Secretary of State's argument. There is also an overall reduction in manpower. Disarmament and detente are in the air. But detente will be achieved only by tough, close bargaining. To begin that bargaining by throwing away a principal card, face upwards, without any compensatory advantage is, to my mind, foolishness. We are unilaterally reducing our defence potential, not on military grounds but on monetary grounds.
So much for NATO. Logically and militarily it is possible to make a case for reducing our global commitments. The 1201 Secretary of State talked about our giving up the Imperial role. That was given up many years ago. It is curious that although the right hon. Gentleman talks in those terms he has not done that. There are still forces seemingly to be distributed over the globe in penny packets. RAF Transport Command will be halved. I do not know how we shall communicate with the penny packets, or how we shall ever reinforce them. It seems almost impossible.
Not only does the Secretary of State propose to reduce the possibility of reinforcement but at the same time he is to reduce the credibility of the forces on the ground, unless we imagine him running round, possibly at night, trying to arrange in an emergency, to fix up transport with the charter airlines. There is a case for cutting global commitments, and in those circumstances we have to make up our minds what sort of war we are likely to wage. The catch is that this is not always within our power or choice.
How many Members of this House 10 years ago would have predicted the current situation in Northern Ireland? Yet by this review we are cutting the Army by 12,000 men—the equivalent of two brigades or 10 major units. This must inevitably mean that our Army is overstretched, even beyond its present tasks. It must mean more tours for regiments and units in Ireland. I was in Ireland just before the election. I saw deployed there an infantry regiment, a Sapper regiment acting as infantry and a Gunner regiment acting as infantry. If we take 10 major units out of the Army List we shall inevitably exacerbate that sort of situation.
We reduce numbers overall by this defence review. Inevitably, mobility will become difficult and reinforcement unlikely. We are told that there will be consultation with our allies. I would be expressing the view held on the Conservative benches if I said that we are still uneasy. What is this consultation to be? Will it really be argument with our Allies and consultation with them? Will we know their views? Will we have any indication that all the 13 nations in NATO agree, or are they to be presented with a fait accompli and are we to get the results returned to us as the Secretary of State has sketched out in his review? 1202 If it is not to be meaningful consultation with our allies it would be better if the right hon. Gentleman were honest with us and did not go through such bogus manoeuvres.
We all know NATO's faults. One is a lack of standardisation. Another has been pointed out in recent weeks by Sir Peter Hill-Norton. We know the defects of NATO. We know that militarily NATO forces look less credible and less effective than Warsaw Pact forces. They lack the cohesion of the Soviet forces. Yet within NATO we, the British, are regarded as the professionals, the trained experts with an all-Regular force. That primacy is bought at a price. It is bought at the price of active Service experience, sometimes in other parts of the globe but also in Northern Ireland.
It is also bought at a financial price. All-Regular forces are more expensive than conscript forces. Sometimes our European allies expect too much. Sometimes there is a suggestion that the British should continue to garrison various parts of the world, such as the Far East and the Middle East. I have heard this suggestion from German and French politicians who, putting it in a simple way, say that we should stay in the Middle East to help preserve the supplies of oil to Europe. That may be well and good. I have sometimes suggested that Europeans, too, should take an interest. I have never received any takers for that.
A great deal of the cost of our forces is taken up in pay and accommodation. Those Labour Members who support the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Harlow seem entirely to have left the Chamber, so I cannot address them. I am always intrigued by the arguments which try to show that most defence expenditure is upon equipment and the like. The mass of it is on pay and accommodation. Kipling once talked aboutsingle men in barricks, most remarkable like you.The trouble is that they are no longer single. There are more women and children in BAOR and RAF Germany than there are Service men. Our most modern comprehensive school for British children is in Cyprus. If money is their sole consideration, those who wish to see Polaris submarines and the like disappear 1203 —the Left wing of the Labour Party— might do better to concentrate their attention on the many schoolteachers, social workers and NAAFI managers who are involved.
No one, certainly among the Labour Party, would advocate a conscript service even if it could be done on the cheap. No one would suggest that the British Service man should not enjoy the same facilities as his brother in industry. We must recognise that to provide Regular forces with all that they and their wives and families expect today is a costly process and is likely to become more so.
I have already suggested that our forces, with the proposed manpower reductions, are bound to be over-strained. There will be fewer facilities for training abroad. There will be fewer inducements for young men and women to go into the forces. There will be less travel and less adventure training. The promotion triangle, whether for officers or men, will be more acute. The career prospects will be dimmed. No parent, looking at the present defence review, would say to a son or daughter, "There is a marvellous career for you". The Secretary of State has said that the Government will embark on a great recruiting drive next year. Speech fails me. What a wonderful time to choose!
All those factors are relevant to providing Regular forces. A heavier burden will be placed on the shoulders of Service men and, perhaps more important, on their families. At the same time, the credibility of our forces will be reduced. It is vital that it should be preserved to deter potential enemies, and it is very important internally. The Service man has his pride. It is important that he should think that the forces are credible, important and worth while.
If we are to believe all that we are told, the Secretary of State—I never doubt his patriotism—has fought a battle with his Cabinet colleagues over this review and undoubtedly with the Left wing of his party. I do not think that the review contains much military logic. On the basis of the appearance of short monetary gains, and sometimes not even that, a curious situation has been produced. I know that the South Africans and probably the Sultan of Bahrein 1204 occupy a position in what I might call the demonology of the Labour Party. They remain there. But in the same breath the Saudi Arabians seem to have gone into its hagiology. This I find difficult to reconcile. However, I give the Secretary of State credit. He has fought a battle. Sadly, I think that he has lost it, but, I still hope, not irretrievably.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
May I first establish my credentials in the only way which is apparently acceptable to the Opposition. I was recently criticised personally in the Soviet Press —not, it is true, in Pravda, but in lsvestia. Therefore, although hon. Members opposite may disagree with some of the things that I say, I hope that they will not impugn my motives in the unfortunate manner in which the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) dealt with my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens).
I wish to make two points. The first concerns the question of the Indian Ocean on which the Opposition give vent to much sound and fury. The essence of the argument as stated by the right hon. Member for Worcester when commenting on my right hon. Friend's far-reaching and generally praiseworthy review 10 days ago was that 2,000 British ships use the Cape Route every year, that 1 million tons of oil pass over that route each day, and that in the last two years Soviet naval strength has quadrupled in the area.
Let me deal first with the question of the ships round the Cape. There is a problem here. A constituent of mine, a sailor, has written to me about how his ship has often been followed by Soviet naval vessels—an unpleasant nuisance, certainly, but is it much more than that? If we have not been able to prevent it in the past, as clearly we have not, I cannot see what difference maintaining a naval presence in that area will make in future. Besides, Soviet ships constantly monitor and follow our NATO task forces when they are engaged in manoeuvres, and there is nothing we can do about it.
The difficulty about the Opposition's stand on the Indian Ocean issue is that two facts, the number of British trading vessels rounding the Cape, and the size 1205 of the Russian fleet, are juxtaposed in a menacing way without any clear indication of precisely what scenario is feared. I am glad that the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) mentioned the need to anticipate what form a conflict might take. I should like briefly to anticipate one or two possible scenarios which may be in the hon. Gentleman's mind.
Are the Soviet vessels going to halt British commerce in time of peace? I suggest not. There has been only one serious blockade of that type since the war, when the Americans prevented Soviet ships from carrying rockets into Cuba. It was done only because the United States felt that there was a grave threat to United States security—something which the Russians are hardly likely to feel about British commercial vessels rounding the Cape.
Might the Soviet Navy try to cut oft British and Western European oil supplies to bring Europe to its knees? Does anyone seriously believe that if the Soviet Union were going to risk a worldwide conflagration—that is precisely what such a move would entail—it would adopt a course of action which would alert the West, give us time to co-ordinate our strategy and lose Moscow any hope of surprise in the vital area, central Europe?
What about war time? I cannot believe that there are many hon. Members who think that a third world war would repeat the patterns of the First and Second World Wars, long-drawn-out struggles in which the preservation of open sea lanes for years on end was a strategic necessity. Most hon. Members would admit that the likelihood is that a third world war would in practice last less time than it takes an oil tanker to get from the Persian Gulf to a British port.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why oil must come to this country round the Cape? It has to be defended somehow. Why is the Soviet Union spending so much money on its navy when it is already probably the biggest nuclear Power in the world? If it is in a position to blackmail the West by saying "Unless you do as we say we shall stop your submarines", that is all it wants. Is not that the reason behind its immense expenditure on naval arms?
§ Mr. MacFarquhar
I have answered that in part by suggesting that the Soviet Union would be unlikely to be so silly as to attempt that kind of confrontation, because then, in the central sphere, the NATO area, we would be alerted and it would fear a response there. I shall return to that point later.
For the sake of argument—the Opposition's argument—let us consider that most vital cargo which comes round the Cape, oil. The right hon. Member for Worcester mentioned 10 days ago that it amounted to 1 million tons a day, and that is 365 million tons a year. Of course, not all of it goes to the United Kingdom. In 1973, we imported over 82 million tons from Iran and the Middle East. The other 280 million tons went elsewhere, including 54½ million tons for Germany and 92 million tons for France. Clearly both countries, as well as other smaller European countries which I have not mentioned, are heavily dependent on oil supplies from round the Cape. What naval precautions do they take to protect those supplies?
The latest edition of the military balance issued by the Institute for Strategic Studies shows that while the United Kingdom boasts 74 major surface combat vessels and 30 non-strategic submarines— that is, submarines not connected with the nuclear deterrent—France has only 49 major surface combat vessels and 19 ordinary submarines, and Germany has 22 surface vessels and 13 coastal submarines. France maintains an Indian Ocean presence, but not even the most Gaullist admiral could claim that it would do much to protect French shipping in war time, while the Germans plainly maintain a basically coastal fleet for Baltic purposes. Does anyone in the Bundestag, on the Right, on the Left or in the Centre, thunder about the need to build a new high seas fleet to protect those vital German oil supplies? Of course not.
If that is because Germany and other European allies believe that we, the British, can stand guard for them and that a British naval presence is desirable in the Indian Ocean area, it is about time that this should be accepted as a European responsibility and not just a British responsibility, and we should be subsidised for performing this role when their stake is as great as ours.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is the third time that the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) has interrupted in an hour. It is rather unfair on other hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there a limitation on interventions in a debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is just a question of selfishness, and whether another hon. Member will be unable to get in to make his speech.
§ Mr. MacFarquhar
I do not believe that that is the reason for the absence of other European fleets from the Indian Ocean. The real reason is that the other ex-imperial Powers have given up their memories of grandeur more expeditiously than we have. They have translated the concept of being purely European Powers into practical terms. The sooner we do the same the better, and I applaud my right hon. Friend's decision to complete the withdrawal from east of Suez. If the Russians and Americans wish to play at super-Power politics by showing the flag in the Indian Ocean, let them incur the expense and the odium of the littoral Powers for so doing. I only ask my right hon. Friend whether he has any intention of continuing to show the flag in the Indian Ocean and, if so, in what strength, how often and, most importantly, why?
My second, briefer, point has to do with the nature of the manpower cuts. My right hon. Friend will doubtless remember that the scientific basis for Parkinson's Law lay in naval statistics for the first quarter of this century, which proved that while ships declined in number Admiralty and dockyard officials increased enormously in number. I trust that my right hon. Friend is aware that in the period of office of his Conservative predecessor there was an alarming variation of this law. Between 1970–71 and 1973–74 the number of Service personnel in the Royal Navy declined by 18 per cent. but, while the staff of the Whitehall headquarters of the Ministry of Defence declined too, it declined only by half as 1208 much, 9 per cent. I should like to know the reason for that.
Even more disturbing is another statistic. According to the Economist of 7th December Britain currently has one general or his equivalent for only 545 Service men. The comparative figures are, for Germany, one per 1,800, France, one per 1,400, and the United States, one per 2,000.
When I looked into the Army figures over a period I was even more disturbed. At the end of 1964 Britain employed one general to 393 other ranks, that is about half a battalion. By September 1974 the figure had improved marginally to one general to 403 other ranks. Those figures are for brigadiers and above. The figures for major-generals and above are somewhat more reassuring, but going the wrong way. It is the earlier comparative statistics that are dismaying.
We hear a great deal about the professionalism of our all volunteer Army and I am sure that that is, by and large, true, but comparative statistics of this type have a somewhat Ruritanian flavour. Will my right hon. Friend explain why we need so many generals, relatively speaking, as compared with our closest allies? Will he tell the House what measures he will be taking in reshaping our Armed Forces to ensure that they truly resemble the British bulldog—lots of teeth and little tail?
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) raised the question of manpower. I approach it in a rather more serious way than perhaps he did. What the House and our allies have to realise is that eventually the strength of the country and its armed forces is largely judged by the number of reserve troops and the number of men who can actualy be put in the field.
Both Government and Opposition over the last few years have witnessed a dangerous decline in the amount of military—by which I mean Army—manpower that is available. The right hon. Gentleman announced a cut in military manpower which, if taken with the cut in the Commandos and the Royal Air Force Regiment means that about 15,000 men are being cut out of the front line, although we have a civil war in Ireland 1209 and a large number of commitments outside Europe.
Even more alarming, reserve manpower has fallen from June of last year by 75 per cent. with the ending of the Army General Reserve. The main problem in any military planning is facing the unknown and totally unexpected events which occur. Northern Ireland is one such event. The Korean war, our involvement in Malaya and our involvement in Africa are three other recent examples.
Within the last 18 months, whether it be the fault of the Government or of events, the reserve forces available on the ground have fallen from about 360,000 to fewer than 100,000 men. That is an alarming figure. Dr. Luns is reported today as being somewhat distressed by the Government's review. That must have been one of the figures which he took into consideration.
May I explain how the other European countries stand with reserve forces? I am referring not to air reserve forces but military, on the ground, reserve forces. France has 450,000 reservists available— in a week ; Germany has 450,000 reservists ; Bulgaria has 250,000, although the less reliable members of the Eastern bloc are allowed fewer, and Hungary has only 40,000. This country now has fewer than 100,000 men able to come forward. If one looks at commitments outside Europe, Europe has far larger standing armies than we have. I consider that the question of the reserves and what can be done about them is alarming.
I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman say this afternoon that he was to have a recruiting drive for the TAVR. There are only two reserves in existence today. First, there is the Regular Army Reserve, which is under 60,000, of which only section A is of immediate use. The number in section A can be worked out roughly by dividing the Regular Army Reserve by three, which gives 20,000. Secondly, there is the Territorial Army, whose strength has fallen by about 10,000 since 1972. Those are the reserves available to meet every sort of condition outlined, whether it be from the Left or the Right, with world conditions becoming more turbulent and more dangerous every day. That is the 1210 most serious problem with which our Armed Forces are faced.
I hope that the Minister who is to reply will tell us about the size of the age groupings of the Regular Army Reserve. When we had a three-year term of service, which is now becoming unfashionable, the age of the Regular Army Reserve was comparatively low. I suspect that now, with a longer term of service, the age of the Regular Army Reserve has become very much higher.
We have this fixed number of regular reservists which will decrease because the size of the Armed Forces will decrease. It will be a diminishing entity. We are left with the only other form of reserve available to the country, which is the TAVR—the Territorial Army. It is regarding this that I would like to make various suggestions.
I say to the whole House, to hon. Members on both sides, that we shall be judged by the number of reserve soldiers we can put in the field. Unless we can show an infinitely greater number than we have today, this House will be faced with the re-introduction of conscription in the not far distant future. That is an ugly thought, and is probably not acceptable to either Front Bench. A catastrophic fall has inevitably followed from the ending of conscription, at the time of which the Army General Reserve average age must have been about 37. We are faced with the fact that we have not at the moment anything like a sufficiency of soldiers to put on the ground, to protect various interests to which we are committed, and to deal with problems here at home. Therefore, so far as the Territorial Army is concerned, we must look at this much more seriously than merely thinking in terms of a recruiting drive.
In 1967, when the last major reform of the Territorial Army was carried out, its recruited strength was 115,000. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer then reduced the strength of the establishment to 55,000. Two years ago a Conservative Secretary of State for Defence pushed it up again to 65,000. Overall the strength of the force is 74,000, including various people who do the training of cadet battalions, and so forth. Of this figure of 74,000, about 54,000 are recruited.
1211 The first step towards trying to build up a proper reserve in this country must be to bring the TA up to establishment. To bring the figure up from 54,000 to 74,000—or whatever the precise figure may be—will take a lot of doing, and three things are essential in this respect. First, there needs to be a statement not only by the Secretary of State but also perhaps by the Prime Minister, and by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in which they can make clear how important they believe the TA to be. There is undoubtedly a collapse of morale. I had to reorganise the TA back in 1960. It has had too many reorganisations. The TA wants to be put put on a firm basis, and to be told more precisely what its role is. That is of vital importance.
Secondly, there is the importance of increasing the bounty. It has remained without any improvement since 1957, and must be increased. These men give up a lot. They have a fortnight in camp, and undertake a large number of drills throughout the year.
Beyond that, the next stage, once recruiting has been achieved, is that the powers-that-be must seriously consider a considerable increase in the strength and size of the Territorial Army above the present figure of 74,000. When a former Labour Secretary of State reduced the size of the Territorial Army he also reduced the number of drill halls. Out of a total of 1,200, 800 were disposed of. In addition, a considerable number of specialist battalions — the docker battalion, the transport battalion and the railway battalion—were largely cut. Recruitment of a sufficiency of reserve forces must depend on going to where the men are available. This is in the rural areas, where the drill halls are gone, and in the industrial areas, where there has been a diminution of what are now called, I think, the sponsored forces. A considerable increase could be made in this.
I turn finally to finance. The Secretary of State is keen to save money. We must accept that as expenditure on new weapons goes up by a geometrical rate, we shall probably be able to afford fewer. But we must be prepared to see that we are protected by a sufficiency of armed men. That, at the end of the 1212 day, is what matters. There is an example on costings that we can consider here. As hon. Members will know, on mobilisation one-third of BAOR consists of TAVR reinforcements. That is a pretty alarming thought, but that is how BAOR is brought up to strength, and the cost of the TAVR contribution of one third is 4 per cent. of the Army budget.
If hon. Gentlemen wish to see the defence of this country undertaken not at immense expense but on the cheap they should note my belief that we have a great chance to build up this force so that we have a proper reserve. In this respect we are unlike European countries, with their enormous reserves, and unlike Israel, which can mobilise 275,000 men within 30 hours. We have a reserve of 100,000 men, and yet we have civil war in one of our main provinces. Not a single country in Europe has this sort of trouble. Nor do those countries have commitments outside Europe, but we have commitments in Oman, Singapore and the Far East, and we also have potential commitments. It is no good hon. Members opposite shaking their heads. Hon. Gentlemen on the Government side talk of their responsibility to decide the fate of Rhodesia. It is no good saying that we have not a responsibility. We have a responsibility, yet we have behind us at the moment 100,000 reserve soldiers, and this is not nearly good enough.
Perhaps both Front Benches have not paid enough attention to this point. Now is the time, before it is too late, to recruit and build up a citizen force, within the framework of the British Army.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Before I call the next hon. Member, I draw attention to the fact, as Mr. Speaker has probably done, that there is a lengthy list of hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. The number now stands at 23. I am sure that hon. Members can work out for themselves the best method for the Chair to be able to call as many hon. Members as possible.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Alec Woodall (Hemsworth)
I promise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall be as brief as possible.
I have spent most of my life in a Yorkshire mining community, and so in 1213 contributing to the debate I cannot follow the remarks of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser). Nor do I speak from close study of high strategy or from a detailed technical knowledge of the modern weapons of war. As the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) can confirm, I was his platoon corporal in the last war, in 1940, when it was my job to instruct him in the use of the infantry weapons of that time— the Bren gun, the rifle and bayonet, and the grenade. They were hardly sophisticated weapons by today's standards, judging from the literature produced in the recruitment campaign.
I welcome the proposals made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, both on 3rd December and as further outlined today. He had a difficult task. He could not please everyone, and indeed, he appears to have pleased very-few, but I think that he has got it about right.
As a trade unionist, and now as a Member of Parliament, I value the freedoms that we all take for granted—the right to organise, the freedom of speech, the right to strike. I was a miner on strike last February. Those are precious things that people in many parts of the world do not have. They are worth fighting for, even if we go down fighting.
Some of my hon. Friends are pacifists. I wholly respect their views. After my experiences in the last war I, like many thousands, was hopeful that never again would the world see arms taken up, but my experience in life suggests that we cannot expect our enemy to lay down his arms just because we have done so. The Labour movement, to which I belong, believes in disarmament, but of a multilateral kind. We support the United Nations, just as years ago we supported the League of Nations, but till all the major countries of the world are prepared to join in the ending of the arms race we must be prepared to defend ourselves and our freedoms.
That is why I am worried about those who believe that we can save on defence larger and larger sums, without considering the consequences. I do not believe that there will be a war tomorrow, but I believe that to reduce our defences 1214 beyond a certain point could provoke those who would like ultimately to destroy our freedom to argue in the way that we are arguing now.
During the past 10 months we have had two General Elections in which we pledged to cut arms expenditure to a figure somewhere in line with that of our European partners. We have worked out how to do it, and now we shall honour that pledge. Having grown up in a mining community, I am fully aware of the economic and social needs of ray constituents. Unless we can solve the balance of payments problem and check inflation their standards of living will suffer. In addition, we need more money for homes, schools and hospitals.
If we do not improve standards of living our people will become disillusioned, just as some of my constituents were disillusioned during the 1960s because of pit closures and their effects. In the end our system, which has been stable, could collapse. If we are concerned only with defending ourselves against the external enemy we could betray the hopes and aspirations of those we are defending. That is why it is a matter of judgment how much we can cut defence spending. It is a matter of fact that we could realistically make savings only in projects which we inherited. The cost of cancellations could be astronomic and the unemployment prospects devastating. This is why I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has struck the right balance in a very satisfactory way. I hope that he will now take particular care in the consultations he will be having to minimise the employment consequences of his defence review.
I say to some of my hon. Friends that we cannot have it both ways. If we are to save money on equipment, some job will be lost, but I hope that everything will be done to bring civil work to areas where military work declines. I hope that my right hon. Friend will remember in particular the needs of those areas, especially in the North, where industrial decline is a continuing problem. I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said in the debate, as I welcomed his statement. The great majority of the British people are behind him in carrying out his difficult task.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)
It is well known that the Government's attitude to defence was decided long before the defence review began. To use a medical term, I think that the instructions were to give the patient not a check-up but surgery. The Secretary of State for Defence has carried out those orders.
In his statement of 3rd December, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the various factors to be taken into account. I would refer to a similar statement by Admiral Gorshkov, head of the Soviet Navy, who has been at the head of that modern and expanding force for some 20 years. He has said:The condition of the economy determines the power of that most important weapon of poicy, the armed forces of a country, whose condition is a reflection of the economic might of the State.There is a great deal of truth in that. It is what has been said by Labour Members. But another factor has been left out of account—the political will of the leadership of a country to maintain adequate defences. That will is sadly lacking on the part of our Government.
The Secretary of State said on 3rd December that producing the defence review had been a tortuous exercise. I can well believe that it was very tortuous, bearing in mind the views expressed by so many of his colleagues behind him.
When visiting the Soviet Union, one cannot but be struck by the low standard of living. Yet that country, with a standard of living only a fraction of our own, continually spends more and more in real terms on armaments, largely of an offensive nature. The burden is all the heavier because of the low living standards of the ordinary people. Why then, do their leaders choose to spend money on tanks, not cars; on fighters, not holiday flights to the sun; on missiles, not houses; on submarines, not shops?
We can readily understand why the people accept the burden. They are better off than they have ever been, and they genuinely fear attack, because they are told by the propaganda machine that it is a real danger. They are ignorant of what they are missing in the way of living standards and of the true wishes of the people of the West, who want nothing more than to leave them in peace.
But why do the leaders, the hard-headed realists in the Kremlin, impose 1216 this burden on their people? They know full well that there is no intention in the West of attacking the Soviet Union, yet they have built up a great capability for war. We must consider their intentions. It would be folly not to. At present they talk of detente, but what do they do? They constantly increase both the quantity and quality of their armaments, and the gap between the West and the Soviet Union is constantly widening.
On 3rd December the Minister made great play of the fact that in the Warsaw Pact 85 per cent, of the strength were conscripts. I reply with two other facts. First, one can do more for one's money with conscripts. Secondly, and perhaps even more important, the army of Nazi Germany was also composed of conscripts, and that did not stop it over-running Europe in 1940.
I do not believe for a moment that at present the Soviet leaders wish to engage in an act of outright military aggression. They prefer to obtain their way by pressure and subversion. But if we allow the gap between us to widen too far there will be a process of intimidation. We shall encourage aggression. There will be a danger of a fait accompli, of aggression by incident and by accident.
The whole basis of the review is fallacious. It is fallacious to refer to the gross national product of our allies and their spending on defence. In 1954 we spent 10 per cent, of our GNP on defence. In 1964 defence spending was down to 6.7 per cent. This year it is 5.5 per cent. Now we are told that it is going down to 4.5 per cent.
It is interesting to note that in 1954 the expenditure amounted to about one-quarter of total public spending. Now it is down to only one-tenth. Has the world been any safer in the last 20 years, or, indeed, in the last 10? In fact, in the last 10 years, the world has become very much more unstable than it was.
We do not spend less on education or social services, nor propose to do so, just because our friends and allies are growing wealthier than we are. We should equally not accept that we must spend less on defence which is a first essential. The most important assurance the right hon. Gentleman could give today would be that there will be no further cuts during the period of the review on future 1217 grounds that the percentage of the gross national product spent by our allies has become greater than ours simply because they have again grown faster than we have.
It is sobering to think that this country spends more on drink and tobacco than on defence. We are spending about 50 per cent, more on booze and baccy than we do on defence. With those figures, I do not accept that we cannot afford to maintain an adequate level of defence.
The Secretary of State has said that the waters of the eastern Atlantic are crucial, and that is true. But does not he accept that equally crucial is the Cape route. Eighty per cent, of Europe's oil and 50 per cent, of its raw materials come along that route. There is a ship every 25 miles strung out over the thousands of miles between the Cape and British ports. I shall not enter into an argument about South Africa. Many things there do not appeal to me. But it is a fact of life that Simonstown is the only base with adequate facilities on this vital sea route.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) has reminded us of the evasiveness of the answers to the many Questions that we have put down about defence. Today I did obtain an answer which was more definite. I asked whether there ware any dry dock or dockyard facilities at Diego Garcia, and, if not, whether it was proposed to construct any. The Minister, in reply, said that there were no dry docks or dockyard facilities there and that there would be a modest expansion of the facilities for the United States Navy, including an improved anchorage and ship support facilities. He added that there were no plans for a dry dock. This is wholly inadequate as an alternative to the excellent facilities at Simonstown.
Yet the Soviet navy is increasing rapidly and is now a most formidable and modern force. The "Ark Royal" is now being phased out. When it is to go is a secret, and we must not be told, apparently— but I hazard a guess that the "Ark Royal" will go at about the same time as the first proper Soviet aircraft carrier takes to the high seas. It is an ironical situation. It might be fitting for the Minister to arrange for a photograph to be taken of the two ships passing each other—the "Ark Royal" going to the 1218 scrapyard and the "Kiev ", or whatever it may be called, proceeding to the high seas.
The United Kingdom is particularly vulnerable to attack on its sea lanes. I do not agree that because our NATO allies have devoted their resources to land armies rather than to their navies it is an excuse for our not providing adequate naval forces. If the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) would delve further into his statistics he would find that the armies of France and Germany are much bigger than our own, but that, instead, we have concentrated—understandably, in view of our tradition, geographical situation and pattern of trade— on the Royal Navy.
I turn now to the effect of the cuts on the shipyards, particularly the civilian yards. There was an awkward political problem of how to keep open the four naval dockyards as the Navy's ships are to be reduced greatly in number. We are told that the solution is for the naval dockyards to have moved into them work which is at present carried out in civilian yards. But all that this will mean is shifting unemployment from Portsmouth and Chatham to the North-East and Scotland. That is neither desirable not creditable. However, it fulfils promises made by the Government during the General Election—promises made in Portsmouth and Chatham, but certainly not made on Tyneside, which will suffer seriously as a result of this move.
The NATO flanks are particularly weak. We are not just talking about the Arctic wastes of Norway, important as they are to those who think deeply about the implications of a possible conflict. Nor are we talking just about the mountains of Thrace. We are also talking of the Baltic, because it is one of the flanks just as much as are the north of Norway and Thrace.
Today, there has been a NATO communiqué about the situation in the Mediterranean. It refers to the instability there as causing grave disquiet, and adds that there is need for special vigilance in that part of the world. How are we to react? We are to bring home our planes, our ships and our commandos, reduce our naval capabilities, withdraw from Malta, and cut our forces in Cyprus.
1219 The defence review has been described as the most extensive and thorough in peacetime. One intriguing aspect is that there appears to be not one single direction in which it has been found desirable or necessary, as a result of the review, to increase the strength of our forces. That is surely a tremendous tribute to the last Conservative Government. It is amazing that there is nothing at all that requires strengthening after this searching review.
The details of the review are vague. It seems that they have not yet been worked out. My right hon. Friend mentioned the sort of answer we have been getting—" not in a position to say", "under review", "the implications are still under consideration", "too soon to say", or, simply, "cannot say". However, there have been two exceptions. I have been informed, in reply to questions, that the University Air Squadrons will continue and we shall not be giving up the sovereign base a Dekhelia. But, in considering the detail, how can the Secretory of State impose a cut of 12,000 men in the Army without knowing what sort of units will be disbanded? How can he say that after the cuts we shall have an Army of optimum strength?
The Secretary of State has left two particular mysteries. Those of us who listened to him today are none the wiser about why the Government are getting rid of a battalion of Gurkhas. There has been no explanation. Why are we coming out of Brunei? There has been no explanation of that. It costs us nothing to be there. We do not even know how many Gurkhas the Government are getting rid of. That, we are told, has also not yet been decided.
The second mystery concerns the Parachute Regiment. May we be assured that it will continue? Why the mystery? If it is to continue, why not say so? In the last 10 years, nine out of 10 of the exercises in which the regiment has taken part abroad have been in Germany or Denmark. It has not been in the habit of going to far distant places. It has been in the centre of Europe.
I have a suspicion that after the internal dogfight in the Labour Party a total was arbitrarily arrived at, and that total was shared out between each Service 1220 in about the same percentages as they are now getting. I shall table a Question on this point, as I wish to be enlightened, but no doubt I shall get an evasive answer. I suggest that the Army, because it retains a lot of men, is to have cuts made in its equipment; that the RAF, because it is to have much new equipment, is to have large cuts in the number of men; while the Royal Navy is to end up with smaller cuts in the number of men and larger cuts in the number of ships. There has been no explanation of the way in which the fundamental balance between the three Services and their cuts has been arrived at, while the details seem to be largely undecided.
This review will be more welcome in the Kremlin than in the capitals of our allies.
There have been protestations that the consultations with allies will be genuine but I fear that in fact they will be much more of a charade. I wonder about Brunei. If the Government of Bruei and our other allies in that area wish the Gurkha battalion to remain at their expense, will it be allowed to do so? I suggest to the House that if we had maintained our modest presence in the Persian Gulf, at the expense of the local State, instead of having it removed by a previous Socialist Defence Minister, we may not have seen the development of the oil crisis to the present extent.
I suggest that we might well set up a Select Committee of the House to consider the future of the Armed Services following the example of the Dutch Government. All the options could be considered. We have not been told what the options are. After considering the opinions of our allies and after open discussion the Committee could put forward its proposals on this matter of great importance.
§ 8.11 p.m.
Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
I think that the way in which my right hon. Friend produced his statement in December, the way in which he is now going through the process of consultation and the manner in which he spoke this afternoon ensure a certain flexibility. I welcome this because it means that he will be taking into consideration many of the points that have been mentioaed not only during the debate today but in consultation with our allies.
1221 I do not share the criticism of the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and the hon. Member for Tyne-mouth (Mr. Trotter) that the review is not cut and dried. I particularly welcome the fact that it is not cut and dried and that we are in a position, as the House should be, to make our points and suggestions. The situation is unique, because normally the House is presented with a White Paper and everything is decided, and the debate is just a formality. On this occasion, I feel that there is genuine consultation.
I recognise that in a debate such as this it will be difficult to marry all the points that are made. I listened with great interest to what was said by the hon. Member for Tynemouth. His speech reminded me of the kind of speech that would be made to get the nomination for a safe Conservative seat. It seemed to be aimed more at traditional Conservative prejudices than at facing the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. I do not think that anyone who is honest would deny that any Government taking office in February would have been faced with the need to make substantial defence cuts. There is no escaping that central difficulty.
I think that my right hon. Friend has faced the problem in a realistic way. After all, he has in the Chancellor of the Exchequer a former Defence Secretary, and very good one at that, who knows all the arguments. In spite of that, in spite of the pressure that must have been put upon him in the Cabinet, and despite pressure from some of my hon. Friends and others, my right hon. Friend has come to the sensible conclusion that many of us reached a long time ago; namely, that the main defence contribution of this country must be in NATO and on the central front.
There is no point in thinking that we can have the third battle of the Atlantic. We must, as a member of NATO, concentrate our resources on the central front, and this seems to raise the possibility that, in consultations with our allies, we may be able to work out a much more realistic strategy in central Europe itself.
I think that there is a need for modification, for a variant perhaps on the flexible response strategy, taking into account recent defence technology and bearing in mind the lessons of the Middle 1222 East war, the use of the "Snapper" and "Sagger" anti-tank weapons, and the use of the modern SAM missiles against aircraft. But I should have some hesitation in inviting everyone to go along with my right hon. Friend in respect of the multi-role combat aircraft. I am in favour of the co-operation involved, as this is the way in which sensible defence procurement policies can be pursued, but I wonder whether this aircraft is not, in the circumstances, extremely vulnerable.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton) rose—
I think that it would be better if I were to respond to the request by the Chair to make a brief speech so that other hon. Members will be able to take part in the debate.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will reconsider the MRCA from the military point of view of vulnerability.
I believe that we are faced with the possibility of some kind of redeployment of forces in Central Europe itself. Does my hon. Friend the Minister of State agree that it is unlikely that there will be an increase in conventional forces? No member of NATO is in that mood. It is unrealistic to talk in terms of an increase in conventional forces, and that being so, it seems to me that we might move some of our forces back so that they are in a much better position to counter-attack.
The lessons of technology appear to be that the advantages are moving from the attacker to the defender. In other words, with the aid of technology and all the weapons that have been deployed in the Middle East one can have a strategy that gives the advantage to the defender and not necessarily to the attacker. I speak as a layman in these matters, and I throw these points out for consideration only, but, with respect, I do not think they can be dismissed contemptuously.
If there is unlikely to be a willingness to come forward with conventional forces, and if it is even more unlikely that there will be reserve forces, that raises serious difficulties. It raises problems about the nuclear question. The House knows that the Russians have about 750 intermediate-range nuclear weapons facing about 75 major cities in Western Europe and 1223 that they are geared to go into operation in much the same way as the NATO strategy, which is a flexible response.
The argument thrown up by both sides of the House is that we are moving into a situation in which the nuclear threshold is increasingly being lowered. If that is so, I should like my right hon. Friend to tell the House what consultations he has had with the Americans, or what consultations the Americans have had with us about the use and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. This is of vital importance for us because of our geographical position, and I should like to hear a lot more about the role of tactical nuclear weapons.
Some time ago I argued in a letter to The Times that we ought to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a way of offsetting the preponderance of Russian forces on the central front. Nevertheless—and I say this tentatively because the implications for us are enormous, and it is not a policy that can be gone into without due consideration— in the end the essence of the matter is defence co-operation within the Nine. I know that this is a sensitive subject on both sides of the House, but there is nothing in the Treaty of Rome about defence implications, yet we saw a certain alignment of ideas with a common position arising from the European Security Conference.
The House will recall that the Davignon Committee enabled members of the Nine to reach an agreed position in respect of the European Security Conference. The implications of this in defence matters are clear to see, and this can be done without violating the Treaty of Rome by the proposals put forward two or three years ago by the former Foreign Secretary of Belgium, M. Harmel. It will be possible through these proposals for NATO to have a responsibility in areas where it considers that its interests are threatened by the Russians outside the Treaty area.
This approach would have to be thought through very carefully. I do not believe that it is any longer possible to go on speaking as if Britain were a world Power capable of discharging world responsibilities. We must all recognise that those days are over. However, we 1224 can play a constructive part in NATO and thereby ensure that the future of mankind itself, which is the ultimate end that we all seek, will bring about stability in Europe. If we get stability in Europe, there is a good chance that we can get peace in the world as whole.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
The hon. Member for Horn-church (Mr. Williams) made a most original and constructive speech. I hope that he will get some answers from his right hon. Friend, for what he said about the balance between the offensive and the defensive in modern strategy and the need for co-operation between the Nine in Europe struck chords to which I respond.
The underlying theme of the hon. Gentleman's speech, like that of the Secretary of State for Defence and every hon. Member opposite who has taken part in the debate, has been economic. The Secretary of State takes the line that we cannot afford the defence policy that we have and some of his critics below the Gangway have said that we cannot even afford what the right hon. Gentleman has proposed.
Unfortunately, that is not a new theme in this House. It is the theme that we had before both the First World War and the Second World War. There will be many who will ask whether the refusal to accept higher defence expenditure did not contribute to the outbreak of both those wars and to the setbacks that we had in their early stages.
I grant that we are facing the most serious economic and financial crisis since the war. The rearrangement of our business this week underlines that problem. Yet, I cannot help wondering whether the Secretary of State's proposals are relevant to the economic crisis through which we are going.
We have a double crisis: domestic inflation at home and the fear of a world recession. The right hon. Gentleman's cuts, particularly when they are offset by redundancy payments, golden bowlers, and so on, will have very little effect on the inflationary situation. Certainly in the next year or two they will mark a very small diminution in public expenditure.
1225 The right hon. Gentleman's proposals may prove even more sinister concerning world recession. When there is a world recession our exports dry up. This is the classical time when rearmament often serves a constructive economic as well as foreign policy purpose, but to undertake it we must have the research development going on all the time and the forces and their bases to re-equip.
There is another economic aspect that we ought to have very much in mind. We depend for our survival and livelihood more than ever—certainly more than when we were a great empire—on access to raw materials in foreign markets Therefore, the safety of our trade routes is no less important—in some ways more important—than before.
I do not think that the cuts proposed by the Secretary of State can be justified on economic grounds. They might be justified on other grounds, but on economic grounds, unless the Government have accepted hook, line and sinker the gospel according to the Hudson Institute, these proposals cannot be justified.
This is not merely an economic problem. We have always been told that Socialism is the language of priorities. The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) and others have talked about the need for better housing, better schools and the re-equipment of industry, but surely the security of what we have today is even more important than the improvements that we would all like to see.
If there were no danger there would be no, or very little, objection to the kind of proposals brought forward by the Secretary of State, but no one, least of all the right hon. Gentleman, is saying that there is no danger. Clearly he is not saying that. The right hon. Gentleman told us today rather more fully than in his statement a week ago about the steady build up of Soviet forces in central Europe, despite the fact that they are also increasing their forces on the Chinese border. The Russians do not worry very much about the proportion of GNP which goes on defence.
What are these forces for? They are much larger than are needed to defend the Soviet Union against any conceivable attack. They are larger than are needed 1226 to subjugate any satellite revolt. There can be only one explanation for the decision to maintain these enormous forces— that the Soviet Government wish to keep open the option of using force, or the threat of force, if they think that it will serve their interests.
The Government, to do them credit, recognise that that is the Soviet purpose, and in response to it they have decided to concentrate as much of their main effort as possible in central Europe. Are they right to do so? Is that the right place to concentrate almost the whole of our overseas military effort? Will the decision whether the Americans stay in Europe and whether the alliance holds together depend on whether we maintain practically everything we have on the central European front? I spent two years at the Foreign Office studying, among other things, our defence problems. I was always left with the nagging doubt: was it possible that the Soviets wanted to pin down the main forces of the West in central Europe so that they could nibble away at the periphery? I do not know.
However, I cannot help asking, is this the time to cut back in the Mediterranean? Our military effort in Cyprus yielded a very good dividend in both the October war last year and the recent Cyprus troubles. Is the situation in the eastern Mediterranean more peaceful than it was? Can we say that relations between Greece and NATO are going to develop harmoniously again? Do we feel no concern about the future of Yugosalavia in the post-Tito period whenever it should come? Are we confident that Greece and Turkey will make friends again? Has the danger of war in the Middle East diminished?
At the same time, we should remember that Britain is the only member of the European Community which has a presence in the eastern Mediterranean. We and the Americans have not always seen eye to eye on Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean matters. Is this the time to leave them a monopoly of the Western presence in the area?
I join forces with my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) about the importance of the northern flank. After all, it guards the approaches to the eastern Atlantic, the sea lanes to 1227 this country, and the approaches to our vital North Sea oil.
I should like to comment on the reductions proposed east of Suez. A very high proportion of our trade lies with the great crescent of countries around the Indian Ocean—New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaya, the sub-continent, the Persian Gulf and down the African coast to South Africa. We get many of our raw materials from there. We pay for them by the goods we sell there. We still have very substantial investments in that area. When we face economic troubles, is this a time to cut our insurance policy and to diminish our commitment in the Indian Ocean when the Soviet commitment is growing steadily?
I agree that it is no good dropping backwards. I am one of those who believe that if we had stayed and maintained a military presence in the Gulf, the price of oil might not have risen as it has risen, and we certainly should not be reading in the newspapers today about plans by the Pentagon to make a possible descent on the Persian Gulf littoral. Is there not really a danger today that one super-Power or the other may take rash action there? Is there not a danger that Iraq, serving as a cat's-paw for the Soviets, may extend its influence down the Gulf? Here at least I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State on having decided to maintain our commitment to Oman and, presumably, to the station at Masirah. This stops us from producing a total vacuum in the area.
Going further south from the Gulf, does it really make sense for us to terminate the Simonstown Agreement when the Soviets are developing facilities in Aden and Somalia—and, perhaps tomorrow, in Ethiopia? Is it really wise for the West to retreat from Southern Africa when the potential enemy is digging into the Horn of Africa? The Simonstown decision is purely political. We all know that. We are told that it is provocative to the African countries if we maintain this rather special relationship with South Africa.
If the Secretary of State had said that in return for leaving Simonstown he had special arrangements with Mombasa or Dar-es-Salaam we should all take a great interest in what he said, but we are here surrendering a tangible asset in the hope 1228 of getting goodwill. Suppose we do not get it. It is a little odd to be doing this when, for the first time for a generation or more, there are signs of improvement in relations between South Africa and the black African countries. It would be a supreme irony if we should quarrel with Pretoria just at the moment when they were mending their fences with their African neighbours, and if we were then to ask for the return of the Simonstown facilities and they were to say, perhaps, "It would complicate our relations with our new non-aligned neighbours."
It is a foolish decision, but the folly is compounded by the decision to withdraw from Mauritius and Gan. There may be an argument for withdrawing from one or the other, but to withdraw from both seems very dangerous.
I want to ask one or two questions about Gan. What is to be its future? Are we to pay compensation to the Maldive Islands for the loss of income which will result from our withdrawal? The treaty signed in 1965 by the Labour Government runs, I think, to 1986. Under that treaty we, and we alone, have the right to use the facilities at Gan. Shall we be abrogating the treaty? If we are not abrogating it, and we withdraw, how shall we enforce it? How shall we stop the Soviets or someone else coming along and making use of the anchorage and air facilities? How do we stop someone else making use of the remarkable complex that we have built up at enormous expense?
I am glad that we are going ahead with the joint development at Diego Garcia. I welcome that, but it will be a long time before Diego Garcia is even as strong as Gan. It could never be Singapore. It will also be under dual control. Dual control means a danger of ineffectiveness in a crisis.
I come now to Singapore. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) made a very remarkable maiden speech. He was very right to remind us of the success of British arms in the confrontation with Sukarno's Indonesia 10 years or so ago. That was a remarkable victory achieved at a remarkably low cost. Britain was the cement which made that achievement possible. Take away that cement and the five-Power system which has been built up may fall apart. South-East Asia, as we see from what 1229 goes on in Vietnam today, is none too stable.
Of course, as the Secretary of State has said, Britain by herself can no longer act as the policeman of the world or play alone a world role. We do not suggest that that should be so. Thanks to Simons-town, there has just been an extremely effective four-Power naval exercise, South African, British, French and American, off the South African coast.
Looking ahead in Europe, we can appreciate that if we build up a Euro pean union it is bound to be outward looking because it will not have the raw materials of the market which it needs outside Europe, so it will be dependent on these trade routes. Because of the legacy of history, we happen to be established in certain places with the good will and acceptance of the inhabitants and Governments concerned. In a sense, we hold our position in Singapore, in Gan, in Simonstown—or we could hold it there—in trust for Europe. Is it wise to throw these cards away? Nobody else can pick them up all that easily. Certainly nobody else in Europe would have the chance of doing it. It is not as if the Europeans were interested. It is only the Americans who are interested to retain the footholds we still have.
I was very struck—if the Press report is accurate—by the emphasis which the German Minister of Defence, Herr Leber, put on this in his intervention at the recent NATO meeting in Brussels. Some hon. Members may think that I am exaggerating the threat to our trade routes.
Reference has been made to the enormous strength of the Soviet submarine fleet. In this respect we need to think of the submarine menace which in the First and Second World Wars nearly brought us to our knees.
What are those Russian submarines for? Again, the option can be only to use force or the threat of force. The submarine option is more flexible than the land option. It could be used without necessarily leading to all-out war. There could be random sinkings of our shipping, just as there were random sinkings of our shipping in the Spanish Civil War by Italian submarines in the Mediterranean. There could be a blockade of important trading areas—the Persian Gulf, or South Africa. Are we to sit 1230 idly by if this happens, or are we to be expected to sit idly by if we cut out our maritime reconnaissance and the staging posts from which certain of our submarines and aircraft operate?
I am opposed to the cuts which have been proposed. I think that, if anything, we should increase expenditure at present, at a time when we have, in number, a third of the number of tanks that Israel has with 2½ million people—Israel has about 3,000 tanks and we have about 900—and at a time when we have about half as many tanks as the Syrians, a nation of about 4½ million people. I question whether, even within the assumptions on which the Government are proceeding, they have their priorities right. Of course NATO is of immense importance, but our top priority, if we are to cut to the bone, must be the defence of this island and its supply routes for our 55 million people.
Just as Winston Churchill was right not to commit the Royal Air Force to the Battle of France in 1940, so in the last analysis must we depend on our own nuclear deterrent, on our sea and air power, and on the sea and air transport which serves as the legs of the Army. I see great dangers in the balance with which the cuts are being applied—by sea, in the air, on the flanks, and in research and development.
We are only at the beginning of the defence debate. There is still the White Paper to come. It is to be a five-year programme. Much still lies in the future. I agree with the hon. Member for Horn-church. I, too, see some advantage in the fact that there is still an area which is grey and indefinite.
I regret that the Secretary of State's proposals correspond to no theme or philosophy, to no grand design. They are an attempt to meet the usual demands of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who should know better but who has, by all accounts, exploited his experience in defence to play the bully against a weaker though more honourable colleague. It is an attempt to make a compromise between protecting our national interests and meeting pressure from a Left wing which at least is influenced, whatever the hon. Gentleman may say, by the thinking of Britain's enemies. As a result, in putting forward the defence review, like 1231 the social contract or the referendum, the Government have never had in mind any kind of system, right or wrong. They have simply invented a tale for the day so as to sneak out of difficulties in which they became engaged at their party conference.
However, I do not despair. I do not think that this Government will last. I think that a Government of national unity will come. When such a Government appears the House of Commons will call for and get a defence policy that corresponds to Britain's national interest and to the defence of our island and our supply lines.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
I shall not try to cover all my right hon. Friend's statement. I shall deal with only three aspects—Simonstown, the Hong Kong garrison, and manpower.
Recently, military exercises with South Africa have been bigger and bigger and have involved not only the Navy but the RAF. I therefore welcome my right hon. Friend's statement that we intend to change this policy—at least, I hope we do—by negotiating the termination of the Simonstown Agreement. I would go further and inform the south African Government that we intend to abrogate the agreement without delay.
I should like some assurance that there is no intention that naval and military co-operation with South Africa will go on after the agreement has been finished. I should like a firm assurance that there will be no future British naval visits and no secret defence understanding with South Africa—that we shall terminate all military exchanges, visits and technical arrangements with that country.
The problem in that part of the world is not military but political. Opposition Members who do not believe that should pay attention to what has happened in Angola and Mozambique. For 15 years this country—under successive Governments, I am sorry to say—gave full military, diplomatic and economic support to the Portuguese dictatorship in Angola and Mozambique while the African Socialists were fighting in Guinea and Mozambique to destroy it. They have succeeded in their policy and we have failed in ours. It would be a dis- 1232 aster if this country drifted into the same position with regard to South Africa.
I should like to say a few words about Hong Kong. It seems to be just a British wart on the nose of China. In his statement my right hon. Friend says that we intend to keep our forces in Hong Kong, which to some extent seems to contradict his general proposition, reiterated in his speech today, that in future we shall concentrate our efforts within NATO and the European theatre.
What I simply do not understand is the proposal to abandon Simonstown, Gan, Mauritius and Singapore, but to stay in Hong Kong—to break away all the links in the chain, but, as it were, to leave the pendant floating in mid-air with no linking mechanism or defence. In simple logic, that does not seem to make sense.
I cannot understand why these 10,000 men should be in Hong Kong at all. It cannot be for defence. It cannot be seriously argued that 10,000 infantry, with a few tanks and artillery but no air cover or anti-aircraft protection, and no anti-aircraft missiles, are there for any serious defensive purpose. From where is the attack to come; from Japan. Russia or China?
This is the only remaining overseas garrison of any size, and it makes absolutely no sense. Is it there to uphold some form of Western democratic government in Asia? One could hardly argue that. There are no elections to the legislative council, no elections to the executive council, and the urban council has fewer powers than Sheffield District Council. In the annual report for 1973 there is the clear statement thatThe policy of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is that there shall be no major constitutional change.There are good reasons why there should not be constitutional change. The Chinese Government would take strong exception to it if there were.
China has taken the view for a long time that Hong Kong is a Chinese city. There is a lease on the territories concerned, but the Peking Government see absolutely no reason why Hong Kong should not be regarded as a Chinese city. Why on earth should I go back to the old-age pensioners in my constituency and ask them to pay heavy taxes to maintain a British garrison in a Chinese 1233 city? There is no democracy there, but there is vicious exploitation of women and child labour. There have been serious allegations of widespread corruption throughout the administration. There are appalling housing and social conditions and, what is most sinister in present circumstances, there is rising unemployment.
It may be argued that the garrison is not there for defence in the orthodox sense but simply for some form of internal security. In my view it is not the business of the British Army to act as a gendarmerie to police a 19th century colony, particularly where there are no institutions of self-government and where there is serious exploitation of women and child workers. If it is necessary, for internal security purposes, to keep a force there, there should be a local militia of some kind, which is locally raised and locally financed. If the Peking Government object to that, we should say quite bluntly and shortly that the lease is terminated and we are withdrawing.
As regards manpower, my right hon. Friend is proposing that there should be, over 10 years, a rundown of 35,000 Service men, and about 15,000 civilians in the United Kingdom, which would release 50,000 people for productive work in United Kingdom industry and which in itself would be useful.
A more unsatisfactory aspect is that the reductions in the planned defence programme are likely to reduce employment in the defence industry by only 4 per cent. by 1978–79—that is to say, by about 10,000 people. That is not good enough, in the light of the deficit of £534 million on our overseas balance of payments last month.
Contrary to the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend, the problem in this country is not one of unemployment, and he does wrong to try to terrify the Labour Party and the general public by parading the spectre of unemployment. There is a shortage of skilled labour at the moment, to a large degree concentrated in the engineering industries, which are engaged in producing much of our armament.
If my right hon. Friend argues that cancelling major weapons projects will result in mass unemployment, I am afraid the historical record is against him. A Conservative Minister cancelled Blue Streak. A Labour Minister cancelled TSR2. If 1234 my right hon. Friend will consider the history of weapons system throughout the 1950s and the 1960s he will find that many projects of advanced war technology had to be scrapped, either because they were inherently unsound in a strategic sense or, more likely, because we could not afford them. It will not do for him to argue that if we decide to run down the armaments industry there will be mass unemployment.
I should like to give some examples of areas in which we could be ready to deploy our resources, with great benefit to the country, by providing equipment for the exploitation of North Sea oil. There is a myth current that to exploit North Sea oil we need simply to build great oil rigs. Of course we do, but they are in some respects just one part of the business of extracting the oil. I should like to give a list of equipment required for the exploitation of North Sea oil, much of which is being purchased from abroad, or which British industry cannot or will not produce. The list includes diving equipment, generators, diesel motors, derricks, pumps, storage tanks, cranes, helicopters, light aircraft, steel pipes, valves, compressors, gas turbines, water distillation units, flooding equipment, fire fighting equipment, alternators, switch gear, electrical distribution systems, welding equipment, gas treatment equipment, oil pumps, deck winches, cargo barges, derrick barges, tugs, drill ships, tankers, support ships, and many more items.
I could go on at length. I have drawn this long list of items from the IMEG Report of 1972—two years ago. They are all items of equipment required on the rigs or for the exploitation of North Sea oil. There is a market there worth £10,000 million in the next 10 years. It is a market into which British industry has only begun to get over the past 18 months, and it is one to which we should pay far more attention.
In recent years, one of the most appalling aspects of this business has been that the shipbuilding industry has been so preoccupied with refitting Chilean destroyers, with its defence contracts, and so on, that every time people have asked, "Why do not you go into the North Sea oil business? Why not develop your resources and diversify your efforts as Norway has done?", its excuse has been, "We have enough work on hand. We are not 1235 bothered. We are not interested." It is very important to tackle much more vigorously and much more effectively the redeployment of our manpower and of our industry away from armaments and into peaceful production. It also affects our capacity in worldwide export markets. I do not regard it as satisfactory that we should over the next 10 years contemplate keeping 250,000 workers in non-productive armaments.
I am not tempted to make any general apparisal of the defence strategy outlined by my right hon. Friend, but I believe that these are three very important points. South Africa is a political and not a military problem. As for China, it is utterly absurd to leave 10,000 British troops on the coast of the mainland of China for no useful purpose. Finally, it is essential that we switch the productive resources of British industry from munitions of war to the munitions of peace.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)
The Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, will wish to study these defence cuts in some detail before coming to any firm conclusions. We shall be doing this early in the new year and shall be reporting. However, if we accept that in the present economic situation some further cuts have to be made in defence spending, in principle I extend a cautious welcome to the way in which the Secretary of State appears to have tackled the subject.
In our last report on the defence cuts made by the two previous Government, my Committee urged that there should be no more short-term cuts without corresponding reductions in commitments, and we expressed the hope that this defence review would result in long-term stability for the defence budget at a sustainable level calculated to meet our commitments. Some of us have reservations about the rundown of our forces in Cyprus after the part played thereby the events this year, thus reducing our commitment to the defence of the southern flank of NATO. Cyprus was the southern claw, and the RAF there was a very great deterrent.
I personally may be emotionally critical of our leaving Singapore. I was there 30 1236 years ago, but I have been back there since and seen how much both Singapore and Malaysia like having our forces there as part of the Five-Power Pact, whilst they are training their own.
Armed forces can be effective and can maintain high morale only if they have modern equipment and all Service men know that they will get a fair deal I am glad that the Secretary of State said that our forces would be equipped to the highest standards and that fine career opportunities would remain. Therefore, I repeat that my Committee will be looking in detail at the right hon. Gentleman's decisions. In general, we accept that, rather than deny our forces modern and effective weapons, we should be prepared to reduce the number of Service men whenever possible.
It is often said that we spend more in terms of GNP than some of our NATO allies. It can equally be said that we spend less per head on defence than Germany, France and the United States. That is no more valid an argument for increasing defence expenditure than is the percentage of GNP a reason in itself for spending less. This was brought out very well by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Walker) when he opened the debate from the Opposition Front Bench. We seek to maintain a reasonably well-paid, properly-equipped professional force. This is bound to be an expensive business.
Those who seek massive cuts in defence spending beyond the substantial reductions proposed in this review should say whether they would prefer to bring back conscription and get defence on the cheap or whether they would allow our forces to run down to a much reduced level. If it is the latter, I suggest that they have not learned the lessons of history.
I turn to a few specific subjects which have been considered by my Committee. In February we reported on the multi-role combat aircraft, much mentioned in today's debate, and recommended a stringent review of the air defence version of this aircraft. We also commented on the cost increases. In doing so we hoped to stimulate constructive criticism rather than to attack the project. We saw the aircraft in Munich last year and were very pleased with what we saw. Having talked to the RAF, we fully accept that it must have modern aircraft, and the 1237 MRCA—which has the advantage of being a collaborative project with Germany, Italy and ourselves—seems at present to offer the cheapest and most effective solution. I and some members of the Committee are to visit the British Aircraft Corporation factory near Preston on Wednesday and hope to see this aircraft flying.
The Secretary of State said on 3rd December that we are to continue with the MRCA programme although we may have to make a reduction in the planned rate of deliveries over the period. I am glad that today he was specific and said that it was still intended to buy 385 of these aircraft. He was not so specific about what the delay would be or how far away the purchase was. Perhaps in replying the Minister can give us more details.
My Committee also looked at the Royal Navy's through-deck cruiser, now being called the anti-submarine cruiser. The first of these is now being built. This is another major project which we have examined. We were aboard HMS "Blake" during our visit to Gibraltar this year. We appreciate that a new purpose-built ship to carry Sea King helicopters will provide a much more effective fighting force with a smaller crew. It is a high priority for the Navy.
The Secretary of State said that this programme will continue. Can the Minister tell us how many of these cruisers we are to have? I understand that the keel for the second cruiser should be laid about now. Will this happen? The cruiser is intended to operate not on its own but as part of a task force which might include ships from other NATO navies. It seems more likely that a cruiser task force will need to use NATO escorts as a result of the decision to cut the frigate and destroyer force. Can the Minister give us an assurance that the cruisers will be adequately screened in view of what Admiral Sir Peter Hill-Norton is reported to have said on 11th December in The Times, to the effect that NATO ships cannot always communicate properly because two incompatible communication systems are in use? If what he claims is true, who is responsible for doing something about it, and how long will it be before something is done?
I am a little at a loss to understand how it will be possible to carry out the 1238 full cut in the Army. Are we not counting some soldiers twice over—that is, they are with their battalion which is in Germany and are counted as part of BAOR and then they are seconded to do a short tour in Northern Ireland and counted there as fighting troops? If the tragic situation in Northern Ireland were to be resolved, possibly these cuts would be more understandable, but the House will require a very good explanation of them.
I am glad that there is to be no cut in our four Polaris submarines. To my mind—and I have studied this matter— they are the best deterrent we have. We acquired them extremely cheaply through the generosity of the United States and it is vital that we retain them. They are at present effective. But we have to look ahead and it may be that when the Americans have built their Trident submarines, with their far greater range, they will be posted on the eastern waters of America and be in a position to land missiles from there beyond the Iron Curtain.
§ Sir H. Harrison
The hon. Gentleman says "Good heavens", but these submarines have not yet been built. We heard details about them when we were there.
I hope that when the Secretary of State discusses the defence review with our NATO allies, and in the Eurogroup meetings, he will continue to take a strong lead in proposing action to secure further standardisation of equipment. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on being made chairman. The Defence Sub-Committee is well aware of some of the obstacles, rooted mainly in national and industrial interests, to more effective cooperation. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will have the support of the whole House in his efforts to achieve progress in this difficult field, in which some, but nothing like enough, progress has been made in the last 10 years. Perhaps the answer lies partly in a series of reciprocal deals with our major allies, with each nation specialising according to its ability. It would be intolerable if we were to go on duplicating expensive research and development work and producing weapons which are incompatible 1239 with those of our allies while procurement programmes were being cut for lack of resources.
I wish to say a few words on the question of manpower, the cost of which accounts for nearly half the defence budget. The defence review proposes a reduction of 65,000, of which 30,000 are civilians, and which, I take it, will mainly follow reductions in commitments. My Committee only recently was considering ways in which manpower savings could be made without reducing commitments. Last week we heard that the Royal Air Force had saved 7,000 posts between 1971 and 1974, worth about £20 million a year, by a determined economy drive inspired from the top by a small vigorous team in getting the whole co-operation of the Royal Air Force. Those responsible for initiating and pursuing the project deserve our congratulations.
Both the Army and the Navy have reduced their manpower, but the savings in the Royal Air Force in the last three years or so have been proportionately much greater. We were therefore rather disappointed that the imaginative approach adopted by the RAF had not, through the Ministry of Defence, been tried in the other two Services.
Earlier this year the Committee looked at training, a subject in which the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), whom I am glad to see in his place, takes a special interest. Here again we felt that economies could safely be made if the Services were prepared to accept an even greater degree of flexibility. We want more joint training. More important perhaps, consideration of training leads us to think of ways in which the Services' operational facilities can be unified or simplified; for example, by using the same forms for pay and records.
The Committee intends to report its findings on manpower and training early in the new year. I know that the Minister will read the report carefully, but may I assure him that we seek to present constructive criticism, and we recognise that there are obstacles to overcome? We do not expect sweeping changes to be made overnight, but we believe that worthwhile recurrent savings can be made if common problems are tackled 1240 together, particularly at headquarters level, rather than on a single-Service basis. In the aftermath of the defence review, in our present economic difficulties, I hope that there will be a fresh impulse for the Services to work as a team, even if they have to sacrifice a degree of autonomy.
Having spoken, I hope objectively, about the cuts which have been made, I must issue this word of warning to the House. I am afraid that the cuts will be taken by many people without being examined in detail. That is particularly so of Service men, and I am worried that this may have a grave effect on their morale. I ask the Minister to see that the cuts are well and carefully explained to all Service personnel. If it is essential in the Government's view to cut our Services, I put in a special plea— which has been mentioned frequently today—for the building up of our reserves. I am an old TA officer, and I believe that the reserves are one of the cheapest forms of Army one can have.
I feel that the cuts are not being well received by our allies across the Atlantic. They have always looked to us to be the leaders of Western defence. If we falter, how much more will our weaker allies falter? We may get to the position in which the Americans will say "If Europe is not prepared to defend herself, why should we bother? "To have American forces in Europe is alien to the traditional policy of the United States, whose citizens were escapists and nonconformists from Europe in years gone by. When Mr. Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister he said that to me, and remembered it in all his policies.
When I was in Washington last year I found a body of opinion in America in favour of withdrawal from Europe. So far as I could tell, it was centred in a section of the Democratic Party. Who knows, if at the next presidential election a Democratic President with a vast Democratic majority in the Senate and Congress is elected, that feeling might mount and concessions would have to be made. This needs the highest consideration at the highest level.
All this is taking place when, from the best intelligence I can get, Russia is still expanding her forces on her Western borders. She is not now building up so much in the East. Why is that? What 1241 does she want? Are we wise, for the sake of a few comforts now, to mortgage the whole future of our country?
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
A year ago tomorrow the then Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the House that he would cut defence expenditure by £178 million. I have listened carefully to all the Opposition speeches but have failed to detect in any of them even a hint that the speakers were conscious of the irony that they are celebrating that anniversary by attacking my right hon. Friend for his much more cautious approach to the matter. I remind the Opposition that the cuts imposed in December last year were not phased over 10 years. They had an immediate impact on the defence programme. They were based not on an analysis of our commitments but purely on financial and economic stringency.
The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) has had great fun at the expense of Government Front Bench spokesmen, on the basis that they cannot provide hard facts and figures to flesh up the defence review which they have announced. I refer the right hon. Gentleman, or, in his absence, the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), to the last report of the Defence Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee where he will find that as late as June this year the Ministry of Defence still did not know where the cut of £178 million was to fall in the Budget. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to be congratulated on not adopting a similarly irresponsible approach.
Having said that, I am afraid that there I leave him. I have listened carefully on a number of occasions when he has tried to argue that his increase in defence expenditure comes within the scope of the word "savings", but I have not been persuaded. I was in the House last Monday when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy announced that he hoped to save 10 per cent. of our energy consumption over the next few years. Is there an hon. Member in the House who was then present who would not be outraged by a sense of deception if it were to turn out that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy had meant that there would be an in- 1242 crease in energy consumption, because the expected increase would outstrip the 10 per cent. cut proposed? If he did not mean that, we must say that the Government are using the same word, namely, "savings" to describe two very different concepts, and to put it no more strongly that does not lend itself to clarity.
Even if we accept the idea that any reduction of anticipated expenditure is a saving as a working definition, our right hon. and hon. Friends are putting it against the wrong measuring rod. They are comparing the expenditure under their review with the figures announced in the 1973 public expenditure forecast. That forecast was drawn up in the autumn of 1973 in a very different economic climate, before the three-day working week and before the oil crisis—at a time when at least one hon. Gentleman opposite was talking about Britain suffering from the problems of affluence.
We are in a different situation now. I appreciate that the Opposition, in discussing this defence review, have to huff and puff and blow with all their might. Indeed, they have a constitutional duty to do so. But if they were in office now and compiling the public expenditure forecasts for the next five or 10 years, they would be making cuts in defence. Those cuts would probably not be precisely the present cuts—probably they would retain the Gurkhas and the Marines, for which there are powerful lobbies in their party—but there would be cuts.
If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is going to insist on measuring his savings against anticipated expenditure, and if he is to be fair, he must measure them not against the expected expenditure in 1973 but from what it would have been in 1974 without his defence review—the expenditure which the Opposition would have embarked on had they still been in office. If we adopt that definition we are faced with savings probably not of hundreds of millions of pounds but only of tens of millions of pounds.
If we turn to the review, it is not surprising that we are getting a gloomy financial picture emerging, because where the cuts fall the savings are largely illusory.
I want to deal with the manpower cuts that have been mentioned a number of times in the debate. The review proposes to cut manpower by 35,000 over 1243 the next five years. I took the precaution of arming myself with manpower figures for the past 15 years that I obtained from the Library. Over the past five years manpower has fallen by 30,000 in any event—in other words the projected reduction over the coming five years is almost exactly the same as the actual reduction of the past five years, for most of which the Opposition were in power.
§ Mr. Cook
The hon. and gallant Gentleman raises an interesting question. I have here a graph of recruitment to the Armed Services over the past five years. Going by the graph, we are in danger of touching zero in the foreseeable future.
On the basis of recruitment, we shall cut more than 35,000 from our defence personnel within the next five years. I suspect that my right hon. Friends have taken the recruitment figures of recent years and projected them to see what the establishment will be anyway, and then reduced that establishment in line with the figures. That is sensible, because if one is to end up with a force below establishment one should reduce the establishment figures to bring them into line. But there is no point in pretending that one is saving money by doing so.
If we turn from what is in the defence review to what is not, we find an extraordinary feature. The review is apparently aimed at saving money, yet all the major projects, the most expensive projects, have got through unscathed. The through-deck cruiser is still in our programme, although we do not know how many such cruisers we shall have. I suspect that the through-deck cruiser has been retained not so much as a result of an analysis of the kind of Navy we shall need in 1980 but because of the Navy's traditional preference for large surface command and control ships.
The MRCA is also still in our programme, apparently with every one of the 385 models with which it entered the defence review. That is a measure of the pressure of the Royal Air Force in demanding a traditional manned fighter force. I am disappointed, even if the hon. and and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) is not, that the Defence Department did not seriously examine the 1244 suggestion that the air defence rô1e could be adequately served by missiles.
The greatest prestige system of them all, Polaris, is still there, and will apparently continue throughout the period covered by the review. I am glad that the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) has returned to the Chamber. I appreciated his comment that the mention of Polaris in the review is almost Delphic in its obscurity. Some time in the next 10 years we shall face a decision on the future of Polaris, because it will become obsolete in that period, for technological reasons. There is no mention of that in the review.
The House is indebted to Margaret Gowing for her comprehensive work on the history of the way in which we got into the nuclear business in the first place. It is significant that it is almost impossible to identify any conscious decision to go nuclear. In the light of that, it may be reasonable to hope that if we are to cease to be a nuclear Power in the next 10 years, as looks likely, it may be the result of a deliberate and conscious choice and not a decision forced on us by economic and technological decline—which is the way in which we have changed our defence posture every time in the past 15 years.
My right hon. Friends may reply that all these weapons systems—through-deck cruiser, MRCA, Polaris—have to be retained because they are committed to NATO and are essential to our role in NATO. Here we come to the crux of the matter, because if we insist that we shall remain a leading member of an alliance based on sophisticated weapons systems, no substantial cut in defence expenditure is available to us.
There have been many changes in the past 10 years. Listening to some Conservative Members, one would not think so, but there have been diplomatic and economic breaks through in East-West relations. For example, the German position has largely stabilised, through actions of the Germans themselves. The substantial increase in trade between East and West is bound in time to be more effective and more important than any diplomatic breakthrough.
The tragedy is that these diplomatic and economic détentes are not reflected in any comparable military détente. The 1245 reason is that both sides—I accuse both equally—have created military-industrial complexes which are developing military technology at a rate which has a mad momentum of its own and which continues regardless of the economic and diplomatic changes. The most depressing thing about the defence review is that it projects that trend for the next 10 years, and sees us in 1984 with both NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries armed to the teeth and glaring at each other over the Berlin Wall in a state of armed hostility.
The real absurdity is that the kind of prestige hardware one needs for that kind of confrontation is ludicrously irrelevant to the rôle the Army has had since the war. The place where the Army is most involved is Northern Ireland. I am surprised that so many commentators on defence still insist that the role of the Army there is an aberration from its real job and that some day soon it will be able to get back to fighting Russians and Poles.
I do not wish to be pessimistic. Like everyone else in the House, I hope that the Army can get out of Northern Ireland as soon as possible. But it has been there for almost as long as the duration of the Second World War, and there are men in senior places under the Secretary of State who believe, with some force, that the role that the Army has in Northern Ireland now is likely to be more typical of its job in the next 30 years than the kind of role envisaged in the defence review—fighting a highly sophisticated, highly advanced, global enemy. There is no hint of that in the review.
I return to the essential economic point. Five years from now—at the end of this Parliament, when my right hon. Friend and I are returning to our constituencies to seek re-election—we shall be spending more than 5 per cent. of our gross national product on defence. I accept all the criticisms of this as a measure of our defence expenditure—that it is rough and ready, and that it does not adequately value the cost to a country of a conscript army. But it is the best available measure to compare the proportion which each country devotes from its economy to defence expenditure.
If, therefore, we accept it as a standard of comparison and look five years ahead, 1246 we find that, far from averaging with our allies, we are likely to move up from third place to second place in NATO in terms of the percentage spent on defence, because it is certain that Portugal will drop down in the scale, since it is going to cut its defence expenditure. We shall have the ludicrous situation in 1980 of Britain, by then one of the poorest countries in NATO, remaining one of the last of the big spenders.
The latest report of the Defence Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee said:The Committee would also draw attention to the very serious implications for future expenditure if the Ministry of Defence continued to base their forward approach on an unrealistic projection of growth in the gross national product.This defence review is based on a 3 per cent. growth per annum. I suspect that one thing which unites the supporters of both amendments is that we do not believe that we shall have an annual growth of 3 per cent. over the next 10 years. If we do not have such growth we shall be faced with annual reviews of defence expenditure of the sort we had from the Conservative Government last December, with short-term, disruptive and damaging cuts in defence. Perhaps the time will come in the not-too-distant future when many in this Chamber will wish that they had not caused such disruption to the Armed Forces by not reaching out and grasping the nettle and bringing defence expenditure into line with our economic expectations of the next five years.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
This debate is the hors d'oeuvre for what promises to be a four-course lunch—four defence debates between now and the beginning of March. Whether this means that defence is at long last becoming a fashionable subject to debate, I am not so certain, but I would like to think so. It has always been an unfashionable topic, certainly as long as I have been in the House. The House of Lords speaks with rather more authority on defence than we do, yet outside this place there is an intellectual awareness of the problems of defence not always reflected in the House of Commons itself. Perhaps times are changing, and perhaps this is a symptom of something that will improve.
1247 I am sorry for the Secretary of State and the Minister of State. They are both robust defenders of the concept of collective security. They are social democrats. Indeed, the Minister of State might possibly claim to be the first social democrat in the British context. Yet the Secretary of State and the Minister of State are responsible for a defence review the object of which is to reduce defence spending to an artificial limit at a time when our enemies have never been stronger. Just as "renegotiation" is a sham, a device to neutralise the division of opinion within the Labour Party over Europe, so the defence review is simply an adhesive, a pot of glue, which at some risk to the security of the West may succeed in making a gift of apparent harmony within the Labour movement.
The Secretary of State has claimed more than once that NATO remains the linchpin of British security while at the same time announcing reductions of defence spending, which, even were his example not to be followed by our allies, must weaken the capacity of this country to wage war.
The right hon. Gentleman's argument about the proportion of GNP spent on defence by Britain and her allies is specious in the extreme. We are in no position to claim that we contribute more than our fair share to NATO as a whole. As has been said by many speakers, we make a contribution that is considerably less than that made by either France or Germany. In fact, our contribution on an annual basis is 67 per cent. of the German defence budget, and our figure is boosted by the fact of a volunteer army that has within it a large provision for social welfare and education. And why should our share of the common defence be measured, not by the strength of our enemies, but by the contributions of our friends?
We should be engaged in strengthening the NATO alliance, not in weakening it, and I am fairly certain that hon. Members will have seen on the tape—
§ Mr. Douglas Hoyle (Nelson and Colne)
Why should not it be measured against the economic position of the country? Surely that is the test of what we can spend on defence.
§ Mr. Critchley
The defence of a country is the first charge upon its 1248 economic resources, and when one looks at the rate and pattern of expenditure in general, and sees the smaller proportion of money spent on defence in the past decade, and compares that with the Soviet threat, one realises how foolish it is to make reductions at this time.
I wonder how many Labour Members have seen this evening's news from Brussels, which is that Dr. Luns, the Secretary-General of NATO, has expressed anxiety and apprehension about the Government's defence review. So much for the warm welcome that our allies have given to this document. Mr. Schlesinger's remarks were less than enthusiastic, and now they have been followed by those of Dr. Luns himself. I wonder whether that point might be put to the Secretary of State on his return from dinner.
When the Dutch suggested earlier this year that they reduce the number of their forces in NATO it was agreed within NATO that after the bargaining and consultation between NATO and Holland the military council should meet and agree a communiqué that would set out the results of the threatened reduction in the Netherland's defence expenditure. That happened for the first time. Will the Secretary of State be prepared to act in a similar way with our defence review at the end of six weeks of consultation and discussion in Brussels?
At present, force levels in Europe are just adequate to ensure deterrence as required by a strategy of flexible response, and, at the moment, two factors still work in our favour. They are rationalisation, if it can be made to work, and the MBFR talks in Vienna. Clearly we must build a more effective system of defence at levels of expenditure no larger than now exist, but were rationalisation to fail, and were the allied position at Vienna to crumble—the Netherlands have already broken ranks at Vienna—and, as a consequence, unilateral reductions in our "ready" forces take place, NATO would be unable to sustain its present strategy.
If this were to happen, have hon. Members opposite, especially those who are not in favour of defence, who perhaps hanker after a neutral Britain— whether that Britain could have an armed or a disarmed neutrality is a point that we have never been able to extract from them—thought through the implications? 1249 Let us go through the implications of being obliged to alter NATO's strategy because the number of our "ready" forces are reduced.
Were flexible response to fail, one possibility would be a return to the immediate, and first, use of nuclear weapons—the tripwire strategy of the 1950s and early 1960s. Is there any hon. Member who still believes that nuclear weapons would be used first against a Russian conventional attack? Has the Labour Party been reconverted to a reliance upon a nuclear strategy? The decision to introduce nuclear weapons into the battlefield would be continually postponed for fear of Soviet reprisals.
Nuclear weapons deter nuclear weapons. Conventional weapons deter conventional weapons. Even were the strategy of flexible response to be kept, even if we were still able to keep a sufficiency of "ready" forces, any strategy which relies upon the uncertainty of response must become less credible with the passing of time.
Allied nuclear weapons, large and small, are effectively under the control of the United States, However, the United States and the USSR are now effectively restricted to the use of non-nuclear force in almost every conceivable situation in which force might be needed. Are the Government, therefore, placing their hope in the fact that the United States, will be prepared to keep in Southern Germany the same number of land forces as they have for the past 15 to 20 years?
If not the "tripwire", the only alternative would be the substitution of a strategy which would be based upon warning, but would that short period— a day, a week—be used with courage and determination? Would the politicians, faced with a crisis, be prepared to take the measures necessary to overcome weaknesses in deployment, which are very great indeed, and summon reinforcements from abroad at a time of tension? Would not the signals of Soviet movement and manoeuvre be filtered out by our preconceptions? Would we not see only what we wanted to see? History is filled with examples of warnings unheeded.
The truth is that NATO is being nibbled at by time and boredom. We require from the Secretary of State some evidence that he is prepared to do some- 1250 thing positive to overcome NATO's weaknesses. Admiral Hill-Norton has spelt some of them out. There are serious deficiencies in NATO manning levels, reserve stocks, electronic warfare capabilities, air defence and anti-submarine warfare. The gap between NATO and the Warsaw Pact is widening to our disadvantage. Does the Secretary of State agree?
Given the superiority of Warsaw Pact manpower and their more effective capacity to reinforce, the admiral's view, that the Russians need only one man in a support role whereas NATO needs two, makes a mockery of a defence policy based ostensibly upon economy, but in reality upon expediency.
What is wanted is an AD75. That is a plan similar to AD70, which was instituted in 1968 after the invasion of Czechoslovakia. But AD75, if the Secretary of State would adopt it, would be a plan which, by taking inflation into account and increased operating costs, would initiate a programme of specialisation, rationalisation and standardisation. NATO needs to standardise its equipment. At present it operates 25 different types of aircraft and 15 different types of armoured vehicles.
Even more important than the standardisation of its equipment, it needs to standardise its logistics. Much greater effort is needed both in the establishment of reserve units—for reinforcement would be vital to NATO's success—and in the building up of the full logistic support necessary to deploy reserves in sectors where they would be most needed. NATO's real weakness lies in a lack of compatibility and inter-operability of its forces. The point is that as the forces of the various nations depend upon national lines of communication, and as their equipment, and often their doctrine, too, is not standardised, the supreme commander is unable to deploy them at the place of his choice.
The integration of command and control with operational planning has, as yet, no equivalent whatsoever in the field of logistics. This, in its turn, sets narrow limits on the flexibility of operational command and control.
In the past Labour's defence policy— and this is not the first of Labour's defence reviews; it is not, in fact, the 1251 most radical of them—may be described as exercises designed not to betray but to deceive, to pull the wool over the eyes of one-third of its own political party. It was, after all, Mrs. Wilson who launched the fourth Polaris submarine. Perhaps today the motive behind the exercise is the same. But as reduction follows reduction, and as Russia grows stronger and the West is in a state of disarray, is there not a real chance that the Secretary of State may succeed not only in the deception of his friends but also in the betrayal of his country's interests?
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
When the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) touched on the costs of education and social welfare in the forces, he raised a real and important question. I should like to ask my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench this question. How much of the defence budget can properly be put down to education and social welfare and, indeed, to the technology that goes with the civilian involvement with North Sea oil rigs and diving? I should be very grateful if that question could be answered by the Minister of State. I am sure the figures are readily available. It is a very clear question as to how much non-military expenditure can rightly be put down to the defence budget.
§ Mr. Dalyell
That says a lot. But perhaps we could leave that subject.
I should like to reflect that, until my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) started speaking, any serving soldier of the British Army sitting up in the Public Gallery would have thought that the House of Commons was a very odd and strange place. If I were a serving soldier in the British Army, I should, regardless of any political views I held, think that the Members of Parliament might be discussing the subject of Ireland, because with the prospect of being posted there, perhaps for the third, fourth or fifth time, this would seem a 1252 little less remote than Gan and all the other places we have visited today.
Last Thursday, in the aftermath of the Northern Ireland debate, a number of hon. Members, not all on the Government side of the House, said rather gloomily "Of course, you are right in suspecting that the Army presence in Ulster, far from bringing peace, actually makes the situation worse. But you really ought not to say this in the House of Commons, since it undermines the morale of the Army and encourages the IRA". It is precisely this kind of consideration which has kept some of us tight-lipped for two years or more, but now it renders no service at all to the country, to the Army or to Ireland to remain muted any longer.
Convention or no convention, it is just not credible that there is a solution round the proverbial corner, and the plea "Be patient. Wait a little longer. Give this or that a chance" that we have had from successive Front Benchers has worn too thin.
I think of the periods 1939–45 and 1969–75. The open conflict in Northern Ireland has now lasted, as my hon. Friend said, for nearly the period of the Second World War. How many of us who sat here on 13th October 1969 conceived in our wildest nightmares that six years later the Army would still be operating in Northern Ireland?
Dick Crossman's diaries will reveal, if and when they are published, that the members of the Cabinet not immediately concerned with Northern Ireland were assured that this was a three-month, or at the most a six-month, police operation. This is what they were told. It is perhaps ironic that the Member on this side of the House who possibly, with the exception of the Secretary of State, knew most, and certainly cared most, about the British Army was the one to challenge the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, pleased with his handiwork and that of his Ministers.
In October 1969 to his credit George Wigg said to Sir Philip Allen "You have put them in. Now just tell me how you are going to get them out."
This was a problem that the Secretary of State was aware of, because in his 1253 celebrated speech at Newcastle-under-Lyme on 24th April he said:Pressure is mounting on the Mainland to pull out the troops—equally, demands are being being made to set a date for withdrawal, thereby forcing the leaders of the warring factions to get together and to hammer out a solution.That is the most urgent defence issue of 1975.
I thought that it was bizarre and unreal for my right hon. Friend to mention Northern Ireland only once in passing in his opening address. If we are not careful, this country has the prospect of a 30 years' war on its hands. To some of us it is the IRA and not the Russians or the Chinese who present the most immediate threat. Any hon. Member who has seen the youngsters in Long Kesh or on the streets of Derry or of Belfast will not pooh-pooh that remark.
Before I utter another word I must put it on the record that the soldiers are involved in a most miserable situation and that most units have shown incredible restraint in the face of odious provocation. Again as my right hon. Friend said at Newcastle-under-Lyme—Their restraint is remarkable—trying to maintain peace between the IRA, the Provisional IRA, extreme Protestants and other purely criminal activities that fester and grow in such a situation.I echo that.
However, the awkward fact remains that soon after the troops were widely welcomed in 1969, the chemistry of the situation underwent a change, and for years now the soldiers have not been seen as "our British Army" but have been seen by many in Ulster as an alien English, Scottish and Welsh Army. It has become a "They and us" situation. It is quite clear from speaking to returning soldiers, if not to their officers, who are more discreet, that the Northern Irish have become as alien to any members of the British Army as were the Cypriots in the 1950s and 1960s and the Adenis in the late 1960s. Any idea of British soldiers being "our Army" for any extremists on both sides was scotched by the understandable, though not necessarily correct, decision not to send the Irish regiments to Ulster.
The truth is very distasteful. Our boys in uniform have become a focus for hatred, and a considerable number of men and women are waging what amounts to a 1254 kind of holy war to get the "Brits" out. There is widespread sympathy for many who harbour the IRA, and there is an enormous fund of anti-English myth and legend, and perhaps some little fact— we have to admit it—as we have recently learned from the High Court.
Some half century ago, 72,000 British soldiers in Ireland failed against Michael Collins. Less recently, Cromwell, Straf-ford and Edward Plantagenet, full of what they doubtless thought honourable motives, met with bloodshed and catastrophe. I do not know why Ministers of either party, given the history of Ireland, think that they can do any better, because now the whole premise on which the Army is there—namely, to back up and buy time for the moderates—is shaky. There are fewer moderates than we like to suppose, and fewer still who have any real influence. The history of Ireland, if it tells us anything, tells us that extremes settle with one another.
For the reasons I gave on Thursday, I do not assume that there would be a blood bath if the Army were to withdraw, but I think that there will be considerable loss of blood if detention, and especially detention without trial, continues. However—and this is the fix that the Government are in—to let out men of violence, or suspected violence, who have been rounded up in the first place at the risk of the lives of troops would be intolerable if at the same time the House of Commons and the Government asked the British Army to stay.
We cannot have it both ways. I agree that it is absolutely impossible to ask that of soldiers. If we bring detention to an end and let people out of Long Kesh, it is impossible and, indeed immoral to ask the Army to stay, because the soldiers have been risking their lives to round up those men, and to let them out would destroy the morale of the British Army. Somehow this vicious circle has to be broken, because the uncomfortable fact is that as long as something approaching 3.000 Irishmen are in what are seen as English gaols, violence will continue.
I must refer, if briefly, to the remarkable and formidable speech of the Home Secretary. He said:No Home Secretary can bind his successor. But in my view—and I speak with full consideration here—there is no prospect of 1255 amnesties for those who have committed coldblooded and indiscriminate murder or maiming in this country. I do not recognise political excuses for crimes of that order. Those who have received long sentences should, in my view, serve them, whatever political settlements there may be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December 1974 ; Vol. 883, c. 634.]Well, he probably had to say this, did he not? I simply reflect that these people regard themselves not as criminals but as prisoners of war and it may go against the grain, but the alternative— this has to be said—may be conflict for the lifetime in public life of most of us here.
The exit would be inglorious, but, then, de Gaulle had to make an inglorious exit from Algeria. I would not interpret it as being craven or letting people down but simply, from the other aspect, facing reality. If we kept the British Army beyond the spring, we would be on an expensive hiding to nothing in terms of money and, much more important, on an expensive hiding to nothing in terms of human life.
I end—and I do not think that this is unfair, because I am one of his admirers —with a sentence again from the remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend at Newcastle-under-Lyme on 24th April. He said:It just cannot go on—deep seated hatreds are germinating in young breasts—soon all the young people of Ulster will be filled with hate; hatred against their own kinsmen as well as our own forces.It would be an abuse of the House if I were to repeat the detailed arguments that I was allowed to make 10 days ago in the Irish debate. I end by pleading with my right hon. Friend to think about a different and alternative strategy in Ireland, because until this is done we cannot meaningfully discuss the defence review.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Bonner Pink (Portsmouth, South)
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) into the labyrinth of Ulster, although I echo his tribute to the bearing and forbearance of our troops serving there.
I listened to the Minister's statement and read it carefully in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I have listened to the Minister again today. The Minister called his statement a defence review. It is nothing of the kind. A defence review should review our defence needs and our com- 1256 mitments, and the balance and capacity of our forces. The statement does none of those things.
Will the Minister tell us whether, after these cuts have been made, we shall have balanced defence forces as a national entity, or whether they will be complementary to those of other NATO countries? Will he tell us to what extent consideration has been given to the types of ships, aircraft and tanks best suited to our needs and to our obligations? For example, the Navy is now engaged on anti-gun-running patrols off Ireland. Would not comparatively small, fast and simple patrol boats do this job better than the larger, more sophisticated vessels now being used?
In his statement the Minister told us what cuts were to be made. There are provisos that we shall consult our allies, and that is right. On 21st March the Minister said that the review would commence. On 3rd December he said:We are today beginning our consultations with our allies in NATO."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December 1974; Vol. 981, c. 1352.]What happened in that eight months' interval? Why were there no consultations during that comparatively long period?
The Minister announced cuts and consultations. What form will those consultations take? What form can they take, and has he aready decided on them? I know that the Minister qualified that statement today, but definite figures are contained in the statement. What form can those consultations take, except a statement to our allies, "This is what we have decided, but we are prepared to discuss details."
This is not a defence review. This is a price review. It is the announcement of a compromise between the maximum cut the Minister can persuade the Services to agree to and the minimum cuts he thinks will satisfy his own Left wing. The Government have decided to peg defence expenditure at 4½ per cent. of the gross national product. If that is correct and they really mean it, they must restrict Defence Estimates to defence expenditure. Here I take up the point made by the hon. Member for West Lothian, who spoke about the expenditure on education for the forces.
Other Ministries must make provision in their Estimates and their expenditure 1257 for items which are not truly defence items. There is the education of children of Service men. There is university education. There is technical training, training of apprentices, retraining for civil life, the health services, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and welfare services of every kind. The Royal Navy maintains surveying ships and services providing charts and navigational publications. The RAF produces its own publications and runs a weather service. The Army produces maps and even maintains roads. These and other services are provided by the forces, and they come under the heading of defence expenditure. But they are widely used by the public at large and they should be apportioned amongst all the Ministries according to their use.
In more detail the statement says that manpower is to be reduced by 35,000 compared with the strength in April. Will the Minister make it quite clear whether that means a reduction in the actual strength or in the establishment strength, because the two figures can vary considerably? Will the hon. Gentleman state categorically that these reduced figures will be adequate for all our commitments?
It has been the strategy for a long time to have small garrisons overseas with the capacity for rapid build-up from the United Kingdom or Germany. But RAF transport is to be reduced by half, one Marine Commando is to go, and no assault ships are to be built. I understood the Secretary of State to say that that policy has now been abandoned. What happens to those overseas garrisons? Are they to be sitting ducks for the first aggressor who likes to come along?
The Hong Kong garrison is to be maintained, but Gan is to go. Gan is the most important staging post for the Far East. Diego Garcia is a long way south. Can it replace Gan without seriously reducing the payload of aircraft? If Gan is to go and Diego Garcia cannot replace it, how is Hong Kong to be serviced? In any event, what is to happen to Gan? Will the installations there be destroyed, or will they be abandoned, for the first-comer to take them over, or will they be given to Russia? The Minister should tell the House what 1258 is to happen to Gan, that most important position in the Indian Ocean.
What about the Gurkhas in Brunei? My right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) emphasised that the battalion cost us nothing. The Secretary of State tried to explain the situation. I do not know whether he was confused, but he managed to confuse me. I hope that he will come clean and tell us the real reason for withdrawing the Gurkhas from Brunei.
About the only welcome news is that the Polaris force is to be maintained. Once again I plead for an increase in the force by one submarine. At present we have four submarines. All too often it means that with refitting and so on there is only one out of four in the operational zone. One more submarine—
§ It being Ten o'clock the debate stood adjourned.
That the Motion relating to Defence Review may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until half-past Eleven o'clock. —[Mr. Donald Coleman.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Pink
With five Polaris submarines we could have two in the patrol area the whole time. We would get a 100 per cent. effective increase in our force for a 25 per cent. increase in the fleet. These boats are getting old and obsolete. If we are to retain the Polaris force, what is the programme for replacing them with newer and more modern boats?
These proposals in the review are a danger to the safety of this country. The Government must know the danger of these cuts and of reducing our defences at a time when the Warsaw Pact countries are increasing theirs. I appeal to the Government to reverse these policies. If they are not prepared to do so I can only hope that our NATO allies will knock some sense into them when the consultations take place.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are now reaching the end of the debate. I have been trying to extract a little more time for back benchers by taking it from the time alloted to the Front Benches for the replies. I hope very much to be able to call four more speakers from the back 1259 benches. That will mean an absolute maximum of 10 minutes per speech.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)
My hon. Friends and I who tabled an amendment were, naturally, disappointed that you could not find it possible to select that amendment, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to remind the House of the terms of that amendment. I trust I shall be forgiven for reading it. We have said that we decline to:take note of the statement on the Defence Review on the grounds that in present critical economic circumstances it proposes an increase in real terms in arms spending on the £3,612 million estimate for 1974–75 made at the beginning of the year to £3,800 million in 1976–77; that it commits Great Britain for the next 10 years to spend a higher proportion of the gross national product on defence than any of our major western allies; that it fails to propose significant reductions in major weapon projects; that it leaves Great Britain to maintain unjustifiable commitments east of Suez for the next decade ; and that it fails to release real resources and skilled manpower to industries which directly boost our exports and economic growth".We were bitterly disappointed that the defence review was not in line with the programme on which all of us in the Labour Party, including the Secretary of State for Defence, fought the last General Election. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that he believes that it fulfils the Labour Party manifesto commitment. But it is stretching credulity too far to say that so-called reductions of £300 million in 1975–76, £500 million by 1978–79 and £750 million by 1983–84 come anywhere near to meeting the arguments which the Labour Party put forward during the General Election. In real terms the review represents an increase in spending. What the Secretary of State has done is to trim off some of the fat which should have been trimmed away earlier.
I speak as a layman. I am not like many of the military strategists on the benches opposite who remind me of nursery days when one moves battalions here and platoons there. I am sorry to say that I do not understand these matters. However, I understand the expenditure side. It seems that we are cutting a battalion in Brunei—which I gather will not cost us anything anyway— and our forces in Mauritius and Gan, and making some reductions in Cyprus 1260 and eventually in Malta, but nothing— and this is the important point—to speak of is being done in Europe. That is what is swallowing up the money. It is our contribution to NATO which is crippling us because it amounts to about 90 per cent. of our defence spending.
Why are we still maintaining Polaris submarines? Why are we maintaining British and American nuclear bases? They are not a deterrent. If they were I might be convinced. I believe that their existence actually represents a danger to people in this country. What is more, we have no real control over them. The Nassau agreement said that we could use them only in the most dire emergency. Otherwise their use will be a NATO decision. That means that we are committed totally to NATO plans and NATO targeting. But to what extent is NATO's targeting policy the same as that of its dominant partner, the United States, and to what extent are our weapons systems tied to American weapons systems?
I am sorry to hear that we are still committed to the MRCA. We are told that 385 planes are on order at today's prices, and they are about £4 million each. The Secretary of State said that we may slow down the programme. But does that not mean that in our present state of inflation we shall probably pay more for them in the end even if he phases their delivery over a longer period?
We are still proceeding with the through-deck cruiser programme. The cost of each cruiser is getting on for £1 million. Why are we cutting our research and development by only 10 per cent? We could cut it out altogether and buy what we needed from our partners.
We are reducing manpower by 65,000, plus 15,000 locally employed people. Why cannot we plan to cut more? Some of my hon. Friends have already shown that we could easily absorb more people into useful industries instead of putting them on the useless work that they are doing now.
Is it not time that we took a long cool look at NATO? The supposed reason for its existence is to defend us against the threat from the Warsaw Pact. I believe that that threat is vastly overstated. The Soviet Union, though I regret 1261 that she spends so much of her resources and manpower on defence and requires her allies to do likewise, has far too much to lose to risk endangering her people and her economic future by involving herself in another war. However, even if the Soviet Union were involved in some kind of confrontation, would not we in Britain be first in line for attack because of our possession of nuclear weapons and Polaris and because of our position in NATO?
My personal view is that a genuine threat comes from NATO, and that in reality NATO is being used to prevent social change. We in this country should not be associated with that. Let us remember that NATO consists not simply of the countries of Western Europe but is dominated by the United States.
We have already seen the rôle of the CIA in Chile. I have no doubt that the CIA is carefully watching the changes which have taken place in Portugal. We may be sure that any hope of social change in Spain will be prevented by American influence. If it had not been for what I believe was a conspiracy between the United States and the Greek colonels, what happened in Cyprus might never have happened. The possibly antidemocratic nature of NATO should be 1262 watched. I believe that the Common Market is an economic counterpart of NATO, supporting the same reactionary forces. That is one reason why I am opposed to it.
Should we not now be beginning to re-think our rôle in Europe and the world? We were once a great military Power. We have not been one for a long time, and it is time we faced that. We could be a great Power in an entirely different way. We should gain much more respect if we rejected our rôle of trailing behind the United States and NATO, and if we stood on our own, unhampered by pressures from outside. Then we should build a better Britain. We could use the resources which we so released to re-equip our run-down industry.
I thought that we were supposed to be in the middle of an economic crisis. We could spend more on social services, which hon. Gentlemen opposite are constantly telling us cost too much, and we could make a real contribution to the relief of world poverty and hunger, which are the real enemy of peace in the world.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
On all previous occasions when my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have questioned the Secretary of State and his colleagues on this topic we have been told to wait on points of detail for the publication of the defence review. The defence review is now upon us, but the elucidation of the details of expenditure, cost effectiveness and savings is remarkably obscure. For example, it is hard to relate the savings to the measures and cuts which are embodied in the review. As to the withdrawals which the Secretary of State proposes, how much individually will be saved by withdrawing from Gan, Mauritius and Brunei? It is hard to see how the proper discussions and consultations, which the Secretary of State promised, can be conducted if the individual figures attaching to these measures cannot be provided.
I go further and question whether the withdrawals are advisable at all. These stations are not truly "Imperial" in the old pejorative sense. They do not involve rule by an alien force against the wishes of a native population. They are pieces of strategically vital real estate. Real estate of that kind is vital for several military and economic purposes, not simply as supply bases but also for the protection of trade units, as dispersal points, missile tracking stations and so forth.
The House has lately been reminded of the importance of such pieces of real estate by the Falkland Islands, of which we might well have been tempted to divest ourselves, in spite of the expressed wishes of their inhabitants and in spite of their potential strategic advantages. Now it has been established that there is oil in their territorial waters, and they offer one of the most favourable platforms for the exploration of the mineral-rich Antarctic. How easily we might have disposed of the Falkland Islands some years ago to please the Argentinians, or even the Chileans in the days when they found favour with the Labour Party.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider carefully the suggested withdrawals, because of all strategic decisions in defence planning, physical withdrawals 1264 are the most difficult to reverse. Weapons programmes, recruitment and research can suffer harm, but need not be irreversible, given the will and the resources at a later date. But physical withdrawals from territory are final. I listened earlier with great interest to the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), who spoke of the Middle and Near East. He might dissent from me on this point, but I do not believe that it is too much to say that the whole of the present oil deficit crisis, which troubles the Labour Party and the country, has its origins in the failure of nerve by the British Government in 1956 when they withdrew from Suez.
The function of defence policy, in conjunction with foreign policy, is to advance, nurture and protect the interests of the United Kingdom. This is its primary function. Obligations to alliances are important, but only where such alliances contribute to this essential purpose. Plainly, any alliance that takes precedence over the individual interests of the United Kingdom would cease to command any obligation.
I note that the right hon. Gentleman declared the intention to maintain his bias of strength in the centre and in harmony with the NATO alliance. But is there not a danger of becoming mesmerised by the strength of the Warsaw Pact forces to the detriment of the position which it is essential that the United Kingdom maintains if it is to preserve its trading capacity? Any collision in the central front on a major scale is bound to involve the use of nuclear weapons. Is this really a probability? In Hermann Kahn's phrase, no one will just "press the nuclear button and go home to tea." Far more likely must be rated the possibility of a conventional blockade either of the United Kingdom alone or of the United Kingdom and a part of western Europe by the Soviet fleet. To break or loosen such a blockade by the use of nuclear weapons would put the West in the position of an aggressor. To avoid this, it is necessary to have an adequate conventional capacity to resist such a blockade, at least for some weeks while negotiated positions are established.
This brings me to the subject of weaponry, the hardware with which the forces fight. The Secretary of State drew 1265 attention to the rapidly increasing efficiency of the Russian navy. I have constituents in Plymouth who can remember the "Royal Sovereign" returning from being lent to the Soviet navy at the the end of the war. They remember the filthy condition in which it was returned, with no equipment working properly, the sights of the guns out of alignment and dirt all over the decks. These constituents now have sons who served in the Royal Navy and in Operation Northern Merger last September, they were shadowed for the whole duration of the exercise by a "Kriva" class destroyer. I know that some hon. Members on the Government side have a fraternal interest in the welfare and efficiency of the Soviet navy. They will be interested to learn that this destroyer was on good terms with the ships in the exercise and would converse with them over the signals system. On one exceedingly stormy night the admiral in command asked all ships under his command to signal details of the best speed they could maintain during the night, and various answers came back, of 12, 14 and 18 knots. When every ship in the fleet had sent an answer, the Russian Kriva destroyer signalled "28 knots," and it was serious. The most significant thing about this shadowing operation was that the "Kriva" destroyer never had to take on fuel throughout the exercise. The "Leanders" were taking on fuel every three days. What more vivid corrobora-tion could there be that in terms of quality the Soviet navy is now fast advancing to a state where it will be ship for ship, the most formidable in the world? [Interruption.] I am delighted that Labour Members should feel so concerned.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State and his colleagues questions about their accounting. The right hon. Gentleman says that weapons research is to be cut by 10 per cent. Is that qualitative or quantitative? Will he be axing some projects in their entirety, leaving others to their former budget, or is there to be a 10 per cent. cut across the board?
The hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) suggested that weapons research should be cut out altogether. But it is the most important single sector of all defence expenditure if forward planning is to have any significance.
1266 What would our predecessors—not just those who sat on the Government benches 59 or 70 years ago, but Clem Attlee's old Cabinet—have thought of priorities which gave free contraceptives to children under the age of consent and cut back on the essential requirements of the Royal Navy? [Laughter.] I have been in the House long enough to know that when Labour Members start laughing they are feeling uncomfortable. What would Clem Attlee's old Cabinet have thought of priorities which allocated revenue towards colour television sets for prisoners in preference to new reconnaissance vehicles for the Army? There is a fundamental difference in attitude on this question.
The Secretary of State has said that he will cut spending by a percentage of the GNP. What if the GNP should expand over the period in question? What if all the new workers' co-operatives and part-owned enterprises we are promised should lead to a great upsurge in the GNP? Will there be a restoration of some of the cuts? If, as is much more likely, GNP contracts, will the Secretary of State at six-monthly or lengthier intervals explain that still further cuts are needed, that still more mutilation of the Services is required? Will the reviews become more frequent as the GNP contracts?
When he made his statement the Secretary of State was pressed by my hon. Friends on the effects of the cuts on industry. He answered—but his voice noticeably tailed away—that the resources released would go into exports. Leaving aside the validity of the claim of resources being released, what causes the right hon. Gentleman to believe that such resources would automatically flow in that direction? I have heard of the free market philosophy, but that is very optimistic.
I know that Labour Members are touchy about whom they export arms to, but the armaments industry is one of our most important export industries. If the Government properly supported the armament industry and fostered its quests for contracts by those means of diplomacy and pressure employed by our competitors, and often by our allies, the industry would be even more successful. That is a much more effective way of directly fostering exports than simply by cutting into and mutilating the industry and hoping that the resources released 1267 will find their own way into the export trade by some obscure alchemy of the free market.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will remember my request for brevity. He has had 12 minutes.
§ Mr. Clark
I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. I am about to conclude.
The resources the right hon. Gentleman has promised to release are essentially human. What about the gunsmiths, drawing office technicians, armourers, electronic engineers and dockyard welders? Are they to learn new trades or variants of a trade? From heavy industry to a light technology and engineering, prosperity and defence are closely linked, and that link is, or should be, even more important in times of industrial recession. To meddle with one is seriously to jeopardise the other.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I do not think I shall follow the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) on the after-dinner speech with which he has managed to entertain the House, except for one or two points. One may say that he must be the last surviving supporter of the Suez strategy of 1956. To that extent, he has a certain antique value to the House.
The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder), in a rather more serious speech, sang the praises of NATO, which prompts me to remind the House that if there is one thing that the NATO organisation has failed to do, it has been to save two countries that have been the subject of Soviet aggression since the war—Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It failed to do so for the simple reason that even those who were ruling this country at the time knew perfectly well that any attempt by us to intervene would result in a nuclear war in which we would be faced with complete destruction. The fact is that NATO's bluff was called long ago. It no longer serves any useful purpose for any of us to pretend that it serves a useful function.
All that one can say of the defence review, is that one looks for small mercies in it. There is something for those who, for the last seven years, have been anxious to get the Government to come back from east of Suez. Some 1268 movement has been achieved in that regard. But it is still a very depressing situation at a time of unparalleled economic crisis, when not only is it true that those who are fair-minded realise that there has to be a considerable reduction in expenditure if we are not to go on enfeebling our economy, but the United States Defence Secretary, Mr. Schlesinger, a few weeks ago was prepared to concede that the nuclear deterrent was no longer a valid concept. If such a view was forthcoming from so unexpected a source, one would have thought that the Government would have considered the time had arrived to bring to an end the nuclear deterrent.
Because the Government have not done so, some of us are going to find ourselves in revolt tonight. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will probably have a lot of explaining to do. I do not suppose that anything he says will be sufficient to make us change our minds on the matter, but as he was one of those responsible some years ago for trying to secure the reversal of the Labour Party conference's successful anti-nuclear campaign, he will have an opportunity to see that many of us in the Labour Party still do not regard the battle of 1961 as being over. He will see that we are as committed as ever to the removal of the unilateral nuclear deterrent from this country. We regard its retention as madness, and, whatever the outcome of the vote tonight, will go on fighting until we have got rid of it.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)
… once we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, no hospitals, no schools. We have a heap of cinders."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March 1969; Vol. 779, c. 551.]I am glad that the members of the "Shadow Opposition" on the Government benches are in their places to hear that graphic description of excessive defence cuts, because it was given by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Secretary of State for Defence. It proves that as Chancellor of the Exchequer he makes a first-class Secretary of State for Defence.
Yet the Labour Party conference in 1973 called for military spending to be cut by at least £1,000 million a year. Furthermore, Labour Party conference 1269 resolutions in 1972 and 1973 opposed a defence policy based on the nuclear deterrent. There is no clearer example of the Labour Party conference's disregard for the realities of this world, and no clearer example of the country's good fortune in one respect at least— that the relationship between the Labour Party conference and the Labour Government is roughly the relationship between John Gilpin and his horse.
The truth of the matter is that the Government's freedom of action on defence has been severely circumscribed. Faced by demands for cuts, they have, nevertheless, had to pay regard to the world around us and to certain overriding commitments. They have had to observe our treaty obligations. They have had to observe the NATO commitment, and particularly the requirement for troops to be kept in Germany. There is the Northern Ireland commitment, which shows no sign of lessening. There is the continued need for a nuclear deterrent, and this is fulfilled quite inexpensively through the Polaris submarine fleet. There is the commitment, given before the General Election and before the rest of the defence review was announced, to keep open all four naval dockyards.
There is the need to safeguard employment in certain areas where major defence projects are under construction. This is not strictly related to the defence of the realm but it clearly remains an important factor in the Government's eyes. Finally, each of the Services has established its case to retain its prestige projects involving advanced technology at an expense commensurate with the level of the technology. The cumulative effect of these requirements, the validity of which the Government have been forced to recognise, has been to render it impossible to make cuts that are sound from an economic and a defence standpoint.
Faced by demands for a reduction in defence expenditure, demands that are in no sense based upon the needs of the defence programme, the Government have been forced to direct their cuts at the muscle of the Armed Services, and this will weaken our ability to respond in emergencies. If the review continues the proposals will drastically reduce the transport capacity of the Royal Air Force. They will reduce the number of con- 1270 ventional submarines and conventional surface vessels in the Royal Navy. Afloat support will be cut by one third, and the ability of the Armed Services to man amphibious operations will be drastically reduced.
These cuts may all seem acceptable in time of peace, but the object of maintaining defence forces is to have a flexible capacity to deal with situations of disorder and unrest, as well as situations of limited and total war. The vital attribute we may lose is flexibility—the ability to respond to any one of a range of emergencies. Most of the sections of the Armed Services that are proposed for cutting have it in common that in time of peace they may seem dispensable but in time of emergency they would give that flexibility that we should be certain to need.
Before committing this country to his proposals the Secretary of State should look again at the employment implications of his plans. Unemployment is about to rise rapidly—just how rapidly is known to those involved in industry. The Secretary of State is proposing to contribute to this unemployment by direct cuts in jobs. He is proposing defence cuts that will affect the jobs of 75,000 people, 60,000 of whom will be in this country. These will include indirect redundancies through a reduction of purchasing of new equipment or the postponing of deliveries of equipment.
This loss of home orders the threatened equipment manufacturers— aircraft companies, shipbuilding companies, and so on—might be able to deal with were it not for the fact that approaching them steadily from the other side, impervious to arguments and logic, is the Secretary of State's right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, who is determined to nationalise these companies. He is doctrinally committed to achieve his purpose, and the implications of his action need examination.
Let us look at the example of warship manufacturers. Foreign purchasers-foreign Governments—at present have a choice of dealing with United Kingdom companies direct or through the United Kingdom Government. About 90 per cent. of foreign purchasers prefer to deal direct with United Kingdom companies, despite the security advantages which seem to be given by dealing through the 1271 Government. If these companies were nationalised, the foreign purchasers would be forced to deal through the Government or through a Government agency. Another disadvantage of nationalisation would be that some foreign Governments may be prepared to deal with a British company, but not with the British Government, and vice versa.
The Labour Government's prejudices in their preparedness to sell to some countries and not to others has been noted in export markets and is damaging our trade. If warship builders were to be nationalised, there would undoubtedly be a loss of export orders. Moreover, British Government work is to be switched from commercial yards to the dockyards to keep them open, in accordance with their pledge given before the election.
What will happen to the excess commercial shipyard capacity? Will the Secretary of State for Defence come to the rescue of industry thus annoying the Left-wing "Shadow Opposition", by placing further ship orders for the Royal Navy to safeguard these yards from redundancy?
I suggest that this situation should not be allowed to occur. The right course is for the Secretary of State for Industry to confine himself to the major problems that he has and to keep away from creating problems in areas where there are currently no problems
I make the following positive proposals. First, the Government should reconsider the need for flexibility in our Armed Forces, and in particular look again at the need for retaining conventional forces capable of great mobility.
Secondly, the Government should give a new major impetus to reserve training and commitment. This must be the most cost-effective way of improving the broad range of our defence preparedness and capacity.
Thirdly, there should be the widest range of consultation on the defence proposals, particularly with industrial representatives and local authorities, to safeguard employment. Some areas will be hit particularly hard if the cuts are implemented in their present form. As there are grants to subsidise industrial activity in areas of traditionally high unemploy- 1272 ment, I suggest that a special grant should be available to stimulate an early growth of industrial activity to compensate for defence reductions, if such there should be.
The Government should recognise that people who enter Government service, particularly defence, do so because, first, they are prepared to take a lower level of remuneration because they feel that they are entering a secure employment, and, secondly, because they have a sense of loyalty. Both ideas will be undermined and shattered if the Government now decide to make these people redundant. If the State is to do that, it is right that it should minimise the damage that it is doing.
Finally—the most important point of all—we have heard of this so-called defence review since March. We were frequently told how searching and fundamental the review was to be. Now that we have the interim results—subject to consultation—may we have a clear and positive undertaking that when decisions are implemented no other defence reductions will follow within the period covered by the review projections? Such an assurance will enable those in the Armed Services and ancillary activities to plan their careers with the knowledge of security, enable defence plans to be made with confidence and certainty, and show our allies and those who might work against us that this country understands the realities of defence in a potentially hostile world.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
I think that probably all hon. Members are sorry that circumstances have meant that we are not having the two-day debate for which we hoped. I make no criticism of the Government for that, because it was our choice, and it is right, that that should be the position. On the other hand, we have had an extension, thanks to some wise guidance from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Mr. Speaker, and many hon. Members have managed to take part.
One of the happiest occasions this evening has been a truly remarkable maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson). I have heard a number of maiden speeches, but I cannot recall one with so much assurance and fluency. The whole House will look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend 1273 again in our debates. With a name like his, it is very appropriate that he should have started in a defence debate.
Secondly, I should like—I think with the support of the House—to repeat, in a defence debate, something which cannot be said too often. That is how much we all admire the astonishingly good reputation and skilful execution of tasks carried out by our Armed Services. They have always had a high reputation. It has probably never stood higher in the world generally than it stands today. This reflects the greatest credit on all concerned in the Armed Forces.
Thirdly, I should like to mention in passing a subject which has not been dealt with very much in the debate— Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised this subject. He has great knowledge and sincerity in these matters. I listened to him with great interest. I am sorry to say that I could not agree with his main thesis. But I would add this to what he said. There are many people who have strong views about what the next course of policy in Northern Ireland should be. But from the defence point of view it is very clear that the job of the defence forces is to serve the policy of the Government generally. Our forces are doing that extremely well in the most appalling circumstances, and with great pride, to some extent, in doing such a difficult job so very well. I am certain that the vast majority of our troops who have been in, and are in, Northern Ireland, although finding it a very difficult and in many ways a distasteful job, do manage to find a satisfaction, of some sort at any rate, in the skill with which they do their job.
I welcome the debate and the statement which preceded it as the deliberate intention of the Secretary of State to give us the opportunity of commenting on his proposals in time—I think that these were his words—to influence the course of events hereafter. Both sides of the House hope very much that he and his Ministers will think very carefully about many of the things which have been said today, because we should like to see some changes in what he has proposed. We hope also that the Secretary of State will pay very close attention to the views expressed in the consultations which he will be having with our friends and allies all 1274 over the world. He mentioned earlier in the debate the rather disappointed reaction of Mr. Schlesinger in the United States. The right hon. Gentleman may also have noted today the remarks of Dr. Luns, making it clear that he has a number of reservations about the right-ness of what the Government are proposing in this case.
I hope that these views will be taken into account. If these serious views should be the general reaction which the Government receive to this review, I hope that they will not be too proud at this stage to return in a month or so and say that they have made changes in the original proposals set out in the right hon. Gentleman's statement.
There were a number of things one could welcome in the statement. In particular, I welcome warmly the Government's decision, reiterated, to continue the Polaris submarines. This is an essential part of our deterrent. They know that it is. They are very wise to be maintaining it.
I am extremely glad that the MRCA is to carry on. Several hon. Members, on both sides of the House, have raised questions about more detail being required about the slowing down of the ordering programme. I hope that we shall have that detail before too long.
I was glad to hear that the through-deck cruiser programme is to continue. But we have not yet been told whether the programme is for two vessels or just the vessel which is being built. We should like more details.
I greatly welcome, as do many of my hon. Friends, the Secretary of State's strong words today about the need for the TAVR to be maintained and even strengthened if possible. He is right. There is great potential there for effective reserves which can stand us in good stead in unforeseen circumstances ahead.
I hope that the disappointment which I must express about the review will not come as too great a shock to the right hon. Gentleman. My disappointment arises from the approach he has adopted to his task. Time and time again in the past few months the right hon. Gentleman and his junior Ministers have said that this defence review would be quite different, that on this occasion they would look at our commitments all over the world, 1275 that they would consider what was necessary, and that at the end of it all they would come back and say, "These are our commitments. We must do this. We are providing the money with which to do it."
I am sure that Ministers started with that intention, but, unfortunately, it has not turned out that way. Overshadowing the whole review has been the loudly voiced and wholly impracticable resolution carried by the Labour Party conference and the watered down version of it which was put into the Labour Party manifesto.
It is sad that we are now facing in many ways the same hotchpotch of proposals as the right hon. Gentleman was trying to avoid. He has once more had to start from the point of saying, "How can I save the money which the Labour Party manifesto requires me to save?" As the right hon. Gentleman himself said, that is not the way to tackle the nation's affairs.
I therefore question the right hon. Gentleman on the results of the review, all of which stem from the fact that he had to approach matters from the wrong end. That is why, though he has been able to tell us in outline many things that he wants to do, astonishingly he has not been able to tell us how he proposes to do them. One thing that I thought we should get out of this nine-month long review was a pretty good idea of how the Government proposed to do these things. If the right hon. Gentleman does not know how he is to make these changes, how they will turn out on the ground, and what he will lose by making some of the changes, I reach the inevitable conclusion that he has merely set out to do an arithmetical calculation of how much money he can save and that he must now sit down to determine how it will all work out.
How can the right hon. Gentleman say that he is cutting the RAF transport capability by one half and the personnel in the RAF by 18,000 without being able to tell us how our forces are to be transported in the future? He does not appear to know. Is it to be by chartering civilian aircraft? If so, how is that to be achieved? Are there to be some new measures whereby civilian aircraft can be chartered without notice? What is to 1276 happen if something crops up like the recent crisis in Cyprus at the peak holiday period when every charter aircraft worth flying is flying people to holiday locations world-wide? Will extra Government powers be needed so that we can get extra aircraft without notice? This capability cannot be cut by half without something being provided in its place?
What about the reduction of 12,000 in the Army? It amazes me that we are apparently discussing such a large reduction in the number of personnel in the Army, yet in answer to Written Questions the Secretary of State has not so far been able to tell us who they are to be. He went a little further in his speech today and rather engagingly painted for us the picture that there was nothing very particular that he could tell us about the 12,000, that it was all to be worked out by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Army, who would trot round various Army units picking out a cook here and a storeman there and eventually they would all add up to 12,000. We have had nothing more concrete than that.
We are assured that no major units are to go. We are assured that the cuts will not affect our contribution in Northern Ireland. We are assured that the cuts will not affect our contribution to NATO, except in relation to the specific contributions announced for the flanks. Where are the 12,000 soldiers to come from? We are entitled to know that, and I hope that the Minister of State will tell us all tonight.
Then there is the strange mystery of the Gurkha battalion. The Secretary of State has twice been questioned in the House on this subject, once the other day and once this afternoon. His customary fluency has deserted him on this occasion, and I ask his hon. Friend to come a little cleaner with us this evening. What is the answer to this mystery about the battalion of Gurkhas? So far as I know, the men are very happy in their work, and it costs this country nothing whatever to keep the battalion in Brunei. Why are they being removed from there if it is not saving us any money? The right hon. Gentleman could give no answer to that question except to say that he wanted to use the same battalion in Hong Kong. If it will not save money, what is the purpose of the cut?
1277 We are not told very much about the maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Nimrod. We are told that there is to be no reduction in the home-based Nimrods, but that there are to be some reductions overseas. What are those reductions, and why are they being made?
Then there is the question of the NATO flank force, the mobile commando force at present covering the NATO flanks. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to reduce this force so that it will be able to deal with only one of the flanks instead of both. We have not been told whether this means that it will be interchangeable, or whether as it is proposed that this force should be trained for winter warfare, as the right hon. Gentleman said in his statement, it will be more or less assigned to the northern flank. However, I know that it is reported that today Dr. Luns made it clear that if it affected the Mediterranean flank, the southern flank, of NATO, this was the strangest of times to be weakening our contribution to the southern flank protection of NATO. Has the Secretary of State forgotten all the difficulties at present over Greece's membership of NATO and the recent troubles in Cyprus? What is the answer, and why is this cut produced at this time? It does not seem to make any sense at all.
We want to know a lot more about how this force is to be transported. Again, the right hon. Gentleman seems to be starting to think about that instead of having been working it out for the past nine months.
I come briefly to the industrial effects of the defence review. My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) touched on this subject. I should like to know a lot more about how it is proposed to employ the four naval dockyards. I am delighted that the Government are not closing any of them, because I should not like to see any of them closed, but how is the right hon. Gentleman to keep them working with such large reductions in the fleet without creating redundancies among civilian workers elsewhere? Large amounts of repair work and so on cannot be transferred to the naval dockyards from civilian shipyards without putting those shipyards and, what is 1278 more, civilian shipyard workers out of work in the process.
It has been suggested by some Labour Members that the dockyards could quote for the construction of oil rigs and so on, as if that were something that could easily be done by a naval dockyard without thinking about it. But what about the oil rig construction companies, Cam-mell Laird and others, losing the work that the dockyards get? How many people will be put out of work if the Royal Naval Dockyards take on this work?
The Government cannot avoid the consequences of their own defence review. If they are not putting out of work the 30,000 people in the dockyards, there will be a serious effect on employment in other parts of the industrial sector.
If the dockyards tender for outside work, on what basis will they do so? Will they be competitive? Will their costs be fairly assessed against those of possible competitors? How are we to know that the tenders they put out are fair as against other contractors trying for the same work? These questions have not been tackled, and it is time that the right hon. Gentleman or one of his Ministers answered or, dare I suggest—I shall probably regret this very much—is this a case when the Secretary of State for Industry will have to come in and tell us how he will control the use of the dockyards in this way?
In spite of the eight and a half months of gestation for this defence review, at this stage there is very little more information than could have been worked out on the back of an envelope by the right hon. Gentleman before the last General Election. The main burden of what the Minister has announced today must have been known very well indeed to him and to the Government long before the last election. The whole of this review was deliberately held back until after the election because the Government knew perfectly well that it was electorally unpopular.
The cat is now out of the bag. The Government, in consultation with many of our friends and allies who are mystified by what they are doing, will have to work out what it all actually amounts to. The whole picture suggests that this much-vaunted and most extensive and thorough 1279 review of our system of defence ever undertaken, which the right hon. Gentleman is so proud of, is in grave danger—if he does not take a grip on it from now on—of becoming a botched-up defence review.
The Government inherited from the Labour Party conference an impossible commitment to reduce defence expenditure without recognising the real needs of Britain. This Government have discovered that they cannot do this without either fatally weakening NATO or reducing our ability to carry out essential British tasks such as that involved in Northern Ireland, or both.
To their credit the Government have shrunk from either course as a whole but have opted instead for drastic cuts behind the scenes which, while they do not hit the headlines today, will within five years have fatally weakened our ability to carry out three essential actions: first, to carry out our commitment to reinforce the flanks of NATO; secondly, to move our forces swiftly by air or sea to any area where our interests are threatened; and, thirdly, to provide a reserve of strength to meet the unexpected, which was a point very well made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser).
It is the duty of this House to alert the British people to the danger of what is being proposed in their name. We should remember that decisions concerning defence cannot easily or quickly be reversed once they are taken. On the contrary, decisions taken now will have their most telling effect five years or so from now. We do not, we cannot, know what threats we may face then. A sound defence policy, whoever is in charge of it, in any country at any time, must always provide some margin to allow for the unexpected.
The history of warfare and conflict is littered with examples of people who prepared for the wrong war at the wrong time. The Government, in this defence review, are fatally weakening their one insurance against being caught out the next time, which is the provision of an adequate reserve for contingencies capable of being switched around, capable of being moved to the point of conflict, able to deal with problems, difficulties and crises, of which the right 1280 hon. Gentleman cannot now know and of which he cannot be expected to know now.
The main damage being done by this defence review lies in the reduction of our ability to deal with the unexpected. That is the first thing that can be said of many a defence review. When the British people find that a crisis blows up in five years or so, and there is an immediate need—whether it is for rescuing people, for intervening in some difficult situation at the request of our allies or perhaps even of the United Nations, when it is required for the British forces to do so—the right hon. Gentleman must, if he is wise, hope that he will not be obliged to say, "I am sorry but the British forces cannot go on the relief expedition" or whatever it is "because we do not have the troops, the resources or the transport to convey them there." The decisions taken now will render those consequences the inevitable result in four or five years' time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not be in office, experiencing the consequences of his own actions.
This defence review will decimate our future ability to deploy adequate forces to meet any situation which may occur. For that reason we shall divide the House tonight.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. William Rodgers)
When the Opposition suddenly lost their enthusiasm for a two-day debate—and it was their choice and no one else's that we should not have one—I wondered what sort of justice we would do to my right hon. Friend's proposals in the shorter period left to us. My concern now, I admit freely, is not that we have failed to cover the ground —we have succeeded surprisingly well— but that in the time available I shall deal inadequately with the questions which have been asked in more than 20 speeches today. Certainly there are some matters which, to do them justice and to defer to the right hon. and hon. Members who have asked questions, I shall have to leave aside. I intend no discourtesy, and I shall write to the right hon. and Members concerned when it may seem appropriate—[Interruption.] I think it is better that I should write than that I should not write, and there are also some large issues—
§ Mr. Rodgers
The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) has asked 94 Written Questions in the past week, and he has received answers to them all.
May I join the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) in his felicitous remarks about the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson)? The hon. Gentleman's remarks were pleasant, thoughtful and very confident, and, like other hon. Members, I look forward to his further contributions to our debates,
In commenting on my right hon. Friend's statement, right hon. and hon. Members have wanted it all ways. Some have asked us, perfectly reasonably, to take full account of their views in formulating the White Paper. The hon. Member for Ayr did this. We have been pressed about consultations with our allies by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Walder) and with those affected in industry by the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers). We have been urged from both sides of the House to think again either of cuts recklessly planned, given our security requirements, or of cuts neglectfully forgone, given our economic situation.
I do not complain. On the contrary, this is consistent with the fact that my right hon. Friend's statement was concerned with proposals, and a White Paper is to follow. But it is illogical to see this as a debate which can influence policy— to ask the Government to take heed of what hon. Members say—and at the same time to object, as the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) did, to the lack of certainty.
"Mystery" was the word used by the hon. Member for Tynemouth. If details are missing, it is because there is still much time to decide, and if ministerial views are occasionally reserved it is because we want, as we have been asked, to listen and to consider. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) said, it would have been so much easier to present a neatly packaged review with the i's dotted and the t's crossed, with an accompanying brief giving all the answers.
1282 We have taken a bolder course. I had supposed that hon. Members were pleased to have a fuller statement of our proposals than they expected on 3rd December. I hope now that the House will be generous enough to see that openness on the part of the Government requires a matching response in flexibility from right hon. and hon. Members
In the past week we in the Defence Department have answered more than 200 Written Questions. That is a lot, even allowing for the 90-plus asked by the hon. Member for Tynemouth. We have tried in every case to be as forthcoming as possible. On a number of occasions we have given information to hon. Members which had not previously been made public. Between now and the publication of the White Paper we shall remain as helpful as possible, not only because we have a duty to the House but as a positive contribution to open discussion.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed their satisfaction at the booklet we have produced for the convenience of hon. Members, giving basic facts about defence spending. The hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) said that the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee, of which he is the distinguished Chairman, will see a role for itself in further consideration of the statement.
I ought not to encourage inquiries that place a considerable strain upon the staff in the Defence Department, to whom I would like to pay a special tribute, in which I know the House will join, in view of the particularly heavy burden of work which it has recently carried. But we shall do our very best to provide information to the Sub-Committee so that scrutiny may continue.
There were times last week, and I admit this to the right hon. Member for Worcester, when we were obliged to reply that a particular matter was still under consideration or that it was too soon to say what the detailed outcome of certain proposals made in my right hon. Friend's statement would be. I fully understand the concern of hon. Members, and this includes the hon. Member for Gosport, over matters affecting employment in their own constituencies and the human problems which this involves. We 1283 shall do our best to help in every way we can.
Perhaps I could mention the Royal Ordnance factories, which have a special status and employ more than 18,000 people in 11 different locations, affecting the interests of a rather greater number of hon. Members. As I said in a Written Reply to the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) the other day, I hope that the overall level of employment in the factories will not be seriously affected by the defence review. The factories have been particularly successful in winning overseas orders, and I have already been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and other colleagues, to draw to their attention the scope that may exist in the Royal Ordnance factories and in the Royal dockyards for carrying out work for civil customers. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) will note that we have in mind the demands of the offshore oil industry.
Of course, there are problems, as the hon. Member for Ayr said. We are not claiming that they will be easy to solve. Surely it is right for the Government, if there is to be a decline in any of the establishments of Government, to seek additional opportunities for employment, wherever they may be. I would have thought that that view would commend itself to all hon. Members.
The proposals set out by my right hon. Friend on 3rd December represent the considered view of the Cabinet as a whole. But I am sure that any other group of 23 Members would reach conclusions different, at least in part. I would go further. If all hon. Members had a chance to sit in my right hon. Friend's chair I would expect 635 different solutions to the defence review. I know that some of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), are bothered by Britain's involvement in Oman and attach rather less importance than the Government do to maintaining a small presence, at minimum cost, under long-standing obligations. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whose responsibility it mainly is, will take note of their con cern. I note, conversely, that there are those in the House who wish that we 1284 intended to retain a significant presence in Singapore. I confess that I have a certain wayward sympathy for their point of view.
As the House knows, I went earlier this year, when the defence review was in its initial stages, to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Canberra and Wellington to consult our partners in the five-Power arrangements. In our debate on 2nd July I said that all four Governments had made clear publicly that they would prefer us to remain. But we have had to consider how far our remaining commitment of some 2,500 men, the facilities they require and the means of sustaining them are relevant to our principal interests today. When we looked at this we concluded that withdrawal made sense. Our partners have shown understanding, and have welcomed our willingness to leave a handful of men—although, of course, no equipment and no aircraft—to help to run the integrated air defence system.
Our decision on Singapore has been reflected in our decision on Gan. I noted what the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said about that. We shall be looking at the consequences of our decision to withdraw, but both decisions marry up with our further decision on Mauritius and our intention to negotiate an end to the Simonstown Agreement.
We are steadily continuing to withdraw from our military role east of Suez, not because we are blind to the existence and growth of the Soviet fleet, complacent about the prospects of stability or self-conscious about flying the flag. We simply cannot afford it, given the priorities we have set.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar), in a typically lucid speech, made remarks which are relevant to this, and I commend right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who were not present when he spoke to read what he said. It made a great deal more sense than did the old-fashioned remarks of the right hon. Member for Pavilion about a grand design.
There are other commitments round the world which we retain because of longstanding and inescapable obligations or because it makes good sense for wider reasons of foreign policy. No one has suggested in the debate that we should abandon Gibraltar or the external de- 1285 fence of Belize as long as it is dependent upon us. No one has suggested either that the passionate wish of the Falkland Islanders to remain British should be lightly set aside. Similarly, it is not as easy as my hon. Friend the Member for Heeley suggested to dismiss our obligations to Hong Kong, although we intend to make some reductions in our forces and to seek from the Hong Kong Government a larger proportion of their cost. I agree that the need for this is urgent.
We should look at the decisions on Brunei in the light of our statutory obligations. We can argue whether it is right further to reduce our commitments east of Suez, but if it is right, if it makes sense in terms of priorities—and I sense that there is a larger understanding within the House than Opposition speeches suggested—we should look at our commitments as a whole and consider them as a piece.
As for Cyprus, we intend to make some early reductions in our forces stationed in the sovereign base areas, not because of the defence review but because of the need to relieve the present severe personnel overcrowding within the bases —for which there will be sympathy on both sides of the House. For that reason we shall begin to thin out our air forces early in the new year. These reductions, to meet the problem of overcrowding, are without prejudice to the outcome of consultations with our allies on the defence review to which my right hon. Friend referred in his statement of 3rd December.
I hope that, on reflection, the House will feel reasonably relaxed about these proposals, both when they mean breaking long-standing ties and when some further relatively modest obligations remain.
The same can be said of the Indian Ocean, where our agreement to a modest improvement of the support facilities at Diego Garcia at no cost to ourselves is quite compatible with our wish to see peace and stability in that area.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow will welcome what I am about to say. We shall continue to pursue consultations with the aim of developing realistic progress towards arms limitations in the Indian Ocean, about which a number of countries, notably Australia, have made constructive suggestions. This is because we support realistic arms con- 1286 trols and disarmament measures which can contribute effectively towards peace.
East-West negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions began in Vienna in October 1973, with the aim of providing undiminished security for both East and West at a lower level of forces. As the House knows, we cannot claim rapid progress, but the negotiations are complex and the talks have been businesslike and constructive. They should not be despised by anyone in the House, because both sides are seeking seriously for agreement. It is right that we should support the talks, and our support is evidence of the importance we attach to NATO as an instrument both of defence and detente. We hope that they will succeed.
It is too soon to speculate on the likely level of United Kingdom reductions in BAOR which might result from a successful agreement, but those who have asked whether the proposals we have made for defence spending over the next 10 years will survive, irrespective of changed circumstances, may assume that we shall act upon as well as welcome genuine progress towards disarmament at Vienna.
I have also been asked what on the contrary might happen if there were a significant deterioration of the world situation which, by common consent, increased the threat to British security and demanded urgent action. My answer is that I am certain that any future Government would act responsibly in the national interest, as has always happened at times of crisis.
I entirely take the point, which has been made several times, including by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook), that it is very difficult to predict the course of events over the next 10 years. Obviously that is true. However, we make certain assumptions for planning purposes over a period which, incidentally, represents almost the minimum span of time for the development and production of new items of equipment, or we make ad hocand short-term decisions with the severe penalties to which my right hon. Friend drew attention.
Of course the security situation may change either way, and of course GNP may rise faster than we have predicted, or more slowly. All these factors will 1287 have to be taken into account if and when they change markedly from our present assumptions. The situation as regards defence is essentially no different from that of other major public programmes, except in so far as our decisions affect our position world-wide and our relations with our allies and our partners.
I am sorry if some of my hon. Friends feel that they have been misled by the figures for savings given by my right hon. Friend in his statement. I hope that they will acquit him of such responsibility. He said quite clearly that the savings he proposed should be set against the long-range estimates of defence expenditure we inherited.
I filled in the details in reply to the right hon. Member for Worcester on 9th December, in an answer that I hope in this case met with his satisfaction. Similarly, in answering my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) on 11th December I made the point that savings can be measured only in terms of expenditure now envisaged compared with previous programmes. This is a public accounting convention that is well understood in the House, and makes good sense. It involves a comparison of like with like. I can remember many occasions on which we have debated cuts in public expenditure, and have deplored them from the Labour benches, in terms of a reduction in the rate of increase.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper was right to suggest that those who believe that our savings will be "phoney" cuts should tell that to the 70,000 people who will become reduntant.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
My hon. Friend is dealing with the basic question. I think that on reflection he will admit that they are phoney cuts if in real terms the expenditure is rising. He cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am not inclined to have it both ways. My hon. Friend—I do not want to say it harshly—is asking to have it both ways when he refers to phoney cuts and refuses to accept that phoney cuts would not, and could not by definition, result in the level of redundancies that there will be, and the changes in the equipment programme that we have announced.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)
Is it not time my hon. Friend and his colleagues stopped frightening us with the bogyman of redundancy? In two or three years after 1945 we cut the aircraft manufacturing industry from 2½ million to 200,000, and we took 5½ million men and women out of the Services and put them back into civilian employment, without a single person being out of work.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I would never attempt to frighten my hon. Friend. I was not suggesting, nor has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested, that we should forgo savings on defence expenditure because of the problems of redundancy. But it is no good pretending that we can have it both ways. If there are to be savings, there will be redundancies, and we should face up to them.
The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) referred in passing to fundamentalist views. There are three identifiable approaches to defence spending that rest upon indifference both to its level— it is always too much—and to getting value for money from it. There are those who believe that it is wrong to defend ourselves, those who believe that there is nothing worth defending, and those who believe that there is no one we need defend ourselves against.
The first group are pacifists. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Woodall) said, they occupy an entirely respectable moral position, provided only that their pacificism extends to revulsion at the bearing of arms by anyone anywhere. The second group are so cynical or disillusioned as to be unrepresentative of the people of this country, and I do not believe that they have any spokesmen in the House. As for the third group, who say that they cannot conceive of a threat to our way of life, they are either extraordinarily naive or extraordinarily hypocritical.
§ Hon. Members: Hear, hear.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Those in the third group are unrepresentative, and I am sure that no hon. Member would put himself in that category.
I return to the need to face up to the alternatives. If the items of spending 1289 that we propose are not justified, how do we otherwise achieve the capability? If we do not need the capability, what are the explicit assumptions that lie behind its abandonment? I confess—I do so reluctantly—to finding rigorous analysis of these questions not always characteristic of those critics of my right hon. Friend who say that he is not going far enough.
Let us take the MRCA. In his statement my right hon. Friend said that we may have to make a reduction in the planned rate of delivery. I can say no more at the moment, because we shall be discussing this with our partners in the project. But were we to cancel the MRCA, as is sometimes proposed, we are entitled to ask, what would be put in its place? Are we to buy American aircraft? If so, which aircraft, and at what price? Are we to skip a generation of aircraft and rely on the existing Vulcans, Buccaneers and Canberras until they fall apart? Or does this not matter, and is the attack on the MRCA an attack on preserving the credibility of NATO itself?
I exempt from this criticism my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central and others who have asked serious questions about alternatives to the MRCA, and particularly the aid defence variant. They are reasonable questions, and I would like the House to discuss them further. In this case the logic of the issues is being faced up to, and it is right that this should be so.
I return to the amendment that we are to vote upon. I concede that in recent years spending on defence has been overtaken by spending on social security, education and health. I go further: despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), I rejoice in the trend, and believe that it should continue. Twenty years ago defence spending was about one quarter of all public expenditure ; now it is 10 per cent. It is true that we are cutting our defence expenditure as a percentage of GNP from a figure higher than that of
§ our principal European allies. But 1 do not rest on that comparison, or on others. It is not what others spend, even within the alliance, which should finally determine our own decision. It is not even the claims—powerful, immediate, compelling—of this country's necessary social programme. It is a judgment, cool and considered, of what we need to spend to ensure our own security.
§ Of course, I understand those in this House who regret the passing of Britain's world role. I understand also the misgivings and private anxieties of those whose careers are affected by the review. I have said—perhaps too often and too moderately—that there is room for discussion. But I put it to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches that they do not serve the nation's cause by exaggeration ; on the contrary, to suggest, as they do in their amendment, that the country's security is imperilled, may be to feed the suspicions that they would otherwise wish to confound.
§ The right hon. Member for Worcester made a remarkable speech in his constituency a week ago. It was apparently mainly on matters other than defence— which is now the Opposition's custom. But the right hon. Gentleman found time to describe my right hon. Friend's statement as "a ghastly lapse" and spoke of disarmament and appeasement. I have already referred to disarmament. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will choose the structure of his speeches and his words more carefully in the future.
§ Hon. Members on the Government side of the House are not ashamed to have a vision of a world free from war, but equally we are not prepared to surrender our freedoms, our values and our way of life to anyone who seeks by threat or by stealth to take them away. Our vision endures, but our proposals are based on a robust common sense.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 256, Noes 316.1295
|Division No. 35.]||AYES||[11.30 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Awdry, Daniel||Benyon, W. R.|
|Altken, J. W. P.||Baker, Kenneth||Berry, Hon Anthony|
|Alison, Michael||Banks, Robert||Biffen, John|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bell, Ronald||Blggs-Davison, John|
|Arnold, Tom||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Blaker, Peter|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareh.)||Body, Richard|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hayhoe, Barney||Osborn, John|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Heseltine, Michael||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Brittan, Leon||Hicks, Robert||Percival, Ian|
|Brotherton, Michael||Higgins, Terence L.||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Holland, Philip||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hordern, Peter||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Buck, Antony||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Budgen, Nick||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Raison, Timothy|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hunt, John||Rathbone, Tim|
|Burden, F. A.||Hurd, Douglas||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Renton, Rt Hn Sir D. (Hunts.)|
|Channon, Paul||James, David||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick (Redbr.)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, S)||Jessel, Toby||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Clark, William (Croydon, S.)||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Cockcroft, John||Jopling, Michael||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff N.W.)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cope, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Cordle, John||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kershaw, Anthony||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Corrie, John||Kimball, Marcus||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Critchley, Julian||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Crouch, David||Kirk, Peter||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Knight, Mrs Jill||Shelton, William (Lambeth St.)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Knox, David||Shepherd, Colin|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lamont, Norman||Shersby, Michael|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lane, David||Silvester, Fred|
|Durant, Tony||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sims, Roger|
|Dykes, Hugh||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lawrence, Ivan||Skeet, T. H. H|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lawson, Nigel||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Le Marchant, Spencer||Speed, Keith|
|Emery, Peter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Spence, John|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Spicer, James (W. Dorset)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Loveridge, John||Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Luce, Richard||Sproat, lain|
|Farr, John||McCrindle, Robert||Stainton, Keith|
|Fell, Anthony||Macfarlane, Neil||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||MacGregor, John||Stanley, John|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Steen, Anthony (Liverpool)|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stokes, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Madel, David||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C.)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Fox, Marcus||Marten, Neil||Taylor, Teddy (Glasgow C.)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St.)||Mates, Michael||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fry, Peter||Mather, Carol||Temple-Morris, P.|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Maude, Angus||Thatcher, Rt Hon M.|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Barnet)|
|Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde)||Mawby, Ray||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Trotter, Neville|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mayhew, Patrick||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Peter||Viggers, P. J.|
|Goodlad, A.||Miscampbell, Norman||Wakeham, John|
|Gorst, John||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Gow, I. (Eastbourne)||Moate, Roger||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Monro, Hector||Wall, Patrick|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C.)||Montgomery, Fergus||Walters, Dennis|
|Grieve, Percy||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Griffiths, Eldon||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Grist, Ian||Morgan, Geraint||Wells, John|
|Grylls, Michael||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Hall, Sir John||Morris, Michael (Northants)||Wiggin, Jerry (Weston-s-Mare)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Winterton Nicholas|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Peter (Chester)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mudd, Da vid||Young, Sir George (Ealing)|
|Hannam, John||Neave, Airey||Younger, Hon George|
|Harrison, Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Neubert, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hastings, Stephen||Newton, Tony||Mr. Adam Butler and|
|Havers, Sir Michael||Nott, John||Mr. John stradling Thomas.|
|Hawkins, Paul||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Abse Leo||English, Michael||Upton, Marcus|
|Allaun, Frank||Ennals, David||Lillerick, Tom|
|Anderson Donald||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Archer Peter||Evans, loan L. (Aberdare)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Luard, Evan|
|Ashley, Jack||Faulds, Andrew||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Ashton, Joe||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Atkinson, Norman||Flannery, Martin||McCartney, Hugh|
|Bagier Gordon A T.||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||MacCormick, lain|
|Bain Mrs Margaret||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McElhone, Frank|
|Barnett Guy (Greenwich)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||MacFarquhar, R.|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood)||Ford, Ben T.||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Bates All||Forrester, John||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Bean' Robert E.||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Beith, A. J.||Freeson, Reginald||McNamara, Kevin|
|Benni Rt Hn Anthony Wedgwood||Garrell, John (Norwich S.)||Madden, Max|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Magee, Bryan|
|Bidwell, Sydney||George, Bruce||Mahon, Simon|
|Bishop, Edward||Gilbert, Dr John||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ginsburg, David||Marks, Ken|
|Boardman, H.||Goldlng, John||Marquand, David|
|Booth, Albert||Gould, Bryan||Marshall Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Gourlay, Harry||Marshall Jim (Leicester)|
|Botlomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Graham, Ted||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck.)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Bradley Tom||Grant, John (Islington C.)||Meacher, Michael|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Grocott, Bruce||Mikardo, Ian|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Millan, Bruce|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle)||Hamllng, William||Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S.)||Hardy, Peter||Miller, Mrs Millie(Redbridge)|
|Buchan, Norman||Harper, Joseph|
|Buchanan, Richard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Molloy, William|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Haringey)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Moonman, Eric|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff S.)||Hattersley, Roy||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Callaghan, Jlm(Middleton &P.)||Hatton, Frank||Morris, Charles R.(Openshawe)|
|Campell, Ian||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Moyle, Roland|
|Cant, R.B.||Heffer, Eric S.||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Carmicheal, Neil||Henderson, Douglas||Murray, Ronald King|
|Carter, Ray||Hooley, Frank||Newens, Stanley|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hooson, Emlyn||Noble, Mike|
|Cartwright, John||Horam, John||Oakes, Gordon|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Ogden, Eric|
|Clemitson, I. M.||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.)||Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Cohen, Stanley||Huckfleld, Leslie||Orbach, Maurice|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Ovenden, John|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Owen, Dr David|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.)||Padley, Walter|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edln C)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Corbett, Robin||Hunter, Adam||Pardoe, John|
|Cox, Thomas (Wands, Toot)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (L'pool)||Park, George|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Parker, John|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Parry, Robert|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Cryer, Bob||Janner, Greville||Peart, Rt Hon Fred|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S.)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Pendry, Tom|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh.)||Jenkins, Hugh (Wandsworth)||Perry, Ernest|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (B'ham, St)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Davidson, Arthur||John, Brynmor||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Davies, Bryan (Entield N.)||Johnson, James (Kingston, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davies, lfor (Gower)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Radlce, Giles|
|Davis, S. Clinton (Hackney C.)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S.)|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Reid, George|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Judd, Frank||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Delargy, Hugh||Kaufman, Gerald||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Dempsey, James||Kerr, Russell||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Doig, Peter||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Dormand, Jack||Kinnock, Nell||Rodgsrs, George (Chorley)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lambie David||Rodgers, William (Teesside)|
|Dutfy, A. E. P.||Lamborn, Harry||Rooker, J. W.|
|Dunn, James A.||Lamond, James||Roper, John|
|Dunnett, Jack||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Eadie, Alex||Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lee, John||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)|
|Edge, Geottrey||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv. S.E.)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Ryman, John|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N.)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sedgemore, B.|
|Selby, Harry||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, IIf.)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle)||While, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||White, James (Glasgow, P)|
|Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)||Thompson, George||Whitehead Phillip|
|Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Thome, Stan (Preston)||Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)|
|Silkin, Rt Hn John (Lewish.)||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (Devon)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Silkin, Rt Hn S. C. (Southwk.)||Tierney, Sydney||Williams, Alan (Swansea)|
|Sillars, James||Tinn, James||Williams, Alan, Lee (Haver'g)|
|Silverman, Julius||Tomlinson, John||Williams, Rt Hn Shirley (Hertford)|
|Small, William||Torney, Tom||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Snape, Peter||Tuck, Raphael||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Urwin, T. W.||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)||Wilson, William (Coventry S.E.)|
|Stallard, A. W.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)||Woodall, Alec|
|Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)||Waiker, Harold (Doncaster)||Woof, Robert|
|Stoddart, David||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Stott, Roger||Ward, Michael||Young, David (Bolton E.)|
|Strang, Gavin||Walkins, David|
|Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Watkinson, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Watt, Hamish||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Swain, Thomas||Weetch, Ken||Mr. Walter Johnson.|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Weitzman, David|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 58.1297
|Division No. 36.]||AYES||[11.43 p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Dormand, Jack||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Archer. Peter||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Janner, Greville|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Duffy, A. E. P.||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Ashley, Jack||Dunn, James A.||Jenkins, Hugh (Wandsworth)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dunnett, Jack||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (B'ham, St)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Eadie, Alex||John, Brynmor|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Johnson, James (Kingston, W.)|
|Bates, Alf||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bean, Robert E.||English, Michael||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Beith, A. J.||Ennals, David||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Benn, Rt Hn Anthony Wedgwood||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bishop, Edward||Faulds, Andrew||Judd, Frank|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Boardman, H.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Kelley, Richard|
|Booth, Albert||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lambie, David|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Ford, Ben T.||Lamborn, Harry|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck.)||Forrester, John||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bradley, Tom||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Freeson, Reginald||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle)||George, Bruce||Lipton, Marcus|
|Buchanan, Richard||Gilbert, Dr John||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Haringey)||Ginsburg, David||Luard, Evan|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff S.)||Golding, John||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Campbell, Ian||Gourlay, Harry||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Cant, R. B.||Graham, Ted||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Carmichael, Neil||Grant, George (Morpeth)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Carter, Ray||Grant, John (Islington C.)||McElhone, Frank|
|Cartwright, John||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||MacFarquhar, R.|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hamling, William||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.)||Hardy, Peter||Maelennan, Robert|
|Cohen, Stanley||Harper, Joseph||Magee, Bryan|
|Coleman, Donald||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mahon, Simon|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Cox, Thomas (Wands, Toot)||Hattersley, Roy||Marks, Ken|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.)||Hatton, Frank||Marquand, David|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Mason, RI Hon Roy|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Meacher, Michael|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten.)||Henderson, Douglas||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Hooley, Frank||Millan, Bruce|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hooson, Emlyn||Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Horam, John||Miller, Mrs Millie (Redbridge)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, lichen)|
|Davis, S. Clinton (Hackney C.)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Molloy, William|
|Deakins, Eric||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.)||Moonman, Eric|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Hunter, Adam||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (L'pool)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Dempsey, James||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Dolg, Peter||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Moyle, Roland|
|Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Rowlands, Ted||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Murray, Ronald King||Ryman, John||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Sandelson, Neville||Walker, Harold (Doncaoter)|
|Ogden, Eric||Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, Ilf.)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Ward, Michael|
|O'Malley, Brian||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Watkins, David|
|Orbach, Maurice||Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)||Watt, Hamish|
|Ovenden, John||Silkin, Rt Hn John (Lewish.)||Weetch, Ken|
|Owen, Dr David||Silkin, Rt Hn S. C. (Southwk.)||Weitzman, David|
|Padley, Walter||Small, William||Wellbeloved, James|
|Palmer, Arthur||Spearing, Nigel||Welsh, Andrew|
|Pardoe, John||Spriggs, Leslie||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Park, George||Stallard, A. W.||White, James (Glasgow, P)|
|Parker, John||Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Stoddart, David||Whitlock, William|
|Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Stott, Roger||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Pendry, Tom||Strang, Gavin||Williams, Alan (Swansea)|
|Perry, Ernest||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Williams, Alan, Lee (Haver'g)|
|Phipps, Dr Colin||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Williams, Rt Hn Shirley (Hertford)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Swain, Thomas||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Radice, Giles||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S.)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle)||Woodall, Alec|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thompson, George||Woof, Robert|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (Devon)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Tierney, Sydney||Young, David (Bolton E.)|
|Rodgers, William (Teesside)||Tinn, James|
|Roper, John||Tomlinson, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rose, Paul B.||Tuck, Raphael||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Urwin, T. W.||Mr. Walter Johnson.|
|Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)|
|Allaun, Frank||Grocott, Bruce||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Ashton, Joe||Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Huckfield, Leslie||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Sedgemore, B.|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Kinnock, Neil||Selby, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Lamond, James||SHIars, James|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Snape, Peter|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lee, John||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Litterick, Tom||Thomas, Datydd (Merioneth)|
|Clemitson, I. M.||Loyden, Eddie||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Coiquhoun, Mrs Maureen||McNamara, Kevin||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Madden, Max||Watkinson, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Marshall, Jim (Leicester)||Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)|
|Cryer, Bob||Maynard, Miss Joan||Wilson, William (Coventry S.E.)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N.)||Newens, Stanley||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Edge, Geoffrey||Noble, Mike|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Parry, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Flannery, Martin||Prescott, John||Mr. Russell Kerr and|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Reid, George||Mr. IanMikardo.|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S.)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Secretary of State for Defence's Statement on Tuesday 3rd December 1974.