Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [13th March]:
That this House endorses Her Majesty's Government's policy set out in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1978 (Command Paper No. 7099) of basing British security on collective effort to deter aggression, while seeking every opportunity to reduce tension through international agreements on arms control and disarmament.—[Mr. Mulley.]
Amendment proposed, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
regrets that the defence policy of Her Majesty's Government during the last four years has damaged the security of the United Kingdom and has harmed the prospects of reaching international agreement on arms control and disarmament'.—[Sir Ian Gilmour.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I propose the Question, I must tell the House that yesterday Front-Bench speeches took two hours 19 minutes, and six Back-Bench Members each took 20 minutes or over. The result was that only six hon. Members from the Back Benches could be called from either side of the House. This puts me in an impossible position when hon. Members are seeking to take part in the debate. The House will realise that with another 40 hon. Members wishing to speak today, it is impossible for all of them to be called, but it is possible for right hon. and hon. Members to exercise greater self-discipline in the length of their speeches.
As the House well knows, all I can do is to appeal—and remember; and I promise to remember, in the interests of the House.
§ Question again proposed,That the amendment be made.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. James Wellbeloved)
My predecessor in this House urged upon me before I came here never to put Mr. Speaker into an impossible position. I shall therefore seek to be as brief as I can—and as brief as the House will allow me.
In coming to power, the Government inherited a defence programme that was ludicrously ambitious in its projections 233 of forward expenditure. Therefore, the Government undertook the 1974 defence review in order that the nation should not be called upon to devote resources to defence expenditure disproportionate to those which our commitment and our economic position could possibly justify and sustain. After the defence review decisions, there were minor reductions made in some other areas of projected expenditure. But these later adjustments need to be seen against the whole background of the vital battle for the nation's economic survival.
The outlook is improving, and we have therefore felt able to allow a real increase to be made in our defence budget for the next two years at least—in response to NATO's call in the face of the increased Warsaw Pact threat.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explained to the House yesterday that our plans will allow us to make real improvements in our defence capability while at the same time fulfilling our manifesto commitment to reduce the percentage of gross domestic product that we spend on defence so that it is more in line with that of our major European allies. This is a major achievement.
We must not let the improvement which we are now able to make cause us to lose sight of the outstanding contribution which the United Kingdom already makes to each element of NATO's triad of forces and, indeed, to the forces of each NATO major commander. I believe that it is a tragedy that the major political Opposition party in this House has become so besotted with the pursuit of political power that it cannot generate even a flicker of patriotic pride to illuminate the vital and substantial contribution which Britain makes to the Atlantic Alliance and to the peace and security of the free world.
The debate so far has taken the usual course of Opposition contributions consisting of negative or destructive views of the nation's defence effort—without a single constructive attempt to deploy their own policy for examination by the House or, perhaps equally as important, by those outside this House who take an intelligent interest in defence affairs.
234 Let me place on record for the benefit of serious observers of the defence scene the facts on Britain's contribution to collective defence within the NATO alliance. The United Kingdom itself provides a vital base for British forces assigned to NATO, including those forces which would reinforce Allied Command Europe, and the aircraft of RAF Strike Command which in war would operate in support of all the three NATO major commanders. The United Kingdom also provides a base for the vital United States forces which are stationed here in peace time, as well as those which would reinforce NATO's posture in time of tension.
We contribute by far the largest of the readily available maritime forces in the Eastern Atlantic and Channel. Virtually the whole of the Royal Navy, the third largest in the world, is assigned to NATO, and we also contribute RAF aircraft to act in support of maritime operations.
The need to deter Soviet aggression applies no less to the seas than to the land. The defence of Europe demands the passage of transatlantic reinforcements and the use of the seas around Europe for the deployment of forces. The startling growth in Soviet maritime power has been one of the striking features of the last decade. In the Eastern Atlantic, the Soviet Union's maritime capability, in particular her submarine forces, continues to improve in both quantity and quality. At sea, as on land, NATO needs a range of capabilities so that it can respond flexibly to threatened or actual aggression. The United Kingdom has a vital role to play since in the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas we continue to provide the main weight of maritime forces readily available to the Alliance.
In order to maintain and improve the effectiveness of our contribution to the Alliance's maritime capability, we are continuing with the major re-equipment programme for the Royal Navy. Five new classes of warship are under construction. These include the new class of anti-submarine warfare cruisers, the first of which, HMS "Invincible", was launched last May, nuclear-powered fleet submarines, which we are the only European NATO navy to operate, and the Type 22 frigates and Type 42 destroyers. To complement 235 these new ship classes there are new weapons and equipments including the Sea Dart and Sea Wolf guided missile systems, and the Sea Harrier aircraft.
Turning to the Army, our peace-time commitment of the British Army of the Rhine is 55,000 men. This number would be more than doubled in an emergency. The tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles stationed in BAOR are a significant part of the ground forces immediately available to meet any surprise attack, should that eventuality ever occur. In support of the land forces, RAF aircraft are based in Germany in the strike-attack, reconnaissance, air defence and support roles. The air support contributed by these 12 squadrons would play a crucial role in ensuring that an enemy did not gain aerial superiority over the battlefield. We also contribute theatre nuclear forces and, by means of the Polaris force, add to NATO's strategic nuclear capability.
Our forces also make significant contributions to SACEUR's strategic reserve, including the United Kingdom Mobile Force, contributions to the ACE Mobile Force and three squadrons of the Special Air Service. On the northern flank, Royal Marine commandos contribute reinforcement forces.
This year anti-tank guided weapon systems in BAOR will be increased by 60 per cent.—yes, 60 per cent.—compared with 1974 and in RAF Germany and BAOR the total number of SAM systems will be up by 160 per cent.
The air defence of the United Kingdom, which was dismantled and discarded by a previous Tory Government, is being restored. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) talked of the Soviet threat. Let me tell him that under this Labour Government major steps have been taken to counter the threat to this island from the Soviet Backfire and Fencer bombers, something that his Government failed to do in the four years that they were in office.
The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that the time lag in the development of aircraft would have led any prudent British Government to make at least a reasonable forecast of an improved Soviet air capability and would have laid the 236 foundation for the things that this Government have had the initiative, courage and ability to put into action.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North) rose—
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I have hardly begun my speech. The trouble with the Opposition—and I exclude the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher)—is that they are great fellows at dishing it out but they do not always have the intestinal fortitude to take it when it is given back—to use someone else's phrase.
These improvements include our plans for improved radar coverage, airfield survival measures, Tornado ADV, air-to-air missiles—including Skyflash medium range and AIM 9L short range—Nimrod Airborne Early Warning and air-to-air refuelling resources, which my right hon. Friend announced to the House yesterday.
These are some of the positive steps that have been taken. They are not pie in the sky, nor the Tory election moonshine that was trotted out by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham. They are firm, practical steps which have been taken to ensure that this country has its air defence restored from that which we inherited from the previous Tory Administrations.
§ Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)
The Minister has spoken about the importance of air defence. The principal element will be the re-equipment of Strike Command with Tornados. The Secretary of State spoke about the delays in the delivery and introduction of this aircraft, which is essential and the backbone of our air defence. Can the Minister say when the replacement of Tornados will be completed? Has this been put back?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
There are no financial restraints. We hope that the Tornado will be in operation in the mid-1980s.
No doubt the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham failed to notice an excellent report in The Guardian on 1st July 1977 by that paper's distinguished defence correspondent, David Fairhall. I shall content myself with two short quotations—one from the first paragraph of that article and one from the last. In the first paragraph, commenting 237 on the RAF's progress, Mr. Fairhall said that it would commenceto rebuild the air defences of the UK almost from scratch".In the last paragraph he declaredperhaps we should all feel flattered that the RAF once more thinks we are worth defending".Perhaps it would have been more accurate if he had said that we should all be flattered and rest in our beds more securely because the Labour Government have taken steps to restore the strength of the RAF in order to defend this island against the potential enemy.
So much for the Opposition humbug in the amendment in which they accuse the Government of damagingthe security of the United Kingdom".
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that in the interests of the Tornado programme the Russians will continue to supply the raw titanium sponge with which it is built?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I can assure my hon. Friend that obtaining that material does not present a problem for the United Kingdom.
This is our Government's achievement and, as the Secretary of State said yesterday, our decisions on the defence budget up to 1980–81 will enable us to make major improvements to this already outstanding contribution.
I do not seek to claim that everything in the garden is perfect. But I do claim that our country makes a major contribution to the collective defence capability of the Alliance. This is recognised by our allies abroad and should be recognised by our political opponents in the House.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)
Is the Minister satisfied with another of the Government's achievements—drying up the supply of trained pilots?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I shall come to the question of recruitment later, if the hon. Member can contain his impatience for a few minutes.
Let me now turn to other matters, I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the determination with 238 which the members of the Services, from all ranks, have worked to secure the speedy and efficient implementation of national policies in the difficult circumstances of the past few years. It would be foolish to claim that carrying out the defence policy's decisions has been an easy task for them. We must therefore not lose sight of the real anxieties that these difficult times have brought to the officers and men who serve in the Armed Forces, and the effects upon them.
As my right hon. Friend said, the nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Services for the selfless and good-humoured way in which they have responded to the need to give aid to the civil powers, whether it was the provision of fire cover or assistance to those who were stranded or made homeless by the blizzards and flooding in Scotland and the West country.
There are several points about the Services' contribution to the latter that I should like to make today. First, the early warning from the Meteorological Office helped considerably. Secondly, all the operations were carried out under existing standard procedures and no special MOD authority was needed for them to start. Thirdly, resources were available as required by the local authorities, and local Service commanders were able to anticipate increased demands by calling for reinforcements as necessary.
Both operations were carefully monitored by the MOD, but at no time was it necessary for them to be conducted from London as commanders had adequate authority to deal with all calls for help. I hope that the civil authorities of England, Scotland and Wales will be comforted by this experience, knowing that we now have well-established rules for providing military aid promptly to the civil community in times of urgent need. Having reviewed our experience during these crises we would not now propose any change in the arrangements.
Altogether, during the operation in the South West, a force of 35 helicopters rescued or evacuated over 250 people, delivered essential medical food supplies in about 150 cases and made some 160 air drops of animal fodder. Over 50 sorties were undertaken for essential civilian services. Most of the flying effort was undertaken by the Services involving the RAF, the Royal Navy and the Royal 239 Marines and aircraft from the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. It was also encouraging for our rescue forces to be joined by aircraft from the United States Air Force, Trinity House and Bristows Limited. I am sure that hon. Members will also wish to add their thanks to these units. On both these occasions the Services performed to their customary expected standards of professionalism.
I should like to dwell on that for a little longer. As the Minister with day-to-day responsibility for the Royal Air Force I come into close contact with large numbers of officers and airmen during the course of visits to RAF stations. I am sure that my colleagues the Under-Secretaries of State for the Royal Navy and the Army would not dissent when I say that one of the most frequent questions asked of a single-Service Minister is about their assessment of morale in the Services.
In reply, I must say that morale is not all that I should like it to be. There are genuine anxieties and frustrations. As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, the Armed Forces have suffered, as has every other section of the community, from the fall in the standard of living. The battle against inflation has been fought by Service men and civilians alike—and I exclude the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). But every fair-minded person knows that the steadfast adherence to the tough and difficult decisions of the past few years is beginning to reap its reward. Even those whose judgment is marred by partisan political prejudice are hard pressed in their attempts to cloud over the realities and distort the fact that the Government's policies have been successful and open up the prospect of a stable and prosperous future.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
Why is it that for such a long period of time the personnel in the Armed Forces have come off so much worse than other sections of the community, to the extent that it is reported that 40 per cent. more officers and men are likely to opt for early retirement this year than last year? Is the Minister not ashamed of that record?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I shall be coming to some of these problems in a moment. I can tell the hon. Gentleman now, on this question of comparability of pay, 240 that I am in the happy position, along with my right hon. and hon. Friends, of being able to remind the hon. Gentleman that it was this Government which restored comparability to the Armed Forces in 1975 after several years of loss of comparability under the Conservative Government. I have no doubt that, when the economy of this country resumes its former strength, it will be the proud duty of this Government to repeat that performance.
I have said that morale is not all that I should like it to be. But, despite their anxieties, the Armed Forces can take pride in the professionalism which has enabled them to carry out all the tasks required of them to the highest standards of skill and professional competence. As my right hon. Friend told the House yesterday, in a recent NATO tactical evaluation an RAF station in Germany scored the highest results ever awarded to any operational unit of any NATO country. This is an outstanding achievement, and I believe that the House will wish to hear of it in a little more detail. Perhaps even Tory Members will not be able to forbear from cheering on this point.
The Supreme Allied Commander Europe's tactical evaluation programme is intended to ensure, by means of an objective assessment, that Air Force units maintain the prescribed high standards. In laymen's terms, it measures the capacity of a unit to go from routine day-to-day work to a full war footing. Units are evaluated annually by a multinational NATO team which assesses the unit's speed of transition to a war footing, subsequent effectiveness, and capacity of the unit to support operations, and survivability under attack.
I should like to emphasise that these evaluations are conducted with no advance notice whatsoever. The NATO team simply arrives at the station, and the personnel there have to drop all other work and domestic plans, staying on the job for days on end until the evaluation is over. In the case of RAF Bruggen, the home of the RAF Germany Jaguar strike wing, the NATO team arrived on a Sunday declaring the requirement for an advanced state of readiness. RAF Bruggen was given the highest assessments possible under all headings on which examination of the station's capability is assessed, and I understand that this is 241 the first time that any permanent air base in the central region has achieved this remarkable feat. This is great tribute to the professionalism of the Royal Air Force.
It is dedication like this—for which nobody gets paid overtime—which involves significant dislocation of family life, that enable our forces to make such an outstanding contribution to the Alliance and to the maintenance of peace and freedom. I have spoken today about the RAF, but I am sure one could go to the other Services who would have their own proud stories to tell.
This performance underlines my contention that the standards of dedication and professionalism in the Armed Forces are of the highest order.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) and I, together with other hon. Members, visited Bruggen and that we can pay tribute to the high efficiency of the men there? Is he also aware that we met a substantial number of senior NCOs and warrant officers who are responsible for the efficiency of the Jaguar strike squadrons and who made it perfectly plain that they would leave the RAF unless a major improvement in their pay and conditions was forthcoming soon?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. Gentleman can take some comfort from the fact that this Government, backed by all the authority and information that can be provided by our professional advisers, have ensured that every conceivable scrap of information has been made available to those who have the responsibility of determining the future pay and conditions of those in the Royal Air Force.
The fact that we have entered a period of stability and, indeed, modest growth in the defence budget will itself help improve the morale of those serving in the forces. In the past year, recruitment to the Services has been satisfactory, with the exception of some RAF officer branches. Recruitment of Army officers has continued to improve, and it is particularly pleasing that the applicants are generally of a very high quality.
As the House will be aware, the RAP has recently introduced a short service 242 commission for aircrew officers. This commission is for an engagement of 12 years, but with an option break-point at eight years. We have long been conscious that the thought of signing up for a permanent commission may deter many young men from choosing a career in the RAF. The introduction of the short service commission means that those who are reluctant to make the longer-term commitment early in their adult life will now have the opportunity of undertaking an exciting and stimulating career.
Of course, we hope that many of those who join on short service commissions will, after the initial experience of life in the Royal Air Force, decide to stay on and convert to full career engagements. I am delighted to be able to say that the initial reaction to the short service commission has been highly encouraging. A significant number of applications has been made, and the standard of the applicants has been high.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
The Undersecretary says that the standard of applicants has been high. Will he confirm that the RAF has been forced to reduce standards for its intakes?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I can categorically deny that the Royal Air Force has reduced, or is contemplating reducing, its standards for intakes. If the hon. Gentleman says that this is not correct, perhaps he will do the House a favour and. instead of making innuendoes, give us his source for this information. We shall be delighted to know who is giving this misinformation to the hon. Gentleman.
Within the Services' organisations for recruitment both in the field and in headquarters, we are pursuing vigorously the possibilities of greater cost effectiveness in ensuring that we have an organisation that is well equipped to carry out its task. The possibilities for colocation of careers information offices are examined whenever the time comes for the lease of a careers information office to be renewed. The achievement of colocation is necessarily a lengthy process because of the commitments we have to our existing premises. Nevertheless, real efforts are being made to accelerate the process of colocation.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
My hon. Friend has rightly 243 pointed out some of the problems facing members of the defence forces. Will he reconsider the suggestion of setting up a procedure whereby representatives of the TUC can meet representatives of the Armed Forces with a view to establishing trade unions for the Forces? This is the only way to deal with these matters, as opposed to the rather patronising attitude that has been adopted.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The best way of dealing with the pay and conditions for the Armed Forces is to repose our confidence in the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. On the subject of trade unions, my right hon. Friend has said that members of the Armed Forces are free to join trade unions. I have maintained a reasonably close contact with the Royal Air Force over the past two years. I have not found any great demand for membership of trade unions in the Armed Forces. That may be regrettable. I am an ardent trade unionist, but I have to report the facts as I find them on the ground on my visits to the Armed Forces.
As Minister with day-to-day responsibility for recruiting on a tri-Service basis, I have already told the House that we have reduced expenditure on recruitment by £4 million in 1978–79 compared with expenditure in the previous year. We have thought it right to make these economies in order that the present very high costs per recruit obtained should be made more reasonable.
Turning to re-engagement, I can tell the House that the number of those who have the option to re-engage after completing an engagement and who opt to do so is very encouraging. Hon. Members may have noticed from the table in the White Paper that in the period 1st April to 30th September 1977, the percentages of those opting to re-engage compare very favourably with those of previous years.
So far as outflow is concerned, the number of personnel wishing to leave the Services prematurely has historically fluctuated from year to year in response to a variety of factors, but I accept that there has recently been a disturbing increase. Anxiety about pay and conditions of service and turbulence caused by various emergency duties, both at home and overseas, are no doubt significant considerations in many individual 244 decisions to seek early release. We are not complacent about the present situation and are keeping a close watch on trends in this area. As the House knows, the next Armed Forces pay award is due on 1st April, but it is not possible to say at this stage what it will be.
On several occasions, hon. Members opposite have criticised the Government for applying stage 2 of the incomes policy to the Armed Forces in just the same way as it was applied to other members of society. In order to inject some degree of perspective into their criticisms, I think that a quotation from one of my predecessors might assist them.
Speaking in a similar debate in 1973, the then Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force said:Now that the second stage of the Government's incomes policy is in prospect, the Services, like everyone else in the community, are involved in that policy, which means that any improvements in pay or conditions of service during phase 2 will need to take account of the guidelines.I shall continue the quotation in a few moments. But, first, I should like to remind the House that some hon. Members opposite have accused the Government of interfering with the independence of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. The quotation continues:We hope that the Review Body will continue its work during phase 2. During this stage, we shall want to consult the Review Body and the Pay Board about the arrangements which should apply to the future. In the meantime, if the Review Body makes recommendations for a pay review in the light of the pay code, the Government will be prepared to agree to increases which comply with that code."—[Official Report, 19th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 54–5.]I put it to hon. Members opposite that they cannot have it both ways. If the independence of the AFPRB has been taken away by this Government, it was also taken away by the Tory Administration in 1973. It is totally dishonest for them to try to make political capital out of the application of the Government's pay policy to the Services. They were the first to do it. The AFPRB made its first report during a Tory Administration.
I should like now to say that the Government have the utmost confidence in the integrity and independence of the 245 Armed Forces Pay Review Body, and we are very grateful for all its hard work.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham)
I am grateful that at last the Government have changed their ground. They now admit that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body is not independent. They merely say that it was not independent under the Conservative Government either. The difference is that we never claimed that it was. This Government have claimed that it is, but now the hon. Gentleman has admitted that it is not.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
We have not changed our ground at all. We have merely sought to expose the hypocrisy of some of the attacks made by the Opposition on this matter.
So far, I have spoken of the success of the Government's defence policy over the past few years and of the prospect of bringing our defence expenditure into line with that of our allies and our economic ability. I have also spoken of the prospect of a period of stability ahead and our response to NATO's call for 3 per cent. growth throughout the Alliance to meet the Warsaw Pact build-up.
In the remainder of my time I should like to examine the Opposition's attitude to these achievements and to say a few words about what they are pleased to describe as their defence policy.
When the White Paper was published, right hon. and hon. Members opposite made a great deal of fuss about the inclusion of the French Forces in the tables showing the comparative strengths in Europe of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The rationale for the inclusion of the French forces in these tables has already been explained by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and I do not propose to dwell on these matters further. But it is a pity that, in their haste to make party political points, the Opposition could not bring themselves to pay tribute when it was deserved.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite were only too ready to quote the views expressed by Doctor Luns, the Secretary-General of NATO, over the decision to reduce the planned defence expenditure for 1978–79 by £267 million. Great play was made of his concern, 246 although the fact that Dr. Luns is on record as saying that NATO recognised the Government's success in keeping to a minimum the effect of this cut on our front-line forces did not receive such emphasis.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham is muttering about the time that I am consuming. He took an exceedingly long time yesterday to make a speech that was not only politically partisan but factually inept in not displaying the Conservative Party's policy. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman must not complain if, after having given way on numerous occasions to his hon. Friends, I seek now to expose the hollowness of his own lack of policy in dealing with these essential matters.
In their haste to decry any one of the Government's policies which is proving successful, the Opposition seem only recently to have turned a deaf ear to Dr. Luns.
On the day of the publication of the White Paper, Dr. Luns was reported in The Times as telling a meeting of the European-Atlantic Group that he washeartened by the recent decisions of Her Majesty's Government".He specifically welcomed improvements in ground forces, the increase in naval strength and the introduction of new weapons. He said that the improvements were in line with last year's NATO Summit decisions to increase defence spending in real terms by 3 per cent. a year and that, compared with other NATO members' relative decline in spending, Britain was a member of the Alliancewhich spent more than most".The Opposition did not quote those words of Dr. Luns in his praise of this Government's magnificent record of defending the freedom of this country.
That statement by Dr. Luns is a true reflection of the high regard in which this nation's defence effort is held by NATO, despite the difficulties of recent years. But the Opposition pay no heed. Instead, we hear constantly from Opposition defence spokesmen carping criticism denigrating our country's contribution.
I expect that any moment now the right hon. Lady will unilaterally announce the 247 latest shift in Conservative policy. But, until that inevitable outburst, the House is left with the policy—that gives it a dignity to which it is not entitled—outlined by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham. In order to be as kind as I can to hon. Members opposite, I shall not seek to saddle them with the wild excesses of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill).
I think that it is a matter for regret that the Opposition constantly make an implied criticism of the judgment of our European allies on defence expenditure by their attacks on the Government for seeking to bring Britain's defence expenditure into line with our European partners. Or is it the Conservative Party's policy that Britain should carry a heavier burden of collective defence than our European allies who are faced with the same threat arising from the build-up of the forces of the Warsaw Pact?
The Opposition claim that the increase in the defence budget of 3 per cent. over the next two years is not enough. They would increase the defence budget by 4 per cent As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said yesterday, there seems to be no rationale behind this figure of 4 per cent. beyond a desire to outbid the Government, apart from the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) who, in a flash of candour, agreed last night that economic ability was a major factor in the consideration of defence expenditure. Opposition Members have said on many occasions that our defence effort should be governed not by a combination of the economic circumstances of the country and our perception of the best contribution we can make to NATO, but solely by the threat as it is perceived by them.
In this case, the magic figure of 4 per cent. seems even harder to explain. Are the Opposition now saying that in order for NATO fully to match the Warsaw Pact all that is needed is a 1 per cent. increase in defence expenditure by the United Kingdom? I should be surprised if they were. What, then, are they saying?
To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, he did have the good grace to admit yesterday that his figure of 4 per cent. did not mean anything. He could not give us any baseline on which this 4 per cent. would be added. He told the House that a Tory Government would spend 248 more on defence than we now do, but of course he could not say how much.
The right hon. Gentleman did, however, tell us that a Tory defence policy would be based on the security needs of the country. Similarly, in last year's debate he said that under the Conservatives defence policy would be decided on defence grounds, not party grounds. It is worthy of note that economic grounds are not even mentioned as one of the considerations to be borne in mind when arriving at a defence policy. This is a substantial change in policy, since as the House knows, the last Tory Administration, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, made a series of short-term cuts in the defence budget because their grave misjudgment of the economy made such cuts necessary. We must assume that no such short-term cuts would be made by a Tory Administration, whatever the consequences for the rest of the public spending programme.
The right hon. Gentleman scoffed yesterday at the 3 per cent. increase we plan in our current defence budget. He compared this with a householder making a great fuss about repairing his garden fence when at the same time his home was in serious disrepair. But, if I may continue the comparison, the right hon. Gentleman's policy seems to be like that of a householder who decides how much he can afford to spend on home improvements before he has seen his home, before he knows how much it will cost him to run it, and before he has any idea what other commitments he will have against his earnings.
Until such time as we can hear a coherent and sensible explanation of what the Tories would do and how much they would spend in doing it, the House, the Services and the nation must recognise the Opposition's supposed defence policy for what it is. Like recent developments in Tory policy, it is nothing more than a crude electoral gimmick. Despite the right hon. Gentleman's words, it is decided solely on party grounds.
Even if the Tory Party were to be sincere in its talk of an increase, the House, the Services and the nation are entitled to be told where the extra money would be spent. Would a Tory Administration return United Kingdom Forces to some of those overseas bases from which we have withdrawn? We are told that they 249 would not. Would they spend more money on equipment? We were told yesterday that they would. But the right hon. Gentleman must know that it is not as simple as that.
But even if such an increase were possible, where would the money come from? The hon. Member for Stretford told us the answer in last year's debate. A Conservative Administration would stop public money being used by the National Enterprise Board and British Leyland. The NEB is a major instrument in preserving jobs such as those at British Leyland during the current recession and in providing investment to ensure that when world trade picks up our manufacturing base will be of sufficient strength to take the fullest advantage of the opportunities presented. [HON. MEMBERS: "Forty-five minutes."] Quite a lot of that time has been taken up by interruptions by Opposition Members.
I realise that the hon. Member for Stretford has never held ministerial office and gained the experience that that brings with it, but one does not need to hold such office to cultivate the capacity of memory. Are the events of 1971 completely gone from the hon. Gentleman's mind? Does he realise that the Tornado aircraft is powered by engines made by Rolls-Royce Limited? Are we to assume that if the hon. Gentleman had been in charge in 1971 our new aircraft would be powered by engines of foreign manufacture?
In one way it is a matter for regret that the hon. Member for Stretford has never held a ministerial office. It might have instilled in him a sense of responsibility which is so conspicuously lacking in his contributions during defence Question Time and on his visits to Service establishments. I say to him now that it does the morale of the Services, about which he professes such concern, no good at all to have their equipment and efficiency constantly criticised by him. He should learn from some of his more responsible colleagues to take a more constructive attitude.
Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman could find the time to take a break from his destructive campaign to undermine the morale of our fighting men for squalid party reasons, he might like to visit the 250 constituency of his hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and take a constructive view there—
§ Mr. Churchill rose—
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I shall give way in a minute.
The hon. Gentleman might like to visit his hon. Friend's constituency and explain to the Conservative voters there the importance of providing facilities for the United States Air Force in the defence posture of NATO. But no doubt it is asking too much of him to raise his robust voice on such a vital defence issue that might lose rather than gain an electoral advantage.
§ Mr. Churchill
Will the hon. Gentleman now withdraw his lie? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Will the hon. Gentleman please say on which occasion I have ever criticised the efficiency of any of Her Majesty's Armed Forces?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. Gentleman will recall visiting a Royal Air Force station, the details of which I should be pleased to give him, and later communicating with the Press from that station, with the use of public funds on a public telephone, to give a story to the Press that members of the Armed Forces had a choice between eating or heating. If that is not an attack upon the morale and efficiency of our Armed Forces—
§ Mr. Churchill rose—
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will contain himself.
When I heard of that disgraceful episode, I took steps to ascertain the facts from that RAF station. There was no substance whatsoever in the hon. Gentleman's allegations.
§ Mr. Churchill rose—
§ Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Thornaby)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that the whole House heard the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) use the word "lie". I did not think that that was a parliamentary term, a term that was permissible. I wonder whether you would ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
I am happy to ask the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) to withdraw the word "lie", which is not a parliamentary expression.
§ Mr. Churchill
I shall be very happy to withdraw the word—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—if the Minister withdraws his wholly unfounded slur and allegation.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The word that is not parliamentary is "lie", and it is of that word that complaint has been made.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. Gentleman's exaggerations do not worry me. I am content to rely on the simple fact that this Government, of whom I have the honour to be a member and particularly the honour to serve in the Defence Ministry, have done more to restore the military capacity of this nation, compatible with our economic ability to sustain it, than ever the Conservative Government did. In contrast, this Government have fulfilled their promises.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
The Minister has referred to my constituency and to the threatened air base there. He suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) ought to go down and see my constituents to tell them the reasons behind such Government thinking as there is to open the base. Will he now promise that he will go down, perhaps next week, and tell my constituents why the base may have to be in Newbury, and not in Lincolnshire, as the Lincolnshire County Council would like it to be?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I have already told the hon. Gentleman that the application 252 by the United States Government to reactivate that airfield is receiving consideration. I have also offered, in company with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to meet the hon. Gentleman and a delegation from his constituency. All that I ask of the hon. Member for Stretford is that he takes time from his campaign to undermine the morale of the Armed Forces to go and tell the truth and the facts to the Conservative voters of the hon. Gentleman's area.
I was saying that the Government had fulfilled their promises. We have tailored our defence commitments to match our true role as a full partner in NATO. We have concentrated our efforts in NATO, and are making real improvements to our contribution to NATO. We are making progress in filling some of the appalling gaps in our defence, such as the air defence of the United Kingdom, which it inherited from the Tories.
I can therefore say that any young man or woman who is contemplating joining the Armed Forces of the Crown may be assured that he or she will be embarking upon a career which is in the highest tradition of public service and is reckoned to be so by the nation. This Government's record in defence is a record to be proud of, and I commend to the House the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I shall not emulate the Under-Secretary in the time he has taken partially because of his provocative statements and abuse of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Neither shall I pursue many of the matters that he pursued because I have, in anticipation of Mr. Deputy Speaker's request, cut down my speech. I have some serious things to say which I hope to put in a serious manner and not in the frivolous and cavalier manner in which we have just heard the Minister speak.
It is appropriate, when judging defence policy—if this Government can be said to have such a thing—to take a good look at the world scene and the way in which it is developing. It is only against this background that the defence White Paper can be weighed.
253 Those of us who have been in the House for some time have moved through the cold war period and then what was supposed to be a better period known as peaceful coexistence, and then, more recently, to a period known as detente. This progression was supposed to be a gradual movement from confrontation to a more relaxed state in which the Soviet Government and the Governments of the free world would discuss matters such as security, arms limitation, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, force reductions and even human rights.
What has happened over those years? There has been a steady build-up of arms strength of Warsaw Pact countries, culminating in the massive increases in the quantity and quality of all their weapons of war during the most recent years.
In addition, we have seen infiltration and subversion on a world-wide scale, not excluding this country, followed by a new policy of war by proxy. If I were Secretary of State, I would present every member of the Cabinet with a copy of Brian Crozier's new book called "Strategy of Survival". The Secretary of State did not write it, I am sure. Mr. Crozier mentions that in his view world war three is now being fought and has been fought ever since the end of World War Two. It has been fought by the means that I have just described—infiltration, subversion and now war by proxy. He describes the free world as the target area.
If members of the Cabinet have not time to read the book, all they need to do is look up the maps, which show a steadily diminishing target area and the ever-increasing number of Communist-governed countries, Marxist and Moscow-aligned countries, countries in the progress of satellisation or threatened with it, and client States.
The picture is very clear. The changes depicted in successive maps have been brought about during periods which have been called the cold war, peaceful coexistence and détente.
§ Mr. Litterick
Has the hon. Gentleman, in his turn, read the very well-known book "Inside the Company", by Philip Agee, which in great detail tells us how, with the process of subversion, 254 through murder, bribery and other forms of corruption, the overturning of Governments is actually done?
§ Mr. Goodhew
I was talking about the threat to this country and the free world, and I shall content myself with that. I say to Government Members that no one should be the least bit surprised by recent events. We know perfectly well that the Russian doctrine is that the ideological struggle should be continued and pursued by all means.
We have seen Angola with a Marxist Government imposed by force by Russian-armed Cubans and immediately recognised by Her Majesty's Government, despite the fact that civil war still rages there even today. We have the Marxist regime in Mozambique, harbouring Russian-armed terrorists intent on creating chaos in Rhodesia prior to the creation of a Marxist regime there. Our Foreign Secretary seems to be giving these people aid and comfort, so blinded is he by is irritation at Mr. Ian Smith's success in bringing about an internal settlement where he himself has failed.
If Rhodesia were to become a Marxist State, we know that the next target is South Africa. In the meantime the Cubans are busy doing the Russians' dirty work in the Horn of Africa, whilst on the other side of the Red Sea their allies are already in control in Aden and South Yemen. This is all part of the Soviet grand design for Africa and the Middle East, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) outlined in such detail yesterday.
Russia does not have to go as far as taking the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. Control of the Cape route alone would enable it to deny Western Europe its oil supplies, and control of Southern Africa would enable it to deny us vital minerals. By a strategy of denial, it could cripple Western Europe and bring us to our knees without firing one shot.
It seems impossible to imagine that even this Government could be blind to such a threat. Yet it is against this background of ever-increasing Soviet control 255 and influence throughout the world, accompanied by an alarming increase in Russia's offensive capability, that this Government continue with their planned defence cuts of some £10,000 million over the period 1975–76 to 1983–84, followed by five additional lots of cuts.
This year's White Paper, thin as it is, tells us very little that we did not already know. The Secretary of State's speech yesterday was complacent beyond all understanding. I think his speech yesterday and that of the Minister today were two of the worst performances I have had the misfortune to hear in some 18½ years in the House.
Yesterday's speech by the Secretary of State also told us very little. The White Paper at least attempts to keep reminding us of the threat. We see on pages 4 and 5 what it says. In paragraph 120, the White Paper says:The capability of these forces is formidable and growing.It further says:On any view, however, Soviet forces have in many areas been strengthened in size and quality on a scale which goes well beyond the need of any purely defensive posture.It goes on:But quantitative assessments … do not reflect two particular factors of concern to NATO, the state of readiness of Warsaw Pact forces in Europe, which has always exceeded that of NATO forces and has recently been improved, and the continued introduction of advanced new equipment.It continues by referring to the increased weapon load of Soviet aircraft, the East German, Polish and Czech armies, and Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.
So, every time we get a White Paper we are told all these things. But what are we told is to be done in answer to it? We merely read that we are to continue with the cuts planned in the defence review and those imposed since. It is little wonder that so much has been said about morale in the Services so far in the debate. It is bad enough for Service men to see the threat that they have to meet continually growing apace, but when, in addition, they see the Government repeatedly whittling down their power to resist, and intent upon doing so regardless of the consequences, they can be forgiven for feeling that they are being let down by those who should be supporting them.
256 Much has been said in the debate about pay. It should be clear by now, even to the most complacent, that this could be the breaking point in the morale of the Armed Forces. I wonder whether the Secretary of State noticed what I noticed. In December, in winding up the defence debate in the other place, Lord Peart said:The Government are aware that at present Service pay rates do not reflect full comparability. We and the Armed Forces must await the recommendations of the Review Body. The implementation of the pay award on 1st April next year is bound to take full account of the Government's pay policy, which is itself in the overall national interest. But the Armed Forces should be in no doubt that the Government intend as soon as the situation allows to restore and return them to the fully comparable pay position implicit in the military salary concept."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 7th December 1977; Vol. 387, c. 1725.]In entire contrast to that, the next day in this House the Home Secretary, announcing the terms for the settlement of the firemen's strike, said that the Government would beprepared to agree to the full implementation of the formula agreed by two approximately equal stages in November 1978 and November 1979. The Government would be prepared to contribute through the rate support grant its share of the cost of a settlement on this basis and would, exceptionally, guarantee that the phasing-in would not be thwarted by some unforeseen adverse change in economic circumstances."—[Official Report, 8th December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 1652.]What a contrast between the treatment of the Armed Forces and the treatment of the firemen. Even if the Secretary of State did not notice that, the matter did not elude the Services. Certainly the soldiers who had been doing the firemen's job for less pay than the firemen were already receiving before they went on strike noticed this disgraceful contrast.
I should like to tell the Secretary of State what they thought about that, but I cannot because I do not know how to put it into parliamentary language. I can, however, read to him a letter which was published in The Daily Telegraph today from the wife of a serving man.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I will read it to the hon. Member. He might learn something from it. It reads:Sir—Over a period of several years now I have watched my husband's pay fall behind that of non-Servicemen. I have witnessed the 257 gradual whittling away of his enthusiasm as more and more work receives less and less recognition.I have felt the burden of the extra money we have to find every year as our bills increase and the demands on my husband become greater and greater. I have resented the large mess bills we have to pay to entertain and "show the flag", the rent we have to pay for ill-kept and badly-serviced married quarters, the time we spend apart without adequate recompense either in travel allowance or separation pay "—
§ Mr. Goodhew
If hon. Members listened, they might learn what is going on in the Armed Forces. I do not imagine that many of them ever bother to visit the Armed Forces to find out.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I shall continue with the letter. The lady who wrote it was saying that she resented various matters, includingthe extra hours my husband works without the benefits of overtime, and above all the indifference of the Government to our fundamental right to a fair deal.The letter is signed by Mrs. Serena Allen of Portsmouth.
§ Mr. Goodhew
That would only help to keep salaries down, as it does for members of trade unions elsewhere in the country.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The constant succession of sedentary interventions is not contributing anything to the debate.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Perhaps I may tell the Secretary of State about the plight of an RAF pilot whose wife has written a letter. At 45, he was told that he could no longer continue as a pilot and that he would have to leave the Service or retrain for something else. Now, a few years later, he finds that the Minister is asking pilots to stay on after 55. So a man of 45 is retrained and is doing a job that he does not want to do when other pilots are being asked to stay on after the age of 55. What a way to run an air force.
258 I have a suggestion to make about pay. The Top Salaries Review Body is an independent body, and when it last recommended a salary of £8,500 a year for Members of Parliament the Government had to make up their minds whether to allow Members to have that money or whether to bring the award into line with their pay policy of the time. The Government had to accept responsibility for denying hon. Members that increase. That was commendable and the right way round. I say that even though I would have liked the money.
That being so, I say that the Pay Review Body for the Services should prove its independence in the same way. It should recommend what the Armed Forces should get in order to restore comparability, and then the Secretary of State and the Government should accept responsibility for denying that increase. In that way they would have to defend their position publicly instead of hiding behind the Review Body's skirts.
Let the Government show that they have the courage of their convictions instead of trying to pass the responsibility on to someone else. The Secretary of State has pursued a two-faced policy by asserting the independence of the Review Body and in the next breath insisting that it must take account of Government policy. Let us be done with this charade and ensure instead that our Service men shall see that the admiration we express for them in this House, in which we all constantly join, is not just empty words but an earnest of our determination to see that they get their just deserts.
I fear that there was something symbolic in that unfortunate photograph of the Secretary of State momentarily asleep during the Queen's Jubilee Review of the Royal Air Force. It was symbolic of a Government asleep and unaware of the dangerous developments that exist throughout the world, symbolic of a Government asleep and unaware of the mounting military threat which faces the free world, symbolic of a Government asleep and unaware of the dreadful damage they are doing to the morale of our Service men and symbolic of a Government asleep and unaware of the dangers and risks to which they are exposing our country. That is why we condemn them this afternoon with all the vigour we can command.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) had the merit of lasting for only about 10 minutes. I am bound to confess that it reminded me a little of the comment in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on the play given by the rude mechanicals:A play there is, my lord, some ten words long.… But by ten words, my lord, it is too long, which makes it tediousThe hon. Gentleman has really added nothing at all to any serious consideration of the problem. That has been the weakness of the whole of the Conservative approach to the problem of defence, not only in this debate but earlier, as I shall show.
As is usual in defence debates, the Government are attacked partly by those who say that they are spending too much and partly by those who say that they are spending too little. It is to the latter section that I wish to address most of my remarks.
To those who suggest that the Government are spending too much, I say that we must look at the relentless increase of Soviet military expenditure year by year. It cannot be said that the increase that is now planned by the NATO Powers, Britain among them, is adding to an arms race, because all the evidence is that the increase of Soviet armed power will go on, whatever the West is doing. Now at any rate—and Conservative Members ought to have given the Government credit for this—we are taking part wholeheartedly, as Dr. Luns has pointed out, in the planned increase of NATO armament. I believe that that is as it should be.
I now turn to the suggestions from Conservative Members that the Government are not spending enough and that they ought to spend more. I think that we might at least ask them to give us some rough idea of how much more. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, the proposals made by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) might mean, on one possible calculation of his formula, another £69 million. On another possible interpretation of his formula, it might mean another £1,600 million. I 260 genuinely hoped that, in the speech to which we have just listened, we should be told at what point between those two figures it lay, but we are none the wiser.
To revert to the subject that we were discussing earlier today, at Question Time, one cannot help feeling that there must have been something defective in the mathematics teaching at the schools attended by Conservative Members, because we have this extraordinary discrepancy. It is not being serious to say that the Government ought to be spending more if the Conservative Opposition cannot get a little nearer to suggesting how much more it should be.
If more is to be spent, where is it to come from? Some time ago a Conservative spokesman in a defence debate made the bare assertion that it would not be done by extra taxation. Indeed, we were given to understand by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) on an earlier occasion that it was to come in effect, from allowing our motor car and steel industries to be run down. That is a very odd way of preparing for more efficient national defence. Conservatives sometimes forget that defence is not only a matter of the Armed Forces but of the whole economic power of the country, especially in certain industries, and these industries would be particularly hurt by what was suggested by the hon. Member for Stretford concerning the National Enterprise Board.
In the end, Conservatives come back to their favourite source. The extra money for defence is to be provided by cuts in the social services in some form or other. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) is not present, because he once suggested that if we could really explain the importance of defence to the parents of schoolchildren, they would gladly accept a reduction in the school meals service in order to pay for defence.
Those Conservative Members who believe that more should be spent on defence seem to have no idea of how much it should be, but they seem to agree that it should be done mainly at the expense of our poorer fellow citizens. That is the kind of vicarious patriotism which cannot carry very much respect.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think I will. I am not attacking hon. Members who have not spoken, and there are many hon. Members who want to speak in the debate. I do not think that Back-Benchers are under any obligation to give way in those circumstances.
The one thing on which the Conservative Opposition are certain is that a good deal of the extra expense should be on increased pay for the Armed Forces. We all believe that it is right that there should be an increase, but we know quite well that we must wait for the report of the review body. It is absurd to ask for pronouncements by the Government in advance of the report. Conservative Members know that perfectly well.
What is disquieting, however, is the general approach of the Conservative Opposition to pay policy. During the firemen's strike, the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition made a speech urging that the pay guidelines should be breached in their favour. A little later on, the Conservatives urged special treatment for the police. Now it is the Armed Forces. Quite seriously, I say that if on every occasion when the Opposition think that they are on to a popular line they are to insist that the general pay policy be broken, they will build up deep resentment throughout civilian industry and create a situation—
§ Mr. Stewart
They will create deep resentment throughout civilian industry, and create a situation which cannot be contained. The hon. Gentleman's interjection was typical of the general resentment and hatred—that would not be too strong a word—which so many Conservative Members have towards the ordinary civilian industrial worker, particularly if he has the impudence to be organised in a successful trade union.
We cannot run either pay policy or defence on the basis that, whenever the Opposition think they are on to something popular, they demand increases of pay but sneer at, discourage and resent any improvement in the standard of life of ordinary industrial workers. Efficient 262 defence does not only depend on the morale of men in the Services, important as that is. It depends also on the morale of coal miners, engineers, and a host of other workers. This question has to be tackled far more seriously and responsibly.
I am not in favour of trade unions for the Armed Forces, but I believe that if we are ever to get this matter right—and free from the poisonous atmosphere that the Conservative Opposition have injected into it—there ought to be serious consultation between leaders of the trade union movement and representatives of those groups of workers who do not have trade unions and who are not allowed to strike. I believe that there could be a great widening of the understanding among civilian workers of the problems and difficulties of men in the Armed Forces, and vice versa, if there were to be discussions of that kind. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider that.
I am afraid that all too often those in the Armed Forces get their idea of how people in civilian industry live from the sort of crack that we had from the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow). It is this building up of ill will between the civilian worker and the man in the Forces, which the Conservative Party has done so much to promote, which stands in the may of a proper approach to defence problems.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) made a speech which I enjoyed, although some of his hon. Friends on the Conservative Back Benches kept looking at the clock while it went on. He drew attention to the Horn of Africa. It is very significant that the undoubted success of NATO in containing any Soviet threat in Europe has resulted, one may fairly say, in attempts to outflank NATO in the Horn of Africa. What are we to do in that situation?
The right hon. Gentleman said, in effect, that we must rearm, but I repeat that if we are thinking in these terms we must have a policy that will appeal to the whole nation and that will recognise that the burden of that rearmament cannot be paid for exclusively, as the Conservatives have so often suggested, at the expense of the poorer people in the country. It will need a much better 263 understanding between civilian industry and men in the Armed Forces.
If we rearm, one inevitable result will be that we must be prepared to live in a more equalitarian society. Rearmament cannot be carried out efficiently unless the whole nation feels that everyone is bearing his share. I hope that it will not come to rearming on that scale but, if it does, that is the kind of thing that the Conservatives will have to think about, as we all had to think about it in years past.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward his views on how we should deal with the defence threat in Africa. Here again, I am afraid that there is one very serious disqualification that the Conservative Party has for dealing with that problem.
Surely one fact is quite certain. It is that if we want the good will of the black peoples of Africa—and if we do not get that, we shall get nowhere in policy— the West must free itself of all taint of racialism. Unhappily, over the years in debate after debate on Rhodesian matters there had been Conservative Members openly expressing their sympathy with the rebel regime in Rhodesia long before, under the threat of necessity, it had shown any sign of being interested in racial justice. Those speeches were not delivered to thronged Benches here, but I think that they were noticed in Africa. They got this country a bad name. They got the West a bad name.
Then there was the stupid decision in 1970 to resume the sale of arms to South Africa. I say "stupid", because we did not sell any worth talking about We merely forfeited again black African opinion.
The Conservative Party will need, if it is really worried about the menace in Africa, a great change and an enlargement of its mind. That is why it is not sensible for this House to reject the Government's proposal in favour of an amendment from that quarter.
I shall not go back on the history of the Conservative Party on defence. I remind the House only of one incident. After we had had Conservative Governments with huge majorities in power for nine years, we found ourselves in the most dreadful peril ever experienced in our history. We were rescued from that by our own exertions and the valued 264 leadership of Winston Churchill. It is interesting to notice the kind of people to whom Mr. Churchill entrusted defence. During most of the time that he was Prime Minister, the Army was in the charge of a former civil servant, the Royal Air Force was entrusted to a Liberal, the Royal Navy and home security were entrusted to members of the Labour Party, and the massive job, requiring knowledge both of war effort and of civilian matters, of allocating the nation's manpower and woman power, was entrusted also to a member of the Labour Party and one of the most famous trade union leaders that this country has ever known.
I think, therefore, that perhaps the House could not do better tonight than follow that example and place no confidence in the Conservative Party on defence.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
I hope that the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) will forgive me if, in the interests of brevity, I do not take up his argument, other than to say that, looking back, I wish that he and some of his colleagues had shown the same enthusiasm for pay policy when they were in Opposition and had practised then what they now preach to us.
I want first very briefly to ask the Minister to fill some gaps in the information contained in the White Paper and in the speeches that we have heard so far.
My first question concerns equipment. Are we making any progress towards narrowing the gap between the rate at which the Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO countries respectively are improving their equipment? I understand that the Warsaw Pact countries are about three years ahead. Is that gap getting wider or narrower?
Secondly, are we making any progress in the standardisation of equipment, especially of a rifle? Even if we cannot achieve the degree of standardisation of our opponents, it would be helpful if we at least had some guns which could shoot each other's bullets.
Thirdly, are we using NATO training methods to try to get a greater degree of standardisation of operational procedures, including communications and recognition?
265 Fourthly, there is nothing in the White Paper, nor have I heard a word in this debate, about the replacement of the Polaris missile and what is to come next. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) mentioned it, but, that apart, we have heard nothing.
There are two other matters to which I want to refer. Paragraph 330, about the Microbiological Research Establishment, ignores the presence both in the Third Shock Army which faces First British Corps and, as far as I know, in the other four or five armies of the group of Soviet forces in Germany, of chemical defence units—a company with every regiment and a battalion with every division. It seems to me that the presence of such units with what are assault troops indicates an offensive intention that requires some defensive response from us. We have not heard of it.
We have heard nothing about the need to replace and maintain war stocks of materials. Have we 30 days' stock throughout the whole of NATO? If we have, is it enough? Has recent experience of warfare in other parts of the world indicated that stocks may be used up faster than calculated on that basis?
The real complaint that I have about this defence White Paper—which is not even called that now—and about the speeches that we have heard from Ministers is that there is no defence policy. It is true that Chapter 1 is headed "Defence Policy". It has two rather complacent opening paragraphs, 14 paragraphs on detente and disarmament, three on deterrence and defence, and eight, with some extremely good charts, on how strong the enemy is. The remaining 21 paragraphs seem to be a situation report of what is going on. There is no statement of a strategic or tactical policy. Any possibility of a wider role for the NATO Alliance is ignored. The entire concentration is on disarmament.
We all want disarmament, of course, provided we can get it without weakening ourselves in the West. This proviso should be quite obvious. But I am not sure that it is quite obvious when one reads bits of the White Paper and listens to some of the speeches of Govern- 266 ment supporters. In any event, we have to deal with deeds as well as words.
We have seen Soviet imperialism spread unchecked over the past few years—and not only unchecked but actively helped by the West with credits, with money, with food supplies which the Soviet Union ought to be able to grow for itself, with technology and with raw materials.
There is nothing new in this. If I may, I will give a short quotation:The capitalists of the whole world and their Governments … will supply us with the materials and technology which we lack and will support our military industry, which we need for our future victorious attacks upon our suppliers.That is what Lenin wrote to his Foreign Commissar in 1920. It might have been written today, because that is exactly what we are doing. We are supplying the enemy which represents the greatest threat to us—borrowing dear to lend cheap, not for aid but for arms.
As the late Nye Bevan saidWhy look into a crystal ball when you can read the book?I look at the facts of detente. We had Helsinki in 1975, which recognised the Soviet conquests in Europe in return for some undertakings on human rights. Our negotiators spent a long time at Belgrade saying that they would not tolerate any cover-up, that there would be no face-saving form of words, and that the Soviet Union must accept that human rights had to be respected. At the end, there was no mention of human rights in the communiqué from Belgrade in 1978. All that we had was a short negative statement and, when he had won his victory, the Soviet representative did not even receive it gracefully, but said rather angrily "Peace depends upon the level of detente."
To the Soviet Union peace depends on a form of detente which enables it to build up its military strength in Europe, to develop a first-strike capacity against the United States and, to use the Foreign Secretary's phrase, to look after Soviet political interests in the Third World, which means the subjugation of Africa by Cuban mercenaries in Angola, Somalia and Ethiopia. Unless we take action there is a threat to Rhodesia as well, but I shall not develop that argument now.
267 In addition, we have the possibility that was not open a few years ago of the Soviet Union threatening Western Europe and Japan by blockade. Soviet submarines are deployed to have a stranglehold on essential trade routes carrying food, raw materials and energy. This makes the opening paragraphs of the White Paper look really rather silly.
The second paragraph of the White Paper reads:Defence policy needs to be seen in the wider context of our international security aims, in the service of which defence is a partner with other aspects of policy.That reads like the assurances given to Hitler. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) developed that argument yesterday when he referred to Mr. Baldwin and the Fulham by-election.
If now we always fail to stand up to the smallest threat of aggression and the smallest movement against our interest, no stand we may ever take in the future will be credible. This merely encourages our opponents to take risks. Time and time again we have made this mistake and we have led our enemies to believe that we were so spineless that we would never resist. This craven policy has led to untold suffering in successive wars. God knows what it could lead to next time.
So far we have failed. Even our allowing the Berlin wall to be built was a Soviet victory. Even the late President Kennedy's resistance to Soviet missiles going into Cuba was not a real victory because the price he paid was to leave Cuba as an authorised and accepted Soviet satellite, so closely controlled that it is now used as a springboard for further aggression throughout the world.
The first paragraph of the White Paper talks about how satisfactory NATO has been for the first quarter-century. That shows bland complacency in the face of these facts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) recognised the fact that the White Paper shows no signs that after 30 years there might be some need to look at defence problems in a different way.
The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) took up this point in an interesting speech and suggested that there might be a need for technical doctrine changes. He said that he hoped there would not 268 be too much bureaucratic resistance or inter-Service rivalry to stand in their way. He had a point there.
The balance of spending between the Services has not altered at all in the last 25 years. Has the threat not altered? There has been Soviet naval expansion with submarines and great ships and threats of blockade. In view of this why has inter-Service balance remained the same? Perhaps the balance is right, but we have not been told that it is either in the White Paper or in Government speeches.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
If it were right 25 years ago—or, I believe, 23 years ago—by definition it cannot be right today because there has been so great a change in the development of weapons.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That is correct. I want to know what the Government think about this. They seem to have no concept of world changes over the years being matched by changes in British policy. We are in a new ball game now, with new nuclear capabilities. There is a greater Soviet-Warsaw Pact presence in Europe and a wider Soviet empire, stretching far beyond the shores of Europe. There is the capability of the Soviet Navy to blockade European and Japanese trade routes. Now there is a possibility of a Soviet blitzkreig, which I doubt we could withstand.
Most serious of all is the fact that in these circumstances I do not believe that the nuclear deterrent, either strategic or tactical, will remain credible to the Soviet Union for very long unless Britain and its European partners are ready to take a very different line. We must be willing to risk confrontation—when our interests are threatened—while it is still unlikely to lead to conflict. We must be willing to stand up and help, and to organise help from others, for those who have thrown off the Soviet yoke, like the Somali's. We must be willing to help our friends who have united themselves in Rhodesia against external aggression.
We cannot do it alone, but we can give a lead in Europe and elsewhere. I believe that we can and should rearm. Hon. Members below the Gangway on the Government Benches may say that we shall never be able to afford it. That 269 means that they are content to contemplate a flat economy with no growth, no wealth to distribute, and further unemployment. We shall have nothing except dreary egalitarianism, which those hon. Members below the Gangway want so much, while the whole country gets poorer and the poorest suffer the most, as they have done under this Government.
We can use our defence industries to build up the economy. Looking back at history, one sees that just as much prosperity came to the United States economy from rearming as from the New Deal. The Korean War helped to expand the world economy. Even the White Paper admits that our defence industries and the spin-off from them do create a great deal of work and will probably provide £900 million-worth of exports this financial year.
I would like to see a start made on that, and I want to see this country not only with greater conventional capability to react to conventional attack but also the capability for a limited nuclear reaction, independent of the United States. We must build up the civil and home defence and our reserves. I agree with the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin), who said that we should look further a field for our allies, including China. I believe that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That is why I would not deny friendship to South Africa. It is not South Africa that is threatening black Africa with Marxism, aggression and colonialism; it is the Cuban guerrillas under their Soviet imperialist masters. They are the threat to us all.
I do not agree with the view that we are facing potential aggression. I think that we are facing actual aggression. The object of our strategy and tactics should be to force the Soviet Union to face a stalemate when its ambitions are checked so that it has to face the responsibility for the first nuclear strike rather than always leaving us in a stalemate situation with no non-nuclear way out, in which we have nothing to protect us but the American nuclear umbrella. It is not reasonable to expect the United States to risk nuclear war to prevent the Finlandisation of Europe—and that is one of the dangers that we have to face.
I speak in this debate with a good deal of bitterness and fear. I speak with bitter- 270 ness, because we are seeing the sacrifices made by our fathers' generation and our own made nugatory by the fact that lessons have not been learned.
The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) referred to this matter. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the disarmers urged us to stand up to Hitler they may have been illogical, but at least we were all on the same side against the same enemy. But now when some hon. Members on the Government Benches below the Gangway wish to disarm, they wish to do so not because they are against the potential enemy but because they share his ideology. That is a new danger we face for the first time in this country.
§ Mr. Macmillan
My fear is that blindness and abject appeasement forced on the Government by their own Left wing will lead to a lack of policy, which may require not the same but greater sacrifices from our children and grandchildren. That is why I urge the House to support the amendment.
§ 5.42 p.m.
Mr. Philip Goodbart (Beckenham)
Since I have been fortunate enough to be called after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan), it is only right that I should reveal that there is a certain split on the Opposition side of the House in our approach to the White Paper and in finding some points in the Defence Estimates to praise.
Yesterday afternoon my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) complained that the White Paper contained no reference to many of the major issues facing NATO at present. There was no word about the cruise missile, hardly a word about strategy, and no word about the future of our independent nuclear deterrent. I do not share my right hon. Friend's views on this matter. I am delighted that there is nothing in the White Paper on those subjects. I am delighted that Ministers have not spoken about it, because, if there had been references to the cruise missile and the independent nuclear deterrent, I am sure they would have got them wrong.
271 I am delighted that the Minister's Civil Service advisers and the Chiefs of Staff clearly think that this is a lame-duck Administration which will be out of office before these issues have to be faced. Therefore, they are keeping their noses to the grindstone until October comes.
I am also glad that the Government have not cut research expenditure as greatly as many of us feared. Last year in the Estimates £123 million was set aside for research. This year the comparable figure is £129 million. It has not kept pace with the rate of inflation, but there has not been the savage cut-back that many of us feared the Government would impose on research establishments.
However, I wonder whether this is a true figure. We know that this country now leads the whole world in the development of anti-airfield weapons and we know that the United States Government are subsidising that development in this country to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. I wonder whether the figure of £129 million for research is genuine, or whether it disguises the fact that we are receiving very substantial payments from the United States for the valuable research work we are carrying out.
At the same time, I am glad that the Government have recognised the importance of an effective identification friend-and-foe system and that a feasibility study is now under way. In recent NATO exercises only too often we have found at the end of the day that more than 50 per cent. of the aircraft theoretically destroyed have been shot down by ourselves. On an exercise this is merely ludicrous, but if serious fighting had broken out, the failure of our identifying friend-and-foe system would not be ludicrous; it would be tragic and disastrous.
At present there are two different systems operating on the central front. I am glad that at long last work is starting to try to get one system that will be effective and to secure more effective antiaircraft missiles. Missiles have also been handed over to units of BAOR, and this increases the risk to strike pilots and increases the importance of the project.
How can we underline the importance of this project and how can we get the Government to put all possible speed behind it? I think that we need a good code name for the project. I suggest that we should adopt the name of a 272 devoted public servant who worked in the Administration of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir Harold Wilson) and who used to identify friends and foes on the Labour Benches. I believe it would be right to name this the Lady Falkender project. I hope that would give it a proper sense of urgency.
§ Mr. Goodhart
Let me turn to another major point in this debate. What separates this debate from previous debates is the sense of outrage now felt within the Armed Forces following the publication of last year's Armed Forces Pay Review Board Report. Members of the Armed Forces feel that no one is speaking on their behalf. That is why so many complaints are now coming forward.
When I was in Northern Ireland recently I spoke to a young gunner who had served in the Army for six years. Although he had served in the Armed Forces for six years, he could not afford to keep his family in a married quarter while he was on his tour. He had only one civilian suit and one civilian pair of shoes. He was proud of his job, but he was leaving the Army because he had been offered a job in. which his take-home pay would be £70 a week.
During the firemen's strike I met in my constituency a Royal Air Force sergeant with 20 years of service. His pay was so low that his children of school age were eligible for free school meals.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) was disgracefully attacked by the Under-Secretary of State for saying that some of our Service men had to make a choice between heating and eating. It so happens that I was present on an occasion when an Army sergeant—he was not in the Royal Air Force as the Minister said—used that phrase to my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend did not make it up. It was said by a sergeant in one of the greatest regiments in the British Army.
Bruggen was mentioned earlier in the debate. It is a magnificent Royal Air Force station that has received the highest tactical commendation that it is possible to give. However, the senior NCOs and warrant officers of the ground staff, to whom its performance is largely due 273 under the inspired leadership of the station commander, are threatening to leave in their droves. They are willing to say to visiting Members of Parliament that they want to leave the Service because they know that they can get two or three times as much pay outside. They say that they are having to put up with unwarranted sacrifices by staying in the Services.
Youth unemployment worries Members on both sides of the Chamber. We all know that the figures for youth unemployment have rocketed in recent years. To disguise the true gravity of the situation we have a number of cosmetic programmes that cost tens of millions of pounds. For example, there is the work experience programme and the youth opportunities programme. We read today in The Sun that the job creation programme is paying some young people £43 a week to count lamp-posts.
In the past the Army, the Navy and the Air Force have provided some of the best training facilities for young people. However, when the 1977 figures are compared with the 1976 figures, it is clear that there has been a collapse in youth recruitment into the Armed Forces. Instead of increasing the number of apprenticeships in the Armed Forces there has been a reduction. Surely we should be looking to the youth programme to increase the recruitment of young people into the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces should be providing the apprenticeship schemes that unfortunately seem to be diminishing in the rest of industry instead of the Government paying young people £43 a week to count lamp-posts.
If we do not spend enough money on our defences—we are not at the moment—counting lamp-posts will not matter because the lamps of freedom will have gone out in Europe and in this country.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
Having listened to a fair amount of the debate, I would say that the contributions made by Opposition Members fall roughly into two categories. In the first category is the melodramatic nonsense that we heard from the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) and his terrible twin the right hon. Member for 274 Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). Opposition Members in that category try to curdle our blood by saying that everything in the world is the fault of the Soviet Union. If the Soviet Union were eliminated from this world, presumably we could all disarm immediately and everything in the garden would be lovely. I venture to suggest that if that were to happen Opposition Members would be busily engaged in erecting some new bogy—possibly the Chinese Peoples' Republic, which they are now so warmly welcoming as an ally. That country would become the major threat to the free world and we should have to re-arm against it.
In the other category are those hon. Members who seem to think that this is the occasion on which they should try to chastise the Government because, as they allege, Service men have not had a fair deal. If all the things that they say are correct, and all the stories that they bring to the House that they have heard in messes throughout the United Kingdom and abroad, along with all the other trivia, are well-founded, they drive one irresistibly to the conclusion that Service men are correct in saying that they have no one to speak for them.
If that is so, Service men should get representatives to speak on their behalf. The only people who will do so from an unbiased point of view are trade union organisers. If Conservative Members are prepared to accept that conclusion from the remarks that they make, I shall have some respect for them. However, if Service men believe that they can rely on Conservative Members to act as their spokesmen and to ensure that they get a fair deal from any Government, I am afraid that they are being sadly misled. If they are prepared to allow Conservative Members to act as their spokesmen, they will continue to be treated as any group of workers that is unorganised and has insufficient strength to get a fair deal. Until Service men realise that, they will be treated as they are now being treated.
I take a different view from both categories that I have mentioned. We have been discussing the level of defence expenditure. We see from the White Paper that Britain's defence expenditure amounts to £7,000 million per annum. Are we paying more than we should towards the cost of NATO compared with 275 the other participants in the organisation? It may be that we should consider the world picture of the arms buildup. The money spent on arms throughout the world has increased thirtyfold since 1900. That is the increase at constant prices.
Is it not time that we asked what progress we are making towards reducing that enormous burden, not just on the British people but on the people throughout the world, particularly those in the underdeveloped countries, because it is on their backs that we are re-arming? That is not an idle question of my own; it has been asked by many prominent politicians, including some in this country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that it is no good having a defence policy that could bankrupt the society it is designed to defend. I wholeheartedly support that view. Mr. Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defence in the United States for some time, expressed the same sentiment when he said that excessive military spending can erode security rather than enhance it because the burden gets so great that the country cannot stand it any longer.
The right hon. Member for Farnham said that we needed something like a new Korea to get our economy moving. He conveniently forgot that the war in Vietnam was such a tremendous drain on the resources of even the mightiest industrial country in the world that, in the face of objections from its people—greater objections that it had ever faced before on any subject—the United States had to withdraw from Vietnam. If it had continued the war, the country would have collapsed, and surely no one believes that we should start another war in order to overcome our grave unemployment problem.
Are we all convinced that the figures we have been given over many years, of the build-up of the strength of the Soviet Union, are correct? I expected a rather larger shout of "Oh" when I suggested that there may have been an exaggeration of the expenditure of the Soviet Union on arms. On whom do we rely for a lot of our figures?
§ Mr. Lamond
We rely on statements of the United States and, in this country, on the assessments of many people who 276 have a direct financial and career interest in building up the war machine in the United States and in this country. We must look at the figures with some suspicion to make sure they are correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "Look at Brezhnev's figures."] I could certainly quote Mr. Brezhnev, but I know that, just as I look with some suspicion on what is said by the United States, the Opposition may not accept completely what is said by Mr. Brezhnev. I prefer, therefore, to use a source that even they might accept as being reasonably unbiased. I refer to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. I thought that Opposition Members would like to cast suspicion on that source even before they knew anything about it. They laugh because they know that that might suggest that there is something suspicious about the institute. In fact there is nothing about which to be suspicious.
I imagine that many of the institute's conclusions would be acceptable to the Opposition. However, I wonder whether they would accept this conclusion: the institute believes that the United States' estimate that the Soviet Union is spending 130 billion dollars on arms is more than double the actual amount. After investigation, the institute believes that the amount spent by the Soviet Union is more like 61 billion dollars.
I believe that 61 billion dollars is an enormous sum and certainly far too much for the Soviet Union to be spending on arms. I call on the Soviet Union to make cuts in its defence expenditure. Perhaps Opposition Members will listen to me more carefully if I do that, but I wonder whether they will also cheer if I call on the United States and Great Britain to reduce their arms expenditure as well.
If we do not reduce our spending on arms, we shall not make any friends in the emerging countries of Africa or anywhere else. They are not interested in how much we spend on arms; they expect us to assist them. When one considers that the world is spending 1 billion dollars a day on arms, one realises the enormous waste of resources of all kinds that this entails.
We must set this expenditure against the tasks that are necessary in the world. Millions of people are waiting for even such elementary services as a fresh water supply, let alone education, housing and 277 proper health services. At the same time, the richest countries in the world are squandering 1,000 million dollars a day on defence. It is no wonder that any sane person in the Western world, the Socialist world or the developing world wonders why the British Parliament is wasting time listening to the melodramatic nonsense of some Opposition Members, or squabbling over a matter that could easily be dealt with by trade union representation for our Armed Forces.
These are not the issues that we should be concerned with in such a debate. We should ask why developed nations spend 20 times more on their military programmes than on economic assistance for poor countries. That is the question that our newspapers should be publicising and that is the message that hon. Members should be carrying to their constituents to convince them that something must be done to overturn our priorities. If we have this amount of money, it should be spent in the right way and not, for example, in the development of the neutron bomb—one more new page in the arms race.
The Soviet Union has already said that it will develop a neutron bomb. It is naive to think that by flicking from one new weapon to another, we can get a permanent advantage over whatever bloc of countries we regard, for the moment, as our enemies. All that will happen is that the costs to this country, the Soviet Union and the United States will escalate still further and there will be less money available for poorer countries. The people who are starving will ask for help in vain. All we seem to be thinking about is building ever-greater arsenals when we already have enough bombs to kill each other hundreds of times over—and all this is done in the name of security.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. Yesterday several hon. Members who failed to catch the eye of the Chair complained about the length of speeches. I have been in the Chair for 10 minutes now, and, frankly, I am alarmed, having counted the number of hon. Members who are all present in the Chamber—29—and who are anxious to participate in the debate having sat throughout the whole debate yesterday.
278 Assuming that the winding-up speeches will begin at 9 o'clock, we have roughly three hours left. Everyone can be accommodated, but it depends upon hon. Members. Having made this appeal—I know that several appeals have already been made—I would very much deprecate any Members coming to ask me whether they are likely to get into the debate. It is up to hon. Members themselves to realise their responsibilities to each other and to curtail their speeches as much as possible.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
I think that we were all very moved by the plea made by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) to the Soviet Union to embark upon disarmament. Doubtless his plea will obtain very large coverage in Pravda tomorrow. In urging the Soviet Union to disarm, at least the hon. Member was doing something that most Soviet citizens are not free to do. One thing that one would not see in the Soviet Union would be a debate such as this, upon Defence Estimates, with people urging—as many Labour Members have urged in this debate—that there should be reductions.
However, what has struck me about the debate is that there has been a basic difference between the two sides of the House. My right hon. Friends the Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) have been referred to as making melodramatic speeches. I believe that their assessment of what is happening in Africa at present and their very real fear about the developments over the last few years are anything but melodramatic. Indeed, they are very realistic. This shows the great divide across the House.
That is clearly encouraged by the differences in the manner of the Front Bench speeches. Both yesterday and today, the speeches from the Government Front Bench have been contented, satisfied and—as one could roughly describe them—complacent, in the same way as when the Government had the defence review in early 1975 they based the whole of that review not upon their assessment of our enemies but on their assessment of what our allies were doing. That is a remarkable way in which to pursue defence policy—to say that allies and friends of ours are only doing so much, so we shall reduce expenditure to match 279 what they are doing. Certainly no sensible defence policy could be based on anything but a realistic assessment of what our potential enemies are doing.
The hon. Member for Oldham, East referred to the Soviet Union as the latest Tory bogy, saying that afterwards it would be replaced by another. All I can say is that the current build-up of the Soviet Union in defence terms, over the last 10 years, is certainly the most frightening military spectacle that we have seen this century. Certainly it is far worse in many ways than what we saw in the 1930s.
The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) referred to the 1930s as being nine years of disaster and disarmament. No constituency played a larger part in that than his when, in the famous Fulham by-election, it was shown that the mood of the country was for appeasement and disarmament at that period.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart
I was not the Member for Fulham then, nor, indeed, a Member at all. However, I took part in that by-election. The right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of it is totally wrong. The Member who was elected then was not a pacifist or within a thousand miles of being that. That was a story made up afterwards by the Tories.
§ Mr. Walker
It is a story that certainly sustained the Labour Party for a long time as being in favour of disarmament and of defence cuts during that period. Conservative right hon. and hon. Members at the time, who were then making the way for rearmament, were accused, in the same way as people have been accused today, of making melodramatic speeches. At present we are entering the same sort of trap.
When, four years ago, I joined in the debate on the then defence White Paper, no one could have predicted the manner in which the Soviet Union defence machine would have been built up over the last four years. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) is accused of having left the present Government with an over-ambitious defence programme, I must say that it is nowhere as ambitious as the present defence programme of the Soviet Union. If we had complied with the defence programme left by the last Tory Government, we would still have 280 widened the gap between the Soviet Union and ourselves.
Over the last four years we have seen the Soviet Union infiltrate into Africa on a massive scale. The right hon. Member for Fulham mentioned that, and he is alarmed by it. He rightly says that this is a method of outflanking NATO. When he was Foreign Secretary, he spoke up bravely against many voices on his side of the House who wanted to support disarmament and nuclear disarmament, and he will be remembered for that. However, he must fear, as many of us fear, the incredibly sinister way in which the Soviet Union is now operating throughout Africa.
No one could have predicted four years ago the way in which the Soviet Union would be dominating the sea routes of the world. One sees this move of the Soviet Union to dominate the sea routes and the raw materials and resources as a total strategy. We are not dealing with some democratically elected Government afraid of the Americans. We are dealing with a group of men, self-perpetuating in their power, with ideological ambitions that they wish to impose upon the rest of the world. Looking at the whole build-up of Soviet forces over this period of years, there is no doubt but that they intend to use military might as a major instrument for obtaining that objective.
Therefore, it is in circumstances such as these that I believe that my right hon. Friends are absolutely right to press the type of amendment that they are pressing today. I do not believe that this is the time for any form of complacency. My criticism about the whole of the Government's present attitude is that knowing, as they do, what the Soviet Union is doing, the task of the Secretary of State for Defence at present should be to arouse the country to the dangers. In fact, at present he does not even arouse himself to the dangers, let alone the country.
There is no atmosphere in the country that we are under a very real and increasing threat at present. The more that my right hon. and hon. Friends press home that view and the more that we bring it to the attention of the country that in all the major spheres of defence we are basically weakening and not strengthening, the better. We do not have the 281 power to mobilise that we might need. We do not have the power to defend the sea routes that are essential to us. We do not have the application to research that is needed in terms of modern defence strategy.
I believe that we have wasted four years. We have given the Soviet Union a terrifying advantage. What we should be doing with regard to NATO is not going around saying "Can we do as little as the other members are doing?" but urging them all to do far more.
§ 6.17 p.m.
Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
I very much welcome the attempt of the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) to debate these issues, because I believe that we are witnessing a recrudescence of the arms race. In these circumstances, I think that it is incumbent upon all of us to speak with great care. I think it would be very damaging indeed—this is perhaps a modest way of expressing that view—if we were in any way to exaggerate the dangers.
Nevertheless, I believe that we are in a situation which requires some analysis and some understanding. I think that the present resurgence of the arms race has no single cause or effect, but I profoundly believe that the Soviet Union has made things very much more difficult by the way in which it has built up its forces in central Europe.
I wish to make just a few comments about the build-up in central Europe, because in many ways it is critical to the argument that we have been trying to develop in the last two days. First, there is no doubt that the Soviet Union has built up its offensive capability. One has only to look at the ratio of tanks to establish that that is so. There is no question but that the tank is an offensive weapon. Therefore, it seems to me that if we are to make any progress at all in the area of mutual and balanced force reductions, we have to persuade the Soviet Union to make a trade-off with its tanks. It will be a test, in my judgment, of the Soviet Union's sincerity if it fails to move on this critical issue.
I should very much like to see the North Atlantic Alliance concentrate on weapons for stability, because the profound change in technical defence has 282 moved in favour of the defender rather than the offender. In those circumstances, we ought to grasp that and take full advantage of that situation.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
I accept the point that the hon. Member makes about tanks, but does he not agree that this also applies to tactical aircraft, particularly as the Soviet Union has, in the central Europe sector alone, excluding the Warsaw Pact, nearly 3,000 tactical aircraft?
I agree about that, but of all the areas in which the Soviet Union has increased its forces it is in the tactical area that it has increased them least. I take the hon. Member's point.
It is important that we concentrate on the areas for stability in terms of weapons. The Soviet Union is concerned about the nuclear question. We have an opportunity to turn this back on the Soviet Union and say "If you have this understandable concern about the development of tactical nuclear weapons and new weapons that might come along, you must recognise our legitimate fears about your tank strength." The Soviet Union has increased its number of tanks by 4,000 in the last decade. The ratio is now 2.7 to 1.
If we can get the Soviet Union to move on that, we might yet find that some progress is made towards mutual and balanced force reductions. However, I frankly do not put too much store by that. The MBFR talks have stalled and the Soviet Union shows a defensive position in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. That indicates that the Soviet Union still intends to increase its forces. It has increased its force capability in Central Europe in a most alarming way. It has gone in for a new strategy which we all should recognise. That strategy is to move its forces nearer to the Western position so that we are given the impression that the Soviet Union has the capability to move quickly from day one into war situation. I am not claiming that the Soviet Union intends to go to war. I do not believe that she does. But she has the capability to do so.
In these circumstances, it would be imprudent for us not to take action. That is why I welcome my right hon. Friend's speech and the robust speech of my hon. 283 Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, who stated that Britain's defence policy is four square behind NATO. I welcome the expenditure increase of 3 per cent. for 1978–79, modest though that is. In last year's defence debate, I expressed the hope that we would increase defence expenditure if economic circumstances allowed. I am pleased to see this modest increase.
I turn to the amendment tabled by some of my hon. Friends. The gap between them and myself is not necessarily that wide. I have found that to be so when I have discussed the matter individually with my hon. Friends. They want to achieve the same objective. They want to see some movement in MBFR. They want to see detente strengthened. However, their policy will weaken detente. Their policy is even against the spirit of the Labour Party manifesto. The manifesto stresses that detente is based firmly on defence. As I understand it, that is precisely the Government's policy.
The impetus behind the amendment would weaken the forces of detente, as would the proposal by the national executive committee of the Labour Party for an additional cut of £1,000 million-plus. My hon. Friends will know that I resigned from the working party because I did not believe that it took into consideration the strategic and economic implications. I am pleased to say that the document was not endorsed by the Labour Party conference. It was brought forward as a discussion document and no decision was taken on it.
I do not believe that a recommendation of that sort would be carried by the Labour Party, not only because it would weaken our contribution to defence and, therefore, to detente but because it is profoundly wrong. It would lead to the danger which I hope that the Government's policy will avoid—namely, war.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am obliged to the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and the hon. Member for Horn-church (Mr. Williams), who responded to my appeal and took only seven minutes. If we proceed on that basis, all hon. Members who wish to be will be accommodated.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
I shall try, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to obey your injunction about brevity. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Horn-church (Mr. Williams), because he genuinely cares about defence and because his speech showed up the deplorable attitude of some hon. Members who sit near him below the Gangway. Their defence policy is akin to the Scandinavian politicians whose stated reaction to a Soviet threat would be to send a telegram to Moscow which stated "We surrender." Some hon. Members below the Gangway give the impression of having a policy only of surrender. The hon. Member for Hornchurch made a valuable contribution when he condemned the Tribune Group's amendment.
First, I shall deal with a plus to the Government. Their first White Paper seemed to contain a good idea. It said that it was setting the pattern for a decade. Regrettably, that did not happen. Thereafter we had cut after cut. It appeared to some in the Armed Forces that they would suffer death by a thousand cuts.
Now we have a slight improvement. Because of the influence of our NATO partners, we have a small upsurge in expenditure which we welcome. However, we should not forget that this comes only after cut after cut made after an initial enormous cut. The only good part in the first White Paper was the suggestion that we should have a long-term policy for defence. We can all agree that there should never be a cut of more than 1 per cent. in defence expenditure so that there can be long-term planning, as there is in the agriculture industry.
There is a real crisis of morale in the Armed Forces. I represent a garrison town and I have paid frequent visits to Northern Ireland. It is scandalous that many members of the Armed Forces have to supplement their pay by taking on other jobs in the evenings—by moon lighting.
It is somewhat surprising that the Government have not indicated in the debate what they will do about pay because the Armed Forces Pay Review Body is due to report soon. Why has that report not been expedited? Once again we are free only to recommend whether the pay of the Armed Forces should be increased by the maximum 285 amount laid down by the pay limits or by some lesser amount. It would have been appropriate had the Review Body been asked to report earlier so that we could consider its proposals.
We are appalled that professionals are required to be not only superb professionals in the Armed Forces but professional dustmen yesterday and professional firemen a few weeks ago. Despite that, they are being paid less than many of the so-called professionals whom they are required to replace, I hope that we shall have an indication that there will be a Pay Review Body Report which will be fully implemented and which will at least restore differentials.
This is the great debate. After Easter we shall come to individual debates on the Services, when there will be many constituency matters which I shall hope to take up. I had hoped to have heard in this debate something more from the Government about statements on a grand design. What of NATO? What have we heard from the Secretary of State or from the Under-Secretary about the grand design? What is the state of play in NATO? We are alarmed about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean relative to Greece and Turkey. These are the big matters which we ought to be debating. What is Britain's position in the attempt to achieve detente between our allies of Greece and Turkey so that they once again work fully in the integrated structure? Let us hear about that.
What progress has been made towards getting Spain—as it approaches democracy—into the NATO structure, together with the whole of the Iberian Peninsula? What is needed for NATO is some kind of shock treatment. The whole concept of NATO ought to be altered. The geographical guidelines of that organisation do not make sense any more. That is universally recognised. What is appropriate is that there should be started a new initiative so that NATO is not just the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, not just a defence force for the present members, but a defence shield for the whole of the free Western world, in which other countries as they approach democracy, are brought in, outside the geographical guidelines.
286 We ought to have closer integration with Australia and New Zealand and, as it proceeds to democracy, with Persia, now a great Power, particularly in the Indian Ocean. Let us have an initiative for the expansion of NATO, bringing in more countries so that, especially in the maritime sphere, we can redress the balance.
Ever since the Cuban incident, there has been this massive maritime build-up by the Russians. The Russians are now building one nuclear submarine a month. Theirs is an offensive capability and makes an example of our role in NATO, especially in the maritime area, absolutely essential. I hope that the Minister of State will deal with the question of our shipbuilding programme. It has been badly cut and should be restored if we are to redress the maritime balance and play our full and proper part in NATO, which part should be more specifically oriented towards the Navy.
Another matter of a different kind concerns the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. What about the structural organisation there? We heard much of this in the Government's early days. This is a subject worthy of a separate debate. I was not at the Ministry of Defence long enough to know quite how it should be reorganised, but it seems nonsensical that at its head there should be a Defence Council which practically never meets. That is prima facie absurd. Someone such as the former permanent under-secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Sir James Dunnett, should be asked to carry out an independent survey of the internal structure. We could have practical reforms carried out, cutting out some of those who may do excellent work but who are not, perhaps, organised as well as they might be.
I represent a garrison town, and I know that our forces are becoming a little cynical towards our attitude in this House. We have, rightly, heard fulsome tributes to the work the forces do in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. These tributes come from both sides of the House. Our troops are called on to do more and more, yet their position in society is, relatively, declining. This creates a certain cynicism.
287 I hope that in the reply tonight we shall be given an indication that the Pay Review Body will be asked to recommend substantial increases, which will be implemented, so that parity is fully restored. There is much cynicism, and we ought not to be such hypocrites as to pay fulsome tributes to our forces and at the same time be content to see them become the poor relations in society. Let the Government match their actions to their words and see that a square deal is given to the forces over pay. Let us have an announcement about that tonight.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Brown (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)
I wish to raise three issues in this debate. The first concerns paragraph 513 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, in which it is said:First priority, however, is being given to improving dockyard productivity as a means of increasing capacity.Is it not time that the Government also showed the same determination towards implementing the principle of equal pay in the dockyards? The Minister knows that for three years I have been pressing the case of 25 upholsteresses in the dockyards who are being denied equal pay by the Ministry of Defence simply because the Ministry keeps vacillating from year to year, arguing against the principle of equal pay.
I have brought to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister the views of the trade union side of the joint industrial council which has supported the claim of these 25 women. I continually prove the case that in other Departments of State the principle of equal pay is conceded. I take the opportunity tonight of saying again that it is about time that my hon. Friend, as a good employer, began to implement the Labour Party principle of equal pay and brought himself into conformity with the Equal Pay Act.
I have asked the European Parliament to intervene over this issue since we do not seem to have any power over my hon. Friend in this House. I understand that the Commissioner is in consultation with my hon. Friend, asking him to accede to the EEC regulation on equal pay. Before my hon. Friend imagines that he is letting himself in for a vast sum of money, let me point out that the princely sum we 288 are talking about is the grand total of £237.50 a week. That is what is needed to pay these 25 women the £9.50 a week extra to which they are entitled.
Talking about extra money brings me to the Tornado. As my hon. Friend knows, I have persistently tried to obtain information on the weapons system of the Tornado. He knows that recently I asked more questions of him about this matter. I have been seeking to find out who is developing the stores management system, what is its current status and whether he is satisfied that it will be capable of being installed in the Tornado. Every time I ask such questions, I get the impression, first, that the Department will avoid answering the question if it can and, secondly, that if it cannot avoid answering it will not so much mislead as confuse everyone with its answers so that it is impossible to make any sense of them.
The last time I put questions to my hon. Friend on this subject, he said that the Secretary of State would deal with them at the end of the debate. Towards the end of the debate, I intervened and my right hon. Friend said that he would come to the point in a minute. On the second occasion when I intervened, my right hon. Friend said that if I would be patient he would get to the point. We reached the end of the debate but my right hon. Friend had not dealt with the matter. I hope that tonight I shall have an answer. My hon. Friend has not intervened in my speech as he did last year to assure me that my right hon. Friend would answer the question. That causes me some trepidation. I suspect that I shall not receive an answer.
This is an important issue, having regard to the fact that the Auditor-General made it clear in his Appropriation Accounts published in January that he thought that my arguments were right. He said, in paragraphs 53 and 54 of his report, that there was something radically wrong with the stores management system. I was surprised to find that in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, published in February, there was no reference to this point and no rebuttal of the Auditor-General's comments.
I should like to discuss an issue of some importance concerning my hon. Friend's thinking with regard to the 289 recent incident involving the Soviet satellite which contained a nuclear device and which entered the earth's atmosphere and was consumed. We were told that there were telephone calls between Moscow and America. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was telephoned. I am surprised that there has been no comment. We have merely been told that there have been searches for bits of it in Canada and that something that looks like it has been found, but we are not sure.
I raised this matter in the 1960s. I asked the Ministry of Defence whether it was aware of the fractional orbital bombardment system that the Soviet Union was developing. The idea of FOBS is to park a satellite containing a nuclear weapon in what is called geotationary orbit. According to the evidence that was available in the 1960s, the system was near-perfect. I asked a Question—I was asked not to press it, but I did—and got a reply to the effect "We do not know about this system. If we did, it would not matter because the FOBS does not go round the earth; it stays in one place. Therefore, it does not contravene the United Nations protocol on outer space. It would offend the protocol only if it went all the way round the earth, but it does not."
If my hon. Friend still pursues that argument, in the light of this latest incident will he tell us how many of these satellites are parked in orbit around the earth? Are we keeping the system under surveillance? If so, how? I do not believe that we can feel satisfied that the Soviet satellite which fell from the sky was necessarily as innocent as was claimed. Any satellite which contains a nuclear device is a matter for concern. If it is attached to a system for the deployment of nuclear weapons, it becomes horrifying. We are entitled to an answer on that matter.
I have tried to keep my remarks within the seven minutes that you have suggested, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall support the Government tonight on their defence policy. However, I remind them that I am fed up with the situation regarding the upholsteresses. My union, the Furniture, Timber and Allied Trades Union, has been fighting hard for them. Unless my hon. Friend gets round to 290 giving them equal pay, I shall get very upset about the Government's defence policy.
Secondly, I insist on having some sensible replies about Tornado. We are entitled to know whether that system will work, which firm in this country is doing the work and how long it will take to complete it. Thirdly, we are entitled to know whether my hon. Friend has any knowledge about the deployment of nuclear weapons in the sky. If so, we must be told what is being done about that matter.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I think that I shall be the only Member to be called in this debate who is not a Member of one of the two major parties. Therefore, in as short a time as possible, I should like to explain the Liberal Party's view on this debate, particularly on the motion and the amendment.
First, I should like to quote from a speech by Mr. Brezhnev to the twenty-fifth party congress of the Soviet Communist Party on 24th February 1976. I think that this will dispose of the amendment put down by the Tribune Group. Mr. Brezhnev said:Development of the socialist countries, their greater might, and the greater beneficial influence of their international policy—this is now the main direction in mankind's social progress.I have no doubt that the Soviet Union has built up a great offensive might. That is in accord with its political as well as its military thinking. It does so, as Mr. Brezhnev explained, to bring greater influence on its international policy.
We cannot ignore those words. The Soviets regard military might as essential to help them to fulfil their purposes. They are unlikely to make a direct attack on the West, but they are likely to use their military might to scare people into accepting states of affairs and interferences in internal politics which otherwise they would not accept.
The real battle that NATO is likely to fight could be some kind of armed insurrection within a country that is part of or is associated with NATO with the Soviet military not directly intervening but exerting all the pressure that it can to try to facilitate the success of the insurrection.
291 Whenever I attend any discussions on defence, I find that that is the one sphere that is not discussed. As Dr. Luns said recently, and emphasised in this House, defence expenditure is a question not of what we wish to pay but of what we must pay in order to maintain our security. He also added his view that the NATO alliance forces were adequate to meet any threat now from the Soviet Union and that the United Kingdom was making one of the most useful contributions in that respect. That should be emphasised.
As I said last Friday, the Liberal Party's view was that "Labour's Programme 1976" was entirely unrealistic on defence. Many of the cuts last year were not justified. We said that and we maintained our view by voting against the Government, despite the fact that the Lib-Lab agreement had been entered into, because of the undoubted evidence of the build-up over the years of offensive capacity in the Warsaw Pact forces.
The cuts of last year have not had much effect, because of the delay largely of British industry in fulfilling contracts. Therefore, the cuts have not been as severe as might have been expected.
However, since last year there has been no more fruitful area of co-operation between the Government and the Liberal Party than in the sphere of defence. We welcomed the agreement by the NATO Ministers for an annual increase of defence expenditure in real terms of about 3 per cent. from 1979. According to figures which I got from the Library, I note that, as a percentage of gross domestic product, the lowest defence expenditure in this country was in 1973, under a Conservative Government. In 1970 the percentage of gross domestic product was 5.7, and it was 5.7 per cent. in 1976. In the meantime, it had gone down under both Conservative and Labour Governments, reaching its lowest point in 1970 terms under a Conservative Government. We pressed the Government to adhere to their decision, expressed by the Prime Minister, to agree to an increase in defence expenditure of about 3 per cent. We are glad that the Government have followed that up.
We think that it is right to delay any commitment for a similar increase in 1981–82 pending the result of progress in the negotiations on mutual and 292 balanced force reductions. It gives the Liberals no pleasure to press for increased expenditure on defence. It is a matter of necessity.
We hope that in those talks the Warsaw Pact countries will agree to sensible and realistic force reductions. That would enable this country, as well as other NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, to save on defence and to spend more beneficially in other directions.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that defence had been a fruitful area of co-operation for the Lib-Lab pact. That is an interesting point. Will he explain why the figure for this year, 1978–79, has not been altered, although that was what the Liberal Party was pressing for as late as last December? Will he further explain why the figure for 1979–80 is £55 million less than it was to be when the talks between the Liberal Party and the Labour Party were taking place last December? From what we can see, the result of that cooperation has been a lowering of defence expenditure.
§ Mr. Hooson
There is no merit in defence expenditure as such. We have to look at the threat and consider the economy. I am more impressed by Dr. Luns' view of this matter than by the right hon. Gentleman's.
§ Mr. Hooson
The right hon. Gentleman knows that a 3 per cent. increase in net defence expenditure is fulfilling this country's undertaking to NATO.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Frederick Mulley)
I should like to acknowledge the constructive views on defence which have been expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues during the year, in contrast with the official Opposition. As my hon. Friend said this afternoon, I do not know how anyone can make anything of a defence policy that cannot distinguish between 4 per cent. which could be £69 million and which could be £1,600 million.
§ Mr. Hooson
I think that what all parties should avoid, but do not, is playing politics with the Armed Forces. That is what the Opposition have tried to do. It can be a very dangerous game, as other countries have found.
293 The House of Commons should seek to ensure, first, that there is confidence in the long-term approach by the Government to defence, to avoid the sudden ad hoc and piecemeal cuts which have characterised both Labour and Conservative Governments in the last decade; secondly, that the Forces are provided with up-to-date equipment to fulfil their task; and, thirdly, that their pay and conditions of service are satisfactory and encouraging.
The most interesting statistic to come out of the debate today is that the percentage of the defence budget allocated to the three Services has remained fixed for the past 23 years. That is a matter about which everyone interested in defence can do something. It is ludicrous if it is true, and I have good grounds for thinking that it is.
Imagine the position, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There have been enormous changes in arms development. There has been enormous growth in the Soviet Navy. There have been enormous changes as a result of the 1973 desert war. Yet the proportion of the defence budget spent on the Army, the Navy and the Air Force is exactly the same as it was 23 years ago.
That surely shows that there is something basically wrong with decision-making at the Ministry of Defence. Indeed, the Ministry has been likened to a multinational corporation of immense complexity without a board of directors to lay down a policy. It has an enormous number of subordinate boards, starting with the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which has great power but has no policy direction from the staff.
One of the most important things that the present Secretary of State has done is to resuscitate the Defence Council. I understand that in the last year the Council has met many more times than in previous years, and for more than to take its photograph, as used to be the case. I think that the Council should lay down policy.
It is disgraceful that there has been incredible delay in equipping our Forces with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, as compared with the United States, West German or even the French forces. Much of the trouble lies not with the Secretary of State or his predecessor but with com- 294 petition by the chiefs of staff, who tend to have an occupational bias. There was a tremendous argument within the Ministry about who was to man the Milan anti-tank missile. I remember in the United States a few years ago firing a Redeye anti-aircraft device from my shoulder and seeing how effective it was. There have been arguments about who is to man such weapons.
I hope that all who are interested in defence have read that brilliant article entitled "The Soviet Anti-tank Debate" by Mr. Philip Karber, Director of Strategic Studies at the BDM Corporation, Virginia in the United States, in the May-June 1976 issue of Survival. The article contains a thorough review of the extensive Soviet military debate on the results of the 1973 Middle East war and says that different opinion groups in Russia seem to form around Service branch interests rather than anything else, exactly as in this country. The Russians have similar problems. They have their vested interests, just as we have them here.
In Russia the artillery people argue that the consequences of the 1973 war, when a brilliantly conceived Israeli tank advance was halted by ordinary Egyptian infantry equipped with Soviet anti-tank weapons, demonstrate the need for much greater artillery strength. But the officers of the tank corps say that the lesson is the need for even greater speed of tank attacks, supported by more motorised infantry, although it is interesting to note that the motorised infantry of the Warsaw Pact is even more vulnerable to our anti-tank weapons than the tanks.
Mr. Karber concludes:There are then several indications that in the event of conflict with NATO the Red Army would prefer to launch a surprise attack without needing to rely upon massive mobilisation of the rear echelon divisions in the Soviet Union or filling out under-strength forces of the Warsaw Pact … Thus while the West still seems to believe that the tank is the best means of anti-tank defence, Soviet military writers are beginning to stress the offensive use of anti-tank weapons.It is for this reason that we in the Liberal Party believe that the top priority for our Armed Forces—and it is a question of priorities that we are discussing —is the strengthening of BAOR, together with a strengthening of the naval forces, making sure that in BAOR we have more troops and that they are better 295 equipped. What is the time scale for, for example, equipping BAOR and its reserves with the Milan anti-tank weapon? What is the position with regard to the longer-range ATGWs? BAOR must have vehicles that can be relied upon to work and are not worn out.
There must be within the Ministry a genuine search for cost-effectiveness in weapons. I was amazed when I listened to the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), because he seemed to imply that there was merit in defence spending, whatever the money was spent on, whatever it was directed to. Not once did he mention cost-effectiveness. I believe that the greatest single requirement in the Ministry today is a greater awareness of cost-effectiveness and a breakdown of the vested interests, the competing military sections. The right hon. Gentleman would have made a more valuable contribution if he had directed attention to those matters.
I want to turn to the subject that I think is of supreme importance at present—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. and learned Gentleman is a bit unfair if he seeks to advance an argument that, because he happens to be the sole speaker for his party, he should be allowed to make a speech that is three or four times longer than the speeches of other hon. Members. If that argument were correct, we should have nobody else speaking but the representatives of small parties.
§ Mr. Hooson
With the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if the Back Benchers of the major parties had taken less time yesterday, there would have been more time for their Members today.
I believe that at no time in peace has the reputation of our Armed Forces been higher with the people of the country than it is today. We have all been made aware of their fine and unstinted contribution in such varied and unwelcome tasks as have already been men- 296 tioned. It is, therefore, with dismay that every hon. Member who is interested in defence realises that so many Service men are leaving the Services and that morale is said to be low. I dealt with this matter in the debate on 9th December 1977.
The members of the Armed Forces to whom I have spoken—I have not found one dissentient on this matter—believe that they should have the 10 per cent. and be within the pay guidelines just like everyone else. But they are well aware of such deals as in British Airways, for example, whereby workers have obtained the 10 per cent. plus 5 per cent. for a productivity deal. Members of the forces are well aware of the productivity deals that are being made. Therefore the X factor, which I think is the right way to deal with the matter, should be upgraded.
I should like to mention one small point that adds enormously to the morale difficulties in the Forces. I am sure that hon. Members throughout the House have received complaints from Service men who have been moved from Germany to emergency duty in Northern Ireland. They immediately lose their £4 a week overseas allowance, although their wives and families stay in Germany. They have a 50p a day special payment in Northern Ireland, but that does not replace the £4. There are obvious anomalies of that kind which could be sorted out without reference to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.
The Government will at their peril show a more favourable disposition to the firemen than to the Armed Forces. I am sure that the Secretary of State has brought that point of view to bear on the Cabinet.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. George Rodgers (Chorley)
I suppose that I should feel duly complimented by the fact that the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), who speaks for the Opposition on defence matters, decided yesterday to refer directly to my constituency and point out that I had signed an amendment which he mistakenly described as a Tribune amendment. Many people who have signed that amendment have very little to do with the Tribune Group. The right hon. Gentleman went on rather 297 offensively to suggest that I was advocating unemployment in my own constituency.
It was only when I realised that the other constituencies to which he referred were all highly marginal that I knew that the right hon. Gentleman was indulging in a little electioneering. The issue of employment in industries producing munitions or armaments should be examined. We should not retreat from it. In my constituency the workers who are employed at that publicly owned industry, the Royal Ordnance Factory—a very efficient industry—are anxious to take on board work as distinct from work on armaments.
Today in the House we received a group of workers from the Lucas combine in Lancashire who are anxious to put forward projects whereby they could indulge in the production of socially useful goods rather than armaments. They have particularly in mind the equipment of a kidney machine, which could be of enormous value to the community. These projects should be examined.
Conservative Members have been very careful not to say that they think that rearmament should continue whatever the cost. They have said that there should be checks and balances. I appreciate that. But, at the end of the day, is the Conservative Party in favour of disarming? In what circumstances does the Conservative Party say that we should disarm? Is it saying that we can disarm only by creating unemployment? Have Conservative Members no method, no imagination and no vision? How are they to deal with the situation? They must face this question and answer it.
The reason why I signed the amendment was not that I am a pacifist, though I respect people who hold such a view. I accept that there may be a circumstance in which we have to defend our way of life. The situation has arisen previously. I do not pretend to know from which direction the assault may come. Conservative Members seem to have pre-determined this matter already.
I know that the First World War came about because of the imperialism of the German Empire and the Second World War because of the Right-wing Fascist regimes in Germany, Italy and Japan. So 298 we cannot assume that the assault may come from one direction.
I am angry at some Conservative Members who see things in such a simplistic fashion. For them there are no complications, no confusion, no moral issues, no fear of reproach by their consciences. It is hardly necessary for them to think at all. On the one hand, they see the Communist States which seemingly represent the only really evil social system in existence. On the other hand, they see the remainder of the world, which is apparently at all times supremely virtuous.
Apparently it is possible to avert one's mind from the brutalities of the racist regime in South Africa, the repugnant conduct of the United States during the Vietnam war and the torture and massacre in Chile by neatly dividing the world into two camps, namely, the Communists, who are the perpetual bad guys, and the rest of the world community, which is for ever on the side of the angels.
I believe that this division of the world into black and white is not merely absurd but is desperately dangerous. I recall a bishop in France once declaring that "Humanity is anaesthetised." Perhaps it is true today that a communal deafness has descended upon us because we have lived with nuclear weapons and their growing escalation for so long that we are beginning to imagine in a vague sort of way that the threat of our total destruction is no longer real. Yet in truth the period of the nuclear age is brief and fleeting.
Only a very few years have passed since the first atomic bombs were launched at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 130,000 people. The weapons used then must be considered trivial and obsolete when compared with those available today. It is said that the United States has sufficient nuclear weaponry to destroy the Soviet Union at least 44 times over, and that the Soviet Union could destroy the United States at least 20 times over. Who can face the reality of this situation and still believe that the mutual stockpiling of nuclear annihilation makes the world a safer place in which to live?
If there be those who genuinely believe that peace is more likely if there is a massive accumulation of nuclear weapons 299 on both sides of the divide, I would ask them whether it is not possible that peace is more likely to flourish if neither side is in possession of such ghastly and gruesome armoury.
I want to make my own position abundantly clear. I deplore many aspects of the Communist regime but I still recognise that for many millions of people this is their chosen way of life and that they would be prepared to defend it to the last. That is absolutely so. The system does not appeal to me. I would oppose it with the same vigour as that with which I am prepared to oppose an extreme Right-wing capitalist system of society.
None the less, I believe that common ground exists between capitalism and Communism in the desire to survive. There can be no doubt that neither would emerge at all from a nuclear conflict. Indeed, it is doubtful whether the planet Earth would exist if the crime of nuclear warfare were committed.
I visited the Soviet Union as a member of a parliamentary delegation which included Members from both sides of the House less than a year ago. I returned with one clear and firm impression, that in that country there is a great longing for a sustained period of peace. The question of peace was constantly thrust before us and frequent appeals were made to our party to work together for peace and understanding. With others in the delegation, I supported that plea then and I support it now. There is good reason to accept that the desire of the Soviet people for peace is genuine. The calamity of the last war brought death to 20 million of their people. Hardly a family in the Soviet Union did not feel the impact of death through warfare. In Leningrad alone there is a cemetery which contains the remains of 1 million victims of that war.
I can understand why people in the Soviet Union seek peace. Additionally, it must be recognised that the Soviet budget is not inexhaustible. The northern and eastern regions of the country are being exploited at enormous cost for their mineral wealth. Railways, roads, mines and quarries and new towns are being constructed and it will be scores of years before the investment pays a dividend. I just do not believe that against that back- 300 ground the Soviet Union is about to indulge in military adventurism.
No doubt there are politicians and military people within the Soviet Union within the Eastern bloc who have visions of nuclear conquests just as we have latter-day Bodiceas and Tom-Thumb generals in this country who still strut about in search of the bubble reputation. Such people are dangerous and must be denied the power for which they are unfitted.
I have concentrated my remarks noon the terrible dangers of the nuclear weapon because I believe this to be the most important of all the world's many problems. I believe that it is one which our nation can help resolve by making a positive and practical gesture.
The United Kingdom has its own independent collection of nuclear weapons, which it could well abandon without placing its people at risk. In fact, many people would sleep easier in their beds at night if we were not in possession of this destructive capacity. God alone knows the circumstances in which we intend to use the wretched things, but one thing is certain: the retention of the bomb by the United Kingdom is suicidal, because its presence invites attack and, astonishingly, offers no prospect of victory as our small clutch of atomic weapons would soon be exhausted and retaliation by a major Power would quickly wipe our small island off the face of the map.
I accept the criticism that the Soviet Union has an excessive number of nuclear submarines. I have no reason to doubt that intelligence. But the balance of forces between great nations has never been symmetrical. It seems that the United States has an abundance of aircraft carriers, while the Rusians have only one, or perhaps as many as three, but certainly a minute number compared with the United States.
The madness on both sides must seemingly continue. In one area the Soviets pursue the Americans. In another area the Americans spend more to pursue the Soviets. I cannot influence the conduct of either of the world's super Powers. Perhaps I cannot influence the course of events in this country, but I must try, if only for the sake of our children, and our children's children. I simply seek sanity.
301 Let the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary go to the conference chamber clothed in garments of common sense and decency. Let them demonstrate to the world that we are bigger, morally at least, than the so-called super-nations, because we are prepared independently to renounce nuclear weapons. The pathetic fallacy that peace is dependent on a policy, the main ingredients of which are fear and terror, should first be exposed and then abandoned. We may no longer be a great military Power, but we are a great people and nation, capable of leading the world towards nuclear disarmament. What worthier role could there be for any Government?
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)
The most striking thing about the White Paper is not so much what it says as what it fails to say. It is with those sins of omission that I should like to deal.
The first relates to the complete absence of any mention of the Soviet build-up of naval strength in the Indian Ocean. It can have no defensive purpose, yet it poses an enormous threat to the trade routes of the West. If the Russians chose to use that power, surely all our efforts in NATO might be void because we should be strangled before we could get anywhere. There is no mention of that in the White Paper. Commitments outside NATO occupy only one short paragraph.
Secondly, there is no mention of any possible relationship with the People's Republic of China. This subject was dealt with by the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin), and I share his view that we should engage in military talks with that country. With several of my hon. Friends who are here tonight, I was fortunate enough to go to China in the summer. It is evident that the Chinese assessment of the Russian threat is quite different from that propounded by several Labour Members.
The Chinese say categorically that Russia will start a third world war and that it will turn on the West because, in their words, it is soft and will then turn and attack China. I hope that the Chinese are being unduly pessimistic, but it seems to me at least reasonable that we should enter into discussions with them on this mutual interest.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
May I inform the hon. Lady that I suggested a few years ago that the Chinese might be asked to present their case at a meeting of the NATO Assembly, and that when they were approached, the Chinese showed no inclination so to do?
§ Miss Fookes
I should have thought that one would have to start more slowly than that. I must leave that matter, however, because of the shortage of time.
My third point concerns the insignificant reference in the White Paper to the role of research. It is certainly mentioned, but it is not given any vital prominence. Research is the seed corn upon which many of our important technological developments depend. It is frightening to look at the amount that the Soviet Union is apparently spending on research. In a reference to expenditure, the White Paper says:It is clear that a very large proportion of the total goes on new weapons systems including an immense high-technology research and development programme … over the entire range of military equipment.Contrast that with the £129 million that we are proposing to spend this year. I suggest that we should be spending far more.
I was certainly impressed when I went to the research establishment at Fort Halstead some months ago by the fact that it appeared to be working on a shoestring. Clearly I shall not refer in public to any of the projects with which the people there were dealing, but in one or two cases it seemed that the manpower devoted to an individual project was so minimal that if one person had resigned, gone sick or fallen under the proverbial bus, the whole project would have been in danger of grinding to a standstill. Far more attention needs to be given to this aspect.
My fourth point concerns the issue of the Armed Forces' pay. I make no apology for dealing with this matter. It is important that the Minister realises that it is not that the Armed Forces expect to be completely exempt from every pay policy. However, they feel that they are being asked to make an unfair sacrifice.
It will be recalled that the whole concept of the military salary, which was introduced in 1970, was that there should 303 be comparability as far as possible with civilian counterparts and that, in return for that, board and lodging should be put at a realistic level. The Armed Forces have been screwed down on pay so that they have fallen perhaps 20 to 25 per cent. behind their civilian counterparts. On the other hand, their board and lodging charges have been put up to a realistic level. The Government have ratted on their obligations on the one hand and exacted their pound of flesh on the other.
The results of this are reflected in the alarming number of people who seek premature release from the Armed Services. I gather that in the Army and the RAF the number of officers leaving is likely to be double last year's figures, and I suggest to the Minister that there is a strong connection between the numbers leaving and the treament meted out on pay.
The most experienced men are leaving the Forces, and in the RAF this is particularly worrying concerning jet pilots. It costs well over £500,000 to train a jet pilot. It is therefore, false economy then to drive him out of the RAF by being so mean on his pay. I urge the Minister to examine this very closely. We can only hope that the Review Body will do justice by the Armed Services when it makes its report on 1st April. At the moment, many in the Services think that, far from being their watchdog, the Review Body has become the Government's lap-dog.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)
It is quite extraordinary that the hon. Member for Plymouth. Drake (Miss Fookes) should seem to be advocating an alliance with the People's Republic of China. Another of her remarks was of great interest. She said that the view of the Chinese whom she had met was that the Russians were preparing for another war, that they would turn on the West first and that they would then move on to China. Many of us on the Labour Benches have said for a long time that one of the reasons for the deplorable build-up of Soviet forces is that the Soviet Union has three requirements to meet in defence. It is understandable in many respects that the Soviet Union should consider itself vulnerable from the West, the East and the South.
304 The White Paper is for many of my hon. Friends and myself a disappointing document. Here we are in the Labour Party committed to a reduction in arms spending to the level of our Western European allies, and the Government's response is to increase spending on arms. The Conservatives want to increase the figure, and their hearts must be full of joy at seeing a Labour Government travel at least part of the way down that path.
The standpoint of successive Governments and of NATO has always been that our possession of nuclear weaponry is simply to deter. A close examination of nuclear weapons development over the last 10 years brings one to the conclusion that those weapons are not meant to deter. If that were so and if we could stand by that, I should be happier about it. Those weapons are meant to be used. If they are meant to deter, why do we continue to develop more and more accurate weapons of greater and greater sophistication? If we accept the concept that the Soviet Union—or any other country for that matter—will be deterred, and has been deterred so far, by our very possession of nuclear weapons, surely that is enough.
Reference has been made this evening to the possibility of the development of the neutron bomb. There is a considerable strength of shocked opinion on both sides of the Atlantic at this possibility. Apart from the fact that this bomb will kill people and preserve property, my strongest objection to it is that, if it is developed, it looks as though it may become the most usable weapon, and the development of it and our acceptance of it would in my opinion escalate the possibilities of a world-wide threat of war.
Why should it be thought that development of a neutron bomb will stop retaliation? Why should that be a greater deterrent than the weapons that we have already? Far from developing more and more of these horrific weapons, we should be considering the question of alternatives to employment in defence industries, as indicated in the amendment which stands in my name and the names of a large number of my hon. Friends. I hope that the eyes of hon. Members on the Front Benches on each side will not glaze over with boredom at the fact that I have raised this matter yet again. I make no apology for raising it because 305 I believe that the Government ought to be making alternative plans and looking ahead as far as they can for alternative employment.
The Lucas alternative has been put before the Government and they have consistently refused to take action. They have also consistently blocked any action by saying that it is not their responsibility but that of the Lucas management to consider these alternatives. But they well know that Lucas is not interested in producing socially useful products, which the company considers to be not as immediately profitable in money terms as its production of weapons. I think that they may not be correct in that assumption. The whole matter has become a classic case of buck-passing.
We hear now that Lucas is considering further redundancies in its work force. I find this the most devastating piece of cynicism. People scream about the need for defence, and yet they are prepared to throw men into the dustbin of unemployment when viable alternatives could be made possible.
I understand that it is expected that by August there will be another 1,000 redundancies in Lucas Aerospace. That will make a total of nearly 6,000 jobs which have been lost since 1970. The Lucas work force saw this possibility and, through its combined committee—this is all well known now—produced a viable plan for about 150 potential products which it was felt, after much in-depth research, could be produced if only someone would take them on board. The committee went first to the management, and the management said that it wanted nothing to do with it. That was in March 1976. Since then the committee has tried its best to get the Government to put pressure on the Lucas management, but again without any success.
This seems to be a strange attitude on the part of the Government. If it is possible for them to put pressure on private industry by withholding business and aid from companies in breach of pay policy, what stops them from forcing a more serious response from Lucas on the matter of alternative employment? After all, well over 70 per cent. of Lucas contracts come from the Government. I should have thought that the Government 306 were in a position to bring this pressure to bear on Lucas.
Hon. Members may not know that at last some help has arrived for the Lucas workers' plan. The Rowntree Trust has given a grant for this year of £7,000 in order to start a centre, which happens to be at the Barking precinct of the North-East London Polytechnic. Some of the proposals for alternative employment are to be thoroughly explored. Some of them may possibly be set up in local industry. It is ironic that neither the Government nor the board of Lucas can do it, but a charitable institution is able to take some steps along this road.
I believe that there is growing public alarm about the level of defence expenditure and a growing public realisation that we are concentrating far too much of our national cake in this area. I believe that people are convinced that our dependence on nuclear weapons will in the end only bring about our downfall.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I make no apology for coming back to the question of Service morale, about which the Government are clearly rattled and about which the country clearly ought to be and is worried.
The bald statements in paragraph 409 of the White Paper show the increasing number of officers and men in the Army and the Royal Air Force applying for premature release—voting with their feet, to coin a phrase. It is of no particular comfort to anyone, I suspect, to know from the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force that the Government are closely watching the trends. What they should be doing is analysing the reasons for these premature resignations and seeing whether something can be done to prevent them.
In the experience of anyone who has been connected with the Services, it must be common ground that there is a variety of causes which can lower morale. Soldiers worry about what is happening at home—quite rightly so. Domestic worries are probably at the top of the list. If they are not adequately paid, fed or housed, they worry. If they know that they have outdated or inefficient weapons, or have not adequate time in which to train with them, they worry. If they 307 have no confidence in the political leadership of the country, they worry. If they have no confidence in the system in whose defence they are expected to lay down their lives, they worry.
It is a combination of those worries which has the effect, as Ministers must know, of causing men to say "We will jack it in and go to work for Securicor", for example. I do not blame them. But the reaction of the Government or of the Labour Party is twofold. First, there is the type of reaction that is epitomised by Members on the Government Benches below the Gangway and is thoroughly Jesuitical and dishonest. It is to the effect that "We want to see the Service man properly fed, housed and so on. We will fight for him. If he cares to join a trade union, we shall welcome him like a brother." But those Members do not want him to be properly armed. That sort of attitude does not take in the Service man, because he is there to be armed. It is part of his function, and he knows it.
Then there is the other type of reaction, which we get from the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force and to which the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) tried to lend what passes for his authority. I refer to the poisonous campaign to put all the blame on the Opposition and to suggest that we are stirring it up by exaggerating and making trouble and going round the country inciting Service men to resign.
I notice that the two Ministers are suddenly awake and ready to join in the chorus of falsification. They know perfectly well that Conservative Members do not go round sergeants' messes stirring it up. When we get there, as the Ministers and their colleagues know, the sergeants' messes are already in a state of simmering revolt. I do not go to the Guards' Depot telling people that they ought to resign and that there are better jobs waiting for them outside. Service men read the newspapers.
Where do Ministers think Service men come from? Do they think that they are found under gooseberry bushes and are simply put into uniform at 18? They come from the same society as the rest of us. They have relations, friends and girl friends in society. They read the same newspapers. They read The Sun.
308 Hon. Members may laugh, but Service men read what The Sun says. They also read articles, such as that reprinted in the Daily Express this week, telling them that they would be better off driving a bus. We on the Conservative Benches report faithfully on what comes to us from Service men, and we report it with concern.
I remember that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army was once foolish enough to describe himself as the shop steward for the Armed Forces. Not long ago, he was booed at the Adjutant-General's conference. That was a distressing and disturbing but significant event, because the officers who rounded on him there were not a middle-class elite, speaking only for themselves; they were speaking for their men, about whom they care. In the face of that event, the Minister should have honoured the traditions that he is supposed to stand for by tendering his resignation. In that way he would at least have earned a degree of respect from the Army.
I turn now to the political situation that surrounds the morale problem. We are in grave danger of finding that there are no more men and women ready to come forward and make a career in the Services. It may be that they will come forward for short engagements and sign on for three, five or seven years. But I doubt whether many will still be willing to dedicate their working lives to the Services unless something radical happens quite soon.
There is a reference in the White Paper to the Representation of the People (Armed Forces) Act, which I was lucky enough to be able to get through this House. When I first said that I would introduce that measure I ran into a brick wall of opposition in the Home Office. I went to see junior Ministers who told me "You have no hope of getting the Bill through. The Government are committed to this, but we shall not lend support to the Bill". I wrote to the then Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, and said that enormous damage would be done if the Services thought that one political party was interested in the Service man having the vote while the other was not.
I do not mind how Service men use their votes, but if they got the idea that the Socialist Party was not interested in 309 Service men, I believe it would be very damaging. I am glad to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the former Home Secretary, who replied that he had full sympathy with my arguments. I got full support from the Home Office from then on.
But if the Services get the idea that the Labour Party is not interested in their getting a proper reward for what they do—by recognising the extent to which the Services make a special contribution to the integrity of our society—it will do incalculable damage not merely in the short term but also in the long run, because it will justify Service men concluding that there is no point in seeking to defend a Socialist Britain.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
The White Paper is fine as far as it goes, but one gets no hint from it that we should now be debating how best we can make our NATO contribution in the 1980s in the light of Britain's economic circumstances then. I believe that the White Paper should have had as its theme the kind of issues discussed in two distinguished articles in recent issues of International Affairs, the quarterly journal of Chatham House. Perhaps I can declare an interest as a former research fellow of that body.
As Mr. Ian Smart, the deputy director of the institute, pointed out in the October issue, the question of the replacement of the Polaris nuclear force must be decided in the next two or three years one way or the other. If we do not take a decision by 1980, the decision will have been taken by omission. By the early 1990s both our nuclear submarines and their missiles will, for different reasons, be ready for the scrap-heap. Allowing a modest 12 years for development, any replacement force would have to be decided on by the early 1980s. When my right hon. Friend replies, will he confirm this analysis and also restate the Government's position in the light of that analysis?
The Conservative Opposition spokesman who will reply to the debate should state whether or not the mystical 4 per cent. includes the additional 1 per cent.—2 per cent. additional defence expenditure which the development of a new generation of British nuclear weapons would 310 entail. Will the Conservative Party state whether in its next General Election manifesto it will go for a new generation of nuclear weapons? There is no need for accusations of fiddling the books. The facts are widely known. Let the Conservative Party state its position now.
My second point is based on the other article by Mr. Lawrence Freedman. What is the Government's view of the future of BAOR, in the light of its increasing balance of payments cost into the 1980s? It is now clear that if we are to fulfil the objective of this Government's 1974 defence review—to stabilise defence expenditure by the 1980s—it will mean reductions in the real defence effort. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend whether he anticipates that the short-term 3 per cent. annual increases will have to become the rule for defence expenditure right through the 1980s. If not, it is certain that there will have to be further defence cuts due to the rising costs of new equipment and pay.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) pointed out yesterday, there are virtually no non-NATO reductions to be made. This brings me to BAOR. The historically unusual sight of a British Expenditionary Force stationed on the Continent of Europe for 30 peacetime years in fulfilment of the Brussels Treaty is, of course, designed as concrete evidence of this country's commitment to NATO in general and to the defence of Germany in particular. I do not wish to alter that commitment, but I wonder how long into the 1980s this country will be able to carry a foreign exchange cost that now amounts to over £500 million and is still rising.
That is one reason why hon. Members on both sides tof the House are asking whether the present level of BAOR commitment is immutable. It has, after all, been reduced in the past—by the Conservative Party. In view of the shortness of time I wish to do no more than raise this issue tonight and to suggest one way of looking at it. It seems to me that a major reduction in BAOR is thinkable in defence terms if the foreign exchange savings are to be devoted to the strengthening of our other, more traditional, role in NATO—naval defence in the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel.
But whatever the defence implications, a reduction of our land force in Germany 311 would in my opinion be unthinkable in foreign policy terms if it were not compensated for by a tightening of the political links between this country and Germany via the EEC. Otherwise, the removal of British ground troops would suggest that we were scuttling from the Alliance and could lead to the end of NATO.
In short, I believe that a radical rethinking of Britain's NATO contribution will be necessitated by economic considerations in the 1980s. That can take place only in the context of moves towards greater unity within the EEC, so that there can be no doubt about our commitment to our Continental partners. What is certain is that the Government must now start discussing this issue and giving their opinions to the House.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)
I should declare an indirect interest in the defence industry.
I believe that the defence White Paper has been shown to be complacent in this two-day debate. Beyond that, I believe it to be dangerous for two reasons. The first reason is with regard to the basic intelligence data published in figures 2 and 4 of the White Paper. For example, let me take two points from figure 2. Figure 2 shows the increases in the strength of Soviet forces in central Europe. Unfortunately, there is no definition of what "central Europe" is actually is. I hope that the Minister can tell us, because his colleague referred earlier to the northern flank as well as to central Europe. It would be interesting to know what is this place called central Europe.
Figure 2 also states that in terms of main battle tanks the Soviet Union now has 9,500. But, according to Institute of Strategic Studies sources, the Warsaw Pact countries are shown to have 20,500. That is a difference of two to one in basic data on which the whole defence policy of the Government is postulated.
Let us take another example—artillery. The White Paper says that there are 4,400 artillery pieces, but the Institute of Strategic Studies states that there are 10,000—again, double the number which is said to be the basis for consideration in the defence White Paper. The same applies to all the other statistics in figure 2.
312 When we look at figure 4, we see that we have moved on from Soviet forces to Warsaw Pact forces. Again, there are disparities in the figures—many of which have already been quoted this afternoon—between the Stockholm Institute of Peace Research or the Institute of Strategic Studies and what is stated in the White Paper with regard to the "total soldiers" situation. The White Paper states that the ratio between the NATO countries and the Warsaw Pact countries is 1 to 1.2. But the Institute of Strategic Studies suggests that the ratio is 1 to 2.6, which means that instead of 27 divisions facing us there would be 70 divisions. One can see that the whole of the White Paper is founded on a miasma of dilution of the threat that is actually facing us. I hope that the Minister will tell us the sources of his data and why they are consistently lower than those of any other published source, including the Soviet Union.
The second point that I make concerns the other grave omission from the White Paper, which is the absence of any indication of the responsibilities which have to be accepted by politicians in NATO so that the NATO defence system can work.
It is said frequently—the Secretary of State said it yesterday—that Ministers are not willing to discuss NATO contingency planning. That may be so militarily, but we have to face the political fact that, if we call upon the NATO forces to fight a defensive war and to hold the line, the military men will rely on the politicians to win the war for them. At some point, political initiatives have to be taken to make possible the reality of containment of a Soviet attack.
It is clear—and it has been said in this debate on a number of occasions in the past two days—that the very deployment of the Soviet forces over the past two or three years has shown the way in which the Russians have raised the nuclear threshold. This is very significant. It means that they believe that they can fight a war in Europe without having to use nuclear weapons and still win, in the belief that we would not use them in return.
The Russians have raised the nuclear threshold and moved their forces right forward, so that from a standing start they could get to the North Sea in the first leap forward. Military analysts say 313 that they would take from a minimum of five days to a maximum of 21 days to do that. That is the standing-start philosophy, and they are forced into this because of the very vulnerability of their fuel lines from Russia. They have to move from a standing start because they could not possibly go if they had to bring everything forward over a long period.
In this time of between five and 21 days, something has to be done about a political response. I believe that the Russians have made a calculated decision that they can, within the time of the first leap forward, get a military victory over a substantial area of Western Europe and that the super-Powers would then say "All right. If you stop now, we shall not exchange nuclear weapons."
This may be a horrendous view, but I am deeply suspicious of the style of change of the Soviet forces, especially in East Germany, and of the reason why they are moving the whole of their defence fighter force forward and changing it over to that of a tactical strike force of a style that they have never used before in any of their military analyses of how a war could be fought.
Without doubt, the future Soviet military strategy will be upset by the introduction of cruise missiles, which can turn the Russians' flanks. It will also be upset if the neutron bomb is made, because that would deny them the latest strategy that they have put forward—the great leap forward from a standing start. That is why we hear so much propaganda against the development of these two weapons, in contrast to the way in which they, on the other hand, conceal the SS20 mobile atomic missiles stationed on East German territory.
I fear most of all that in the years ahead we face an acute danger that, as the ageing clique which rules the Soviet Union gets older, it may decide that it has to take its chance now before it becomes obsolescent itself. It is interesting to note how slowly younger men are coming forward in Russia and how few ideas are allowed to penetrate the thoughts and style of government at the top level of the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, time is not on our side. The NATO military arm is ready, and I am confident that it could hold the line 314 properly. I fear, however, that at the moment our political arm is missing. I hope that we shall not lose this chance to bring back into the defence of Western Europe the political sanity which is not to be found in the White Paper.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
The House has heard the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) following the lead of his right hon. and hon. Friends in clamouring for increased expenditure on arms. In so doing, the Conservatives have played their traditional role of supporting an arms race. If their plans for raising the level of defence expenditure were implemented, though the details are vague in the extreme, they would provide the excuse which their counterparts in the Soviet Union require to demand that defence expenditure by the Warsaw Pact should be increased further. On both sides, the advocates of the military establishment counterbalance one another. Their arguments, their outlooks and their aspirations are remarkably similar.
One of the most terrifying features of the modern world is the growth of a military industrial complex in virtually every advanced country—a huge vested interest with an army of spokesmen, correspondents and lobbyists dedicated to the justification of preparations for war. It exists in both the East and the West, and we have heard the case put forward by its representatives here in this House yesterday and today.
I speak as one who has no brief to defend and advance the case for increased arms expenditure in either camp. In 1976, it was estimated that the world spent $276,000 million on arms. It was estimated that strategic nuclear weapons held on all sides had an explosive content equivalent to 3 tons of TNT per person alive on this globe.
At a time when so large a percentage of the world's population does not have enough to eat, and when 500 million people suffer from severe malnutrition, it is an appalling commentary on what the most advanced minds of humanity can think. In my view, it is quite disgusting that cohorts of well-heeled individuals should be clamouring for more and still more to be spent on the means of mass destruction whilst their fellow human beings starve.
315 The Opposition and the Government justify their case by reference to Soviet weaponry. I accept that in conventional arms the Warsaw Pact in Europe is ahead. In nuclear terms, however expressed in targetable nuclear warheads, the Warsaw Pact has not attained the lead.
Conservatives call continually for cuts in public expenditure and for reducing the burden of taxation. If military expenditure is to be increased, this must mean either increased taxes or much more stringent cuts in expenditure on health, education, welfare, public transport and so on. The public are entitled to be told the consequences of Conservative policy, and it is sheer hypocrisy to come to this House and clamour for increased expenditure on arms and at the same time not point out in real terms what that means to the British population.
In my view, the British economy can no longer bear the heavy burden of arms expenditure of past years without continuing a serious decline in our competitive position as an industrial country. It is time that right hon. and hon. Members got their priorities right. While they point continually to the threat from outside and urge that ever more resources should be diverted to meet it, they fail to recognise that the threat of increased unemployment and run-down services will create an atmosphere in which groups like the National Front and other undesirable elements flourish and that ultimately this could pose a much more serious threat than any outside force to what is worth defending in Britain.
I believe that the chance of a world war arising from a crisis in the Middle East or in Southern Africa is much greater than the chance of a world war arising from a crisis in Europe. Yet we have this tremendous concentration on building up our forces in NATO.
Defence is urged upon us to protect our way of life and our democratic freedoms. There was very little democracy in Oman for our forces to defend in crushing the rebellion of the PFLO there. There is no real freedom in Iran, where we have an advisory mission and to which country we help to supply arms. In Cyprus our forces did not prevent many thousands of Greek Cypriots from being deprived of their property and homes. Our arms sales, to which the defence review refers, are not restricted 316 to countries which uphold our democratic way of life. In these circumstances, there is need for a challenge to be made to the ever-increasing demand for increasing expenditure on arms. This demand is made not only in Britain but throughout the world—in the Soviet Union, China, the United States and elsewhere.
In the Labour Party manifesto, we on these Benches pledged ourselves to work not only for disarmament but for mutual and concurrent phasing out of both the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The progress towards real disarmament has been disappointing. SALT I permitted both East and West alike to build more nuclear missiles and defence systems. We need to step up the pressure for change.
I have never been an out-and-out pacifist, and I have always argued for Britain to have an efficient, conventional armed force. I have always argued that men who serve should be properly remunerated and provided with homes when they are demobilised. However, I believe that we cannot accept that Britain should indefinitely maintain the burden of BAOR, because such a huge financial burden is proving crippling as well as being unjustified in military terms.
I cannot accept that Britain should maintain a nuclear deterrent. Therefore, I am completely opposed to any proposals for a new generation of nuclear weapons. Again, I cannot accept the proposals of the defence review that the real resources devoted to military purposes should be increased.
In the long run, the division of the world between rival military camps will maintain tensions and increase the huge volume of wealth being committed internationally to producing the means of destruction. I am opposed to pacts, and I believe that we must seek to bring them all to and end and replace them by a completely different system of international security.
It is wrong at this stage for the Labour Government to propose to raise the level of defence expenditure. It is unfortunate that the amendment in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), myself and others should not have been called. This prevents an opinion contrary to that expressed on both Front Benches from being carried into the Lobbies. This should in no way obscure the strength of the opposition 317 to spending more on armaments and the demand that we make once again today for cuts.
In the long run, we and the rest of the world must face the fact that arms expenditure will have to be cut. The Labour Government should be giving us a lead, and a much better lead than is proposed in the defence review.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) asked what would be the results of Conservative policy on defence. It would be the security of this country and the protection of Western democracy.
I want to say a quick word about my constituency, where I have regiments of the Guards Division stationed. They do a tremendous job. They have served in Northern Ireland, and other theatres and they took part in the fire-fighting last year with "green goddesses" in addition to doing ceremonial guard duties without the facilities of Wellington Barracks. They deserve to be properly rewarded and they should not be forced to moonlight.
This debate is about defence strategy. I believe that NATO must now look much further afield in the protection of the Western world. Strategy is changing. China has possession of a nuclear bomb, located in Sinkiang Province. What will happen along the heavily fortified Sino-Russian border where Russian troops are facing the Chinese, if the Russians attempt to attack Sinkiang? Alternatively, if there were a Ribbentrop-Molotov type of agreement, the Russians could release their troops to the Warsaw Pact countries. This could alter the whole balance of power in the West.
The White Paper attempts to deal with the build-up by the Warsaw Pact and the threat in Central Europe. It does not deal with the Soviet infiltration in Africa, where many of our raw materials are located. Nor does it deal with the threat to our lines of communication, and how we get our raw materials back to Europe, which is absolutely vital in times of hostility, as it is in times of peace. We must remember that there were 50 submarines in the First World War and that the Russians have three times that number now. The whole concept of the defence of Western Europe must be ex- 318 panded to take account of our sources of supply of raw materials and food. No consideration has been given to that at all.
Detente is all very well, but let us make sure, before we sign the comprehensive test ban treaty, and complete the SALT talks and the MBFR talks, that this is not done because the Russians have completed their tests. Let us not sign anything until we can guarantee that the Russians will not explode any more bombs. What about inspection? Let us be very careful here. My experience is that so far the Russians are not prepared to allow proper inspection as we are. Without proper inspection any form of agreement is entirely meaningless.
The Russians have enormous reserves throughout the Soviet Union and can easily bring them forward. Our reserves are limited by a time factor and we must consider the time taken in getting them to their destinations. The Government must consider this.
Paragraph 113 of the defence review refers to chemical and biological warfare. As far as I know we have no defence against these weapons. The Russians are developing this ghastly form of war, and we must ensure that any test ban agreement on nuclear weapons includes chemical and biological weapons. One chemical or bacteriological bomb could do incalculable damage if it were dropped on these islands. All these weapons must be considered together, and I believe that we should look at a means of defence against them. If the Russians have a defence against chemical and biological weapons among their forward troops we should ensure that we are not left behind.
Paragraphs 120, 121, 123 and 125 all indicate the strength of the Russian threat. Paragraph 126 makes it very clear that the Government have not any real knowledge—quite understandably—of the amount being spent by the Russians on defence.
Soviet influence in Africa and South Africa is very serious. Why has the Shah considered it necessary to defend himself by buying naval vessels? It is because he realises the potential danger posed by the Russian sea routes. What does all this add up to? It simply means that we are very dependent, and will be 319 for a long time yet, on the atomic deterrent. What is the programme for replacement of the Polaris submarines, and when will they be replaced? What is the policy on spares for Polaris from America? The Government must answer these questions because they are vitally important. We must have control of the Polaris, because the Americans may be frightened to launch a nuclear attack to defend Europe because it would endanger the United States. If the Russians know that we have the power of destruction, we have a very strong weapon in our armoury for peace and disarmament.
I hope that when the Minister replies he will give proper attention to the question of Polaris and the development of the neutron bomb, as well as to the question of bringing up reserves. It is important to ensure that any agreement with the Soviet Union includes a proper system of inspection on both sides. If that does not happen, the agreement will be meaningless. Such an agreement must include bacteriological and chemical warfare.
Let us remember that we must stand up at some point by ensuring that we possess Polaris or a substitute weapon. If it is known that we have the power to use that weapon—and of course none of us wishes to use it—strength will be given to our negotiations in seeking the disarmament that we all want to see. Therefore, let us go into the conference room with a feeling of strength, and let us ensure that any agreement is backed by the knowledge that, if necessary, we also have the ability to destroy.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Thornaby)
I am aware that because of the pressure of time hon. Members are concentrating on the completion of speeches rather than their content, and, therefore, I shall try to be as brief as possible. I shall not take up the points made by the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) in his general review of the defence White Paper. I wish to make particular reference to the position of civil staff in the Ministry of Defence.
As the House knows, before I came to the House I was a member of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants and an adviser to the largest Civil Service Union, the CPSA. The Ministry of 320 Defence has within it 266,000 Civil Service staff, and we have concentrated heavily in this debate on 332,000 military staff. Therefore, it is right that I should say something about the anxieties felt by civilian staff in the Ministry of Defence, because they are equally vital working in the Department on behalf of the country.
I wish first to mention the subject of pay. I have pressed in this House on a number of occasions for the reintroduction of the Pay Research Unit. That unit was suspended as part of pay policy and is to be resurrected next year. But it is my view that it should have been reintroduced earlier so that there could be a benchmark for discussion of pay in the Civil Service this year. Civil servants want to feel that there is a sense of fairness in pay policy, and certainly military personnel also want a sense of fairness. It comes somewhat rich from Conservative Members, who pressed for public expenditure cuts and who earlier in the year asked the Government to be as tough as possible on pay in the public sector, now to bring one case after another pressing for pay increases to public servants. This would only wreck the pay policy if some of these suggestions were implemented, and it would also increase public expenditure.
I believe that the military personnel in the Ministry of Defence have a justifiable grievance over pay, and the Review Body should take that matter into account. Even if that body cannot make a recommendation to be implemented immediately, I believe that it should put up some markers for the future so that the level of pay can be brought up to what it would have been if it had not been caught by pay policy in the last two or three years.
Civilian staff in the Ministry of Defence and other Government Departments also want to feel that their case is being treated fairly, and they want to know that the private sector will not go ahead of the public sector. This can be done only by reintroducing the Pay Research Unit which has operated in the past. The sooner that such a unit is reintroduced, the sooner will a sense of fairness be felt by public servants.
Many civilian employees in the Ministry of Defence feel very strongly about retired officers being employed in 321 their present numbers. Members of the Civil Service unions take strong exception to the maintenance of the retired officers class. There are now around 2,000 such officers. They were formed as a special class after the last war because of the bulge in the number of officers.
I wish to draw a distinction between many ex-Service men, officers and other ranks who compete with others for jobs within the Civil Service and who are appointed on ability. However, if those who are registered as former officers are appointed to jobs in the Ministry of Defence, there is bound to be a feeling that an "old boy" network is operating. There is the sense of nepotism that was shown in Victorian days in the appointment of civil servants. This gives rise to a feeling of divisiveness within the Department which, I hope, the Government can overcome by substantially cutting the number of retired officers on pension who are now working in the Ministry of Defence.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of concern about the proposals to concentrate the centralisation of computer services away from many parts of the country to Glasgow. There are many jobs involved in places such as Mottingham, Stanmore, Guildford, Portsmouth, Bath and Innsworth, Rosyth and elsewhere. Hundreds of jobs from many different areas are being centralised in Glasgow.
All this activity is being disguised as a policy of dispersal under the Hardman proposals. But they are not dispersal proposals at all. The Hardman proposals were aimed at removing people from London to other parts of the country suffering high unemployment. It is no good moving from one area of unemployment to another area of unemployment as is now being proposed.
We must also consider whether the centralisation of computer services in the Department gives rise to a security risk if there is to be such a substantial concentration of services in one place. I hope that when the Minister replies he will tell the House whether he believes that this is a wise proposal. I would ask him to consider whether the proposal could be reconsidered and put into suspension until further discussions have taken place.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
I do not normally sing the praises of Privy Councillors, but I believe that in the course of the last two days, my right hon. Friends, in company with many of my hon. Friends, have collectively deployed the most powerful arguments to show the complacency and self-satisfaction of the Labour Government in attempting to meet a totally unprecedented military threat—a threat which increases month by month. That threat seeks to put in peril not just our own country, but the whole of the Western world.
There is one aspect of this debate which has been mentioned mostly by Labour Members, including the hon. Members for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers), Barking (Miss Richardson) and Salford, East (Mr. Allaun)—namely, the threat of nuclear power. The hon. Members I have mentioned argued against the existence of the nuclear weapon. I suggest, however, that it is the very existence of that weapon on both sides which since the end of the last world war has done more than any other single factor to maintain peace.
§ Mr. Litterick
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that there have been 50 wars since 1945? How, then, has peace been maintained?
§ Mr. Wiggin
For the reason that none of those 50 wars has escalated into a world war. It is a world war that we are attempting to avoid. There will always be wars and rumours of wars, and there will be small bush fires. That is a good argument for maintaining a strong level of conventional forces. The fact that we have not had a world wide escalation is wholly due to the existence of the nuclear weapon. But in the changing circumstances of today, as Warsaw Pact power increases in relation to our own forces, we should once again examine the concept of the so-called flexible response. Could it be flexible weakness?
I have always felt that the tripwire philosophy, which envisages that once a Russian puts his foot into allied territory it will bring upon Russian heads an all-out nuclear attack, was the factor that kept the world peaceful from 1945 until today. The neutron bomb has an important part to play in this argument. The very response to that from Russia leads me to believe that it is most urgent that it 323 should become part of our armament at the earliest moment. Unlike Labour Members, I shall sleep better when it is in our armoury.
Nothing of what I say should be taken to detract from the necessity of maintaining strong conventional forces. The Warsaw Pact countries have moved into a position from which a surprise attack could be carried out undetected—despite statements to the contrary by the Government and our NATO allies. Exercises involving 30,000 or more troops with fully-armed equipment could, at a word of command, catch us on the hop if our enemies wished.
I should like to spend the rest of my speech talking about reserves and reinforcements. I declare an interest as I remain, though only for a few more weeks, a serving member of TAVR.
I should like to quote from von Clausewitz's book "On War", in which he said:Therefore, the thing of the highest importance in War will always be the art of conquering the enemy in battle.Under the heading "General principles", dealing with defence, he sets out:(1) To keep troops on the defensive under cover from fire as long as possible …(2) Not to bring the whole force into action at once. If this fault is committed, all rational guidance of the combat is at an end; it is only with disposable troops that we can turn the course of a battle.Those words may have been written in the last century, but they are just as true today.
The Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee has conducted an excellent investigation into our reserve forces. It has gone as far as it is proper for the House to go in investigating but has not attempted to interfere in precise military formations and other matters that the House should not delve into too deeply. Its conclusions are accurate, if mild, but could have been substantially more outspoken.
In the past, the TA was treated by Regular front-line commanders as a bonus force to be used only when all else was exhausted. Now, in a number of cases, TAVR forces, particularly in the infantry, are a part of our front-line defence and will be moved in an emergency to play their part in BAOR. This is a new and different function for part-time soldiers.
324 I do not share the Government's equanimity about the problems of moving troops in a crisis. Many potential enemies may be within our ranks. Who knows how many there are on the Continent who subscribe to the Communist philosophy and, on the declaration of war, would turn against us? Some large numbers are quoted, particularly in Germany.
In the general philosophy, it has always been assumed that the bravery and keenness of part-time soldiers makes up for the lack of training and expertise, but I question whether the technological weapons and high level of training employed in the Regular Army will not show at a disadvantage the Territorial troops alongside them in the front line. It is a question not of blaming military commanders but rather of blaming the Government for leaving gaps in the front line which can be filled only by part-time soldiers.
The position of our Regular reserves is even worse. Most have had little, if any, training since leaving their Service employment. They may not know what slots they are to fit into, and it is so long since they were tested to see whether they are fit for a role that no one can remember when it took place. No Regular officer, in assessing the funds and troops at his disposal, will willingly see reserves being given priority over Regulars. He will always say that certain things must be kept back for his Regular troops. Thus the reserve forces suffer.
A simple but hurtful example was the allocation of Jubilee Medals. A total of 25,000 went to the Regular Army, but each reserve unit received only a handful, one of which was given to the commander. What better way could there have been of thanking volunteers for their efforts? It would have cost the Government nothing, and the way in which it was handled caused a great deal of ill feeling.
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army will be visiting my regiment next month. I regret that I shall not be there, but I know that he will find keenness, high morale and a general willingness to do a job that I think is superior to that of the Regular Army. I hope that when the hon. Gentleman absorbs what he learns from his visit he will find that the troops in my part of the country are just as keen and 325 efficient as the troops in the North-East about whom he spoke yesterday.
I should also like to refer to the Royal Air Force and Naval reserves, both of which require close examination. The RAF has only 3,000 volunteer reserves and 30,000 altogether, 6,000 of whom have a predetermined job. The Navy has only 5,500 reserves, and it does not take much imagination to see what an extension of numbers and equipment, even small ships, could do to assist defence in this area.
A number of hon. Members have raised the crucial question whether, in the light of experience of the Yom Kippur war and other recent conflicts, our war stocks are remotely adequate even to attain the 30-day target which is the well-known NATO figure. The Atlantic cannot be cleared of Russian shipping in under three months, so the 30-day figure is far too low.
We learn the advantages of reserves almost every year. The firemen's strike was an example. What would the Government have done if the "green goddesses" had not been available? Yet the Government were about to sell those vehicles when they were brought out of stock. I am glad to learn that they are now to be kept, but what happens to other reserve items? Shall we be ready for the unknown? That is what the reserves and our Armed Forces will have to cope with.
Why could not the TAVR have helped in the firemen's strike? It was not because it did not have a job to do but was because it would have needed a proclamation to call out the reserves, and the Government were not prepared to do that.
The recall arrangements for the reserves require examination. The Government should expand their researches away from the Regular reserves to all reserves, including TAVR. I should like to talk about the function that TAVR could perform in a civil defence role, and the function it might have to perform in guarding the home base, but time is against us.
The White Paper talks about Regular and TAVR units guarding the home base in time of war, but no Regular Army unit is based west of Salisbury 326 Plain and the whole of the West Country will rely on volunteer reserves and other military units in the case of a cataclysm which, although unseen and unforecast, might happen. The Continent of America is better guarded than our small island.
Napoleon said:Victory is to him who has the last reserve.That is something we should never forget.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I agree to some extent with what the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) said about the nuclear deterrent having kept us free of a European war for the last 30 years, though I do not go the whole way with him.
In the years that I have been in the House, I have been appalled by the artificiality of debates on defence. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) that we make defence a football. Ministers have had a difficult job to do in our recent economic circumstances and have been kicked by the Left wing of our party into reducing defence expenditure. I pay tribute to the fact that they have managed to retain expenditure at the current level. It cannot have been easy. But Ministers give the impression that they are quite satisfied with defence arrangements although I am sure that in their hearts they know that what is being provided is completely inadequate.
I have found the only people who have been consistent are my colleagues on the Left wing of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
The hon. Gentleman may be correct, but I shall be coming to his side of the House in a moment.
One can expect the same amendments from the Left wing of the Labour Party whether we are in Government or in Opposition. They are consistent in saying that the Government of the day are spending too much money.
I ask the Opposition to cease making defence a political football. Some Opposition Members have made speeches that 327 make me think that by the time I get home, Russian forces will be in the Channel. That could happen—but it could also have happened between 1970 and 1974.
Over the past two days Conservative Members have been criticising the Government for reducing our defence forces. If the Conservatives form the next Government will they make the same remarks? The fact is that they do not make the same attacks when their party is in Government. Those attacks are left to one or two individuals, who remain consistent.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) has left the Chamber after being present for most of the debate. I presume that he will return. I hope that he will be able to explain why the same attacks are not made by Conservative Members when their party forms the Government. It is not because they believe that their party is providing adequate defence. After three and a half years of Conservative Government, the hon. Member for Stretford said:Perhaps it is true to say … leaving aside nuclear weapons … Britain's defence capability relative to the forces facing us has not been weaker at any time since 1938."—[Official Report, 12th December 1973;Vol. 866, c. 491.]That was three and a half years after the Conservative Government had been in office. If Conservative Members honestly feel to be right what they have been telling the Government over the past two years, they are right to take that stance. However, I think that they were wrong not to make the same statements between 1970 and 1974.
It is true that we can make anything of statistics if we wish, but between 1972 and 1973 the total manpower of the Armed Forces was reduced by 4,000 by a Conservative Government. The following year there was a reduction of 18,000. They were then merely getting into their stride. Where was the build-up of defence forces that we hear of so often from Conservative Members? That seems to disappear the moment we have a Conservative Government. If there is a change of Government I only hope that we hear then a few of the speeches that we heard yesterday and today.
I, too, believe that we take the morale of the Armed Forces too much for 328 granted. There is no doubt that they are the most loyal of our people. They can be called upon to do anything. They do the dirty business that nobody else wants to do.
If we are to exercise a pay policy in which we reduce, to a certain extent, the living standards of our people, those whom we segregate should be those who do not have the most powerful muscle, those who all too often have to take the buck. They are the ones who should have priority every time. In that category I place the police and the Armed Forces We cannot continue indefinitely to rely on their good will while they are having to take moonlighting jobs to keep their families.
I address a few remarks to my hon. Friends on the Left of the Labour Party. I respect their views. I acknowledge that they are consistent. However, would they honestly go right through with what they are suggesting? My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) said how terrible it was for Russia to have all its weapons and how terrible it was for the West. I was waiting for him to offer a solution. He said everything except "If we give up our weapons, the Russians will give up theirs." He did not say that. He is too sensible a man to say it. It is so easy to pose a problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers) suggested that if we cut down on munitions factories, we could make lung machines. With 1½ million unemployed we could be making lung machines now.
Everybody wants peace, and those who want peace the most are those who have had war. Those who serve in the Armed Forces do not want war. I appeal to my hon. Friends on the Left of the party to recognise that it is so easy, and in some cases it can become so cheap, merely to appeal to people's emotions. Of course everyone wants peace. To promote peace is the most easy vote-catching in which we can indulge. No one knows that that is the wrong approach until "1939" arrives. It is at that stage that we and others have to sacrifice six years of our lives. We had to do so in 1939 because the Conservative Party did not have the guts to build up our defence forces and because the Left-wing of my party denied that defence when others wanted it.
329 I remind my hon. Friends that there are those in Eastern Europe, such as Dubcek in Czechoslovakia and others in the Soviet Union, who look to the West and are given heart by the fact that it still exists. My hon. Friends do no need to be told that. I have a Press cutting—I know that it is 18 months old, but that does not alter the fact—which states that a telegram was sent to Dubcek. In the telegram it was said that there was solidarity with the Czech people and others who support the fight to create a society free from the gross abuses and crimes that have marred so much done in the name of Socialism.
They were saying, in effect, "We are sending the telegram to you to show what we think of the Soviet Union, and that we recognise what it has done to Czechoslovakia". That was a great gesture. It is, perhaps, significant, that nine of the 11 names that subscribed to the telegram appear on the Left-wing motion on the Order Paper that asks us to reduce our Armed Forces. What sincerity is there in believing that any useful purpose is served merely to send such a telegram to someone who has been thrown out of his job and whose country has been invaded by the Russians? What is offered merely to say "We are thinking of you"? Even the heading of the article does not bear reading into. Indeed, it may have been looking a little into the future as it reads "We're still with you". Given what some of my hon. Friends want, it will not be long before we are with Mr. Dubcek.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)
I begin by unashamedly and perhaps presumptuously congratulating the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) on a powerful speech that found a great deal of support and congratulation on the Opposition Benches.
It has always seemed that some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues below the Gangway regard defence and foreign policy very much as Bernard Shaw once regarded those who hawked around their consciences and appeared to treat the world like some sort of moral gymnasium in which to exercise. That is not the proper way to make a sane decision in this sphere.
330 I confine my remarks to a few simple points about policy. In the statement on the Defence Estimates there are glimpses of defence policy. In so far as policies exist, they are broadly the same as in previous years. However, the Government are increasingly undermining our capability to implement the policy. That is true whether we consider the cumulative cuts of the defence plan for 1973–74 or the bogus 3 per cent. increase about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) has already said quite enough.
The Government say, quite rightly, that our policy is indistinguishable from NATO policy. They say that it is a deterrent strategy based on forward defence and the capability of a flexible response. The Government also say that detente and disarmament are not enough on their own to secure adequate security. They may say that again. It is a relief that they recognise such simple home truths.
I shall examine in a little more detail two aspects of the Government's policy that I believe merit further consideration. First, a forward defence implies the vital importance of BAOR and the present manpower level of about 55,000, and the assurance that that force can be more than doubled in an emergency. One of the things that I should like to hear tonight from the Minister is exactly how the Government intend that that force should be doubled in an emergency and over what sort of period, because it seems very dubious that that could necessarily be carried out.
Furthermore, we need the reassurance every year that BAOR has all the advanced defence equipment that it really needs to halt the Warsaw Pact and hence to make that policy of forward defence a reality. Here I am thinking of the procurement of such things as the Milan and TOW, and, later, the enhanced radiation weapon, all of which will have a part to play in making a reality of forward defence.
Equally, on the force reduction side, there is vital importance in seeing that in the so-called reduction areas within the negotiations we do not have a situation in which we leave intact the present disparity of ground forces manpower of 331 about 150,000 between the two alliances. This obviously works significantly to NATO's disadvantage. One has only to consult paragraph 127 of the White Paper to see that at least the Government recognise that, even if Ministers do not bring out this point sufficiently clearly.
Turning to the question of flexible response, I shall content myself with saying that this depends, of course—it goes without saying—on having a sufficient range of military options available to NATO commanders quickly and without having to rely necessarily on transatlantic reinforcement, which may not come or which may not even get through. It is very important, therefore, to strengthen the case, for the enhanced radiation weapon and to introduce it as soon as possible, because it is only with theatre nuclear weapons of this kind, whether used by the West Germans with conventional warheads or used by others with nuclear warheads, that we can do something to make this flexibility really work.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) so rightly said, most of all this flexible response depends on having a sufficient conventional capability of manpower and weapons in order to keep the nuclear threshold high. Contrary to what my hon. Friend actually said. I believe that a high nuclear threshold with a really strong and diverse capability is our best chance of making a reality of that flexible response. We should recognise that this is necessarily an expensive strategy.
I take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren). Politicians have a role to play here—to stress time and again that we cannot have a policy of flexible response on the cheap, and that of all the available policies that we may use in Europe, that one is the safest, but is also, we must admit, one of the most expensive. We do no credit to public opinion and to people who follow these matters if we do not make that clear.
I end by simply reminding the House that is was not any Right-wing colonel from Tunbridge Wells or somewhere like that who warned about the real perils of not doing anything in our own defence. It was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer who, when he was Secretary of 332 State for Defence in a previous incarnation, talked about the dilemma in regard to schools, hospitals and the Welfare State, on the one hand, and defence spending on the other. He rightly pointed out that, unless we are prepared to spend adequately on defence and, to bring these points clearly home to the British people, to face the nation with them, we shall not have any schools or hospitals or a Welfare State; we shall have only ashes.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
It is with a little concern that, although yesterday we seemed to have such long and leisurely speeches, we find that this evening hon. Members have been forced to curtail their remarks and produce rather hurried speeches to conform to the amount of time available. I shall certainly try to curtail my speech, but I wish that there had been more efforts by some people to curtail their speeches yesterday.
I should like to follow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), who referred to some of the problems at the hearts of some civil servants who work for the Ministry of Defence. I should particularly like to refer to some of my constituents working at the Ministry of Defence establishment at Cheadle Hulme, in the Pay Office, which is concerned, I think, particularly with records. There are many rumours circulating there now about the future of their employment. They would very much like the Government quickly to make clear their proposals concerning them.
I realise that in the White Paper there is some reference to the possibility of moving much of the administration to Glasgow some time in the period 1983–84. It seems to me somewhat illogical that this is coming about as a result of the Hardman proposals to diversify and decentralise Ministry of Defence staff and civil servants from London into the regions. In practice, it is not staff movements from London that will occur, but people moving from one region to another.
It seems particularly illogical that we should now be trying to concentrate staff in Glasgow, taking them away from areas such as Stockport in the North-West of England when we find that the North-West, sadly, now has more unemployed 333 people than the whole of Scotland. If anyone has followed the devolution debate carefully, he will find that it is clear that areas such as the North-West are at a severe disadvantage compared with areas such as Scotland. Therefore, if the Government are to centralise their records and administration in one area, I hope that they will not take them to Scotland but will keep them in one of the English regions in which some of that work is already done. It is particularly hard for the women who work at Cheadle Hulme, because it is not easy for them to move to Glasgow unless their husbands can also find jobs.
I hope that the Government recognise the attractions of the area. The Greater Manchester area has plenty of office accommodation, good communications, housing and amenities. The Government should bring work to Stockport rather than take it away.
Another issue worries my constituents, particularly those who work at British Aerospace in the old Hawker Siddeley factory at Woodford. They are concerned about fishery protection and particularly about the role of the Nimrod aircraft. Nimrod was produced there, and my constituents are aware that it is a good aircraft. However, they have some reservations about using it for fishery protection. The Coastguarder, developed from the HS748, would perform the role better than Nimrod. I hope that the Minister will look at this in terms both of its British use and of the possibility of sales abroad.
I turn to the question of the work done by the Ministry of Defence, particularly by the RAF, to mountain rescue services and to the civil rescue work which has been done this winter. The House should pay tribute to the helicopter pilots who often work in difficult mountain conditions. We need more information about these services, their cost and how they can be fitted more clearly into the mountain rescue picture. We need more information about the military coming to the aid of the civil power.
I am in favour of the amendment which calls for a reduction in defence expenditure. I am firmly in favour of reducing defence expenditure, but not at the cost of accommodation, 334 pay, equipment or at the expense of some of the forces' fringe benefits.
I have visited British troops in Northern Ireland and Germany. I am conscious that Forces' accommodation in Northern Ireland is appalling. I recognise the political difficulty. Temporary accommodation is difficult to make adequate. However, if the temporary nature of the accommodation stretches to years, there must be a firm decision to upgrade that accommodation. It does not seem to be a worthwhile cut for the Ministry not to return old defence land to civil use. We must give our Service men decent pay and working conditions.
If we are to have defence cuts—and I believe that we should—they must be made in the role that we perform or by persuading our allies that they should carry a larger share of the burden. This is the argument of my hon. Friends below the Gangway. They do not want to ask the Services to do the job on the cheap. They want to reduce the role that we ask them to perform.
I could go on at some length but I realise that I must watch the time. The Government should mount a disarmament campaign to bring down the world level of arms, not only by agreement with the super-Powers but by the amount that some of the smaller nations spend. We ought to be doing all we can to reduce this.
The sad thing is that we are sending out to the smaller nations arms salesmen who are trying to frighten them and persuade them to make greater investments in arms. We ought to be doing more to reverse this trend. We ought to be trying hard to get our industries out of the arms trade. We have to end the attitude, which I have heard expressed several times in the debate, that if we do not sell arms to these countries, others will do so. We should say very firmly that we want to get out of the arms trade. Consider the example of Japan. Its industries are doing pretty well at the moment without any major arms trade. It is managing to spend a much larger sum on research and development than we are. This is because so much of our effort goes into military and armament research and development.
We ought to be supporting the efforts being made by the shop stewards of Vickers and Lucas Aerospace who are 335 trying to see how they can switch effectively from defence manufacturing capacity into useful production so that, if we succeed in the multilateral disarmament talks, we do not face a major problem of redeployment. In particular, we should be hoping to cut down our dependence on arms sales to the smaller countries of the world. As well as trying to get British industry out of the arms trade, we ought to be letting the world know the full horrors of modern weaponry.
One of the ironies of the present situation is that it is in the interests of the super-Powers to tell each other about the horrors of their weapons while keeping the ordinary people in the dark. We should be making the full horrors of war known to everyone. I am particularly concerned about the debate developing over the neutron bomb. It seems that this is catching the imagination of the public and that there will shortly be a world campaign against it. I would be pleased about that. I would be unhappy if the Government tried to oppose that campaign.
What I am concerned about is that the campaign should not be one-sided, simply emphasising the neutron bomb. Such a campaign should be broadened to show that we cannot pick out one weapon in isolation and say that, because it happens to catch the imagination of the people, it ought to be stopped. We ought to be saying firmly that all the nuclear weapons are extremely horrible and that we cannot make a distinction between them. We must bring home to the world the horrors of all nuclear weapons and begin raising demands, from this and other countries, to stop their production. It is important that the Vienna talks and the United Nations Special Assembly on Disarmament this May do not become a talking shop but produce results. We should end the view that disarmament talks can go on for ever without producing results.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Mates (Petersfield)
There are two points that I wish to raise. During our debate in the past two days much has been said on the question of pay—pay guidelines and the Government's pay policy. I will not add to the welter of words on the subject. There is, however, one aspect of pay that should not be subject to guidelines arid behind which the 336 Government have been hiding for the past two years. I refer to the special payment made to Forces as a result of the cost of serving in Northern Ireland.
To say that the allowance for serving in Northern Ireland cannot be increased because of pay policy is to state a falsehood. Any allowances set against extra expense are not subject to the policy, and the Government know that very well. A year ago it seemed as if the Secretary of State was about to see the error of his ways and double the allowance. I am told that he made strenuous efforts to have the allowance doubled but that they were resisted within the Cabinet because of trade union pressure. If that is so it is doubly scandalous and the trade unions ought to be as ashamed as the Government.
The fact is that the allowance of 50p per day paid to those serving in Ulster has not been changed for four years. Not only are single soldiers suffering from inflation; like everyone else, married families are under the same financial penalties because the husbands are serving their country in Ulster. That has been recognised by the Government, in that the resident battalion tour has had to be reduced to 18 months, not, mainly, because of the unpleasantness but because of the sheer cost to the soldier and his family. There are various things which the families simply cannot afford to do.
Those tours have had to be cut from the normal two and a half or three years to 18 months, because the men could not stand the financial strain. That scandal has nothing to do with Government pay policy or guidelines. The Government should do something about it now.
The second point concerns manpower, about which there has been much talk. Let us have the facts spelt out. In four years, since this Government took office, 20,000 Service men have been dispensed with—about half of them during the tenure in office of the present Secretary of State for Defence. He has been responsible for getting rid of 10,000 of those 20,000 Service men. We have lost 20,000 Service men from our already stretched Services.
That would be scandalous enough if it were not for the fact that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the 337 Army—I wish that he were present—told us last night, with a remarkable combination of ignorance and complacency, that the Government now realise that the threat is greater and theywill allow a more positive emphasis to be placed on improvements to … our capability when, as now, they are rendered necessary by developments in the threat against which we have to defend ourselves … But it is a change of emphasis in face of an increased threat ".—[Official Report, 13th March 1978; Vol. 946, c. 153.]If the Government have decided to strengthen our defences because of the increased threat, what about the last six defence cuts? Were they made in response to a reduction in the threat? Was the threat from the Soviet bloc going down in 1975, 1976 and 1977? That is when six successive cuts in our defence capability were made by the Government. This inevitable seesaw of cuts and raises, reduction and expansion, is going on.
It calls to mind the Grand Old Duke of York. The cuts have been made with about as little sense with regard to the threat. There was one planned cut. The rest were panic responses to an ever-worsening economic situation and ever-increasing pressure from the Left wing of the Labour Party, both within and without Parliament.
I do not know whether the nursery rhyme is still recited to children by Service men who do not have to take second jobs in the evenings. If they do, that nursery rhyme having been written for political reasons, it might not be unreasonable to suppose that the next generation of Service men will sing a new version:Sleepy Uncle Fred,He sacked 10,000 men,And when he saw the size of the threat,Enlisted them again.There is about as little sense in what the Government have done as there is in that old nursery rhyme. It might be amusing if it were not so deadly serious.
I shall quote one more statistic. This is where the long-term harm is being done. I quote from the Central Statistical Office Annual Abstract for 1977—the latest figures that we have. Granted that we have 20,000 fewer Service men than we had when this Government came 338 to power, this is where the real damage is being done. I quote a typical year—the latest year, 1976. Those leaving the Services between the ages of 25 and 30 numbered 9,070, whereas those who joined at the age of 18 numbered 5,613.
It is a reduction not just in numbers but in numbers where it will hurt most—middle management in both other ranks and officer structures. These are people with six to 10 years' service. They have had their training and are performing useful and responsible functions. They are gaining their first experience in command at every level. The best of them are set to go on to the upper ranks, to staff training, to technical training, to become warrant officers, majors, colonels, and so on. Those are the men who are leaving in ever-increasing numbers and who are being replaced by a lesser number of just as keen and just as good 18 year-olds.
The strain does not show now. It is the strain that will show in four or five years' time that is so deadly serious. Commanding officers can make do now with inexperienced company commanders. Sergeant-majors can make do without experienced sergeants and can bring the young ones on, because they themselves have the 15 years' experience required to reach those posts. But when they have moved on, the missing generation will cause a gap where it matters most at all levels of command.
That is the long-term damage that this Government have done—damage that can be remedied only by urgent measures to stem the tide of dissatisfied, discontented but highly experienced Service men, who are saying "To hell with it. I'm getting out."
If we do not hear within the next few weeks that the Government will give those people priority—because that is the priority that will count in the next four or five years—the Government should get out and let someone else do the job.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I shall not try to take up the points made by the hon. Member for Petersfield (Mr. Mates). I hope that he will not be offended, but we are all having to butcher our speeches because of the shortage of time.
339 The only sentence in the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) in which I found anything with which I could agree was the one in which he said that the White Paper was thoroughly uninformative. That remark is a key to the character of the debate, because in an important sense the debate is based on ignorance. One could almost say that the ignorance is calculated. It is not ignorance on the part of hon. Members who take part—we are the victims. This is a debate between Back Benchers and the State, which is determined that we shall know little or nothing about so-called defence, armaments and so on.
I shall try to make the point more specifically as I go along. It is appropriate to start with a quotation from the White Paper. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says, in paragraph 126:We do not know the exact amount of Soviet military expenditure.In the same paragraph he says that he thinks that it is between 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. of the Russian gross national product, without telling us what he thinks the Russian GNP is. In other words, my right hon. Friend thinks that Russian armaments spending is between 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. of X.
So I asked the World Bank whether it could tell me what the best estimates of the Russian GNP were. It turns out to be 41.7 per cent. of the United States GNP. That brings us a little closer to what the Secretary of State for rearmament—for that is what he is for the purpose of the White Paper—is trying to tell us. He is telling us that Russian spending on armaments is between 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. of 41.7 per cent. of the American GNP, although he did not have the courage to say it.
That paints a very different picture. I tell those hon. Members who are not particularly quick at mental arithmetic that in this context 1 per cent. means rather more than £3,000 million. I discovered that also from the World Bank. In other words, the range of error built into what could be called a calculated lie by my right hon. Friend is £9,000 million a year. I need not labour the point, but that is much bigger than the entire spending of the United Kingdom on armaments.
340 My right hon. Friend knew exactly what he was doing when he had that printed. It is very misleading. He knew very well that it would be in tune with much of the hysteria that would come floating across the Chamber from both sides—the talk about threat, the imminent advance of the Mongol hordes, and all the usual rubbish that we have to put up with every year. I am referring here only to the comparison between the size of the USSR's gross national product and that of the United States' gross national product. If hon. Members are thinking of the other details of the Warsaw Pact they will discover that the comparison is equally impressive.
The combined gross national products of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and East Germany are about 55 per cent. of the gross national product of Western Germany, for example. In other words, we are talking about a group of relatively poor nations who have not a hope in Hell of matching the armaments capability of the NATO Powers.
Let us remind ourselves of another two or three simple truths which might counteract the hysterical nonsense that we have been telling each other for hours on end. The largest air force in the world is the American air force. There is no doubt about it. The standard reference works in our own Library will tell us that. The largest navy on earth is the American navy. Again, the same standard refence works will tell us that. The largest army on earth—surprise, surprise —is the Chinese Army.
The Russians—who are postulated, as they have been again and again during the last two days, as the enemy—are facing the largest air force in the world, the largest navy in the world and the largest army in the world. That is the Russians' problem.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
Will my hon. Friend take this up with the Czech people? Whom do they believe is the enemy?
§ Mr. Litterick
I think that that puts the debate in a saner perspective, because at least three Conservative Members in my hearing during the last two days have said "My enemy's enemy is my friend." In other words, we should tacitly regard China as NATO's ally in the context of the debate, which is about our ability to defend ourselves 341 against the threat by Russia—a nation which faces the largest army, navy and air force in the world. That should deter many hon. Members from thinking that there is any likelihood of a Russian aggressive act in Western Europe.
It also makes it much more difficult to justify the statements made by the, Secretary-General of NATO that NATO must increase its armaments expenditure and the statements by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that Britain specifically must do this. We know—many Labour Members have said it more than once—that there is a super abundance of nuclear weapons necessary to kill everybody on earth. I doubt whether anyone other than those who subscribe to the peculiarly contorted terms used from time to time by some Members of the county party in the Opposition Benches would justify increasing the total supply of nuclear weapons in the world. We have been recently considering, and will do so again, the neutron bomb. To pick out the weapon would be misleading. I agree on this point with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett. The crucial point is the overall accumulation of nuclear weapons.
The major point that I am making is about balance. We do not and cannot, by the very nature of the information that we are given, consider either the quality of the armaments used by our Service men or the quality of the potential enemy, which is defined in the context of the debate.
In page 13 of the White Paper about 16 relatively new weapons systems are mentioned. No hon. Member has any means of discovering the capabilities of any of the weapons systems except by improper means. We are denied the opportunity to know what any one of these 16 weapons systems can do, either in absolute terms or in relation to the corresponding equipment used by the Warsaw Pact countries. I assure hon. Members who have not tried to find out, that I have—by asking questions—and that these matters are official secrets. In that sense, quite literally, we do not know what we are talking about when we engage in this debate. We do not know whether the hardware that we have is any use, let alone whether it is as good as or better than what the Russians or Hun- 342 garians are likely to be using. Those of us who know something about a specific weapons system had better keep quite because if we do not we shall be guilty under Section 1 or 2 of the Official Secrets Act and we may well incriminate someone else as well.
Finally, we do not know about the quality of the forces that face us—perhaps I should say the forces that make up the Warsaw Pact threat. But we do know this: the Russians had to invade Czechoslovakia. They did not do it out of a whim; they did it because they were forced to—
§ Mr. Litterick
They were forced to do it by the desire of the Czechoslovakian people to be a sovereign people. Do the Conservatives not understand that? That by itself must warn the House that simply to count heads in this numbers game is dangerous. Is there anyone in this House who can put his hand on his heart and say that a division of Czech infantry is the same as a division of Russion infantry? Of course not, because we all know that every Czech is aware of the recent past of his own country and that every Russian military commander knows it, too.
When I visited the American military intelligence centre at Stuttgart I discovered that, very wisely and unlike the Conservatives, the Americans do a daily assesssment of the standing of the Eastern European military Powers other than the Russians. The Americans have no illusions about this. They do not count those forces as being of equal quality with Russian forces. They know better. They know that Eastern European countries cannot be implicitly relied upon by the Politburo. They know that very well, and hon. Members should take that into account, although there has been precious little sign in the last two days of our debate that that has happpened. That is our failure.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
I am not sure that I follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) all the way in his arguments, but I had some sympathy with what he said about Czechoslovakia, certainly when he referred to the outrageous way in which the sovereignty of a State that wished to be 343 free was outrageously overrun by the Soviet Union in 1968.
The Government are asking the House tonight to endorse their defence policies as set out in the White Paper. It is the thinnest, most miserable White Paper ever presented to the House. It is 27 per cent. thinner than the last White Paper presented by the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) in 1976. The principal feature of this document, apart from the voluminous cliches, rests in its lack of detail and lack of fact. In its pages the Government reveal themselves as resolved and utterly determined—not, regrettably, to do the necessary to ensure the maintenance of peace and freedom—to play down the Soviet threat and to conceal the stark facts from the British public.
The reason for this is clear. It is not that the Government are fearful of causing alarm and despondency. Even they know that the British people are not so easily rattled. It is rather that they fear that if the true facts were known there would be an immediate and overwhelming popular demand for the Government to take action and to rearm. Nothing could be more calculated to split the Labour Party wide open, and this is a Government who will make the nation pay any price, no matter how terrible, in order to avoid that.
I am not referring to the minor bit of window-dressing involved in including France for the first time in the balance of forces in Europe, although, like my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren), I would query whether it is right to take such a narrow geographical area and to ignore totally the Soviet Forces in the three western military districts of the Soviet Union.
According to the "Military Balance 1977–78", the Soviet army consists of no fewer than 168 divisions, with 43,000 tanks. In fact, at least four new divisions and some 2,000 additional tanks have been added since this document went to press.
Apart from 30 divisions in reserve, the Soviets have more than 90 divisions, together with at least 25,000 tanks, deployed west of the Urals. I think that that is a very fair dividing line in assess-sing the forces facing us in Western 344 Europe. Therefore, the figure given on page 7 of the White Paper, which shows merely 9,500 tanks, is grossly misleading, the more so since the Russians have sufficient tank transporters in the western military districts of the Soviet Union to bring forward simultaneously at least four tank divisions. I must emphasise that the figures I am using refer to Soviet strength alone and take no account of Warsaw Pact forces.
Nothing is said in the White Paper of the dramatically increased air threat to the United Kingdom which results from the deployment of a new generation of supersonic swing-wing aircraft, such as the Fencer, Flogger and Fitter, which, according to General Alexander Haig, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, havedouble the range and four times the payloadof the aircraft they are replacing.
Although these aircraft are currently being produced, and have been for many months now, at a rate exceeding 1,000 per year, the RAF will have nothing comparable until Tornado enters service, and it must be a matter for extreme disquiet that the Secretary of State should have come to the Dispatch Box yesterday to tell us that there is further slippage in the Tornado programme.
It is regrettable that we have to rely on a spokesman for the United States Air Forces in Europe to point out that this new Soviet deployment means a 300 per cent. increase in Soviet delivery capability against the United Kingdom since 1971. In fact even that figure is a substantial underestimate.
The reality is that the Soviet Union has deployed a capability of striking the cities and civilian population of these islands that, even in conventional terms, is infinitely greater than anything faced from the Luftwaffe in the last war. It goes without saying that there is no mention of that in the Government's White Paper, let alone the fact that already more than 100 supersonic Backfire nuclear strike bombers are in service with the Soviet naval and long-range air forces. This equipment is armed with 375-mile range cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, which have the capability of making an attack against the United Kingdom from any direction 345 and of returning to base without refuelling.
In conventional terms alone, the Soviet military build-up already far exceeds that of Nazi Germany prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. In this period —which some choose to call "detente"—theSoviet Union is maintaining more than one-third of a million more men under arms than Hitler did after full mobilisation in September 1939.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) pointed out earlier, the Nazis had only 57 U-boats at the outbreak of war. Those were puny, primitive pieces of equipment, although they came close to bringing this country to the point of surrender through starvation by 1942 and 1943. Yet the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy tells us that the Soviets today deploy no fewer than 432 submarines. In other words, they have today seven times the submarine strength of Nazi Germany at the outbreak of war. And whereas in May 1940 Hitler had only 2,500 tanks, the Soviet Union deploys 45,000–17 times as many.
But in no area does the White Paper seek to distort our true situation more than in dealing with the strategic nuclear threat. Although there are several pages on detente and disarmament, although there is evidence of neither—except the unilateral disarmament carried out by Britain under this Socialist Government—nowhere is there to be found a single word about the gravest and most alarming change in the threat to the peoples of these islands and to Western Europe. I am, of course, referring to the Soviet SS-20 mobile intermediate range ballistic missile which has in recent months become operational. Why is the Secretary of State seeking deliberately to conceal this information from the House and from the British people? What is the reason for deliberately playing down the Soviet threat?
Why do I have to turn to the excellent report to Congress by the right hon. Gentleman's opposite number, the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. Harold Brown? It is unfortunate that we have to learn from the United States of the capabilities of a weapon system—which is designed specifically against our people 346 and poses no threat to the United States. Secretary Brown asserts:In our judgment the mobile SS-20 intermediate range ballistic missile, which consists of the first two stages of the SS-16, is already being deployed. We estimate that it has a range of at least 3,000 kilometres and can carry three multiple independent re-entry vehicles to that distance. We estimate that it will replace or augment the current force of medium range ballistic missiles and intermediate range ballistic missile launchers and that, with a successful multiple-refire capability, it could provide roughly three times the number of warheads of the older force".This is the weapon which has been conceived by President Brezhnev with specifically this country and the peoples of Western Europe in mind. I would submit that that is not the sort of detente which we are seeking.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East) rose—
§ Mr. Churchill
I shall give way in a moment. This is a detente in which the Soviet nuclear striking capability—targeted against our cities, our wives and our children—is at this very moment being increased threefold. The Prime Minister did well to acknowledge in response to my question on 21st February that this weapon is thousands of times more powerful than the so-called neutron bomb, about which so many Labour Members below the Gangway have sought to make propaganda. Indeed, the Prime Minister had no alternative but to do so. But what has been his response? It has been to order the Secretary of State for Defence to cover up for the Russians and, meanwhile, further to cut our defence budget.
§ Mr. Allaun
Before the hon. Gentleman gets too worked up, does he not think that the Americans have also advanced in their weapons? Has not the hon. Gentleman heard about the cruise and MX missiles, or the neutron bomb? Does he not realise that unfortunately there are gentlemen in the Kremlin just like himself who are using precisely these arguments for increasing their military expenditure?
§ Mr. Churchill
I am immediately coming to the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised. But I would say to him that the United States has not deployed the cruise missile but is only in the process of developing it. I also believe that 347 no development contract has been let for the MX.
The brutal truth is that, in addition to the SS-20, the Soviet Union currently is deploying four new intercontinental ballistic missiles, the SS-16, 17, 18 and 19, as well as submarine-launched ballistic missiles, at a continued rate of more than 200 a year, according to the United States Defence Secretary.
Although the United States has made no increase to its silo- or submarine-launched strategic missiles since 1967 and has halved its strategic nuclear bomber force, the Soviet Union has been deploying nuclear missiles as though it had an appointment with Doomsday. Though the Soviet Union already has 40 per cent. more ICBMs and SLBMs than the United States, it is continuing to produce them at the rate of four each week, each one with the potential to devastate a city the size of London.
It can only be a matter for the gravest concern that, although the deployment of this latest generation of Soviet ballistic missiles is far from complete, according to Dr. BrownA fifth generation of inter-continental ballistic missiles is in development, estimated to consist of four missiles. Flight-testing of one or two of these missiles could begin at any time, with others following by the early 1980s.
§ Mr. Churchill
That is not the case. The United States has not got four intercontinental ballistic missiles on the point of entering development—
§ Mr. Allaun rose—
§ Mr. Churchill
No, I shall not give way to the hon. Member.
At two points in the White Paper, the Secretary of State admits to feelings of disquiet and even puzzlement. In paragraph 121, he writes:Soviet forces have in many areas been strengthened in size and quality on a scale which goes well beyond the need of any purely defensive posture.
§ Mr. Churchill
No. This is the hon. Member's own Secretary of State. He writes in paragraph 127: 348There is however no sign that more recent developments in the field of detente are leading the Soviet Government to slacken the pace of its military effort.The question which confronts us is, why are they doing it. Why? Why? Why? Until a rational explanation can be adduced or, better still, the Kremlin abandons its arms escalation policies, the alarm bells should be ringing all over the place.
In his very powerful contribution to the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) pointed out that the Soviet build-up was more frightening in his estimation than anything this century. There are many in this House who share his judgment. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the full facts have come to light only in the course of the last four years.
There is a complacent presumption that these weapons will never be used. With my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), I have just returned from the Horn of Africa, where Soviet conventional weapons are already in use. The Soviet Union has invaded Africa with its own troops and pilots as well as its Cuban mercenary army. Apart from MiGs, heavy artillery and Stalin organ rocket launchers, the Russians have introduced more than 400 modern Soviet tanks. That is, as the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army will no doubt confirm, an armoured force approaching the fire-power of all the Chieftain tanks in BAOR, and it is all ranged against a tiny Third world country with a population of barely 3 million. Here we see tangible proof of the Soviet Union's willingness—nay, determination—to use its new-found military power. Today it is Africa. Who can be so bold as to assert that tomorrow it will not be Europe?
Yesterday, the Secretary of State trotted out the predictable rubbish about the need to bring Britain's defence expenditure down to the same level as that of our allies—our European allies naturally, for our American allies spend rather more than we do. However, the only yardstick by which a peace-loving democracy can measure its defensive needs is against the perceived level of threat. Even the Secretary of State will agree that the level of threat has never been higher.
349 Why then, does the right hon. Gentleman persist in cutting, cutting and cutting again our already inadequate defences? In the 1978–79 financial year, despite the relentless Soviet build-up and the commitments given by the Secretary of State in December 1976 and again in May last year to increase the budget and conventional forces in the coming year, the Government will be cutting not only the defence budget but the manpower of the Royal Navy and the Army, which will lose the equivalent of a further three battalions. The additional £267 million of cuts should be rescinded and the manpower run-down halted immediately.
So far, £10,000 million has been cut from the planned defence expenditure programme of 1974. I hope that when the Minister of State replies to the debate he will not trumpet on once again about the 3 per cent. "increase". I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) is not in his place, because he should know that that increase is deceitful and fraudulent.
There will be no increases in 1978–79. In fact, there will be a further decrease representing 18.4 per cent. on the pre-defence review programme. According to last year's expenditure White Paper Cmnd. 6721, defence expenditure was planned to increase between 1978–79 and 1979–80 by 4.3 per cent. and between 1979–80 and 1980–81 by no less than 5 per cent. But because President Carter asked for only 3 per cent, this Government reduced the 4.3 per cent. for one year and the 5 per cent for the next year. That represents a further decrease of £243 million—not on the Tory proposed expenditure plan but on what the Government planned to spend only last year.
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, who has just entered the Chamber, will take heed of the fact that this 3 per cent. is wholly fraudulent.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough) rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Obviously the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) is not giving way. He must be allowed to continue.
§ Mr. Churchill
If the 3 per cent. increase were to be continued indefinitely 350 —and it is noteworthy that the Government committed themselves to 3 per cent. for only one year—
§ Mr. Churchill
No, it is only one year; the second year is subject to review. If the 3 per cent. increase were to continue indefinitely it would take 10 years from now to get back to the pre-defence review level.
§ Mr. Hooson
Although the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) says that the figure is fraudulent, Dr. Luns does not think that it is.
§ Mr. Churchill
Dr. Luns was taking the words of the Secretary of State and the British Government at face value. I do not think he was aware that the Government had been planning a substantially greater increase. It is regrettable that the Liberal Party, which voted against the Government in December on this issue, even though defence expenditure has been further reduced is not proposing to join us in the Lobby tonight. I hope that Liberal Members will reconsider their position.
The effect of these cuts, as Dr. Luns observed in his rebuke to the Government last summer, was thatWhile part of the reduction is related to non-NATO commitments, that part is relatively small.The cuts have come overwhelmingly at the expense of Britain's contribution to NATO. The northern and southern flanks have both been cut. But the most crippling cuts of all have come in the central region and have affected BAOR and RAF Germany. RAF Germany has too few men, and this situation has been aggravated by dispersed operations from hardened shelters, a factor which could easily have been foreseen before the reckless decision to slash RAF manpower by 18 per cent.
The reduction in Army manpower of 8,900 to date means not only more frequent tours of duty for our forces in Northern Ireland but a decrease in BAOR readiness, which is a matter of great concern to NATO at present. Training, ammunition and war-stocks have all been cut. The introduction into service of the desperately needed Milan anti-tank missile has been repeatedly postponed and the acquisition of air-to-air missiles as well as Rapier SAMs has been postponed.
351 In making these cuts, the British Government have been completely out of step with our allies in respect of readiness and in the belief that we need plan for only a short war—a hypothesis that is very much open to doubt—and on excessive dependence on tactical nuclear weapons, which has had the effect of lowering the nuclear threshold in Europe.
I should like, however, to welcome Her Majesty's Government's response to the short-term improvements proposed by NATO calling for an immediate increase of one-third by the end of this year in stocks of anti-armour missiles, sonobuoys and other critical munitions. In consequence of this, deliveries of Milan have been accelerated and will reach the Rhine Army in the course of this year.
Why do we need to be told this by our allies? Could we not have seen it for ourselves? The Defence and Economic Affairs Sub-Committee, which carries out such excellent work for the House, had already drawn attention to these critical shortages.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) pointed out yesterday, it is impossible for a party in Opposition, denied access to facts, figures and expertise, to prepare a blueprint plan and to cost it. But we can identify certain areas of priority and say that, in the light of a now rapidly escalating threat as well as a serious Socialist run-down in our defences, a strengthening of our defence is imperative and overdue. This inevitably requires the commitment of substantially greater resources to defence. It is of the first importance that we should do whatever is necessary to ensure that our people continue to live in peace and freedom. On behalf of the Opposition, I am saying that we shall do just that.
There are four main areas which we feel require priority to be given to them. The first is pay. Of all elements involved in our national defence, nothing is more important than the human element. I have no hesitation in saying that we have the finest Armed Forces of any nation in the world, and the whole nation is in their debt.
I wish to join in the tributes paid to the 29 Service men killed in Northern Ireland in the past year. Regrettably, we have a Government who take them for 352 granted and who think that they can treat the Armed Forces as a "dirty job squad" while making sure that they are screwed down on pay more tightly than any other section of the community.
§ Mr. Churchill
The restoration of full comparability of pay has become a matter of urgency. It is no wonder that 6,000 Army officers and men have quit in the past year and the wastage rate in Rhine Army is up by 50 per cent.
§ Mr. Churchill
Secondly, the next Conservative Government will accelerate and. where appropriate, expand many of the re-equipment programmes for all three Services. We have excellent British-made kit in the pipeline, some of it second to none in the world, but it is not coming through fast enough or in sufficient volume.
Thirdly, we need to examine our deterrent. This matter was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) and the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar). Our strategic deterrent is in danger of ceasing to be effective beyond 1982, when the V-bomber force is to be scrapped at the decision of this Government. At that point, it will depend for some of the time on a single Polaris on station, which, I would submit, is inadequate. It is a matter of extreme urgency that this matter should be examined. We hope that the Minister will be able to say tonight where the Government stand on the deterrent.
Another priority will be our reserves. It is sheer foolhardiness to base all our plans on the premise of a short war. This has been the basis on which we have run down our Armed Forces to a point where, even with full mobilisation of all reserves, we have smaller armed forces than Switzerland, Sweden or even tiny Finland. A Conservative Government will substantially increase our reserves so as to meet unforeseen contingencies in future.
The Government's unilateral defence cuts have been undermining the achievement of a negotiated arms control agreement with the Soviet Union and have been 353 responsible for lowering the nuclear threshold by reducing the ability of our forces in Germany to withstand a Soviet attack without an early escalation to tactical nuclear weapons.
Every minute that this Government remain in office, peace is slipping from our grasp. That is why we shall be pressing our amendment in the Division Lobby.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Dr. John Gilbert)
This has been an unusually revealing and interesting debate. It is a trifle sad, because it is probably the last, certainly the penultimate, defence debate in which we shall hear from the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison), my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) and my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Mallalieu). They made three of the best and most balanced contributions to the debate. I pay tribute to the hon. and gallant Member for Eye, who has been a most distinguished Chairman of the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee on which, under his chairmanship, I was happy to serve for several years.
It seems to have escaped the attention of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) that the fact that French forces were listed in this year's White Paper was the direct result of a suggestion from the Sub-Committee which we were happy to accept.
My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East and my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham put to bed once and for all the myth that the Tories seek to foster that the Labour Party does not care about defence and that the Tory Party has the only true patriots. Some of us on the Government side of the House are getting a little sick of the Tories grabbing the Union Jack. The hon. Member for Stretford wants a monopoly of patriotism for himself. That has been the recipe of the Tory Party for 354 many years. I am glad that he is cheering. No doubt he knows the quotation.
The themes of the Opposition have been that we have not spent enough on defence generally and the Services have not been treated fairly on pay. Within these themes, there has been interspersed an extraordinary stream of personal attacks on my hon. Friends below the Gangway and on their views and motives. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham and the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) devoted more time to attacking the Tribune Group than to the defence White Paper.
I shall return to the general themes, but I wish first to deal with some more detailed problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle) asked about the right of a Service man to appeal against the findings of his commanding officer under the Services summary justice procedure.
It is true that there is no formal appeal machinery. However, if the accused feels that he has been unfairly treated, he has the statutory right to bring a complaint and to seek redress of grievance from a superior authority up to the level of the Defence Council. Moreover, if the charge is sufficiently serious to carry the possibility of a sentence involving loss of pay or liberty, the accused has the right to elect trial by court martial. For more serious offences the accused is automatically remanded to a court martial. In addition, all summary proceedings are forwarded to a higher authority and may at any time be the subject of review.
I hope that on that basis my hon. Friend will agree that our procedures incorporate adequate safeguards for the protection of the rights of individual Service men.
The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) referred to the position of Service widows whose husbands left the Armed Forces before 1st September 1950 and who are not entitled to a widow's pension. On both sides of the House we recognise the strength of feeling about the pre-1950 widows. Their case has been debated on several occasions in recent years. Unfortunately, as the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) was told two years ago, in 1975, the Government carefully considered whether anything 355 could be done to give a pension to the widows and reluctantly had to accept, as had previous Administrations, that that was not possible without causing unacceptable repercussions throughout the whole public sector, where there are many other groups of widows not entitled to a pension from their husband's employment. I regret that that is still the position.
My hon. Friends the Members for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) and Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) asked about dispersal to Glasgow. The revised timetable that was announced by the Lord Privy Seal last July commits the Ministry of Defence to disperse up to 5,500 posts to Glasgow, 1,500 to the Anderson site by 1983–84 and up to 4,000 to St. Enoch after that. The number of headquarter posts in London that might be involved in dispersal to Glasgow has been reduced by ministerial decisions to exclude quality assurance staffs in the London area by the dispersal of some 4,250 staff to procurement executive posts at Cardiff and by the decentralisation and rationalisation of certain tasks, such as that of the army logistics executive, to achieve reduced manpower targets. A package of about 5,000 posts has been identified and is made up accordingly of director general defence accounts non-industrial pay staffs from Bath and Cheadle Hulme and the three Service pay records and management information systems at Gosport, RAPC Worthy Down and the RAF personnel management centre, Innsworth.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown)—I am sorry that I was not present when he made his contribution—raised the issue of ladies who he thinks have been unfairly discriminated against in terms of pay. I undertake to consider the question that he has raised and to write to him. When I have had the benefit of having Hansard in front of me, I shall reconsider whether there is anything more that I can say to my hon. Friend about the Tornado stores management system other than the matters that he and I have already discussed.
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) spoke yesterday of naval cruising speeds and asked about economies in fuel consumption by Her Majesty's ships. There has been a cer- 356 tain amount of misunderstanding. Economies were made purely by way of good housekeeping. No cuts have been imposed that will affect the training or the operational effectiveness of the Fleet. The cuts merely relate to the speeds at which the Fleet steams when going from one station to another.
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) and the hon. and gallant Member for Eye spoke of the movements of reinforcements by sea. That has been a theme of the hon. Member for Stretford for some time. I note that he has come off it lately. As the House well knows, it has been the policy of Her Majesty's Government for many years, under all Administrations, to rely mainly on civil shipping for the movement of troops and equipment that cannot go by air in times of tension or war, whether movement to the northern flank or across the Channel. It does not make sense to tie up large resources in maintaining special ships for military purposes when suitable civilian ships, including roll-on/roll-off vessels will be available.
§ Dr. Gilbert
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was just coming to the point. For the nationalised undertakings, powers of direction are available under the Transport Act. With companies in the private sector, we already have contracts or letters of agreement that cover all our needs, and no legislation or other parliamentary action will be required.
The right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) raised several points in the course of a speech in which he seemed to be indicating that we ought to ally ourselves simultaneously with the Republic of South Africa and the People's Republic of China. That whimsy aside, he asked a few questions that I feel I ought to answer.
The right hon. Member asked first about war stocks. While the exact levels of war stocks cannot be disclosed, and never have been disclosed, our war stocks meet NATO requirements and are kept continuously under review. Furthermore, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in answer to the hon. Member 357 for Stretford, it is the Government's intention, in order to meet the agreed NATO target, to increase by one-third the stocks of anti-armour missiles and other critical munitions.
The right hon. Member also asked about the future of Polaris, as did the hon. Member for Stretford. Of course, no one would expect an announcement from me, one way or another, on so important a matter, and least of all in reply to a couple of casual comments in a debate on a defence White Paper. However, it is understood, of course, that weapons systems reach the end of their useful life at some point. We are already taking steps, at considerable expense, to improve Polaris so that it remains an effective component of NATO's strategic deterrent for many years to come.
We have no intention of abandoning our existing strategic capability. On the other hand, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made clear, we have no plans for a successor system. Clearly, however, the time for decision is approaching, decision one way or the other about the need for a successor and the form that it should take, if there is going to be a successor—and I emphasise that.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
When will the hull life of the first of the four Polaris submarines be exhausted?
§ Dr. Gilbert
In the early 1990s.
The decision can take many forms. It could be, whichever Government are in power, to replace Polaris with another ballistic system, or to go to cruise missiles, or to abandon a strategic nuclear capability entirely and invest more in conventional weapons. There is no need for a decision to be taken on that subject yet.
§ Mr. Newens
Will my hon. Friend clarify the situation with regard to our commitment about not going forward with any new generation of nuclear weapons? Does that remain our policy? Will my hon. Friend confirm that?
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I am very glad to hear that "Yes", but in that case, why are we undertaking research, at at least four British armament firms, into corn- 358 ponent parts of an intermediate range missile of the cruise type?
§ Dr. Gilbert
My hon. Friend has put many Questions on the Order Paper about contracts that have been let. They relate purely to possible technological capabilities in the cruise missile field. We have no development contracts out whatsoever.
§ Dr. Gilbert
Yes, certainly—yet, or not yet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We simply do not have them. The word "yet" is intended to imply that we are planning to have them in the future, so I said "not yet", implying that we do not intend to place any contracts at present.
§ Mr. Allaun rose—
§ Dr. Gilbert
The hon. Member for Stretford gave way only once or twice. I have given hon. Members a fair crack of the whip.
The right hon. Member for Farnham and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) were on to a good point on the question of the division of the budget among the three Services. It is extraordinary that this has remained unchanged over 23 years. However, I do not necessarily accept that because a certain proportion was appropriate many years ago it is inappropriate today. There could have been compensating changes across the board. But it is a coincidence that bears investigation. I accept what the right hon. Member and the hon. and learned Member said about the need for us rigorously to study cost-benefit analysis so far as we can in the procurement of new weapons systems. We should look closely at the way in which we make our decisions and determine the balance of resources that should be made available for the sea-air or land-air scenarios.
These are complex matters which depend on forecasts, intelligence inputs and a whole range of assumptions which can be fragile. I certainly accept that we should look into this matter carefully. Perhaps there has been some sclerosis in the Ministry of Defence in the past 359 and perhaps the vested interests of the Services over many years have been a more determining factor than other more rational bases.
§ Dr. Gilbert
No. [HON. MEMBERS: "Discourteous"] I shall not take lectures about courtesy when the Opposition Front Bench spokesman gave way only once or twice. I must have given way a dozen times already.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery asked me about the Milan missile. Deliveries have been accelerated, so that we have brought forward the in-service date by six months. By the end of this year over half of the planned deployment to BAOR will have been completed. This capability will be further enhanced when the Scout helicopters with the SS11 anti-tank missiles are replaced by Lynx with TOW in the early 1980s.
The development of the successor system to the Carl Gustav has begun and is currently expected to enter service in the mid-1980s. That gives the lie to the suggestion that the equipment of our Services, particularly in BAOR, is lagging far behind.
In his remarks yesterday the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham said that every independent commentator was united in deploring what this Government have done in defence. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force quoted from one distinguished defence correspondent who said what nonsense this was. I shall quote from The Times of 12th January. in which Henry Stanhope stated:With 40 kinds of new equipment coming into service this year and 50 more systems due over the next five years, BAOR should by the 1980s regain its reputation as the best equipped army in Western Europe, at a time when the much praised West German army will be faced with block obsolescence of much of its equipment.Hon. Members know that a long time elapses between the original design of equipment and getting that equipment into service. That is a responsible attitude towards the redeployment of equipment for BAOR.
I turn now to the question of the neutron bomb, a subject raised by my 360 hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) and others. I agree, for once, with the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that there has been much misapprehension about the nature of this weapon. It is a battlefield weapon. The question is whether it will raise or lower the nuclear threshold and whether a deterrent is thereby made more or less credible. To be effective (a) a deterrent must exist, (b) it must been seen to exist and (c) its use must be credible. It certainly can be argued, although I recognise that the argument can go both ways, that the neutron bomb may be more credible than the strategic ballistic missile system and, in being more credible, as a result of the nuclear paradox, may be less likely to be used.
I recognise that some of my hon. Friends sincerely believe—for instance my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers)—that all nuclear weapons ought unilaterally to be renounced. I recognise the sincerity with which those views are held, and I realise that it is the aim of the Government to achieve complete disarmament and a world free of weapons of all kinds, but that has to be done by progressive, realistic and verifiable measures of arms control. There are no easy routes to this goal.
I cannot see that unilateral renunciation would do anything to encourage the super-Powers to progress more rapidly towards disarmament. I think it was Ernie Bevin who justified our possession of nuclear weapons by saying that it gave us a lever on world peace. Our record shows that we see it the same way. Our participation in the negotiations on the test ban treaty and our programme at the United Nations' Special Session on disarmament are further evidence of that. Most of my hon. Friends would agree that trade unions would very rarely expect to get more out of negotiations if they gave away their best bargaining cards first.
The right hon. Member for Farnham asked me some generalised questions about collaboration. A great deal of effort has gone into this, largely on the part of the European members of NATO in the last couple of years through the independent European Programme Group, in which we are glad to say that France is a member and is playing her full part. We are glad to say that the 361 group is recognised by the United States as the medium for European equipment collaboration. The results so far show very little for the efforts and the enthusiasm that has been put in. The main benefit is a clarification of the nature of the problems, which has always to be the first stage in solving such problems.
If co-operation is to be successful, military requirements need to be broadly similar. The price and level of sophistication of systems have to be generally acceptable and the industrial arrangements have to be mutually satisfactory. Above all, the time scale has to be made to fit in with national programmes. Unfortunately, we cannot expect that diverse national inventories will be transformed overnight. Standardisation is not an objective in itself. In some areas, such as electronic counter-measures, it is better not to have standardisation.
We have to recognise that from time to time standardisation, however, admirable an objective, may go against procurement from British sources. One of the most popular announcements that my right hon. Friend made since becoming Secretary of State was the decision to go ahead with Nimrod, which was a British plane. A valuable capability has been added to the Alliance, but it could not be said to be a step towards standardisation. We may shortly be faced with difficult decisions as a result of the American decision to go for a smoothbore tank gun for their next generation of main battle tanks.
I turn now to the question of pay. The Government have accepted that the Armed Forces have lost in terms of comparability over the past couple of years, ever since the 1975 pay review of this Government which brought them back to the full comparability which they had lost under a Tory Administration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said that it was absurd to expect pronouncements before the Armed Forces Pay Review Body reported. It is dishonest to claim that they should be made.
My right hon. Friend has been attacked for not disclosing private conversations.
§ Mr. Mates rose—
§ Dr. Gilbert
There is no question of our hiding behind the Pay Review Body as the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr.
362 Goodhew) suggested. The report is due very soon. It is with the Pay Review Body. It will be published. The Government's response will be made public shortly thereafter. The Government will then stand by such criticism as may or may not be directed towards them as a result of their response to the Pay Review Body's report.
It would be interesting to know what the Conservative Party would propose to do on pay. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Pay more."] Pay more.
§ Dr. Gilbert
In a moment. The Opposition do not say how much more. Do they suggest 10 per cent., 20 per cent., 25 per cent., 30 per cent., 50 per cent.? Why are they so coy? Why do they not tell us how much more they would pay?
§ Mr. Churchill
The Opposition are asking for a return to full comparability in a time scale no less favourable than that accorded by the Government to the firemen. Will the Minister give that undertaking?
§ Dr. Gilbert
Splendid. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I shall answer in my own way. When asked what a return to comparability involves, no answer comes from the hon. Member for Stretford. Of course no answer comes. He cannot answer that question until he has seen the Pay Review Body's report. He knows that it is dishonest to suggest any extra amount until he has seen the report.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Pay Review Body was under Government domination. If so, I take it that he will pay no attention to its recommendations when the report is published. Of course he will pay attention to its recommendations. It is thoroughly dishonest to suggest that we should know what the Pay Review Body will report.
My right hon. Friend has made a firm commitment that the Armed Forces will be restored to full comparability as soon as pay policy permits. The hon. Gentleman knows that. My right hon. Friend has given that commitment on more than one occasion from this Dispatch Box, and the hon. Gentleman knows it perfectly well. The Opposition either know or do not know what they would do.
363 I turn now to the proposal by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham about the size of the Defence Vote. He does not know by how much he would increase it. By more than 4 per cent., he said. But he does not say by how much more. Not surprisingly, he regrets that he ever gave a figure at all. That was the wisest thing that he said in a very poor speech. He does not know what base line he would take it from. Is it 1 per cent. of the 1977–78 Estimates, which is £63.3 million; 1 per cent. of the 1978–79 Estimates, which is £62.9 million; or 1 per cent. of the plans for 1980–81, which is £66.6 million. It is a range, on any conceivable base, apart from the flight of fancy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulplans for 1980–81, which is £66.6 million? million. The right hon. Gentleman cannot make up his mind. That is the measure of the difference, unless he is prepared to say differently, between his proposals and those of my right hon. Friend.
What would that £60 million buy him? I shall tell him. It will possibly buy one
§ frigate; about two-thirds of one nuclear attack submarine, or a lot less than half of one through-deck cruiser. That is what the right hon. Gentleman is making such a row about, and that is the basis on which the amendment is moved.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
The right hon. Gentleman knows that it was not my figure. I said at least 4 per cent. I recommend him not to pay any more attention to it than he pays to the Chancellor's figure of 8.4 per cent.
§ Dr. Gilbert
Four per cent. of what? The right hon. Gentleman does not know. [HoN. MEMBERS "More than 4 per cent"] All right, more than 4 per cent. That is more than two-thirds of one nuclear attack submarine or more than half of one through-deck cruiser. It is not surprising, with that kind of leadership, that the right hon. Gentleman is known not as the leader of the Left of his party but as the leader of the "wets".
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 246, Noes 285.367
|Division No. 147]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Cormack, Patrick||Griffiths, Eldon|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Costain, A. P.||Grist, Ian|
|Alison, Michael||Critchley, Julian||Grylls, Michael|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Crouch, David||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Arnold, Tom||Crowder, F. P.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hannam, John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Drayson, Burnaby||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Bell, Ronald||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Hastings, Stephen|
|Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North)||Durant, Tony||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Dykes, Hugh||Hawkins, Paul|
|Benyon, W.||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Elliott, Sir William||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Biffen, John||Emery, Peter||Heseltine, Michael|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Hicks, Robert|
|Body, Richard||Fairgrieve, Russell||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Farr, John||Hodgson, Robin|
|Bottomley, Peter||Fell, Anthony||Holland, Philip|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Hordern, Peter|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Brittan, Leon||Fookes, Miss Janet||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Brooke, Peter||Forman, Nigel||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Hurd, Douglas|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fox, Marcus||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fry, Peter||James, David|
|Buck, Antony||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)|
|Budgen, Nick||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Burden, F. A.||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Jopling, Michael|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Carlisle, Mark||Glyn Dr Alan||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Churchill, W. S.||Goodhart, Philip||Kilfedder, James|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Goodhew, Victor||Kimball, Marcus|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Goodlad, Alastair||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gorst, John||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Cockroft, John||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Cope, John||Gray, Hamlsh||Knox, David|
|Lamont, Norman||Nelson, Anthony||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Neubert, Michael||Speed, Keith|
|Latham, Michael (Melton)||Newton, Tony||Spence, John|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Onslow, Cranley||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Lawson, Nigel||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Sproat, lain|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Page, Richard (Workington)||Stanley, John|
|Lloyd, Ian||Parkinson, Cecil||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Loveridge, John||Pattie, Geoffrey||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Percival, Ian||Stokes, John|
|McCrindle, Robert||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Pink, R. Bonner||Tapsell, Peter|
|MacGregor, John||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Taylor, R (Croydon NW)|
|MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Prior, Rt Hon James||Tebbit, Norman|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Raison, Timothy||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Rathbone, Tim||Thomas, Rt Hon P (Hendon S)|
|Marten, Neil||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Mates, Michael||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Trotter, Neville|
|Mather, Carol||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Maude, Angus||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Rhodes James, R.||Viggers, Peter|
|Mawby, Ray||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Wakeham, John|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Ridsdale, Julian||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Walker, Rt Hon P (Worcester)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Wall, Patrick|
|Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Walters, Dennis|
|Mills, Peter||Royle, Sir Anthony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Sainsbury, Tim||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wells, John|
|Moate, Roger||Scott, Nicholas||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Monro, Hector||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Winterlon, Nicholas|
|Moore, John (Croydon C)||Shepherd, Colin||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Shersby, Michael||Young, Sir G. (Eallng, Acton)|
|Morgan, Geraint||Silvester, Fred||Younger, Hon George|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Sims, Roper|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Sinclair, Sir George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Mudd, David||Smith Dudley (Warwick)||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
|Abse, Leo||Cartwright, John||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Allaun, Frank||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)|
|Anderson, Donald||Clemitson, Ivor||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Flannery, Martin|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cohen, Stanley||Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)|
|Ashley, Jack||Coleman, Donald||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Ashton, Joe||Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Concannon, Rt Hon John||Ford, Ben|
|Atkinson, Norman||Conlan, Bernard||Forrester, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Corbett, Robin||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Cowans, Harry||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Freud, Clement|
|Bates, Alf||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Bean, R. E.||Crawford, Douglas||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Beith, A. J.||Crawshaw, Richard||George, Bruce|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Cronin, John||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Ginsburg, David|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cryer, Bob||Golding, John|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davidson, Arthur||Graham, Ted|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Deakins, Eric||Grocott, Bruce|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Bradley, Tom||Dempsey, James||Hart, Rt Hon Judith|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Doig, Peter||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dormand, J. D.||Hayman, Mrs Helene|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Buchan, Norman||Duffy, A. E. P.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Buchanan, Richard||Dunn, James A.||Hooley, Frank|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Dunnett, Jack||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Eadle, Alex||Horam, John|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Edge, Geoff||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Campbell, Ian||Ellis, John (Brlgg & Scun)||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Canavan, Dennis||English, Michael||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Cant, R. B.||Ennals, Rt Hon David||Huckfield, Les|
|Carmichael, Neil||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Carter, Ray||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Hunter, Adam||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Snape, Peter|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Moyle, Roland||Stallard, A. W.|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Janner, Greville||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Newens, Stanley||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Noble, Mike||Stoddart, David|
|John, Brynmor||Oakes, Gordon||Stott, Roger|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Ogden, Eric||Strang, Gavin|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||O'Halloran, Michael||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Orbach, Maurice||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Swain, Thomas|
|Judd, Frank||Ovenden, John||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Kelley, Richard||Padley, Walter||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Kerr, Russell||Palmer, Arthur||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Park, George||Thompson, George|
|Lambie, David||Parker, John||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Parry, Robert||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Lamond, James||Pavitt, Laurie||Tierney, Sydney|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Pendry, Tom||Tinn, James|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Panhaligon, David||Tomney, Frank|
|Lee, John||Perry, Ernest||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Phipps, Dr Colin||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Price, William (Rugby)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Litterick, Tom||Radice, Giles||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Reid, George||Ward, Michael|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Richardson, Miss Jo||Watkins, David|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Watt, Hamish|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Weetch, Ken|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Robinson, Geoffrey||Weitzman, David|
|McElhone, Frank||Roderick, Caerwyn||Wellbeloved, James|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Welsh, Andrew|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Rooker, J. W.||White, James (Pollok)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Rose, Paul B.||Whitlock, William|
|Maclennan, Robert||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Ross, Rt Hon W (Kilmarnock)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Madden, Max||Rowlands, Ted||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Magee, Bryan||Ryman, John||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Sandelson, Neville||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Sedgemore, Brian||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Selby, Harry||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Sever, John||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Woodall, Alec|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Woof, Robert|
|Mendelson, John||Shors, Rt Hon Peter||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Mikardo, Ian||Sllkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Silkin, Rt Hoi S. C. (Dulwlch)|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbrlde)||Sillars, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mitchell, Austin||Silver[...] Julius||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Molloy, William||Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put:—
|Division No. 148]||AYES||[10.18 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Colquhoun, Ms Maureen|
|Allaun, Frank||Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Concannon, Rt Hon John|
|Anderson, Donald||Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bradley, Tom||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Corbett, Robin|
|Ashley, Jac[...]||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Cowans, Harry|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Buchan, Norman||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Buchanan, Richard||Crawford, Douglas|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Cronin, John|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Campbell, Ian||Cryer, Bob|
|Bates, Alf||Cant, R. B.||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)|
|Bean, R. E.||Carmichael, Neil||Davidson, Arthur|
|Beith, A. J.||Carter, Ray||Davles, Rt Hon Denzil|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Cartwright, John||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Deakins, Eric|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Clemitson, Ivor||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Dempsey, James|
|Boardman, H.||Cohen, Stanley||Doig, Peter|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Coleman, Donald||Dormand, J. D.|
§ The House divided: Ayes 276, Noes 246.371
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lambie, David||Rooker, J. W.|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lamborn, Harry||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dunn, James A.||Lamond, James||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Edge, Geoff||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Ryman, John|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sandelson, Neville|
|English, Michael||Litterick, Tom||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Lomas, Kenneth||Selby, Harry|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Sever, John|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McElhone, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Flannery, Martin||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Sillars, James|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Silverman, Julius|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mackintosh, John P.||Skinner, Dennis|
|Ford, Ben||Maclennan, Robert||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Forrester, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Snape, Peter|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Madden, Max||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Magee, Bryan||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Freud, Clement||Marks, Kenneth||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Stoddart, David|
|Garrelt, W. E. (Wallsend)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Stott, Roger|
|George, Bruce||Maynard, Miss Joan||Strang, Gavin|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Ginsburg, David||Mendelson, John||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Golding, John||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Swain, Thomas|
|Gourlay, Harry||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mitchell, Austin||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Molloy, William||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Grlmond, Rt Hon J.||Moonman, Eric||Thompson, George|
|Grocott, Bruce||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Harper, Joseph||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Tierney, Sydney|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Moyle, Roland||Tinn, James|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Tomney, Frank|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||Newens, Stanley||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Noble, Mike||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Oakes, Gordon||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Hooley, Frank||Ogden, Eric||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||O'Halloran, Michael||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Horam, John||Orbach, Maurice||Ward, Michael|
|Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Watkins, David|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Ovenden, John||Watt, Hamish|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Weetch, Ken|
|Huckfield, Les||Padley Walter||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Palmer, Arthur||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Park, George||Welsh, Andrew|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Parker, John||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Hunter, Adam||Parry, Robert||White, James (Pollok)|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||pavitt, Laurie||Whitlock, William|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Pendry Tom||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Panhaligon, David||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Janner, Greville||Perry, Ernest|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Phipps, Dr Colin||Williams, Rt Hon Shiriey (Herifort)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Price, C. (Lewlsham W)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|John Brynmor||Price, William (Rugby)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Radice, Glles||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Woodall, Alec|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Reid, George||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Judd, Frank||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Kelley, Richard||Roderick, Caerwyn||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kerr, Russell||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Mr. A. W. Stallard and|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Mr. Ted Graham.|
|Adley, Robert||Benyon, W.||Brotherton, Michael|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Berry, Hon Anthony||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)|
|Alison, Michael||Bitten, John||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Biggs-Davison, John||Buchanan-Smith, Alick|
|Arnold, Tom||Body, Richard||Buck, Antony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Boscawen, Hon Robert||Budgen, Nick|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Bottomley, Peter||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Awdry, Daniel||Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Burden, F. A.|
|Baker, Kenneth||Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)|
|Bell, Ronald||Bralne, Sir Bernard||Carlisle, Mark|
|Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North)||Brittan, Leon||Chalker, Mrs Lynda|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Brooke, Peter||Churchill, W. S.|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||James, David||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Cockroft, John||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Raison, Timothy|
|Cope, John||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jopling, Michael||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Costain, A. P.||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Critchley, Julian||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Crouch, David||Kershaw, Anthony||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kilfedder, James||Rhodes James, R.|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Kimball, Marcus||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Knight, Mrs Jill||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Durant, Tony||Knox, David||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lamont, Norman||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Elliott, Sir William||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Lawrence, Ivan||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lawson, Nigel||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Shepherd, Colin|
|Farr, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Shersby, Michael|
|Fell, Anthony||Lloyd, Ian||Silvester, Fred|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Loverldge, John||Sims, Roger|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||McCrindle, Robert||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Macfarlane, Neil||Smith. Dudley (Warwick)|
|Forman, Nigel||MacGregor, John||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Speed, Keith|
|Fox, Marcus||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Spence, John|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||McNair Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Fry, Peter||McNalr-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Sproat, lain|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stainton, Keith|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Marten, Neil||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mates, Michael||Stanley, John|
|Gilmour. Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Mather, Carol||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Maude, Angus||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Stokes, John|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Mawby, Ray||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Tapsell, Peter|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mayhew, Patrick||Taylor, R (Croydon NW)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Gorst, John||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mills, Peter||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Miscampbell, Norman||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Gray, Hamish||Mitchell, David (Baslngstoke)||Thomas, Rt Hon P (Hendon S)|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Moate, Roger||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Grist, Ian||Monro, Hector||Trotter, Neville|
|Grylls, Michael||Montgomery, Fergus||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Viggers, Peter|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Morgan, Geraint||Wakeham, John|
|Hannam, John||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Walker, Rt Hon P (Worcester)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mudd, David||Walters, Dennis|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Neave, Alrey||Warren, Kenneth|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nelson, Anthony||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Neubert, Michael||Wells, John|
|Heseltine, Michael||Newton, Tony||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Hicks, Robert||Onslow, Cranley||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Hodgson, Robin||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Holland, Philip||Page, Richard (Workington)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Hordern, Peter||Parkinson, Cecil||Younger, Hon George|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Percival, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Pink, R. Bonner||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That this House endorses Her Majesty's Government's policy set out in the Statement 372 on the Defence Estimates 1978 (Command Paper No. 7099) of basing British security on collective effort to deter aggression, while seeking every opportunity to reduce tension through international agreements on arms control and disarmament.