Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [26 March]:
That this House endorses Her Majesty's Government's policy set out in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1979 (Command Paper No. 7474) 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.]
Which amendment was, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'declines to take note of the White Paper because it provides for a massive increase in military expenditure to £8,588 million in the year 1979–80, which will add to world tension, divert resources from urgent social needs and contravenes Her Majesty's Government's election pledge to give active support to policies designed to redeploy armaments industries to the manufacture of alternative socially useful products, as advocated by Lucas Aerospace and other workers; and reaffirms Labour's commitment not to proceed to a new generation of nuclear weapons'.—[Mr. Frank Allaun.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Yesterday I was able to call only 15 Back Benchers. One speech lasted for 38 minutes, which certainly cut out at least two other hon. Members. There are at least 25 hon. Members who wish to speak today. I hope that no one will approach the Chair today, because it is much too difficult for me to deal with inquiries of that sort and to do justice by the House. It is also much more unpleasant for me.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. A. E. P. Duffy)
In opening the second day's debate on the Defence Estimates 1979, I refer to the speech yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck). His reappearance at the Dispatch Box last night must have brought pleasure to hon. Members on both sides of the House. He certainly addressed himself to his subject with all the composure and authority that the House would expect from a former Minister.
I shall take up a couple of his points arising from yesterday's debate. He asked for a cost of living allowance to be paid 275 to sailors visiting expensive foreign countries. I regret that I can tell him only that the question of sea-going local overseas allowance for North-West Europe is still being considered.
The hon. and learned Gentleman made a plea for a strong naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Royal Navy deploys world-wide, and our plans for this year have included, for some time, a group visit to Australasia and the Western Pacific, passing through the Mediterranean, where they will take part in a major NATO exercise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) raised the question of the pay of upholsteresses in the Royal dockyards. I have discussed this matter with him many times. The work that these upholsteresses do is work which elsewhere in the MOD is not regarded as craft work. It is not a question of discrimination; it is purely a question of the nature of the work. The matter is still on the agenda for discussion by the shipbuilding trades joint council, which is responsible for the matter, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will not expect me to go further while it still remains a matter for negotiation. My hon. Friend also asked about the closure of air cadet gliding schools. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force is well aware of the problem and will be writing to my hon. Friend shortly.
I shall now concentrate on some aspects of defence not covered in detail by my right hon. Friend yesterday—the operations and activities of the Armed Forces, including the contribution that they make to the community at large, which is often taken for granted. I should also like to say something about the equipment programme. If our Armed Forces are to play their part in time of tension or war, it is essential for them to test their preparedness for their role. To this end, all three Services attach great importance to taking part in exercises, either under national command or jointly with our allies.
At sea, the largest exercise of the year was "Northern Wedding", one of the most powerful ever held by NATO. It was designed to demonstrate the readiness and effectiveness of the Alliance in 276 conducting maritime, amphibious and air operations and to test NATO's operational techniques.
Later in the year HMS "Ark Royal", in her last appearance in a NATO role, led the United Kingdom contribution to "Display Determination", which took place in the Mediterranean. This exercise, involving land, sea and air forces, was aimed at demonstrating and improving NATO's capability to reinforce her southern flank.
Both these exercises formed part of the autumn "Forge" series of exercises, which linked together NATO and national exercises held throughout Allied Command Europe in the autumn of 1978. Of exercises on land which formed part of the series and in which the United Kingdom participated, I would mention "Bold Guard". Troops of the United Kingdom Mobile Force, including units of the TAVR, took part in this exercise in North Germany which aimed to test external reinforcement of the Baltic Approaches.
Apart from participating in these major NATO exercises, United Kingdom forces, in particular the Royal Marines, regularly exercise each winter in North Norway, together with the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, in order to gain experience of Arctic and mountain warfare in preparation for their operational role in the defence of the northern flank of NATO.
While our defence effort must be concentrated on NATO, we do not intend to neglect the rest of the world. The British record in the training of forces in many parts of the globe is a distinguished one.
Outside the NATO area we have several specific defence commitments that entail the stationing of forces. In Hong Kong, for example, where we are responsible for the colony's defence and security, we have a garrison drawn from all three Services. Our defence commitment to Belize is also represented by all three Services.
In Cyprus a force protects our sovereign base areas and mans the airfield at Akrotiri.
Outside Europe we retain a Gurkha battalion in Brunei and shall continue to do so until 1983. In the Falkland Islands there is a continuing requirement for the 277 Royal Marines detachment to be stationed there and to deploy HMS "Endurance" to the area.
Apart from the specific commitments to which I have just referred, we must be prepared to deploy forces outside the NATO area to meet other responsibilities—for example, for the external defence and internal security of our remaining dependent territories, for United Nations peacekeeping operations and, of course, for the safety of British citizens overseas, where the need arises.
I am sure that at this point the House would wish me to pay a tribute to the efforts of the Services in the recent evacuation from Iran. Their calm efficiency was praised, I believe, by all those who were evacuated.
I should like to mention in particular two areas of operations—Northern Ireland and fishery protection. Nowhere are the high standards of professionalism of the British solder more apparent than in Northern Ireland. The other two Services also provide essential help. The 40 Royal Marine Commando is just beginning a 12-month tour of Ballykelly, while the RAF provides vital mobility. We are now working on plans to introduce another resident battalion as and when suitable accommodation is available.
When I last visited the Province I was impressed by the skill, the determination and the resourcefulness with which the Armed Forces, including the UDR, carry out their exacting and often dangerous task.
Besides Northern Ireland, the other major non-NATO role of the forces is fishery protection. I believe that hon. Members now recognise how successful the arrangements we made to meet the expanded commitment have been in operation. The Island class vessels, with their endurance and seakeeping, have shown themselves capable of meeting the patrolling task in some of the roughest and most inhospitable waters in the world. Our satisfaction is such that we have ordered two more, which will enter service this year.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston-upon Hull, West)
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, speaking at an international conference in Hull last weekend, emphasised 278 that conservation is absolutely vital to our fishing stocks? Skippers at that conference told him that without enforcement conservation policy was a mockery. Would my hon. Friend enlarge on that and tell us what has happened in the last 12 months? Are our skippers justified in believing that they have been looked after?
§ Mr. Duffy
I know that my hon. Friend would not expect me to comment on conservation policy, but I shall gladly inform the House of our success in enforcement. In the 12 months preceding the end of last month, we boarded 1,622 fishing vessels. Twenty-two convictions for fishery offences have followed. An indispensable part of our plan for fishery protection is the part played by RAF Nimrod aircraft and the information that they pass to the Fisheries Department. They have been of immense value in the deployment of the Island class ships and to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Scotland, civilian-manned ships which patrol the area to the west of Scotland.
The Island class vessels are also equipped to provide assistance in emergency, having a fire fighting and an oil dispersant spraying capability and a range of communications equipment giving them a control and command facility.
I am mindful of the remarks last night by my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright). The Island class vessels and Nimrod patrol aircraft have another, equally important, task to perform, since they also undertake regular surveillance and deterrent patrols of the offshore oil and gas installations around our shores. They represent, therefore, in a very tangible form, the Government's commitment to protect these vital installations.
As well as these continuous tasks, the Services undertake a number of activities on a more ad hoc basis. As the House will be aware, search and rescue operations are carried out by the Services all the year round, but the Services contribute personnel and equipment in other areas such as in snow and flood relief.
§ Mr. Alec Woodall (Hemsworth)
My hon. Friend has mentioned the search and rescue services carried out by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force in perilous seas. Will he also bear in mind 279 the magnificent contribution made by all the Services in bitter weather conditions inland? Is he aware of the magnificent contribution made by RAF Wittering during the recent terrible Arctic conditions? They turned out in a terrible storm and took in 500 people who were trapped in their vehicles, including my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) and me, and gave us food and shelter. We shall be for ever grateful to RAF Wittering.
§ Mr. Duffy
I was going to confine myself to the contribution made by the Services in rescuing personnel and equipment from the snow and floods, but it is right, as my hon. Friend says, that I should remind the House that the work of the Services, especially this winter, on the ground and in the air and often in the most appalling conditions, has extended to providing generous hospitality.
Can the House imagine that any other establishment would have responded so impressively and readily on the night that my hon. Friends the Members for Hems-worth (Mr. Woodall) and Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) and 500 others were marooned? They were invited in and looked after for up to 16 hours. Only a Services establishment such as RAF Wittering could have responsed so magnificently.
The Services also continue as a matter of routine to assist wherever possible in a variety of projects of social value to the community. Typical activities have included land clearance and the preparation of recreational facilities.
I turn to the defence equipment programme. I trust that hon. Members will have seen that we have adopted a new approach to chapter 3 of this year's defence White Paper and I hope that they will find this useful. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), unlike his hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson), obviously did not notice this, since he appeared to have read only two paragraphs. He overlooked the substantial improvements that we are making in the Services' equipment. A sizeable block of resources—some 40 per cent, of the defence budget, or nearly £3,500 million—will be devoted in the coming year to the development or procurement of equipment. Of this, about 90 per cent. 280 goes to United Kingdom industry or to collaborative programmes in which the United Kingdom is involved. Our aim this year has been to show more clearly why this equipment is needed, by relating it to the various roles and tasks of the defence forces, many of which involve more than one Service.
To match the progress made by the Warsaw Pact in the quality and quantity of its weapons, and to keep abreast of advances in technology, we need to apply considerable resources in industry, and in defence research and development establishments, to development. As the hon. Member for Chichester observed, there is over £1,150 million in the Estimates for research and development in 1979–80.
I take one major example from the defence research and development programme, the beginning of project definition of the Chieftain tank replacement, known as MBT 80. Like all major development ventures, the complete development programme will take a number of years to produce a completely new generation of tank.
A special MBT 80 executive has been set up in the Ministry of Defence to carry this project forward with the highest priority in the Army equipment programme. Development is not confined to single-Service projects. For example, we have continually to improve our means of detecting, and acquiring as targets, opposing forces and weapons, whether these be, say, submarines, incoming missiles or armour. Much effort is being devoted, for example, to the development of new sonar devices mounted on ships or deployed from aircraft. I emphasise the extent to which our development programme aims to reap all possible benefit from the revolution in computing and microprocessing. Ever more sophisticated computers are under development for use in avionics systems and homing weapons.
All three Services have development programmes which will harness automatic data processing in such a way as to achieve major advances in command and control in the next decade. The application of ADP to the land battle is foreseen. Developments are in hand at a tactical level to improve computerised shipborne action information and fire control systems and at a strategic level to update 281 the United Kingdom air defence ground facilities.
Developments in these related fields of command, control and communications are increasingly important in the face of the numerical superiority of the Warsaw Pact.
I turn to our production programmes and refer specifically to next year, as against looking 10 years' ahead. I shall indicate some of the main areas in which we shall be spending the Estimates between now and next March.
In the coming year a greater proportion of the equipment programme will be devoted to production of aircraft and associated weapons, including about £750 million on fixed-wing aircraft alone. By far the largest contributor is the Tornado GR Mark 1, where production of the first 150 aircraft for the three partners is well advanced. The first RAF aircraft are due in service next year. Other significant fixed-wing production programmes—besides the large requirement for spares and repairs—include the Sea Harrier and additional RAF Harriers and the Hawk trainer, whilst a principal helicopter programme in collaboration with the French is the Lynx.
About £250 million is to be spent this year in our shipyards on fighting ships. Work will be in progress on six classes of major ships including all three new antisubmarine warfare cruisers; nuclear-powered fleet submarines including the improved Trafalgar class; Type-42 destroyers and Type-22 frigates, of which the first, "Broadsword", was recently accepted, as well as the glass-reinforced plastic advanced mine countermeasures vessels of the Hunt class, of which the first, HMS "Brecon", the world's largest glass-reinforced plastic ship, will enter service this year.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
Has not the cost of the "Broadsword"—the Type 22—only slightly exceeded in some cases the cost of refitting the Leanders? Would it not have been a better bargain to have sold the Leanders off and commissioned a larger construction programme for the Type 22?
§ Mr. Duffy
I shall ask my hon. Friend to take up that matter, which is of importance and which is of interest to me. I 282 should like a considered reply to be given to that question.
Nearly £500 million is earmarked for production this year of guided weapons and associated systems, missiles and torpedoes for the Services, including major programmes for the Skyflash air-to-air missile, the Milan- and Tow anti-tank guided weapons, the Rapier ground-based air defence missile, the Mark 24 heavyweight torpedo and shipborne Sea Dart and Sea Wolf missile systems.
Also there is nearly £500 million to be spent on the production of Army systems and vehicles. If I may pick on just a few items here, the coming year sees the peak of expenditure on equipping the Army with the FH70 gun and the combat engineer tractor; re-equipment with the Clansman radio is in full swing; and there is continuing expenditure on supplying the Army's vehicle fleet.
Those are just some of the major projects on which the Government are spending money this year. The defence equipment programme is specifically aimed at supplying the equipment for our Armed Forces, of course. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the important benefits that the defence programme brings to the economic life of the country, as the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) reminded the House last night.
The reliance of our main contractors on their subcontractors, for example, and of these subcontractors on their own suppliers, and so on, the whole way down the chain, is an important feature of the defence equipment programme. It is therefore worth remembering that the size and complexity of the overall defence equipment programme, along with the industrial structure that supports it, make for a considerable degree of inflexibility in the programme, especially in the short term.
The programme is not something that can simply be cut dramatically or substantially increased overnight. The essence of our equipment programme is that it is a long-term programme with very considerable industrial implications, and, because of this, immediate decreases— and increases—in defence spending on equipment are not sensible courses of action, leading as they must to a less efficient use of resources both by us and within industry. Therefore, I hope that 283 those hon. Gentlemen opposite who sometimes seem to have an addiction to immediate calls for more tanks, missiles, ships or whatever, without any reference to the industrial capabilities available to produce them, or, indeed, the funds, will bear that in mind. I hope they will also bear in mind the judgment of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson)—the Liberal Party spokesman on defence—who declared himself in his own contribution to our debate last nightconvinced that the Government have got it about right on defence".—[Official Report, 26 March 1979, Vol. 965, c. 115.]So I conclude: we have a programme that continually improves the equipment of all three Services, and hence the balanced contribution that our forces make to NATO; and in achieving that there are incidental but substantial benefits to the wider economy.
I commend to the House the motion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)
It is not unknown for speakers in these debates to compare the dearth of real information in our defence White Papers with the annual United States defence posture statement by the Secretary for Defence. In the very substantial American document, there is at least a recognition that problems and issues exist and that the public might just have a right to know about these matters, bearing in mind that they pay for the bills.
What is particularly interesting in the American system is another, smaller document, described as an overview, by General David C. Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If that feature were translated into our system, there would be quite a scramble to secure copies of the overview of British defence policy written by our own Chief of the Defence Staff. Then we might be allowed to know official views on the issues that confront British defence policy, instead of which we have this little document, the White Paper, which sidesteps every issue with the agility of a Welsh wing three-quarter and is nothing more than a glorified head count and stores check, with occasional chatty descriptions of adventure training, written in the style of the "RAF News".
Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
The hon. Gentleman has just enunciated a very interesting doctrine, that the Chief of the Defence Staff in this country should be able to issue his own assessment. That is a very interesting proposal. Does he have the consent of his right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) for that proposal?
§ Mr. Pattie
I said that if this American feature were imported into our particular system, it would be extremely interesting—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] In a new context, in the new situation in which we shall find ourselves when we come into office, obviously we shall want to consider that and any other suggestions. We are very glad to know that we shall have the hon. Gentleman's support.
Noting the occasional chatty descriptions of adventure training to which I have referred, I almost expected to turn a page in the White Paper and find some pictures of the squadron mascots, or perhaps of the Secretary of State listening to the sound of distant jet engines, or of the Minister of State swinging from ship to ship by jackstay. But no; the White Paper is a form of annual report on our Armed Forces. If the nationalised industries are anything to go by, the degree of glossiness in their annual reports is in inverse ratio to the amount of information imparted, in which case this White Paper ought to be a lavish production, full of photographs and printed on high quality paper, because it tells us very little indeed.
I have, however, to confess to some sneaking admiration for the authors, because of the considerable skill shown in the writing. It takes great skill to refer to the Polaris strategic system and completely to avoid any mention of the major debate that must commence this year on the replacement of that system—undoubtedly, the major defence decision facing a new Conservative Government. There is not one word about the finite hull life of the submarines or the options that exist for replacement, even though it is widely accepted that a decision has to be made in 1980, one that will have a crucial bearing on the defence policy of the country for the rest of the century and beyond.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I think the Minister said yesterday quite clearly that there was no 285 necessity for a decision since the present system was good until 1990. I wonder whether my hon. Friend would like to comment on that.
§ Mr. Pattie
That is correct. The present system is good until 1990, or perhaps a year or two after that, but the point is that the long lead time with modern systems means that we must have a decision in 1980. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that point.
There is no debate in the White Paper; there is no problem at all. Even the Prime Minister said quite recently in this House that a decision would have to be taken in the next two years—but, poor chap, he does not even get a mention. It takes considerable skill to write about the strategic arms limitation agreement without making any mention of the legitimate anxieties of the United Kingdom and other European NATO allies about the non-circumvention clause in the draft protocol. It is of absolutely fundamental importance to us to know whether we shall be able to receive key items of technology from the United States. As far as the White Paper is concerned, that potential problem does not exist.
It takes considerable skill to write about the MBFR talks and other disarmament matters at length without once referring to the so-called "grey areas". True, the Backfire bomber and the SS20 have been mentioned elsewhere, but these systems are not considered in the context of arms control generally. As far as the White Paper is concerned, "grey areas" do not exist and our cities could remain targeted by the SS20.
Considerable skill has also been used to write a White Paper which makes no mention of the cruise missile. So far as the authors are concerned, it might never have been invented. The implications of its use in either nuclear or conventional mode are considerable for this country, but there is not one word about it. No mention is made of the burgeoning foreign exchange costs of keeping our forces in Germany. This is widely recognised as a serious and growing problem which will not conveniently go away, but no attempt is made to address it.
Any White Paper making a proper assessment would address itself to these major problems: Polaris replacement, arms control implications, BAOR costs 286 and, another major issue, the future structure of our Armed Forces. No attempt has been made to consider the fundamental question of relating our military tasks to our future economic capabilities. Are we to go on trying to carry out all tasks, or is there a case for concentrating on certain specified roles? For example, is the Navy to concentrate on antisubmarine warfare and maritime air power, the Army to concentrate on being a light air-portable force and the Royal Air Force to concentrate on air defence and ground support? There is nothing about any of these. There are no factual inaccuracies of which I am aware. It is what is left out that counts. This is, in short, a suppressio veri document. The only part that appears to be fully accurate is the section on Warsaw Pact capability. There may be some significance in that fact.
The long-term development programme is mentioned. It is all very well to list the aims of the long-term development programme as agreed through NATO as though they had happened already, but how about a progress check? How about a situation report to tell the House and the great British public, who are paying for all this, about how it is going? It is listed here as though it can be taken for granted, as though it had already happened.
There is brief mention in the early part of the White Paper of disaster relief. It is mentioned in passing. But a great opportunity has been missed to have a whole section on the peaceful use of military forces. We all know what the peaceful use of military forces means. There are basically three tasks: peacekeeping for the United Nations, disaster relief and military aid to civilian communities in the form of roads, bridges, afforestation and drainage operations, and vocational instruction. On disaster relief, there is urgent need to persuade NATO to set up a standing group which will co-ordinate the resources made available by member States. Everyone calls for this kind of assistance whenever there is a disaster, but it has to be done beforehand. Unfortunately, the White Paper could not even get this right by including it.
One of the most important pieces of truth which has been suppressed is the amount of remedial action which the Government had to take once they realised 287 the consequences of their 1974 cuts. We are reminded that in August 1978 increased manpower was authorised for the Army to the tune of a further 1,900 men, in addition to the 4,000 men authorised previously, but anyone who collects the press release of the Ministry of Defence will have noticed that they were rather more candid than the White Paper has been with the House. The press release dated 15 August 1978 states:The need for this further increase stems from a number of factors. First, it has become clear that the reductions in unit establishments that were implemented as part of the restructuring of the Army have had some adverse effects which were not originally expected. Experience of restructured establishments has shown that units have had some difficulty in meeting all the demands made of them in peacetime.Hon. Members who visited BAOR know that that certainly is the case.
Last night the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, in a rather curious speech, used some unusual long words, including "schizophrenia". I was interested that he should have used that word because it is fairly obvious that his speech was written by two people, one person writing the beginning and talking about long lead times, and someone else writing the last part and talking about the accelerated implementation of equipment programmes.
The Under-Secretary of State referred to a speech I made in Chicago—I have a copy of it here—in which I said that the introduction of Milan and Tow antitank weapons had been delayed in the face of a rapidly increasing Soviet tank threat. I repeat that. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army said that that could not be true because the Government had accelerated the introduction of these weapons into the Army. He does not seem to be aware that Tow entered service with the United States forces in 1972, the MOU was signed in 1975, evaluation took two years and purchase was released in 1977. That is what I call delay. For Milan the MOU was signed in October 1976. Here we are in 1979. The Minister might well talk about accelerated production—I should hope he would—but that does not in any way refute what I said on that occasion.
No mention is made of another reorganisation which was spoken about a 288 few years ago, the abolition of brigade level of command in Germany. That was a disaster in practice. Moreover, it created vast turbulence for nothing. We heard in earlier White Papers that "Bulwark" would be paid off. "Bulwark" is now back in. We heard some years ago that the 41 Commando battalion was to be disbanded. That is now back in. We heard that Gurkha battalions were to be withdrawn from Brunei; now they are staying. We are delighted by all these changes, but they are evidence of a realisation by the Government that the cuts they made four or five years ago went too far.
We have been told that Sea Harriers are coming in. We are not told why they are continually being ordered in penny packets—one order for 24, an order for 10 and a further order for 10. Would it not be more sensible for industry to have an order for 50 straight off? It does not help industrial planning, to which the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy referred in his speech earlier today.
We are not told whether the Navy is to get its airborne early warning cover now that the Gannets have gone ashore. The Backfire is a very serious threat; our Phantoms cannot get near it. It is no good saying that it has to come down and slow down to release its missiles. That would be relevant only if we were able to keep up with it in the meantime, and we cannot.
We are not told that, although work continues on new systems, such as replacements for it, the Mark VIII torpedo is still used as the main anti-ship weapon by our nuclear hunter-killer submarines and it is more than 50 years old. No mention is made of the Type 24 concept, a first-class idea for developing a new class of ships for export which can be used, if necessary, by the Royal Navy.
We are told about the need to improve productivity in the dockyards, but we are not told that refits are taking 20 per cent, longer and spares are not in overall good supply. Captains are taking their ships to sea with equipment not working rather than risk further delays.
We are told that a new fleet support ship is included in the Estimates, as are two 289 fleet tankers. They are very welcome. We are not told that these were all cut out in the 1974 review and have had to be restored through sheer necessity.
We are told that RFA "Tarbatness" is being converted for amphibious support for the Royal Marine Commando. We arc not told that this is because trials have shown that the 1974 defence review idea of getting Royal Marines ashore tactically from North Sea ferries was not on.
We are told that the coverage of Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles is being extended, but it is not pointed out that the system is virtually obsolescent. We are told that we have only six air defence squadrons in the United Kingdom, although "only" is not employed. We are meant to be reassured by the fact that this tiny number is refuelled in the air and is supported by our ancient Shackleton airborne early warning aircraft.
We are told something about the highly important future tactical combat aircraft. We should have welcomed confirmation that the RAF has decided on two modes—a ground support aircraft, and an air superiority fighter. Co-operation for one or other of these could come from the United States as well as from the Federal Republic of Germany.
The Chinook medium-lift helicopter is listed without the batting of an eyelid. The project has been approved and it has been in the budget for several years without being ordered. Therefore, it is extremely overdue. In a written answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) on 22 March 1979, it is shown as having been cancelled by the Labour Government in 1967. But it is one of the projects now being vaunted as an improvement to our Armed Forces.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. James Wellbeloved)
What happened between 1970 and 1974?
§ Mr. Pattie
I am perfectly aware of what happened between 1970 and 1974. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the White Paper, he will notice that there is a list of cancellations totalling £285 million of which one, amounting to £5 million, was cancelled during the Conservative Administration.
290 In the vitally important area of electronic warfare, we are told that it is planned to equip Harrier and Jaguar with active and passive electronic counter-measures. There is no mention of when that will be. More critically, it is little short of criminal for those aircraft not to have that facility now, in view of the electronic environment that is the modern battlefield.
There is a cosy section on the defence equipment programme in industry, which lists the sums that have been spent in Britain and the number of job opportunities being sustained both here and for the export programme. However, this is a perfect example of suppressio veri. No mention is made of the number of jobs that have been lost—200,000 on the Government's own figures—as a result of the 1974 review cuts.
There is no mention of the costs to the defence budget in laying down the production of items such as the Tornado—"moving the expenditure to the right", as the jargon has it. There is no mention of the effect on spares support when manufacturers no longer regard the Ministry of Defence as their prime contractor. That makes nonsense of the 1974 claim that it was possible to cut the tail and not harm the teeth.
Paragraph 126 states that the Government have agreed to improve Britain's protection against biological warfare. But they have decided to transfer the Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton, where so such important work has been done, to civilian control. There would appear to be an inconsistency there.
It is a pity that, in the section on research policy, emphasis is not given to the fact that Professor Mason, the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser, has said that only ½ per cent, of our research and development money is spent on genuinely innovative programmes. That involves only 150 people of the total of 28,000. That point was rightly highlighted in yesterday's debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson).
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) dealt supremely well with the vexed question of premature voluntary release—PVR. If my right hon. Friend had required any further support, he would have 291 found it in the words of the First Sea Lord:PVR is now at crisis proportions".We are told, for example, that a man leaving the Navy within the last five years can rejoin even though he may be 57 years of age.
§ Mr. Pattie
That is some indication of the scandalous loss of skilled personnel. PVR is the most serious condemnation of Government policy by those who have to carry it out. They are taken for granted, underpaid, ill-equipped and called upon at all hours to do any dirty job. The White Paper then has the gall to state that the turbulence was unavoidable following the review, as though the review was an act of God rather than a folly of man.
The reserves are dismissed in 14 lines. They are not reserves in the generally accepted sense of the word but are such an integral part of the front line capability that the capability does not operate until they get there. That cannot be too strongly stressed.
In the section on Euro-NATO training, we are not told that our costs have been put up to such an extent that Dutch fighter controllers, for example, can be trained at a third of the cost in the United States. Is that the way to help our NATO allies?
In the section on the hydrographer, no mention is made of the desirability of part of his costs to be met by other Departments—a rather obvious point. In the section on flying training we are told ofan increased requirement for pilots".There is no mention of the serious shortfall and that by 1980 we shall be 200 pilots short.
There is no mention anywhere in the White Paper of home defence. Obviously no attempt has been made to assess the importance and relevance of that extremely important activity. There is no mention anywhere about the present state of negotiations regarding co-located operating bases—the arrangements whereby United States aircraft are accommodated on British air bases in the United Kingdom. The House will recall the serious problems that arose last year in the constituency of my hon. Friend the 292 Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson). There were arrangements whereby the United States tanker aircraft, KC135s, were stationed at Greenham Common. The aircraft were eventually allocated to Fairford. The requests for dispositions by the Americans will always create local problems, especially if a Government Department has authorised houses to be built close to airfields. As far as the White Paper is concerned, the problem of co-located operating bases does not exist.
I have listed the omissions because they are indicative to my right hon. and hon. Friends of the inadequacies and omissions of the Government's defence policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham speculated as to who is to blame. The Secretary of State can hardly lay claim to be called the Service man's friend. There is a myth, which harks back to the early days of 1974, about that doughty Yorkshire fighter, the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), supported by his intellectual friend—the one-man disaster area—the right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers). They were said to be a powerful duo and it is said that we fell on hard times only when the Ministry of Defence passed into the somnolent care of the present recumbent.
However guilty the Secretary of State may be, however unable he is to resist his Cabinet colleagues, and however ineffective he is in righting for the Services, the real damage to our defences was the ruthless cutting that was carried out by the defence review of 1974. That was carried out with the bogus smokescreen that the teeth arms would not suffer and that the cuts would fall only on the tail—as though there is a meaningful difference between the two.
The guilty men moved on to pastures new, leaving the Secretary of State to try to cope. The White Paper is inadequate, reflecting the Government's inadequacy on defence—moreover, the Government's inability to honour their NATO commitments in full. On the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of NATO, it is worth recalling that this Government have the doubtful privilege of being the only British Government ever to be publicly rebuked by the Secretary General of NATO for falling down on Britain's commitments to the Alliance.
293 The Opposition prefer to be guided by the opinions of those best able to judge this Government's defence policy, namely, the Secretary General of NATO, the First Sea Lord and the men who are queueing up to get out of our forces. We shall vote against the White Paper.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
For the sixth year running, the Opposition are bitterly criticising the Government for not spending enough on arms and the Armed Forces. The hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) has followed a similar line.
The Opposition have clamoured for more expenditure on developing a new generation of nuclear weapons and building up ground forces in Europe. They have called for more resources to match the growth of Soviet naval forces, to counter Soviet strength in the air, to develop new equipment and to increase recruitment by improving pay and conditions for the forces.
However, when I challenged the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) yesterday to state what the Opposition would regard as a necessary increase in expenditure, his courage deserted him. After the most extravagant bluster, punctuated by sweeping condemnations and calls for resignations, he refused point blank to answer the question of cost by pleading the feeble excuse that the Opposition did not know because the Government had fiddled the books. If anything brings politics into disrepute, it is that sort of utterly irresponsible exaggeration, coupled with a refusal to be frank and, in this case, to tell the public what would be the cost of the Conservative alternative.
The persistence of the Conservative Party in demanding more military expenditure is matched only by its persistence in the campaign for cuts in public expenditure as a whole. The military requirements that the Conservatives have postulated could easily cost, at a most conservative estimate, £2,000 million to £3,000 million on top of what is proposed in the Defence Estimates. In other words, the Opposition are proposing much more than the 3 per cent. increase asked for by NATO.
294 We therefore have a right to ask where they will get that sort of money. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) suggested last week savings in education expenditure as rolls fall, but without the most savage cuts in health, welfare, education, public transport and so on the funds that would be required to meet the Conservative criticism on defence could not be found without increasing taxation.
If the Conservatives are genuine in their criticism and wish to avoid the charge of seeking to deceive and defraud the electorate, they must come clean about the huge increases in expenditure which their criticism would require and the cuts that would be imposed on the living standards of our people.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The hon. Gentleman is always complaining about the lack of costing of the Conservatives' defence proposals and the plans of his own Government. Can he tell us what the Tribune group would spend on defence? Nothing?
§ Mr. Newens
I shall come to part of that question later, and I hope that the hon. Member will follow me carefully, because my hon. Friends and I have talked in the past of cuts of £1,000 million. I do not wish to run away from his question. My colleagues and I who tabled the amendment have never sought to conceal our belief in the necessity for genuine cuts and we have never sought to conceal what would be the effect of such cuts.
However, I have never argued that Britain does not need to spend anything on defence. We need an efficient conventional force in which personnel should have good conditions and be properly paid. I have also pressed on numerous occasions for provision to be made to rehouse our Service men when they leave the forces.
I have also never sought to justify the policies pursued by the Soviet Union in increasing arms expenditure, intervening in Czechoslovakia or restricting the liberties of its citizens. On the contrary, I have continually denounced all those actions, and I continue to do so.
The bases of our demand for cuts in public expenditure are quite different. Even if Conservative Members disagree 295 with them, they should at least try to face up to them. We question how Britain can possibly be defended in a war when we have allowed so many nuclear weapons to be stored here and aimed from our country that we have become a prime target for any potential enemy. We do not believe in starting work on a new generation of nuclear weapons or in remaining part of a nuclear-based Alliance.
My most fundamental reason for opposing increased military expenditure, however, is that it helps not to diminish and defuse world tension but to increase and perpetuate it.
The argument in favour of increased expenditure is that the Soviet Union is increasing its forces well beyond what can be considered necessary for purely defensive purposes and that that poses a growing threat to the West. The White Paper states that military capabilities cannot be measured simply in terms of figures, but even in terms of capabilities the facts cited in the White Paper and by many Conservative Members about Soviet military superiority are highly selective and fail to represent the overall position.
The latest edition of the "Military Balance" published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that NATO has 11,000 deliverable nuclear warheads. The Soviet Union has 4,500, although that number could rise to 7,500 in the early 1980s. It is clear that the Western side has a huge superiority in that respect.
While the Warsaw Pact has in central Europe more troops, more tanks and more artillery, NATO has, in total, more men under arms. In terms of naval strength throughout the world—not just in the Eastern Atlantic area—the West still has much greater strength and the same is true of our military equipment.
Less than two years ago, the then CIA director, Mr. George Bush, told the United States Congress:The Soviet Union does not have a single weapon system that demonstrates technological superiority to the United States. On the other hand … the United States has many weapon systems that the Russians cannot duplicate.In addition, Western estimates of the balance of forces conveniently omit the Chinese, against whom the Soviets will certainly deploy part of their forces.
296 If increases in Western and British defence expenditure can be justified in the circumstances that I have outlined, we must realise that they can always be justified at any time in the future. However, mankind cannot support that process. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham to grin, but I ask him to listen carefully because I am coining to the nub of some of the arguments to which the human race must turn its attention.
World military expenditure in 1977 is estimated at $360,000 million, according to the Stockholm Peace Institute. The figure can be found on page 3 of the institute's 1978 yearbook. A total of 70 per cent. of that money was spent by NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. The nuclear weapons held by all the world's nuclear Powers were equivalent in explosive power to 1 million of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Expenditure on arms by underdeveloped countries, with which 75 per cent. of the world's arms trade takes place, is rising. While this huge military expenditure is undertaken, we, as a race, are neglecting the need to improve the living standards of people throughout the world. The number of undernourished people on this globe continues to rise yearly.
It is expected that the world population will grow from 4,500 million today to 6,000 million by the end of the century. We need to increase by 60 per cent. world food production to sustain that sort of population at present levels. The hunger and misery that are growing in the Third world represent a much greater potential threat to the stability of the world than the Soviet tanks now stationed in Eastern Europe. Those hungry people represent a much greater threat. The arms that we are foolishly supplying to unstable regimes—
§ Mr. Newens
By that, I mean the Western Powers and the Soviet Union. Our policy of supplying arms to unstable regimes like that of the Shah may prove, in the long run, infinitely more destructive of world peace than anything else we are doing.
Many of our calculations in the world today are based on the assumption of the availability of oil not only to generate 297 energy but also to provide fertilisers on which crop yields in the modern world depend. Recent events in Iran—obvious, in my view, for years before they occurred—have already produced unpleasant consequences. Similar events in other oil-rich countries which are inevitable in due course will produce new changes that could prove disastrous to Western economies. Such events could gravely threaten the stability of the whole world.
We are not asking in our amendment that Britain should denude itself of arms completely. We are asking now for substantial cuts which may well be forced upon us in future years, in much more difficult circumstances, by our inability to meet the cost. The argument has been advanced that we need to manufacture and sell arms to provide jobs. That is a dangerous argument. Not only is it unlikely, if the account is compiled in full, that we avoided losses on arms sales to Iran, but the opportunity for profits in the future has also disappeared suddenly. This may occur again elsewhere if we concentrate on arms sales to the extent to which we as a country are at present committed.
I should like to mention a situation in which the Soviet Union is not directly involved. The struggle between Argentina and Chile last year might have flared into war. It is wrong that we should be prepared to fuel circumstances in which poor people murder other poor people in other parts of the world. It is also wrong that we should believe that it is necessary to sell arms to provide jobs.
It is essential to redeploy the arms industries and to seek to provide alternative work, as the Lucas Aerospace workers have been arguing, to their credit. I am sorry that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have not gone much further along the lines that have been suggested. It is comparatively easy for Conservatives and others to foster and increase fears in order to fuel an arms race. It is particularly easy in circumstances in which the threat of unemployment is always present. It is not easy to stand out and seek to expose the insanity of the arms race in such a climate. None the less, it is important to point out the immensity of the dangers not only to people in this country but 298 to the human race as a whole if the arms race continues.
I yield to no one in my love for this country and the British people, but I believe passionately that our fate is bound up inextricably with that of humanity as a whole, whose very existence on this globe is threatened by the eventual outcome of this arms race. I do not believe that we should leave Britain defenceless. But, at some time, we have to call a halt. My hon. Friends and I who have tabled the amendment make no apology for putting it before the House at this time. Against the clamour from the Conservative Benches to which the Labour Government, I regret to say, have yielded to some extent for increasing expenditure on arms, we believe that the case has to be put for arms cuts and for sanity and for Britain to turn around and not to continue to devote an ever-increasing amount of its resources to military purposes.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Mr. Speaker earlier indicated to the House the large number of right hon. and hon. Gentleman anxious to speak on this final day of the debate. I repeat his appeal for brevity so that we can accommodate as many as possible of those hon. Members who wish to take part.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
Before deciding, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) suggested, the nature and scale of the defence forces and their task, we need to be clearer than has so far been shown in this debate about what our defence policies are for, and from where the threat comes. I hope that the whole House can agree that the main object of our defence policies must be the security of the United Kingdom itself, the freedom and independence of Western Europe, the protection of our imports and free access to our trade routes. This implies that the Western Alliance generally should have the capacity to ensure the free movement of trade and free access to raw materials.
Many speeches have reminded me all too horribly of similar speeches to which I listened as a boy in the 1930s when sitting in the Gallery suggesting that the threat comes from the arms race. I do 299 not agree. The main danger comes from the present imbalance between the Warsaw Pact and the West in general and the European defence forces in particular. Whatever we may say about numbers, I should have thought it clear to the meanest intelligence that the only Power with a really aggressive foreign policy is the Soviet Union. The only Powers building up their forces on land, sea and air, far beyond the needs of self-defence, are the Warsaw Pact countries. The only Powers that are increasing their essentially offensive as opposed to primarily defensive armoury are the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. This is giving them an increasing capability to wage offensive warfare in Europe. It has already enabled them to have dominance of the sea routes. By using their own "advisers" and Cuban mercenaries, they have secured bases from which they could control our access to essential raw materials.
Speakers on the Labour Benches have been insistent in asking what we on this side propose to do. As I have every expectation that it is my right hon. and hon. Friends that I am in effect advising and not those at present on the Government Front Bench, who are beyond advice, I make a few suggestions about how to counter both the aggressive foreign policy of the Soviet Union and our present imbalance with the Warsaw Pact forces. It is essential to do that mainly through the NATO Alliance. However, NATO was not able to help when the Cubans invaded Angola. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the European element in the Alliance. We have already seen how quite small forces may operate successfully as the Belgians and the French did in Zaire. We see the effect of the French presence in Djibouti compared with the situation in Somalia and Ethiopia.
I suggest, first, that in the Alliance generally, and especially in the European element of the Alliance—that element is the most dependent on imported raw materials and access through sea routes to the oil—we should consider building a sort of aid force to help our friends in different parts of the world. I am not suggesting that this should be done on a massive scale; all it needs is a force sufficient to mean that to move it requires a degree of aggression from a 300 superior force, which the Soviet Union will be neither willing nor able to undertake so far from its home base. That in itself will be enough to prevent the terrorists and the Cubans from having the degree of success that we have seen, for example, in Africa.
If we are short of personnel, I do not see why we should not increase rather than disband our Gurkha forces. What is wrong with that? If it is all right for the Soviet Union to use Cubans in Africa, why is it wrong for those who are opposing Soviet forces to use Gurkha troops?
Secondly, we should work more widely with other countries. I agree with those who have suggested that Japan is as dependent on imported raw materials as Western Europe. There is a great deal to be said for bringing Japan into the ambit of the Western forces as an active partner. On the old principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I hope that we shall continue to help China and do all that we can in its aid. I hope too, that a Conservative Government, when considering both aid policies and the question of whom to supply with arms, will bear in mind British interests in political as well as economic terms.
Thirdly, we should contemplate what economic action we can take, or refrain from taking, in order to do something to force the Soviet Union to reduce its arms budget and to change the whole pattern of resource allocation within the Soviet Union. In 1920 Lenin wrote to his foreign commissar:The capitalists of the whole world and their governments will shut their eyes to the kind of activities on our side that I have referred to, and will in this manner become not only deaf mutes but blind as well. They will supply us with the materials and technology which we lack and will restore our military industry, which we need for our future victorious attacks on our suppliers. In other words, they will work hard to prepare their own suicide.After nearly 60 years we are still doing just that. We continue to send grain from the West to support the inefficient Soviet agriculture system. Agriculture is essential to the Soviet economy in itself but it is also a necessary part of their policies to increase incentives and improve all-round productivity. We should seriously reconsider the whole pattern of our aid, especially our cheap loans, to the Soviet Union.
301 The measures that I have outlined, which are partly political, partly diplomatic and partly military, could not be undertaken by the United Kingdom alone, but they could be undertaken with our NATO allies. I think that they should be undertaken. They meet the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Prentice) when he quoted General Haig on the effect of events outside NATO boundaries and the danger that those events could have for the security of the Alliance.
These three sets of measures that I have advocated have also the advantage that they would not add very much to the cost of the United Kingdom defence programme compared with the benefits that they might bring to our security.
There are one or two other things that we should do quickly on our own that would also not add much to the cost of our defence programme. There are two essential priorities for which the United Kingdom must have sole responsibility. First, there is the air defence of Great Britain against attack by Backfire bombers carrying conventional weapons or nuclear weapons. I know that suitable aircraft for this role are expensive, whether we manufacture them or buy them from abroad.
There will, however, be a time lag before such aircraft are ready for action. They will not be able to go into action at all until we have rehabilitated and repaired our airfields. It is essential to start the reconstruction of our airfields as soon as possible. We should include in this the hardening of dispersal points and control centres against chemical warfare as well as against heavy conventional bombing.
Surely we are able to undertake that work at once. We have many unskilled and semi-skilled men who are unemployed. Much of the resources of the construction industry is unused. Surely those men and those resources could be turned to that task, which is essential to our safety. As it is, even if the Americans were willing to come to our aid and send over their fighters to defend this island, there would be nowhere to put them and nowhere to control them. Therefore, the work must be done.
302 We are now spending about £25 million a year on civil defence. It does not seem that we are getting very much for that expenditure. If we are to improve the protection of our aircraft and those who control them against air attack, as I believe we must, we must start to improve the defences of our people. The Soviet Union is doing a great deal in civil defence. It has been carrying out civil defence exercises on its western border and in the Baltic provinces. We should embark on work to strengthen our protection against conventional attack as well as nuclear attack.
The second immediate priority that we should carry out by ourselves is to start training instructors so that we may increase our manpower and build up a proper first-line reserve. This is part of our essential fighting force. If we are to build a second-line reserve on it and strengthen the air defence of Great Britain, we shall need skilled pilots and skilled men and women in every part of the Armed Forces. To expand those forces we shall need instructors. Training, especially the training of instructors, is one of our biggest needs.
My right hon. and hon. Friends will have difficult decisions to make about the active side of our air defences. Their decisions will take time to implement. However, they will be totally ineffective unless work is started now in these two priority areas.
Other difficult decisions must be taken very soon. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton said, we must decide on the strategic nuclear effort to succeed Polaris—whether it should operate on land, or on the surface or under the sea, and whether we should seek to do it on our own or in conjunction with the three-pronged French effort.
We must take difficult decisions about tactical nuclear weapons. Do we believe that the tactical weapon in United States' hands will remain indefinitely credible without the fear that possible escalation will inhibit its use? I do not know. However, we must think and make decisions on that matter quickly. We must think, as an alternative, of the possibility of chemical warfare, using limited, short-term substances which are less likely to escalate into nuclear action and which are as effective in a purely defensive role as the neutron bomb.
303 We need, too, better defence against chemical warfare. The Soviet Union has in every command 80,000 men devoted not to chemical warfare defence but to the active use of chemical warfare. The Soviet artillery and ground-to-ground missiles have chemical warheads. The BM21 multiple rocket launcher can launch 720 chemical rounds in one volley. If those rounds are charged with hydrogen cyanide, the lethal effect is short-lived so that the Russian troops may follow through quickly. If we are to have an effective defence, is it not possible that we require a retaliatory capability? I am talking not about strategic biological warfare but about the use of short-term agents as a possible alternative to the tactical nuclear weapon.
We have a great deal to do by way of collaboration and standardisation within Europe. There are massive difficulties. But a great deal is to be gained both in terms of effectiveness and reduced cost. I should like to see more work being done on upgrading the Independent European Programme Group—that is to say, all the European members of the Alliance plus France and Portugal—which was started in 1976. I should like to see a European defence institute empowered to discuss some of the common defence problems of the European countries in the Alliance and to make recommendations.
We must accept that any realistic defence will cost more in the future. Reference was made to the beneficial economic and industrial effects of defence procurement. In 1952 France spent 8 per cent. of her gross domestic product on defence. That figure had dropped by 1977 to 4 per cent. Meanwhile, since 1966, the French gross domestic product doubled compared with that of the United Kingdom. Therefore, French spending, in real terms, had gone up, though taking a small proportion of available resources.
I remind the House of the German experience immediately prior to the Second World War. Between 1935 and 1939 German military production rose by 200 per cent. In those years consumer goods production went up by 38 per cent. The expansion of both was derived from unused capacity and high unemployment. By 1935 to 1937 the stimulus of rearmament gave 304 a great expansion to employment, investment, output and income. Even after the excess capacity of the German economy had been used up, total income continued to grow because of the technical progress and improvement that defence expenditure had brought with it. It was only after a further considerable expansion that any degree of choice was required between the consumption and defence industries.
Alas, our economy is working at a three-day-week level. We have a long way to catch up before we must face a choice between civil and military goods.
The United States' experience was similar. Between 1939 and 1941 industrial production went up by 48 per cent. By 1945 it had gone up by another 45 per cent. After the war it was unemployment that went up, by 1949, to 8 per cent. Arms for Korea brought the figure down to 5 per cent., and by autumn 1953 it was 1.8 per cent. Incidentally, the defence programme gave an enormous stimulus to the Californian economy. If I had time to go into details, I could show from them that the defence industries could bring far greater regional benefit to the United Kingdom than the temporary employment subsidies, with all their displacement effects. It is no accident, comparing different economies in different periods, that the gross national product tended to rise parallel to a rise in defence spending. In the United Kingdom there was an increase of 63 per cent. per head between 1955 and 1964. In that period our defence spending rose by 24 per cent. per head. In France defence spending went up by 86 per cent. per head. The GNP went up by 130 per cent. per head. The correlation is there.
So it is economically possible to carry through my few modest but practical suggestions. I hope that they are constructive. Some we can implement at once with an immediate effect. Some require immediate decisions but will not take effect for some time. I have tried to give some idea of their likely consequences for industry and for the economy. I hope that as a nation we shall be able to do more. I believe that we dare not do less.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Unless speeches last for a maximum of 10 minutes, only a fraction of those anxious to take part in and who have sat patiently 305 throughout the two-day debate will be accommodated. May I therefore make an earnest appeal for brevity?
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
I very much support the concept of the TAVR, and that is what I propose to speak on this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Not many speakers in the debate so far have addressed themselves to that subject, but the whole of our defence force is closely integrated, the role of the TAVR being integrated with that of our Regular forces. The Defence Estimates devote little attention to it, and the proceedings yesterday and today have devoted much less attention to it than its importance merits.
I support the whole concept of the TAVR, and not just because there are two units in my constituency—the excellent Mercian Volunteers and 143 Plant Squadron RE(V)—but because historically the role of the citizen army has been very important, not only in breaking down the idea of a military caste but embodying the enthusiasm and commitment of a large number of people who for a variety of reasons do not want to join the Regular forces.
One of the most important arguments that may be advanced is that the whole system of using volunteer forces is very cost-effective, but it is of relevance only if this cost-effective force is competent. I remember as a student making a special study of Machiavelli and his attitude to mercenary soldiers. Machiavelli, in Florence, hated the idea of mercenaries and wanted to employ exclusively volunteer forces. He diligently trained them, and at the first sight of battle the entire volunteer force disintegrated. There is no point in relying heavily on a volunteer force if it is unable to match the professionalism of the enemy or, indeed, the professionalism of our full-time forces. I am not saying that this is the case, but we need to address ourselves to this problem.
Much greater thought must be given in the House to the employment and use of reserves, and specifically of the TAVR. In the 1976 Defence Estimates it was stated thata feature of the Defence Review reorganisation plans will be the closer integration of the TAVR with the Regular Army, which should 306 enhance not only the effectiveness of the Army but also the morale of the Volunteer reservist".We hear a great deal of the concept of "One Army", and the Americans use the phraseology of "total force policy" to explain their similar approach, but the total force concept means the integration of planning, programming and budgeting, and this absolutely requires that the availability and readiness of the Reserve forces must be as certain as the availability of active forces. We must do more than simply sloganise about one army. Obviously, the reserve soldier is not identical to the full-time soldier. Nevertheless, we must ensure that the facilities and resources available to the volunteer soldier are as good as those available to the full-time soldier.
In terms of the current importance of the TAVR, I should like to refer to some statistics. First, 25 per cent. of the total BAOR wartime strength will be TAVR. Second, 38 of the 88 infantry battalions during a war will be TAVR—that is, 43 per cent. But, despite this enormous dependence upon TAVR, we have to ask whether the resources devoted to it are adequate. The budget is around £70 million per year, which is 3 per cent. of the Army Vote and 1 per cent. of the overall defence bill. When we consider the dependence upon TAVR and the expenditure upon it, it would appear that either TAVR is extraordinarily good value for money or it is not getting the resources that it fully merits.
How is the money spent on TAVR to be wisely spent? Should we, as I believe, devote more of our defence resources to the TAVR? The key areas to which I want to address myself are training, equipment, mobilisation and transportation. Of the 72,000 TAVR force in theory, we are up to about 60,000, but there is a shortage in medical units and sponsored units. The worrying thing—obviously, everyone is aware of it—is the high wastage rate or turnover, which is between one-third and one-quarter every year. This is not conducive to good training. Clearly, some turnover is desirable, but not of the order of one-quarter to one-third. If we could reduce the outflow by 10 per cent. annually, this would mean that the TAVR would be up to strength in seven to eight years. We must look to this very quickly.
There must be a change in employer attitudes. Perhaps employers could be 307 encouraged financially, as well as otherwise, to allow their employees what could be called a regular paid training holiday, in addition to the normal vacation. The Government could give a lead in this respect by offering a model programme that private employers could follow. The Government should provide a variety of incentives to private businesses to release their employees for this absolutely vital role for the future of this country.
It is no coincidence that a large number of members of the TAVR are either self-employed or unmarried. Obviously, the difficulties of the married man in full-time employment are very considerable and not conducive to his doing the requisite amount of training and playing the role that we demand. What is needed is a vigorous recruitment campaign, and it is necessary to dispel some of the myths of the TAVR.
The Expenditure Committee report said that there is awidespread belief that TAVR…was abolished … in 1967.We are all familiar with the image that is still, regrettably, prevailing, and sometimes perpetuated by the media, of the TAVR being a latter-day "Dad's Army". That is, of course, absolute nonsense. Although I enjoy the programme whenever the series is re-run, one perhaps feels that it does not always do the kind of service to the TAVR that we should like to see.
High-level support from the Government towards this recruitment policy and towards encouraging employers would go a long way to meeting many of the difficulties and objections. There must be more joint training with Regular forces. The occasional trip abroad for two weeks is not quite adequate to professionalise our volunteer forces. We also need to educate a number of Regular soldiers concerning the usefulness of their volunteer compatriots.
A further question is that of equipment. The Ministry of Defence, in evidence to the Expenditure Committee, said that it aimsto provide the most modern equipment available for TAVR units and, ideally, equipment identical to that in use by the Regular Army.I wonder whether we can be satisfied that this is the position today. I suspect not.
308 We must not be concerned exclusively with the quality of equipment but rather with the type of equipment. We have to remember that a volunteer soldier spends perhaps 40 days a year in training. I do not want to be disparaging—far be it from me to want to do that—but perhaps in the period available we should be careful as to the type of equipment that the man is asked to use. A full-time soldier, with more chance to become professional and to enhance his expertise and prowess, would be able to use highly complicated equipment perhaps far more readily. I am not arguing, by any stretch of the imagination, that all that the TAVR troops are worthy of using is rather simple and second-rate equipment. That is certainly not the case, but obviously we have to be very careful in regard to what is required of the TAVR soldier bearing in mind the difficulties he inevitably faces.
Weapons improvements have given to soldiers in the TAVR the ability to do all sorts of things that hitherto they would have been unable to do, such as destroying tanks and aircraft at very long range. The question of type of equipment is therefore one to which we ought to give a great deal of thought.
§ Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and also for speaking about the TAVR. I should like him to know that, in a number of TAVR units, those who are designated on mobilisation to go to Germany straight from their fields and factories, or to take their part against the enemy, are provided with equipment at least up to the standard of the Regulars. It is those who are second in the TAVR, and used for home defence, whose equipment is perhaps a bit less good.
§ Mr. George
I certainly agree with that. Obviously, what is required of a TAVR soldier is not just technological competence. The old days of simple weapons, where a man was given a rifle or pike or bow and pointed in the direction of the enemy, are regrettably gone. Today, fighting is a highly complex process requiring technical skills as well as bravery. The bravery to face a Russian tank at 50 yards is perhaps something to which not every hon. Member would ultimately be able to aspire. However, the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) concerned 309 mobilisation. There is no point in having, if we are able, soldiers with wonderful equipment and courage if we are unable to get them to the battlefield quickly enough.
Full-scale exercises are, I believe, highly disruptive but nevertheless desirable. Certainly, far more small-scale tests should be feasible to ensure the strict mobilisation and transportation of our forces. Here, once again, there is an obligation on employers to co-operate. Paragraph 207 of the statement on Defence Estimates reads:The improvement of procedures for the recall of regular reservists is currently under study, with the aim of further reducing the time required for the mobilisation of our forces".I hope that we shall receive a report on that review very quickly, and that we can be reassured that our troops can be transported swiftly.
Transportation obviously constitutes a complex set of arrangements and official documents are filled with asterisks, just like a President Nixon tape, so we are not fully able—quite rightly so—to know what all the problems are. However, the importance of getting troops mobilised quickly cannot be over-exaggerated, and I hope that the Shapland committee will, in subsequent Ministry of Defence discussions, consider this urgently and act.
If the whole idea of a citizen army is based on a concept of swift mobilisation of people who are normally in productive work, and not hanging around doing important but non-productive jobs, in policing frontiers, some problems emerge. The threat of mobilisation can be seen by the enemy as either showing great resolve and providing a deterrent or as an act of aggression. The First World War is testimony to how the enemy can often see one's own mobilisation as an act of aggression which, indeed, can precipitate a conflict. However, I should like to say that the confidence-building measures as laid down by the Helsinki final act will certainly minimise those dangers.
In conclusion, I believe that, although technology has increased very considerably over the last 20 or 30 years, and the quality of equipment has improved enormously, strategic thinking has not kept apace. An eminent thinker on this 310 subject, Edward N. Luttwak, said in a recent article:NATO's doctrine is one which still presumes a net superiority in material, a style based on the methods of attrition rather than manoeuvre.I believe that Luttwak's argument is that the strategy of Douglas Haig and First World War tactics have still not died, and that what one needs is not just good equipment but new thinking—strategy, manoeuvring to outflank the enemy, not simply to wear him down. Certainly, highly mobile and qualified TAVR units can play a major part.
What I want to see is a rejuvenated TAVR as an alternative to the dilemma facing the Government of choosing between a massively expensive, large conventional force and a suicidal reliance on nuclear deterrents. The TAVR can go a long way to providing Britain with a credible defence at an acceptable cost.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). After some of the speeches we heard from Labour Benches yesterday and today, it was a pleasure.
Having been a member of the Royal Marine Forces Volunteer Reserve while I was a Member of the House, I fully sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's views about the TAVR and I know they will find sympathy on both sides of the House. However, I hope that he will forgive me if I cannot follow him on that line as I have a particular row of my own to hoe.
The White Paper begins by pointing out that this year is the thirtieth anniversary of NATO. Paragraph 106 states:The United Kingdom devotes … to Alliance purposes the overwhelming proportion of its defence efforts; … it has made a prompt and constructive response to the long-term defence programme.I wish to confine all my remarks to NATO. My qualifications for so doing are eight years' service on the North Atlantic Assembly and, more recently, as chairman of the military committee. My opposite number on that Committee is the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams), whose speech was enjoyed by the whole House yesterday. I do not always agree with him, but he always speaks with both knowledge and common 311 sense. I think that he and other hon. Members will agree with me when I say that I believe in the North Atlantic Assembly as the most important forum in the Alliance for parliamentary conversations on defence matters. As such, it serves a very good purpose.
Turning to NATO itself, I believe that there are many issues facing NATO, but three are of vital importance and those are the ones I wish to discuss. The first problem is the nuclear problem—strategic and tactical. Secondly, there is the conventional problem, both on the central front and on the northern and southern flanks. Lastly, there is the maritime problem, or what I would call the battle for resources.
Starting with the nuclear problem, the strategic nuclear problem is the responsibility of the super-Powers but it affects each one of us. We must realise that the United States lead on strategic missiles has vanished. She still has more accurate missiles than the Soviet Union but has lost her lead in both numbers and throw weight. In recent years the USSR has introduced three new ICBM systems—the SSI7, 18 and 19—and is producing these missiles at the rate of 125 per year. In the same period the United States has modernised its Minuteman 3 but has introduced no new ICBM system. Indeed, the United States has delayed development of its new MX system, which will not be operationally available for some years to come.
At sea, the story is the same. The USSR will have at least 27 Delta class submarines at sea by the time the first American equivalent, the USS "Ohio"—which is of the Trident class—is operational in 1981. These Delta class submarines are armed with SSMX18 missiles with a range of about 5,000 miles. They can fire at the heartland of America from the Barents Sea, where it would be extremely difficult to get at them.
There are also reports in the defence press that the Soviet Union is now building even bigger submarines than the "Ohio", which is 18,700 tons. Therefore, the Americans must certainly work very fast to keep up in the strategic missile field.
What are we doing in Britain? As so many speakers have said, there is a need 312 to continue our strategic nuclear deterrent. I wonder whether the Tribune group would really like the Americans to be the only providers of our strategic nuclear deterrent, and the French the leaders of Europe because they have a nuclear deterrent and we have given it up.
It was said yesterday and it has been said today—the Secretary of State said so himself—that Polaris will continue into the 1990s. However, Polaris will be a very short-range weapon. There is probably a case for taking on Poseidon with a larger range. That can be done with the same ships, by enlarging the tubes as the Americans have done. Or perhaps, as I think is in the mind of my hon. Friend, we ought to go for a new generation such as Trident—which would mean entirely new boats and is very expensive—or the cruise missile. The Government are at last having a Sub-Harpoon as the main weapon of our submarines. The cruise missile can be fired from torpedo tubes of submarines. However, it will have an entirely different function because the Harpoon is a tactical missile, whereas the cruise missile is strategic.
I hope that the Government are giving this consideration. I will say no more than that. I merely repeat that I hope that the next Government will immediately give this matter their consideration, because it is a matter of great importance to this country and NATO.
I turn now to the tactical nuclear missile. The problem here is that the Soviet SS20 is a mobile tactical missile with a strategic range. It has a range of 3,000 miles-plus. The Secretary of State said, on 19 March, in answer to a question, that over 100 were deployed and targeted on Europe. As it is a mobile missile with such a long range, it will be extraordinarily difficult to eliminate. It can be fired from the middle of Russia. We would have to send in our aeroplanes, and it would be very difficult to hit such a missile without considerable loss.
What can we do? We can produce a new tactical missile which can deal with the SS20, and there is nothing in the NATO inventory as yet that can deal with that. Pershing is our longest-range nuclear missile and that has a range of some 750 miles, and even if stretched will not go much beyond 1,000. Therefore, here again it may well be that the cruise missile is the answer. I have put this point 313 to the Secretary of State several times and I hope very much that he will give it consideration, though he has not so far vouchsafed to take the House into his confidence.
We then come to SALT II, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) in his excellent speech. The two problems about SALT II in relation to Europe are that the SS20 is excluded from that treaty because it is a tactical, nuclear missile but has a strategic range. That is very dangerous indeed. In addition, the non-circumvention clause will make it very difficult for the United States to give her European allies the know-how on the TERCOM maps and satellites that are required to make the cruise missile effective. This is a point that we must consider carefully.
The deployment of the cruise missile by the Americans in Europe will also be difficult, because under the treaty they are limited in range to 2,500 kilometres for the airborne cruise missile and 600 kilometres for the ground or sea-based missile. This will make cruise unsatisfactory for dealing with the SS20. This is an important matter for this country and for the Alliance as a whole.
I should also like to point out, particularly to the Left wing of the Labour Party, that all Soviet exercises carried out in recent years have ended with conventional war going nuclear. That is their automatic assumption, and all their exercises are carried out with full chemical and bacteriological preparation. I think that the writing is on the wall should the balloon ever go up in Europe.
I turn to the conventional sector. The question has been asked whether the USSR will ever repeat Herr Hitler's successful blitzkrieg. The USSR is in a position to do so, but whether it will remains to be seen. However, anyone who disregards that, such as the Tribune group, is either very stupid or has been duped by Soviet propaganda. The evidence is perfectly clear. The important point about the Soviet forces in central Europe today is not only that underlined in the White Paper—namely, the disparity in numbers—but the fact that in the last three years Russia's forces have changed posture from one of defence to offence. That is significant.
314 If the House wants evidence, I would merely point out that the Russians have instituted a BPM-60, which is an armoured personnel carrier regiment to every division as a spearhead of the assault. They have increased their tank forces and expanded them with the T-72. Their artillery, tactical missiles and antitank missiles are all mobile, and most of them are mounted behind armour, which is not the case with the NATO forces. Their air defence, both gun and missile, is far better than NATO's, and that is also mobile, and their bridge-building capability is said to be able to cross a river the size of the Rhine in half an hour. In addition, their fighter bomber force, which is clearly an offensive as opposed to a defensive force, has increased by 200 per cent. in the last three years.
If that is not sufficient evidence for the Tribune group or anyone else to show that the Soviet Union is in a position to emulate Herr Hitler's blitzkrieg, I do not know what they will believe. I suggest that a blitzkrieg is unlikely, but it is possible. We do not know what the new rulers at the Kremlin—who will take office very soon, because Mr. Brezhnev is now getting on in years—will decide to do. They could well initiate a war in the central front, and this might be started by attacking North Norway so as to give elbow room for the biggest military base in the world on the Kola peninsula. That is what the short-term and long-term defence programme of NATO, which is described in the White Paper, is designed to check.
I want to mention certain issues in the short-term defence programme. The programme is geared to three issues—reinforcement, anti-armour and supplies. Reinforcement is a matter that is of great interest to NATO and to the North Atlantic Assembly at present. The position on the central front has been greatly improved. Two United States brigades have been assigned to NORTHAG. Two new American divisions have been allocated to the central front in times of war, with pre-position equipment in Europe. This underlines our duty as politicians to use the warning time before war starts to get these reinforcements in position before they are torpedoed or shot out of the air after the war starts.
315 I believe that we must have a better answer to the Soviet armour, because there is now about a three-to-one imbalance. Our anti-tank guided missiles and tanks are being increased, but too slowly. I very much hope that the Chieftain tanks coming from Iran will be allocated to BAOR.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
My hon. Friend said that elements of the United States army had been assigned to NORTHAG. Are they in position, or is this just an assignment?
§ Mr. Wall
I understand that they are in position, but of course the two divisions to which I referred will come later in any emergency.
There is one issue on the tank that I want to take up. I am rather horrified to hear that the British will try to build a main battle tank for the 1980s at a cost of £1 million each, when the Americans are producing the XM-1 and the Germans the Leopard II. If the three major allies in NATO cannot combine and have the same tank, I hesitate to think of the bills that we shall face in the future. Surely if we are fighting the same war we can do so with the same equipment.
I turn briefly to the northern flank. The reinforcements there are mainly British. They are the Royal Marine Commando brigade, which I had the pleasure of meeting in Norway a few days ago when, incidentally, I slept in a tent in the Norwegian hills in a temperature of minus 12° centigrade, which I do not propose to repeat in the near future. The second reinforcements are the Canadians, and then possibly the United States Marine Corps. But most important of all are immediate air reinforcements.
I believe that NATO allies and the Government have done a great deal to speed up these reinforcements, and this is vital. I have criticised the Government year after year about reinforcements in the northern flank. They did away with the commando carrier, they used the assault ships for other purposes and have cut the marine helicopter lift. That is the past. I agree with the able attack made on the Government by my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton, except that I think he got the wrong 316 target I believe that the real target is the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the most disastrous Minister of Defence that we ever had.
Be that as it may, one must give credit where credit is due. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has left, but I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy. HMS "Hermes" and HMS "Bulwark" are now available for reinforcements and amphibious training, RFA "Tarbatness" is being supplied for this work, 41 commando is being resuscitated, the 105 gun and the Sea King helicopter are coming in and oversnow vehicles are being provided as well as skis for the commandos. All this is a great advance. I congratulate the Under-Secretary on these matters because I know he has them very much at heart.
I come briefly to my last point, which relates to maritime. I have said that the Kola base is the largest military establishment in the world. The Russians keep their main fleet at that base as well as most of their nuclear submarines. In any war, the Russian front line will be the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap. That is where they will fight the next battle of the Atlantic. Admiral Sir Terence Lewin, in a recent speech to the Royal Society of Arts, pointed out that the Russians have 355 submarines, of which 155 are nuclear propelled. According to him, they also have 400 to 500 Backfire and Badger aircraft in the navy alone. Therefore, that battle of the Atlantic, if it ever happens, will be a terrible one. In parenthesis, may I say that I believe that in Sir Terence Lewin we shall have the finest leader we have had since the days of Earl Mountbatten.
What should we do in the maritime sector? I believe there are two immediate priorities. First, there is the defence of the United Kingdom base. We have heard a lot about the air defence of the base. I do not have time to go into that, but I remind the House that the Russians are the world's experts in mine laying. They lay mines from submarines and from the air. We do not have enough mine hunters or minesweepers to keep more than two ports in this kingdom open. That could be disastrous.
I am glad that the Minister has already made the point about the new Brecon 317 class coming in, and I am glad to see that he is taking up fishery trawlers. There are a lot more that he can have in Hull as auxiliary minesweepers.
The other issue as a first priority must be ASW. Here the Government's cuts over the years have lost us nine frigates or destroyers. We need more ships. A lot of improvements are coming in, as referred to in the White Paper, such as Seawolf, Icara, improved sonar and Sea Skua. But nothing has been said about the use of container ship and tankers, which is one of the most important issues of all. Without spending much money, the Government can have auxiliary aircraft carriers and anti-submarine vessels, provided they make the preparation and have the reserves now, and Sea Harrier could be operated from these ships.
The AV8B, the American successor to the Harrier, has 100 per cent. more lift and 200 per cent. more range than Harrier. I am told that the United States Marine Corps wants to order 345, and that may be followed by a naval order. That order would be more likely if the Royal Air Force ordered, for instance, 25 of these AV8Bs, many of which could be made in this country. I hope that the Minister of State will say something about that. I should also like to know what we are doing about the United States vertical launcher system developed by Martin Marietta. Rockets are discharged vertically from the ship's hull, 68 in a bank, and can be used against submarines or aircraft, and would enormously increase the firepower of our ships.
I shall not weary the House with the battle for resources, but that is the most important consideration of all. It has been referred to by SACLANT and SACEUR. The area outside NATO is where we may all be defeated without a war being fought. With Middle East oil and the minerals in Southern Africa, everything depends on the Cape route, the integrity of the Middle East and above all the integrity of Southern Africa, particularly South Africa. The Government's present policy is doing everything possible to destroy our relations with those vital parts of the world.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition understands only too well the processes of Russian thought. That is 318 why she has been christened the "Iron Maiden". For 30 years NATO has kept the peace, supported by everybody in this House except the extreme Left, but NATO's resolve may well be tested between 1982 and 1985. The next Conservative Government are pledged to give defence its proper priority, and I hope that that Government will match up to my right hon. Friend's resolve and give her their full backing on these vital issues.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
I hate listening to defence debates. It is most disagreeable to hear speeches from Tory Members trying to curdle my blood or rattle sabres about Britain's position in the world. Yesterday's Hansard shows that Tory Members spent six hours sabre-rattling, claiming they were speaking for Britain and her defence. After 10 o'clock we had an hour and a half when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy was legitimately defending the proper interests of Great Britain. He expressed his determination not to see the control of our natural assets of fuel pass to the Commissioners of Europe, and he was accused of jingoism by Tory Members. From yesterday's proceedings we can see who cares about the genuine interests of the British people.
I have great admiration for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy, but, as I sit listening to the Front Bench with my eyes closed, I find it depressing to consider that, if there were a change of Government and a Conservative spokesman opened the debate, there would not be much difference. When one has a Department, one identifies with it. The Minister is involved in its day-to-day running and is proud of its achievements. At the Dispatch Box he speaks with great pride of these achievements, which is what my hon. Friend was doing. He is also perhaps trying to deflect criticism by explaining the wonderful work that the Navy and the Armed Forces generally do in emergencies, such as sudden severe weather conditions. However, we are not spending £8,558 million a year just to produce a body of men who can help in sudden emergencies. I admire that work, but it should not blind us to the grossly extravagant use of our resources in over-providing for defence.
319 Stories from the Conservative Benches vary. Some say that we are still a little ahead of the Soviet Union, which is apparently now our central enemy. Our great friend is the Chinese People's Republic, although that change has required some spectacular cartwheels before hon. Gentlemen could believe it. The Soviet Union is clearly branded by Conservative Members and high-ranking generals as the enemy. In defence capability it is just behind us or, if we believe the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), well ahead in many regards. It is apparently able to reduce us to helplessness in a short time because of, for instance, its ability in mine laying and all other aspects of warfare. If it is so far ahead in its ability to attack, why does it not strike immediately? It is supposed to have large forces, unlimited money and huge numbers of tanks and fighter aircraft. There is no other explanation but that it does not want to or intend to. There is no indication of aggression on the part of the Soviet Union.
Hon. Members opposite have sought to justify the latest Chinese aggression against Vietnam. If the Soviet Union desired to start a war, that was a perfect excuse. It had just signed a friendship agreement with Vietnam which said that it would engage in immediate discussions if there was aggression against Vietnam. The situation there was grave, although we were unfortunately too busy to bother about the greatest threat to peace in the past five or ten years. The Soviet Union behaved responsibly and did not send troops to Vietnam to assist against the Chinese aggressors. In not doing so, it managed to defuse the situation.
§ Mr. Lamond
I have no brief from anyone. I do not even have notes. My knowledge of arms expenditure may not be quite as extensive as that of hon. Members who spend much time dealing with it.
The strategy that I support is the one outlined for my Government by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the special session of the United Nations on disarmament. The Prime Minister made an excellent speech at that meeting and 320 received the greatest ovation of any speaker among the 100 or more who addressed the special session. That was because of the constructive nature of his contribution. On that occasion he said that we must support and try to encourage in every way talks on disarmament and development. He made the very good point that one cannot change defence policy overnight. One can only gradually increase or reduce defence expenditure. Even if the Tories come into office in three months' time, they will not be able greatly to increase our defence expenditure immediately. However, I expect that they will set a trend which will be the opposite of that which I desire. I want to see a gradual reduction in the proportion of our GNP which is spent on defence. I believe that that is the only way forward.
Either we move towards a peaceful understanding with other countries or we arm ourselves to the teeth until a war breaks out. Unfortunately, when the next war breaks out it will mean the end of nations like ours. We are very densely populated with an arsenal bristling on our shores, and this makes us a prime target for our enemies. I do not know a great deal about defence. I do not have the benefits of all the advisers who have been engaged by many Conservative Members once they have been elevated to their Front Bench, but I have a modicum of common sense—
§ Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)
Reverting to the hon. Member's point about the examples and lessons of Vietnam, I invite him to consider another possible explanation of Russia's intentions. Where the target is "soft" and tricks can be won easily, the Russians go for it, just as they did in Ethiopia, the Middle East and Africa using the proxy of the Cubans. Where the target is more difficult and tends to bite back, the Russians stand off.
§ Mr. Lamond
That is an interpretation, but I do not accept it. There are many points in the hon. Member's interjection that I challenge—for example, the point about proxies and the position of Ethiopia. But many hon. Members want to speak, so I shall be brief.
We have heard a lot today about protecting the sea routes to our raw material supplies. Many people regard Southern Africa as important, not because of the 321 struggle there for self-determination but because it is a treasure trove of raw materials and we must protect our interests.
I believe that the best way to protect our interests and our future supply of raw materials from the underdeveloped nations, where many of these resources lie, is to extend to those nations the help and assistance that they need to bring them a tolerable standard of living.
At present, as Kurt Waldheim said at the Helsinki conference in 1975, the world spends 1,000 million dollars a day on arms. Of this, 80 per cent. is spent by the nations which were there at Helsinki, including the 35 nations of Europe and North America. We should take that money and use it to help the 1,000 million people in the world who go to bed hungry every day and the 800 million people who have no proper medical facilities and no education to speak of. It is no good Conservative Members shaking their heads. This is the biggest problem that faces the industrialised nations of the world. They must see that the people of the developing countries are helped with the money that we spend on arms. In that way we can much more readily secure our resources of raw materials.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
If only the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) would realise that if the Soviet Union spent less on arms we would all be able to get together and help humanity more. It is discouraging that he should still be so unaware of the dangers facing us at present.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie), in an effective and powerful speech, said all that needs to be said about the errors and omissions of the White Paper and the Government's defence policy. The Government have consistently neglected to do their duty to defend the nation, and on that point alone the sooner they go the better.
I shall refer mainly to the need to coordinate the defence procurement policy of the NATO Alliance wherever possible. I reinforce what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) in that regard. That does not conflict with our need to strengthen our own capability by ensuring the future of our own strategic nuclear deterrent. 322 Nor does it conflict with the Government's carrying out of the suggestions put forward by my right hon. Friend in dealing with matters within our control which are not necessarily very expensive.
Looking at defence as a whole, I do not believe that we can have an adequate deterrent or defence capability on the cheap. The most that we can hope for is better value for money, which we could have if we had an adequate policy for arms co-operation. Even that is not a cheap option.
It was misleading for the Secretary of State to say complacently yesterday that the Defence Estimates for 1979–80 represented an increase of 3 per cent. in real terms over 1978–79. To say that against a background of the savage cuts introduced before the chosen base year was sheer complacency. It may be doubted in any event whether a 3 per cent. real increase can be regarded as adequate in the face of current expenditure by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact Powers. General Haig has said that be thinks 5 per cent. is more realistic and I think that he is right. All that 3 per cent. amounts to for the European members of NATO is an additional expenditure of about £500 million on the European defence improvement programme. That is minuscule when one considers that the Soviet Union spent 40 per cent. more than the United States on arms in 1977 and that the gap is growing.
In the United States, the House of Representatives Armed Services Sub-Committee on NATO Standardisation, Interoperability and Readiness made its long-awaited report in February of this year. The report criticised the state of allied readiness and found that a 3 per cent. real annual growth in defence expenditure was inadequate. It concluded that the NATO long-term defence plan was of questionable value. Regrettably, that report is essentially negative in character, both on arms co-operation and everything else. It offers no solution beyond a pious hope for the strengthening and improving of the Alliance. That is the sort of pious hope upon which our own Government rely.
A great deal has been said about the balance of forces, but it is no longer true to say that the quality of NATO forces couner-balances the immense quantity 323 and superiority of the forces of the Warsaw Pact Powers. An "uneasy balance" was the term used recently by the United States Secretary for Defence to describe how Soviet and United States military strengths match up. That, if anything, is optimistic in the face of the increasing power, number and accuracy of Soviet strategic weapons.
The hon. Member for Oldham, East may not want to listen to the facts about Soviet strength and power, but he should be advised to give this matter more of his attention and to have regard particularly to the matters to which my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) referred—for instance, the development of the SS20 missile and the Backfire bomber. As my hon. Friend said, the SS20 may be a tactical nuclear weapon but it has a strategic range. We in Europe certainly need cruise missiles and the neutron bomb if we are to maintain a proper balance of forces.
Against that background, as the Secretary of State himself admitted yesterday,there is no escaping the need for the Alliance to devote more resources to defence if deterrence is to be maintained"—[Official Report, 26 March 1979; Vol. 965, c. 46.]He went on to say that the only way in which we could avoid that is if there were significant multilateral disarmament measures. Let us hope that there will be such measures, but also let us hope that they are genuine as well as significant on paper.
Europe is still dependent on the United States for its defence and will remain so for many years. However, I think that we must be prepared to contribute more to the common defence if only because it is becoming increasingly evident that the United States cannot afford to go it alone any longer, even if it wished to do so. We need to make a reality of what has been called the "two-way street" between the United States and Europe.
Mr. Thomas A. Callaghan junior, the director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown university, speaking to the United States Congress on 21 July 1977, said:The United States itself can no longer fund its own arms development programme adequately, with the result that many United States arms projects crawl along or become obsolete before they can be completed. The 324 United States needs Europe to undertake many such projects so that these, wherever undertaken, can be fully funded and move to completion. In other words what is required for the proper arming and equipping of Alliance forces, including those of the United States, is the spreading of the technology base to Europe.We cannot exaggerate the dangers to the Alliance of the erosion of the European technological base that has already taken place. Of the European Community's military aircraft and helicopters, 40 per cent. are of United States manufacture, not to mention the American components which are contained in the 60 per cent. of Community-manufactured military aircraft and helicopters. No less than 70 per cent. of the helicopters are of United States manufacture. Because we cannot divorce the military and the civil technology, another disturbing fact is that the share of the European market won by Community civil aircraft manufacturers fell from 95 per cent. in 1970 to a mere 7.8 per cent. in 1976 and it is still falling. That is quite out of balance.
This aspect of defence policy has lately gained—the House will be pleased to know—the attention of the European Parliament, which recently approved the Klepsch report on European procurement co-operation together with an annexed opinion by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) on the industrial dimension. It is, of course, the industrial and technological dimension which affords an opportunity for the European Parliament to discuss something which is not primarily its responsibility—namely, defence organisation.
There are sound industrial and technological, as well as military, reasons why we in Europe must reduce our dependence on the United States for defence equipment. The trouble is that the Americans themselves are now very dubious about both the prospects for European co-operation and our motives. Thus the House of Representatives report to which I have already referred states that, as applied by some European spokesmen and some Pentagon officials, the term "two-way street" is too often presented as a device to equalise economic benefits for European defence industries without sufficiently considering the contribution to military effectiveness.
There is, unfortunately, some force in that argument. In Europe we have done 325 far too little to standardise our own European defence procurement projects although we have been talking about it for years. We now talk about interoperability instead of rationalisation or standardisation, and still nothing happens. It is rather depressing to look at the White Paper and see just two short paragraphs—Nos. 128 and 129—which briefly refer to the Independent European Programme Group by saying that we will support its work and refer to the identification of a number of potential programmes which could be of benefit. I do not believe that that is any use at all.
As the United States report observes, the words "standardisation" and "interoperability" can often be given ambiguous definitions. They lead to conflicting policy guidance, and the word rationalisation as it is used in NATO has become a meaningless term.
We face dangers which, whatever the hon. Member for Oldham, East might think, we on the Conservative Benches believe to be real and immediate. While we have been cutting down on our defence expenditure, the Soviet Union has been spending nearly 15 per cent. of its gross national product on armaments. So it has achieved a superiority of three to one in tanks and four to one in artillery, against NATO forces. I say to the hon. Gentleman, who wonders why it is that Russia has not already attacked, that Soviet Russia is deterred by the nuclear deterrent and will not move as long as it feels that there is even a minimal possibility that we would rather be dead than red.
Yesterday the Secretary of State referred to the decision taken last September to proceed with the project definition of the new main battle tank to replace the Chieftain in the late 1980s. If necessary we must proceed on our own, though I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice that we ought to be seeking a much wider solution. The United States has its project, and the Germans have their project. How, for example, can the economics of French production of AMX30 battle tanks at possibly 150 annually and our own production of Chieftain tanks at, say, 200 annually be compared with the estimated production by the Soviet Union of over 2,000 main battle tanks a year?
326 We have a gross national product in the NATO Powers of about three times that of the Warsaw Pact Powers. Yet we are unable to match the Soviet Union, not only quantitatively but now, increasingly, in the quality of our arms procurement programme. We in the West have the means to defend ourselves, but I think we must continually ask whether we any longer have the will.
We must produce practical policies and actions if we are to hold the forces of the Soviet Union—which are political and subversive as well as military—at bay. There is nothing in the White Paper, and nothing in the Government's defence policy, which displays a willingness to take the hard, and perhaps unpalatable, decisions that have to be taken today either unilaterally or collectively.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) yesterday drew some revealing comparisons between the 1930s and today. Many others can be drawn. There are similarities in the language of detente and that of appeasement. There are similarities between the speeches of the 1930s and the speeches of today, except that, on the whole, the speeches of the 1930s were rather firmer in tone and the actions taken then were rather more positive. Today I think that there are significant differences from the 1930s. The threat to the survival of our civilisation is probably greater than it was in 1939. We are less well prepared to defend ourselves than we were then.
I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice said about the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a dreadful, disastrous and damaging Secretary of State for Defence. I cannot think of anybody in modern times who has done more harm to his country than that man. The best that I can say in defence of the present Secretary of State is that he is not the worst. Nevertheless the House may think that Sir Thomas Inskip was a ball of fire compared with the present Secretary of State, Chamberlain was an iron man compared to the present Prime Minister. Brezhnev never thought of calling the present Prime Minister an iron man. The Prime Minister has not considered defence, although defence is the primary responsibility of the Prime Minister. He has never thought of anything but his own survival. 327 I hope that after tomorrow he will be able to go back to the farm.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with his gloomy and doom-laden speech. I tremble to think what he would spend on defence if he were on the Government Front Bench. No doubt the right hon. and learned Member will go to Hexham to explain to his electorate how the Conservatives will cut taxation and the borrowing requirement at the same time as they increase defence expenditure to the proportions suggested by him. I do not believe that that is possible.
The righ hon. and learned Gentleman is ill informed. He referred to the imbalance in the central region. But he must know that NATO spends more money globally on defence than the Warsaw Pact. He must also know that globally NATO has more men in the armed forces than the Warsaw Pact. The authority for that is not the Tribune group but the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham also mentioned the neutron bomb. He cited General Haig with approval. Not long ago General Haig said that the lack of the availability of the neutron bomb was not a significant factor. I do not want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to rush us into a decision on the neutron bomb.
The White Paper is a somewhat modest document. I agree with certain of the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie). The White Paper contains only one page on SALT and MBFR. These issues are enormously important. If somebody wished to be informed about those issues, he would not glean much information from the White Paper.
I believe that the Government have shown considerable initiative in trying to lift the MBFR talks out of the morass in which they are sunk. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has suggested that the talks should be lifted to Foreign Secretary level. That is a sensible suggestion. We should try to inject some 328 momentum into the talks because, as all hon. Members will agree, positive benefits could flow from the talks.
I shall concentrate my remarks on Soviet expenditure and the build-up of arms. I shall deal with that matter in a wider context than have hon. Members so far today. I start from the premise that because we can never be sure of the intentions and purposes of the Soviet Union we must be ready to defend ourselves. I emphasise that because I shall use arguments of which Opposition Members will not approve.
The build-up in Soviet arms expenditure in the last decade does not indicate a positive intention by the Soviet Union to launch an attack, particularly in the central region. We must try to strike a balance when we consider why the Soviet Union is spending so much of its resources on arms.
The first reason is that the expenditure on arms is an expression of nationhood and the determination of a nation to defend itself. That is true of every nation. The expression of nationhood in the Soviet Union goes deeper than in Western countries. The totalitarian nature of Russia is such that it has always responded to expressions of might. That is one reason why the Russians found Khrushchev such a frivolous and useless leader and why there is still a considerable degree of reverence for such an appalling man as Stalin. Stalin was strong and firm. He spent much money on arms and he was a successful general. But I do not defend Stalin for one minute.
Extensive expenditure on arms enables a nation, which in all other contexts cannot compete with the West, to compete effectively. In terms of GNP and performance in industry and agriculture, the Soviet Union is behind the West. But its heavy defence expenditure is a means of demonstrating to the people of Russia that it is a powerful nation. The second reason is that the Soviet Union has always adopted a deeply defensive attitude to the rest of the world. Historically it has good reason for that. It has been invaded on a number of occasions. But that defensive attitude permeates Soviet thinking.
The Soviet Union's position has been greatly worsened because it faces on its western and eastern flanks what it considers to be enemies—NATO on the West 329 and China on the East. The emergence of China on the world scene has transformed international politics in a way that we have not yet come to appreciate.
The third reason why the Soviet Union spends such a large amount on arms is that it is an intensely conservative nation. Opposition Members are revolutionary in comparison to some of the politicians who control the hierarchy of the Soviet Union. There is no reason to doubt that the military industrial complex in the Soviet Union is as powerful and as potent, if not more so, than it is in the West.
§ Mr. Churchill
In the United States and in all the Western democracies the so-called military industrial complex is kept in bounds of reason by a free press and by regular consultations with the electorate, but in the Soviet Union it is the Government.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I would not go so far as to say that it is the Government, but certainly I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the two—the military industrial complex and the Government—are very closely interlinked.
The fourth point is that the Soviet Union, being a totalitarian State, is in a position to expend vast resources on arms. It does so knowing that it is in a position, if I may use the slang expression, to put the screws on the West. It is very much more difficult for us to increase expenditure on arms because, for perfectly legitimate reasons that have been so excellently put before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), we in the democracies find that, on the whole, there is a great reluctance to spend money on arms, quite legitimately so. In the Soviet Union, they have no such problems, they can simply ago ahead with it. It is a means whereby the Soviet Union is in a position to put great pressure on the West.
The fifth reason, which I think is important so far as arms expenditure in the Soviet Union is concerned, is what is called the whole process of "Finlandisation". It is an important point that enormous expenditure on arms by a nation, particularly in the context of the weaker nations on its border, enables that nation—that super-Power—to lean on its neighbour in a very significant way. Finland is a case in point. I know that there is a certain degree of anxiety at 330 present about the position of Norway and the fact that the Soviet Union is leaning on that country. It is for that reason, particularly in the central region, that it is necessary for us to have a firm and consistent defence posture.
I think that the reasons I have given are possible explanations why the Soviet Union expends as much of its gross national product on arms build-up as it does. I emphasise again, because we do not know ultimately what the intentions of that regime are or what could happen under a new Government, that it is necessary for us to provide for adequate defence in the West.
I said earlier that I considered that the whole world balance had changed. I really believe that it has done so. We have not taken it on board yet. Hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches are making speeches as if the arrival of China on the world scene had not really happened. In my view, the impact here is enormous.
My hon. Friend the Member for Old-ham, East (Mr. Lamond) raised the question of the invasion of Vietnam by China and the fact that Russia did not do anything about it. I welcome the restraint of the Russians in that context. I doubt, however, whether the Russians felt able to do anything about it. It is not only a question of what China has done in terms of arms. There is another factor in the East which receives absolutely no coverage in the West, and that is the development of the trade treaty between Japan and China. The Soviet Union can see emerging on its border this vast and powerful nation, which clearly will have massive repercussions for the Russians themselves. Also, the great ballistic missile build-up in the USSR effectively dates from Nixon's visit to China in 1972. Quite clearly, the Russians are paranoid about the situation there.
I have said that there are reasons why the arms build-up has taken place in the USSR. I merely wish to emphasise again, lest my remarks are misconstrued, that the Soviet Union is a world Power. It expends a proportion of its GNP on arms which must be a matter of concern to the West. I believe that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), who intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East, had a good point in terms of Soviet foreign 331 policy about the soft target and the hard target, and going for the soft target. For that reason, I think reluctantly it is necessary to come to the conclusion that we must sustain defence expenditure, although not at the ridiculous levels which the Opposition have put before the House. However, we have to maintain a reasonable defence posture.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Bonner Pink (Portsmouth, South)
I found the appreciation of the situation by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) of great interest. He highlighted many of the problems and dangers that confront us. I agree with him that progress in talks on disarmament is most desirable, and certainly we on this side shall work towards it.
I listened most attentively to yesterday's debate. It followed very closely that of last year, of the year before and of the year before that, as does the White Paper. But it is becoming more obvious that there is an increasing divergency of views. We on this side have made our position perfectly clear. We are determined to preserve peace and we are convinced that the best way to do that is to be sufficiently strong, so that nobody will think that it is worth while to attack us. That is why defence is our first priority.
On the opposite side, the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) favours wholesale unilateral disarmament, and it seems that the Government hover uncertainly between the two. The White Paper speaks with more than one voice. Paragraph 103 talks about reliance on America; paragraph 104 about reliance on international arms control and disarmament agreements; paragraph 105 about reliance on SALT II. That is all very optimistic, complacent and soothing. Paragraph 120 says:… the growth in quantity of the Soviet forces…together with continued qualitative improvements, has extended their capability well beyond what can be considered necessary for purely defensive purposes.That is down-to-earth and pessimistic.
According to the Foreign Affairs Research Unit, General David C. Jones, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, states:For years the Soviet Union has out-produced the United States in tanks, artillery, 332 ships, missiles and aircraft and it continues to do so. The traditional United States advantage in aircraft construction has all but disappeared and the Soviet construction rates for other types of major naval combatants is at equal or higher rates.So much for the contention of the hon. Member for Salford, East that it is America which has made the military running or has predominance in aircraft carriers.
We on this side are concerned about the rundown in forces, not just in numbers, but in quality. We are concerned over the wastage of highly trained officers and men who leave early or do not re-engage.
The Minister says that the Army is to be increased by 6,000 persons. Even if he gets them, they will have to be trained, but he has told us that, in spite of good recruiting, the total strength of the Services dropped by 6,000 last year. The reasons have been spelt out—pay and conditions. Apart from manpower, there is the shortage of spares, due entirely to successive defence cuts. The Minister told us that arms exports represent 70,000 to 75,000 job opportunities in industry, so why do not the Government increase defence spending to reduce unemployment and to give this country a positive result, instead of spending it on unemployment pay and wasteful employment schemes?
Pay has been emphasised, but there are many smaller examples too. Just one is the anomaly of the pre-1950 widows. Why will not the Government have sympathy and act now? We on this side advocate not unlimited spending but enough to ensure our security and to honour our commitments.
Figure 5 in the White Paper shows that the United Kingdom is second in the league in expenditure taken as a percentage of the gross domestic product. Some Government Members seem to take pride in that. But it also shows that the total spending is well below that of both France and Germany, and expenditure per capita is just over half that of the United States and two-thirds that of France and Germany. Statistics can prove anything, but these figures clearly show, first, that we are spending too little on defence and not pulling our weight and, secondly, that our gross national product is woefully low. The blame for both rests 333 squarely on the Government. We shall raise the gross national product to provide for increased spending, and that is the answer to the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens). Press reports continually highlight the inadequacies of our defence in men, equipment and spare parts, but the Government continue to bury their heads in the sand and allow our defences to fall to dangerous levels. For this they stand condemned.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Mr. Alec Woodall (Hemsworth)
I wish to talk not about missiles, equipment and pacts, or about Backfire, Swingfire and hellfire. This technical jargon is all very well, but there is one basic element in the defence of the nation that we must have right, and that is the calibre of the men and women within the forces and the way we treat them.
During Question Time this afternoon, on the subject of pay demands, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister asked the Opposition, as he has done on many occasions, "What would you do? Would you give in? Would you give them what they are demanding?" Strangely enough, there was very little response. That is remarkable because last year during the debate on the police award and the firemen's award, which the Government proposed to make in two stages, we were told from the Opposition Benches "Give them the lot now; we would give it to them". Similar noises have been made recently about the nurses. The Opposition would meet the nurses' demands now—not the road sweepers or the refuse collectors, but the nurses, yes. That is not my experience of the Conservative Party.
I joined the Army in 1939 when the Conservatives were in power, and my pay was 2s. a day. We were very well looked after. I left at home a widowed mother who received 50p per week. I was the breadwinner, and I had to come out of the pit and leave her to live on 50p per week. As soon as I was in the Army, I asked what would happen to my mother and was told that she would be looked after. I was asked to fill in a form and sign it, which I did. I was assured that my mother would receive an Army allowance of 15s. per week. Fair, she did. Within a matter of weeks she received a book to take to the post office which entitled her to 15s. a week.
334 On the Friday of the week I joined, after we had been licked into shape by the sergeant, we had to go on pay parade. We were shown how to salute with the right hand, go up to the pay desk when one's name was called, hold out the right hand, take the money, put it into the left hand, salute again with the right hand, turn round and go away. This we did and we had our pay. There was no warning about examining the change because no mistake could be rectified later. All I received was 25p. I said "There is a mistake here, I am 2s. short." The company quartermaster sergeant said "Hold that man ".
What a dressing down I got from the military. I was told that I would get 5s. only, because I had signed an application for an allowance for my mother and to go towards that allowance half of my pay, 1s. a day, was deducted, so I was left with 35p a week. They were crafty in the Army in those days. At some time we might break a barrack room window. We were paid 5s. and the other 2s. was kept in case we broke a window. That is how we were treated in 1939.
I joined a famous light infantry regiment which did everything to the call of the bugle. The first thing we had to learn was the bugle call. We went to bed by bugle, we got up in the morning by bugle, and we went for meals by bugle. There was one bugle call at a certain hour in the afternoon, the "ration call". It informed the ladies in married quarters that it was time to go to the quartermaster's store to draw their rations. We often learned bugle calls by jingles. "Come to the cookhouse door, boys" "Lights out" and "Reveille" were easy. The ration call went something like this:"There's peas and pies for officer's wives; for private's wives there's skilly." Those jingles were not dreamed up by someone who had been out on the beer the night before, because we did not have enough money to go out on the beer. They were not jocular. Skilly was skilly, and if hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches do not know what skilly is my wish is that they never get to know.
This was the Army in 1939. That is the way we were treated by the Conservative Government. I remember one day a lieutenant coming into the office. He said to the sergeant-major "The girl who 335 comes to help my wife with the cleaning is pregnant and my wife will not have her in the house. Please get me another girl to help my wife with the cleaning." That was the usual practice, the company sergeant-major was demoted to acting unpaid domestic agency. His job was to go round the married quarters to find the wife of a soldier and offer her a few shillings a week to skivvy for the officer's wife. In that part of the country, not far from York, hundreds of wives had enough common sense to go down to Rowntree's and make chocolate, and thus they were able to make more money than they could have done by being a skivvy for the officer's wife.
When it comes to pay for the members of the Armed Forces, the Conservatives would immediately say "Give them the moon ". My warning to members of the forces and to those who are thinking of joining the forces is to take what the Conservatives say with a large pinch of salt, because my experience is that which I have just related.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
We are all indebted to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Woodall) for giving us the benefit of his experience as a soldier in the Second World War. He will forgive me if I do not follow him. I am unable to speak from experience except as one who was issued with a Mickey Mouse gas mask.
We are here today to discuss the adequacy of Britain's defence in a dangerous and rapidly changing world. Upon the accuracy of our assessment of the potential threats that confront us, and upon our judgment of what is necessary to neutralise those threats, will depend the future of our nation and of our people, on whose behalf terrible sacrifices have been made so that we and future generations may live in peace and freedom. If our judgment is sound, we may look with confidence towards an ever brighter future of rising prosperity and technological advance in which all mankind may share. If we fail in our judgment, as a previous House of Commons in its collective unwisdom failed in its judgment, the consequences for all our people will be unfathomable.
Forty years ago it meant war, as the hon. Member for Hemsworth illustrated. It meant six years of sacrifice, suffering 336 and bereavement until finally victory was won. Then there was a further generation of reconstruction. Another time—heaven forbid that there should be another time—there would be no 12 months' respite to repair our run-down defences. Nor would there be any victory at the end of the road. Our people, so often reassured by their leaders that they were living in an age when the prospects for peace have never been brighter, would awaken from their torpor to find their lives, their hopes and their future all shattered as they are confronted by the brutal reality of nuclear holocaust or invasion and enslavement by a totalitarian Power, which has been the lot of our brothers in Eastern and Central Europe for the last 40 years.
Nothing is more important to our people than that they and their children should continue to live out their lives in peace and in freedom. Further, I believe that to achieve that goal they would be willing to make sacrifices, provided one thing: that they are told the truth. No individual is in a position to be better informed on these matters than the Prime Minister, who has central responsibility for matters of defence. It is he who has charge of our intelligence service and who receives regular detailed briefings, including the latest satellite photography supplied by our American allies. It appears to be his considered judgment that we are living in an era of detente. But he is at pains regularly to reassure our people on that point. The British people should know that the full truth is being deliberately kept from them. Indeed, they are being told the reverse of the truth. We find ourselves confronted—however unpalatable that fact may be, however many different interpretations may be put on the facts by Labour Members—by a totalitarian State whose leaders hold the openly avowed aim of conquering the world. To achieve that aim they have built the biggest war machine that the world has ever seen.
The Soviet Union's 50,000 tanks represent an armoured strength 20 times greater than Hitler's Nazi Germany deployed six months after the outbreak of war. Yet the Russians are adding to that armoured strength 4,000 tanks each year. Can that be called detente?
Figure 2 of the White Paper might easily mislead people into thinking that the Soviets have no more than 9,800 main battle tanks. Of course, that takes into 337 account a narrow area only on the central front of only Europe. What does the Secretary of State imagine that the other 40,200 tanks will do when the balloon goes up? Will they stay at home base in the Soviet Union? Of course not. That is why these figures are grossly incomplete and misleading, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) has already pointed out.
Since 1971, the Soviet union has been sitting down with the Western countries in Vienna to try to come to some arrangement in regard to arms reduction in central Europe. The whole purpose of these mutual and balanced force reduction talks has been to reduce tension and the danger of war in Europe by reducing the size of the opposing forces. Paragraph 113 in the White Paper states that negotiations are proceeding "slowly but steadily". That is a categorically misleading statement. In 1968, the group of Soviet forces in Germany—East Germany, that is—had 1,600 pieces of artillery and 2,500 armoured personnel carriers. Since then, those figures have doubled. Figure 2 shows that Soviet tanks in central Europe during that period have increased by no fewer than 2,555—the equivalent of two and a half tank armies, each with double the armoured strength of Britain's Army of the Rhine.
The whole objective of the MBFR talks has thereby been vitiated and the USSR has already achieved the capability of making an unreinforced surprise attack from its deployed positions. That can only heighten tension and increase the danger of war. At the strategic level, the Soviet Union has overtaken the West in every parameter of strategic nucler power, except only in the numbers of warheads. Even in that field, it is likely that by 1983 the Soviet Union will have the advantage.
How incredible it is to reflect that, in the space of a single generation, the United States should have passed from a position of total monopoly to a position approaching inferiority. Britain should know that the SALT agreements, far from being a brake—as Labour Members have suggested—on the deployment of weapons of mass destruction, have proved a licence, nay an incentive, to the production of those weapons.
338 In a parliamentary reply to my question on 23 June last year, the Secretary of State said that in the past 10 yearsthe United States strategic missile force has remained constant over the period—at 1,710—whereas the Soviet Union's ICBM and SLBM force has increased from around 600 to 2,400 systems".—[Official Report, 23 June 1978; Vol. 952, c. 323.]Although the Soviet Union has overtaken the United States, it continues to deploy new intercontinental ballistic missiles at a rate of no less than 200 per year—four each week. Is that what the Prime Minister has in mind when he says that we live in a state of detente? Of course, the weapons are being deployed not solely with the people of the United States in mind. Mr. Brezhnev has ordained a specific category for our benefit, the so-called Euro strategic weapons. In addition to the 500 SS4 medium range ballistic missiles and the 90 SS5 intermediate range ballistic missiles which are aimed at Western Europe, in the past 18 months the Soviet Union has deployed more than 100 Backfire supersonic nuclear strike bombers armed with nuclear-warhead cruise missiles.
In a parliamentary reply on 19 March, the Secretary of State said:We believe about 100 SS-20 intermediate range ballistic missiles are now deployed with the Soviet strategic rocket forces.He added rather significantly:Most of these missiles are deployed against Western Europe".—[Official Report, 19 March 1979, Vol. 964, c. 457.]The SS20 is emphatically not a theatre nuclear weapon, as appears to be suggested by paragraph 124 of the White Paper. In fact, it has a greater range and its warheads are more powerful than our own Polaris missiles. There can be no question of equating it with the so-called neutron bomb about which Labour Members kicked up such a fuss so recently and with such effect that it was not deployed. Why is it that Labour Members are now so deafeningly silent about the new missiles being aimed and targeted against our cities and our families? What has been deployed in the last 18 months, in terms of SS20 missiles alone, represents no less than 10,000 Hiroshima bombs in destructive capability.
It must be a matter of concern that, while those systems are excluded from the SALT talks, there appears to be a 339 danger that the United States will agree to unilateral protocols restricting the deployment and range of the cruise missile, which is the only weapon readily available to counter the massive increase in the threat to Western Europe. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will assure us that the Government have made representations to Washington about the extreme concern felt throughout Western Europe that the interests of the European allies of the United States may not be fully taken into account, particularly as regards the transfer of technology.
The reality is that we are confronted with a massive build-up which is increasing relentlessly and remorselessly every week and every month. It is difficult to see how anyone, but particularly someone in the Prime Minister's position of responsibility, can honestly describe a situation that has never been more dangerous in the history of the world as one of detente. It is certainly not the sort of "detente" that I seek for myself and my family and I venture to believe that it is not what our people seek for themselves and their families.
The Prime Minister and his colleagues will have to answer for themselves at the bar of history. Regrettably, it could be the whole nation which pays the price of their reckless and irresponsible deception of the British people as to the truth and gravity of our situation.
Against the background of the greatest military build-up that the world has seen, the White Paper appears a sad and miserable little document. At best, it is irrelevant. At worst, it is a stepping-stone to catastrophe. It is perhaps indicative of the spirit of Munich that pervades its pages that six times as much space is devoted to "Detente and Disarmament" as is provided for "Defence and Deterrence".
Once again, the central feature of the White Paper is further cuts in defence expenditure. The Government have now made five successive cuts. Estimates for the current year represent a £1,472 million cut from the pre-defence review programme. Even compared to the post-review programme—after the review that was supposed to end all defence reviews—the reply of the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth 340 (Mr. Trotter) on 5 March indicates that the current budget represents an £83 million reduction. Yet the Government have the nerve to describe that as a 3 per cent. increase. Whom do they think they are fooling?
§ Mr. Woodall
Can the hon. Gentleman explain what he meant when he talked about the spirit of Munich?
§ Mr. Churchill
I had in mind the deliberate failure to tell the British people the truth about the gravity of our situation and the placing of false interpretations on the situation by suggestions that everything in the garden is rosy when nothing could be farther from the truth.
The most grievous damage done by the Government has been to the men and women of the Armed Forces, to whose spirit and expertise I pay tribute. They carry out the thankless task of protecting the civilian population of Northern Ireland with exemplary courage and dedication. But they have been shamefully ill treated by this Government, who have trepassed on their loyalty by using them as a body of strike-breakers while paying them less than one-third of their due.
The Armed Forces have fallen 37 per cent. behind the rest of the community in pay. That is likely to be the figure revealed by the next report of the Review Body. I see that the Minister of State is wrinkling his brow. He will be aware that last year's pay award of 10 per cent. reduced the short-fall to 22 per cent., but the most recent figures available in the Library indicate that there has been a 15 per cent. increase in average earnings since then.
The Government have announced that the Army is to be increased by 6,000, but who brought about the cuts in the first place? Who slashed the Army by 16,000? If we are overstretched in peacetime, heavens knows what would happen if we had to move to a war footing.
The decisions facing the next Conservative Government will have to be taken with rapidity because they have been put off for so long. The first decision must be to restore the full comparability of forces' pay this year, and I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) has repeated our commitment to that. We cannot afford the drain of 341 human skills and experience which is bleeding the forces white.
Of all the decisions that require our attention, none is more urgent and pressing than the modernisation and improvement of our nuclear deterrent. Once the V-bombers are stood down, as they will be, on the present Government's plans, by 1982, we will be left with a single Polaris vessel at sea at any one time. That is a dangerous situation and an urgent improvement is needed to our capability. Serious consideration should be given to the cruise missile as a short-term measure.
If there is any reason why there have been wars in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in the past 30 years, but not in Europe, it is that the Russians have known that Mother Russia would pay the price if they embarked on any adventures against Western Europe. I agree with the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) that, as long as the Russians have that conviction, there is no danger of a war in Europe.
There is a critical lack of air defence, and it is urgent that we increase the air defence capability of the United Kingdom. We have only 70 aircraft and we cannot wait until the late 1980s for the Tornado ADV. We must find an alternative before then, possibly in the form of the F15 from the United States. The United States Government might be prepared to provide an offset for that by purchasing Tornados. I should be interested to hear how far our Government have pursued that possibility.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
There have been significant improvements in air defence and it may put the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest as regards the possibility of extra fighters if I tell him that it is recognised that the Soviet threat has grown tremendously through its capability to reach and destroy targets within the United Kingdom. The Air Force Department has therefore given careful consideration to the possibility of increasing the number of air defence fighters available to the United Kingdom. A decision has been taken on the general principle and detailed studies are under way. I hope that it will not be long before the gap can be filled.
§ Mr. Churchill
That is the first time we have had any such indication from the Government. We are certainly glad that they are thinking about it. But what 342 is required is action. I believe that the next Conservative Government will take action. The forces of Soviet aggression are advancing unchallenged across vast areas of the globe—Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Europe must start bearing a fairer share of the burden of allied defence. Britain must play its full part in that. It is urgent that the necessary decisions are taken to remedy the grave defects in our defences. Those decisions will not be taken by this Government. There is no more pressing reason than that of defence for the House to give this Government their marching orders tomorrow night so that a Conservative Government, committed to taking the necessary action to save the peace, while time remains, may get on with the job. May that Government have the courage of their leader's convictions. I believe that they will.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest G. Perry (Battersea, South)
I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) had to say. I suppose that it is a pleasure to follow someone with such a name. I had the privilege of following his grandfather in 1940 when he came into the Government, became Prime Minister and led this country in co-operation with other parties to victory in the 1939–45 war.
Some of the derogatory remarks made by the Opposition Front Bench about some of my hon. Friends leave a lot to be desired. The hon. Member for Stretford said that the Prime Minister was dedicated to detente. What is wrong with that? The hon. Gentleman drew the picture of the terrible consequences if we allowed naked aggression, the pile-up of nuclear weapons and the growth of air forces that can destroy cities from a hundred miles away. If that is allowed to happen on both sides of the front—among the Western nations and those of the Warsaw Pact—no respectable Prime Minister would be worth his salt if he did not try to come to some detente with the people on the other side.
The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on his speeches at the United Nations, at Guadeloupe and elsewhere in trying to bring home this message of detente to the people of the world. I am sure that President Carter, Chancellor Schmidt and all those people who bear 343 responsibility for the well-being of the world will ensure that safeguards exist to protect the human race.
I received some papers and pamphlets today from the American embassy telling me how well the SALT talks are progressing. The documents referred to SALT I and SALT II and the fact that it is hoped to start SALT III talks in the near future. It is to the credit of the United States that it realises that unless it comes to some form of detente with the USSR the human race will be destroyed. I am sure that the hon. Member for Stretford, like all hon. Members, is interested in the success of detente.
We have heard much in the debate about 1938 and 1939, about Munich and the consequences of it. For over 100 years, Russia has been the bogyman of this country. This feeling stems from the Crimean war and the Russian advance into the Pacific via Siberia. Most dangerous to this country was the Russian advance towards the Indian Ocean when they started to take over the Khan States north of India. At that time, India was the brightest jewel in the British crown. Our fear was that Russia would acquire a warm water port and occupy India.
This was the political thinking in Britain for over 100 years. The treaty of 1878 signed by Disraeli was a measure to try to stop the Russians going further south. To some extent, it succeeded. With the advent of the Great War, this country had to seek allies to combat Germany. It had France in the Entente Cordiale. France had an agreement with Russia which meant, in the end, that we had an agreement with Russia. Ever since the Russian revolution, we have had the spectre or bogy of Communism in this country.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) put his finger on what happened in 1938 and 1939 when he said in yesterday's debate:Do not let us forget that Chamberlain's brush-off of Litvinov in 1938 made us incapable of resisting Hitler at Munich and led directly to the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement."—[Official Report, 26 March 1979; Vol. 965, c. 83.]No truer word has been said in this House. The Soviet Union has been blamed all along the line for coming to an agreement with Nazi Germany.
344 In the 1930s it was the policy, not under Mr. Baldwin but under Mr. Chamberlain, to drive, if possible, the Nazi war machine to the East. That policy failed. In the words of the hon. Member for Stretford, our defences were in a deplorable state in 1938 and 1939. This is borne out by many of my hon. Friends and many hon. Gentlemen opposite who had to bear the brunt of going to war against the biggest war machine this world had ever known with Lewis guns and Maxim guns, produced before the First World War. We had to look around for weapons to defend ourselves. We came up with two fine guns. One, called the Bren gun, came from Czechoslovakia and was a light machine gun. The other, a Swedish gun, was called the Bofors gun. They were two of the finest guns in the Second World War. We had to buy them. We had to buy the plans and produce them ourselves or they were produced in other parts of the world.
We had been so inefficient from 1933 onwards that we had not recognised the menace of Hitler. If any party is responsible, it is the Conservative Party. The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles), who is laughing, should look back at the records and find out what happened. The fault at that time lay in the Tory Party, which had a majority of three to one in this House. In 1935, it was returned with 450 seats against 150 on the Labour Benches. The Tories were responsible in the years leading up to the 1939 War.
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I hold no brief for Mr. Chamberlain, but, to give him his due, even the measures of rearmament that he sought to put through were consistently voted against by the Labour Party throughout the 1930s.
§ Mr. Perry
That may be so. But the point is that the Tory Party had a three-to-one majority in the House of Commons. They could have passed any measure they wished. When some of my hon. Friends and friends on the other side—I call them my friends because between 1939 and 1945 we served in different spheres of the Armed Forces but called ourselves friends—were serving together, we called ourselves comrades.
The hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) is leaving the House 345 at the end of this Parliament, as I am. He served in Burma. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese and remained a prisoner for three and a half years. I extend to him my felicitations and I wish him a good retirement. He has rendered greater service to the country than many others. I wish him good health and happiness in his retirement.
There are other right hon. and hon. Members who served in the last war. The right hon. Member for Pavilion did a memorable job in Yugoslavia. Sometimes sneering remarks are made by those on the Opposition Front Bench about Ministers fiddling the books. They should remember that most of those who sit on the Government Front Bench took part in the last war if they were old enough to do so. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for Defence and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force all took part. Mr. Anthony Crosland also served. Sneering and jeering remarks are made about Labour Ministers fiddling the books, but such remarks are being directed to those who rendered a contribution from 1939 to 1945. That should not be forgotten.
We have reminisced about the Second World War. One of the greatest moments in my life was to hear the result of the battle of El Alamein. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) may grin, but the results of the battles of El Alamein and Stalingrad were morale-boosters for the British Army, especially for those serving overseas. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Eye, who was imprisoned in Singapore, must have been sent almost into the sky with those imprisoned with him when he heard the news of El Alamein and Stalingrad. Those pieces of news must have been great fillips to them. Let us not jeer and grin like the hon. Member for Woking. These were pieces of news that kept the forces going during the last war in times of adversity.
I read a small article in the Daily Mirror yesterday about Bofors being fired for the last time by the British Army. The Bofors gun went out of use yesterday and six rounds were fired as a memorial. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army could have invited a few Members of Parliament 346 who used Bofors during the last war to take part, for example, in halt action and to fire the Bofors.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Robert C. Brown)
It was organised by the RAF.
§ Mr. Perry
In Opposition, Conservatives are always spendthrifts, but when in power they are parsimonious. That has been evident on many occasions.
During September 1978, with six other hon. Members, I had the privilege to visit the British Army of the Rhine. We spent nearly a week with the Rhine Army. We questioned soldiers, senior NCOs, officers, those responsible for supplies and the Commander-in-Chief. I was struck by the high morale of British troops in BAOR. That feeling was shared by my six colleagues.
Naturally, there were complaints. I shall read out a list of complaints. I gave an undertaking to do so to the Commander-in-Chief. These are complaints that those in BAOR wish to be remedied. The men have great pride in their equipment.
The bombardiers with Chieftain tanks complained to me bitterly. They asked why first-class Chieftains had been sent to Iran when they had Chieftains with low-powered engines that often had to undertake roles for which they were not designed. However, my general impression was that the soldiers were proud of their equipment and proud of their regiments. Of course, they wanted to see their equipment improved, but very often the first subject that they spoke about was their equipment, and it was clear that they had pride in it.
We hear Opposition Members talking about Service men leaving the British forces. I do not doubt that some leave. Anyone who has had experience of the forces knows that there are always misfits who are only too glad to get out. My experience was that the morale of the British forces, both in the RAF and the Army, was first-class. I am sure that my six colleagues will support me in at least that respect.
We talked to the top people, but we also talked to squaddies and senior NCOs. The quality of our senior NCOs is first-class. I make that comment as an ex-senior NCO. I do not think that they 347 could be bettered anywhere in the world. I talked to senior NCOs serving in BAOR, and I was proud to be associated with them.
I direct my remarks to the complaints that I was asked to bring to the notice of the House in the next defence debate. I said that I would do so. I bring these matters to the attention of the House on behalf of my six colleagues.
The first complaint hinges on comparability of pay. We have heard a great deal about that. I am in favour of soldiers, sailors and airmen having comparability with everyone else. I believe that we should be paid according to the service that we render.
Secondly, the men want proper compensation for the expenses and difficulties of living in Germany. That complaint is directed to the local overseas allowance. Many of the wives of ordinary soldiers and senior NCOs go to work in Germany to supplement the family income. I have nothing against that. If they want to go to work, let them do so. Some of the wives work in BAOR and some in the NAAFI. They do a first-class job.
The third complaint is that baggage scales have remained constant for several years. The average Service man in BAOR wants his baggage payment considerably increased when he moves from one place to another on the instructions of the Army.
Fourthly, they want more nursing sisters and social workers.
§ Mr. Perry
I am sure that the House wants to hear what serving men in the British Army of the Rhine are thinking.
The wives of men serving in the RAF, the Army and the Royal Navy have social problems. There is no reason why the allocation of social workers should not be increased. Not all Service wives want to go to the captain's wife to discuss the 348 personal problems that they have with their husbands.
§ Mr. Woodall
During my hon. Friend's visit to BAOR, did he come across the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association? I understand that there are several officers in BAOR who are attached to the association who are doing a magnificent job.
§ Mr. Perry
I am glad that my hon. Friend reminded me of this. The Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association does a first-class job. I pay tribute to it for the work it does for soldiers' families. However, I see no reason why social workers should not give the benefit of their experience to our people serving abroad. Service men and their families are isolated. They have problems. They need expert advice. Sometimes they do not want to go to the captain's wife to get it. They would like to see someone independent, as do people in this country.
I come to the question of payment of DHSS benefits to British forces and their families in Germany. This may be a controversial point. However, it is worthy of recognition. I hope that the Minister will take it up.
The next important point is the implementation of an assisted house purchase scheme. This applies to all ranks. Many a serving soldier, of whatever rank—private, captain or general—is worried about where to live when he leaves his military accommodation after his time is up. My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) has discussed this problem often. Recognising the problem, we must try to help. There is no reason why an advantageous scheme should not be designed to ascertain the needs of a serving man on retirement so that he may at least have a house in which to live, whether a council house or a house acquired on mortgage. The Government must help. I ask them to give serious consideration to retiring Service men, who sometimes, with their wives and children, must live with relatives as they have nowhere to go. The least they deserve is a place in which to live when they have finished their time in the Services.
Last, I come to the freezing of accommodation charges. When Service men receive an increase in pay, the house rents go up. This happens in this country as 349 well. Living charges and prices go up. I ask the Minister to consider this matter. There is no point in increasing the pay of Service men if their outgoings are increased by 25 per cent., 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. We must realise that Service men and their families live in conditions that are strange to us. It is not paradise to live in an isolated community in Germany.
I am glad to have made that appeal on behalf of the Armed Forces in Germany. When I saw them last September I gave an undertaking that I would bring these points forward. I was struck by the high morale of all the Service men whom I visited. I am confident that their leaders are first-class and have the welfare of their soldiers at heart. I was glad to have the opportunity of seeing our forces at work in Germany.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Before I call another hon. Member to address the House, I have to say that there are nine hon. Members in the Chamber who have sat here for most of the debate yesterday and today. There are many more on the list who are not sitting here now. There have been only two speeches in the past 45 minutes. If we are to make progress, I must appeal for brevity.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
I shall be careful to follow your instructions, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and spend no more than five or 10 minutes in making my contribution.
The saddest thing about the debate is that it is the first time for many years that we shall not be able to enjoy the wit and wisdom of Mr. David Walder.
I have sat throughout the debate and listened with great interest to the mover of the amendment, the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun). What can one say about the hon. Gentleman's speech? It was long, repetitive and ill-argued. It was proof of the assertion that the easiest way in which to inhibit thought is to make a speech, especially in this place. It was made without any support from his colleagues below the Gangway, save conceivably for a roar or two from the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr)—about whom it might be said that his socks are the least offensive part of him.
350 I do not wish to discuss what this Government have done on defence, as everybody has done for the past five years ad nauseam. We should be much more interested in what might, or will, happen in the future. The sad and shabby story of the past five years can safely be left to some earnest, if masochistic, mid-Western academic in search of a second degree.
What are the qualities we shall look for in a Conservative Secretary of State for Defence? There are two—first, that he should prefer Mars to Morpheus and, secondly, that he should be prepared, willing and able to argue his corner in the Cabinet for a greater share of the available resources for defence. I may say perhaps without risk of hubris to my four Front Bench colleagues that it will not be long before they are in receipt of large black Rover motor cars and small WRAC drivers.
What are the problems that will face a Conservative Secretary of State? The first problem is a steady erosion in the belief in the United States' nuclear guarantee. That steady erosion highlights Europe's anxiety—or dilemma—that, while we recognise the erosion of the guarantee, we certainly have no relish for having to plan more seriously for a theatre nuclear war in Europe and that we are reluctant to devote more money to our conventional defence. In the past we skated over this dilemma and ignored it, but we shall not be able to continue to do so.
How, then, should we react? On the one hand we could urge the United States to adopt the nuclear rearmament of Europe itself, perhaps by stationing a new IRBM in Europe and thus, for a time at least, restore the status quo on deterrence. Alternatively, do we believe that there should be a shift in the balance between Europe and the United States, with a larger voice in policy making for Europe within the Atlantic community? If we believe that, Britain and Europe must begin to allocate more of our joint resources to our common defence.
Let me not be misunderstood. I am not arguing against the Americans—far from it. There is a strong belief on the other side of the Atlantic that a more ballanced Alliance, in terms of sharing the intellectual and military burdens, as well as spending more money, would be a 351 stronger Alliance. But whatever we choose to do, as the next Conservative Government, other problems remain. They are, first, the future of the Polaris force. We have to decide, first, whether we should stay a nuclear Power, and, if so, with what and with whom. Secondly, we must decide what role, if any, there should be for Europe in SALT III negotiations.
I believe that we should stay nuclear. There are many non-nuclear Powers but no ex-nuclear Powers. Were we to leave the Polaris force to wither on the vine, it would be interpreted by our friends and enemies as a weakening in our commitment to the common defence. What sense would it make for us at a time of nuclear rearmanent in Europe, especially Soviet nuclear rearmament, for Britain to disarm her own nuclear striking force? But with whom should we co-operate? We could go it alone. We could look again at the United States for help, as we did in the past, or we could co-operate with the French. All I will say is that we shall need to scrutinise with very great care each of these three choices.
What will be the attitude of a Conservative Government towards SALT III? Do we believe that a third round of strategic arms limitation talks should be bilateral—that is, between the United States of America and the USSR only—or multilateral; that is, with Europe within it? If we believe that it should be between the USA and USSR only, we should give thought to the way in which European interests might be involved in the planning and consultations of SALT III, but, if they are multilateral talks, what sort of European organisation should join the negotiations? A multilateral negotiation would stimulate the interest of Europeans in their own defence. We might suggest to NATO that three "wise men" might be asked to consider the position of Europe within the context of a SALT III negotiation.
There is, of course, a lot else that we shall have to do. We must stop the loss of Service men which is due to low pay. We need to do better at the conventional level, so that we can fight longer. We need to place more emphasis upon reserves, auxiliaries and civil defence. We might adopt the recommendations of the Shapland report, which were that the 352 TAVR units in peacetime should recruit above war establishment. An additional £15 million a year would stimulate recruiting for the TAVR and by so doing strengthen our reserve forces. It is more economic to recruit more part-time soldiers than it is to raise more men for the Regular Army.
We shall need to intervene in the search for a replacement for the Harrier and Jaguar, and to harden and protect RAF and United States airfields in this country. We need more air defence, more missiles against armour, and more money spent upon anti-submarine warfare.
The aim of the next Conservative Government is the restoration of national morale. This will not be achieved unless we allocate more resources to defence and face up to the problems I have listed There is no visible end to the process of Soviet rearmament, and the 1980s will, I am afraid, be a period of danger. Whoever will be the Secretary of State for Defence in a Thatcher Government will have a responsibility far greater than that of any of his colleagues.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)
When the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir. I. Gilmour) opened for the Opposition yesterday, he remarked on the sameness of these annual debates on the defence White Paper. He was certainly correct in that, because it is perfectly clear that many of the speeches made during these two days are the very same speeches as were made last year and, in fact, the year before. I am not excluding either side of the House from that broad generalisation.
From the Conservative Benches, those to whom I sometimes refer as the cold war warriors still wish to devote more and more resources to defence than the country can afford. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) repeated this assertion at least twice during the course of his speech, insisting that a Conservative Administration would devote more and more to defence, but he failed to say which services would suffer as a result of diverting additional resources to this one element. We should ask Conservative Members from where they will get these additional resources. I think there would be difficulty in getting the answers.
353 Another item that is annually trotted out—I am quite sure that this is for political purposes—is that the morale of the forces is at a very low ebb as a result of low pay. It is quite easy for an Opposition to make fancy promises and to say what they will do immediately they are returned to office, but when Oppositions have the opportunity of fulfilling their promises they very often fail.
It is within the recollection of most hon. Members who take an interest in defence matters that, under Conservative Administrations in the past, the pay of the Services has declined and declined. My case is that if, tragically, there were another Conservative Administration in this country, the very same thing would apply. Never mind the fancy noises which are being made at the moment from the Opposition Front Bench. Never mind the flowery promises which are being made by Conservative Members, both inside this House and when they are visiting the forces overseas. I do not deny that when hon. Members go overseas and meet members of the British forces, the forces complain about a host of things. They complain about pay. Who does not? The nurses do, and so do the street cleaners. The workers in the National Union of Public Employees are complaining. A whole host of people complain about pay, and the forces would be very exceptional if they did not. A colonel said to me very recently that when the forces stop beefing they will stop eating.
I do not want to get involved in this general area of defence matters. Although I recognise that the most important theatre is within NATO, I want to devote a few minutes to a theatre in which a fairly large number of British forces are engaged, but with very little publicity. In Belize there are 2,000 British troops. They are doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances in what is mainly jungle country. The British forces are there in the jungle day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out, protecting that territory. I pay to those men the highest compliment for the work they are doing in Belize, but I question why they are there. Supposedly they are there to defend the territory against foreign aggression. Two years ago there was a state of emergency and the Government 354 —correctly, in my view, at that time—decided to send in reserves to support the forces who were there already on the ground. Perhaps the Government will do the same again in similar circumstances.
I do not believe that the threat from Guatemala is as real as has been supposed. Belize is a vast jungle, with no natural resources to speak of. Attempts are being made to find oil in the south of the country, but so far without success. There is nothing else there. Of what value, then, would that territory be to the Guatemalans? The Guatemalans have claimed that they want an adequate corridor for access to the Atlantic. That has been offered to them by the British Government. I believe that the Guatemalans from time to time—the cycle will change a little, but it will be every three, four or perhaps five years—will start sabre rattling and threatening Belize again. Presumably the British Government will send in a few more Harriers to show the flag and show what they would do to the Guatemalans if they were to trespass on Belize territory.
That is all phoney. The Guatemalans have no territorial demands on Belize but are afraid that someone else in that area has. They believe that the threat comes from the north—mainly from Mexico. Therefore, if they rattle their sabres every two or three years, and the British Government send in Harriers and more troops, it will keep the British commitment there.
I believe that that is the Guatemalans' sole purpose and is the only reason for their policy. They do not have the facilities to mount any substantial attack on Belize. I recognise that my hon. Friends do not have full responsibility here but have joint responsibility with the Foreign Office.
The Government should decide on a policy of withdrawal from Belize over a period of time and equip the people of Belize to maintain their own frontiers to the north and west. We should enter into a defence treaty. But unless steps are taken British forces will be committed to South America for ever and a day.
It is an unpleasant area. In my view the troops do not like being there. Fortunately they are there for only six months at a time. The only policy for the 355 Government to adopt is, I believe, to get the troops out as quickly as they can.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I shall be brief, just to show that it is possible. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) on the admirable way in which he opened the debate. I should also like to thank other hon. Members on both sides of the House for their generosity in leaving a little time for those of us who actually wish to make short speeches.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton said that the White Paper was remarkable and, at the same time, revealing in its omissions. I agree very much with that. My comment on this, as on previous White Papers, is that the less adequate our defences become under this Government, the more perfunctory the White Paper. Certainly this White Paper is a classic example of that point.
What is particularly revealing in this White Paper is its omissions and its perfunctory approach to the human side of our defences. For example, apart from references to the unhappy casualties in Northern Ireland, which we must all join in regretting so deeply, there is no reference to losses in terms of accidental death or invaliding out which the Services as a whole have sustained over the past year.
I know that the Secretary of State has now decided, with some reluctance, to include in the Annual Abstract of Statistics—which is published in some obscure corner—details of the invaliding out of Service men and women over a 12-month period. But that is something which, surely to goodness, should be incorporated in the White Paper, if one has any care for the human element in our defence forces. The Secretary of State for Defence should ensure that those statistics are published in the White Paper. There are trends there which we would do well to examine.
The number of personnel invalided out was higher last year—1978—than in any year since 1975. The number of personnel invalided out because of injury was higher than in any year since 1974. These statistics may well reflect some deficiencies in the Services which we ought to be able to examine. They may reflect 356 deficiencies in morale, or in training or the lowering of standards of recruitment. Certainly those matters are material and we should have full figures on them, just as we should have full figures on all the casualties—particularly the fatalities—which the Services suffer. All those figures should be in the defence White Paper.
Material losses should also be included in the defence White Paper—for example, the figures of aircraft accidents. They should be published as a matter of routine. Again, last year's total is disturbingly higher than that in 1977. Whether firm conclusions can be drawn from that, I cannot tell, but there is a very interesting article in this week's Flight magazine which contrasts the figures of aircraft accidents in 1978 with those for 1977—which I also extracted from the Government. But I should not have to extract these figures from the Government. The Government should volunteer them. They should be in the White Paper.
I am talking not to the recumbents on the Government Front Bench but to my right hon. and hon. Friends who will produce the next defence White Paper. I want my right hon. and hon. Friends to take notice of these points because the human side, the investment in men and women and the service they give to us—not the service their predecessors gave in 1939, but the service they are giving to us in 1979—must be the focus of this debate. I do not want to know what happened when the hon. Members for Hemsworth (Mr. Woodall) and Battersea, South (Mr. Perry) were called up for the Boer War. I do not want to know their theories on the corporals' mess in 1927. I want to talk about the defences of this country in 1979 and onwards. That is why I am talking to my own Front Bench and not to the Government Front Bench.
In this defence White Paper there is just one spark of honesty. There is an admission—let me put it in these words—that morale in the Services is at an all-time low. Service men are simply voting with their feet. The saying used to be "Look after your men's feet." But it is too late; they are gone. The decline in national morale is reflected all too clearly in the decline of Service morale.
People are not coming forward to join the Services because they are no longer 357 willing to serve. They have no faith in their Service future and no belief in this Government. Our people are not ready to stake their future on defending their country against its enemies. There is only one remedy for that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) said, part of the business of restoring national morale must be to spend more on defence. An essential part of the business of restoring Service morale must be to have a Conservative Government.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I shall be brief in my contribution, but I want to raise a number of questions on the White Paper. From the Opposition Benches—and to some degree from Labour Front and Back Benches—we have a continual cry about the urgent threat and its magnitude. What startles me is why the Russians do not come over now, because the information we get from Conservatives is that we are so weak that we would be a pushover. Of course, it could be that the Russians do not actually want to come, in which case all the theories which are so assiduously built up by the Opposition tumble to the ground.
One item that concerns me very much, however, is the Opposition's obsession with defence expenditure. The amendment in the names of several Labour Members—principally my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun)—postulates that we are already spending too much on defence and that a very significant proportion of that expenditure goes on nuclear weapons. That is the only thing we can provide plenty of for the people of the world. We can destroy people many times over. We cannot feed or clothe them all properly, but we can kill them very efficiently and effectively.
The fact is that we are not living in a world where little batches of soldiers are moved around, as from 1939 to 1945, in headquarters with green billiard tables, pushing sticks and notifying that a platoon is being moved here or a battalion is being moved there. We are talking about weapons that exterminate people far more effectively than mankind has ever known. The more we develop these weapons, the more we rely on them and the greater is the degree of certainty that 358 one of them, some of them or all of them will be used. It may start by accident. But the fact is that we simply do not know how we would react to a nuclear explosion which is many times bigger than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. We do not know whether we would be sane or sensible enough to detect some sort of error that had been made, or the fact that one nuclear explosion was not the act of a vengeful enemy. Therefore, the sword of Damocles hangs over all our heads.
When Conservative Members talk about this increase in defence expenditure and play with these words, they actually contemplate a future which for mankind could be a radioactive cinder-heap. When they diminish detente, they diminish themselves; and in so doing they diminish the rest of us. When decisions about war, rearmament or disarmament are made today, it is not an isolated group of people which opts into that situation, because it cannot opt out. Nuclear war is the most undemocratic process known to mankind. The scars cannot be eradicated. The shadows on the floor after the explosion have been made not by choice but because a tiny number of people have made decisions that can engulf the rest of us. Therefore, we must be wary when we talk about defence expenditure.
It is no good the Conservative Opposition talking in sneering terms about people who have a genuine point of view to put forward, because it is a point of view which is real and which many millions of people outside understand. The fact is that on the whole the world is arming itself to the teeth with weapons that are of such enormity that we must stand back, develop detente and reach an understanding. The SALT III talks must be successful so that we can reduce this expenditure and concentrate on the things that people actually need, such as the two-thirds of the world that does not get enough to eat and does not have adequate clothing. It is a scandal and disgrace that hon. Members can stand here so smug and complacent and talk about more expenditure when women, men and children are not getting enough to eat. That is where our efforts should be directed. We should be helping people rather than threatening them.
359 I therefore believe that the reference in the amendment to Lucas Aerospace is extraordinarily relevant to today. I understand the position about jobs and defence expenditure. I notice that in the defence White Paper the Government have been shrewd enough to try to counter the arguments about defence expenditure by including a list of contractors and firms that have succulent and lucrative defence contracts. However, I do not take the view that it is beyond the bounds of our ability to translate some of that war-based expenditure into peacetime expenditure. I am not advocating that people should go on the dole queue because of my conscience. What I am saying is that the commitment of a Labour Government must be to plan so that we do not ask people to join the dole queue, but rather to say to them "Yes, we shall develop alternative projects."
The reality is that several years ago the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards combine committee said to the company "We want to convert from defence expenditure", and Lucas said "Defence is where our future lies. We have several contracts and they shall go on". But the reality is that Lucas Aerospace is closing factories. Therefore, defence expenditure has not saved all the jobs in Lucas Aerospace. It may sustain some, but it is not enough to sustain all the jobs, skills or expertise that were in Lucas Aerospace five years ago.
The is also the question of Vickers Scotswood works. Incidentally, I notice that Vickers is the recipient of lucrative contracts. According to the White Paper, Vickers Scotswood work is a symbol of engineering achievement on Tyneside. Yet that is slated for closure. Of course, Lord Robens, who represents all that is bad in British management, said that engineering as a trade is finished in this country. That is his contempt for ordinary working men, on whose backs he has ridden to his present position. The workers of Scotswood are saying "The works will not be closed, because it is a symbol of pride and achievement in our skill and ability." The defence expenditure that Vickers gets has not saved the Scotswood works and, therefore, we must look at alternative facilities.
I pay tribute, as I have before, to the Lucas Aerospace and the Vickers combine 360 shop stewards. Over many years, without payment they have put their hands in their pockets to examine alternative products. In this House we tend to be cynical about the potential of people outside, but it is a matter of wonder that when academics were asked for ideas for new products they produced only half a dozen. When the men on the shop floor, the people in the drawing office and those operating machines were asked, nearly 200 practical ideas were produced. That is why the Lucas shop stewards' plan is so important.
It is worth emphasising that, if that gallant attempt is ignored, cynicism will spread from this place outside. People will feel that there is no point in spending time compiling a plan. The Department of Industry and the Ministry of Defence must ensure that such plans are implemented. The Secretary of State and his assistants should use the marvellous and costly facilities of the MOD to do that. All Departments are busy and have people in them who are not attuned to that approach, and that is why we get figures of only 79 combat aircraft available.
That surprised me, as I thought it was a secret, and after tonight presumably the Russians will know that too. It is part of the leakage by the Chiefs of Staff in the propaganda campaign to prove that we do not have many weapons. However, according to the White Paper we are spending £8.5 billion, which is an enormous sum of money. That is right and proper, because those Departments are acting on behalf of the taxpayer, but some of that ability should be used to recognise the ambitions and aims of the men on the shop floor and encourage them.
We should expect more from a Labour Government than a faint mirror image of the Conservatives. My right hon. and hon. Friends are men of good will, but when they justify massive defence expenditure at the Dispatch Box the cheers come from the Tories. We are here for a different purpose. We should not wipe out defence expenditure, but we should reduce it to the average percentage GNP of our allies, and we should move towards giving more support to such people as the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards.
§ Mr. Pattie
The hon. Gentleman has rightly laid stress on Lucas Aerospace. Two weeks ago I went to Burnley, visited the Lucas factories and met various members of the Lucas combine. Is he satisfied, and is the Lucas combine satisfied, with the reception that its plan has received from the official trade union structure?
§ Mr. Cryer
The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions did not provide a ready enough response to the new situation, but it is now giving encouragement. We live in a world of important changes. If the institutions do not match up to the ambitions, hopes and aspirations of such people as the Lucas combine shop stewards, they should be altered, whether it is the CSEU, the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Industry.
We spend a certain proportion of our GNP on defence. I think that it is too much and that is warps our effort. We need to produce the things that people need. They do not appear to need too many Chieftain tanks because of the Iranian order going up the spout, as many of us warned that it would.
Japan spends ½ per cent. of its GNP on defence. That means that much of its considerable economic growth is concentrated on research and development in the products that people need. We see that all around us. The Japanese are winning a different war, they are winning the commercial battle. We see the results of that in the diminution of the British manufacturing base.
We must diminish our defence expenditure without leaving ourselves completely naked. I believe that the Russian threat has been grossly overestimated and that the cold war warriors on the Conservative Benches make too much of the running. We could put these resources into research and development in the goods and services that people throughout the world need these days.
This is also a great moral standpoint. It is preferable and morally superior to trade in clothes, food and agricultural implements for the developing nations than to sell tanks to reactionary regimes such as the Shah of Iran's.
We should prune some of our peripheral expenditure. For example, we maintain a garrison in Hong Kong to aid 362 the civil power there. But that garrison could not stop China from taking over Hong Kong if it wanted to. Why, then, should we sustain Hong Kong with a hidden subsidy when that colony is one of our greatest commercial competitors, particularly in textiles? It also exploits workers far more than we do in this country. By maintaining our garrison there we are giving a subsidy to aid the civil police.
We must prune our expenditure according to Labour Party policy. We still maintain massive sums of defence expenditure and we are getting into the realms of fantasy in so doing. That money should be spent on providing goods and services for people who actually need them.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
Few things are certain in politics, but there is one thing that never changes—the feet of radicals are always planted firmly in mid-air.
This is my last defence debate in the House of Commons. Looking back over the past 15 years that I have been in the House, I find it horrifying to see the way in which Britain's power and influence for good in the world have been diminished.
In this week, when HMS "Ark Royal" finally goes out of commission, it is not inappropriate for me to pay tribute to the ships and the men of the aircraft carrier era. Today, in an age already bored by moon shots and space fiction, there is not much wonder left for the passing of old glories. But these carriers were mighty ships. Their history is a tribute to the men who designed and built them and to the engineers, officers and ratings who kept them steaming, always at high speed, year in and year out until they were nothing more than clapped-out bags of rivets.
Their story is also a tribute to the men who flew from their decks in peace and in war, in sweltering tropical heat or in the black fury of Arctic gales. These were men with bright silk scarves around their necks and a joke on their lips. But in their hearts was the knowledge of what would happen if they missed the arrester wires. These men and the names of their ships—the "Eagle", the "Illustrious ", the "Formidable" and the "Ark Royal"—will be woven like a golden 363 thread into the tapestry of the seafaring history of the British people.
This is not just nostalgia on my part. The fact is that the lesson of maritime power has now been learnt by the Kremlin. The Soviet rulers have been busy building a huge modern navy and their task forces roam the oceans of the world. This week we hear that two Russian aircraft carriers are at sea, one near the Shetlands and the other in the South Atlantic. Why? I asked the Under-Secretary last week what was his assessment of Soviet intentions. He sent me a nice little letter but the information which he give me about the "Kiev" and the "Minsk" was rather less detailed than that in the latest volume of "Jane's Fighting Ships". I am not blaming the present Service Ministers. They cannot do anything about that. They mean well but they are only the little fish flapping around in the shallow water after the tide has gone out.
I speak principally this evening, as one of my hon. Friends did, on what an incoming Conservative Government will need to do to clear up the mess, though unfortunately I shall not be here to keep an eye on them.
First, we must deal with the problem of manpower. My bamboo wireless tells me that the problem is a great deal more serious than is generally realised. The key point is that far from keeping up, Service men are further behind in pay now than they were at the time of their pay award in April last year. Less than a year after that award, they are further behind than they were 12 months ago.
Recently, and topically, I heard that dustmen in Winchester—who I am glad to say have now settled their dispute with the council—are to be paid at least £85 a week, and usually more. That is over £2 an hour. I do not argue about that. A rifleman in the Greenjackets from the same city is paid 50p an hour while on duty, for instance, in Northern Ireland. What a comparison that is. The hourly rate for a dustman is more than four times that paid to a rifleman who risks his life in Northern Ireland. Even the White Paper cannot conceal the seriousness of the outflow, and I was glad to hear the robust remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) yesterday.
364 I agree, in terms of overall strategy, with our commitment to NATO, but it is possible that the analysis of the threat to NATO needs to be reassessed and brought up to date. At least we should consider whether the Soviet arms build-up opposite NATO in central Europe is no more than a gigantic cover plan. Perhaps Soviet intentions are focused elsewhere. Given that the Soviet leaders are not madmen, I think that the chances of the Red Army marching into the plains of Western Europe is the most unlikely of scenarios. General Sir John Hackett's readable book was a timely warning for NATO. However, I feel that a stranglehold on trade routes at sea, particularly on the oil routes, is a far more likely Soviet strategy, and one to which too little attention has been given.
In a debate last year on Soviet adventurism in Africa I asked the Secretary of State to consider what I call the blue water school of thought. I have heard not one word from the Secretary of State, or from any Minister, about it. Historically, the standing army in Europe has not always proved to be the best strategy for Britain. I now believe that we should consult our allies and discuss whether Britain's contribution to BAOR could be gradually reduced. I do not advocate a complete withdrawal but a reduction. Instead we should make a much larger maritime effort in support of NATO. I am sure that the House will acquit me of speaking with a one-Service voice.
We should discuss urgently with the South African Government the facilities previously afforded to us under the Simonstown agreement. A glance at any schoolboy's atlas will show the importance of Simonstown. It is cynically absurd to pretend that the presence of frigates or submarines, or the sale of maritime equipment to South Africa, can have an effect on internal policies, whatever one may think about them.
The White Paper is silent about several other matters on which we have insufficient information. Many hon. Members talked about crisis control and the importance of avoiding war. We must know more about crisis control. General Haig told me recently that he was dissatisfied with the communications involved in crisis control.
We are told nothing in the White Paper about intelligence. Intelligence is 365 the basis of all sensible planning. It is the basis of the justification for defence expenditure. The White Paper is also silent about the activities of the Soviet merchant fleet, which is undercutting our commercial conference rates. Centrally controlled merchantmen are being used for espionage and intelligence gathering. That is not mentioned in the White Paper.
The present Government can do nothing about these matters now, so I suggest to my Front Bench that British Shipbuilders should build warships and frigates on spec for export to friendly foreign Governments. That would provide much-needed employment to the shipyards which are desperate for work, and would enable us to compete internationally by offering almost immediate delivery.
At the end of my swan song, I feel that there is so much to do but that there is so little time. However, I take heart from the robust attitude of many of my colleagues, particularly that of my right hon. Friend the "Iron Lady". She has said, especially about defence, that the time has come for a change.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I seldom find myself in agreement in any way with what the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) says, but I always appreciate his sincerity. That is true of what he called his swan song. He may be assured that he is still in form. I disagree with him as profoundly tonight as I did when I first heard him.
I will say a word for the White Paper. Opposition Members have said that it contains only two and a half pages on detente and disarmament and less than half a page on defence and deterrence. That is a typical piece of Tory misrepresentation. There are a brief two and a half pages on detente, but the rest of the document is devoted to defence.
The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) said that we should include the losses sustained during a period in a defence White Paper. That is a novel proposal. I can imagine in time of war what would have happened if we had listed the details of our losses. Since wars are completely untenable for the future, I do not see why my right hon. Friend should not pick up that idea.
366 I support the amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) said in support of his amendment:The USSR is trying to militarily catch up with the West, for the same reasons that our war hawks say that we must spend more on arms. We should consider who first developed the atom bomb. America was first and Russia caught up.So he went on:Next, America produced the hydrogen bomb and Russia followed suit."—[Official Report, 26 March 1979; Vol. 965, c. 70.]What he has said about that is quite true, but the point that my hon. Friend did not make is that America did not merely develop the atom bomb; America used the atom bomb. That fact may be brushed aside in this House, but all over the rest of the world, and particularly in Asia, the fact that the atom bomb was developed by the West and used upon the East will never be forgotten.
Therefore, the notion that is put forward on the Opposition Benches, that we are in rather a pathetic situation, trying busily to catch up with the might of the Warsaw Pact, carries no conviction whatsoever anywhere else. The arguments of the hon. Gentleman may carry some conviction inside this country and possibly even in the United States of America, but it carries precious little conviction anywhere else.
On the policy of arms sales, it is a pretty ludicrous policy when one comes to think of it. My hon. Friend suggested that the Lucas Aerospace proposals were alternatives, where these skills could be deployed to more useful purpose. Armament expenditure entails trying to sell to people who will take those arms. First, one must exclude the whole of the Eastern European and the Communist-controlled areas, because that is out strategically. So far as the United States of America is concerned, it is an extremely difficult market to get into. So far as France is concerned, it tends on the whole to want to be self-sufficient. So far as Germany is concerned, that country is out, and so is Japan.
Therefore, we are reduced, by the policy of arms sales, to supporting and arming reactionary and tottering regimes that eventually default on their agreements. What initially seems to be a very attractive line of trade ends by 367 our supporting some very undesirable dictatorships. From a purely business point of view, the notion that the arms trade is one that this country should develop to the point to which it has developed is questionable. Let us not forget that Iran was our largest customer. Who will be the next defaulter?
The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester said that the next customer should be South Africa. God forbid. If that is suggested, then, indeed, I hope my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) will set his face—in fact I am sure he will—against that. One thing that rather worries me about my right hon. Friend is that he seems to be back-tracking upon the Labour Party's undertaking not to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. That has been not only the policy of the Labour Party but the policy of the Labour Government. I hope that an assurance will be given to us that the Government are as firm as ever upon that policy and that there is no possibility of this country taking the fatal step of going once again into a redevelopment of the nuclear arms race.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
In replying to the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) and others of his hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), there are two points I should like to make. First, I ask them to believe that we on the Opposition Benches whom they assail as warmongers are just as sincere in our search for peace as they are, but we have a different method by which we think we can ensure it. Will Labour Members please not claim to have a monopoly of morality in this matter? Secondly, I am fascinated that they always claim not to be pacifists, but they want us drastically to reduce our Armed Forces. I have never been able to find out what degree of incompetence and inefficiency they think would be disirable in our Armed Forces. I should be interested to know.
For some time it has been fashionable to speak of detente with Russia. The spirit of Helsinki and Belgrade has been invoked to bury the image of the cold war which formerly used to bedevil the relations between East and West. Various disarmament negotiations which take 368 place around the world such as the strategic arms limitations talks or the standing conference on mutual and balanced force reductions are also prayed in aid of the view that the cold war is over and that precious opportunities are there for the grasping in not only politics, diplomacy and culture but in defence and armaments. The Government clearly attach great importance to these efforts to defuse the dangerous military situation.
In the White Paper the Government look forward to the early ratification of SALT II. MBFR, they say, is proceeding steadily and is an important part of the East-West dialogue. The Government are slightly restrained about the progress of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe—the CSCE—but, scraping the barrel, they allow themselves a certain measure of satisfaction over exchange visits between Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and the Nicolai Balescu Infantry School of Romania.
Answering questions recently, the Secretary of State allowed himself to say over his right shoulder to the Left wing that his aim was total and complete disarmament, but what is true? The truth is that the cold war is not over and that the various disarmament negotiations are completely useless, achieving nothing, except to some extent giving rise to unjustifiable hopes and undoubtedly to a weakening of the resolve of the West to defend itself.
Since all these negotiations started, we have seen not a reduction in the cold war but an intensification. We have seen Vietnam fuelled and inspired by the Soviet Union. We have seen the continual supply of arms and the fomenting of war in the Middle East by the Soviet Union. We have seen Russia supplying Aden and intervening everywhere in Africa where she can safely land Cuban or East German troops. We have seen Russia set up a puppet regime in Afghanistan and being active in Iran.
Beyond all argument, in this period of disarmament during the past 15 years Russian arms have increased both in quantity and quality at a rate never before seen in peacetime and perhaps never in wartime either. A steady increase of 5 per cent. or 8 per cent. compound every year in real terms has resulted in expenditure half as much again as the 369 expenditure of the United States. The White Paper emphasises once again that these armaments are enormously in excess of anything required for self-defence.
From the United Kingdom point of view, we notice particularly the increase in offensive weapons at sea and in the air, and the huge build-up of mobile forces on the central front. These matters are not new, but up to now the Government have chosen to believe that disarmament is just round the corner and savagely to cut our forces year by year. Now at last we see a marginal increase in expenditure in the White Paper. We are grateful for that, just as a starving man is grateful for the smallest crumb. But, in the face of the size of the problem, the extra is bitterly small.
Those who grudge money on our defences are wont to argue that the Russians, however strong, will still be deterred by the destruction which would fall upon them if they used this mighty armada. I leave out the fine tuning about what would happen if the Russians took out Hamburg, or some similar scenario. I say that when one side has an overwhelming preponderance of arms, both nuclear and conventional, the political will to stand up to an attack or even the threat of an attack evaporates. We saw this in the Berlin airlift, when the Russians did not dare to fire upon our planes. We saw this in Cuba when the Russians knew that in the last resort they would have to back down.
Now the boot is on the other foot. With nuclear parity, the conventional Russian forces—or forces of Russian satellites—have felt free to rampage around the world without fear of retaliation. With nuclear superiority—which is within the Russian grasp—the likelihood, indeed the certainty, of diplomatic and political gains must be accepted.
The United Kingdom must replace and improve its nuclear weapons and increase its conventional forces. It is no use relying upon detente. We shall achieve detente with the Russians only by adopting a stance which they fear to challenge. I am glad that my right hon. and hon. Friends will have the possibility of putting these measures into action.
I have had the opportunity, like other members of the Expenditure Committee, to meet our troops around the world. 370 Without going into details—which would be invidious—I am seriously alarmed, as are other hon. Members, by the decline in the spirits of our forces. I do not say "morale" because I am certain that they are ready to do their duty, and are doing their duty, in the best possible way.
To some extent, the Government share that alarm. In paragraph 403 of the White Paper they state that the turbulence, which is one of the causes of dissatisfaction,should be reduced as the process of reorganisation and redeployment nears completion and measures to relieve the current overstretch of all three Services are taken.The phrasethe process of reorganisation and redeploymentseems to imply that there is a plan. That is wrong. The Services were told that they would have to get on with less money and fewer men and that they would have to lump it. They have done the best that they can. Anybody who suggests that there has been a proper plan deceives himself, even if he deceives no one else.
I had intended to mention the air defence of Great Britain. However, in view of the time I shall not do so. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), made an important statement about the re-equipping of our air defences. Therefore, I shall leave the matter, except to say that I am glad to see in the White Paper that my suggestion of last year that reserve forces should be raised to reinforce the RAF Regiment has been taken up by the Government. Whether they read my speech or the idea occurred to them independently I do not know.
I asked the Secretary of Staate to consider a constituency matter—the United States airplanes at Fairford. None of my constituents who objected to that did so because they were against defence or the United States. Perhaps there were a few, but they knew that it was no good coming to me if they did. My constituents objected because they believe that the desecration of an area of outstanding natural beauty is not necessary. We cannot believe that an airfield close to the sea—there are some available—would not be more suitable. Admittedly, the initial cost would be higher than at Fairford but it 371 would soon be lost in relation to running costs.
The pollution will be grave. It will consist of noise, smell, traffic and the building of housing, schools and a hospital. There will be all the facilities of a small town in an extremely rural area. I ask the Secretary of State not to shut out from his mind the possibility that the stationing of the planes—whether United States planes or any others—in Fairford might be regarded as a temporary matter to be re-examined if an opportunity arises.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
It was my intention to speak solely about reserve forces, but, having heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), I shall deal with that shortly.
First, may I apologise to the House for not being here earlier in the debate. Today, I attended the annual general meeting of my Territorial association. I saw five people leaving the association who between them had more than 200 years of service in the reserve forces. It occurred to me during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley that he was probably able to make his speech tonight because of such people. When I hear some of my colleagues speaking against defence expenditure, I often wonder at the little regard that they pay to the fact that they are able to stand up in the House and attack the Government, defence expenditure or anything they wish. People such as Dubcek wish that they had only half the opportunities that we are given.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
No. What I have said applies equally to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins). The danger is that my hon. Friends put over such good arguments. No one wants to pay for defence. No one wants to pay for insurance on a house, and it is not until the house is burned down and the wife asks why it was not insured that the householder knows that he is in a jam. But he never knows when or whether it will burn down. He may get away with it for year after year, but one day the disaster may happen.
372 I listen to defence debates every year, but I do not believe that it is in the House that the debates ought to be heard. What we are saying ought to be heard in the country. Unless we educate our people on the need for proper defence forces, no Government will have the power to spend the money required to equip our defence forces adequately.
The Opposition complain about the Government cutting our forces. I have criticised the Government often enough, but I wish to pay tribute to them. The Defence Ministers have had a difficult time because of the restrictions on the money available for the Armed Forces. They have done a good job within those restrictions, but they have not had the money that is required.
Those like my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley and Putney do not understand why Europe has been free from war for 35 years. Anyone who has seen a period of more than 35 years without war in Europe will be over 100 years old. The absence of war in the past 35 years is not a matter of chance. The reason is that we have made our contribution to NATO.
When some of my hon. Friends talk about cutting the reserve forces and defence expenditure, they do not say to what level spending should be cut. Once it is cut below a certain level, we might as well do away with the lot. I am appalled at how some of my colleagues who decry armaments are the first—ahead of me—to try to get contracts for the armaments centres in their constituencies. I understand the pacifist point of view. It is an honourable view, but I cannot understand my colleagues who speak against armaments yet want them manufactured in their constituencies. I see that all too often. It is dishonest and there is no excuse for it.
I turn to the subject of our reserve forces, which is the topic that I had intended to speak on originally. I do not believe that the Russians intend to start a direct assault in Europe. The Minister will know that when I was fighting 15 years ago for our reserve forces to be maintained, I argued that the next war will not be a 10-day war with atomic weapons being used after that time. I have always tried to insist that, given the opportunity, we should have the means to build up forces in this country, as we 373 did in the two world wars. If there is a war, I believe that it will be on the periphery of Europe. It may be in Yugoslavia. We may be able to see something building up for 6 or 12 months.
What shall we be able to do? Most of our forces will have been committed to fill the gaps in BAOR. There are some reserves, but should we not be paying attention to another reserve force to augment the Territorial forces so that if the Territorials are sent to fill in the gaps in BAOR we shall have at least a nucleus on which we can build a decent defence force in this country?
At present, we have nothing on which we can build. This country's stand in NATO over the past 35 years has saved us from war. No one will win a future war. All that will happen is that one side will lose a little less harshly than the other. Our defence forces exist to stop that war starting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney may remember that those on the Opposition side in the 1930s were shouting for stopping Hitler but denying the Government the means to do so. They were putting forward the same argument then. They were saying that if we did away with our arms, other people would do the same. That is a load of cock and bull. My hon. Friend knows it.
I finish with two questions. Would the last war have started if Hitler had known that the day it started we could have blitzed Berlin as we did in 1944 and 1945? Would the Russians have invaded Czechoslovakia if the Czechs had possessed only a dozen atomic bombs that they could have dropped on Russian cities? I say that they would not. Anyone who wants to cut away the defences of this country thinks little of this country.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) that one of the main problems we face is that our reserve forces have already been committed in advance. He has made a constructive contribution to the debate. From the Labour Benches there have also been constructive speeches by the hon. Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) and for Walsall, South (Mr. George). But, by and large, this has been an unbalanced debate. Hon. Members on the Labour 374 Benches have drifted in and out from time to time and ridden their favourite hobby-horses while on this side of the House we have had a full rank of hon. Members anxious to take part in the debate. Many of them have been crowded out. My hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glynn) and Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) have sat through the debate and have not been able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have been a little churlish about the quality of this year's defence White Paper and the ministerial speeches that have accompanied it. In the powerful speech with which he opened the debate from this side yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) said that there were only two paragraphs of any importance in the whole White Paper. My hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie), who made such an admirable start to today's debate, listed about 20 important issues not mentioned in the White Paper. Both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) contrasted the thinness of this Government's defence statement with the thick and closely argued annual report of the American Secretary for Defence. For those who are willing to persevere, this defence White Paper is not entirely without interest.
For example, paragraph 531 tells us that additional Service conservation groups, of which there are now 106, were formed during the year. It is good to know that, while our defences deteriorate, the Armed Forces training grounds are being made safe for the white-throated warbler and the robin redbreast. I, too, am a member of conservation groups. I am glad that we are looking after the birds and bees. However, some observers at home and abroad will be surprised that the defence White Paper contains a more detailed reference to the conservation of flora and fauna than the development of the cruise missile or the replacement of our independent nuclear deterrent.
Observers who think that that shows a bizarre sense of priorities have misunderstood the nature of the game that Ministers are trying to play. By avoiding any reference to the future of the nuclear 375 deterrent or the cruise missile in the White Paper and in their speeches, Ministers hope to avoid direct confrontation with the chairman of the Labour Party or the rest of the Salford set. Once again Ministers have failed. Yesterday afternoon we had the bizarre clash about the next generation of our nuclear weapons between the chairman of the Labour Party, that arch apostle of unilateral disarmament, and the Secretary of State for Defence, that arch apostle of delay.
It was appropriate that my right hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Prentice) was soon able to remind us that within the upper echelons of the Labour Party the party chairman and the rest of the Salford set can outvote and out-argue the Secretary of State for Defence, and that some concessions will have to be made to the Left before the inevitable pre-election compromise is reached.
Yesterday's row within the Labour Party was not an edifying sight. However, I have been relieved in recent weeks to learn from American friends in Washington that Ministers, or at least their professional advisers, have done more work behind the scenes on nuclear weapons and in the acquisition of cruise missile technology than they are prepared to let their Left wing know. It is plain that the split in the Labour Party is deep and damaging, and it will be fought out in the Division Lobbies this evening. I can reassure Ministers that the Opposition do not intend to vote with the rebels.
I found much interest in paragraph 538 of the White Paper, which tells us among other things of the installation of automatic flue dampers in RAF chimneys. We are told that RAF Carlisle is expected to produce a saving in heating fuel consumption of no less than 6 per cent, this year. After a harsh winter, all of us must be interested in the conservation of heating oil, and in his reply we hope that the Minister will be able to tell us whether the experiment at Carlisle has been a success. However, in a defence White Paper it is rather surprising that even this Government should devote more space to the conservation of heating oil than to the protection of oil.
Since the disastrous decision to withdraw British forces from the Persian Gulf 376 was taken by the Labour Government in 1969, responsibility for protecting the West's essential supplies of oil has been thrust upon Iran. Successive British Governments pushed arms contracts upon the Shah that in the end were worth about £2,000 million. We backed to the hilt the Shah's ambitions to police the richest oil-producing area in the world. The White Paper was published on 22 February, some weeks before it was made plain that the whole strategic balance in the Gulf area had shifted alarmingly. Yet there is not a single reference to Iran in the whole document. Many of my right hon. Friends have rightly tried to press the Government for a discussion on Western plans to provide a defensive screen for our friends and interests in that area. The Americans are talking of extending the substantial facilities at Diego Garcia and of the possible reaction of Gan and Masirah. There is no reference in the White Paper to Diego Garcia, Gan or Masirah. Nor, indeed, have Ministers been forthcoming in admitting the existence of any plan to defend Western interests in that area. However, we must not complain too much.
I am also interested in paragraph 339 of the White Paper. This solemnly informs us:The United States, France and the Federal Republic of Germany, like the United Kingdom, are capable of designing and manufacturing a very wide range of weapon systems; other countries have smaller industrial capabilities.When the Ministry of Defence is willing to share information such as that with those of us who are not even bound by the Official Secrets Act, it is clear that the era of open government cannot be far away. But at a time when the cancellation of Iranian contracts seriously threatens our industrial defence base—and will clearly increase the competitive thrust from arms manufacturers in other countries—the Government have characteristically little to say about the future of collaboration in defence production.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) so forthrightly asked, do the Government think that an Independent European Programme Group can still become an effective forum for European collaboration? It is hard to tell. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) so sensibly asked, what are the Government's 377 plans for research? Do the Government have any plans for the effective rationalisation within the Alliance of our national research programmes?
Dr. Perry, the far-sighted head of the United States defence research programme, pointed out that if we add the $14 billion that the Americans will be spending this year on defence, research and development to the $4 billion that the European allies will spend, we do not obtain $18 billion-worth of research and development. We get about $15½ billion-worth of research and development, because of the unnecessary duplication. Dr. Perry suggested that to minimise unnecessary duplication the family-of-weapons approach should be adopted. This means, for example, that the Americans would concentrate on funding the research programme for medium-range anti-tank missiles while the European members of the Alliance would concentrate on funding projects for short-range anti-tank missiles. Have the Government considered Dr. Perry's proposals? Do they support them? Do they intend to implement them? We do not know.
Important as good research and equipment may be, we shall not be able to defend ourselves, or help to defend our allies, if we cannot persuade skilled and capable men to make a career in our defence forces. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham said in opening for the Opposition, and as so many speakers have pointed out since then, the key section in this year's defence White Paper is paragraph 403, which says:The total numbers of men and women leaving the Services for all reasons during 1978–79 continued to include an unusually high outflow among the more experienced and highly skilled categories following requests for premature voluntary release. If current rates of outflow from this source continue, the consequences in the loss of trained Officers and men will be serious for the Armed Forces.It is true, of course, that turbulence and family separation have played a substantial part in accelerating the departure from the Armed Forces of many highly skilled men. A few weeks ago I was talking to the commanding officer of the first battalion of the Royal Regiment of Wales. For the last 20 months it has, for a variety of reasons, spent 14½ months away from home. Recently, the regiment spent six months in Belize. On its return, 70 men—more than 10 per cent, of the battalion 378 strength—applied for premature voluntary release. The colonel interviewed all those who asked for their release, and 40 of the 70 said that they enjoyed Army life and wished to continue but that their wives insisted that they could not stand this degree of separation.
This exodus has inevitably had some impact on the battalion's efficiency. I will give one small but revealing example. In six months in Belize, with the appalling roads and the low standard of driving in that part of the world, the battalion had four road accidents. After leaving Belize, most of the experienced members of the transport section left and were replaced by younger recruits. In two and a half months in Northern Ireland the battalion has had 18 traffic accidents with less-experienced men.
Nor should we under estimate the importance of turbulence caused by our vital commitment to the preservation of law and order in Northern Ireland. If we leave aside the Irish regiments and the Gurkha battalions, which are barred from service in Northern Ireland, but include the Royal Marine commandos, there are almost exactly 100 major units eligible for service in Northern Ireland. Last year, 41 of those units served there. When we take special training and leave into account, we can see that a four-month emergency tour can remove a unit for eight months from the annual training cycle.
I am delighted that the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), with their particular expertise, joined other hon. Members in paying special tribute to the work of our forces in Northern Ireland. Nor should we forget that it is customary for soldiers on a four-month emergency tour in Northern Ireland to work 12 hours a day for seven days a week. With that high work rate can go a substantial rate of frustration.
Less than three weeks ago, in a battalion headquarters on the outskirts of an important town in Northern Ireland, the commanding officer showed me on the operational map the photographs of members of the local active service unit of the Provisional IRA. Pointing to the photographs, the commanding officer said "Today they have been having an unusual 379 burst of activity. They have been talking to colleagues that they normally do not talk to and something is clearly going to happen very soon."
The next day a 250 lb. car bomb exploded in that town's shopping centre. Hon. Members can imagine the frustration involved. The Army knew that there would soon be an explosion, they knew exactly who was going to set it off, but all they could do was to wait and pick up the bits and hope that the forensic investigation would provide some evidence that would enable them to arrest the terrorists who they knew were responsible.
But, although turbulence and frustration are important factors, there can be no doubt that a deep resentment about the Government's handling of the pay problem has been the real cause of the recent stampede out of the Services. Only too often in recent months we have seen Service men standing by to maintain essential services to the public when the strikers they were replacing were earning much higher wages. This has helped to make everyone, from top to bottom in the Services, very conscious of comparability.
A few days ago I was talking to a senior officer involved with the Army's Outward Bound training scheme. He loves his work, but he is very conscious of the fact that his car allowance is less than half that paid to junior civil servants at the school headquarters. I also recently talked to the officer commanding one of the most successful junior service companies in the Army. He also loves his work but was well aware that his pay as a senior captain, after some 25 years in the ranks, was rather less than that of a Metropolitan policeman afer seven years' service.
It is this feeling that they are being done down which is creating the stampede of skilled men away from the Services. Paragraph 403 of the White Paper is bland. It reads:If current rates of outflow … continue, the consequences … will be serious for the Armed Forces".That is a massive understatement. The consequences are already disastrous.
In the financial year 1977–78, the Armed Forces recruited, from all sources, 1,957 male officers; but during 1978 no 380 less than 2,080 officers applied for premature voluntary release. In other words, leaving aside normal retirement, more officers were trying to get out of the Services than were trying to get in. In 1977–78, the Army recruited 1,020 male officers and the number seeking premature voluntary release was exactly 1,000.
Yesterday the Secretary of State suggested that the number of applications for premature voluntary release had fallen in recent weeks. If he does not know why this happened, I can tell him. It is because senior officers from the Army personnel branch have been criss-crossing the country, pleading with officers and men to wait a few more weeks to see how the Government treat this year's report from the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. If the Government are still in a position to mishandle this last chance, the stampede will be irresistible.
I must tell the Secretary of State that there is substantial anxiety that this year's pay increase will produce yet another "Irishman's rise", and that an increase in pay which looks substantial will be clawed back through sharply increased charges for food and accommodation.
So we draw towards the end of the last defence debate to be held before the general election, and the electors of the country will be confronted with the Government's defence record. When I first took part in these debates, our defence expenditure per head of population was broadly comparable with that of France and Germany. We were long ago relegated from that league. We are even losing touch with Belgium and Holland. Last year the Belgians and the Dutch spent just over £150 per head on the defence of their country. Last year in this country we spent £125 per head, a figure that puts us fractionally ahead of Denmark but a respectable distance behind Norway.
In the last five years, the strength of our Navy has been reduced by 10 major ships and the loss of three squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. In the same period, the Army has lost seven major units and the strength of the Royal Air Force has been reduced by nine squadrons. Meanwhile, the withdrawal from the flanks of our Alliance continues.
We shall all miss the presence of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for 381 Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) at these debates. He reminded us that this week sees the final departure from the Service of the "Ark Royal". On Saturday, the Leader of the House goes to Malta to celebrate the withdrawal of the last British Service men from that island. What a symbol of national decline!
We also say farewell to the Secretary of State for Defence, for I do not know of any political commentator who believes that the Secretary of State can survive in his present post in any circumstances. In a few days or weeks he will be gently towed to some distant dockyard where he will undergo an extensive political refit. We wish him well. In previous posts, he has often shown courage and common sense. We recognise that it is a tragedy for him that he will be largely remembered in his present post for falling asleep during the Jubilee fly-past.
After all, everyone in public life runs the risk of having silly photographs taken. But these particular photographs stuck in the mind of the public, because there was a subconscious realisation that he had actually been sent to the Ministry of Defence to go to sleep. He was meant to lull the Left wing. He was meant not to bother the Treasury. He was meant to preside over a period of silent decline. Over the past five years, this Government have proved that they lack the policies, the resources and the will to provide for the adequate defence of this country. Tomorrow they must go.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Dr. John Gilbert)
I have no intention of following the latter remarks of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart).
§ Dr. Gilbert
This is a sad occasion, if only for the fact that this is the last defence debate in which the hon. and gallant Members for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) and Eye (Sir H. Harrison) will take part. I think I speak for every Labour Member when I say that we have all enjoyed their contributions over the years. I count myself privileged to have served under the hon. and gallant Member for Eye on the 382 Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee for about half the time during which he has been a distinguished Chairman of that body.
Possibly the most enjoyable speech during the debate came from my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Woodall). It was not only enjoyable but it showed us all insights into the life of the ordinary Service man and his family, about which we need reminding from time to time. It was an extremely healthy and helpful contribution.
This evening we face an Opposition in a quite extraordinary posture. They have no motion of their own on the Order Paper, so it is difficult to debate precisely what their views are. It could well be that the reason why they have no motion of their own is that they have no policy of their own, or, if they do, they wish to keep it concealed. They are reduced to opposing my right hon. Friend's motion, which bases British security on the collective effort to deter aggression while seeking every opportunity to reduce tension through international agreement on arms control and disarmament. I find it difficult to understand how any hon. Member could oppose sentiments of that sort. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army said yesterday, their policy is more interesting than ours because theirs is a complete mystery.
The attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), and that of my other hon. Friends who signed the amendment, is much more comprehensible and candid than that of the official Opposition. At least my hon. Friend has tabled an alternative proposition which we can debate, and I propose to start by doing so. His amendment contained three basic propositions—that British defence expenditure was destabilising, that more should be done on converting defence industries to civil production, and some comments on nuclear policy. As my hon. Friend would expect, I propose to concentrate on the first two, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt yesterday with the question of nuclear policy.
My hon. Friend's amendment refers toa massive increase in military expenditure to £8,588 million in the year 1979–80".383 Yesterday my hon. Friend said:The defence estimates show an increase from £7.1 billion last year to £8.6 billion this. That is an increase in cash terms of 24 per cent."—I make that 20 per cent.We all know roughly the figure of inflation. It is nothing like 24 per cent. Despite explanations that I have secured from statisticians, I am not satisfied that the real increase is only 3 per cent."—[Official Report, 26 March 1979; Vol. 965, c. 72.]That may well be a genuine misunderstanding, and there is a clear explanation on page 62 of the White Paper of what is apparently a considerable increase in defence expenditure.
In the previous White Paper the Vote was set out in terms of volume. This year we are taking the Estimates on cash limit terms, and inflation is built into this year's prices but was not last year. The 1979–80 Supply Estimates are being published for the first time on a forecast outturn basis, and are being based on prices prevailing in 1979–80. The difference between the two figures effectively represents two years' inflation and not one, as a result of the different conventions. I hope that that is clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East, who in a former more wicked existence was a chartered accountant. I am sure that he is quite at home with such matters.
My hon. Friend and I will never agree on whether our expenditure leads to instability. I respect his sincerity but agree far more with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams). He pointed out that the 30 years of NATO's existence and the continuing peace of the Continent of Europe are not coincidences but cause and effect. My colleagues on the Front Bench and I share those sentiments.
The second point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East also exercises my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), namely, the need to convert defence industries to peaceful production. That involves British Shipbuilders and also the Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds. At present British shipyards will welcome any orders, including warship export orders. It is a proper function of the Ministry of Defence to give assistance in obtaining those orders and alleviate the serious problems of unemployment on the Clyde, Merseyside and the North-East that would result 384 from the total drying up of civilian orders.
The Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds, is more directly my responsibility. I am chairman of the board of the Royal ordnance factories. It has been suggested, for instance, that we turn the productive facilities there to making agricultural tractors, and such suggestions are wholly impracticable. We need the capacity to provide the British Army with its new main battle tank for the 1980s. If that capability is not preserved in the United Kingdom, we shall have to buy our tanks abroad. That is not in this country's interests or those of any constituent.
I have said many times at the Dispatch Box, and I resile from not a word, that I would much rather live in a world where defence sales were not so important to the economies of this country, the United States, Germany and France. Other countries, however, wish to buy the means of their self-defence. Manufacturers of civilian goods in this country are already selling all that they can abroad, and they have capacity to spare. They do not want more competition from British firms but more markets abroad.
The answer must come from the policies that were advocated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the United Nations special session on disarmament. My right hon. Friend's contribution to that session was applauded by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, spoke movingly about the need to combat hunger, poverty and disease in less-developed countries. I agree with everything that they said. It must be our objective to achieve detente between NATO and the Warsaw Pact Powers and between all areas of friction throughout the world.
I regret that the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) is not in his seat. He made an extremely thoughtful and constructive contribution. He asked some pertinent questions about the defence budget being allocated between individual Services. I regard the allocation between different functions as more significant. The hon. Member suggested that the balance had remained static over the years. He was misinformed on that 385 point. There has been an appreciable redistribution in recent years. In the 1974–75 defence budget the RAF received an allocation that was 24 per cent, higher than that of the Royal Navy, but this year the two are about equal. However, it would be impractical to run the Services, or any other large organisations, on the basis of frequent and radical changes.
One must consider that the life of equipment from the project definition stage to the final phasing out of service existence can often be more than 30 years. Therefore, the changes must be gradual. We are constantly trying to improve the way in which we arrive at our major resource allocation decisions. We have made progress in recent years, but I am far from satisfied that we have the methodology right. We may well be making the right decisions, but occasionally we may make wrong decisions. That is true of any Government, faced with the complexity of decisions in defence procurement.
In my view, it is important that the decisions should be taken on the basis of explicit assumptions rather than implicit, imprecise ones. Any development of that sort will in no way absolve senior advisers from producing assessments based in the last resort on informed judgment. The important thing is that the assumptions are required to be explicit. Under my chairmanship we are studying at the highest level in the Ministry the way in which decisions are made and how this process can be improved.
One of the most difficult areas of resource allocation relates to our anti-surface ship capability. A lot has been said today about anti-submarine and anti-mine capability. If one takes the view that we are devoting too great a proportion of our resources to this capability or to any other, there is no simple means of dramatically changing the policy in a short period. All the weapons platforms that may operate against surface vessels need to be provided with effective weapons. Therefore, we need air-to-surface weapons to be fired from fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, we need surface-to-surface weapons, and we also need submarine-launched weapons.
The difficulty is that weapons systems have become so specialised and so optimised 386 for a particular role that many different weapons are required, unfortunately in very small quantities. This worsens the ratio of development to production costs and makes decisions about changing the allocation of resources at the margin very much more difficult.
There are a couple of other areas in which we are trying to improve the decision-making machinery on resource allocation in the Ministry of Defence. We are looking at the spread of work on operation analysis which at present is distributed throughout the Services and the procurement executive. We are trying to eliminate any redundancy between these various activities and we hope that we shall be able to derive further benefits from some form of organisational change.
Another reform that we are trying to institute is a cutting down of the extremely long time scale for the completion of major works projects. At present a major project can take as long as seven years to complete and often construction time accounts for no more than half of that. Therefore, when short-term changes must be made in the defence programme, because of technological change or industrial difficulties, it takes a considerable time before the loss can be made good in other elements of the programme, and we lack a degree of flexibility which we would very much hope to acquire.
I shall deal with some of the specific questions asked today and with those which were raised in the debate yesterday. The hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) asked about the dockyards. I am happy to tell him that there is a full work load for all four home yards. We are seeking to improve productivity through the development of a new productivity scheme. Progress towards an agreed scheme is well advanced. We are continuing our programme of capital investment in buildings and facilities in every yard.
The defence White Paper foreshadowed further orders this year for Type 42 destroyers. I am pleased to tell the House that today we have placed an order for the twelfth of these ships from Vosper Thornycroft Ltd. of Southampton. Subject to satisfactory contractual negotiations, we intend to place two further orders for Type 42s in the next three or four weeks. The tendering process for 387 these orders was initiated many months ago.
Hon. Members will wish to know of the importance we place on the nuclear fleet submarine programme. In line with our current policy of multiple tendering and ordering of equipment, to achieve better performance and prices from our contractors, we are accelerating the fleet submarine ordering programme to reduce the interval between orders. Thus, we hope to be able to assist shipyards to maintain their sources of supply with sub-contractors who, until now, have suffered from time to time from insufficient work loads.
The hon. and gallant Member for Eye asked whether there would be a 3 per cent, increase in the budget next year. I take it he means 1980–81. My answer to that is an unambiguous "Yes".
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), among many questions, asked about tankers and container ships. He said that it would not be necessary to spend much money in order to acquire many more platforms for Sea Harriers, thus enabling us to increase our anti-submarine warfare capability. This has been examined, particularly in the context of ordering some new RFA tankers. I have had discussions with senior naval officers more than once and I took the same view as he did, but I regret to tell him that I am now persuaded that we cannot achieve increased capability without spending a great deal more money. It might be possible eventually, but certainly not in the near future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) spoke at length about the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve. My hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for Defence for the Army has a total commitment to the TAVR, since he has spent a number of weekends at work with them. He is grateful to my hon. Friend for his helpful and thoughtful speech. The recommendations of the Shapland report have been put in hand urgently and we expect to be able to announce decisions shortly.
Several hon. Members spoke about our capability in mine warfare and mine counter-warfare. The House will be interested to know that we propose to use the hovercraft in this role. It was always believed to have a potential as an MCM vessel because of its inherently 388 low magnetic, acoustic and pressure influence signatures. We have investigated possible weapon equipment for any future MCM hovercraft but have not yet found any which is satisfactory. We have bought a medium-sized hovercraft and we propose to evaluate one operationally in the MCM logistic support role. The hovercraft will go out from the main port so that the MCM vessels can spend much longer on their task. We are optimistic about such developments.
I agree with the hon. Member for Haltemprice and the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) that we must look closely at our capability for defensive and offensive mining operations. We are doing that.
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) asked whether it was more costly to refit Leanders instead of building the new Type 22. It would probably be cheaper, but the question is whether it would be more cost-effective. The modernisation programme for Leanders is well in hand. We can see an end to it. The Type 22 is a more modern ship with a capability in anti-submarine warfare which is indispensable. There is scope in the fleet for both the Type 22 and the Leander class since each can perform its own role.
I agree that we should examine seriously the question of building ships with a shorter life. So far that proposition has not been thought to be economical. The idea is that we can move eventually to a greater cellularity in ships so that we can speed up refits-refit ships more frequently and more easily convert them from one role to another.
The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester suggested that we should build ships on spec. The Royal Navy is co-operating with British Shipbuilders in the Type 24 experiment. It is too early to say whether that ship will be suitable for Royal Navy work. We hope that it will be.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice asked me about AV8B. It is improbable that the RAF will want to order 25 AV8Bs and end up with a mixed fleet of British Harriers and United States Harriers to operate at the same time. There would be all types of operational difficulties and the logistic problems would be considerable.
389 I reaffirm that the RAF places great importance on the unique take-off and landing capabilities of the Harrier. Our experience with that plane has confirmed the high potential value of such aircraft when they can operate out of forward positions in close support of the Army. That is particularly important when conventional airfields are under attack. Our firm view is that an aircraft such as this will remain a major component of the Royal Air Force front line. Plans are in hand to modify the Harrier to improve its performance and to extend its useful life for many years.
I have dealt with as many contributions as I can from Back-Bench Members. I shall devote a few minutes to the speeches from the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Member for Beckenham talked about comparability for the Armed Forces. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) now talks of full comparability for the Armed Forces this year. That is an interesting change from the Opposition's official position this time last year.
§ Dr. Gilbert
Last year the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) said that the Opposition were asking for a return to full comparability in a time scale which was no less favourable than that accorded by the Government for the firemen. He asked for an undertaking to that effect. I gave that undertaking. We remain committed to that undertaking.
§ Sir Ian Gilmour
I am sorry to interrupt an interesting speech. I made it clear last year. I said that we would restore comparability next year—that is, this year. There has been no change in our policy.
§ Dr. Gilbert
If that is so, the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham and his hon. Friend the Member for Stretford were speaking out of different sides of their mouths last year. The evidence is clear. Of course the song now is "the lot, this year", which I am sure has nothing whatever to do with an election arriving; it is just a happy coincidence.
The hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) made a speech today which was not nearly so interesting as the 390 speech he made in Chicago recently, which was the subject of quotation earlier today. The hon. Gentleman used some very strange language. He tried to justify what he said about Milan and Tow—I assume he was quoted correctly in the report in the "Defence and Foreign Affairs Daily"—in which he said they had been delayed, as though by act of this Government they had been delayed. He nods his head. That is what he thinks. I repudiate that totally. The House has been told repeatedly that the introduction of Milan into service has been accelerated, and the decision to buy Tow has been brought forward.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the delay in the introduction of the Chinook, which was a piece of impudence coming from a spokesman for a party three years in office which did nothing whatsoever to introduce the Chinook.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the Bloodhound being "virtually obsolescent". When he was in Chicago he talked about it being "obsolescent" without any "virtually" in front of the word. There are a series of other complaints of which the hon. Member saw fit to deliver himself in Chicago. I regard the hon. Gentleman with considerable respect and affection, and I am very sorry that he chose to make so inaccurate and distorted an attack on his country's defences while he was abroad. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I trust he will see fit not to repeat such activities again.
§ Mr. Pattie
The Minister of State must realise that I was invited to take part in a seminar that was involved with the Soviet challenge to Western Europe, and that inevitably had to do with the capability of this country's defence policies. I wished only to give what I considered to be an honest assessment of that position.
§ Dr. Gilbert
What I complain about is a series of distortions and inaccuracies in the hon. Gentleman's speech to a foreign audience.
I turn now with some relish to the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, who yesterday stated that this Government have reduced defence expenditure by nearly £12 billion, and he went on to speak with all the authority of a former Secretary of State with 56 days in office, 21 days of which 391 he spent electioneering. I do not know what he did with the other 35 days because history does not recall that. His last 21 days, of course, were not very successful in keeping himself in office. I know that he went to Devonport, where he said the Labour Government would close the dockyard. I shall go there on Friday to remind them how much reliance they can place on his statements inside and outside this House. He said that there was no conceivable justification for these defence cuts amounting to £12 billion. I assume, therefore, that he would restore them—I do not know whether he is going to restore them over 10 years. I may say that he is a little more ambitious than he was last year, when he was only talking about implementing expenditure by 1 per cent, in the defence budget; that was about £80 million a year. Now he is talking of £12 billion. I assume that he would restore them over 10 years. That would amount to £1,200 million a year. I could tell him how he could find that figure of £1,200 million a year. He
§ could get £400 million by doing away with 10,000 hospital beds. He could get another £300 million by doing away with 150,000 industrial training places. He could save another £300 million by cutting out 500,000 nursery school places; or he could get £100 million by reducing grants for 30,000 private dwellings. For another £100 million—which would give him his £1,200 million—he could reduce social security benefits, old-age pensions and long-term social security benefits by 1 per cent. I do not know whether that is the right hon. Gentleman's policy. I do not know where else he will get the money from. In addition, he intends to cut taxation and reduce public sector borrowing at large.
§ The prospects of this country for the social spending which our people need will be grim indeed under policies of that sort.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 52, Noes 228.393
|Division No. 107]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Kelley, Richard||Silverman, Julius|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Kerr, Russell||Skinner, Dennis|
|Buchan, Norman||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Stewart, Rt Hen Donald|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kinnock, Neil||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Lambie, David||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Lamond, James||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Cryer, Bob||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Tilley, John|
|Edge, Geoff||Lee, John||Torney, Tom|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Litterick, Tom||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Loyden, Eddie||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Madden, Max||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Flannery, Martin||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mikardo, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Mr. Ivor Clemitson and|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Parry, Robert||Mr. Stan Newens.|
|Hooley, Frank||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Abse, Leo||Bradford, Rev Robert||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)|
|Anderson, Donald||Bradley, Tom||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Cunningham, G. (Islington)|
|Ashley, Jack||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Buchanan, Richard||Dalyell, Tarn|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Davidson, Arthur|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joe) (Heywood)||Campbell, Ian||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil|
|Bates, Alf||Cant, R. B.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bean, R. E.||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Beith, A. J.||Cartwright, John||Deakins, Eric|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cohen, Stanley||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund|
|Boardman, H.||Coleman, Donald||Dempsey, James|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Conlan, Bernard||Dewar, Donald|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cowans, Harry||Doig, Peter|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Dormand, J. D.|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|Dunlop, John||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Dunn, James A.||Lomas, Kenneth||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Luard, Evan||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Rowlands, Ted|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||McCartney, Hugh||Sandelson, Neville|
|English, Michael||McCusker, H.||Sever, John|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||McElhone, Frank||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McKay Allen (Penistone)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Faulds, Andrew||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ford, Ben||Maclennan, Robert||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Forrester, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Magee, Bryan||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mahon Simon||Stoddart, David|
|George, Bruce||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Stott, Roger|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Marks, Kenneth||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Ginsburg, David||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Golding, John||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Graham, Ted||Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Tinn, James|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Tomlinson, John|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Tomney, Frank|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Molyneaux, James||Tuck, Raphael|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Moonman, Eric||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Home Robertson, John||Morton, George||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Ward, Michael|
|Horam, John||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Watkins, David|
|Howell. Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Watkinson, John|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Oakes, Gordon||Weetch, Ken|
|Huckfield, Les||Ogden, Eric||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||O'Halloran, Michael||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hunter, Adam||Orbach, Maurice||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||White, James (Pollok)|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Ovenden, John||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Whitlock, William|
|Janner, Greville||Padley, Walter||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Palmer, Arthur||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|John, Brynmoor||Pardoe, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Park, George||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Parker, John||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Pendry, Tom||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Penhaligon, David||Woodall, Alec|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Perry, Ernest||Woof, Robert|
|Judd, Frank||Phipps, Dr Colin||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Kilfedder, James||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Radice, Giles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Mr. Peter Snape.|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put:—394
§ The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 259.399
|Division No. 108]||AYES||10.13 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cant, R. B.|
|Allaun, Frank||Boardman, H.||Carmichael, Neil|
|Anderson, Donald||Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cartwright, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara|
|Ashley, Jack||Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Clemitson, Ivor|
|Ashton, Joe||Bradford, Rev Robert||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Bradley, Tom||Cohen, Stanley|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Coleman, Donald|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Corbett, Robin|
|Bates, Alf||Buchan, Norman||Cowans, Harry|
|Bean R. E.||Buchanan, Richard||Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)|
|Beith, A. J.||Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Crawford, Douglas|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Campbell, Ian||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Canavan, Dennis||Cryer, Bob|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Judd, Frank||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Radice, Giles|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kelley, Richard||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Kerr, Russell||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kinnock, Neil||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lambie, David||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|Deakins, Eric||Lamborn, Harry||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Lamond, James||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)|
|Dewar, Donald||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Doig, Peter||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Litterick, Tom||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Rowlands, Ted|
|Dunn, James A.||Lomas, Kenneth||Sandelson, Neville|
|Dunnett, Jack||Loyden, Eddie||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Luard, Evan||Sever, John|
|Eadie, Alex||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Edge, Geoff||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||McCartney, Hugh||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|English, Michael||McCusker, H.||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Silverman, Julius|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McElhone, Frank||Skinner, Dennis|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Snape, Peter|
|Faulds, Andrew||McKay Allen (Penistone)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Flannery, Martin||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Maclennan, Robert||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Ford, Ben||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Forrester, John||Madden, Max||Stoddart, David|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Magee, Bryan||Stott, Roger|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Mahon Simon||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Marks, Kenneth||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|George, Bruce||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Golding, John||Maynard, Miss Joan||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Gould, Bryan||Meacher, Michael||Tierney, Sydney|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Tilley, John|
|Graham, Ted||Mikardo, Ian||Tinn, James|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Tomlinson, John|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Tomney, Frank|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Mitchell. Austin (Grimsby)||Torney, Tom|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Molloy, William||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Molyneaux, James||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Moonman, Eric||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Ward, Michael|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Morton, George||Watkins, David|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Watkinson, John|
|Home Robertson, John||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Weetch, Ken|
|Hooley, Frank||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Weitzman, David|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Newens, Stanley||Wellbeloved, James|
|Horam, John||Noble, Mike||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Oakes, Gordon||White, James (Pollok)|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Ogden, Eric||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||O'Halloran, Michael||Whitlock, William|
|Huckfield, Les||Orbach, Maurice||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Ovenden, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Hunter, Adam||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Padley, Walter||Williams, Sir Thomas (Harrington)|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Palmer, Arthur||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Pardoe, John||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Janner, Greville||Park, George||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Parker, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Parry, Robert||Woof, Robert|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pavitt, Laurie||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|John, Brynmor||Pendry, Tom||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Penhaligon, David|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Perry, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Phipps, Dr Colin||Mr. Joseph Dean and|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Mr. Thomas Cox|
|Adley, Robert||Goodhew, Victor||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Goodlad, Alastair||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Alison, Michael||Gorst, John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Arnold, Tom||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)||Gray, Hamish||Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Griffiths, Eldon||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Banks, Robert||Grist, Ian||Mudd, David|
|Bendall, Vivian||Grylls, Michael||Neave, Airey|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Neubert, Michael|
|Benyon, W.||Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Newton, Tony|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Normanton, Tom|
|Biffen, John||Hampson, Dr Keith||Onslow, Cranley|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hannam, John||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Blaker, Peter||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Body, Richard||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Haselhurst, Alan||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Hastings, Stephen||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hawkins, Paul||Percival, Ian|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hayhoe, Barney||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Brittan, Leon||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Heseltine, Michael||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hicks, Robert||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Brotherton, Michael||Higgins, Terence L.||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hodgson, Robin||Raison, Timothy|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Holland, Philip||Rathbone, Tim|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hordern, Peter||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Buck, Antony||Howell, David (Guildford)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Budgen, Nick||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Rhodes James, R.|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Burden, F. A.||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hurd, Douglas||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Channon, Paul||James, David||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jopling, Michael||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Clegg, Walter||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Cockcroft, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Scott, Nicholas|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Kershaw Anthony||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Cope, John||Kilfedder, James||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kimball, Marcus||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Shepherd, Colin|
|Critchley, Julian||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Shersby, Michael|
|Crouch, David||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Silvester, Fred|
|Crowder, F. P.||Knight, Mrs Jill||Sims, Roger|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Knox, David||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lamont, Norman||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lawrence, Ivan||Speed, Keith|
|Dunlop, John||Lawson, Nigel||Spence, John|
|Durant, Tony||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lloyd, Ian||Sproat, Ian|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Loveridge, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Elliott, Sir William||Luce, Richard||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Eyre, Reginald||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Stanley, John|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||McCrindle, Robert||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Macfarlane, Nell||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Farr, John||MacGregor, John||Stokes, John|
|Fell, Anthony||MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Madel, David||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Forman, Nigel||Marten, Neil||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Mates, Michael||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Fox, Marcus||Maude, Angus||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mawby, Ray||Trotter, Neville|
|Fry, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Mayhew, Patrick||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Viggers, Peter|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Waddington, David|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian (Chesham)||Mills, Peter||Wakeham, John|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Moate, Roger||Wall, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector||Walters, Dennis|
|Warren, Kenneth||Wiggin, Jerry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Winterton, Nicholas||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Wells, John||Wood, Rt Hon Richard||Mr. Michael Roberts|
|Whitelaw, Rt Hon William||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Whitney, Raymond||Younger, Hon George|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House endorses Her Majesty's Government's policy set out in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1979 (Command Paper No. 7474) of basing British security on collective effort to deter aggression, while seking every opportunity to reduce tension through international agreements on arms control and disarmament.