HC Deb 29 April 1980 vol 983 cc1174-300

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [28 April]: That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980, contained in Cmnd. 7826—[Mr. Pym.]

Which amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: reaffirms its commitment to the proper defence of Britain through membership of NATO, and pays tribute to the men and women who serve in the armed forces and to their civilian counterparts, but declines to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980 (Cmnd. 7826) in that it fails to set out clear priorities for Britain's defence during the 1980s; commits Her Majesty's Government to increases in defence expenditure far in excess of forecasts for the growth of the economy; and offers no new initiatives towards multilateral mutual disarmament in the nuclear and conventional fields "—[Mr. Rodgers.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

4.34 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Keith Speed)

Some 28 years ago, as a newly promoted midshipman, I received my divisional officer's handbook from the Admiralty. The frontispiece was a picture of a young seaman on the flight deck of a carrier with the simple caption "The Greatest Single Factor". All my experience in the Navy over 32 years and in politics has underlined the wisdom of that caption.

The space and importance given to personnel matters in both volumes of the Defence Statement shows the high priority we attach to getting the right quality and quantity of men and women in our Services and the vital civilian back-up support for them. In opening the debate this afternoon, I shall be to a large extent concentrating on the manpower side of our defences.

Last May, we discovered on taking office that in all the Services there was a haemorrhage of alarming proportions of highly trained middle-rank officers and NCOs who were exercising their right to leave in advance of the normal term of their engagement. At the same time, recruiting was in no way buoyant and alarming gaps in highly trained manpower were having direct operational consequences.

Thus, only a few weeks later, I had to announce the premature disposal of six ships from the operational fleet to the stand-by squadron due to manpower shortages. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that, in infantry battalions where undermanning was particularly severe, one company would be reduced to cadre strength, At the same time, the Minister with responsibility for the Royal Air Force found that the Service was desperately short of trained pilots.

The actions taken by the previous Administration to deal with this mounting crisis had been largely ineffectual. Although I do not doubt that defence Ministers at that time were deeply concerned at the accelerating decline in Service strength, there was little sign that that concern was shared in other parts of the Labour Government. I must tell the House that we are still not out of that wood, although the situation today is incomparably better than it was a year ago.

Thus, virtually the first thing we did on taking office was to restore the Services' pay to full comparability with that of their civilian counterparts and undertake to maintain it thereafter at these levels.

The effect upon the Services has been dramatic. While I would be the last to claim that pay was the cure to all our recruiting and voluntary retirement problems, what I do claim is that solving the pay problem was an essential precondition to getting our defence policy right overall.

In addition to pay, improvements to conditions of service—I shall say more about this in a minute—and trying to reduce turbulence and over-stretch is another important aspect of a forces career that has been largely ignored.

In recent years, many of our Service men and women have felt themselves entirely taken for granted. They have been called upon to drive ambulances or fire engines when their fellow citizens will not. They have been fatal statistics in Northern Ireland, part of NATO's shield in Germany or Norway, and kept the peace in Belize, Hong Kong or the Falkland Islands and have been subjected over a number of years to thinly veiled campaigns of "knocking" from certain quarters.

Putting it bluntly, I do not believe that in the last half of the 1970s they had the wholehearted backing either of the Government or of the public which they were entitled to expect. It was no surprise then that many with a heavy heart left to seek new careers. That has changed. Certainly the present Government are not only wholeheartedly behind them but are matching words with actions. Because of the lead given by the Government and the world situation, the public now have a much greater awareness of the vital need for well-trained, well-paid, highly professional forces.

The fruits of all this effort are beginning to become apparent. We expect to recruit nigh on 50,000 men and women in the year just ended, making it one of the best recruiting years since the ending of conscription. This compares with 43,360 in the year 1978–79, a substantial improvement.

Not only has our recruiting performance improved but the level of outflow has also been reduced. In the first 11 months of 1979–80, it was 8 per cent. down on the same period in 1978–79. In particular, applications for premature voluntary release have fallen by some 34 per cent. compared with the previous year, and the monthly rate is now approaching the level of the early 1970s.

However, encouraging though these figures are, it is vital that these improvements are sustained in the coming years if the Armed Forces are to achieve their required strengths. We have to increase the trained strength by some 20,000 men within the next few years and this is a formidable challenge, particularly in the light of a declining manpower pool in the 1980s.

Because of the daunting task of recruitment facing us in the 1980s, it is vital that our recruiting organisation is as efficient as possible. All three Services are currently examining aspects of their recruiting efforts, including those covered in an earlier review under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), where action is now well in hand. In particular, we are finalising the detailed appraisal of our current network of 240 careers information offices—CIOs—to see how many can be amalgamated between two or three Services.

At the same time, we keep our terms of engagement under constant scrutiny to make sure that they are relevant and in tune with the times. Thus, as the House will be aware, in order to help recruitment we have introduced additional new shorter commissions of three and a half years for seamen officers in the Royal Navy and of four years for Royal Marine officers. These new commissions will provide an adequate return for training, but at the same time they will be attractive to young men, who increasingly wish nowadays to try a number of jobs before selecting a career. The response so far has been very encouraging. The first Royal Navy intake to Dartmouth will take place tomorrow and the new Royal Marine commission will see its first entrants in September.

Finally, to update the House on figures, the total strength of United Kingdom Service personnel on 1 March was 320,682. This compares with a low of 314,000 last June and updates the rather pessimistic impression given by the estimates in the 1 April columns in table 4.1 of Vol. 2 of the Statement on Defence Estimates, which the Select Committee commented on in paragraph 21 of its report.

In my opening remarks I mentioned manpower, which, of course, includes womanpower. The women's Services provide a valuable contribution to our defence effort, and our policy is to offer women the widest possible range of job opportunities on an equal basis with men, subject to the limitations that arise from their exclusion from combat duties. We keep a constant watch on this to make sure that no unnecessary constraints are placed on making the best use of the women's Services.

Much is already happening, as detailed in the White Paper. The Royal Navy is planning to employ WRNS officers in a wider range of specialisations and to assign WRNS ratings to shore wireless and electronic maintenance posts. In the Army, members of the WRAC are considered for posts wherever they can perform a task as well as men, subject to maintaining a fair career and postings structure for both sexes. The Royal Air Force already employs women in a wide range of jobs and plans to use them more in future.

However, as the White Paper says, if we are to make the fullest use of women, we must reconsider our traditional practice of not allowing them to carry arms. The Government appreciate that this is a sensitive issue involving far-reaching changes, and in reaching a decision we wish to take full account of views expressed in the House and elsewhere. The proposals put forward in the White Paper are a basis for discussion, and it is too early to say when a decision will be taken. However, I wish to make quite clear that we are only considering arming for limited defensive purposes and that we have no intention of employing women in primarily combat roles. Although I welcome the debate and the interest of the media, this is not, of course, new. The subject was mentioned briefly in the 1979 White Paper and, important though it is, we should not get it out of perspective.

As we gradually extend the job opportunities that are open to members of the women's Services and the demands made upon them, it is only right that we should also look at their conditions of service in general. Although—because of the special nature of military service—the Armed Forces are specifically excluded from the Sex Discrimination Act, we nevertheless try to comply with the spirit of the Act where this is compatible with Service requirements. Consequently, whenever possible, we try to give equal treatment to male and female personnel, and last year we decided that the general entitlements of Service women should be brought into line with those of men, except where Service requirements continue to justify the difference. This means that Service women are now entitled to married quarters and a wide range of associated allowances—such as the separation allowance—in the same way as men. The major outstanding difference in entitlements between male and female personnel is that Service men receive a higher "X" factor in the military salary—10 per cent. instead of 5 per cent.—reflecting the different obligations and terms of service undertaken by men and women in the Armed Forces, most significantly the restriction of women to non-combat jobs.

The House no doubt expects me to say something on the subject of Armed Forces' pay. I can now tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has this afternoon given a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) confirming that the ninth report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has been received and that the Government have accepted the review body's recommendations in full. The report will be published as a Command Paper as soon as possible, but, in the meantime, a limited number of copies are now available in the Library and Vote Office.

The main features of the report are as follows. First, there will be an increase in the military salary of broadly 17 to 20 per cent. for officers and 15 to 17 per cent. for other ranks, together with increases in length of service increments. This will bring the pay of the average private soldier, for example, up to about £86 a week instead of £74 and that of a major, on appointment, up to £10,008 compared to the present level of £8,444.

Secondly, there will be corresponding increases in the main forms of additional pay to maintain their value, with a relative improvement in the higher rate of flying pay to encourage the retention of experienced aircrew. Thirdly, the report mentions the updating of Northern Ireland pay, increases in the number of other minor forms of additional pay, and updating of, and liberalisation of the qualifying conditions for, separation allowance. Fourthly, there will be an increase of 13p per day—about 11 per cent.—in the food charge. Fifthly, it contains a new formula for calculating accommodation charges. This produces minor increases, ranging from just over 1 per cent. to just over 5 per cent. in the present charges, which have remained unchanged since 1977.

The review body has also recommended a significant improvement in the pay of part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, together with a restructuring of the training bounty, in order to bring the UDR broadly into line with the bounty arrangements announced last year for the Territorial Army.

As I have already indicated, the Government have accepted the review body's recommendations in full, with an effective date of implementation of 1 April 1980. The average increase is 16.8 per cent., which is not extravagant when compared to some of the settlements that have been made in the private and public sectors. The recommendations are based on reliable comparisons with outside employment, and their acceptance by the Government is in accordance with the commitment that we gave last year to maintain the pay of the Armed Forces at the level of their civilian comparators. I believe that the Armed Forces will welcome this report and the confirmation that we have honoured our commitment to them. No doubt, if hon. Members have any particular points of detail that they wish to raise during the course of the debate on the subject of the Armed Forces' pay award, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force will attempt to deal with them during his closing speech.

I should now like to mention briefly the question of charges for premature voluntary release, or PVR. Service men in the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force who are released prematurely from their engagement are required to pay a charge, which is intended in part to reflect the fact that they have received enhanced rates of pay in return for committing themselves to serve on a longer engagement but have failed to complete that commitment, and in part to recover some of the cost of their training. The Royal Navy does not have PVR charges because of its different "transfer to notice" arrangements.

The charges have remained unchanged since 1975. In its report, the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has commented that the cost to Service men of discharge by purchase is very low compared with the cumulative advantage accruing from committal pay. We have therefore decided to increase PVR charges. For example, a trained Service man seeking premature release, who has completed nearly four years of a six-year engagement, will in future have to pay £325, compared with £225 at present. Similarly, a Service man seeking release after serving four years only of a nine-year engagement will have to pay £700 instead of £300. The new charges will apply to all Service men who seek premature voluntary release after the date of the formal Ministry of Defence letter of authority. There will be corresponding increases in PVR charges for Service women.

In the case of recruits aged between 17½ and 18 years who exercise their right to claim discharge within three months of their engagement, the new charge of seven days' gross pay will be introduced from 1 July, subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament of the appropriate amending instruments. I hope that that will go some way to solve the problem of wastage during recruit training, which was mentioned yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall).

Apart from pay, there are a number of other major factors affecting the hopes, aspirations and quality of life of our Service men and women that are an important consideration when people decide whether to make a career in the Armed Forces.

Service men share with other members of the community aspirations towards home ownership, but that is often difficult to reconcile with the requirement that they should remain highly mobile throughout their careers. Some limited assistance towards house purchase has been available in all three Services for those about to retire, and for many years the Royal Navy has had a long-service advance of pay scheme that has proved to be an important aid to retention. We are looking at ways to extend the help that we can give to Service personnel wishing to buy their own homes, while at the same time making it easier for them to accept the regular moving and travelling that the job entails.

I hope that we shall soon be able to announce a new scheme for the Army and the Royal Air force and some further improvements to the Royal Navy's existing long-service advance of pay scheme.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the problem arises not only during the Service man's period of service but when he leaves the Service? If a Service man cannot get a council house—and in many cases he cannot—it is then that he needs assistance with rehousing.

Mr. Speed

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that on a number of occasions during the previous Administration and in this Administration the Department of Environment has been in touch with councils that are arbiters in these matters.

If I may go on, we hope to extend this scheme in the near future to the Army and the Royal Air Force. In the Royal Navy, the majority of officers and men are now buying their own houses.

There is another scheme that will perhaps appeal to the hon. Gentleman. Partly as a consequence of the growing trend towards home ownership on the part of Service men, but also as a result of unit movements, we now have in some areas a large number of empty married quarters that are surplus to requirements. In line with the Government's overall housing policy, we are hoping to introduce a scheme soon to give Service men the opportunity to buy these surplus quarters on preferential terms, similar to the discounts in the Housing Bill, depending on the time previously spent in public accommodation.

Our aim in examining these measures is an indication of the Government's continuing resolve to keep the conditions of service of the Armed Forces in step with parallel developments in civilian life.

A particular feature of Service life—and this is especially true of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines—is the significant amount of private travelling that has to be undertaken in the United Kingdom for various non-duty purposes. Because we encourage Service men to have a permanent home in, say, Plymouth or Portsmouth, travelling for a couple of days' leave from their duty in Chatham or Rosyth can be a very expensive business. That has been a legitimate complaint that I personally have encountered many times this past year.

The House will recall that many years ago there was a Service discount of 15 per cent. or so on rail tickets, but that has long since lapsed. We believe that the time is now right to provide some kind of help with this problem.

I am pleased to announce that we have reached agreement with British Rail on the forces railcard scheme, which would be introduced on 1 July. The scheme will provide all members of the regular forces and their eligible dependants with a railcard at no cost to themselves, which will allow a 50 per cent. reduction on standard rail fares subject only to certain restrictions on peak travel. As with all railcard projects, the scheme will run initially for an experimental period—in this case until 31 December 1982. Bearing in mind the amount of private travelling that Service men have to do, that should constitute a real improvement in their conditions of service, and we believe that it will provide worthwhile extra business and revenue for British Rail. As an example, a Service man travelling from Portsmouth to Edinburgh would save £9.50 compared with a weekend return or £25 on an ordinary return.

I turn now to the question of our reserve Forces, who have such an important role to play in the successful execution of defence policy, which several hon. Members recognised yesterday. Their role is to supplement and reinforce the Regular forces in emergency—at home, overseas and at sea.

When we came to office last year, we found that manpower trends in the volunteer reserves were disturbing, with particularly high levels of turnover. We therefore lost no time in implementing the recommendations of the Shapland report as a positive demonstration of our commitment to the Territorial Army. I am delighted to report to the House that the results have been most encouraging, with an increase since last July of nearly 4,000 in the strength of the TA.

Although smaller than the TA, the Royal Naval Reserve, the Women's Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force are no less vital.

I should like to emphasise the debt that the nation owes to all those associated with the volunteer reserves. By that I mean not only the volunteers themselves but also their wives and families, whose support is essential, and, of course, their employers—and I speak as an ex-reservist of some years' standing. The co-operation of employers, and, indeed, trade unions, is vital if members of the volunteer reserves are to be allowed time off work to undertake their essential training.

I am glad to say that very many employers adopt an enlightened attitude in that respect. The Government are particularly anxious that all employers should understand the importance of the volunteer reserves and encourage their employees to enlist. Only last month my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister issued an appeal to employers along those lines, which has been echoed and endorsed by Opposition Front Bench Members. I am glad to repeat that appeal today.

In addition to its Service men, the Ministry of Defence is also a major employer of civilians. The two are complementary to each other and, as chapter 6 of the defence White Paper makes clear, civilians make an essential contribution to our defence effort. That is not just an empty compliment or a meaningless phrase. As the House will be well aware, civilians carry out many roles which would otherwise have to be carried out by Service men and which provide essential support functions.

To draw just two examples from the Service for which I am responsible, te Royal dockyards, which repair, refit and modernise the Royal Navy's ships, and the Royal Naval Supply and Transport Service, which supplies the Navy both ashore and afloat, are manned almost exclusively by civilians.

The wide range of tasks that they carry out means that MoD civilians are generally far removed from the popular idea of civil servants. Anyone who doubts that should visit a nuclear submarine in mid-refit to see the complexity of the task and the very difficult conditions that skilled craftsmen have to work in. The table in chapter 6 demonstrates most clearly the wide range of skills, crafts and specialisms that they encompass—and, incidentally, shows the very small proportion represented by the administrative and the executive grades.

In that context, I am pleased to hear that an offer of some 18 per cent. has been made to the professional and technical staff. I firmly believe that, on the facts, that is a generous offer, and I hope that agreement will soon be reached.

However, because we are such a large employer of civilians—some three-quarters of the industrial Civil Service and some 20 per cent. of the non-industrial—it is inevitable that Government action taken to constrain cash limits for civilian pay and to reduce the number of civil servants should apply to MoD civilians; and it is fight that it should.

From what I have said, right hon. and hon. Members will be in no doubt that I have the highest regard for our civilian staff. However, in any organisation employing over 250,000 people it is always possible to improve efficiency, to do things in a more cost-effective way and to question whether certain things should be done at all—and that applies not only to civilians but also to Service men. We are determined to improve the Department's performance in that respect.

In addition, we also have to ask, should this or that job be done by civil servants, or should and can it be done by private industry? As I shall show in a minute, we have already made a start in that direction with cleaning and catering; it is clearly not essential to have a civil servant to clear our offices or to cook our meals. However, we need to be sure that if we change the defence budget does not pay more overall and that the service is up to standard.

I would not, however, wish to give the impression that that will all be easy or painless. The Ministry of Defence has a record for cutting back civilian numbers that stands comparison with any other Department. Between 1964 and 1979, numbers went down by 150,000. Since April 1979 they have been reduced by a further 3 per cent.—nearly 7,000—or, including the Royal ordnance factories and locally engaged civilians, by 9,500. With in three years, by 1 April 1982, Ministry of Defence United Kingdom-based numbers—excluding people who are locally employed and the Royal ordnance factories—will have been reduced by nearly 20,000, or 9 per cent. This number will include the 3 per cent. cut made last year, the 7,500 cuts promised as part of the Lord President's announcement last December, and the cuts to be made in the present financial year. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be dissatisfied if the various activities, which I shall describe in a moment, do not enable us to do better than this.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

Is this a real search for economies or simply an exercise to enable us to say that we now employ fewer civil servants? If that is the case, why not put Securicor guards outside the Palace?

Mr. Speed

If the hon. Gentleman will wait a moment, he will see that it is an attempt to make real economies.

By improving efficiency and not doing work which can be better done elsewhere, we can undoubtedly produce a more cost-effective organisation.

The White Paper describes the reviews into major areas of the Department's activities—bill paying, cleaning and catering, quality assurance, research and development establishments, the Royal dockyards and supply management. These areas together employ some 40 per cent. of the Department's civilian manpower. They are hardly "candle ends" as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) described them yesterday.

The cleaning and catering study reviewed the case for putting more of this work out to contract. We are now systematically examining the balance of advantage between using contract and directly employed labour, in the first instance in the 80 establishments employing 25 or more cleaners—a total of around 4,000 posts—and we are putting the work out to tender. We have promised staff interests that they will be consulted before final decisions are taken, but it is our intention that where contract labour is shown to be cheaper and there are no other overriding difficulties contract cleaning should be adopted. Depending on the results of the first stage, we shall probably extend the study to smaller establishments. We have similarly begun a review of 50 static establishments without a contingency commitment to find out what scope there might be for adopting contract catering.

The bill-paying study will examine the extent to which it might be possible to economise on staff by rationalising procedures and raising checking levels. The numbers involved are not great—some 400—but we hope to achieve some modest staff savings. But, because the staff involved work in Liverpool, we are naturally very concerned to see what we can do to switch work from elsewhere to Mersey-side in order to minimise the number of lost jobs there.

As the House will know, we have published within the last month a consultative document on the quality assurance study, chaired by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force. The report essentially confirms that it is for industry to ensure that quality is being achieved and for the Department to assure itself that industry is being successful. The Department has been working on these lines for many years. Compared with the 11,000 or so people employed on quality assurance in 1973, there are now only about 8,000. But we are confident that rigorous application of this principle will enable us to go further in reducing the staff engaged on quality assurance. We have now issued consultative documents to staff interests and others concerned on these studies.

As regards the remaining three studies, we are considering reports on the research and development establishments study, chaired by my noble Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, and the supply management study, chaired by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army. The dockyard study, chaired by myself, is only just reaching completion. As I told the House on 15 April, I hope to be able to submit it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State within days. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) got it slightly wrong yesterday. He was probably misled by a statement in the White Paper. I hope that he is not under a misapprehension. However, I can assure him and my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink), who raised the matter yesterday, that the study has addressed all the problems facing the Royal dockyards they mentioned yesterday. Consultative documents will be published as soon as possible, and they will be widely disseminated and, I hope, discussed, although, of course, I cannot guarantee the discussion.

We are also contributing to the series of reviews being carried out under the guidance of Sir Derek Rayner, in which one or two specially appointed members of the Department examine an area of activity under wide-ranging terms of reference and are free to make observations and recommendations direct to his permanent secretary and to Ministers.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

I think that the hon. Gentleman is being unfair to himself in respect of ensuing discussion. Surely he can indicate clearly to the House that he will be willing to discuss the matter with hon Members, trade unions and other staff associations that are directly concerned.

Mr. Speed

I give that assurance willingly. Of course, I would be more than happy to discuss the matter with hon. Members, particularly those who represent dockyard constituencies. There is much to discuss in the report, but, as I said, I cannot guarantee a discussion.

As part of the first round of studies last year, the arrangements for the supply of food for the Armed Forces were reviewed. Following this study, we are considering the introduction of an integrated management structure, with the responsibility for overall policy and management of the food supply for all three Services being taken by one officer. We also hope to reduce food stockholdings, with consequential savings, and we are exploring the possibility of achieving a greater involvement by NAAFI in the provision of food in the United Kingdom.

We are undertaking five more Rayner studies during the current year—on children's secondary education overseas, on the claims commission, on economy in new building works for the Armed Forces, on inspection and audit and on assisted travel schemes. We are participating in a Government-wide review of statistical services, superintended by Sir Derek Rayner, and we shall also be looking at—again as part of a general review under his guidance—all the overheads involved in the operation of the Department.

These are perhaps the more major and glamorous reviews, but they are not the only ones. In a major executive Department like the Ministry of Defence there is a constant process of review aimed at improving efficiency and cutting out waste, which rarely hits the headlines. I should like to mention just two such projects. The first is a review of postal and mail services. A small team of experts has been systematically going round establishments identifying means of meeting their postal requirements in the most economical way. In the last six months, they have clocked up economies worth perhaps £400,000 a year. This is only a start.

Secondly, trials are now under way of a new system of statistical stocktaking based on random sampling in our major stores depots. The new procedures are based on proposals made by our own management services people. We hope and expect that by the time the system is fully introduced we shall have arrangements which will satisfy the Services that the stores they want are there when the records say they are, and that they will satisfy Parliament that we are keeping proper control of public money and saving several hundred staff.

These are only two of the many reviews and studies that are taking place constantly in the Ministry of Defence. But it is by this process of rigorous self-examination that we can improve efficiency. I can assure the House that neither my right hon. Friend nor any of us in any way complacent about this and that value for money has never been more important at all levels for both the civilian and Service sides of the Ministry.

Much has been and is being done to streamline the administrative tail and sharpen the front line teeth. But I do not wish the House to underestimate the very considerable work load on the support services, which are largely civilian manned. May I give one example? I am sure that the hon. Member for Dunfermline will agree with me on this. The manpower effort in refitting a nuclear submarine is the same as that required for refitting a 50,000-ton strike carrier such as "Eagle" or "Ark Royal". That is all done by civil servants. We currently have 16 nuclear submarines in service, with more building. That is an enormous load by any yardstick.

I see no sign of the supporting role diminishing. We have to find new and more efficient ways to carry out that role, and I pay tribute to the men and women who serve the Services and who, like the Services themselves, are too often taken for granted.

As regards Service manpower, I hope that the House and the country will be reassured by the action taken by the Government in the last year to reverse a dangerous decline and restore the Service man and woman to a respected and well-rewarded place in society. The significant steps I have announced today on pay, housing and travel speak louder than any words of mine.

At a time of great international trouble and tension, any British Goverment's first priority should be to ensure that they are making a maximum contribution to the Alliance in terms of top-quality, well-trained and equipped, highly professional Service men and women, available in sufficient numbers and backed up by a dedicated reserve and civilian support. As the White Paper shows, this Government arc now fully discharging that obligation, and I commend it to the House.

5.10 pm
Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)

I hope that the Minister will understand if I do not comment in detail on what he has said about personnel and manpower matters, although I shall return later to Ministry of Defence management. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), who will wind up the debate this evening, will deal with personnel and management matters. We shall wish to study the details of the written answer given this afternoon and also the ninth report of the Armed Forces Review Body before making detailed comments.

There is one important figure relating to personnel and management in the White Paper. It was referred to yesterday by my hon. Frend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright), and by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross). The figure, which was referred to also by the Select Committee on Defence, and which concerns us all as we look at the problems of the Armed Forces in the 1980s, is for the increasing share of the total number of school leavers who will be required in the Armed Forces if we are to maintain numbers during the decade. The figure that is given in paragraph 6 11 of the White Paper shows that at present one school leaver in 12 goes into the Armed Forces. By the end of the decade that figure will have reached one in nine.

That has considerable implications, both for recruiting policy and for pay. I am sorry that the Minister was unable to say anything about that. It strengthens the case for making greater use of our reserve forces, and I welcome what the Minister said about them today. It is important that all employers should understand the important role that reservists play and should make arrangements for them to be released for service in the reserve. I urge the Minister to examine particularly the role of public sector employers in this respect. There has been some evidence that they have not always been as helpful as they might have been in making people available for service in the reserve.

I welcome some aspects of this year's White Paper. In particular I welcome volume II which provides us with five-year runs for a number of important statistics. That is an important advance. As one who pressed the Ministry of Defence for this in the old Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee, I am particularly pleased that this has been introduced this year. However, I regret that the functional analyses which were originally provided in the White Paper produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in 1966–67, and which have more recently provided a graphical analysis not only of spending by the Services but of the distribution of Service and civilian manpower, have disappeared in their full form from the White Paper. I am sure that, as well as the simplified diagram at figure 20 on page 85, it would be a great advantage if we had the full tables provided, although the information appears in summary form in the second volume.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force made it clear in the corresponding debate last year that we should have more information in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates". Certainly he has done a great deal to improve the statement. He has made it a good deal more glossy, not only on the exterior but in its coloured diagrams. But we still have a long way to go before we have a satisfactory White Paper. When one begins to examine this White Paper in detail, one sees that it is not very different in several important respects from those of previous years. It is still too much a statement of what we do and only rarely does it become an explanation of why we do it. There is still a great deal of room for improvement.

In particular, the equipment chapter—chapter 7—is only three paragraphs longer than the equivalent chapter in the last year's defence White Paper produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). Indeed, some of the paragraphs are merely paraphrases of what was said in that White Paper. The three additional paragraphs are on the dockyards, and these were elsewhere in last year's White Paper. I recognise that some improvement has been made by the inclusion of certain figures in paragraphs 730–732. This sort of information is valuable, although the level of generality in which it appears is not particularly helpful. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) suggested yesterday that the figures were not altogether accurate.

I draw the attention of those responsible for the White Paper to the much more detailed information in the paper submitted by the American Department of Defence on its programme of research, development and acquisition to Congress each year. This is effectively the equivalent of chapter 7 of our White Paper, and it goes through the list weapon by by weapon indicating not merely the precise dates on which each one will come into operation but the costs in the coming fiscal year, both for research and development and, where appropriate, for procurement.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Is the hon. Member aware that an additional feature of that publication is that, alongside the weapons systems, it gives an analysis of their comparable capability with Soviet weapons systems? Judgments about weapons systems should not be absolute, but relative.

Mr. Roper

There are many ways in which Congress is provided with rather more information than we are. One of the important factors in the White Paper is that in chapter 7 there is some examination of the threat, area by area, and then the weapons systems are set against that. But that and other things could be usefully expanded. If this information can be made available in the United States without significantly hampering security, I do not see why it cannot be done in this country. I hope that the Under-Secretary with responsibility for the RAF, who was so keen on this matter last year, will bear that in mind when he considers, with his colleagues, next year's White Paper. If Ministers are anxious to ensure a more informed debate, they will consider developing chapter 7 next year to give more information and to link it directly with the figures in the Estimates themselves.

One thing became absolutely clear in yesterday's debate—the 1980s will be difficult years. This is a decade during which we shall need to act with great care to maintain the safety and security of our people. We on this Bench are convinced that over the past 30 years our security has been maintained primarily through membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In years to come our security will be better served by continuing to play our part as full members of that Alliance.

The whole post-war history of our defence policy has been one of our gradual withdrawal from world wide roles that we occupied at the end of the war and concentration of our defence tasks on the requirements of NATO, on the Continent of Europe—primarily on the central front—in the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel, and in the defence of the United Kingdom. I believe that those decisions have been right and that if we have to make choices in future our principal criterion should be the best contribution that we can make to the defence of NATO.

One of the reasons why the 1980s will be difficult is that both the super-Powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, are having to accept that there are constraints and limits on what they have previously assumed to be their omnipotence. We are seeing the frustration that this causes for the United States at the moment. I believe that it will also be seen in the Soviet Union later in the decade when its economic difficulties become increasingly serious.

In such a situation, national and Alliance security will need to continue the dual policy adopted since the Harmel report of 1967, namely to maintain adequate military strength and political strength to deter aggression... and to defend the territory of member countries if aggression should occur and to pursue the search for progress towards a more stable relationship in which the underlying political issues can be solved. Harmel specifically said in his report to NATO that Military security and a policy of detente are not contradictory but complementary. He made it clear that active pursuit by members of the Alliance of disarmament and practical arms control measures reflected their will to work for effective detente with the East. It is therefore right, as the White Paper recognises in paragraph 130, that members of the Alliance have agreed, since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to continue their efforts to seek agreements on arms control.

I was glad that both the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State and, in a more detailed way, his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army made some reference to the contribution that arms control can bring to increasing our security. I must confess that until I heard the remarks of the Army Minister I was concerned that it might have become as difficult to find an arms controller in the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence as it is, apparently, to find a Keynesian in the Treasury.

As my right hon. Friend indicated yesterday, we believe that arms control, as well as defence, can contribute to security. There is obviously not a simple alternative, one for the other. Both have a role to play. We are disappointed that there is relatively little reference in the White Paper to disarmament and arms control. This is not wishful thinking; nor is it a proposal for unilateralism. We believe, rather, that there is a common interest between the West and the Soviet Union to attempt to achieve security at a lower cost if this can be agreed by a mutual agreement that can be verified. As has been clear in the negotiations for SALT I and SALT II, the United States and the Soviet Union have a common interest in reducing the risk of nuclear war. As has been clear in the discussions that have gone on among the Powers with a nuclear capacity and those able to produce civil nuclear equipment, there is a common interest in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the same way, I believe that there is a common interest in limiting the share of our national resources devoted to defence. This may become even more important as economic growth in the Soviet Union, which was at its lowest level ever last year and has virtually stopped, continues to fall during the decade and the voracious appetite of defence planners causes problems there" as it does here.

If it is possible, by agreement, for us to obtain the same level of security at a lower expenditure of real resources by means of achieving satisfactory arms control and disarmament agreements, this is surely an objective to which we should devote some resources. It is necessary to look at the various disarmament and arms control negotiations now going on and to ask the Government what they have done to ensure that these succeed and to suggest to them ways in which they can contribute to the development of such negotiations.

While, clearly, the climate for disarmament and arms control may be less propitious today than it was two years ago, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke at the special session on disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly, there are on going negotiations that must be maintained and some areas where agreement should be achieved. The White Paper, presumably deliberately, uses the word "detente" once only in paragraph 107, in spite of two references in the index, and does not mention disarmament anywhere. None the less, paragraphs 130 to 135 discuss the possibilities of arms control. I should like to say a word about the various negotiations to which reference is made, as well as SALT II, which is discussed in chapter 2 of the White Paper.

We welcome the fact that the Government, in paragraph 206, express the hope that SALT II will be ratified in due course. This would clearly be a useful contribution to world stability and prevent the continuing arms race among strategic systems. As paragraph 208 states, the agreement was reached because its provisions are realistic, equitable and verifiable. This is the basis on which other arms control and disarmament agreements must be developed.

Proposals put forward last December, at the time when decisions were taken on long-range theatre nuclear force modernisation in NATO, are also important in that they provide a basis for bringing these weapons within a framework of a future SALT agreement. If there is no agreement to ratify SALT II, there is surely a case for pursuing this problem outside the SALT framework.

We have made it clear in our amendment that we feel that the Government have failed to take the clear initiative on arms control and disarmament that we believe the situation warrants. We believe that any Government who come before the House, as they do in this White Paper, and say that there is an unprecedented threat which it will cost the country ever larger sums of money to defend itself against, have an obligation to show that they are examining the methods of negotiation and international agreement to reduce the threat.

In spite of the remarks of the Under-Secretary of State last night, we believe that that has not been done, I believe three examples of where we feel there is room for future positive action. The Minister last night referred to the fact that the Soviet Union had rejected the approach by the Americans following the NATO decisions of 12 December last year. Surely, the issues and the risks involved in the deployment of new generations of theatre nuclear weapons in Europe are sufficiently serious for us not to leave the matter there. Chancellor Schmidt certainly does not think so, and he has continued in his efforts to attempt to start an effective dialogue with the Soviet Union in these matters. If Ministers feel that they cannot do so by speeches, could not the matter have been followed up through diplomatic channels in Moscow and London to continue to promote these important proposals? One "No" from the Soviet Union is not enough. We should continue to pursue this matter with it.

Last night's reference by the Under-Secretary of State to the review conference on the non-proliferation treaty, due to be held later this year, was very brief. In an uncertain world, the goal of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons must be of growing importance. Was the reference last night so limited because the Government know that the conference will be much more difficult because of the failure of ourselves, the Soviet Union and the United States to reach agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty? In the absence of such a treaty, they know that there is serious risk of some, of the present signatories of the non-proliferation treaty denouncing it, with serious risks for the peace of the world.

The Minister said last night that negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty were complex and progress slow. Last year, however, in my right hon. Friend's White Paper, we were told that steady progress had been made and it is hoped that agreement can now be reached very soon". What has happened in these negotiations since last year? Have the present Administration succumbed to pressure from the nuclear scientists of Aldermaston, who, like their colleagues in the United States, have continued to lobby against this important measure? I hope that that is not the case. I am glad to have the Secretary of State's reassurance. I hope, also, that we have not held back because of the cost of the limited number of verification stations that we would need to provide. Such costs are trivial compared with the defence Estimates that we are considering today. Success in the negotiations for a properly verifiable, multilateral treaty, banning nuclear explosions in all environments, would be of great importance. Britain has a direct and special responsibility.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I realise that the hon. Gentleman has to say much of what he is saying to make a case for the amendment for which his hon. Friends seem to be intent on voting. Will he provide a little factual assistance by producing one piece of evidence from the Soviets dating from within the last 12 months that they are genuinely interested in the type of dialogue which he blames the Government for not opening?

Mr. Roper

The signatures of the United States and the Soviet Union to the SALT II agreement in Vienna was an important step forward. In the case of the comprehensive test ban treaty, evidence in the press suggests that the Soviet Union has. for the first time, accepted the possibility of verification stations on its territory. The suggestion now is that that is being held up because of a failure of political will in Britain and the failure of the Treasury to provide the money for the verification stations.

The third area in which we could do more was referred to last night, and it is mentioned in the White Paper. I refer to the associated measures linked to the MBFR negotiations in Vienna and the confidence-building measures to be discussed at the Madrid meeting of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, which are closely related.

Paragraph 110 of the White Paper talks of the limited warning time that the Alliance might receive of an impending attack. One way to extend warning time and to increase the time available for political negotiations in a crisis is by the development of effective confidence-building measures. A year ago the International Institute for Strategic Studies published a valuable set of essays outlining the range of possible developments in confidence-building measures. Why do not the Government, either by themselves or collectively within the Alliance, indicate more explicitly which of the proposals they feel can usefully be adopted, within the context of either MBFR or CSCE? It would be useful to have concrete examples of confidence-building measures which the Government believe could be introduced.

I have indicated three specific areas in which we believe soundly based, verifiable arms control initiatives can be taken. All three could add not only to the security of Britain and our partners in NATO but to the peace of the world as a whole.

I turn to the question of procurement, as set out in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" in chapter 7. That shows that we spend more on defence procurement than is spent by any of the other European members of NATO—£4½ billion on procurement in the widest sense, or, excluding research and development, about £2¾ billion on new equipment. Figures published in the Nato Review of February 1980 on the share of defence budgets spent on equipment show that we spend about 24 per cent. of our defence budget on equipment and that that is a significantly higher share than that of any other Western European member of NATO. Indeed, it is higher than that of the United States.

If we apply the 24 per cent. either to the absolute expenditure on defence or to the per capita spending on defence shown in figure 21 on page 86, as a percentage of GDP, as an absolute sum or in terms of per capita expenditure, we see that we are spending more on equipment than any of our European NATO allies. The paradox, on which we need information from the Government, is that we seem to be spending more and yet in some respects we have worse-equipped forces.

The problems that we face are increased by the fact that defence equipment does not merely have to face the normal inflationary pressures that occur throughout the economy but is subject to the aspect of technological inflation, which some American studies show increases the price of equipment in real terms by two or three times in a 15-year period. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), when questioning the Secretary of State in the Select Committee on Defence, quoted from a speech by a senior Ministry of Defence official, which showed that there might be even more alarming figures. He said: if we take the life of major pieces of equipment as some 15–20 years, we find that the increase in real cost between generations is of the following order: tanks, a factor of 2; frigates, a factor of 2.5; ground attack aircraft, a factor of 3; submarines, a factor of 6; guided weapons, a factor of 7. Those are serious and terrifying figures in the context of our spending profiles for the decade ahead.

We must look in part at the management of the procurement operation in the Ministry of Defence. I was pleased at some of the things that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy said. Several aspects of procurement management could enable us to make further savings. Although in general the increasing sophistication of weapons systems leads to the increase in price to which I referred, there is evidence from the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany that other defence forces are using technology to save costs. Are we finding ways of economising by new techniques? Can the Minister say what the British experience is? If he is not able to do that today, will he consider indicating in next year's defence White Paper ways in which new technology can be used to save money on procurement?

We should take further the proposal in paragraph 701 of the White Paper and find ways of stretching the life of existing systems by making improvements to those systems during their life as technology develops. That is already being done in some cases. May we have an assurance that an examination is made of every weapons system, not only at the design stage but throughout its life, to see what can be done to stretch its life further?

A third possible source of saving, both in terms of initial cost and in efficiency of use once in service, is through collaboration. I was glad to see a commitment to that in paragraphs 737–742 of the White Paper. Of course, as paragraph 742 states, Collaboration is not an end in itself. Both in assisting us to get equipment at lower initial cost and in ensuring that we have equipment that is interoperable with our NATO allies, collaboration among European countries, within the independent European programme group and across the Atlantic as part of the so-called two-way street, is of great importance. May we be told, today or on some future date, whether Ministers have considered increasing the level of our representation at the meetings of the IEPG? On a number of occasions I have heard complaints from our NATO allies that they felt that the IEPG would be more successful if there were representations on it at a political rather than official level. I hope that that is being considered and that progress is made.

I should be glad if we could have more details about the success of collaboration across the Atlantic. The Select Committee was given an alarming statistic—that the ratio of imports from the United States compared with exports to the United States was running at about four to one. That is unsatisfactory. Although we need to buy American equipment on some occasions, there should be more examples of Americans buying British equipment or of British firms playing their parts as subcontractors to American prime contractors for some of the major United States weapons systems in joint ventures. It would be valuable if once a year the Alliance could produce an overall balance sheet.

There is a reference in paragraph 701 to the long period between the decision to create a new weapons system and its entry into service. That is clearly expensive and I am sure that there should be an attempt to see whether we cannot reduce some of these over-long gestation periods, and whether we can see the results of our investments sooner.

It is the case that not only is money locked up during the building process but cost rise during construction. It also means that we are not getting the weapons systems to our troops in time.

The United States recently attempted to accelerate certain projects. While that may, in some cases, lead to problems and cost more, it seems that on the other hand there are savings that should be taken into account. I hope, therefore, that this issue can be examined.

The Minister made certain remarks about the recent study of the dockyards, and we were glad to hear what he had to say. The House and its Select Committee have been concerned about the dockyards for a long time, and I believe that we should be provided with as much information about them as possible. I hope that the Secretary of State will take into account what has been said in the debate on this matter and carefully consider the case for publishing this study and others of a similar nature so that they can be examined in full by the Select Committee and by the House.

Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)

As the hon. Member seems to have left the subject of arms procurement, may I say that it seemed odd that he did not mention the question of the integration of our industrial and defence policies? His party is keen on intervention in industry, and this is the most obvious and productive area in which an industrial policy should be developed. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman left that issue out of his speech in consideration of the sensibilities of his hon. Friends.

Mr. Roper

I am grateful for what the hon. Member has said about procurement in relation to our industrial policy. As is said in the White Paper—and as was said in last year's White Paper—the development of technology in defence is of some importance. I believe that a good deal of what is done to establish standards of procurement for the Ministry of Defence—and what was said about the Quality Assurance Directorate—is of importance in maintaining and raising standards in British industry. I am sure that that is a matter that we should pursue. Perhaps the relationship between defence procurement and in- dustrial development could be examined in more detail by the Select Committee.

There are references to procurement outside chapter 7, and I seek clarification from the Minister on one of these in particular. I refer to paragraph 409 in the chapter on wider defence interests, where we are told that a number of improvements in the worldwide capabilities of the Services are being considered. The paragraph outlines a whole selection of things to be done and, clearly, if all of them were done without diminishing our central commitment to the Alliance they would make a significant addition to the procurement bill. The House should be told what decisions have been made or when they will be made and how much they will cost in all.

In dealing with equipment in general, I wonder whether the Minister either today or subsequently, could say something more about one of the more difficult figures in the White Paper. I refer to figure 22, which shows the deployment of resources, looking forward 10 years, on defence equipment. It is not clear to me, no matter for how long I study that table, what it represents. Clearly, it is not the long-term costings. Nor is it the net profile of the spending on the major procurement items already committed. The figures at the top show not the actual level of spending but 100 per cent. only of what is to be spent in a particular year.

One has to ask, therefore: is it any more than a theoretical, possible profile, or is it in some way an estimate of the figures for the next 10 years for the 1980s? It seems to me that if Ministers include figures such as these in the White Paper we are entitled to know exactly what they represent.

This White Paper has the grandiloquent title "Defence in the 1980s". The complaint of the Opposition—and implicitly that of the Select Committee, if I read paragraphs 41 and 42 of its report correctly—is that the Government have failed to set out clearly their priorities for the 1980s. The Secretary of State spoke yesterday of the need to construct a sustainable programme. The White Paper talks of a coherent and stable defence effort in the years to come but fails to show how that will be achieved.

We do not see how, even if the Secretary of State is able to maintain—in an increasingly difficult economic environment—his projected 3 per cent. growth per annum, he will be able to carry forward all the commitments required. We believe that it is impossible to make the improvements required to the equipment of the Army that were discussed yesterday by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, the improvements for the Navy referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe to deal with the shortcomings of the air defences of the United Kingdom, referred to in the report of the Select Committee, and to make adequate provision for the growing electronic warfare threat mentioned by the Secretary of State yesterday, let alone make provision to improve what the White Paper calls the world wide capability of the Services to compensate in Europe for any forces of the United States that might be diverted to other parts of the world. Nor do we believe that we can replace Polaris with a Trident successor from these resources.

It would be far better for the Government to set down now what their choices are than to pretend that they can do everything. We must be properly defended, but it is not fair to the Armed Forces, to the citizens of this country and to our allies in NATO to pretend that we can carry out a set of tasks which clearly demand more than the resources available.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Before I call the first speaker from the Back Benches, may I remind the House that there is a long list of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who wish to take part in this important debate and that short contributions would, I think, be generally welcomed.

5.47 pm
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) devoted a considerable part of his speech to the subject of arms control. I had some responsibility in this matter from 1972 to 1974.

They were the years of the heyday of detente when our relations with Moscow were probably better than at any time since the war. That was the period of the run-up to the Helsinki and Vienna conferences. But I have to tell the hon. Gentleman from personal experience that even in that heyday we made no progress at all. Since then we have had the Brezhnev rearmament programme, the takeover of Angola, Ethiopia and Aden and the invasion of Afghanistan. Against that background, I can only remind the hon. Gentleman of the retort of Rosa Luxemburg to the ambassador who tried to kiss her hand: Drop it, my friend. The times are too serious for such frivolous courtesies. The House may have noticed that on Sunday night President Giscard d'Estaing appeared on television and delivered a solid, four-square speech in support of the United States. When the President of the French Republic comes out publicly in support of the President of the United States, we can be pretty sure that the situation is very serious. Indeed, I think that there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that that is so.

We face a global threat, and it calls for a global response. The hon. Gentleman said—and it is a record we have often heard in the past—that we should concentrate all our efforts in NATO. He took the credit for the decisions of past Governments to abandon the wider role that we have played in the past. Yet I should have thought that since the invasion of Afghanistan the main burden of comment from both sides of the House, and from all commentators, has been on the need for closer consultation, worldwide among the industralised nations, to meet threats outside the NATO area.

In political terms, we are reversing the process to which the hon. Gentleman referred. People have asked "Why was there not closer consultation between the United States and its European allies about the Middle East and Southern Asia"? Surely what we must come to is some kind of tri-lateral alliance worldwide, embracing Western Europe, the United States and Japan. Here I should particularly like to welcome Prime Minister Ohira's declaration that Japan must now accept wider responsibilities in relation to defence. We should go on to extend the trilateral alliance to a quadruple entente with China. Nothing is more likely to make the Soviet Union pause than the knowledge that there is a second front which it would have to take into consideration.

We must all now accept that peace is indivisible. We can no longer trade space for time. We cannot afford another Afghanistan. That means that we must be prepared to resist further expansion on the part of Soviet imperialism by all effective means. Quiet diplomacy and economic pressures may be the right recipe in dealing with a limited problem such as the hostages in Iran, but when it comes to holding back the aggressive tide of Soviet imperalism the crux is military power.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Gentleman differentiating between Soviet imperialism which, as is said in the White Paper, is based upon Marxism-Leninism, and the position in China, which is also Marxist-Leninist? Perhaps he will explain to a simpleton such as myself what the difference is between the Chinese Marxist-Leninists and the Soviet Marxist-Leninists, and how we can line up with one but not the other.

Mr. Amery

The White Paper may have made that comment, but I was not in the least basing my analysis of Soviet imperialism on Marxism and Leninism. Indeed, I recommend that the hon. Gentleman—I thought that he had some understanding of these matters—studies the Soviet situation in Marxist terms. It is precisely the economic and social tensions within the Soviet Union which are driving the Soviets in an expansionist direction. As a good Marxist, the hon. Gentleman ought to now that better than anyone.

When it comes to holding back the tide of Soviet imperialism, there will have to be a military deterrent to further advance. Here is the rub. For a long time we have been inferior in quantity of conventional forces. We have now lost our lead in quality. We are weaker in long-range theatre nuclear weapons, and, on the best estimates that I can find, in a couple of years we in the West will be in a position of strategic nuclear inferiority. We are thus approaching very swiftly a period of maximum danger.

Of course, the resources of the industrialised West and Japan are five or six times greater than those of the Soviet Union. We can restore the position if we are given the time. But how long will it take to make good the years which the locusts have eaten? The cycle of research, development and production before the Second World War used to be three years or so. It is now nearer 10. We are thus condemned inexorably to eight to 10 years of inferiority. In that situation, all of us must realise that we are facing very fragile circumstances, and it will call for cool calculation to find our way through the minefield ahead. There is no magic short cut or even any certainty that we shall be given the time to restore the balance. We must expect setbacks in view of the weakness upon which we are now entering. However, there will be difficulties on the other side as well, and where time is concerned we may be luckier than we deserve.

First, we need a clear recognition of the danger unclouded by illusion or wishful thinking. Then we need a determination to close the gap and get back to parity of force and, hopefully, superiority. For this, we need a crash programme of weapon development, not unlike the one which Lord Swinton initiated in 1937–38. We also need a recruiting drive to ensure that the men are trained in time to man the weapons systems.

Simultaneously, we need to increase our effort in research and development. At present, we spend about 11 per cent. of our defence budget on research compared with 25 per cent. in the Soviet Union. The American figure is much the same as ours. But, unless we increase research and development, we shall only regain parity over the next 10 years to fall behind once again in the decade which follows.

I think that the debate has endorsed the priorities which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State put to us in the White Paper and in his speech yesterday—the maintenance of the deterrent, the building up of air defence, the strengthening of the protection of our sea lanes and the tackling of the problem of reserves. I shall not go into the subject of air defence, because the Select Committee dealt with it thoroughly, or that of our supply routes, beyond saying how impressed I was by the remarkable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) yesterday.

I should like to say a word about the deterrent. I very much welcome the commitment to an independent British nuclear deterrent, restated by the Secretary of State yesterday. I cannot understand why the right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) was so coy about Chevaline. It sounds rather like a pretty girl's name. But it is a tribute to the previous Labour Government, as it was to the Attlee Government that, albeit by stealth, they made sure that we got our place in the nuclear race.

Here I should like to correct the statements that have been bandied about on the opinions of Lord Mountbatten on the subject of nuclear defence. I remember well talking with him one evening, and he said that he thought that one of the greatest achievements of his life had been his success in convincing the right hon. Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) that we must remain in the nuclear league.

Paragraph 203 of the White Paper expresses in magnificently diplomatic terms the case for maintaining an independent British strategic deterrent. I would only say to my right hon. Friend that I think the same logic ought to lead us to the development of our own long-range theatre nuclear weapons with British war heads. The same logic which leads us to think that we must have our own strategic weapons almost more strongly points to the need for us to have control of at least some of the long-range theatre nuclear weapons whose missiles, or whatever, with their own British warheads are stationed in this country.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersith, North)

My intervention follows on the right hon. Gentleman's latter comments and what he said about Lord Mount-batten, which I think are slightly different from the point which was made yesterday. The issue is that Lord Mountbatten, rightly in my view, criticised not the existence of the strategic nuclear deterrent but theatre nuclear weapons, because one could not stop a conventional war tripping over into a nuclear war. That was the point, and it sounds to me as though the right hon. Gentleman is again making that mistake. That would increase the dangers, not decrease them.

Mr. Amery

I think that the speech of Lord Mountbatten to which the hon. Gentleman refers was made in 1977.

Mr. Soley


Mr. Amery

At any rate, there have been a great many developments in the nuclear sphere which would contradict the particular interpretation which the hon. Gentleman has placed on Lord Mount-batten's remarks.

My right hon. Friend will no doubt also have noted the remarks of General Mery, the Chief of the Defence Staff in France, where apparently consideration is being given to the acquisition of a neutron bomb. I do not know whether that is desirable for us, but I hope that we shall give it consideration.

In an important article in this morning's edition of The Daily Telegraph, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) questioned whether we can really afford the defence programme on which we are embarking. If the French can afford it, is that not a pretty good indication that we can? When we bear in mind the enormous effort that the Soviets make with their miserable economic standard of living, is it to be suggested that we are not prepared to make equal sacrifices for the defence of our freedom? I refuse to believe it.

I re-emphasise what so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, namely, the importance of bringing civil defence under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence. It is an integral part of the deterrent and of the whole of our defence effort. I hope that something will be done about it. I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend—I do not suppose that he needs to have it drawn—to the experiment that is being carried out by Devon county council, which has raised small but useful sums from the rates and has been able to devote them to a skeleton civil defence programme, which I am told is extremely impressive.

The problem that we face is one not only of total strength but of deployment. How right George Bernard Shaw was when he said that human beings never seemed to learn from experience. In the First World War, we became bogged down behind a line of trenches on the Western front while the Germans conquered most of the rest of Europe. Before the Second World War, France, the predominant military Power in Europe, dug in behind the Maginot line while Hitler conquered the East. There is a real danger of our developing a Maginot line mentality about NATO.

At present the action is in Southern Asia. That is where the Russian invasion has taken place. The importance of the Gulf is not in doubt. Everybody recognises it. We shall have no right to complain about not being consulted if we are not prepared to accept some responsibility for the defence of the Gulf.

Iran is the largest though not the richest of the Gulf States. It is already bordered on two sides—to the north and to the east—by the Soviets. It is threatened with disintegration. It is deeply penetrated by pro-Soviet elements. The Soviet takeover of Iran would have a domino effect on Kuwait and Iraq. The latter State has recently been keeping its distance from the Soviets but could hardly contrive to do so if Iran fell to the Soviets.

It is not surprising that the American Administration have said, and rightly so, that any external attempt to take over Iran would be an act of war. However, the presence of the United States in the area is still well below the Soviet potential. I do not believe that the Soviets would risk a confrontation with the Americans—not, at any rate, until they have achieved full nuclear superiority. But the other countries in the area are uncertain. The failure of the desert operation to rescue the hostages will have shaken their confidence still further. There is an urgent need to restore confidence in the West. This is where the European countries, especially Britain and France, could help. In that process we could win a say in the control of Western policy and strategy. It is only if we are present that we can expect to be heard.

What contribution can Britain make? The Foreign Secretary has stressed the danger of subversion in the area. He has put it almost as high as the danger of military aggression. The Soviets have great experience of subversion. We, too, have been pretty good at it in our day. The SOE and PWE were outstanding in the Second World War in the support that they gave to resistance movements. No doubt we still have a nucleus of that sort of capability. However, we need to recognise that, wherever the exact relationship of peace to war may be overall, the subversive conflict is on in full measure. It is time to reactivate a real capability for special operations of the type that we undertook during the war.

Such operations and identities of agents have to be kept secret, but that does not apply to aims. The Soviet Union makes no secret of its support for national liberation movements throughout the world. It receives their leaders at the Kremlin with all honour and ceremony. We should be giving the same kind of support to those who are fighting for their national independence in Angola, in the Horn of Africa, in Aden and, above all, in Afghanistan.

But the essence of restoring credibility in the West lies in military power. It will take the Americans a little time to set up their rapid deployment force. Can we make a contribution? I welcome the Secretary of State's decision to accept at last the need to deploy forces outside NATO. I welcome his commitment of a parachute battalion with air transport, sea support and a logistic stockpile. I hope that he will include offensive air cover in the list.

The scale of thinking is still too narrow. It is still too influenced by what I might call the Maginot mentality. Until 1964 we maintained two brigade groups for intervention outside NATO. Our French allies have a similar force in being today. Should not we make the same provision? Of course, it would be expensive. Of course, it would call for more men, and training takes time. If we started now, we could be in a position to make a serious contribution to the United States' rapid deployment force. That would strengthen the resolve of our American allies. It would strengthen the confidence of the countries on the spot and strengthen our own influence on the determination of policy.

A presence in or near the Gulf will call for good communications around the Cape of Good Hope. This is not an occasion for me to enter into a post mortem on Rhodesia. But, at best the new Zimbabwe will be non-aligned. That and the Middle East crisis point, in my judgment, to the importance of strengthening our ties with South Africa.

There was a time when the chiefs of staff produced an annual report. They used to preface it by saying that in their judgment there was no likelihood of a major war in the next five or 10 years. The House has to face the harsh reality that none of us could put our signatures to such a statement today.

Britain and the West as a whole are weak where we should be strong and absent where we should be present. We now see only too clearly the folly of the defence expenditure cuts that have been made over the past 10 years. We can see only too plainly how the costs of withdrawing from our remaining bases, such as Aden, Sharjah, Bahrain, Gan and Singapore are far heavier than any economies that have been made.

The right hon. Member for Stockton talked about unexpected developments. There have been no unexpected developments. Many of us foresaw the shape of things to come 10 or even 15 years years ago. Afghanistan was no surprise. Those developments and then Iran followed inexorably from the withdrawal from Aden and later from the Gulf. Both Conservative and Labour Governments bear some responsibility.

We are not yet at war, but we are no longer at peace. We have been brought to the brink by our own feeble and complacent judgments. There was a time when we enjoyed unchallenged military superiority. Today we face the option of either fighting from weakness or surrendering vital areas; or at least we could soon face that option. That is partly because of what I can only describe as an economic frenzy. The right hon. Member for Stockton said that we could not afford a 3 per cent. increase in spending on defence year by year, yet he was a member of a Government who pumped money into building ships to give away to the Poles. Would it not have been better to have pumped the money into building warships for the Navy?

We do not cease exaggerating our own poverty. I see that Shell expects to produce nearly £10 billion in revenue to the Government over the next five years. Yet Shell represents only about 15 per cent. of the North Sea oilfield. We are not as poor as all that. If a country such as France can afford the defence effort that it is making, we can afford more effort than we are making today.

The other great error was the total misunderstanding of the concept of detente. The condition of detente was the power of the West to contain Soviet imperialism. In the period between the failure of the Soviet operation in Cuba and the American defeat in Vietnam, that containment was effective. As long as that containment was effective, the Soviets realised that they had no option but to co-operate and make the best of it.

If we are now back in the cold war syndrome and on the brink of something worse the reason is our naivety, economic exaggeration or pro-Soviet sympathies of those who deliberately pulled down the military structure on which detente depended.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has begun to turn the ship round. It is pointing in the right direction again. However, it would be idle to think that we are rearming. We are not. Any increase of less than 3 per cent. would have meant a continued rundown. The manpower would have ebbed away. Even a 3 per cent. increase will not meet the increased costs of ever more sophisticated hardware. We need to think in much more ambitious terms than we are yet doing. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) was absolutely right in stressing this. The Treasury is not qualified to determine stategy.

In the defence debate 13 months ago, I said: We have the strength to stem the tide of aggression and I think that we just have the time. The only question is: have we the will?"—[Official Report, 26 March 1979; Vol. 965, col. 87.] The invasion of Afghanistan was accepted with little more reaction than Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. A year has been lost. Perhaps only one or two remain before the military balance is finally eroded. It is already late. Do we have the will to make a stand before it is too late?

6.12 pm
Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Unlike the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), I have always been reluctant to intervene in defence debates, partly because I have two interests to declare, which some people may think disqualify me from being wholly unbiased. First, I spent a good deal of the 1930s trying to warn people against the mortal danger with which we were threatened by Hitler's Germany and, second, I served througout most of the war in the Ministry of Supply and have never forgotten the desperate shortage of equipment with which this country was faced in the latter months of 1940.

In this debate, perhaps there is some danger that the temporary melodrama of the American rescue attempt in Iran will divert our attention from the real, long-term menace to this country—rather, perhaps, as the attack on Finland by the Russians in December 1940 diverted people's minds, although it is difficult to realise that now, from the German war machine which was unleashed on us all four months later.

We all know that Iran is not the really formidable menace to Western liberties. However, the most telling lesson, I believe, of the 1939–45 war effort was the fact that defence capacity depends to a great degree on the industrial capacity with which we back it.

In the early post-war years, everyone of any knowledge was agreed that, for defence reasons, we should never allow our productive capacity—especially in steel, shipbuilding and aircraft production—to run down again. Yet 35 years later that is precisely what we are doing, as a result of hopelessly short-sighted economic policies. My case against the Government is that they are fundamentally weakening this country's defensive strength by destroying or eroding productive capacity in the steel and shipbuilding industries in particular.

We are regularly told by Ministers that there is no demand for the products of those industries. But demand depends partly on the Government's actions. In the case of shipbuilding, for instance, about which we have heard quite a bit in this debate, in so far as there is unused, suitable shipbuilding capacity, there would be no real economic cost to the nation—I think that the right hon. Member for Pavilion would agree with me—if we preserved that capacity by building a far bigger fleet of small naval anti-submarine vessels—destroyers, frigates and minesweepers—to protect our oil rigs, our food supply ships and our fishery interests from the huge existing Soviet submarine fleet, which seems to me—nuclear weapons apart—to be by far the biggest threat to this country.

Indeed, it must be the first time for several centuries that any other Power had the naval capacity to threaten the merchant ships which bring food and material, and indeed oil, to this country. I doubt whether the public realise the magnitude of this threat, even in a non-nuclear war. Of course, we must be prepared for non-nuclear war if we are to be certain of avoiding a nuclear war.

In 1939, the German navy had between 90 and 100 submarines. The Germans never had as many as 100 submarines at any time in either of the two wars. Yet in the Second World War we nearly lost the battle of the Atlantic for the second time.

The Defence White Paper does not tell us, as far as I have been able to discover, the present total of Soviet submarines. However, I understand—I hope that the Minister will correct me—that it is now about 250, and rising very rapidly, and that nearly 100 of these are nuclear-powered. If that is not true, I hope that we shall hear tonight.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that there are two Soviet air carriers as against 32 American, of very great size, up to 80,000 tons?

Mr. Jay

That may be so. However, the Soviets now have a submarine fleet which is far greater than that which Germany had in either of the two wars.

I know that it will be said, perhaps by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), as indeed it was often said before 1939, the none of this will ever happen and that the Soviet Union is interested only in self-defence, and, of course, the Soviet is entitled to defend itself. One might have believed that 15 years ago. But now, why is it that the Soviets have built over 200 submarines, many of them nuclear powered, at vast cost to themselves? Submarines are the least defensive of weapons. Why have the Soviets spent the past 10 years of detente—as many of us believed it to be—in adding this huge offensive force to nuclear strength as great as, if not greater than, that of the United States, and to land forces far greater than those in the West? In addition, why are there the interventions in Africa and the Yemen and the wholly inexcusable invasion of Afghanistan?

None of us knows for certain what are Soviet motives and intentions. But we can be fairly sure of this: that since the United States evacuation of Vietnam the Soviet Union has become an expansionist military Power. Secondly, we cannot safely assume, at least unless and until Afghanistan is evacuated, that further adventures will not follow.

Again, some people may say—and I quite understand this—that there is no analogy here with pre-war Germany and no real evidence of further expansionist intentions on the part of the Soviet Union. The right hon. Member for Pavilion talked about Marxism, and it remains a basic tenet of Marxist philosophy that Communism will gradually but inevitably spread all over the world; and when someone believes that something is inevitable it does not, of course, appear to be morally or legally wrong—in Afghanistan, for instance.

Once, in the 1950s, I spent some evenings in the Kremlin with the British Ambassador to Russia observing the Soviet marshals in all their evening glory—and they are a very resplendent body of men. On my way home one evening I asked the ambassador if those magnificent marshals really believed in Marxism. He replied "Well, they probably do, in the same sense as Field Marshal Montgomery believes in Christianity." I suspect that there is a good deal of truth in that.

It must appear to those marshals in the Kremlin today that everything, according to their doctrine, is now coming their way. Quite apart from nuclear weapons, they have a huge naval fleet, which could surely threaten all our North Sea oil supplies, all our oil tankers and food ships in the Atlantic and many in the Indian Ocean in a very short time. Indeed, looked at from Moscow's point of view, all that stands between the Soviet forces and the Middle East oil reserves of the West at present is Iran.

What is the right course for this country in these circumstances? Most of us, I think, naturally approach the whole issue of nuclear weapons with horror, but it is no good dilating on that today. The question is how we should approach the dilemma in present circumstances, and my practical conclusions are these.

The first priority of United Kingdom policy, I believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) said from the Front Bench, is still to do all we can to get the SALT II agreement ratified in due course—it has only been wrecked for the moment by the folly of the Afghanistan invasion—and to pursue all the other suggestions on arms control which my hon. Friend so constructively made.

But the overwhelming moral for this country is that our safety and our liberties, despite all the present difficulties, depend on the strength of NATO and on our good relations with the United States. We all know that if the Soviet Union ever threatened the ultimate interests of this country or of our close allies we should appeal to the United States for help, because there would be nothing else we could do. That is one reason, incidentally, why I think any attempt to turn the EEC into some sort of defence organisation would be a threat to NATO, because it would blur responsibilities. Indeed, the United States might one day say "If you are creating a rival defence organisation in Western Europe, perhaps you had better defend yourselves and not look to us."

Next, it follows that if we expect the American deterrent to deter others from attacking us we cannot at the same time refuse the United States the chance to have bases in this country in order that that deterrent could be used. I therefore support the Government's decision to permit cruise missile bases in this country. It does not seem to me to be a morally defensible attitude, whether this is a partisan attitude or not, to say to the United States that we regard nuclear weapons as so immoral and dangerous that we are asking them to use theirs on our behalf. I do not think that we could possibly adopt that attitude.

However, I welcomed the Defence Minister's statement yesterday—if I understood him correctly—that any use of those missile bases in this country would be a matter for joint decision by both nations and that, therefore, there would be, as it were, a double veto on their use.

It also follows from all this that as long as Soviet military power is being still further increased NATO is bound to follow suit, and we must therefore honour the 3 per cent. increase in real defence expenditure.

My complaint against the Government, however—which may not please hon. Members opposite—is that, given their present economic policy of contracting and eroding British industry, this simply is not possible. I am pressing the Government to adopt an economic policy of industrial growth and full employment in order that we may strengthen our defences without sacrificing everything else. This would mean, in particular, in the case of steel exploring the possibility of keeping as many plants as possible on a care and maintenance basis—not demolishing them—and charging the expense of that to the defence bill. And in the even more important case of shipbuilding there would be no real economic cost in using unemployed shipbuilding capacity in this country, including the Royal dockyards, of which we have heard in this debate, to build up a much larger fleet of anti-submarine ships than the 65 frigates and destroyers mentioned in the White Paper. Thus we would preserve in both these industries our basic war potential. It is something to hear that we have 65 frigates and destroyers, but in the week after Dunkirk there were 70 destroyers under repair at the same time, so 65 is not as great a number as it might seem.

Whatever Soviet intentions may be in South-West Asia, it is surely essential that the United States, this country and other NATO members should work out in advance, while there is time, some concerted and agreed plan of action for what they propose to do if further adventures occur in that area. I have some sympathy with those who say that if NATO's responsibilities are still to be confined to its present limited geographical area some other method will have to be worked out for ensuring that we are not taken unawares and left without any power of decision in parts of the world which now seem to be even more important.

Lastly, the White Paper inevitably faces us with the question whether we should preserve our independent British nuclear deterrent as well. Whatever we think about that, let us at least decide this on the right grounds. It depends, it seems to me, on whether in an ultimate crisis we are prepared to be wholly dependent on the United States. I would certainly rather be thus dependent on the United States than on almost any other nation in the contemporary world. But when I reflect on the uncertainty of the future, and, indeed, on the unpredictability of all human affairs, I confess that I reach the conclusion on balance that I am not prepared to put this country wholly at the mercy of any other nation whatever.

Mr. Frank Allaun

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You appealed recently for short speeches. We have been on this debate for two and a quarter hours, and the fourth speaker is still on his feet. May I ask you to repeat your appeal for brief speeches?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his help in this matter. I was about to make a further appeal when the present speaker sits down. There are a great many people wishing to get into the debate, and speeches in excess of 20 minutes will make it difficult for me to call them all.

Mr. Jay

My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East prevented me from reaching my conclusion. I was simply going to say that I do not believe that all these responsibilities can be fulfilled unless there is a major change in the Government's present economic policies.

6.31 pm
Sir John Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)

I hope that the House will understand if, like other hon. Members, I do not go into the details of what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy said. He deserves the support of the whole House, and I welcome his speech.

This is the first defence debate we have had since the formation of the Select Committee on Defence, of which I have the honour to be the Chairman. It is part of the new system of Select Committees set up by the House. The Select Committee generally is feeling its way, but I am certain that ultimately it will have much to contribute to our parliamentary system.

The Select Committee has made a short report on the White Paper that we are debating. It was completed after a great deal of hard work by members of the Committee and by the Ministry of Defence in responding to our requests. It is a pity that the timing of the debate, so soon after the publication of the White Paper, left us with only a short period in which to make an assessment of it. At the same time, I recognise that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has been of considerable help in delaying the debate for a couple of weeks. Within that time scale it is inevitable that our consideration of the White Paper was somewhat hurried and to that extent incomplete.

None the less, we have taken evidence in depth on three major problems: the air defence of the United Kingdom, procurement and maritime policy. We put wide-ranging questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when he appeared before the Committee. Reports of the evidence sessions have been published and are available to the House. The major points to which the Committee wishes to draw attention are mentioned in its report.

Recent events have served to emphasise that it is not, and never was, a prudent policy to assume that defence forces would have a number of years to prepare for war. At the same time, planning to remedy defects in our defence often seems to be based on procurement programmes over a long period. Industrial capacity to produce new weapons systems is not always immediately available.

I should like to touch on the three main problems into which we inquired. We have drawn particular attention in our report to the weakness in air defence. The White Paper acknowledges that this is an area where there is room for improvement. Our evidence indicates that the United Kingdom was and remains a prime target for Warsaw Pact attack in time of war and that the resources available to the Soviet Union are substantial when compared with the resources that this country has to match them. Even to create an additional squadron of Lightning aircraft from existing resources would take about two years. The shorter-term improvements to air defence such as the forming of the Lightning squadron and the arming of the Hawk trainers will not completely rectify the situation. Only when the major improvement represented by the Tornado F2 and the improved air defence ground environment have been fully introduced can we be reasonably satisfied with our air defence.

Two areas to which we recommend that further attention should be given are the provision of further air-to-air refuelling capacity, possibly with converted civil aircraft, and rapid runway repair facilities. These are available to the Royal Air Force in Germany but are not available to aircraft using home-based stations for our defence. Anything that can be done to boost the effectiveness of current resources must be extremely worth while.

I turn now to maritime matters. The Committee was also concerned about current assumptions about naval war. On land and in the air the effectiveness of modern weapons systems leads us to believe that a conflict would be short and intensive. That is not the assumption on which much naval planning is based. Plans are being made for convoys and other activities which would be of use only in a protracted war. We hope that this problem can be considered by the Ministry of Defence.

We have also noted other areas of weakness in maritime policy. We were most concerned about the growth, which continues, of the Soviet merchant fleet. That has considerable implications——

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Has the hon. Gentleman noted from the Official Report of yesterday's debate that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) quoted The Observer defence correspondent as saying that estimates of Soviet strength are obtained from the CIA and that the CIA, under political pressure, increased its estimate of the proportion of Russian GNP spent on defence from 6 per cent. to 8 per cent. to 12 per cent. at the stroke of a pen? Has the Committee considered that possibility?

Sir J. Langford-Holt

We did not take evidence from the source that the hon. Gentleman mentions. All the contacts I have had—and no doubt those that other members of the Committee have had—with the shipping industry will tell the House that the Soviet merchant fleet has increased enormously in the past 15 or 20 years, and the same cannot be said of ours.

We also noted with regret that there seems to be a lack of offensive mine-laying capacity in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. It was mentioned earlier this afternoon that President Carter had considered using mines in the Persian Gulf area. It may well be that he would be most unwise so to do. But the United States forces' ability to do so would offer a course that is short of major global war. I hope that the Government will have more to say about that.

In our inquiry we paid considerable attention to the use of reserves and the possible use of women in the Services. My hon. Friend mentioned this afternoon—and the White Paper makes it equally clear—that it will be increasingly difficult to recruit the number of men required to bring our forces up to strength. I hope that the proposals which he made this afternoon will go a long way to help. For this reason, if for no other, we need to tap all our resources and make the greatest possible use of reserves and the women's branches of the Services to fulfil the tasks in hand.

We took no evidence on the subject of whether women should be used to carry arms, but we do believe that a more determined effort should be made to recruit women for and fit them into a wider range of duties than at present.

Our report makes a number of points about future purchases of equipment, on many of which decisions will have to be taken shortly. I will not reiterate the Committee's comments in this debate, but I stress the importance of the procurement of British-made equipment to British industry. The Ministry of Defence has a very difficult problem. It has to obtain the best equipment and do so at the lowest cost, whilst seeking, not only for economic reasons, to maintain and support home-based industry. It is near-impossible task.

To look for a moment at wider defence interests, because of the great strains on the defence budget we had to consider—and, indeed, the Government do the same—whether all the current commitments—the strategic nuclear force, the maintenance of British forces in Germany, the defence of the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas and the defence of the United Kingdom itself—could continue in their present form. We note that the Secretary of State did not rule out a change in these commitments if the burden becomes insupportable, but this would have to be done in consultation, and only in consultation, with our NATO allies.

At this stage, we did not disagree with the Government's view that the current commitments could be met, but we regard it as essential that these policies should continue to be assessed realistically so as to ensure that resources are commensurate with commitments.

We examined the statement of the Government in paragraph 409 of the White Paper that the Services should be able to operate effectively outside the NATO area without diminishing the central commitment to the Alliance. We have pointed out in our report that the Government are perhaps thereby seeking to assume wider responsibilities without adding any substantial extra resources. We have supported the planning for contingencies outside NATO and the anticipation of operational requirements, but we must have some doubts about actual firm commitments to action which must be made in addition to existing major NATO commitments, the resources for some of which are already severely stretched.

I should like to depart for the moment from the Select Committee's report to express a doubt of my own. The view of the Ministry of Defence is, I believe, that the best defence against one tank is another tank. The spearhead of a Warsaw Pact attack would be tanks; and on the NATO front the Warsaw Pact outnumbers us by three to one. Is it not right, therefore, to ask this question? Even if one tank is the best answer to another, is it true to say that one tank is the best answer to three tanks, even if the quality were equal? Would it not be well worth while to examine closely the possibility of using the huge reserve of intelligent and free manpower in Western Europe? These people will defend their homeland with dedication and with courage. They could perform this duty with a mass of anti-tank weapons, both guided and unguided.

It is worth remembering that for one tank we could buy either 150 anti-tank guided weapons or more than 1,000 man-portable unguided weapons. These, in whatever mix, could be used by reserves in their homeland who are trained in their use. There is no doubt that this would provide Europe with a defence displaying both flexibility and depth. It would stretch from the East German border to Cherbourg, and for not one foot of the way could an aggressive army feel safe, and any aggressor would think many times before launching his army into such a spiky scene. This would surely prove to be the greatest deterrent of all.

In conclusion, I should like, on behalf of the Committee, to welcome, as others have done, the improved form of the White Paper. It includes more information in a readable and well-presented manner, and we hope for further improvements along the same lines in the future. We recognise the current White Paper as an opportunity for a better and more informed debate on defence, which ought to be to the benefit of the House and probably—much more important—to the benefit of the public at large.

6.46 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

It surely cannot be taken amiss if in a two-day debate on defence one speech at least is devoted to that theatre in which alone the Armed Forces of the Crown are actively engaged, namely, that part of the United Kingdom which marches with the only land frontier that this country has.

I can well understand that to the cursory outside observer—I make no complaint about that—and to those who gather their information, as they must, on Northern Ireland from newspaper reports, it must appear that the last 10 or 11 years have been a period much of a muchness, homogeneous in character, marked by fluctuations—perhaps by a general reduction—in the level of casualties and violence, but, upon the whole, undifferentiated. This is profoundly wrong. It is important that the House and the Government should understand how radically the conflict and the engagement of the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland have changed in the last 10 or 11 years, because from that change, which has not yet finished, must follow alterations and improvements in the deployment and use of our forces.

Ten years ago, perhaps even six years ago, it might have been said that the primary role of the Army in Northern Ireland was, in hallowed phrase, "aid to the civil power". Certainly in the early days of the commitment of the Army it was the control of large crowds, the main- tenance of minimum policing in city areas and the attempt to control and reduce mutual violence which constituted the primary commitment of the Army. Anyone who experienced Northern Ireland in those years and returned now after this lapse of time would barely recognise the situation.

The character of the conflict has changed fundamentally and so has the deployment of the security forces. Today the prime responsibility for the maintenance of peace and for the policing of the Province rests, where it should rest, with the Royal Ulster Constabulary; and the primary military support to the Royal Ulster Constabulary is rendered by the Ulster Defence Regiment. The Secretary of State is not responsible for the Royal Ulster Constabulary. So I will remark only that the contrast between the force at its nadir of morale, armament and purpose in the early 1970s and that force today is striking and gratifying.

The Ulster Defence Regiment, on the other hand, is the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Defence. It recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. In those 10 years it has seen great changes. One of those changes has been that plotted by the figures—which admittedly run only from 1975 to 1980—in table 7.1 of the White Paper. From being an almost wholly part-time force, it has become a force with a substantial full-time element, far more professional in both its components than seemed likely 10 years ago. My hon. Friends and I used to argue for that development at a time when it was thought unrealistic to suggest that even one-quarter of the force should be full-time. That fraction has now been exceeded, and the force is attaining the appropriate composition for it effectively to discharge its role as the first line of military support to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Those developments will go further. However, I have one word of caution. In redeploying the Ulster Defence Regiment and in trying to eliminate overlap in its facilities, the Government should be careful to retain its roots throughout the soil of the Province. It would be a great mistake to pull up some of those roots in areas where there seems no direct call for the Ulster Defence Regiment at the moment—the same thing as many years ago was done to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Those who have the regiment's interest at heart will have been gratified by this afternoon's announcement to the effect that the Ulster Defence Regiment—an integral part of the Army—has been put on an equal footing—in almost every respect—with the rest of the Army. Representatives of the Province have consistently called for that, and in the tenth year of the regiment we are glad that it has been achieved.

Another change which has taken place over the years is unwelcome. In its early days, a substantial minority of Roman Catholics served in the regiment. The number of Roman Catholics serving at the moment is very small indeed, although still appreciable. The House should understand fully the reason for that, as it may be easily misrepresented. It has nothing to do with prejudice or sectarianism, still less with the absence of a desire on the part of those who control the regiment that it should recruit a representative proportion of the population of the Province into its ranks. The reason is simpler and crueller. The few Roman Catholics who serve in the regiment today are very brave men indeed. They do so at the risk of their lives in a way that their colleagues do not. I am proud to have some of those men in my constituency and to know them personally. At a time when the enemy's tactics and forces are being directed almost exclusively against the security forces, we cannot reasonably expect our desire to be fulfilled to see the Ulster Defence Regiment genuinely and fully an Ulster regiment. This is a phenomenon that should be understood, not misunderstood.

I come to the Army. There have been recent and considerable changes in the deployment of the Army. They have been the complement of the increased prominence and effectiveness of the RUC and the UDR. The garrison function, the presence of the Army in that part of the kingdom in the same way as it is present in other parts of the kingdom, has become relatively more important. We in Ulster welcome that form of Army presence: the Army should be able to train in Ulster, and should be able to do so at least as effectively as in any other part of the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, the Army now takes a diminishing role in ordinary security duties in most of the Province. For many reasons that is at it should be. It is a waste of the Army's manpower. In addition, it too easily conveys a mistaken impression about the state of the security battle now being waged. I offer the Secretary of State a tip. There are more places still where the Army could be removed from unnecessary security duties, or security duties that could be at least as effectively performed by those to whom they more naturally fall. He might, for instance, take a look at Aldergrove airport and ask himself whether a continuous Army presence is still necessary there.

To this change in the Army's deployment there is a counterpart which corresponds to a profound change that has taken place in the nature of the campaign being waged against the Province and the United Kingdom. Today, that war is almost exclusively external. In some cases it is actually being carried on from territory that lies outside the United Kingdom, but even where action may appear to be indigenous it depends for its support fomentation, command—in all probability—and supply upon bases outside the United Kingdom.

Table 7.1 gives a dismal statistic. It records that in 1979 48 Service personnel were killed. It is the highest figure since 1973. But let no hon. Member mistake the significance of that statistic. It does not mean that there has been any reverse in the process of regaining control and of re-establishing law and order in Ulster as part of the United Kingdom. Far from it. Let us analyse that figure. Of those 48, 18 died at Warren Point last August as a result of injuries that were inflicted from outside the United Kingdom, and if the remaining 30 deaths were analysed hon. Members would be astonished to discover how many of them were inflicted within a few miles of the international frontier. Very few of those deaths are genuinely analogous to the corresponding statistics for earlier years.

The Army is now primarily responsible for waging a war against external attack, attack launched from the territory of an independent neighbouring country. I offer the Government some reflections that arise out of the fact and might affect the future application of our forces. Most of us who take part in these debates hope that our contribution will be noticed and favourably referred to in the winding-up speech from the Government Bench. I do not aspire to that in respect of what I am about to say. Indeed, I hope that the Government will from the Dispatch Box make no reference to the suggestions that I am about to make, since I do not believe that any such reference could be in the public interest.

My first comment is that the role of the Army in the frontier areas is now far too static. Indeed, its deployment is becoming obsolete.

I accept that there are points, one of them perhaps Newry in my constituency, where a visibly permanent Army presence—visibly permanent by accommodation of a nature very different from that occupied at present in Newry behind barbed wire and steel shuttering—is wholly desirable, because it is related to the continuing and permanent role of the Army in the Province.

However, for the rest, I simply do not believe that it is right for the Army to be based permanently in a series of points from which predictable patrolling is carried out. Many of the casualties inflicted could only have been inflicted because the movement of the forces was predictable. In short, we are becoming too predictable—I repeat the word—in our operations in the frontier campaign which today is the real campaign. I am not suggesting that the Army presence in those areas should be less. On the contrary, I believe that it should be more. But it should be a much more changing, variable and unpredictable presence.

The value of the Army in the frontier areas in supporting the RUC and enabling it to perform its functions, including the ordinary functions of a police force in any society, does not depend, in my view, on the fixed points behind the wire and galvanised iron—or is it sheet steel?—that the Army occupies. It depends on the ability of the Army to deploy a force where something is happening and where it will or may be needed.

If the Army is to do that, there must be a continuation of an improvement which is already occurring under the present General Officer Commanding and the new—although I mean no reflection on the former—Chief Constable. There have been times—they were quite recent—when the lack of co-operation between the RUC and the Army was particularly dangerous in the frontier areas of the Province. I believe that co-operation is improving; but the Army can be effectively used in the new conditions in the Province only if it is working hand-in-glove, dovetailed together, with the RUC; for in the last resort it is the RUC and the UDR which can alone indicate, and with which alone can be planned, the type of army operations that can be effective.

The final and perhaps most important consideration that I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is that the war cannot be won wholly on one side of the land frontier. That cannot be denied. No war could possibly be won where the boundary of operations represented a haven of safety, a reservoir of arms, a place for recruitment and a resting place for the combatants on one side. It is inherently impracticable to win a struggle in those conditions. That is underlined by the striking series of discoveries—my word "discovery" is rather in inverted commas—of arms and ammunition made recently in various locations conveniently near to the frontier.

The Governent of the Irish Republic can deal with their side of the frontier if they want; but there are many reasons, political and otherwise, why they should not wish it to appear that they want to. Therefore, there is no fruit either in denunciations of the Government of the Irish Republic or in overt pressure brought to bear on that Government to co-operate with the security forces of the United Kingdom. That is a vain imagining.

Nevertheless, this country has the means to make it worth the while of the Irish Government to see to it that bases are not maintained or are not usable on their side of the frontier from which this murderous war can be carried on. Sufficient cards are in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, provided, of course, that they are not displayed publicly or placed on the table.

There is one last condition, however, that lies behind and above all the efforts of the security forces. Those efforts must not be undone by any political actions that could convey to the enemy—an enemy who traditionally has lived on illusions—the notion that, if it hangs on, there will presently be a completely different deal of some kind that will be welcome to those who share the objects, although not the methods, of the IRA.

People say—and in this sense alone they say rightly—that the war can only be won politically. That is true in the sense that the political negative must be there to enable the Army and the security forces to secure the military positive of a final and successful conclusion to the long campaign that over these past 11 years has been waged against those people of the United Kingdom who were most exposed to it.

7.7 pm

Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)

I want to be brief, so I hope that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) will forgive me if I do not comment on his fascinating and extremely constructive speech, to which I am sure the whole House, and, I hope, the Government, listened with interest.

I have a large number of Service families in my constituency, and I am happy to tell my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that in the past year or so the morale of the troops and their families with whom I come into contact has been greatly increased. That improvement will be much strengthened and continued by the measures announced by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State of Defence for the Royal Navy.

I am delighted to congratulate my right hon. Friend wholeheartedly on his White Paper. It will be reassuring for him, and certainly for the country, that many Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) and the right hon. Member for Batter-sea, North (Mr. Jay), agreed with much of the White Paper and that most of their criticisms were useful and constructive.

This is relevant to the only point that I wish to make: the credibility not only of the British contribution to the Alliance but of the Alliance itself. The fact that there are so many on both sides of the House who have a sense of urgency about our position must add to the credibility of our contribution to the Alliance.

I was reassured, too, by the phrasing of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He tended to talk more about the Alliance and less about NATO than in the past. I hope that that was a symptom of his recognition that, if it is to be effective, the Western Alliance must to some extent be prepared to operate outside the conventional NATO area.

I do not go so far as my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). I do not think that our capacity as a nation is now sufficiently great to make threats or ideas about such intervention from the United Kingdom alone wholly credible. But he indicated, our history shows that we are in the right position to give a lead to other countries within the Alliance in extending its activities in a more global role.

I said that I wanted to talk about the credibility of the Alliance, but I think that a better word is its reality. Is it now real in Soviet eyes? How long will it remain so, and are we doing enough to ensure that it is real and that it is seen to be real? On our ability to do that depends our capacity to negotiate from strength. I hope that the United Kingdom and other countries within the Alliance will have learnt the lessons of the past. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North spoke about the years before the war. We are less prepared now than we were then—ill prepared though we were. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) pointed out, our supply lines are at greater risk from a larger and more powerful submarine fleet than they were in the days when we were so nearly starved out. European supplies of raw materials and metals are at far greater risk. Worst of all, the public have not yet woken up to the dangers that we in Britain and the whole of the Western world face.

Despite the preponderant influence of the United States as a super-Power, there is a great deal which less powerful members of the Alliance can do. If we expect the United States to increase its burden of spending on maintaining a more realistic nuclear deterrent, Western Europe—the rest of the Alliance—must be prepared to give America the sites it needs and we must be ready to make our own contribution. It is important—as it never has been—for this country to give a lead in showing solidarity with the United States in its present difficulties. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave a reassuring demonstration earlier this afternoon of that solidarity, which I hope will have a good effect on the American public opinion as well as supporting the Administration.

There seems to be a measure of agreement among Conservative and Labour Members that the credibility of our contribution to the Alliance depends upon our maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to be a little more explicit soon on the options that are available and the possibilities that the Government see in the replacement of our Polaris missiles. The late Aneurin Bevan said that he would not go naked into the council chamber. The sooner we can demonstrate what our new suit of nuclear clothes will look like, the better. I hope, too, that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us news soon about the deployment of cruise missiles. That is particularly important, since it is my understanding that some of our allies in Europe are slightly backtracking on deployment and are seeking a further discussion on the need for these missiles before proceeding with the plans for deployment which have already been agreed. I hope that the Government will give a lead in preventing that attitude from developing.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

As a former Cabinet Minister, does the right hon. Gentleman feel that the British Government should insist on having in their physical possession not only a joint decision but a key to the cruise missile system?

Mr. Macmillan

I am not prepared to answer that question specifically. It must depend upon Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government, and their capacity to build up a degree of trust, and through negotiations to ensure that we have the necessary control that is required for our security. In fact, this need adds strength to the argument that we consider our own tactical as well as strategic nuclear capability. With the possession of our own independent strategic deterrent, we are more likely to get what we want than otherwise.

If the Alliance is to be real and seen to be real, there must be less doubt about the main objectives of the Alliance. Of course we need greater argeement on the means of achieving the objective. But we are a little confused about the objectives when we talk about detente and the nature of detente and when we talk about a common interest between the United States and the Soviet Union on reducing arms and tension.

Part of the Soviet intention is to achieve defeat without war and to be in a position of nuclear blackmail so that the only riposte open to the Western Alliance is too terrible for people to believe that they will take it. The main objective of that Alliance should be to get itself as soon as possible into a position which makes such blackmail impossible.

The main burden must fail upon the United States. If a Soviet first strike or even the threat of a first strike can eliminate the United States' capacity to hit back, except by the nuclear bombing of cities, the Western nuclear deterrent will have lost all credibility. I do not believe that anyone can suppose that in those circumstances it will be possible for any American president to put the major cities of the United States at risk in response to a Soviet attack on purely military sites.

We have not yet reached that position, but it will not be long before we get there. Therefore, the United Kingdom is entitled to urge on the United States the action needed to redress the nuclear imbalance. In turn, the United States is entitled to expect that we should support it in all possible ways. I hope that in responding with regard to equipment and improving the arms at our forces' disposal we will pay attention to what the hon. Member for Farnworth said about collaboration. I hope that the United States will accept that in order to be able to play our part we must have a viable industry to support our defence procurements. I hope also that we can persuade all the members of the Alliance to look at the more global role of NATO, as well as strengthening its conventional armaments.

Having been so successful in Africa, perhaps we—and also the French—are in a particularly strong position to urge on our European allies a willingness to operate, not simply as individuals, but as individuals within the Alliance, outside the NATO area. We should consider the potential role of German forces filling in in the centre where troops have to be removed for this peripheral activity. Otherwise, the Alliance would be seen to be too over-committed to be credible.

With the United States and our European allies we must see that a more realistic view is taken of the potential role of South Africa in the general defence of Western interests and of the contribution that could be made by Japan.

Enough has already been said about maintaining the efficiency—and credibility—of the British Isles as an unsinkable aircraft carrier, by improving its defences. In so far as this requires civil defence construction, the hardening of dispersal points on airfields, building hardened control centres and other constructional work, that could be undertaken quickly, since there is a shortage of use of our construction resources. We could hope for fairly quick results—and a benefit to the economy.

We must realise that the hardening of such installations includes hardening against chemical warfare. I was delighted to read in the White Paper that there will be improved protection for our troops against chemical warfare. However, is that enough? The Soviet Union can, without fear of reprisal, use chemical warfare, and no part of the Alliance can yet deliver a chemical counter-attack. The effect of any Soviet attack must be at best to hamper our operations. We should consider whether we need a counter-attack capability of chemical warfare to protect not only our troops but our population against its possible use in the field and against an attack on these islands. If we do not consider that chemical defence needs the ability to counter-attack, we must think very carefully about the type of defence that we propose for our civil population against air attack.

There is another advantage in starting work on the civil defence side and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) suggested, starting registration to forestall the possible need for conscription and the building up of reserves: it alerts the people. If registration is necessary, I suggest that a crash programme of civil defence is equally necessary. Both will also have the advantage of bringing home to our people the urgency of the needs of this country in the face of a deteriorating situation abroad.

There is no doubt about the need for early, rapid and drastic action to maintain the reality of the Alliance and its credibility over the next few years. Almost the first essential in order to get this going is to get the British people to understand how necessary it is. So, in conclusion, I suggest that from now on each one of us in this House should take on the role of playing the maximum part one can in telling the people what the dangers are, what the Government propose to do to counter them and what part they all can, and should seek to. play in a real national effort.

7.22 pm
Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)

The defence policy proposed by the Government, without the additions suggested by the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan), involves a 3½ per cent. increase in real terms in 1980–81, with a continuing growth of 3 per cent. in ensuing years to meet NATO aims.

The White Paper states in paragraph 803 that adherence to the NATO aim logically entails a switch of resources from civil programmes to defence. In other words, any substantial savings made by reducing standards in health, education, welfare and road building are not to be returned to the people in the form of tax cuts but are to be diverted to defence. It is extremely important that the public should understand this. It means, for example, that people in need of treatment under the NHS, such as kidney patients, might be allowed to die while resources which could easily provide the means of life are switched to defence.

The public should also understand that, as explained on pages 88 to 89 of the statement, the invisible expenditure overseas will amount to well over £1,000 million next year. In other words, we are giving a subsidy, in effect, to West Germany, a more prosperous nation than ourselves. This situation will get steadily worse after the expiry of the 1977 offset agreement.

All this amounts to the fact that the Government intend to place an increased burden of defence on the British people, which will continue to grow year by year while the economy itself declines. The percentage of gross domestic product spent on defence is already the highest in NATO except for the United States of America, and it could go up even further.

We must also recognise that in the White Paper no allowance is made for the cost of maintaining the independent deterrent in the long run. If Britain opts for Trident, the cost will probably be £5,000 million over 10 years. Even those who are convinced of the need to increase British defences must recognise the serious problems which will be produced by this sort of programme. If defence spending is to be increased by lowering living standards more than would otherwise be the case, those who advocate this course must realise that there will be a price to pay in terms of increased hardship for many people and perhaps in increased social unrest and protest.

As the proposals apply to a period of deepening economic crisis and a growing shortage of fuel, those who want to step up the defence budget must take account of the fact that they may well contribute to the critical weakening of our economy which will eventually cancel out any increased military capability.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

It might be relevant to remind the hon. Member that before the First World War the Roosevelt rearmament of America was at least as effective as his New Deal in restoring the ailing American economy.

Mr. Newens

I very much object to the idea of rearmament purely to give employment. I believe that it must be justified on other grounds. If I believed that increased military capability was vital to the security of the British people, I would still argue that we were attempting to do more than we are economically capable of doing.

I believe that the arguments that have been advanced stand up in the minds of those who have put them forward only because they are thinking in terms of the 1930s and the 1940s. It has struck me time and time again how many right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches have been looking back and not to the future. Nuclear weaponry has brought about not only a quantitative change in the potential destructive power that exists but a qualitative change in the character of any war in which such weapons might be used. The extent of destruction produced by nuclear weapons would threaten the very survival of life where it occurred, and therefore a paramount aim of defence must be to prevent nuclear weapons from being used against us rather than to determine how to respond once war has broken out.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) said yesterday, Europe is in serious danger at some time in the future of becoming a nuclear battlefield between the great Powers in a war triggered off by a crisis in some other part of the world. The stationing of cruise missiles here and the existence of the British deterrent make us a target in any future nuclear war, and that should deeply worry any Government who are truly concerned about the security and safety of our people. Allowing our homelands to be used as a base for nuclear warfare by another Power makes us fundamentally vulnerable, without being able to control the causes that may lead to the outbreak of war.

The grounds on which the case for nuclear and other forms of rearmament has been advanced are highly dubious. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) pointed out yesterday the speculative basis of calculations made of Soviet military strength. Even putting aside that case, the statements made in the White Paper are open to question. For example, it appears from page 18 that the Soviet Union and its allies are equal, if not ahead, in terms of strategic nuclear weapons. I believe that that is incorrect. If hon. Members look at the latest edition of " Military Balance "—the publication of the Institute of Strategic Studies—they will see that it reveals massive United States superiority in terms of the number of targetable strategic nuclear warheads.

In theatre nuclear weapons, the balance is moving in favour of the Soviet Union with the deployment of SS20s, but this does not outweigh the overall Western superiority in nuclear weapons that exists at present. Lord Zuckerman, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser from 1964 to 1971, in an interesting article in The Times on 21 January of this year described how alleged American nuclear inferiority became an issue in the 1960 United States presidential election. He went on to say: The so-called missile gap turned out to have been a myth. Indeed, the Russians then started pressing hard to close the gap which they perceived. The same thing can happen today. The Government's Defence Statement, with its argument for expansion, is, along with similar arguments advanced in other parts of the world, helping to fuel the arms race that represents a tremendous danger to the whole of mankind. The Brandt report recently spelt out the terrible threat that this represents to the human species. I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who talk only in these military terms to look at some of the fundamental responsibilities that rest on us as representatives of the people of this nation and which we should at least consider.

We should recognise that we cannot preserve our way of life if life itself on this globe is endangered in a future nuclear war. We are probably more at risk, along with others in Western Europe, than the inhabitants of any other part of the world. Government policy, set out in the White Paper, makes no serious proposals for disarmament. On the contrary, it not only proposes to retain an Army on the Continent, to remain an independent nuclear Power and to fulfil the commitment in Northern Ireland, but it hankers after some means of dealing in military terms with problems that arise in the world at large.

The situation in Iran has arisen because of earlier involvements east of Suez and mistaken policies pursued by this country and the West in general, against which many of us spoke out at the time. We need to recognise that there is no military solution that will last in such areas where Western, or British, policy is based upon support for, and co-operation with, reactionary and repressive regimes. Any attempt to intervene there in military terms—we need to look at the escapade last week in this respect—may light a fuse that will lead back to Europe. I believe that what the Americans are currently planning in the Caribbean, where a vast military operation is to be put on next month, is totally wrong and can only increase world tension. I believe, similarly, that the Government's attitude to defence can only contribute to the same result.

For all those reasons, I believe that the defence policy set out in the White Paper is not only a recipe for the continued impoverishment of our people but one that is fundamentally misconceived. It will not make war more unlikely but will increase the tension that eventually may spark it off. I shall have no hesitation in voting against this policy. I shall, furthermore, continue, along with many of my hon. Friends, to urge the need to resuscitate SALT II and divert mankind from the disaster that war would bring.

7.35 pm
Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I do not suppose that anyone in the House will have been surprised by a single word of the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens). More important, I do not believe that any previous speaker has succeeded in breaking the 10-minute barrier. I shall try to do so, as I wish to raise only two matters.

The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) made an unusually sensible speech. I should like to comment briefly, before he leaves the Chamber, on one matter that he raised which indicated that he had read the White Paper. Although the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) complained that detente was mentioned twice in the index but only once in the White Paper, the word "Communism" is mentioned only once in the index and occurs only once in the White Paper, in paragraph 108. Part of that paragraph states: It is a basic, if nowadays seldom stated, tenet of Marxist-Leninist philosophy that Communism will ultimately be extended to every nation and that its spread should be promoted, if necessary, by military means when the circumstances are rights". The right hon. Gentleman said very much the same thing in his own words.

The hon. Member for Harlow clearly did not get as far as paragraph 108. It is the key almost to the whole matter. I wish that the White Paper said more about it. When we come to reasons for spending money on defence, we need to analyse the fundamental threat. It is not simply a matter of an army, a fleet and a mass of Soviet ICBMs. It is the motivation behind them.

I understand mat Mr. Allen, who may become to President Reagan, if Mr. Reagan becomes President, what Mr. Brzezinski is to President Carter, has recently made a perspective analysis of the fundamental nature of the Communist State. He said that Communism exists only on one justification—in that it constitutes and claims to be the spearhead of international revolution in the name of the proletariat. It is, in other words, like a bush fire. If it cannot ever be burning something new, it will go out. We have seen, over the years, Communism burning its way forward, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, sometimes underground and sometimes in the open, leaving behind it a dead heart in Soviet Russia.

If that heart could only be got at, because the fire on the outside was extinguished, this might yield all sorts of new growth of which the dissidents give some indication. It is obvious that we should concentrate our efforts on fire-fighting, and it is one of our priority tasks to make good the deficiencies in fire-fighting in defence inherited from the previous Government.

It is clear that, since we face threats all the way round the burning area, they cannot simply be countered by military means. My quarrel with the White Paper is that it does not say enough about the totality of Soviet policy and the extent to which it represents an economic threat, an ideological threat and a commercial threat. The Soviet merchant marine is used as an extension of the naval fleet. The Olympic Games are used as an extension of the Soviet Union's propaganda operations, dedicated to the same end as everything else in Soviet policy.

In Communist countries, sport has become the opiate of the masses. In fact, it is more than that: it is an instrument of policy. That is why the presence at any Moscow Olympics of a team carrying the Union Jack would be objectionable. Our athletes would be seen to be in pursuit of fool's gold, delivering themselves up to be exploited by the Soviet propaganda machine that is all part of the threat of total Soviet domination over every territory to which it can gain access.

Thirty years ago, the RUSI produced a paper called "Defence in the Cold War" that contained a worthwhile phrase, de- fining the Kremlin's objective as "all mischief short of war". Nothing on the Russian side has changed in the interval. Only we have changed. Only we have become neglectful and deceived, believing that there is something in the idea of detente The very word "detente" essentially contains within it the notion of comparability. I do not believe that we can honestly think of Communism as a system that is compatible with our way of life. I believe that the idea of detente is a complete delusion. I am not saying that I want to see war——

Mr. Soley

The hon. Gentleman had me fooled.

Mr. Onslow

That is easy enough. I do not take any credit for that achievement after listening to the hon. Gentleman. The House must understand that we have to counter Soviet economic threats with economic action. We have to move against the Soviet Union in the ideological world. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends seem to believe that military defence is the only question about which hon. Members should be cerned. That that leads me to suggest that the Government have done well to expand on this point in the defence White Paper.

The second point with which I want to deal is one to which I referred yesterday when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke. It concerns the defence of United States air force bases in this country. The Select Committee took evidence on that issue and expressed its concern. I underline that concern.

In response to my intervention yesterday, the Secretary of State said that he saw the present situation as being "reasonably promising". That is fine, but if the contemplated, or looked-for, purchase by the Americans of the British Rapier system for the defence of the Fill and cruise missile bases in Britain does not eventuate, it will result in more than industrial disappointment. The Secretary of State should make it clear to his friends in Washington, as I have tried to make clear to my friends in Washington, that a test of faith is involved.

If the Americans buy the Rapier they are in danger of doing industrial damage to themselves. They have an inefficient system which they cannot even bring themselves to bring to Britain as a defence because they know that it will not work. They know that if Rapier is bought by them it will result in more business for British Aerospace. But there is more than an industrial battle involved. It is a test of faith. If the Americans wish us to host their cruise missiles and F111s, which we are willing to do, we have a right to say "You have the responsibility for ensuring that they have point defence. Get that point defence for them. If it means that you must suffer some industrial disadvantage in the process, that is a secondary consideration." The overriding priority is at the Alliance level. I hope that that message will be rammed home. We should not be put in such a position that by some default, some machination or official delay on the American side the opportunity goes and the purchase is not made. That will not do. I hope that the Government understand the strength of my views.

7.41 pm
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I refer to the Secretary of State's speech yesterday and the interjection by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). My hon. Friend asked an important question: Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up a matter of fact? I refer to the statement in The Times today that the British base or the American-British base at Diego Garcia was used in the American effort that resulted in the desert calamity. The Secretary of State replied: I do not know the answer to his question."—[Official Report, 28 April 1980; Vol. 983, c. 997.] I pressed the Secretary of State later. I wanted to know whether the Government knew that the Americans' effort—or military operation, which is what it was—to rescue the hostages was one of the options and what response they had given to the Americans. Did they say to the Americans "This is not on" or did they say "You do it with our blessing"? The Secretary of State did not give me an answer. The Prime Minister did not give an answer when she was pressed today by my hon. Friends.

The British people have the right to know exactly what was the Government's attitude. If the Government were in any way involved, we have the right to know how far they were involved and how far they are prepared to go along with the Americans. Government Members can make astonishing statements about the Soviet Union. So can I. However, if they dare to say anything about the United States of America or query its policies, they are like Pavlov's dogs. They react as if they are not allowed to ask questions about the United States.

Government Members do not seem to understand, although the nation does. On Friday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) said that the people would hold their breath over the weekend. The world held its breath. We shall have to hold our breath for a long time. If we do not act rationally, if the Americans, the British and the Europeans do not keep cool heads, we could imperceptibly and slowly slide into an impossible position and end up in a third world war. Then there will be no victors. No one can win. It is no good talking about knocking out the missile bases in Britain and not considering the effect that that will have on the general public.

Mr. Dalyell

Cannot another question be added? If it is true that the British Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence did not know until 7.20 am on Friday, when they heard the news on radio, that this event had taken place in Diego Garcia, what were our military Service personnel on Diego Garcia doing? Apparently, they did not flash the Ministry of Defence that a whole series of C141 American aircraft were using the Anglo-American base. If the Government did not know, they must explain Why they were not told by our people on Diego Garcia.

Mr. Heffer

I appreciate my hon. Friend's interjection and I agree with him. We must ask the question again and again until we have a satisfactory answer. If anyone in the Government knew that the base was being used, he is hiding the fact. If they did not know, the situation is more serious because that means that people are taking decisions behind our backs and without our knowledge. It is said that we must have agreement in Europe and work collectively to impose economic sanctions on Iran when a military operation is being prepared behind our backs.

Let us be frank. My right hon. Friends on the Front Bench have tried to distinguish between a military operation and trying to get the hostages out in a mercy mission. An Entebbe raid was impossible. Any operation must involve a military aspect and, if there were shooting, mark the beginning of a war. There is no question about that.

What we are really talking about is the possibility of sliding into a third world war. We are not talking, as we did in the old days, about conventional weapons. Today's conventional weapons are nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are destructive. They are certainly no less destructive than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What can happen now is much worse and more destructive.

We are always hearing about civil defence. Let me tell the House of Mr. Val Peterson, who was the United States civil defence administrator 25 years ago. In 1957 he said: If the whole 170 million Americans had air raid shelters at least 50 per cent. of them would die in a surprise enemy attack. In the last analysis there is no such thing as a nation being prepared for a thermo-nuclear war. Further, Lord Noel-Baker, who, I know, is dismissed by some people because he has always stood out for peace and disarmament, made a great contribution to the concept of disarmament. I think he was absolutely right when he said: Any use of nuclear weapons will escalate into a general war. There is no defence against such weapons. A nuclear war will destroy civilisation and perhaps exterminate mankind. To hope for salvation from civil defence is a dangerous self-deluding pipe-dream. What we have to concern ourselves with, particularly those of us who were in the last war and who, possibly will not be around in 20 years or less, is our children, our grandchildren and future generations. That is what we are talking about. If we allow a situation to develop where we slide into a third world war, there will be no future generations.

I understand that there is an island which has been extensively used for the development of nuclear weapons. There is no possibility of people ever living there again, but rats abound. Is that what the future is for us—no people but plenty of rats? Will that be the situation? It is a serious situation indeed, and hon. Members should look at the issue in this way. It is glib and easy to say "Let us build up our strength to offset that of the Soviets."

People in the Soviet Union will be saying exactly the same thing. The marshals and the military chiefs there who are interested in building Soviet forces will talk, as they do, about American imperialism raging throughout the world, saying that it is essential for them to safeguard their civilisation and build up their forces against the Americans. In our part of the world we are saying that it is necessary to build up our forces in order to offset those of the Soviet Union.

One day the deterrent will not work, and that is why I think that we must have an entirely new way of thinking, a new strategy and new ideas. I believe that my party has gone part of the way. At the special Labour Party conference we shall put forward a statement based upon our manifesto commitments. Let me make that absolutely clear. That is why I am not entirely happy with the motion in the name of my party. It does not entirely fit in with what the party said even in our manifesto. It does not go as far as our manifesto in some respects.

Let it be made absolutely clear that in 1974 we said that we renounced any intention of moving towards the production of a new generation of nuclear weapons or a successor to the Polaris nuclear force. We reiterate our belief that this is the best course for Britain. I believe that it is the best course for Britain. We should be saying quite clearly that we are all opposed to the manufacture and deployment of cruise missiles and the neutron bomb and that we refuse to permit their deployment in Britain or any other part of Europe by the United States. This brings me to my last point.

We must find a new way of approaching the question. I believe that we should be working for a nuclear-free Europe. We who live in Europe, irrespective of whether we live in the East or the West, have the task of trying to get rid of nuclear weapons from our soil. The people of each country will have to act unilaterally in order to do that.

I accept completely that it will be easier for us to build a great peace movement in the West. We are able to elect Governments who will listen to the demands and wishes of the people and we could ultimately, I hope, get a decision along those lines. However, it will be more difficult for the Eastern Europeans because they cannot at this stage change their Governments in the way that we can. They cannot build a mass peace movement. We must, nevertheless, appeal to the working people and other peoples of Eastern Europe to support our efforts alongside their own. If we can get nuclear weapons removed from most of Europe, that will destroy one of the biggest props of the Soviet militarists who argue that they need to build up their forces because of the threat from the West.

We are not talking in terms of nuclear weapons being removed from the Soviet Union and America. That is not possible—certainly not at this stage. Therefore, the other part of the argument is that we should work for multilateral disarmament. It means that we must work for SALT II, and, having got that, we must go on to SALT III.

I believe that these are new alternatives for which to work. If we do not work for them but continue along our present path, I believe that it will be too late. I was interested to hear a right hon. Member say that he was worried because some Western European Governments were backsliding on the question of the cruise missiles. Those Governments are responding to the feelings and desires of their peoples, and we should adopt this totally new approach.

I do not want to believe that we may well be the last generations of mankind, because mankind, for all its faults, must continue in order to build a better world for future generations But if there is a nuclear war there may not be any future generations, and it is on that basis that I appeal to the House.

7.57 pm
Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)

I believe that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) spoke with great sincerity. What a pity it is that he cannot convince those in the Warsaw Pact countries of his views.

We have known for some time of the Soviet's great military capability, and we have now seen, at the start of this year, the way in which the Russians intend to use that capability. There was some doubt before about the intentions of the Russians, although many of us had. our fears confirmed by the events in Afghanistan. Now the evidence is there for all to see, and I believe that the people of this country understand the need to give priority to defence, even if some Opposition Members do not, and perhaps some never would, understand that need.

The right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) suggested yesterday that we could not afford what I would describe as the quite modest increases in defence spending set out in the White Paper. Opposition spokesmen have listed our deficiencies—all, of course, inherited by the present Government—in terms of inadequate air defences, inadequacies at sea and inadequacies on land.

I find it astonishing that those Opposition spokesmen could say that when until a year ago the Labour Administration were responsible for bringing about that state of affairs. It was the height of hypocrisy when a former Minister dared to write a criticism of our inadequate air defences within a few weeks of his ceasing to be responsible for them.

The 3 per cent. a year increase which is suggested in the White Paper is only 3 per cent. of the 4.9 per cent. that we already spend on defence. If my arithmetic is right, that would seem to indicate that we are transferring to our defences an addition of less than one-six hundredth of the total income of this country. That is a measure of the additional defence spending, and I suggest that it is quite modest indeed. With Soviet expenditure increasing by 4 per cent. a year in recent years, and no indication that that trend will cease, it is hard to see other than that the gap will be widened. There are those who from a position of knowledge have suggested that we should be spending at least 5 per cent. or more a year. However, I accept the Government's judgment that, in the present economic state of the country, 3 per cent. is all that can be afforded. I only hope that the judgment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor is correct.

There is evidence of a massive Soviet build-up and a sustained spending increase over 20 years. In the period between 1974 and 1979, the Warsaw Pact countries introduced into service twice as many new tanks as did NATO, seven times as many surface-to-air missiles and no less than 16 times as many guns. They have the advantage of low personnel costs with their conscript army. This, of course, enables them to spend even more on equipment and, most strikingly of all, on research and development. Here, they spend twice as much as does the West. One-half of all Soviet scientific workers are engaged on military research and development. In total, about 500,000 people are engaged in Russia on military research and development. The results are now apparent in terms of the high quality of equipment which serves the large land, sea and air forces which they possess. Military production facilities in Russia have been very much increased and modernised during the last few years, so that this flood of modern military equipment will continue in the years ahead.

Equipment is not the whole of the story. There is the question of personnel. Here, I believe, we have our greatest asset in the calibre and high morale of those who serve in our forces. That morale was restored almost immediately upon the change in Government by the new and correct attitude to defence and to the pay and conditions of the dedicated people in our Services.

I cannot help but contrast the pay in this country with that of some of our NATO allies. With some research, my right hon. Friend was able to answer my written question about pay in other NATO armies. The pay of a private in the Greek Army is 45p a week. That is quite good compared with the Turkish Army, where it is 7p a week. We do not have to rely on conscripts in that way.

I believe that what happened in Zimbabwe recently shows the courage, compassion and common sense of the men who serve in our Armed Forces. I do not believe that any other military in the world could have carried out that dangerous job with the same skill and success. In my opinion, every man who went there deserves recognition for the service which he gave.

However, the situation is not nearly as comforting if one looks at the numbers. There was a 10 per cent. fall in numbers during the years 1974 to 1979, at a time when that massive increase was taking place in the Soviet military machine. It now seems quite incredible that during that period our then Government made 6,000 officers and men redundant, and for understandable reasons 40,000 officers and men voluntarily left the Services prematurely. Morale has now improved dramatically, and the numbers will surely follow. But that will be a much slower business.

I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the greatly improved layout, style and content of the White Paper. But I cannot help noticing that the weaknesses are not spelt out in as much detail as they are in the equivalent United States document. I suspect that the reason is that my right hon. Friend found that he had inherited weaknesses which were so widespread that it was perhaps best not to list them in detail.

Many Conservative Members will be disappointed that it has not been possible to announce more new equipment orders at the time of this White Paper. We had hoped that by now there would be some major decisions. I notice from the proceedings of the new Select Committee on Defence that in evidence given to it by Ministry officials it has been suggested that decisions will be taken by the summer on the next generation of Harrier, tank development and the new infantry fighting vehicle, among other pieces of major equipment. I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Select Committee on the splendid work that it has done, not only in producing its report on the White Paper so speedily but also on the way in which it asked such penetrating and relevant questions.

I should also like to congratulate the witnesses from the Ministry who answered those questions so fully and frankly. I suspect that there has been a change of attitude on the part of Government as to the nature of the answers which are now allowed to be given to questions in that Committee. I found the record interesting in a way which it has not been before, and it is now much more in line with the equivalent committee proceedings in the United States, which some of us read from time to time.

On reflection, those of us who had hoped for new equipment decisions by this time should welcome the care with which the Government are deliberating on the matter. With money obviously so tight, it must be right to consider every item as carefully as possible before deciding what is to be ordered. There are so many deficiencies that it is only right to give the greatest attention to deciding which should be met first.

There are three particular types of weapon to which I should like to refer briefly. The first are cruise missiles. I am convinced that Britain must have cruise missiles. Before any Labour Member gets involved in a nuclear argument, I should point out that I see them being used as conventional weapons. They are now beginning to enter service in the United States on land, sea and in the air, in a conventional role. The Tomahawk missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead and which was initially introduced in that role, is now being introduced as a conventional weapon with a 300-mile range. I have no doubt whatever that other countries will move into this technology and that Britain will have to do the same. It is a question of when, and I hope that it will not be too long before we are told something about developments in this area.

Mr. Soley

If those weapons are used as conventional weapons, how is the other side to know whether or not they are nuclear? As a result, do we not get into the situation where those weapons are deployed and the moment they are deployed—just like the First World War—no side will back down for fear of the other side gaining an advantage?

Mr. Trotter

The hon. Gentleman has suggested that the potential target would not know whether there was a nuclear end or a conventional end. However, I foresee those weapons being used against military targets. As I see it, they are not weapons which should take on a civil population. They would provide a response to a Soviet attack on our military system. They would add to the conventional deterrent. By possessing those weapons, one can help to prevent the attack from starting in the first place.

The second type of weapon to which I should like to refer is lasers. For a long time, lasers have been regarded as science fiction, but that is no longer the case. A great deal of research is now being carried out on those weapons both in America and the Soviet Union, initially in space but also with regard to ground and air applications. In fact, the United States Navy has shot down an anti-tank missile with a laser weapon. It is rather odd that a navy should be shooting down anti-tank weapons, but that has happened. By the end of the decade—and we are talking about defence in the 1980s—I think we may well see lasers in use on the battlefield. Again, this is something on which research and development are necessary now if we are to be able to hold our own.

I should like to reinforce what has been said, especially by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hamilton), about the possibility of a disastrous attack on us with chemical or biological weapons. It is no good being able to defend oneself for a very short period against the consequences of these appalling weapons. The only way to prevent them from being used is to threaten retaliation, in the same way as nerve gas was prevented from being used in the last war. At present, if we were attacked by such weapons, the only practical response would be a nuclear one, with all the consequences which it is not necessary to spell out.

I should like to say a few words about location, because it is a question not just of the number of our forces and their equipment but of their positioning and their mobility. It is quite clear that a global challenge faces the West. The action is likely to lie outside Europe. The Soviet Union sees that the highest risk is in Europe and that its best ploy is to be active elsewhere. There is no doubt that that will have a considerable effect on us in Europe. The United States will have to allocate more of its forces to be able to react in other parts of the world. Such forces will not necessarily be available at a time of crisis to reinforce Europe as they have in the past. We in Europe must be prepared to stand more on our own feet.

Furthermore, the United States has made it clear that, owing to the necessary restructuring of its forces to deal with the new situation, it will be necessary for us in Europe to provide more support facilities for its reinforcements in a crisis. Again, that will require more action and more money on the part of those of us in Europe.

One offspin of the invasion of Afghanistan has been the removal from the Mediterranean of one of the two United States carriers of the Sixth Fleet, which has had to steam into the Indian Ocean. No doubt from time to time there will again be two carriers in the Mediterranean, but it will probably be a long time, if ever, before we again see two permanently there. The departure of one carrier has led to a halving of the main tactical air support for the southern flank of NATO, resulting in another weakness in Europe as a result of Soviet action elsewhere.

We shall have to face the consequence of this global threat by supporting our allies overseas, possibly not in the major way that we used to do when we were ourselves a world Power but by contributing together with other Western countries to the force that may have to be sent to intervene in parts far from here.

We shall also have to look very much more to our own defences in Europe as a result of the inevitable lessening of the American forces that may be available to reinforce Europe at a time of crisis.

We are now to spend £750 million a year on maintaining our forces in Germany. That is the cost to the balance of payments. It is a great deal of money, especially when Britain is spending 50 per cent. more of its GNP on defence than Germany. There must be a case for scrutinising very carefully that arrangement. If the Germans are not at least prepared to pay the wages of the civilians who work for the British Army of the Rhine, it might be a sensible solution to withdraw the Royal Air Force from Germany. I am suggesting not that we should cease to have RAF aircraft taking part in the defence of central Europe but that they could operate satisfactorily from Britain.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Would it not make much better sense to withdraw some of the static Army presence in the British Army of the Rhine and to rely more on the anti-armour role of the Royal Air Force, which, as my hon. Friend suggests, could be deployed rapidly from the United Kingdom?

Mr. Trotter

I made that suggestion in a defence debate a year or two ago. I said then that if there were to be a major reallocation of the British defence effort it should be in that direction. But I think that the RAF could be redeployed with less consequence than the Army. I do not think that two fighter squadrons in Germany make a great deal of sense for the RAF when we have so great a need for more fighters at home in Britain. The air support that we would give to the Army in Germany could come just as ably and efficiently from bases in the United Kingdom and at a considerable saving in costs and foreign exchange.

I do not consider that a transference of one-six hundredth of Britain's income to add to our defence spending in the light of the invasion of Afghanistan can be regarded as excessive. We should keep our options open. I hope that one of the options that will be kept open is to plan for a rapid increase in defence spending if things should continue to develop adversely in the rest of the world. That happened in Korea in the summer of 1950. I hope, as everyone else in the House does, that nothing similar will happen in the summer of 1980. We cannot say that Britain is unable to afford peace. The aim, of course, is to stop war, but it would be fatal to cheesepare in defending our vital interests.

8.15 pm
Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

This will be an unusual speech. It will contain at least one new idea. I intend to show that there has been a sudden change in the beliefs and feelings of millions of British people.

The events of the past seven months both in the East and in the West have alarmed vast numbers of people. We have seen Mr. Carter setting up his rapid deployment force of 100,000. We have seen the 3 per cent. increase in arms spending by NATO that will be continued for years ahead. We have witnessed the decision to build the MX missile and its enormous underground railways. There have been the failure of the Senate to ratify the SALT agreement and the rebuff to Mr. Brezhnev and his offer of 6 October to negotiate medium-range missiles by the NATO decision of 12 December to deploy cruise missiles on British and European soil. Lastly, there was Mr. Carter's raid. On Russia's part we have seen the sending of its troops into Afghanistan.

What, however, has shocked our people more than anything else have been the two BBC programmes on civil defence, one on " Panorama " and the other a three-hour BBC radio programme. They both contained a good deal of war propaganda, yet the effect has been contrary to the aim.

A dozen H-bombs on our crowded island would virtually end life here. If they fall, I hope that I and my wife and children will be right under the first one. In that event we would be killed immediately. If we lived 50 or 100 miles away, we would still die days later and in agony because the atmosphere would be radioactive, as would be the soil, the water and the food. Even if the Cabinet and a small number of VIPs were sheltered five-storeys deep in the earth as was depicted on television, they would have to emerge at some time. Into what sort of world would they emerge?

Viewers and listeners have seen and heard about the futility of such measures as hiding under the stairs or having Elastoplast and Vaseline available. They have heard Lord Belstead, who is in charge of civil defence for the Government, say that 15,000,000 out of 55,000,000 in our country might survive. They have rightly come to the conclusion that there is no defence against nuclear weapons. The only defence is to stop war from breaking out, and that will need some doing. It is that widespread fear that has made the sale of home shelters at £1,200 each such a roaring but mistaken success.

What has been the effect on the public? They are horrified. That is indicated in my mail. I have had a flood of letters in reply to letters of mine that have appeared in The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. A few of those letters have been hostile, but the massive majority were from people who are determined to play their part in stopping the madness, halting the arms race and saving their families.

More than half of the letters have been from mothers, mothers who are desperately concerned about their children. On Friday I received a telephone call from a Manchester lady, previously unknown to me, who told me that she had contacted other women throughout South-East Lancashire to do all in their power to act before it is too late. That type of spontaneous activity is occurring in other areas.

It may surprise hon. Members to know that even many 15-year-old children are deeply depressed and disturbed by fears of masses of the human race being wiped out. I am speaking from personal experience. In case it is thought that I am being sentimental or talking from limited experience, I refer to the MORI public opinion poll that was printed recently in The Sunday Times. It dealt with several topics, but one question was whether those interviewed thought that we should be spending more or less on housing. In answer to that question the majority said "Yes". It was their view that we should be spending more on housing.

On the question of whether we should spend more or less on arms, a clear majority said "Less". The attitude that less should be spent on arms and more on homes was expressed after, and despite of, one of the most persistent, powerful and deliberate media campaigns to condition our minds that we have ever been subjected to.

What we are seeing is not pacifism; it is survivalism. When any species is threatened with extinction, it throws up, almost automatically, means of resistance. Last week President Carter made his armed raid into Iran. This rash, dangerous and provocative raid has taken mankind another step down the road to war. If phase one had succeeded, phase two would have inevitably resulted in serious bloodshed in and around the embassy in Iran. The raid has placed the lives of the 53 hostages in jeopardy. The situation is worse today than it was before the raid. People are saying that if such recklessness continues we in Britain and cities throughout the world are all in the utmost danger.

That brings me to the 160 cruise missiles to be deployed. It is unnecessary to state that they will put Britain directly in the firing line if, by design or accident, a nuclear weapon falls on a Russian city and retaliation takes place. Conservative Members of Parliament—we heard them today—say "We are already vulnerable because we are the base for American nuclear bombers." Precisely. More than 100 Labour Members of Parliament want to remove that vulnerability, not to increase it, as accepting cruise missiles would certainly do.

These missiles will be under American control. The Pentagon will have its finger on the single key. They could be fired without consulting the British Government, as happened recently when the world wide alert of United States forces on a false alarm was not notified to the British Government until it was over.

However, I do not accept that the British Government were not consulted about President Carter's raid. This was virtually admitted by the Prime Minister at Question Time today. As Diego Garcia, a British territory, was used by President Carter, with British collusion, this country cannot act as a peacemaker between America and Iran, as Mr. Nixon suggested yesterday.

I am glad that the Labour Party is completely opposed to deploying cruise missiles here. But even if the hawkish Government now in control refuse to listen—I am afraid that they will refuse—at least let them treat seriously Mr. Brezhnev's offer to negotiate, rather than kick the offer in the teeth. Let them use the three years before the cruise is installed to ensure that it never comes here.

The Secretary of State says—and, I think, believes—that we must pursue the arms race, ever striving towards continued superiority over Russian arms. He must know that just as we use Soviet military advances to justify our war measures, so will the Soviets use our arms extension to justify theirs. It is the arms race itself, and not Soviet arms, which is taking mankind to the brink.

Earlier I referred to the flood of letters that I have received. There is one feature that is common to nearly all of them. The writers asked " What can we do to prevent a third world war? " I have replied that I fear that we cannot hope to get the two super-Powers to divest themselves of their nuclear weapons, as the Canadian Government wisely and unilaterally did.

Professor Thompson and the European nuclear disarmament movement, which held a press conference yesterday, have come out with a plan to make Europe, both East and West, a non-nuclear zone. It aims to remove nuclear bombs from the area stretching from Ireland right across Poland. It avoids apportioning blame for the arms race between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

To those who, like me, are neither pro-Washington nor pro-Moscow but are pro-peace, this seems to be good sense. It may offer the last chance to nations to avoid catastrophe.

I am delighted that the Labour Party is to hold its first peace march since the "Law, not war" demonstrations against the Suez invasion 24 years ago. It will take place in London on Sunday 22 June. It has three aims: no deployment of cruise missiles on British soil, no nuclear successor to Polaris and no increase in arms spending. This march and the all-Europe movement are the next steps towards peace.

Finally, I intend, as many other Labour Members of Parliament also intend, to vote for the Opposition amendment tonight and then to vote against the Government's substantive motion to support the White Paper.

8.27 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I intervene in this debate because of the seriousness of the deterioration in security in Northern Ireland. I do not take the view that was taken by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I take an opposite view of the seriousness of the situation at the present time.

Volume I of the "Statement on the Defence Esimates" contains paragraphs about the situation in Northern Ireland. A reading of those paragraphs alone spells out the grimness of the present situation in Northern Ireland, and since this statement was published we have seen a forward movement in the Provisional IRA, the terrorising, especially of South Fermanagh, and the killing of many more members of the security forces, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve and of the UDR.

It was my sad lot the other day to visit the South Fermanagh area, where there are homes where at night the people must pile their furniture against the doors, where the father must lie with a shotgun at his bedside and his wife must lie with another shotgun at hers, where in some cases they dare not sleep in their own farmstead but must go to some cattle shed or other outlying shed on their farm because of the fear of being murdered by the Provisional IRA

In the Fermanagh area about 50 murders have been attributed to the Provisional IRA, and only one of those murders has been solved; one person has been convicted. The rest remain totally unsolved.

This campaign in South Fermanagh is one of genocide against the Protestant population there. It is a campaign to destroy family businesses, to destroy farms that have been held for generations by those Protestant families and to destroy the leading Protestant figures so that the community will disintegrate and fear and terror will drive more people away from the places where they live and where their fathers before them lived and had their living.

I saw one place in one of the villages on the border where an IRA bomb had destroyed an old family business. I stood outside that place and asked "Why is it not being rebuilt?" The owner said "We cannot rebuild because I am under a threat that if I lay a brick on these premises my wife and family will be murdered."

That is the situation that Northern Ireland is facing today, and perhaps the grimness of that situation will be best reflected to this House in a sermon that was preached recently on the murder by the IRA of Constable Winston John Francis Howe. This sermon was preached in the parish church of Clogh. I want to read what the rector of that parish said, speaking of his own parish. If this had happened across the whole of this country, there would be outrage and there would be an outcry in this House, but I am talking about a small parish. The rector said: Our sexton in Clogh will well remember being blown out of the cab of his lorry some years ago by an explosion on the mountain; a poem was handed to me yesterday about the death of Norman Anderson, who was terribly done to death at Innishammon; here in this is a memorial to Harry Creighton, shot in the back as he was returning home, three farms have been burned; one family were so alarmed that they were forced to sell up and leave the parish; another family, who were brutally treated during the attack, had the courage to rebuild and remain on their farm; the third family gave such resistance that fortunately not too much damage was done; here from this parish Ernie Magill lost a leg in a brave attempt to save life as a bomb exploded; although the terrorists make a show of respect for the Dublin government this did not stop them from killing a Senator from that administration in Clogh parish. A bomb was put in our War Memorial Hall in Clogh parish. Fortunately it did not go off and so two young children miraculously escaped death; my colleague whom I succeeded in Clogh Rectory had a baby who likewise had a narrow escape. He was taken from his cot only moments before a bomb blast brought a shower of glass into the cot, which would surely have killed the child; several bombs have gone off at Clogh damaging the church and church hall; half a dozen years ago Clogh was terrorised by gunmen using the street lamps for target practice; Deerings shop in Roslea has had bomb attacks on it at least four occasions; and you all know that the much loved and respected Douglas Deering was shot through the head in a most cold-blooded attack; Sylvia Crowe, a fine dedicated Christian woman, was blown into eternity last summer at the age of thirty three; two bombs have gone off in Magheraveely village, only by the greatest chance without great loss of life; Johnny Kelly was subjected to a hail of bullets as he went to attend his cattle; our late friend Willie Ritchie "—

Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)rose——

Rev. Ian Paisley

No, I will not give way until I have finished what the minister said. I think that the hon. Gentleman should hear this. This is not a list or a catalogue of murders in the whole of Ulster. This is the catalogue of terrorism in one small parish, and I think that the hon. Gentleman should keep his seat and listen to it. This is one small parish; it is not the whole of Northern Ireland I am talking about. Of course, Johnny Kelly and William Ritchie will mean nothing to the hon. Gentleman, but they mean a lot to the people who carried their coffins through the streets and laid them in the graveyard, broken-hearted that lives were needlessly lost because of the disastrous policies sponsored by various Governments in this House. I want to make that clear.

The minister continued: our late friend Willie Ritchie and his family at Innishammon have more than once been at great risk of their lives from bombs at the end of their lane; Roslea Parish School was flattened by an enormous explosion; there have been other bombs and stories of gunfire too numerous to list "—

Mr. Conlan

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is this relevant to the debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

I was hoping that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) would associate what he was saying with defence. I can see that it could be associated, but he has not sought to do so. I hope that he will relate what he is saying to defence.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I am talking about the defence of this realm, about what is happening in one part of the United Kingdom. I know that some hon. Members do not want to hear the list of these crimes. I know that——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I want to hear, but I want to hear the hon. Gentleman associate his speech with defence. He can do it. A mere catalogue, with the greatest respect, is not a defence debate.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I am reading from a sermon that was preached on the death of a person who served in the security forces. I have made it clear what the minister of the parish said about his parish. I shall relate it to defence. As you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it will not be hard to relate it to defence, but I want to finish what the minister said——

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will acquit me of not attending Irish debates, because I have frequently done so. This is our only opportunity to discuss defence policy, and there are Conservative Members and two Opposition Members who have been waiting two days for their only opportunity to discuss defence policy.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Antrim, North. Merely reciting a catalogue and reading a sermon is not a defence debate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will try to associate what he says with defence. I must call him to order if he continues along these lines.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I shall relate it to defence, but I wish to finish the catalogue so that the House may know what has happened in one parish: Herbie Kernahan was murdered in the grounds of the Roman Catholic primary school in Roslea; and the present explosion means that there have been four violent deaths in the parish in the last six months. This catalogue is just from our parish—not the whole of Northern Ireland. While the House is occupied with looking out of the front door of the nation at what is happening in Iran, Afghanistan, across the world and in Europe, it fails to grasp the fact that the back door of the nation has been breached and that we have serious terrorism in part of the United Kingdom. It is the duty of the House when discussing defence to take into consideration the defence of the United Kingdom. If the events that I have mentioned had happened across the whole of the kingdom, no doubt there would have been uproar in the House. This ghastly catalogue of terrorism took place in a small parish, and many of the murders that were committed are unsolved. The terrorists in South Fermanagh are no doubt operating across the border, and the border is wide open for that activity. I toured the area on Friday, and I saw no member of the Army, of the UDR or of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. So the border is wide open.

The right hon. Member for Down, South said that no fruit would come from denouncing the Dublin Government for their policy. I feel that that is the kind of attitude that the Dublin Government would like the people of Northern Ireland to adopt—not to raise their voices—and not to express their feelings so as to let the Dublin Government know just how they feel about the breach in the border. Unless the breach is stopped, and stopped quickly, these murders will go on and, the back door of the kingdom having been breached, the old slogan—"Britain's extremity will be Ireland's opportunity "—will be put into practice in its last and bloodiest detail.

8.40 pm
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

I cannot allow the words of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) to go completely unchallenged. Like many of us, he is guilty of what I would call espousing the King Canute theory of government, in which each Government blame their predecessors for all the ills facing the country at the time, faults therefore traceable back to early times. For him to chastise a Labour Administration for allowing air defences to be run down is surely viewing historical facts in a most dubious way. I should have thought that the major turning point in our air defences, as indeed in the Air Force in general, was the policies emanating from Mr. Duncan Sandys, as he then was, which put great reliance on nuclear deterrence, to the detriment of conventional forces.

As for this Government, with their supposedly superior attitude towards defending the realm, I should like to point out to the hon. Member that the greatest deterioration in defence expenditure took place between 1951 and 1964 when the Minister's own party was in office. I remember reading an article by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley). I quoted him on a defence matter a long time before it was fashionable to do so. He wrote an article in The Daily Telegraph last July in which he asked whether Mr. Pym would defend us better than Mr. Mulley. His conclusion. like that of many others, was that the innate pressure of economic decline on this country would mean that the defence policy of the Conservative Government would be very different from the one proposed by the Conservative Party in Opposition.

This much-delayed White Paper is a curious disappointment. As a member of the Select Committee, I must accept some responsibility for the delay in the debate. We asked for a delay in order to permit the Committee to investigate the publication, although one suspects that the great delay was due less to us than to the dissent and conflict taking place within the Ministry of Defence and certainly between the Ministry and the Treasury.

The new-style White Paper, with its multi-coloured maps and charts, promises much, yet in many important areas it delivers very little. The Government hope that it will provide the basis of an informed public debate about defence which we believe necessary to the success of our defence policy", but this document is hardly a gigantic step forward in public education or in citizen participation in the decision-making process in defence. Defence decision-making still remains under any Government an elite preserve, and we are not a part of that elite.

It is difficult to resist the view that this new, improved, whiter-than-white White Paper is, for the most part, an exercise in public relations, designed to give the illusion of openness while the Government, as always, keep their cards very close to their chests. Besides, at £8.50 a pair these volumes are unlikely to find their way on to many mantelpieces. Perhaps they are an attempt partly to offset the cost of a successor to Polaris.

The defence White Paper is more notable, in my view, for its omissions than for what it includes. There is no mention of the cruise missile sites, of the possible use of the Challenger or the Shir tank for BAOR, of the number of the air defence variants of the Tornado, or of the offshore patrol vessel. Its discussion of defence disarmament is most perfunctory and its discussion of the strategic theory leaves a lot to be desired.

Of its major omissions, the most obvious is the near-total lack of discussion of a Polaris replacement. The complex debate that has been daily gaining in participants and in visibility produces a synthesis of all the arguments in one line, and I believe that the statement The Government is considering possible systems to replace it thereafter and a decision will be taken soon really does less than justice to the arguments.

The White Paper makes no mention of possible alternatives, timing, proper costing, or the opportunity costs of Polaris replacement—that is, there is no serious discussion of what will happen to our conventional forces if Polaris replacement goes ahead. That omission is detrimental. The White Paper is weak on strategic considerations relating to Polaris. I have not yet seen an academic treatise or political statement that gives serious consideration to the strategic case for Polaris, or Polaris replacement. I hope that we shall receive such a statement either from an academic or from a Government spokesman.

The Secretary of State is no more or less secretive than his predecessors. I am not convinced that an intelligent debate as a prelude to decision-making is undesirable. We have been told that the Secretary of State will produce a detailed and substantial document after he has made a decision. However, a prior and informed debate on the available options would improve the quality of decision-making and the population would be more likely to accept and ratify it.

I do not wish to be a party to secret and sensitive information. However, enough information could legitimately be divulged to enable the House, and the public at large, to hold a serious discussion on the available options. I do not wish to repeat the contribution that I made to the mini-debate on Polaris on 18 December. However, the arguments in favour of a public debate are overwhelming. Perhaps the Secretary of State has given away more information than most Secretaries of State In response to my remarks on that date, the Secretary of State said: Listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech, I had some regret in having been so forthcoming and frank about the consideration that we are giving to the matter."—[Official Report, 18 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 520.] I wonder whether his assessment of " forthcoming and frank " is the same as ours.

The former Secretary of Defence for the United States of America, Mr. Jim Schlesinger, said: Whilst everyone is entitled to their own views, nobody is entitled to their own facts. I wish that the facts had been more evenly spread among hon. Members The White Paper is certainly an improvement on past papers, but it gives an incomplete picture because key facts have been omitted. It represents a step forward, and I hope that future White Papers will continue that trend. However, it fails to define a comprehensive strategy for the 1980s. The White Paper appears to be stronger on Soviet capabilities than on our own.

The most important question is, what should our defence forces be doing? What are our objectives? Can our present system of defence achieve them? If it cannot, should we increase defence expenditure? I doubt whether that is feasible in present circumstances. In December, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Neil Cameron argued that an annual increase of 4 per cent. to 5 per cent. was needed. More realistically, in November 1978 a civil servant, Sir Arthur Hockaday, publicly said that the inevitable pressure of economic forces would pose Whitehall decision-makers with the necessity of choosing between NATO's Continental and maritime strategies as a meaningful contribution. He said that both would be economically impossible.

With the best will in the world, the Government cannot—given our existing financial commitments—remedy all the deficiencies. Our needs include new battle tanks, improved air defence, a Jaguar-Harrier replacement, the Tornado, improved pay and conditions, a Polaris replacement, an improved Territorial Army, a wider defence role, the improvement of BAOR and an improvement in the equipment of our Armed Forces. One writer said that our forces would continue to be the best trained and worst equipped in Europe.

Perhaps the Secretary of State has found the answer that has eluded other politicians. Perhaps he can have his cake and eat it. We cannot do that which we have set out to do with our existing resources. We cannot maintain our full NATO commitment. What research is the Ministry of Defence undertaking, and is it seriously considering any strategic changes or policy changes for the future?

The danger of attempting to do too much with the resources available is that we fail in everything. As one intelligent observer said recently, can we continue in defence to be a scaled down version of the US military "? Others have argued that our present policy is more conducive to exercising our egos than answering the needs of the Alliance. As David Greenwood of Aberdeen university said, can we maintain balanced forces? Can we afford the luxury of maintaining an inter-Service and intra-Service balance? I believe that it is beyond our capabilities.

It would require a miracle of efficiency to remedy the deficiencies, maintain Trident and re-establish, as we are told, a world presence. The more likely consequence of Tory policy will be a less than credible nuclear deterrent and an emaciated conventional contribution to NATO. Defence expenditure could increase, but more likely it will decrease. The Treasury's paragraph 822 of the White Paper gives the Government a get-out for a decrease in expenditure in future. If defence expenditure decreases, what will be our defence posture?

The situation is complicated further by the Government's hint—and it is no more than that—of Britain having wider defence interests. The White Paper does not say very much. The Secretary of State yesterday said little more, although he said rather more in the defence Select Committee hearing. I believe that the Government are saying that we might be returning to some neo-east-of-Suez policy. Surely any British presence, however limited, will hardly have a major effect on world events. How could a parachute battalion have deterred the Soviets in Kabul?

Britain's continuing presence worldwide is a legacy of our Imperial past, and Imperial habits die hard, particularly in the Conservative Party. Attempts have been made to rekindle old Imperial habits, but caution must be advised. The notion of Britain as a policeman east of Suez should have been safely buried over 10 years ago. Attempts to modify it by subtle means will be detrimental to our current defence interests. We cannot perform the functions that we set our forces now. It is beyond the comprehension of anyone who thinks seriously about these issues that we should attempt to widen our defence interests. The Secretary of State denies that there is any attempt to bring about a major strategic change, but in his answer to the Select Committee he said: You will appreciate that I am not really talking about spending a great deal more money—possibly some more transport, possibly some comparatively minor expenditure on various items. Here is the dilemma. If we set ourselves wider defence interests, we cannot do so—and I hope that we shall not do so—in a cheeseparing way. In Iran last week we have seen that in the case of the United States, even with the equipment, skill and experience, a military venture can turn out to be a fiasco. How we should be able to perform a wider defence role with the equipment currently available I find difficult to understand. I want credible defence at an acceptable cost.

The House should seriously consider, as should the Ministry of Defence, reappraising our defence role in the light of our reduced circumstances. Perhaps we should say to NATO that we are sorry but we cannot perform our tasks adequately, and therefore we, working with NATO, must redefine our role. If that is not done now, it will catch up with us in the near future. I hope that planning is taking place to see what our defence commitment to NATO should be in our changed circumstances.

In conclusion, I want briefly to talk about civil defence. Many hon. Members have called for it. The tragedy of the Iranian adventure last week was not only the deaths and the blow to the Western Alliance that the Soviet Union will seek to exploit but that it increases the likelihood of Ronald Reagan achieving high office in the United States. I do not want to comment too adversely on a man who, unfortunately, may become chief executive not only of another great country but of the Western world, but the likelihood of conflict will be brought closer if such a decision is made in the United States. Therefore, we can applaud a building society that suggests advanced mortgages on airfield shelters in back gardens, because the likelihood of that complication was brought closer over the last weekend.

Despite the rhetoric, there has been no enormous change in defence policy. There has been one constant factor in defence over the last 20 years—a basic agreement between the political parties. Labour Members may object to the increase in defence expenditure proposed in the White Paper, but some Conservative Members must be bitter that defence expenditure has not been increased further. I hope that we shall seriously consider providing the sort of defence that we should be providing with the resources that are available. We cannot continue our present commitments with the resources that are available. I hope that readjustments will be made.

8. 56 pm

Mr. Chris Patten (Bath)

The House will recall the story about the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) speaking at an election meeting some years ago in Kent. He asked rhetorically at the end of his speech " Why do I speak today about the vital importance of the Navy? " A heckler at the back of the hall shouted " Because you are in Chatham."

I have a similarly direct and prosaic constituency reason for intervening in this debate. I have listened to the whole debate, and it has been good for my education. We have heard a wide range of views on geo-strategy, culminating in the vauntingly eccentric speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) last night. That speech and the speeches of the hon. Members for Sal-ford, East (Mr. Allaun) and for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made one realise how difficult it must be to be a Labour spokesmen on defence. Those spokesmen are among the real heroes in British politics. We watched as they gritted their teeth with enthusiasm while the hon. Member for Walton told them about the special Labour conference to be held later this summer. However, I do not wish to follow them into those controversies.

I wish to make two points which directly affect my constituency and one further point which affects all hon. Members' constituencies. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy followed what the White Paper set out in paragraph 629, and he paid particular tribute to the important contribution which the Civil Service staff play in our defence effort. They make a considerable contribution.

A number of Civil Service staff are employed in the naval department in my constituency on a wide range of functions—from pay to ship design—and we are grateful for the fact that they are still employed there and that the Minister with responsibility for the Navy stopped them from being shunted off to Glasgow in that ill-judged pork barrelling scheme last year. They are also grateful for the fact that they were not moved.

The Minister spoke today, and there is much in the White Paper about it, on the importance of getting better value for money and of streamlining and thereby increasing efficiency. The Minister referred particularly to the studies on research and development and on naval dockyards. He mentioned the study on contract cleaning and catering that is now semi-operational. I agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) on that subject. I find that study less than wholly convincing. It involves a substantial initial outlay in redundancy payments by the Department, which, by my reckoning in my consistuency, would take four or five years to recoup in increased efficiency—if there were any increased efficiency.

I mention that point because it would be a pity if that study discredited the other more important studies. I hope that when those studies are available they can be discussed as fully as possible with the civil servants involved and that there will also be discussions about other important matters, such as the impact of the Finniston report on the work of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.

The second point that I wish to make affects defence procurement. The second report of the Select Committee and the White Paper suggest that about 400,000 jobs in British industry are sustained either directly or indirectly by the defence equipment programme. There are some excellent words in the White Paper about the desirability of buying British where-ever possible. I should like a little more reassurance on that point, because I have a couple of constituency cases which worry me.

I refer to one in particular which the Minister mentioned in his speech in winding up last night. This is the mechanised combat vehicle—the MCV 80, on which development has begun in this country. Lucas Defence Systems Ltd., which employs almost 100 people in my constituency, is designing and developing the rotary damper for that armoured personnel carrier. It is a fairly essential project for the firm's survival in Bath because of the loss of the Iranian tanks contract last year. I know that the Government are considering whether to go ahead with that project or whether to buy the infantry fighting vehicle from the United States. I very much hope that the Government's study of that will take account of the employment implications of buying from the United States, even if the assembling is done in this country, rather than buying British. I hope that the study will come down unequivocally on the side of buying British.

The last point I wish to make concerns the deterrent. Without being one of the geo-strategists who have been scattered about the Chamber during this debate, I should like to make three simple political points. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) made a very interesting speech earlier in which he made this point. The White Paper shows that the amount that we spend on defence as part of our GDP is the second largest in NATO. The problem is not our commitment to NATO but the size of our GDP. As a consequence of the last few years, we have a weak economy which at best will be convalescent in the next few years. The Polaris replacement will be extremely expensive—some people say that it could be even more expensive than the Secretary of State has suggested. Obviously this will put more strain on the economy, especially when one remembers that the relative price effect seems to tramp through the defence budget in king-size boots. It will be much more difficult to afford what we want without strengthening our industrial base and without greater economic growth. This is another reason why I am slightly sceptical about the statement by some people that we can manage in the next few years without economic growth.

The White Paper is remarkably frank about some of the weaknesses in our defence. It talks about the Rhine Army being under strength and it talks about the Royal Navy having substantial manpower problems. Throughout the debate hon. Members have obviously felt that Britain's air defences do not inspire the most profound confidence. The real question is whether we can afford to put right those deficiencies. I trust that we can and that we can go ahead with the Polaris replacement.

I hope that in the document which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned yesterday and which will accompany his decision on the Polaris replacement we can be reassured on that point. It would be very serious if we had to cut back once again on one of our primary defence tasks.

I hope that the document sets out the political and strategic reasons for the Polaris replacement rather more clearly. I do not have any difficulties about the ethical arguments. I thought that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North put that point very well in his speech. The point was also made by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army in the debate in January when he said that it seemed a little unreasonable, unless we left NATO completely, to feel that there were ethical reasons against having a deterrent ourselves. After all, it is a little unreasonable to take a stand on the proposition that we can get the security but the Americans must commit the sin. I do not have any difficulties on the ethical score, but I am a little unclear about the political and strategic arguments.

There is no problem if we say we can afford to do absolutely everything. I hope that that is the case. But if we are not saying that, are we saying that our nuclear contribution to the Alliance is more important than playing a more comprehensive conventional role? Or are we saying that that is not the key question at all and that the key question is what we have at the end of the day with which to protect ourselves? I hope that we can be clear about the strategic arguments in the document accompanying my right hon. Friend's decision. I believe, as I know he does, that it is crucial to carry British public opinion with us in making this absolutely vital decision.

9.5 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

During the opening speech by the Secretary of State yesterday, I intervened to ask whether the base at Diego Garcia was used for the operation in the Iranian desert. The reply was astonishing—breathtaking, when one thinks of it. The right hon. Gentleman said: I do not know the answer to his question".—[Official Report, 28 April 1980; Vol. 983. c. 997.] At face value, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Defence, a senior member of the Government and a parliamentary colleague, known by some of us in the 18 years we have been Members of Parliament to be assiduous in his work, does not know whether British territory was or was not used by our American allies for a military operation of surpassing importance. To make matters worse, when the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army was pressed during his winding-up speech to say whether Britain knew whether Diego Garcia had been used, he resolutely put his head down and avoided the question. The Prime Minister was equally ambiguous at Question Time. We should be clear about the matter.

In the exchange of notes of 30 December 1966 between Britain and the United States, it was stated: The Territory shall remain under United Kingdom sovereignty. An updating of the exchange of notes in 1976 stated: Both Governments shall consult periodically on joint objectives, policies and activities in the area. As regards the use of the facility in normal circumstances, the Commanding Officer and the Officer in charge of the United Kingdom Service Element shall inform each other of intended movements of ships and aircraft. In other circumstances the use of the facility shall be a matter for the joint decision of the two Governments. The situation is stated in black and white. I suppose that the British Government may have been told about the American operation in advance and that Diego Garcia would be used. If they had that kind of knowledge, the Government would be guilty of participation or acquiescence in what many of us believe was a crazy adventure and, incidentally, of deceiving the House of Commons. Yet why did our people in Diego Garcia, non-Service or Service, not flash the information about the C141s to the Ministry of Defence?

But I prefer to believe that we are being told the truth and that a British Prime Minister and a British Foreign Secretary learnt for the first time at 7.20 am from the radio of an act by the Americans of surpassing importance. What does this do for the Government playing a notable part in reasserting the partnership with the United States and the principles of co-operation on which the Western Alliance is founded"?—[Official Report, 28 April 1980; Vol. 983, col. 998] I take that quotation from the Secretary of State's speech yesterday. One cannot have a multilateral response once a unilateral response has been taken.

We have to transfer our thoughts from Diego Garcia to East Anglia and the cruise or Western Germany and the Pershing. If the same thing happened on cruise missiles as happened on Friday morning, a British Prime Minister would learn at 7.20 am, while munching her corn flakes, from Mr. Brian Redhead or Miss Libby Purves that missiles were on their way. By the time the normal sports slot on the morning programme was due to arrive, warheads would be hitting Russian targets.

I have stated the matter in these terms, I agree, to try to get publicity, but not personal publicity. It is publicity for a fact—the brutal fact that, whatever the Secretary of State for Defence may say about joint decisions, a British Prime Minister and her colleagues would go unconsulted by an American President if, God help us, the crunch was ever to come in the case of cruise.

Does the Secretary of State give a clear, unequivocal undertaking that Downing Street will have a key to any missiles based in Britain without which they cannot function? In passing, I cannot resist saying to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) that some of his hon. Friends cannot accept his belief that there is no question of principle involved in the deployment of cruise missiles. Cruise missiles are not the same in kind as the F111 and the Thor missiles to which my right hon. Friend referred. There were only 20 of them and they could hardly reach Moscow, 1,537 miles from Heathrow, certainly not with nuclear warheads. There is a time scale of use and an irrecovability which make the cruise missiles different. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend added: the question of control remains disturbing despite what the Secretary of State said today."—[Official Report, 28 April 1980; Vol. 983, col. 1025.] Those of us who have come to oppose cruise missiles in Britain had better understand, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) said, that we cannot have our cake and eat it. The opposition to cruise missiles brings into question the terms and nature of the relationships between the countries of NATO and, in particular, what is called the Anglo-American relationship. If we oppose cruise missiles, we cannot ask for an American nuclear umbrella.

One of the points of agreement that I have with the Secretary of State is when he says that there is no safety in self-deception. On such a delicate issue each man must speak for himself. I make it clear that I speak for myself and not as chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party foreign affairs group. I should now be less than dismayed if the United States were to become isolationist, to go back to fortress America and for Congress to pass legislation which was the heir to the Mansfield amendment.

I know that my attitude appals not only Ministers but the Atlanticists among my right hon. Friends. They must understand that some of us have become more frightened about what Dr. Brzezinski might do than about what Mr. Brezhnev might do. That is not a reaction on the heels of a headline, but it goes back 13 years to the day when, as a young Member of Parliament visiting Washington, I was asked, on his initiative, to go to see Walt Rostow as national security adviser in his basement office in the White House. After a shouting match and loss of temper on Vietnam and east of Suez, I came away shattered about how great power had gone to the head of an academic. The White House is a corrupting and corruptible place. Anybody who thinks that that is an exaggeration had bettter look at what Mr. Gordon Liddy has been writing. The very system throws up the Rostows, the Kissingers, the Brzezinskis—the global games players. Give me the diplomats any time. They say this morning on the radio that Mr. Brzezinski is always looking for a fight with colleagues, as he is with the Soviet Union.

I do not know why presidents have to go for foreign-born Americans with evangelical views about what America stands for and hang-ups about Eastern Europe from where they come. I am not normally personal in my remarks, but an American security adviser is married to the great niece of President Benes of Czechoslovakia. Let us not think that such a man does not have strong personal European hang-up views which could overcloud his judgment. I was shattered at 6.55 on the "Today" programme when I heard Brzezinski talking about his place in history and how he was going to make the United States constructively relevant to this period of global change.

If we distance ourselves from the United States and the United States decides to retreat into a military shell, are we at the mercy of increased Russian forces? The answer, frankly, is " Yes—but." I am prepared to take the risk of Russian aggression, because I do not believe that the Kremlin is out to conquer the world.

As I have argued elsewhere, the Russians were drawn into the bog of Afghanistan, God help them, for the same reasons as we were drawn, God help us, into the bog of Ireland—to sort out tribal faction. The undoubted size of the Russian increase in forces has a great deal to do with obsessions about China. As one who went to Maoist China in 1971 and heard the official line on the Soviets, I am hardly surprised.

But we are dealing not with war but with the balance of probability of catastrophe. In the third world war there will be no winners or losers. For sure we would all be losers, and my judgment is that catastrophe either by design or, more likely, by human error is more likely to occur if the Soviet Union is ringed by missiles than if it is not. The arms race diminishes the security of those who accelerate it in the name of greater security.

What, then, should we do? I promised that I would sit down at 9.15 pm. Briefly, there are a number of things that we should do about going to the Olympic Games and Afghanistan. But, in particular—as my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) said—we should concentrate on what is symbolised by the Brandt commission report and not on this document.

9.16 pm
Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

First, may I say that my heart goes out to hon. Gentlemen from both sides of the House who have sat here for two days. I am sorry that the Front Benches could not give up even more time, and we have agreed to share what time is left. I have promised to sit down as near to 9.35 pm as I can, and if I can complete my speech earlier I shall try to do so.

Of necessity, this has been a wide-ranging debate. That is due to the rapidly changing world scene. I forget who said that a week was a long time in politics, but I believe that events of the weekend prove that to be an understatement. The participation of hon. Members has ranged beyond the usual defence club members in the House. I have known times when it would have been a struggle to have kept a similar debate going for one day, let alone two days. I am sure that all the best speeches are still to come and will, unfortunately, find their place in the waste paper baskets.

We have had the benefit of the Select Committee report plus the open sessions of the Committee, for which some of us were grateful. There is also the new-style White Paper, for which I understand we must thank the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force. The serious suggestion was put forward by many speakers in the debate that we should publish a "pop" version of the White Paper so that the people who have to foot the bill can see and form their judgments about defence expenditure.

Despite what the Secretary of State said yesterday, I hope that he will rethink his flat refusal to publish a Green Paper on the crucial decision about the replacement of Polaris. Such a paper would be in line with the concept of keeping the public informed about the great debate. I believe that if we can produce a "pop" version of the White Paper we shall be able to find a way to inform the general public of the cost of replacing Polaris.

I am sure that the avid interest in the debate has centred not so much on what is in the White Paper as on what has been left out of it. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) said yesterday in moving the Opposition amendment, two major decisions are central and crucial in discussing defence spending and policy on priorities. The first is the decision on cruise missiles and the second is the decision about our nuclear deterrent after Polaris. It is the way that we approach decisionmaking that has created concern on both sides of the House during this debate. I shall say more on that subject later.

I pay tribute to our Armed Forces and their back-up services for the manner in which they perform the role that the House demands of them. Their role is mainly concerned with NATO—and rightly so—as we stress in our amendment, but our special thanks go to those who have served, and who will serve, in Northern Ireland.

Our forces are still deployed in other outposts, as the White Paper states. They have a role within the United Nations, in Gibraltar and in Belize. There is even a small detachment on the Falkland Islands, and in Brunei as well. It appears that those outposts get fewer each year with the appearance of every White Paper. I understand that our commitment to the defence of Brunei will shortly cease. Our appreciation also goes to Service men at sea and in the air.

This House must always remember that while policy is made here, it is the Armed Forces who sometimes have to pick up the pieces, as we have been made only too aware by the unfortunate happenings in Iran during the past few days.

I was fortunate to be sent by the Houses to Zimbabwe just before the elections. I was particularly pleased that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton and others singled out the Commonwealth force for particular praise. Things could have gone terribly wrong, as I think most observers expected. To say the least, there was apprehension in the force itself. It is a tribute to all concerned that the force made such a significant contribution to the outcome. Having witnessed the camps and the arms that were carried, I think it is a remark able tribute to all that not a shot was fired in anger.

Yesterday, I thought that the Secretary of State might have given some details about the form of recognition that he had in mind. I hope that he has given some thought to my suggestion that it would probably be better if this were a Commonwealth recognition. Perhaps the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe could be asked to do the honours.

I am a little disappointed that in the paragraph in the White Paper dealing with Northern Ireland more has not been made of the contribution of our newest regiment, the Ulster Defence Regiment, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. As the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, members of that regiment have the added risk of working by day and being soldiers at night and at weekends. They are especially vulnerable to cowardly attacks when out of uniform, be they at work, at home or at leisure. It should be remembered that 10 members of that regiment gave their lives last year.

After five years in the Province, it is inevitable that to me some of the casualties are more than names. They are people whom I have known and worked with for a considerable time. I do not wish to comment on the deployment of the forces in Northern Ireland. I always found that the situation there was fluid and that one had to reconsider tactics, deployment and everything else all the time. I have not been to Northern Ireland for nearly a year. That is probably too long, and perhaps I ought to go there and brief myself on what is happening. Therefore, I do not wish to comment on the strategy that is now being adopted in Northern Ireland or on the role and deployment of our forces.

It is significant that the White Paper recognises that pay is not the only ingredient in recruitment and morale. Of course, it is a great boost if our forces are well paid, and it is also a great boost to morale if the services that back them up are also being well paid. There will be no argument from me at the statement that was made today by Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy with regard to the findings of the ninth Armed Forces pay review, which have seemingly been accepted by the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) ought to be given some thanks as well, because he was the instigator of the original review, with all that that entailed for our Armed Forces.

I do not think that I can comment further on that. I have been in the Chamber all day, and I have not been able to read the press. Therefore, I do not know many of the details, except those that were given by the Under-Secretary. I think I am right in saying that there will be an increase of between 17 and 20 per cent. for officers and between 15 and 17 per cent. for other ranks. If that is so, when we have a debate on that subject—I think that we may be able to debate it in other ways—I shall have a few words to say, because 17 to 20 per cent. of a lot is a lot, whereas 15 to 17 per cent. of what is left is not too much.

I should like to ask a personal question, which relates to something with which I had to deal when I served in Northern Ireland. I refer to pay and the overseas allowance that is paid to our forces in Germany as they affect those in Northern Ireland. I am pleased that the UDR has broadly been brought into line with the rest of the Territorial Army. From my own experience, I know that an Army that acts as a back-up to the civilian authorities is faced with many difficulties.

In Northern Ireland, whenever the Army had to assist the RUC, prison officers or anyone else, its grouse was that its pay was not in line with the other security forces. Obviously, overtime rates were used as an example. The increases will be a boost to the Army and I can only welcome them. If there is to be a free-for-all, the Army should be part of it. If the going rate is that which is to be given to the Army, there will be no grumble from me.

Conservative Members have referred to paragraph 611 of the White Paper. Recruitment is vital. By the mid-1980s, the Government are expecting an extra 20,000 trained personnel within the Armed Services. If the extra 20,000 are to come from a much smaller pool, we must consider recruitment policies. There are other matters apart from pay that have a bearing on recruitment. Are the jobcentres able to play a part? What role exists for our reserves? There is a good nucleus for the Regular Army in the reserves. Can reserve service be made more interesting? I have in mind the home defence role.

Most of my right hon. and hon. Friends plead with industry to release reservists when necessary so that they can undertake their training. I am concerned that we should make home defence more interesting and give those who undertake it a better role. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) and other hon. Members have referred to Rapier. Will it be possible to give the home defence a Rapier role? I hope that that will be considered.

When I was in the Territorials, I and my colleagues always hoped that we would be given the interesting jobs and something into which we could get our teeth. I hope that consideration will be given to training a good cadre to undertake a Rapier role. I sincerely hope that the American Government will accept and buy this excellent system from the United Kingdom.

There must be difficulty these days in recruiting for the Army. All that we can offer those in the Army is Germany and Ireland, and Germany and Ireland. None of the exotic places are available to those now serving in the Army that were available when I was serving in it. There are family separations, and there are social and welfare problems. It will help if we can reduce the tours of duty in Northern Ireland and the number of resident battalions in the Province.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) and others have spoken of the service of women in the Armed Forces. There are some who are apprehensive. I am not apprehensive about using female soldiers. I first met female soldiers in 1948. I seem to have met them all over the world, including in some of the terrorist organisations. I leave the rest to the imagination.

The debate would have taken place and the figures would have appeared in the White Paper if the events in Afghanistan and Iran had not taken place. The White Paper should not be considered as a response to those events.

However, they have made much easier the task of the Government and that of the right hon. Gentleman in passing off the "modest" increase of 3 per cent. on defence spending. If inflation is taken into account, the increase will be £2,200 million over the figure for 1979–80. If that is extended to 1983–84, and if inflation is taken into account, we are talking about £15,000 million and £20,000 million per year. If we are being asked to foot these tremendous bills for defence, it is right and proper that the House should demand and receive as much information on basic judgments as that which is demanded and received in other countries.

The right hon. Gentleman asked for a public debate on certain aspects. The public debate should be centred on our contribution, and what kind of contribution, to NATO, on our own nuclear deterrent, on the means of arms control, including the strategic limitation talks, and on mutual and balanced force reductions.

It is right that the world held its breath last weekend. We are asking the Secretary of State what are the Government's priorities—for priorities there must be, as the right hon. Gentleman admits. We note that paragraph 806 of the statement gives the right hon. Gentleman the open window through which he can jump if the going gets a bit tough. Is not this the time, after 30 years, to take a fresh look at our defence commitments and how we spread ourselves? With the decisions about to be taken that commit us for a long while, this will probably be the only opportunity, or the best opportunity, this side of the year 2000.

Let us consider our contributions to NATO. Are we making the best use of our manpower and resources? Should not we concentrate our efforts in the areas that we know best? Is it wise for us to attempt to spread our effort over the whole area of the Army, Air Force, Navy and nuclear force? Should not NATO think about the role of the dif- ferent countries taking on and concentrating on certain roles?

Should not we have a great debate on whether we should carry on with our own nuclear deterrent after the life of Polaris? It is over 30 years since a decision was taken, for reasons that do not seem to hold good today. Any decision taken must last, perhaps, for another 30 years. It will not be good enough for right hon. Gentlemen to come to the House in the near future and inform us and the country that the Government have decided to go ahead with the new generation of our nuclear deterrent which will cost the country anything from £5,000 million upwards.

The House and this Chamber have changed since the late 1940s. I was amazed, but I checked and found that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the 1940s. The whole tenor and working of this place have changed since then. What was applicable in the late 1940s is no longer applicable. We have the Select Committees gathering more information as we go along. If anybody wants to be confused, I recommend to him the sixth report of the Expenditure Committee on the future of the United Kingdom nuclear weapons policy. According to that report, a good sample of interested and learned Gentlemen have considerable doubt about the reason for, and wisdom of, our continuance after Polaris and carrying on with the pretence of our own nuclear deterrent.

It seems strange that one question that is always asked but seemingly never answered is about the situation in which we would find ourselves, with the rest of the world and our allies, if we found it necessary to go independent and unleash on someone the terrible destruction of our own nuclear power. In fact, the answers all seem to be the other way. There is no conceivable situation in which we could consider going independent.

If there is such a situation, the House and the country should know about it. If not, we should ask ourselves whether it is worth while our carrying on the pretence of being an independent nuclear force or looking for other reasons why the Government wish to carry on. There is the old political argument about sitting on the top table, but after the SALT talks I do not think that that holds good any longer. It would seem a high price for our citizens to pay for an expensive system that has little to do with defence but more to do with politics and prestige.

I am sure that people are asking those questions very seriously indeed. However, I concede that the right hon. Gentleman would probably receive a different answer in Bournemouth from the one that he would get north of the Trent. There is an anti-nuclear lobby that is now making " nuclear " a dirty word all round, including nuclear power, and just about everything else in our economy.

I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) that there is no way in which we can put off thinking about what is happening in the economy as a whole. Many of our people have been hammered and battered financially, with cuts in their spending power and closures of hospitals. They are asking these pertinent questions. People are asking for more information about the cuts in services and benefits, and increases in costs of other services, although the defence budget can have another £2,200 million this year, with more to come in the ensuing years.

The Government have the duty to explain themselves and to submit to scrutiny the reason for their decisions and the priority that they give to them, and many Conservative Members have been saying exactly that. The Under-Secretary, hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie), who is to wind up this debate, at one time wrote a pamphlet on this and was very much of a like mind.

I must say at once that if the Government decide—and from all the nods and winks this seems likely—to go in for another generation of our own nuclear deterrent after Polaris, with our commitment to NATO it is obvious that the next Labour Government could not be committed to that decision. We should have to reassess the whole position, and we would do so with our friends and our NATO allies.

It is rather unfortunate that I have promised to sit down, because there is a lot more to say on this subject, but we have had a two-day debate and there will have been eight Front Bench speakers. For the reasons that I have mentioned, and for the reasons given by my right hon. and hon. Friends yesterday and today, I ask the House to support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.

9.36 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

As the sole remaining Front Bencher on this side of the House, who was also the Front Bench speaker for the then Opposition in last year's Defence White Paper debate, I cannot be surprised that my speech on that occasion has been subjected to unusually close scrutiny. Not only have I had the good fortune to be appointed a Defence Minister, but my right hon. Friend invited me to chair the editorial board which produced the White Paper. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking all those who were involved in its preparation. I must remind the House, however, that the White Paper is of course, my right hon. Friend's and, indeed, has obviously been approved by the Cabinet, so that gestures of approval should properly be made in that direction and I will accept criticism for any sins of omission.

The Government are particularly glad to have the approval of the Select Committee on Defence through the contribution of its Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt). The comments of that Committee are particularly cogent and of great value.

In the preparation of this year's White Paper the Government were motivated by a strong desire to make available the greatest amount of information about defence. This is necessary for the very simple reason that the Government want there to be a very full debate about defence both in this House and throughout the nation. An essential prerequisite for any such debate is a proper level of information. In the past, defence debates in this House have taken place within a fog of supposition. No one can deny that this defence White Paper represents a breakthrough in terms of information given, and, indeed, in the way it is presented.

Programme costs and accident details are given for the first time, as is much other information which has never before been brought together in this form. We have, in addition, for the first time produced shortened versions in French and German, and these have been very well received. There is, however, no feeling of complacency about this. Further improvements are always possible in future years, and the important thing is that we have set a standard this year from which there will be no going back. I am glad to tell the House that we shall certainly consider a "pop" version next year.

The White Paper marks an advance not only in factual content but in its refusal to avoid illuminating the many problems that face us. For example, the question of the costs incurred in stationing our forces in Germany is set out. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) referred to this. This is a problem for us and one that needs to be considered in the context of the growing awareness by the Alliance partners of the challenge to NATO in areas outside the strict Alliance boundaries.

Mr. Cryer

I endorse entirely what the hon. Gentleman says about the need for the fullest information on defence. In view of the fact that he started his speech by praising the White Paper for the amount of information given, will he say why his right hon. Friend is refusing to produce a Green Paper, which would surely illuminate the very important decision on the alternatives to Polaris?

Mr. Partie

Yes, I will in a moment.

The Government fully recognise the dangers of NATO developing the Maginot line complex to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) referred, thereby leaving itself vulnerable to action against the vital strategic interests of the Alliance in other parts of the world. The Government's plans on the precise form and composition of British involvement outside NATO are still being developed, but it was felt that it would be helpful if in the White Paper there was as full an indication as possible of Government thinking on the matter.

The main area that has attracted criticism in the House and outside is the disappointment that the Polaris successor system arguments were not set out. I remind the House that in last year's White Paper there was the following sentence: In addition, the United Kingdom contributes to NATO's strategic nuclear capability with the Polaris submarine force. The effectiveness of this force is being maintained. Apart from the names of Polaris submarines, that is the only reference in last year's White Paper to the force, even though the then Prime Minister had already told the House that a successor system decision would have to be made in two years.

This year in paragraph 211 there is a description of the Chevaline programme. Who would have thought a year ago that the totally secret word "Chevaline" would be found in a defence White Paper, let alone with a paragraph to itself? Incidentally, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) got it wrong when he said that the programme started in 1972. It began in 1969 under a Labour Government.

I also remind the House that on 24 January we had the first debate on nuclear weapons to be held in the House for 15 years. My right hon. Friend was totally explicit then—it is repeated in the White Paper—that a decision on a successor system would be taken soon. As my right hon. Friend told the House in his opening speech, when the Government are ready to do so the decision on a successor system will be set out in the form of a substantial document. As this represents a 100 per cent. improvement in terms of information given on the attitude of the previous Government, it is hard to see that the Opposition have even one leg to stand on on this point.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) hoped that my right hon. Friend would soon be bringing forward his proposals on GLCM basing and the future of the Polaris successor, and I confirm that it is the Government's intention to satisfy both these requests soon.

I would ask those who have referred to the cost of the successor system, including the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), to bear in mind that the key question is the profile of the expenditure—that is, the precise years in which the expenditure will fall.

It is not my place to subject the House to another tour d'horizon of the defence scene, particularly after we have heard so many good speeches in this debate. However, I want to reply to as many points as I can——

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Partie

We are glad to have the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) with us. If I am reading, I have at least been here for the past two days, which is more than he has.

I want to reply to as many points as possible in the time available. It might be for the convenience of the House if I indicated some of the subjects I intend to cover in the time I have left. Although I will gladly give way to hon. Members, except in the final few minutes of my speech, the more I give way, the less will be the time available to me to cover all the points raised. I wish to say something about civil defence, the defence industrial situation, the air defence gap and some detailed matters referred to by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).

In making a general observation on the contributions from Opposition Members to the debate, I can see that they have fallen back into the luxuries of Opposition by urging the Government to buy more and spend less. Indeed, this startling ambivalence has characterised much of what has been said by Labour Members during the two days of the debate.

I should like to thank the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) for his contribution on Northern Ireland. I will honour his request to make no reference to the detailed proposals he put forward. I would also like to tell the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) that reference to the uprating of Northern Ireland pay was specifically included in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy earlier today. The right hon. Gentleman will have a chance to catch up with that later.

Important reference was made by my right hon. Friends the Members for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) and for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) in yesterday's debate on the subject of civil defence. Although primary responsibility for United Kingdom civil defence rests with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it would be wrong of me to attempt to take refuge behind that fact and, indeed, it would be foolish to ignore the considerable relevance of civil defence to the work of the Ministry of Defence.

First, on humanitarian grounds alone, any Government have a duty to ensure that their citizens are given whatever means of protection are possible and are encouraged to take whatever steps they can by means of self-help. It is this aspect of the subject which lies properly within the Home Office and is currently the subject of urgent study. The Home Office is also proposing to issue a new booklet.

From the Ministry of Defence point of view, there can be no denying the fact that the degree of civilian preparedness can have an important part to play in the equation of deterrence. It may, for example, be coincidence that gas was not used on the civilian population in the last war or it might be, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) suggested in a powerful speech yesterday, that the enemy knew that gas masks had been widely distributed throughout these islands.

The Soviet Union takes a very different view of civil defence and is reputed to spend $2 billion a year on it; the civil defence effort is commanded by a senior Soviet general. The Soviet Union has obviously decided that it would protect large sections of its population in the event of a nuclear war.

Recent tests in the United States have shown that relatively simple protection measures can dramatically reduce the area of damage caused by both blast and radiation. It is very important for this point to be appreciated, because too often the subject itself is seen to be so awful—too awful to contemplate—that there is a tendency for people to throw up their hands and say that nothing can be done. This is not true and, although the subject is not directly a concern of the Ministry of Defence, I hope I have been able to reassure my right hon. and hon. Friends that we take a keen interest in this matter and that we are extremely grateful to them for raising it in this debate.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

I am sure the House is very grateful for what my hon. Friend has said, but there is a certain obscurity about the subject. Is it possible for the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office jointly to produce a paper on this subject?

Mr. Pattie

I am sure it is possible. Whether it will actually happen remains to be seen.

One of the most important sections of the White Paper concerns defence procurement and industry. The now familiar case is set out, giving the relevance to the defence effort of having a powerful, self-sustaining defence industry in the United Kingdom, employing as it does, directly and indirectly, about 400,000 people. Not only does this industry supply the British Armed Forces but, by so doing, it denies further import penetration into this country.

In addition, the skills of the British work force go into making products which are highly competitive in export markets. These very export markets which hon. Members opposite like to decry are a means of earning badly needed foreign currency for this country, to the tune of £1,200 million in the current year. I should like to pay tribute to the men and women in the British defence industries who work hard all round the world to ensure that money is earned so that the rest of us can argue about how to spend it. The Ministry of Defence gives excellent support to the efforts of British industry, and I place on record an appreciation of the excellent work of the head of defence sales, Sir Ronald Ellis.

In the context of selling abroad, it was encouraging to hear my right hon. Friend give the news yesterday, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), that satisfactory progress had so far been made towards acquistion by the United States of the British Rapier point defence system. Such an acquistion would be a genuine shot in the arm for the two-way street concept, but I agree with my hon. Friend that the acquisition of this system is a touchstone of the sincerity of the Americans in this regard.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) in his winding-up speech yesterday intoned the old litany about the need for rationalisation, standardisation and inter-operability, but my hon. Friend the Member for Haltem-price (Mr. Wall) had it right when he said that such integration had to take place at the design stage. Collaboration is invariably an expensive process. Some say that in certain situations it may be more expensive than a national solution. That must be borne in mind.

Although we want value for money and the best use of resources, these concepts can occasionally appear contrary to support for United Kingdom industry. Sometimes decisions have to be taken on industrial grounds, but provided that the product meets the Services' needs there can be nothing wrong with that. For example, the Royal Air Force has decided in principle to replace its Devon and Pembroke communication aircraft with the British Aerospace Jetstream 31, a new and rugged product that will safeguard work at the former Scottish Aviation plant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) raised the question of the mechanised fighting vehicle project. This is being considered very favourably. I hope that he will read into that what he chooses. I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins)—who spoke in yesterday's debate—that the AST-403 decision will not be delayed unnecessarily. Because of increasing pressures on the defence budget, it will be more necessary than ever to ensure the maximum degree of optimisation of existing weapons systems. Too often in the past, when the Services have been constrained by a shortage of money, corners have been cut, thereby diminishing the capability of existing weapons systems, in order to secure the entry into service of totally new systems. That is the falsest of all economies and can lead only to inadequate operational performance.

I support a point made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when he opened the debate. He expressed reservations about gold-plating. That is a tendency in the procurement process that must be resisted. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), in an excellent and robust speech, supported the 3 per cent increase and the basing of GLCMs. He rightly pointed out that certain key industries were of vital importance to defence. His proposals are worthy of further study and underline the need for a defence industrial strategy. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) also referred to that point.

Mr. Conlan

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that, unless the Government make an early decision about the Challenger tank, not only will Barmbow—the ROF, Leeds—be in great difficulty but, in addition, the Vickers factory at Elswick, in Newcastle, will virtually have to close?

Mr. Pattie

I recognise the force of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The point that he has raised is under active consideration. In the interests of time, I shall hold over my remarks on the air defence gap until we have the debate on the Royal Air Force.

The hon. Member for Walton raised some detailed matters which I wish to cover. He may not remember raising his first point, but it was very important. He mentioned the Service man's need for housing assistance when he leaves the Services. That is an extremely important point. The majority of local authorities are willing to provide council housing for Service men who leave married quarters on retirement. The Department of the Environment is shortly to reissue a circular which reminds all local authorities of their responsibilities in this important area.

Mr. Cryerrose——

Mr. Pattie

More and more Service men now wish to purchase their own homes. Those who defer that decision until they leave the Services on a pension can look to a tax-free terminal grant as a major contribution towards the expense of resettlement. For ex-Service men who become council tenants, the Housing Bill contains an important concession whereby time spent in Service accommodation will count towards the discounts available to those who exercise the right to buy their homes.

We are doing much to provide Service men with housing, both while they are serving and when they choose to leave the Armed Forces.

Mr. Cryerrose——

Mr. Partie

I have already given way to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer).

The hon. Member for Walton, along with his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, raised the question of Diego Garcia. The hon. Member for West Lothian complained that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army had put his head down and continued. The House has had the benefit of hearing not only the question put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the beginning of yesterday's debate but also—more importantly—today's question to the Prime Minister. The House will not expect me to go beyond what the Prime Minister said today. That is all that I can say.

The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) raised specific questions about arms control. In the time available I shall not be able to do justice to the points that he raised. However, I assure him that, like the Federal German Government and the rest of our allies, we continue to attach great importance to the need to persuade the Russians to accept the United States' offer to negotiate over limitations on long-range theatre nuclear forces. We are continuing our efforts on all fronts. I should like to write the hon. Gentleman a full letter on that important point.

The hon. Member for Walton and the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) spoke with characteristic sincerity abuot nuclear disarmament. We cannot debate the matter now, but I leave with them the thought that not having the atomic bomb did not prove to be of great assistance to the Japanese in the closing stages of the last war.

The Opposition's amendment bears all the hallmarks of what is called in appropriate circles " a composite resolution ". It contains three distinct and unrelated elements, probably representing the different strands of thought on the left, right and centre of the Labour Party.

From somewhere in the centre comes criticism of planned growth of defence expenditure in excess of economic forecasts, which fails for the umpteenth time to grasp what the Opposition over the years have failed to grasp—that defence expenditure can be related only to the perceived nature of the threat. Of course, we would be better able to meet that threat if our economic base was stronger, and the Government have taken steps to improve the economic base.

However, in the meantime, the threat remains and must be faced. A potential adversary makes no concession to our difficulties. There is no such thing as being given "time-out" to get our military and economic house in order. However long it will take to turn the economy round, the House should know that the Government have the will and determination to see that our defences are kept in good order.

The right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) in the past appeared to chide the Government for not spending as much on defence as his Government had planned, even though we know that in practice his Government would not have spent that amount. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to go as far as criticising the Government for not spending more, because that would be difficult for someone in the Labour Party.

I am, however, glad that the right hon. Gentleman has returned to defence. When he was Minister of State, he and his right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) presided as a sort of latter-day Empsom and Dudley over the iniquitous 1974 defence review that did so much damage to the fabric of our defences. Having done the damage, he and his right hon. Friend departed to pastures new, leaving the mess to be contemplated by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), whose early return to good health is wished for from both sides of the House.

The Opposition amendment has a section from the Salford wing of the party, regretting the lack of new initiatives towards nuclear and conventional disarmament. Indeed, Labour Members speak of that subject as though the invasion of Afghanistan four months ago had not happened. I realise that it is highly inconvenient, not to say embarrassing, when the Soviet mask slips and outright military force is used. No doubt as time passes we shall be encouraged to forget Afghanistan as a primitive country, far away, in the same nauseating manner as convenient amnesia set in after a sophisticated, advanced, civilised European country called Czechoslovakia was invaded in August 1968.

The third part of the Opposition amendment comes from the small band of manifesto group defence thinkers, and talks about priorities for the 1980s. We do not need any lectures from an Opposition whose main priority when in Government was a series of savage cuts in defence—cut, cut and cut again. This has produced a disastrous exodus of skilled and experienced people from our Armed Forces.

We see the amendment as a broth of hypocrisy, and we ask the House to reject it and to support the White Paper with enthusiasm.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 227, Noes 319.

Division No. 196] AYES [10 pm
Abse, Leo Canavan, Dennis Dixon, Donald
Adams, Allen Cant, R. B. Dobson, Frank
Allaun, Frank Carmichael, Neil Dormand, Jack
Anderson, Donald Carter-Jones, Lewis Douglas, Dick
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Dubs, Alfred
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cohen, Stanley Duffy, A. E. P.
Ashton, Joe Coleman, Donald Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Dunnett, Jack
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Conlan, Bernard Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cook, Robin F. Eadie, Alex
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Cowans, Harry Eastham, Ken
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Crowther, J. S. Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Bidwell, Sydney Cryer, Bob English, Michael
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cunliffe, Lawrence Ennals, Rt Hon David
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Cunningham, George (Islington S) Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Bradley, Tom Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Evans, John (Newton)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dalyell, Tam Ewing, Harry
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davidson, Arthur Faulds, Andrew
Brown, Robert C (Newcastle W) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Field, Frank
Buchan, Norman Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Fitch, Alan
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Flannery, Martin
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)
Campbell, Ian Dempsey, James Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dewar, Donald Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ford, Ben Lyon, Alexander (York) Ryman, John
Forrester, John McDonald, Dr Oonagh Sever, John
Foster, Derek McKay, Allen (Penistone) Sheerman, Barry
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) McKelvey, William Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Maclennan, Robert Short, Mrs Renée
George, Bruce McNally, Thomas Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John McWilliam, John Silkin. Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Ginsburg, David Magee, Bryan Skinner, Dennis
Golding, John Marks, Kenneth Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Gourlay, Harry Marshall, David (Gl'sgow. Shettles'n) Snape, Peter
Graham, Ted Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Soley, Clive
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Spearing, Nigel
Grant, John (Islington C) Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Spriggs, Leslie
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Mason, Rt Hon Roy Stallard, A. W.
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Maxton, John Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Meacher, Michael Stoddart, David
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Mikardo, Ian Strang, Gavin
Haynes, Frank Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Straw, Jack
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Heffer, Eric S. Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Thomas Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Home Robertson, John Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Homewood, William Morton, George Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Hooley, Frank Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Tilley, John
Horam, John Newens, Stanley Tinn, James
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Huckfield, Les Ogden, Eric Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Hudson Davies, Gwilym Ednyfed O'Halloran, Michael Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) O'Neill, Martin Watkins, David
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Weetch, Ken
Janner, Hon Greville Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wellbeloved, James
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Palmer, Arthur Welsh, Michael
John, Brynmor Parker, John White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Parry, Robert White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Prescott, John Whitehead, Phillip
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Price, Christopher (Lewisham West) Whitlock, William
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Race, Reg Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Radice, Giles Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Kerr, Russell Richardson, Jo Winnick, David
Kilfedder, James A. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Woodall, Alec
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North) Woolmer, Kenneth
Kinnock, Nell Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Lamond, James Robertson, George Young, David (Bolton East)
Leadbitter, Ted Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton S Slough) Rodgers, Rt Hon William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Rooker, J. W. Mr. James Hamilton and
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Roper, John Mr. Hugh McCartney.
Litherland, Robert Rowlands, Ted
Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Adley, Robert Brinton, Tim Cope, John
Aitken, Jonathan Brittan, Leon Cormack, Patrick
Alexander, Richard Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Corrie, John
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Brooke, Hon Peter Costain, A. P.
Ancram, Michael Brotherton, Michael Cranborne, Viscount
Arnold, Tom Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Critchley, Julian
Aspinwall, Jack Browne, John (Winchester) Crouch, David
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Bruce-Gardyne, John Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Bryan, Sir Paul Dickens, Geoffrey
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick Dorrell, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Buck, Antony Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Budgen, Nick Dover, Denshore
Beith, A. J. Bulmer, Esmond du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bell, Sir Ronald Burden, F. A. Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Bendall, Vivian Butcher, John Durant, Tony
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Butler, Hon Adam Dykes, Hugh
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Cadbury, Jocelyn Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Best, Keith Carlisle, John (Luton West) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)
Bevan, David Gilroy Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Eggar, Timothy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Elliott, Sir William
Biggs-Davison, John Chalker, Mrs Lynda Emery, Peter
Body, Richard Channon, Paul Eyre, Reginald
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Chapman, Sydney Fairbairn, Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert Churchill, W. S. Fairgrieve, Russell
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Faith, Mrs Sheila
Bowden, Andrew Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) Farr, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fell, Anthony
Bradford, Rev R. Clegg, Sir Walter Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Braine, Sir Bernard Cockeram, Eric Finsberg, Geoffrey
Bright, Graham Colvin, Michael Fisher, Sir Nigel
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Loveridge, John Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lyell, Nicholas Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fookes, Miss Janet McCrindle, Robert Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Forman, Nigel McCusker, H. Rossi, Hugh
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Macfarlane, Neil Rost, Peter
Fox, Marcus MacGregor, John Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) MacKay, John (Argyll) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Scott, Nicholas
Freud, Clement McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fry, Peter McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. McQuade, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) McQuarrie, Albert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Madel, David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br-hills)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Major, John Shersby, Michael
Glyn, Dr Alan Marland, Paul Silvester, Fred
Goodhew, Victor Marlow, Tony Sims, Roger
Goodlad, Alastair Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Skeet, T. H. H.
Gorst, John Marten, Neil (Banbury) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Gow, Ian Mates, Michael Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Gower, Sir Raymond Mather, Carol Speed, Keith
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Maude, Rt Hon Angus Speller Tony
Gray, Hamish Mawby, Ray Spence, John
Greenway, Harry Mawhinney, Dr Brian Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mayhew, Patrick Sproat, lain
Grist, Ian Mellor, David Squire, Robin
Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony Stainton, Dr Keith
Gummer, John Selwyn Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Stanbrook, Ivor
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stanley, John
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Miscampbell, Norman Steel, Rt Hon David
Hannam, John Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stevens, Martin
Haselhurst, Alan Moate, Roger Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hastings, Stephen Molyneaux, James Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Hawksley, Warren Monro Hector Stradling Thomas, J.
Hayhoe, Barney Montgomery, Fergus Tapsell, Peter
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Moore, John Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Heddle, John Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Henderson, Barry Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Tebbit, Norman
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Temple-Morris, Peter
Hicks, Robert Mudd, David Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Murphy, Christopher Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Myles, David Thompson, Donald
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Neale, Gerrard Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Hooson, Tom Needham, Richard Thornton, Malcolm
Hordern, Peter Nelson, Anthony Townend, John (Bridlington)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Neubert, Michael Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Newton, Tony Trippier, David
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Normanton, Tom Trotter, Neville
Howells, Geraint Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Paisley, Rev Ian Viggers, Peter
Hurd, Hon Douglas Parris, Matthew Waddington, David
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Patten, Christopher (Bath) Wakeham, John
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Patten, John (Oxford) Waldegrave, Hon William
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey Walker, Rt Hon. Peter (Worcester)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Pawsey, James Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Penhaligon, David Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Percival, Sir Ian Wall, Patrick
Kaberry, Sir Donald Peyton, Rt Hon John Waller, Gary
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Pink, R. Bonner Walters, Dennis
Kimball, Marcus Pollock, Alexander Ward, John
King, Rt Hon Tom Porter, George Watson, John
Kitson, Sir Timothy Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Knight, Mrs Jill Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Knox, David Price, David (Eastleigh) Wheeler, John
Lamont, Norman Prior, Rt Hon James Whitney, Raymond
Lang, Ian Proctor, K. Harvey Wickenden, Keith
Langford-Holt, Sir John Pym, Rt Hon Francis Wiggin, Jerry
Latham, Michael Raison, Timothy Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Lawrence, Ivan Rathbone, Tim Winterton, Nicholas
Lawson, Nigel Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Wolfson, Mark
Lee, John Rees-Davies, W. R. Young, Sir George (Acton)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Renton, Tim Younger, Rt Hon George
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rhodes James, Robert
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Ridsdale, Julian Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Mr. Anthony Barry.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 313, Noes 74.

Division No. 270] AYES [10.15 pm
Adley, Robert Faith, Mrs Sheila Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Aitken, Jonathan Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Alexander, Richard Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Ancram, Michael Finsberg, Geoffrey Loveridge, John
Arnold, Tom Fisher, Sir Nigel Lyell, Nicholas
Aspinwall, Jack Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) McCrindle, Robert
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McCusker, H.
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Fookes, Miss Janet Macfarlane, Neil
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Forman, Nigel MacGregor, John
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Fowier, Rt Hon Norman MacKay, John (Argyll)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fox, Marcus Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Beith, A. J. Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Bell, Sir Ronald Fraser Peter (South Angus) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bendall, Vivian Freud, Clement McQuade, John
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Fry, Peter McQuarrie, Albert
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Madel, David
Best, Keith Gardiner, George (Reigate) Major, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Marland, Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Marlow, Tony
Biggs-Davison, John Glyn, Dr Alan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Body, Richard Goodhew, Victor Marten, Nell (Banbury)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Goodlad, Alastair Mates, Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gorst, John Mather, Carol
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Gow, Ian Maude, Rt Hon Angus
Bowden, Andrew Gower, Sir Raymond Mawby, Ray
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Bradford, Rev. R. Gray, Hamish Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bright, Graham Greenway, Harry Mayhew, Patrick
Brinton, Tim Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mellor, David
Brittan, Leon Grimond, Rt Hon J. Meyer, Sir Anthony
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Grist, Ian Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Brooke, Hon Peter Grylls, Michael Mills, lain (Meriden)
Brotherton. Michael Gummer, John Selwyn Miscampbell, Norman
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Browne, John (Winchester) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moate, Roger
Bruce-Gardyne, John Hampson, Dr Keith Molyneux, James
Bryan, Sir Paul Hannam, John Monro, Hector
Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick Haselhurst, Alan Montgomery, Fergus
Buck, Antony Hastings, Stephen Moore, John
Budgen, Nick Hawksley, Warren Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)
Bulmer, Esmond Hayhoe, Barney Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)
Butcher, John Heath, Rt Hon Edward Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Butler, Hon Adam Heddle, John Mudd, David
Cadbury, Jocelyn Henderson, Barry Murphy, Christopher
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Myles, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hicks, Robert Neale, Gerrard
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Higgins Rt Hon Terence L. Needham, Richard
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Nelson, Anthony
Channon, Paul Holland, Philip (Carlton) Neubert, Michael
Chapman, Sydney Hooson, Tom Newton, Tony
Churchill, W. S. Hordern, Peter Normanton, Tom
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Paisley, Rev Ian
Cockeram, Eric Howells, Geraint Parris, Matthew
Colvin, Michael Hunt, David (Wirral) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Cope, John Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Patten, John (Oxford)
Corrie, John Hurd, Hon Douglas Pattie, Geoffrey
Costain, A. P. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pewsey, James
Cranborne, Viscount Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Penhaligon, David
Critchley, Julian Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Percival, Sir Ian
Crouch, David Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Peyton, Rt Hon John
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pink, R. Bonner
Dickens, Geoffrey Kaberry, Sir Donald Pollock, Alexander
Dorrell, Stephen Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Porter, George
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kimball, Marcus Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Dover, Denshore King, Rt Hon Tom Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kitson, Sir Timothy Price, David (Eastleigh)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Knight, Mrs Jill Prior, Rt Hon James
Durant, Tony Knox, David Proctor, K. Harvey
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lamont, Norman Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Lang, Ian Raison, Timothy
Eggar, Timothy Langford-Holt, Sir John Rathbone, Tim
Elliott, Sir William Latham, Michael Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Emery, Peter Lawrence, Ivan Rees-Davies, W. R.
Eyre, Reginald Lawson, Nigel Renton, Tim
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lee, John Rhodes James, Robert
Fairgrieve, Russell Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Ridsdale, Julian Squire, Robin Waddington, David
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Stainton, Keith Wakeham, John
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Stanbrook, Ivor Waldegrave, Hon William
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stanley, John Walker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Steel, Rt Hon David Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Rossi, Hugh Steen, Anthony Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Rost, Peter Stevens, Martin Wall, Patrick
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Waller, Gary
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire) Walters, Dennis
Scott, Nicholas Stradling Thomas, J. Ward, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Tapsell, Peter Watson, John
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Taylor, Teddy (Southend East) Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tebbit, Norman Wheeler, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'bills) Temple-Morris, Peter Whitney, Raymond
Shersby, Michael Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Wickenden, Keith
Silvester, Fred Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S) Wiggin, Jerry
Sims, Roger Thompson, Donald Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Skeet, T. H. H. Thorne, Neil (Ilford South) Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Thornton, Malcolm Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton) Townend, John (Bridlington) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speed, Keith Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath) Younger, Rt Hon George
Speller, Tony Trippier, David
Spence, John Trotter, Neville TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) van Straubenzee, W. R. Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire) Vaughan, Dr Gerard Mr. Anthony Berry.
Sproat, Iain Viggers, Peter
Adams, Allen Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Race, Reg
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Foster, Derek Richardson, Jo
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grant, George (Morpeth) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Heffer, Eric S. Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Bidwell, Sydney Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Sheerman, Barry
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Home Robertson, John Short, Mrs Renée
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Soley, Clive
Campbell-Savours, Dale Kilfedder, James A. Spriggs, Leslie
Canavan, Dennis Kilroy-Silk, Robert Stallard, A. W.
Carmichael, Neil Lamond, James Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Stoddart, David
Cohen, Stanley Litherland, Robert Straw, Jack
Cook, Robin F. McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Dalyell, Tam McKelvey, William Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dixon, Donald Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Tilley, John
Dobson, Frank Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Welsh, Michael
Dubs, Alfred Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Maxton, John Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Eastham, Ken Meacher, Michael Winnick, David
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Mikardo, Ian Young, David (Bolton East)
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Newens, Stanley
Field, Frank O'Neill, Martin TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Flannery, Martin Parry, Robert Mr. Bob Cryer and
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Price, Christopher (Lewisham West) Mr. Frank Allaun.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980, contained in Cmnd. 7826.