§ Mr. Speaker
I have not selected for debate any of the amendments on the Order Paper.
Before the debate begins, I should like to inform the House that an inordinately large number of right hon. and hon. Members will be seeking to catch my eye in the debate. I know that already, before they rise in their places. Far more hon. Members will be called if those who are called bear their colleagues in mind. I can say no more.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Nott)
I beg to move,That this House endorses the Government's decision to maintain a strategic nuclear deterrent and the choice of the Trident missile system as the successor to the Polaris force.It is my privilege today to open a debate on the gravest issue which faces any Government: the issue of peace, and of how we can best maintain it.
War has always been a bad and stupid way of doing business—as a current NATO commander said recently. But the lunacy of war has been hugely increased by the central security fact of today's world, namely, the existence of nuclear weapons.
The Secretary of State for Defence, for good or ill, has occasion to learn more, and to think more than most people, about nuclear weapons—and I can tell the House that I view them with total horror. No one should for a moment contemplate what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki with any milder feelings. It is therefore right that the Christian conscience should be engaged in thinking about these problems.
In ethical terms, the issues surrounding nuclear weapons are difficult, if not agonising. But in the debate between those who judge it better to keep those terrible weapons so as to use them as a shield for peace, and those who judge it better to discard them in order to maintain peace by some new, untried and, I would suggest, historically improbable route, the arguments are, I would suggest, on the side of deterrence. To engage the emotions—as the promoters of CND know very well—is an easy task. The showing of the film"The War Game" in a village hall in the evening in the presence of young families has a predictable outcome. To argue the choices before us so as to engage the intellect is a much harder task. But for those who take the view that the concept of nuclear deterrence is morally tenable, so long as we lack a better and surer way of avoiding the horrors of war, there is, I believe, wide support—not least among the Churches.
This country's determination-supported by all Governments of both parties since the war—to sustain adequate strength, including nuclear strength, has one quarter of a century of experience behind it. It is not a new policy. It is a tried policy that has succeeded.
The security responsibilities which Western Governments have towards their countries go wider, of course, than just preventing nuclear war. We must prevent any East-West war, for it is as well to remember that World War II took the lives, in one way or another, of around 50 million people before nuclear weapons were used at all, and today's conventional weapons are far more lethal now than they were then.
It is not an option for any Western Government to transport us all back to some pre-nuclear paradise. Nor is it an option, alas, to transform the Soviet Union into 138 something other than what it is. We need have no quarrel whatever with the people of the Soviet Union. They doubtless want peace as much as we do; and though they probably envy us our freedom and our standard of living, I do not imagine that they think of acquiring these blessings by taking them away from us.
But we are not dealing with the Russian people, and the military power that confronts us is not wielded and directed by the Russian people. It is in the hands of rulers whose history and patrimony is that of Lenin and Stalin and the deeds they wrought; of rulers whose system has no more democratic safeguards now than it had in the bloodiest parts of that history, not so very long ago. We have to deal with the leaders of a closed totalitarian State of hostile ideology, huge military power, and a proven willingness to use that power without scruple when it thinks it can safely get away with it. They are capable of using—and, in my view, would use—nuclear weapons as a source of blackmail were we ever to give them such a chance.
Amid these hard realities the NATO Alliance — without which we have no security—can offer no security without nuclear weapons. The possession of these weapons, terrible as they are—indeed, precisely because they are terrible—is absolutely cardinal to deterrence. Deterrence means providing ourselves with the capability to exact unacceptable destruction, so that anyone thinking of attacking us is bound to calculate that the risks outweigh any possible gain.
Nuclear weapons are not the only component of deterrence—we must have conventional forces, too—but they are a central and crucial component; and every member of the Alliance recognises that. For the Alliance to renounce nuclear weapons, or to renounce a deterrent strategy in which they play a part, would be the ultimate foolishness; and for a country as central to the Alliance as Britain to attempt to wash its had of nuclear affairs while remaining in and protected by the Alliance would be a dishonest and dangerous pretence. I can see no ethical or moral arguments for unilaterial renunciation of nuclear weapons if we were to continue to shelter under the nuclear shield of our allies the United States and France.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
Regarding unacceptable damage, while it may be true that with the Trident we could take out a dozen Russian cities, is it not equally true and apparent that the Russians could take out the whole of Britain and that, therefore, it would be complete suicide to use these weapons, and that they will never be used if we have a sane Government?
§ Mr. Nott
If these weapons will never be used, the policy has been successful. Indeed, the policy has been successful. There has been no war in Europe for 30 years.
I am keenly aware that there is at the moment a widespread concern about nuclear war—a concern perhaps more consciously felt than for several years past. What I have in mind is not so much the vocal unilateralists but, rather, non-campaigning ordinary people, without special theories but worried about their children's future. I also note and respect, too, the concern and uncertainties felt in the Churches, to which I have already referred. I can well understand and sympathise with this.
Events in the past year or so have reminded us that the world is a harsh and turbulent place—the brutal invasion of Afghanistan; the strife between Iran and Iraq; the 139 menace that hangs over Poland. It happens to have been the Government's duty to grasp, whilst these events were happening, a number of nettles, all of which in their different ways remind us afresh of the realities of nuclear weapons—the updating of our theatre nuclear capacity by the stationing of United States cruise missiles in Europe, the need to start putting right the long neglect of civil defence, and the eventual replacement of Polaris, the coming together of all these things has aroused public concern. It would be unnatural were it otherwise.
But I strongly believe that these natural apprehensions are misplaced provided that we stick to our course and do not gamble wildly on some different one. The fact is that, in the East-West setting, deterrence plainly works. We have had peace for half a lifetime now, despite circumstances—deeply opposed political systems, massive forces in close proximity, and a succession of potentially inflammatory situations—which in any other age would have been highly likely to lead to war. What has made things different has been the plain and overwhelming fact of nuclear weapons, telling every leader on either side that no one can afford to let things come to blows.
To say this is not to be complacent about the nuclear scene. It would be better if we could make it more stable. It would be better if we could make it a great deal less costly. That is where arms control must come in. Nuclear arms control has done a good deal that is useful, more than it is sometimes given credit for. It can do more, which is why the Government welcome the clear intention of the new United States Administration to renew the SALT process.
But doing more by arms control requires genuine will on both sides, and the right conditions on both sides. One of those sides, like it or not, is the Soviet Union, which does not share Western standards or Western views of the world. We shall not strike good bargains, or any true bargains at all, by giving up or neglecting our strength while they keep and enhance theirs. Unilateralism—make no mistake—is the enemy, not the friend, of arms control.
In January last year, my predecessor, the present Leader of the House, set out the fundamental reason why our contribution reinforces Alliance deterrence. Its significance is not in its size. Formidable though our capability is, the vast American arsenal is quite big enough without our contribution, and I have little time for arguments based on prestige, seats at top tables and the like.
I admit that I would feel more than a touch of discomfort if France, with her clear policy of non-commitment to Alliance strategy, were the only West European nuclear Power and had a capacity to bring down Soviet retribution on her neighbour across the Channel in circumstances where we had no deterrent response of our own. But even that consideration would not, to my mind, suffice to justify an independent capability and its cost. The root of the matter is insurance for peace—insurance, above all, against Soviet miscalculation.
United States Governments could not have done more—by solemn declaration, by costly equipment provision, by large-scale forward deployment—to demonstrate their engagement to Europe, including nuclear engagement. I have great confidence in that engagement by the United States. But nothing short of the 140 event can prove it absolutely. Meanwhile, other judgments are possible, as even some Western opinions have shown, from de Gaulle onwards. If they can question or doubt, so may the Russians, if not now, then in a future, that could be different and difficult. British possession of nuclear striking power, Alliance committed yet independently controlled, is an insurance premium against any Soviet supposition that the United States might somehow seek to insulate itself from nuclear consequences whilst abandoning Europe.
I refer to this as the Soviet perception of the situation. It is, of course, no more demonstrable of Britain than of the United States that we would use nuclear strength rather than accept defeat. Absolute certainty in these matters is simply not to be had. But our capability compels a would-be aggressor to face not one gamble but two, and two dissimilar ones at the same time.
A second centre of decision-making in the form of our strategic deterrent is a real reinforcement of Alliance strength and one which, for various reasons, written in history, we alone are in a position to undertake. It is by far the least costly of the four major contributions we make. We have been making it now for a quarter of a century. Our allies, notably the United States itself, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy, have made it clear in private and in public that they value its continuance.
In the world as it is—a world of strategic nuclear parity between the super Powers, of mounting Soviet strength and readiness to deploy it—now would be a very strange moment, I would suggest, for us to lay aside the task.
Our nuclear capability has several elements and several levels, as, indeed, it must have if it is to fit properly into the Alliance strategy of flexible response. But the core of our capability, underpinning all the other elements and, indeed, vital to their deterrent credibility, is the strategic force—that is, the force which can plainly ride out any attack, even a pre-emptive attack without warning, and which could still, thereafter, if it had to, deliver upon the Soviet homeland a blow heavy enough to rob any aggression of its advantage.
Our strategic power is provided now by the four Polaris submarines. Their capability is soon to be modernised by the Chevaline improvement, rightly sustained by the former Labour Government, which will carry through into the 1990s the ability to penetrate likely ABM defences. The force will thus remain truly formidable.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Before the Minister turns to the nature of the deterrent, would not the argument that he has deployed for our having a nuclear deterrent of our own apply equally to many other countries, particularly West Germany? Why is it so important that we of all people should have a unique deterrent?
§ Mr. Nott
Because we do not start from here. By history, we happen to be a nuclear Power. We are, of course, in favour of non-proliferation but we are a nuclear Power. We have been one for many years. We have to deal with the world and the situation as it exists.
I was saying that our strategic power is provided by the four Polaris submarines, but it will not last for ever. The boats themselves were built in the 1960s and if we sought to keep them beyond about 25 years there would be mounting risk that refits, which are already taking longer and costing more, would have to become so extended, or that the growing number of unforeseen defects would 141 prove so severe, that gaps would occur in the continuous readiness on patrol which we need to maintain. We have only one strategic deterrent force, and it is of minimum size. We cannot lightly take chances.
The boats, moreover, are built to 1960s standards or quietness, and the missiles have the range which 1960s rocket technology gave. In both these respects, the steady Soviet advance in anti-submarine warfare capability must be expected eventually to call into sharper question the ability of our present submarines to survive. Even Chevaline may not be proof against what might be done in the long term in the ABM field.
For all these reasons, taken together, it would be, at best, a very chancy gamble to rely on the present force beyond the first half of the 1990s. If we take our deterrent contribution seriously, and, still more, if we want our potential adversary to take it seriously, we cannot take that gamble. We must face up to the issue of modernisation.
When the decision was announced on 15 July last year in favour of the Trident MIRVed missile system, my predecessor published a special memorandum about the choice of system, reviewing the factors which bore upon it, the options which were considered and the arguments which, in the end, pointed decisively to Trident as the most cost-effective course. I wish that memorandum had actually been read by more critics of the system, because I believe, it is an impressive publication.
Since then, the House's Defence Committee, whose work in this field I much welcome, has further probed the issues in an extensive series of evidence-taking sessions. As the House will have seen from the published records, witnesses from my Department have responded positively to a wide range of questioning, and only a tiny proportion of the information has been withheld from publication on security grounds.
We have, in sum, been very open about the factors which we see as pointing so clearly to Trident, and I shall not burden the House with a further detailed recital of them now. I shall, of course, be happy to address any particular points of concern later when I wind up the debate. Let me try briefly at this stage to highlight three aspects of choice which I see as of key importance.
First, the choice of the platform from which the missile is delivered is driven above all by the need for invulnerability—for protection against a pre-emptive strike—so that we pose a credible second strike deterrent force, retaining the ability to hit back if they attack us first. We also want a system that does not depend on hair-trigger decisions in a crisis. Invulnerability provides that opportunity. Given this, the case for staying with a submarine system is plain, not least in the belief that the Soviet navy has never yet located one of our Polaris submarines on patrol and the range of Trident will give an even greater area of ocean in which to hide.
Second, there is the choice between ballistic and cruise missiles as the delivery system. The answer here is perhaps less immediately obvious, but analysis drove us clearly to the conclusion that, for a given weight of deterrent strike, the ballistic method was both surer and cheaper.
It is surer because it is less sensitive to uncertain assumptions about future Soviet defences and because it gives much longer range and therefore far more searoom in which to hide. It is cheaper, because cruise missiles carry only one warhead each, so that considerably more submarines—the most expensive part of the total system—are needed for a given strike capability. It would 142 involve a considerably higher capital cost, much higher running costs, less invulnerability and less assurance of penetration if we were to choose submarine-launched cruise missiles.
The third aspect is the choice among ballistic missiles. I commend particularly to the House the review of the options in paragraphs 44 to 53 of the published memorandum. Two considerations are of especial importance. First, there is the matter of time scale. We are dealing with a major investment of resources on a system entering service over a decade from now, and required to last, we must expect, at least 20 years thereafter. We cannot afford more than one system, nor can we afford replacement at frequent intervals. When we take a step forward, therefore, it has to be a big enough step, not half a step or an inching forward. That is why spending billions of pounds on a force reproducing Polaris in new submarines, for example, would be foolish.
The second consideration, of which, for all its merits, Chevaline sharply reminds us, is that systems unique to Britain are very costly. There are very big advantages, in cost as well as in capability, in commonality with the United States. For instance, spares and servicing for Polaris decades after it had been replaced by the United States would become more and more hazardous.
Trident is a proven system, of great power, firmly in service with the United States. In short, if we are to stay in the strategic nuclear business at all, the case for Trident as the most cost-effective way of doing so is overwhelming. We have to face the cold fact that credible strategic nuclear capability for the 1990s and beyond does not come cheaper than this. If we are not prepared to afford Trident we had better get out of the business altogether. And I have explained why, in present circumstances, I do not believe that any British Government would actually make that choice, that is, of getting out of the business altogether.
That brings me to the issue of cost, about which I know many Members on both sides of the House are understandably exercised. Last summer we put the cost very broadly at some £4½ billion to £5 billion. Closer estimating depends on studies still in progress and decisions not yet taken, for example, on the precise size and characteristics of the submarine; but I am personally determined to keep costs as close as is sensibly possible to the original broad assessment.
Even at that, however, we are dealing with a huge investment. It is not uniquely huge; costed on the same basis, for example, our Tornado programme would be up to twice as high. Over the 15-year span of the investment Trident is likely to average some 3 per cent, of the total defence budget; perhaps 5 per cent, at peak. These are substantial figures, but neither unprecedented nor unmanageable.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
I would like to take my right hon. Friend back for one moment. He said that he believed that no possible successor Government could take us out of the business altogether. This forecast went totally uncommented on by the Leader of the Opposition, who has said on a number of occasions that that is his very intention. Perhaps he did not hear my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would make the costing clear. There has been a lot of talk about percentages of the equipment programme and of the total defence programme. As I understand the figures that the right hon. Gentleman has just given the House, it is 3 per cent., on average, of the total defence budget and 5 per cent, at peak. Could he give us a rough idea of what that means in terms of the allocation to equipment?
§ Mr. Nott
May I avoid answering that question for a few hours? I can give an answer to the right hon. Gentleman, but I would rather deal with it later, since much of the argument in the debate will surround the question of other equipment costs that we face over the next 15 years.
If I may give an idea to the House, people are taking the £5 billion and relating it to current equipment costs in the next few years. If we take the whole 15-year period, we anticipate that we will be spending between £80 billion and £90 billion on equipment. What we have to ask ourselves is whether, in a total equipment programme of between £80 billion and £90 billion, it is worth while keeping in the strategic nuclear business for £5 billion. My judgment is that it must be. That is a judgment taken by all earlier Governments, of whatever political party. I hope that in the debate we will be able to sustain this by the time the vote comes.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
My right hon. Friend has just said that it is important to keep in the strategic deterrent business if we can and that one must take into account the total cost of £5,000 million. Of course, that will be spent largely abroad in regard to Trident, whereas the rest of the defence budget will be largely spent at home. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that as much as possible of Trident's mechanics will be provided by British industry?
§ Mr. Nott
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The submarines will be built in British yards, at Barrow. The warheads will be made in this country. Only the missile system itself will be bought in the United States. That will represent between 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, only of the total cost. So of the £5 billion estimated cost, the overwhelming proportion will be spent in this country.
There is, of course, as there is for every defence project, an opportunity cost; money spent on Trident is money not spent on something else. If I could have a certificate from my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in the absence of Trident I could still have the same money, throughout the 15 years, to spend on something else—perhaps I may be allowed to entertain a slight element of doubt about that—my advisers could certainly suggest a wide variety of interesting and useful ways of applying it.
I told the House, frankly, on 20 January—and I stress this point—that while we did not face stark choices between major roles, resource pressures at the present time and before the costs of Trident really commence at all might nevertheless compel some hard decisions on adjustments to present programmes. Trident's average 3 144 per cent, demand—and of course in the immediate future the demand is well below 3 per cent.—does not create the resource pressures; they exist already.
The abandonment of our strategic nuclear deterrent after what would by 1990 have been years in successful service—the removal of £5 billion out of a total 15-year equipment programme, as I said of between £80 billion and £90 billion—would not remove the resource problem, but it would certainly remove a central feature of our postwar deterrent capability and—with respect to the doubters—I do not think that we should come out of the strategic independent deterrent capability on the ground of cost.
§ Mr. John Bruce-Gardyne (Knutsford)
My right hon. Friend referred to the resource pressures that will be faced. He also made it very clear, as we know already, that the Trident programme will not really come into the major expenditure bracket until the latter years of this decade. It is surely conceivable that circumstances may change, whether in terms of the cost of Trident or the other resource pressures. Can he tell the House at what stage, in his estimation, it would be possible for us, if circumstances changed, to revise this decision without incurring substantial costs thereby?
§ Mr. Nott
I must tell my hon. Friend that the decision has already been taken. I see no point in speculating about the windows that open up in the future for changing our mind. It is a decision of the Government and, as I say, I see no reason to speculate about opportunities for making a change of course.
Let me summarise the case that I am putting to the House. All of us fear and abhor the idea of war, and, above all, of nuclear war. All of us have a common aim—to prevent it, but it must be deterred away or negotiated away; it cannot simply be wished away. Britain has a distinctive role in deterrence—one that our allies acknowledge and welcome. It would be dangerous folly, in the world as it is, now to abandon that role. Much the best long-term way to sustain it at the strategic level is to build a new force around the Trident missile. That is, in absolute terms, not a cheap course, but the consequences of shirking it may one day prove unimaginably expensive. The Trident decision reflects the Government's judgment of how best, amid harsh realities, to serve the common cause of peace and freedom.
I ask the House to endorse that aim by supporting the motion tonight.
§ Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)
As the Secretary of State said, this debate comes at a time of renewed preoccupation with the problem of armaments and the issues of war and peace. Unfortunately, it does not seem to many of us that the Government are giving equal weight to these matters either in this debate or in other debates. For example, I should have thought that, notwithstanding yesterday's attempted reassurance by the Prime Minister, the United States of America and the United Kingdom were showing insufficient urgency about testing and exploring Russian sincerity and flexibility in the matter of detente.
I accept that caution is inevitable on both sides. However, the restraint that the right hon. Lady urged upon President Reagan—who already showed a high degree of 145 caution—was somewhat gratuitously discouraging. All of us, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, must face the fact that true peace will come only through a lessening of the nuclear arsenal rather than through piling up further weapons in an attempt to balance the terror. The Secretary of State gave a most unhelpful answer to the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). If we are making a judgment about a weapons system that will come into existence in the 1990s, it must be right—as the hon. Member for Knutsford said—to take account of the economic and strategic factors and so on that are likely to affect the world.
This debate is the fulfilment of a pledge to hold a debate that would seek approval of the Government's decision to acquire the Trident missile system. We shall oppose the motion both in the debate and in the Lobby. Before I set out the reasons for doing so, I should like to comment on the timing of the debate, which—even given the Secretary of State's own tortuous logic—is most curious. The right hon. Gentleman gave lavish praise to the Select Committee on Defence, which has been studying this subject for several months. In a short time, it would have been able to assist us by publishing its conclusions. I understand that the Secretary of State is due to face the Select Committee either tomorrow or in the near future and to give evidence. Presumably, members of the Select Committee will look upon this afternoon's speech as a sneak preview or as a dress rehearsal. I hope that no one will think that I flatter the Secretary of State unduly if I say that members of the Select Committee will already be considering whether to award him the Quinlan medal for helpful obscurity. Those who have read Mr. Quinlan's evidence to the Select Committee will know that tributes do not come much higher than that.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
It is important, Mr. Deputy Speaker—I greet you with great pleasure—that the House should not be misled by the hon. Gentleman. He said that the Select Committee would, in a short time, be able to publish its conclusions. He has no authority to say that. It is not true. In addition, when he suggested that there was some convenience to the Secretary of State in the debate's timing, I should point out that the Select Committee deliberately chose to invite my right hon. Friend to attend after the debate rather than before it.
§ Mr. John
I share the hon. Gentleman's expression of pleasure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at seeing you in the Chair. However, if the invitation was given deliberately, it shows that there are serious problems with the Select Committees. Midway through the considerations of the Select Committee on Expenditure, the Government announced their decision to acquire Trident. The Select Committee on Defence will face the indignity of seeing its report being reduced to a report that is of academic interest alone. The House will take a decision when only some of the evidence is available and when none of the conclusions has been published. That is not good enough.
It is time that the step-father of the system, the Leader of the House, considered the propriety of what has happened. Even if the natural father, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St John-Stevas), no longer has access to his children, some attempt should be made to ensure that they are treated properly.
The major thrust of the argument against the independent strategic deterrent, and in particular Trident, 146 will be based on defence and economic grounds. However, there will be some—both inside and outside the House—who will direct their arguments solely towards the morality of the decision. Their arguments should not go unconsidered and should not be treated lightly. As the Secretary of State made abundantly clear, we are talking not about a simple Polaris replacement but about stepping into a new generation of nuclear weapons. We are passing from a simple deterrent system to a system that is designed to fight a sophisticated nuclear war with weapons that have warheads that are independently targetable, with a longer range and a bigger pay load. That means that they are capable of inflicting much greater death and destruction. No one should take such a step without some moral qualms and misgivings. If we were to subdue those qualms rather than overcome them, we should be nearer to thinking the unthinkable, namely, thinking about nuclear war instead of about deterring one.
In the main, I wish to direct my arguments to the defence implications of Trident. If I do not, the Government will escape easily—just as the Secretary of State has this afternoon—by expressing an understanding of the moral arguments but not sharing them. For such a subject it is unusual that many people—ranging from a former Chief of the Defence Staff to academic experts in defence and to defence correspondents—are totally unpersuaded about the lightness of the decision, or are hostile to it.
I turn to the economic arguments, which are not those of pure economic theory but of defence economics. In the Government's White Paper we have been told that the cost of the Trident missile system will be £5,000 million over a 15-year period. The Secretary of State has given a powerful hostage to fortune by saying, with his hand on his heart, that he will contain the programme within its stated limits. The history of defence weapons systems has not been a happy one when it comes to meeting cost targets. Only in Polaris—where the United States of America was suffering from a guilt complex over the cancellation of Skybolt—have we managed to contain a very large programme within its budget.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
Will the hon. Gentleman assist the House and set his remarks in the context with which we are all acutely concerned? Will he pay tribute to the far-sighted and courageous patriotism of the post-war Labour Government, who put the country's interests first? Will he tell us precisely where he stands on the issue of nuclear weapons and whether he believes in them? Will he tell us whether he thinks that the country should have them and whether he agrees with the leader of his party?
§ Mr. John
The hon. Gentleman's intervention was almost a speech and was unworthy of him. As he knows, the subject under debate is the independent deterrent system. I was proud of the post-war Labour Government. I do not remember the hon. Gentleman or his colleagues and forebears expressing an equal admiration of them. It is a bit hypocritical of him to express such great admiration at this stage.
I return to the problem of curtailing the large programme within its budget. Only 12 per cent, of Trident's budget is to be spent on ready-made items, namely, the rockets, whereas 88 per cent, of the budget is to be spent on work that has a development content. So 147 there is ample room for cost escalation, and I record it as my view that the final cost of this project in real terms will exceed the upper figure that is being quoted at the moment, because far too many of the items in the programme depend upon uncertain technology for it to be otherwise. An hon. Gentleman asked"What about the jobs?". As the Government have created 1 million unemployed in 18 months, I regard that comment as sheer nauseating hypocrisy. He made it from a sedentary position, and I hope he remains seated.
Even the figure quoted in the Trident programme is double the cost in real terms of the Polaris programme, and that is not the only cost of the programme, although by comparison with these astronomic global figures the other costs may seem to be small beer.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
I wonder whether my hon. Friend could help by commenting on something which is the crux of the problem. For several years this country has been spending between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent, of its GNP on defence compared with between 3 per cent, and 4 per cent, for France and Germany and less than 1 per cent, for Japan. Even more important and crucial to this debate is the fact that about half our expenditure on research and development is concerned with arms compared with about 12 per cent, for Germany. Is not that one of the prime reasons for the economic decline and eclipse of this country?
§ Mr. John
Of course, the expenditure upon defence must relate to and mirror the performance of the economy. I proposed to come to that in due course in my argument.
What I was dealing with was the extra costs which have not at the moment been added to the £5,000 million estimate for the Trident programme. First, there is the cost of guarding the United States airfields here with the Rapier missile. Secondly, to free the Vickers shipyard in Barrow for the Trident submarine programme, the building of the Fleet submarine programme will have to be undertaken elsewhere, probably at Cammell Laird, with the improvement of the yard costing between £60 million and £70 million.
The next point I want to make with the utmost emphasis is that the £5,000 million of which we are talking must be found from within the existing planned limits of expenditure. There is no hole in the defence programme of the kind that enabled Polaris to be accommodated and there is no additional or special money to be allocated by the Government to fund the Trident programme. I say this because some have suggested—indeed, the Secretary of State, rather surprisingly, fell into the same error this afternoon—that if the £5,000 million is not to be spent on Trident it will be clawed back by the Treasury. But that depends upon the erroneous assumption that special funds are being devoted to Trident. They are not, so the decision will depend upon the size of the defence budget. If the Government are determined to keep it the same, or if, as we say, the budget should be cut to take account of the economic and social decline of this country, the question remains the same, namely, whether Trident by its existence is edging out other projects which together make better defence sense.
In the heady days of the first exchange of letters between the President and herself, the Prime Minister said that the money saved by acquiring Trident would be used 148 to fund force improvements."Saving" is a word with a special meaning here. The nearest analogy I can think of is that of the housewife who comes back from the sales having bought a £75 coat for £50 and tells her husband that she has saved him £25. The question is whether the coat should have been bought at all. There is no saving in this particular scheme and there will be no money saved from the scheme to be available for extra force improvements.
The fact is that, as my hon. Friend the member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) has already indicated—it is a difficult fact for us all to face—our gross national product is declining and the coming decade will be fraught with economic difficulties. As a result of that, the percentage of our GDP spent on defence this year will at least equal that of the United States and may well exceed it. Our money will be found out of a declining production, and yet we may end up, by this yardstick of GDP, spending the largest amount in the whole of the Alliance.
That simply cannot go on. We have to reduce our spending and our commitments accordingly. The Secretary of State is fond of saying—he repeated it this afternoon—that hard choices have to be made, without ever specifying what those choices are. Certainly, spending £5,000 million at least on this system will only make those hard choices harder.
I looked at Mr. Quinlan's evidence to the Select Committee. It was excellent, in the sense that one had to approach it like a prospector panning for gold, namely, having to get through all the forms of words in order to get to a few nuggets of hard fact. But even he had to admit that the Trident programme would make the squeezes elsewhere in the Budget more severe. Of course it will. Other equipment and material will have to be cancelled or deferred to keep this project intact and we want to know quite clearly from the Secretary of State when he winds up this debate what the likely cancellations or deferrals are to be, so that this House of Commons in debating this matter can make a proper judgment on the balance of defence advantage and not be given the run around by a Government who pretend, in the words of President Truman, that they can have guns and the whole cow when they manifestly cannot.
The Government carefully quote the cost of the programme as a percentage of the whole defence budget, but the crucial feature for the years ahead is how much of the money available for new defence equipment the Trident scheme will pre-empt. In last week's debate in another place a memorandum to the Defence Committee was echoed by putting the share of the new equipment budget which Trident will pre-empt at 41 per cent. Others have put it at a lower figure of 15 per cent, to 18 per cent.
There are clearly differences among those who have analysed the new equipment budget, but they have not been contradicted or in any way answered by the Ministry of Defence and, whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, it will certainly amount to a very large percentage of what we shall have to spend, and other things will have to give way to it. One example that can easily be quoted is the displacement of the Fleet submarine programme from the Barrow yard already and the need to work up the learning curve again in the new yard.
Because of our current economies, we already have planes that do not fly, ships that do not sail, tanks that do not roll and an army that is demobilised for Christmas. Our straitened economic circumstances have already been recognised by the Government by the £200 million cut 149 they announced last month. We are the only one of the major European Allies to have a presence in all four spheres of defence. We have a presence in the defence of the central front both on land and in the air, we have the defence of the home base, we have the naval defence of the Eastern Atlantic and of the Channel and we have at the moment the independent nuclear deterrent.
I had thought, frankly, faced with the Secretary of State's words about hard choices, that this year's debates on defence would concentrate on what money was available and which of the roles we at present fulfil could most easily be cut with least damage to our defence effort, but not a bit of it. The Government are rushing around talking not only about maintaining the present commitments but of taking on new ones. There was, first, the chemical weapons pronouncement by the last Secretary of State for Defence. Now, although the Secretary of State himself may be cautious about the budget available, he finds himself overtaken by the Prime Minister with her talk of the rapid deployment force. If that is not to be just talk, and if there is any truth in what the Prime Minister said yesterday about it being done without sacrificing our commitments on the central front, it must mean that there is an unquantifiable extra claim on the defence budget.
Moreover, as the Secretary of State has hinted, though not specified, this will be a decade when a lot of new equipment will be needed to keep up our other commitments. We need to replace our tanks, we need to replace aircraft such as the Jaguar and Harrier, and we need new ships. At the very time when the Trident programme will be peaking at the end of the decade, these other items of equipment also will need to be found. Therefore, eventually, even if the Government make up their mind what their defence policy is to be, the conflict between the projects of which I have spoken and the £5,000 million needed for Trident will inevitably throw up for the Government impossible choices. That is why we say that the amount of money involved in this project is not the sort of throwaway item or minimal expenditure as the Secretary of State spoke of it today. It will put a massive strain upon defence budgets which are already under pressure.
That sacrifice might be worth while if we were getting, in the independent nuclear deterrent, something which would compensate for our likely loss of other defence roles. But we shall not. In my view, in this debate it is a question not of which is the best such system but of examining the rationale for an independent strategic deterrent of a new generation.
As I understand him, the Secretary of State does not argue, in support of the independent strategic deterrent, that it will give us a place at the top table. That is abandoned. His case, therefore, rests upon two arguments. The first is the argument that there would be a situation in which Russia made an attack upon the United Kingdom so serious that we had to respond not merely with a tactical nuclear weapon but with a strategic—that is, a general—nuclear weapon of the kind which we possessed, yet it would be an attack by Russia not thought serious enough to involve the United States of America in coming to our aid.
In other words, in so arguing, we doubt the word of the United States and the value of the NATO Alliance, so that we have to be free to act alone. I find this imaginary situation both preposterous and incredible. [Interruption.] Hon. Members on the Government Benches may think that 150 the NATO Alliance is not worth the fine words. They may think that they have to keep an independent capacity. But I believe in the words of the Alliance and I am content to rely upon them. But they certainly do not argue the necessity for independent action.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Melton) rose—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Keith Speed) rose—
§ Mr. Latham
I am much obliged, but I am sure that the House would prefer it if the hon. Gentleman gave way to the Minister.
§ Mr. John
The hon. Gentleman whose maiden speech, and only speech, in this debate we greatly welcome, should know that the argument which I have just advanced about the new generation of independent—[Interruption.] Yes, the hon. Gentleman might not like the answer that he will get, but he will get it all the same. The new generation of deterrent is passing from deterrence to a capability to fight a sophisticated nuclear war, which is wholly different.
I was about to rehearse the Secretary of State's more recent refinement of the argument about the need to be able to act alone. He says that it is not necessary that we should actually act alone, but what is important is that Russia should be uncertain about whether we would act alone. That presupposes in nuclear weapon matters the argument that uncertainty of reaction is a good thing. I put it seriously to the Secretary of State that nuclear weapons are the last area in which we need uncertainty on anyone's part as to what a reaction should be.
Moreover, if the uncertainty caused by a second decision centre is so good as a deterrent, why not have three, four or five such independent centres of deterrence? The Secretary of State fell back on a curious historical argument. He said that we have always had the deterrent, so other countries will not therefore go by our precedent. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman's logic is driving him inexorably to argue for nuclear proliferation. This country has, rightly in my view, worked long and hard to try to prevent such proliferation from happening, and to go back on that would be criminal. The capacity which we would get for that independent response would be the capacity to inflict considerable damage but at the cost of the complete destruction of this country. I repeat that it is not a situation for independent action in which I find any credibility.
The Secretary of State has said on other occasions that our deterrent is not really independent but is a contribution to the Alliance. But in that case it is designated by the Alliance and is not independent at all, and, as he has conceded this afternoon, its addition to the Alliance's deterrent is minimal.
The Government say that our allies approved of the Trident decision. I very much doubt, if the allies were faced with the knowledge of what might have to be sacrificed to make way for the Trident programme, whether they would have given it wholehearted support. For example, I wonder whether they would have done so 151 if they had known that some other part of our effort and our capability would have to be surrendered which would be very much harder to produce or replace than the independent deterrent.
To sum up, therefore—at a time when our whole economy is under great stress—
§ Mr. John
I gave way a few moments ago to the hon. Gentleman, who apparently then wished to pass. I am content that he should remain in dummy for the rest of the debate.
At a time when our whole economy is under great stress and when many other services are being axed, it is proposed to spend a great deal of money on a project which adds little to deterrence, and in order to afford it one would have to distort the whole of the rest of our defence effort. The country cannot afford it. It is advocated on wholly unproven grounds, and we in the Labour Party—[HON. MEMBERS:"Which Labour Party?"]—we in the Labour Party will not rest until this piece of nuclear nonsense is cancelled.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) has repudiated 40 years of a very fine record which the Labour Party has had in this field. Mr. Attlee was Deputy Prime Minister when we were co-inventors with the Americans in the Tube Alloys project of the design, development and deployment of the nuclear weapon. As Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition Government, Mr. Attlee gave his agreement to the use of that weapon against Japan. After the McMahon Act, it was Mr. Attlee, at a time when we had clothes rationing and food rationing in this country, who embarked on the development of a purely British deterrent, when the McMahon Act would have stopped us from so doing.
Lord Mountbatten has been often quoted by the Opposition in these matters. I asked him once what was his greatest achievement as Chief of the Defence Staff. He told me that it was convincing the right hon. Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) of the need for a British nuclear deterrent, and an independent one.
It was the last Labour Prime Minister who presided over the Chevaline development. The speech of the hon. Member for Pontypridd is a repudiation of a fine patriotic record by the Labour Party up to now. If I may say so, it justifies the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) in saying that it is not he who has changed but the official Labour Party.
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
How can the right hon. Gentleman justify his statement when all of us on the Opposition Benches—including the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)—are united in opposition to the Trident programme?
§ Mr. Amery
I was only saying what successive Labour leaders, Deputy Prime Ministers in the coalition Government and later Prime Ministers, have done. The record is clear. The speech of the hon. Member for Pontypridd is a repudiation of what I regard as an honourable record and something on which all of us to a great extent can agree.
152 There are few here who would not agree that the American deterrent has been decisive in maintaining peace since 1945. I have personal experience of three Defence Departments and at the Foreign Office, and I believe that the British deterrent has given us an influence that we should not otherwise have had in our relations with the United States, with other powers inside NATO, and at disarmament talks. The investment that has been made by the French and the Chinese in this type of weapon system underlines its military significance. If they think that it has strategic importance, we should surely be unwise not to pay some attention to their view. I am afraid that in time others will develop such weapons.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about proliferation. It will happen whether we like it or not. After 40 years of investing British brains and money in this vital, perhaps crucial, weapon system, we should be taking on a heavy responsibility if we contracted out of it.
There are differences of opinion—and they are honourable ones—about which system we should have, but if we are to continue in this field we must have a sound delivery system. The V-bombers, for which I was responsible during my time in the Air Ministry, are virtually obsolete. In due course, Polaris, too, will be obsolete. If we had ahead of us a golden age of disarmament and peace, we should not need to think about a replacement for Polaris. I was Minister of Aviation at the time of the Nassau agreement, and I was very concerned about whether we should try to develop an entirely independent British system. We decided against that and to go in with the United States, and there was good reason for that. But, having taken that decision, we should be foolish not to keep in step with the United States in the process of modernisation.
We should never underestimate the importance that the United States Administration and Congress attach to nuclear matters. They devote more time to them than to perhaps any other aspect of foreign and defence policy. If we are to have a voice in their counsels on defence—this subject came up in the exchanges in the House yesterday—we need to be their partners.
What is the philosophy behind an independent British deterrent, apart from the historic justification? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a powerful case for the importance of there being a second centre of decision. The hon. Gentleman asked"Should we not trust the Americans?" I call to his attention the conversation that took place between President Kennedy and Mr. Harold Macmillan at Nassau, when President Kennedy said in effect to Mr. Macmillan"But don't you trust me to protect you?", and Mr. Macmillan replied"I trust you absolutely. I would not have trusted President Harding out of my sight with my pocket book." Who can tell what future Administrations will emerge?
There are now four centres of decision, not two, outside the Soviet Union—the Americans, the British, the Chinese and the French. That development naturally increases the risks, but it also imposes greater caution on the part of the potential aggressor. I am very much against proliferation, but if a responsible country such as Switzerland or Sweden had its own nuclear weapon, I believe that its neutrality would be a great deal surer than it is today.
There is one special argument why Britain should make sure of her own nuclear shield. There was a debate last week in another place which pointed out strongly the 153 vulnerability of this country to Soviet airborne attack, cutting out the staging point between the United States and the Continental countries of NATO.
Sir Neil Cameron said in a lecture that he gave a little under a year ago—and others have warned since—that there is a real danger now that the Soviets have developed a capability not just to attack in central Europe but to launch an airborne invasion of this country outflanking central Europe. They have 50,000 airborne troops, with the necessary armour and artillery, and 1,000 transport aircraft to carry them, together with the necessary fighter aircraft cover. They have experimented in flights between the Soviet Union and Aden and East Africa, demonstrating their ability to deploy such forces. Could we contain them today with the garrison that we have here? Moreover, those Soviet forces will increase.
For 1,000 years this island has been free from successful naval or air invasion. Today the only sure barrier that we have is to convince any aggressor that an attempt to invade and occupy this island would meet a devastating response, far outweighing any possible gain to the aggressor.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously saying that he believes there is a likelihood that the Soviet Union will attack this country with airborne divisions of the kind he described? Is that one of the contingencies against which we have to defend and for which we must have the Trident missile system?
§ Mr. Amery
Yes, I was saying just that. Moreover, it is not just my opinion. Many serious students of strategy have debated the matter during the past few months. That is why I put the matter to the House. Certainly it may be new to the hon. Gentleman and to others, but the matter is very much under discussion today.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Is not the latest Soviet threat that the right hon. Gentleman has just described an argument not so much for a Polaris replacement as for a modernisation of our air defence system? Indeed, that argument was advanced in the debate in the other place to which he referred. The view that was taken by more than one contributor to that debate, and elsewhere, is that the failure of the Government to modernise our air defence system and their decision to stand down the third Lightning squadron are parts of that opportunity cost of the Trident system to which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) referred.
§ Mr. Amery
I do not know how far our different resources could produce or maintain a home garrison that could meet whatever the Soviet airborne capability is likely to be in the decade that we are considering. All I am saying is that, if we have an effective independent deterrent, we can be sure that we shall never be invaded.
We are talking about a system that will come into service in the 1990s. Lord Carver said that he did not envisage any circumstances in which we could need it. However, the older I get the more struck I am by how little statesmen—and even field marshals—seem to look beyond their own lives, which are necessarily finite.
Who can say what the situation will be like at the end of this century? General de Gaulle once said that the trouble about treaties was that they faded, like flowers. Is it inconceivable that the Americans will go into isolation, that some of our Continental allies will go neutralist, that 154 Germany will be reunited? All these things are possible. I am hoping that none of them will happen, but they could. Britain will not be a major conventional military power in the foreseeable future, but nuclear power is a great leveller, not only of cities but of aggressive pretentions.
In allocating the resources for long-term defence, we must always give the highest priority to the strategic nuclear umbrella. It is an area in which we can claim equality. It is not over-costly. If ever we had to use military power again on our own, we could not do so without confidence that we had a strategic nuclear strike ourselves.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has dealt adequately with the alternative options to Trident, but the argument that weighs most with me is quite a simple one. If those lynx-eyed boys in the Treasury accepted that this was the most cost-effective system, who are we to disagree?
The French have three systems—land, sea and air—and the French are not much richer than we are. If we are to have only one system, it has to be seaborne. I thought that my right hon. Friend made a convincing case that there is no other system which could be more cost-effective. None of those systems, of course, can be completely invulnerable, but there is an awful lot of sea on the map, and underwater detection is not yet very far advanced.
I end with the question of cost. It is marginal in terms of the gross budget, though significant in terms of the equipment budget; but I am not sure what greater security we would buy for ourselves as a nation, or in our contribution to the Alliance, by slightly beefing up other elements of our defence. In any case, one cannot measure—and here I address myself to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—what we spend on defence by the same yardstick as what we spend on our domestic need. What we spend on health and education and on encouraging industry must be measured against our resources. What we spend on our defence must be measured against the threat.
§ Mr. Amery
If the hon. Gentleman had either been in the House or had read the Official Report, he would know that I was not accepting that that may happen. Indeed, what I am saying now is an implied criticism of that decision, because it is the consensus of defence experts on both sides of the Atlantic that we are entering on the most difficult and dangerous decade since the war. Even if we were to re-establish a balance of power in these years, the situation will remain very precarious until either disarmament is agreed or the threat of Soviet imperialism fades out.
If, in the event, we should enter a period of peace and prosperity and the Trident expenditure were to prove superfluous, we could but smile on the money wasted. But if we were faced with a challenge which only Trident could deter and we had refused the opportunity to build it, we could never forgive ourselves, or be forgiven.
§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The strength of the emotions which surround this subject makes it both 155 difficult and specially desirable to try to find some starting point from which a rational argument can be conducted. I personally find it useful to go back to the beginning of this argument; indeed, to the only occasion in experience when an atomic or nuclear weapon has been used.
It is as near certain as anything can be that if in 1945 Japan had possessed an atomic weapon and the means of delivering it, we would not have destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that we would have undertaken the necessary alternative ways of bringing Japan to surrender. It is fairly convincing to argue, but a good deal less absolutely so, that if known allies of Japan at the time who were still in the field had possessed a nuclear weapon, the same consequence would have followed, that Japan would not have been faced with the alternative of surrender—actually, she was not; it was the necessity of surrender—by that horrendous event.
It is the uncertainty of the link between those two propositions which lies behind the argument for the British independent nuclear deterrent—the doubt whether the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands even of an ally is sufficient guarantee against the exercise of the blackmail of an enemy who says"Do this or else". In that form, thus simplified, the argument appears easy enough, but I find great defects in it as it is examined.
The first difficulty is that, if that argument is valid, it does not apply only to this country. If that argument is valid, then, with the possible exception of France and China, all other nations concerned, apart from the two giants, are at the mercy of the same nuclear blackmail. That already casts considerable doubt and difficulty upon the initial deduction, since not merely has non-proliferation been sought after and hitherto achieved, but there has not been that desperate determination upon the part of other great nations round the world, for the sake of escaping the threat of blackmail, to supply themselves with the argued answer to it.
But I find even more difficulty than that in drawing a deduction to present circumstances from the simple equation of 1945. If the question were asked"Supposing the world of 1945 had been the world of today, when four, five, six nations have an immense nuclear establishment and capability, would then the attack have been launched upon Japan to bring the war to a certain and speedy end?" I would find the answer to it very doubtful indeed. The history of the last 30 years and the behaviour of nations in the supposed circumstances cast great doubt upon the validity of the deduction.
We were told only yesterday afternoon by the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister about the Soviet Union's campaign of expansion, about the alleged inexorable determination of the Soviet Union to advance in power and territorial command. That advance confronts nations which have no nuclear capability whatever. Does anyone really suppose that if a nuclear threat were addressed by Russia, say, to Iran, to Iraq or to Turkey, the result would be that a nuclear response would be unleashed on any other quarter?
If blackmail is so easy between a nuclear Power and a non-nuclear Power, it is remarkable indeed that in the world of the last 30 years we have not seen that blackmail exerted. The United States suffered a historic defeat and reverse in South-East Asia. The temptation upon it to use nuclear blackmail must have been immensely strong, if it 156 has strength at all; for whatever view may be taken of the Soviet Union, it must be regarded as remotely unlikely that the delivery of a nuclear ultimatum to Hanoi would have evoked a direct, suicidal response from the Soviet Union. Yet the United States fought that war year after year to its own humiliating defeat.
I shall not cite minor examples, such as Afghanistan, which may be regarded as so minor that the question whether nuclear blackmail should be employed would be regarded as irrelevant; but in the world as it is, with the nuclear forces that exist, the proposition that nations which do not have that weapon in their possession are faced with the blackmail choice between surrender and annihilation does not correspond with probability or experience.
The argument thus ceases to be one of absolutes and becomes one of relativities. If that is so—in a moment I shall show that it is so for the Secretary of State for Defence—then this is not an argument in which one side of the House or one section of the House can say to another that, if it takes a different view on that question, it is not interested in the defence of our country. That is a retort and a taunt which, in that connection, cannot be used, for we are dealing not with absolutes but with relative choices.
The Secretary of State made that perfectly clear. He said that we were"keeping in the strategic nuclear business". I not only agree with that formulation but, speaking for myself, and given the dimensions involved, I regard it as adequate justification for the proposition that the Government have put before the House tonight; for we cannot isolate the use and possession of a nuclear weapon from everything else in the technology of war. It has its ramifications throughout military preparations. All the remainder of the military preparations of a nation, especially a maritime nation such as we are, is weakened if, supposing it to be rationally practicable, we do not"keep in the strategic nuclear business".
But the right hon. Gentleman's argument that it was not only desirable but practicable to do so rested upon percentages, however those percentages might be queried, as they were for the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John). He said that it was 3 per cent. to 5 per cent. of the defence budget year in, year out. Yet if we were to double it, still one could say that, if this is a technology of immense importance, there are rational grounds for attempting to find within our means the opportunity to"keep in the strategic nuclear business".
So the right hon. Gentleman has abandoned the absolute. What he says bears no relationship to the argument at the outset of his speech. If he argues in terms of 5 per cent. or 7 per cent., he can no longer say that this is life or death, that this and only this stands between us and surrender or destruction. If that were so, the notion of minimal percentages would be out of the window. We should all be saying—and he would be the first to say—that whatever it may cost, if it be 50 per cent. of the defence budget, that is what we must have. So those are relativities and not absolutes that we are debating.
Meanwhile, there is another dimension altogether. This is not wholly a nuclear or a military debate; it is also a political debate. It is a debate about the foreign policy of this country and about the position of this country in the world.
The title of the motion on the Order Paper uses the word"independent".
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Nantwich)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the military aspect and moves to foreign policy, I wonder whether he would answer my question. Does he agree that in the examples that he has given, leaving aside nuclear blackmail, one comes back to the position of a balance of conventional power? In the example that he has given in the balance of conventional power the side which has been strongest has won. If one relates that to this country and our independent nuclear deterrent, whatever we spent on conventional forces we would never be able to put ourselves in such a position as to be able to stand up against a Russian attack in Europe. The advantage of an independent nuclear deterrent is that it gives us an additional strength which we could never achieve by conventional means.
§ Mr. Powell
I do not know whether the hon. Member is conscious of it, but he entered into a wide field and deep water when he left behind the basis on which the Government rest their case—defence against blackmail. For the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) we are now to be fighting a nuclear war, or using the threat of nuclear war, as a substitute for what he calls conventional defence and protection. However, there is some relationship between that sphere, into which I decline to be further tempted by the hon. Member, and the aspects to which I was about to turn.
Although we speak about this as being an"independent" nuclear deterrent, it was noticeable that in the motion the Government did not include that adjective, and indeed it is doubtful to what extent that adjective is valid. The right hon. Gentleman referred to our nuclear weapon as our '"contribution" to the nuclear capability of NATO. When one considers the remainder of the nuclear capability of NATO—remembering that the French force de frappe and the rest have nothing to do with NATO—one discovers that it consists of us and the United States. In reality, ours is a minimal addition—an appendix as it were—to the huge nuclear armament of the United States.
Why is it, then, that the United States is so friendly and benevolent towards this relatively small addition—infinitesimal in quantitative terms—to their nuclear armament? It is because thereby the United States binds us, and we are bound, to its strategy, to its view of the world and to its concept of the politics of the world as a whole.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The right hon. Gentleman is learning a lesson and, I hope teaching it to Members on the Government Benches.
§ Mr. Powell
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. Learning and teaching have been the business of the lives of many of us; but this is not a doctrine that I have learnt recently, though I have pondered it for many years.
As we listened yesterday to the Prime Minister, fresh from her contact with the minds and thoughts of the American Government, we heard the authentic terminology of the American view of the world. It is, in the strictest terms, Manichaean. It divides the world into two monoliths—the goodies and the baddies, the East and the West, even the free and the enslaved. It is a nightmarish distortion of reality. Indeed, to call it a distortion is too complimentary to it. It is a view of the world which this country cannot possibly share, or can share only at its own greatest peril.
158 For the last 30 or 35 years, consciously or not, Britain has been seeking a substitute, something to replace what it imagined that it had lost, looking in one direction and another for a surrogate for empire, for the means to believe that we are still strong and great as we used to tell ourselves in those years that we were.
All this time we have been looking in the wrong direction. We have been telling ourselves"Oh, if only we could get in with a really big show, then we would have influence, power and a big voice in the world. Let us find the big boys and get in with them." We looked not merely for alliances—alliances have always necessarily been the environment of this country—but for blocs, for the formal and final embodiment of this country in a great bloc of power. The development, which we see going on all too fast, of the European Economic Community into a foreign Power in its own right, evolving foreign policies and attempting to act like an empire in the politics of the world, is one manifestation of that. It was the wrong direction.
I believe that this country is inherently immensely strong. What we are and where we are make us in any case a formidable Power in the world and, above all, a formidable defensive Power. As the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) reminded the House, so far, through all the vicissitudes, through all the changes of armament and technology, we have that which is true of few other nations: we have proved invincible.
That power can exist, however, and be realised only at the price that it is accompanied by independence. Once we attach ourselves to the philosophy, to the outlook and to the purposes of other nations differently situated and differently constituted, we forfeit that importance, that greatness which is not boastful but rightly ours and which we still have.
The debate will not end with the vote that comes at Ten o'clock. It is a long debate which will go on. I believe that in the course of that debate we shall not be debating technology or even military strategy. The debate will be part of an attempt by this nation to rediscover its true self.
§ Sir John Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)
Towards the end of the last Parliament the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee made a report to the House entitled"The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Weapons Policy". The last paragraph of that report stated:Your Committee had hoped to resolve the question as to when the decision whether to acquire a successor to Polaris has to be made, and to consider the options available to the Government. They were, however, unable to complete their investigations. Instead, Your Committee have laid before the House the evidence taken during the inquiry in the hope that it will be of use both to Members and the public, and be available for consideration by a committee of a new Parliament.The Select Committee on Defence has not yet finished its inquiry into the nuclear deterrent. That is due to several factors. The first is that the Select Committee was not set up until this Parliament had been in existence for six months. Perhaps nothing was happening on the Committee front, but things were happening in the Ministry of Defence. Decisions were being taken. Decisions had to be taken.
There were unavoidable delays in the Committee's visit to the United States and there was a change of Secretary of State. It would have been unrealistic for the Committee 159 to report before it had been to the United States. Only there could we talk to people involved in the development and operation of Trident.
The Committee made it clear in a special report to the House that it would have liked the opportunity to make a full and final report on the subject to the House. The Committee took a large amount of evidence and it was given a number of written memoranda from various sources. That amounted to about 13 publications of which 12 were of oral evidence and one of written evidence. Both the House and the Select Committee have been able to consult the report given to the House in the last Parliament.
I shall outline the evidence taken by the Committee. The conclusions drawn from it must be left to the House. The Committee will give its conclusions in its final report in about two months.
First, we were told that the present Polaris system cannot go on indefinitely. The life of the submarines at present in service cannot be extended much beyond the mid-1990s. Even if that were not a limiting factor, many items of equipment and replacement equipment will be needed before then. The replacements could be unreasonably expensive—the Secretary of State called it"hazardous"—in that they would have to be replaced by new designs and technology. The cost-effectiveness of the Polaris boats would be on a falling graph which would fall faster and more steeply as time went on.
If we are to maintain a nuclear deterrent, evidence shows that Polaris will have to be replaced by a modern system of some sort and be ready for service by the 1990s. British Shipbuilders, Rolls-Royce and the Ministry of Defence agree that, if a change is to be made to a new submarine-launched ballistic missile system, a decision and a start will have to be made very soon.
If the submarine system is ruled out on the ground of expense, the ground-launched alternative, although cheaper, will take about 12 years to come into service if it is manufactured in Britain. Therefore, in both cases an early decision is necessary.
We sought evidence on all the realistic suggestions, but the choice is limited by two considerations. First, the system must be as invulnerable as possible. The Secretary of State drew attention to that. It must be invulnerable if it is to be credible and perform its deterrent duty. In that particular an undersea-launched ballistic weapon is obviously better.
The second consideration is that of cost. If the inroads made by Trident—the more expensive choice—into the overall defence budget were considered unacceptable, the Government would be right to consider a cheaper, though perhaps less effective, alternative. The cheapness would be in the launching platform rather than in the missile itself. By their very nature, land-based launching platforms are more vulnerable and could perhaps invite a pre-emptive strike on the area wherever they are sited.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
If the hon. Gentleman accepts the argument that land-based sites are more vulnerable and could invite attack, does he include in that category cruise missile sites?
§ Sir John Langford-Holt
I shall come to that. I am not trying to develop an argument; I am merely summarising the evidence that was placed before the Committee. Ground-launched cruise missiles similar to those which the 160 Americans are due to site in Britain after 1983 might offer a nuclear deterrent at a much cheaper cost. On the other side of the coin, if we were to go to the land-based missile rather than the submarine-based missile, our shipbuilding capacity would suffer and in some instances disappear for ever.
The Government's motion is in two distinct parts. First, it endorses the decision to maintain a strategic nuclear deterrent. Secondly, it approves the choice of the Trident missile system. The Select Committee has chosen deliberately to avoid the question whether we should have an independent nuclear deterrent. In the Select Committee's view, that is so fundamentally a political issue that it was not suited for inquiry by the Committee.
During our inquiry the former Secretary of State, who is now the Leader of the House, announced the Government's decision to buy the Trident system on similar and, we hope, as favourable terms as those on which Polaris was bought nearly 20 years ago. We took much evidence on the implications of the decision as well as on the results that might flow from it. Whether one supports the sea-based or the land-based weapon, it is fan-to say that the evidence that we heard included no one who cast serious doubts on Trident's ability to do the job hitherto done by Polaris.
The system fulfils the criteria. It is the least vulnerable of the two systems. It offers the best target coverage and is a proven and tested weapon. British Shipbuilders and Rolls-Royce are certain that they can build the boats necessary to carry it.
There are three subsidiary and perhaps lesser questions to which we must have an answer. When the larger Trident boats are built at Barrow-in-Furness, we should know whether the Government will support British Shipbuilders in building nuclear-propelled fleet submarines at Cammell Laird at Birkenhead. The Committee felt that without the prospect of these contracts the future of Cammell Laird would be quite bleak and the planned expansion of the SSN force would not continue.
Secondly, we must ask whether the Ministry will make an early decision on the size of the Trident hulls so as to permit a smooth building programme. If the decision is long delayed, there will be many hiccups in the course of building the boats.
Thirdly, we must know whether the Government will support the rebuilding programmes at Barrow and Rosyth, which are necessary without Trident. Will they do that within the Trident programme?
The most important consideration is the effect of Trident on the rest of the defence expenditure. Will something have to go and, if so, what? The evidence suggests that Trident costs can, with the usual qualifications, be estimated with some accuracy. The Polaris concept was not dissimilar. It was finally procured in real terms for slightly less than the original estimate.
The Trident estimate may prove, as a percentage, to be more accurate than a normal defence weapon system percentage. However, the addition of £5,000 million to the defence bill, even if spread over some years, is bound to present the Government with major problems of adjustment. These could become most critical when the spending on Trident peaks in the late 1980s, at a time when the Ministry says that it expects overall expenditure to be increasing at an annual rate of 1 per cent.
The Ministry of Defence has accepted that there is an opportunity cost in buying Trident. Some equipment 161 which might have been bought may have to go and some other defence roles may have to be reviewed. We have not yet been given any evidence on opportunity costs. Without that information we do not have a full picture against which to judge the Government's decision. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will shortly be giving evidence to the Select Committee. He is giving evidence to the Committee after the debate because of the request that I transmitted to him. I said that that should be the order of events.
The Government have linked the announcement of the Trident missile purchase with the sale of Rapier air defence missiles to the United States. The chairman of the British Aerospace dynamics group has referred to the Government's description of the deal as an"offset" as"the greatest load of codswallop I have heard in a long time". Although I do not fully agree with that description and view, we have in Trident made a major defence equipment purchase from the United States with little or no reciprocal sales. The process that has become known as the two-way street seems to be far more like a one-way street. The traffic appears to be going very nearly all in one direction. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister say yesterday that the issue had been raised with the President of the United States. I hope that it will be raised again and again. When the Committee goes to the United States, it will certainly take the opportunity to raise it. It is vital in the long-term interests of our two nations.
I commend the evidence that the Committee has garnered for the House. I hope that hon. Members will study our evidence and the evidence of the Sub-Committee which studied the matter previously. I hope that we shall then be able to have a more informed debate on this extremely wide subject than we have ever been able to have before.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The weakest point in the Secretary of State's speech was his failure to put more than a little emphasis on the need for the international limitation of arms and especially agreements on that between the Soviet Union and the United States. Throughout this controversy the first priority for any British Government or British Parliament must surely be the maximum effort to induce the Soviet Union and the United States to reach a new agreement both on strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. That means a fully ratified and possibly re-negotiated SALT II and a balanced agreement on the SS20s on one side and cruise missiles on the other. I hope that that is an objective that every hon. Member and everyone throughout Britain can unite in supporting. It is the United States, and the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons and not the British nuclear armoury that matters to the world if a nuclear catastrophe is to be avoided.
Nor is the pursuit of real agreement on nuclear arms limitation a hopeless quest. Both super Powers have a self-interest in avoiding suicide. The Soviet Union has an additional self-interest in lightening the enormous economic burden on its people which must be inflicted by its present colossal arms programme. If there is one moral to be drawn from Henry Kissinger's fascinating memoirs, it is the persistence with which the Soviet leaders worked for both SALT I and SALT II. I suspect that that was partly because they were conscious of the enormous cost to them of a limitless arms race with the United States.
162 Already years of effort have been put into the achievement of SALT II. It was probable only the disastrous and tragic invasion of Afghanistan which prevented its being ratified last year. President Reagan now appears willing to try again. Although the Russians must be pressed to make a major concession on Afghanistan, it would probably be wise for us to let them save their face somehow in doing so.
What progress, therefore, did the Prime Minister make in Washington in urging President Reagan to re-start talks with the Soviet Union, both on SALT II and on the tactical nuclear weapons, on which one meeting has been held, but since when, apparently, nothing has happened? What are the Government doing to ensure some progress?
Whether or not, however, the super Powers negotiate—as I hope they will—this country must be defended. The greatest present threat to our defence effort, I believe, is the economic policy of the Government. By going far to dismantle the industries on which our future defence will depend, notably steel, shipbuilding and engineering, the Government are taking risks with that future. It is no good the Prime Minister addressing brave words to the Soviet Union and meanwhile weakening our long-term defence capacity.
If one lesson was learned in the last war on arms production, a lesson which is now apparently almost forgotten, it was that defence potential depends on industrial capacity. I believe that a wise Government in the present period of deflation or recession—whichever one prefers to call it—would at once preserve productive capacity in shipbuilding, for example, and strengthen our defences by using, instead of ignoring, the resources that we already have. With huge productive capacity unused as now, there is no economic cost to the nation in using those resources. That applies equally to houses, schools and power stations as it does to ships and tanks. With our present economic policy, I believe, the Trident programme cannot be afforded, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) said. But if the economy were being properly run and if capacity were being as fully employed as it was in the 25 years up to 1970, that programme could probably be afforded.
However, if the resources were available, would we be wise to expend a material part of them on nuclear weapons? The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that that was the rational question on which we wanted rational debate. Anyone who asks himself that question must honestly admit that the potential threat to this country in defence terms is far greater than most of the British public have realised. Not merely has the Soviet Union a. crushing nuclear armament but it now has, to mention only one other factor, a submarine fleet which is many times larger than that of Germany at the start of either of the two great wars.
I noted what the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said about this country remaining unscathed for many centuries. But now, for the first time in modern history, this country cannot be sure of defending itself alone without allies. That is the hard truth, whether we like it or not.
Some may reasonably ask what evidence there is that the Soviet Union has any aggressive intentions. Throughout this debate, we are of course dealing with probabilities and not certainties. I would not call the Soviet Union an aggressive nation, but it is an expansionist nation. The theological doctrine on which the Soviet 163 people are brought up—that history is on their side—encourages that expansionism. Therefore, we cannot safely base our defence policy on the assumption that the Soviet Union will never attack a country that is too weak to resist. I go no further than that.
But if that is true, as long as the Soviet Union has its present nuclear armoury, certain hard conclusions follow. Either one is willing to leave this country defenceless—I assume that no one in the House would propose that—or one is relying for deterrence and defence in the last resort on NATO and the nuclear capacity of the United States. That conclusion indubitably follows.
If one is relying on the Alliance, one then cannot advocate on moral grounds that this country should give up its nuclear arms. One cannot with any moral consistency tell the United States that the use of nuclear weapons is being abandoned by us because they are immoral, too dangerous or too expensive, but that the United States is being relied upon to be ready to use those weapons on behalf of this country. I am not suggesting that anyone has said that, but one cannot advance it as a moral proposition. That was what Nye Bevan meant in 1957 by not goingnaked into the council chamber.He meant by this, not that he was not prepared to deprive this country of nuclear weapons, but that he was not prepared to deprive us of allies who would be nuclear-armed as long as the Soviet Union was. He thought that we could not abandon nuclear arms on moral grounds if we proposed to remain members of the Alliance at the same time.
For those reasons, if talks with the Soviet Union on the cruise missiles and SS20s do not succeed—I hope that they will succeed—we cannot tell the United States that we are relying on its nuclear strength in the last resort to deter any threat to this country but that we will not supply it with facilities to make those weapons effective. To say that would be neither good morals nor good politics. But in taking decisions on nuclear missiles and the SS20s there is no need for hurry, because it will in any case be some time before those prospective talks get under way.
If the objection to British possession of nuclear weapons is not a moral one, and if it were the strategic view of the British and United States Governments and defence chiefs that it would be better NATO strategy to concentrate all nuclear weapons, except presumably French weapons, in United States hands, the argument would be entirely different. There would be no objection to doing that, provided that we had absolute faith in not merely the present Government but future Governments of the United States. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Down, South, at this point. I would at least rather be dependent for our defence on the United States than on most other governments in this imperfect world.
However, if I am asked to make this country not merely largely dependent but wholly dependent on the United States, I cannot ignore two facts. First, there are many in the United States, even today, who understandably ask why they should take all the risks for the sake of Western Europe. Anyone who doubts that should read Henry Kissinger's memoirs. Secondly, I cannot foresee what sort of Government the United States will have 25 or 30 years 164 hence. Because I cannot foresee that, and because perhaps I am by nature a sceptic and pessimist, I am not prepared to inflict that risk on this country.
So for goodness sake let us concentrate all our energies on achieving agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union on SALT II and similar agreed control of theatre nuclear weapons. I hope that that will be coupled with an agreement with the Soviet Union leading to a withdrawal from Afghanistan, which the United States can reasonably expect. However, until at least that has been achieved, I would not support any further weakening of our defences. For that reason, I cannot vote against this motion tonight, though I do not believe that the Trident programme can actually be carried out until we return to sane economic policies.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
The concluding remarks of the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) save me from having to make critical comments about the earlier part of his speech. After a rather convoluted series of statements, he declared his intention, and I thank him for that.
No hon. Member would oppose the right hon. Gentleman's plea for disarmament, but I hope that those in the Kremlin will listen to him as attentively as we did, because those gentlemen are putting SS20s into Europe week after week and month after month while we have not even got round to discussing when our new TNF weapons that can reach the Soviet homeland should be put in position. One hopes that somewhere there are Russians who will be impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's arguments, because the issue is in their hands alone.
I am delighted that the debate is taking place. I can say unashamedly that I pressed the former Secretary of State for Defence as hard as any Back Bencher could to hold the debate many months ago, even in July of last year, because once the Government had made their intentions known and taken a decision, nothing was to be gained by not seeking and obtaining parliamentary ratification of that decision. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the decision has been taken, and I assume that Parliament will ratify it tonight.
I have regretted the months that have been allowed to go by, because those who wish, politically speaking, to sabotage the Government's defence policies have had a field day. Ex-Ministers, ex-Shadow Ministers, former generals and field marshals, commentators and experts have had a wonderful time at one conference after another explaining the various possibilities that could be undertaken as alternatives to the Government's proposals. I hope that after tonight the media will pay less attention to the views of those who do not have the responsibility of carrying out a policy that Parliament will have ratified. I shall be pleased to be able to watch BBC and ITV without seeing experts arguing for the adoption of one weapon against another and whether we can wait to modernise weapons or should act immediately.
§ Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)
Does the hon. Gentleman include the Select Committee among those whom he wants to shut up?
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
The Chairman of the Select Committee has already said that we have taken evidence on various aspects of the Government's decision. We were 165 able to do that because Parliament had not ratified the decision. After tonight, a different situation will arise, but it will be for the Select Committee, of which I am only one member, to decide what action to take.
§ Mr. John
The hon Gentleman's remarks reinforce my argument that it was a curious decision of the Select Committee to interview the Secretary of State for Defence on the day after the decision was taken when, according to the hon. Gentleman, no more controversy or questioning should be permissible.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
I accept many responsibilities, but I will not usurp the position of the Chairman of the Select Committee, who invited the Secretary of State to come to the Committee after the debate rather than before it. The Chairman has given his reasons for that decision and the hon. Member for Pontypridd, (Mr. John) and I must share the conjecture over whether that decision is curious. I loyally uphold it.
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not give way again. It is not that I do not like giving way, but I do not want to take up the time of other speakers. The past few months have shown that there is a wide variety of sorts of opposition to the Government's policy. I shall deal with them briefly.
The first can be dismissed as the orthodox Soviet and Soviet lobbies' opposition. They receive and carry out their orders and bitterly oppose any rearmament by this country, whether with air pistols, nuclear weapons or anything else. We can always rely on them. Secondly, we have what I call the fellow traveller lobby, which follows not precisely the Soviet line but adopts the argument that it is immoral to spend such sums on armaments of any sort, but particularly nuclear armaments, when there are so many social needs to be met. We know all about that argument.
The third group are the genuine pacifists. One meets them more often on the Continent than here. They argue that it is"better to be Red than dead". They say"We do not want to be under Russian rule, but that would be better than building wicked nuclear weapons for killing people". One cannot do anything about those lobbies, because, for reasons best known to themselves, they are set on the policies and aims that they pronounce.
There is then the fourth lobby of what I would call the alternative strategists. They have been in the other House, they have been in the media, they have been everywhere saying either that we need new weapons quickly, or that we can keep the old ones longer, or that in the event they would rather have a different kind and so on. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt), who spoke as Chairman of the Select Committee, will agree that any hon. Member reading the evidence that we received—not just from the Ministry of Defence, but from everyone—would have to agree that the evidence comes down conclusively in favour of the view that, if we are to have a new generation of nuclear weapons, it should be the Trident. To my mind, the evidence on that is overwhelming. We shall see tonight whether the House agrees that that evidence is overwhelming, as I believe will prove to be the case.
I thought that the most effective part of the Secretary of State's introductory speech was when he pointed out the advantages, apart from whether the Trident was a good weapon for what we are really trying to do. We are not 166 seeking simply to provide our general armoury with yet another weapon. It is primarily a deterrent, so that from the Soviet point of view an attack on this country would be unduly expensive in terms of the damage with which we could reciprocate. With great respect, therefore, talk of mutual suicide is nonsense. The whole aim of these weapons is that they will not be used, so that situation will not arise.
As regards centres of decision being increased, I think that this was the most valid point that the Secretary of State made. I can certainly envisage circumstances, however far ahead, in perhaps 10 or 15 years, in which the fate of Britain might have to be left in British hands. I therefore wish potential or actual enemies to conclude that perhaps after all they had better not take a risk that they could otherwise avoid.
I turn to the criticisms that have been made with regard to other countries in Europe wanting the same. The Western European Union, of which I am a member, had a committee on this very matter consisting of Members of Parliament of all political parties from the seven nations of Western Europe. A resolution was passed in that committee on which even the Italian Communists voted with us—and that, for me, is a rare instance—to the effect that for their own security they would prefer the United Kingdom to maintain an ultimate deterrent separate from that of the United States. In those circumstances, therefore, far from wanting a nuclear capacity of their own—I refer not to France, which already has one, but to the others—those countries voted heavily to the effect that they believed that their security would be increased as a result of our keeping our own deterrent. That only goes to support what the Secretary of State has said.
I make two final points. First, the Secretary of State was careful today to miss out the figures for the number of Tridents. I shall be less discreet. I shall say bluntly that I want five, not four. I want them, not through any belief that it will necessarily make the Kremlin shiver in its shoes at the thought that Britain has a fifth submarine, but for the good and valid reason that, due to the re-fit programme, only with five submarines can we be sure of having two at sea at any one time. If we are to spend £5,000 million or £6,000 million, it is not worth spending all that money and then putting ourselves in a position in which one single accident or unlikely incident will remove altogether the deterrent effect at any given time. That would be extremely unlikely to happen if there were two at sea, but it could happen if there were only one.
For that reason, I hope that the Secretary of State in his concluding remarks will say something about that. Whereas I support the programme 100 per cent., I can think of nothing worse than putting ourselves in the position in which, in the ultimate event, all that money would prove to be wasted because at the most critical moment we did not have the deterrent, which is the sole reason why we support this aim.
Secondly, and lastly, I hope that what has been said today, even if the Secretary of State does not feel able to comment on it in his reply, will not remove the chances of reconsidering whether we develop for our own forces an additional weapon in the Alliance—or, if necessary, outside it—namely, the neutron shell. If we are to ask British soldiers to be along the Iron Curtain and to face armoured superiority of 3½:1 or 4:1, we have no right to ask them to do so with inferior weapons. I certainly would not wish to take that responsibility. I regard the neutron 167 shell as the most defensive weapon yet developed. Unless they plan to cross the Iron Curtain, the Russians have no reason to fear it. It is a short-range shell most usefully fired out of a howitzer, although there are other ways, and it is solely for the purpose of defeating and countering massively superior armoured formations coming from the Soviet Union. If there are any who believe that we can do that by increasing our conventional weapons, with the talk about cost, or suggest that we could increase our tank armoured formations in the conventional sense in a way that would directly counter the Soviet Union, those people are talking complete nonsense, and they all know it.
I read with great interest an extract in which an American President said to a senator:The enhanced radiation weapons, then, would be designed to enhance deterrence, but if deterrence fails, to enhance NATO's capability to inflict significant military damage on the aggressor while minimising damage and casualties to individuals not in the immediate target area, including friendly troops and civilians".That sentence was written by President Carter in 1977 before he lost his nerve. Not even President Reagan or my own Prime Minister could have said it better.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am sure that he will forgive me if I do not welcome him as the new Social Democrat Member for Plymouth, Devonport.
§ Dr. Owen indicated assent.
§ Mr. Strang
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way just before launching on to his speech, as I believe that he is likely to make reference to the 1979 Labour Party manifesto.
§ Dr. Owen indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Strang
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the justification which he and his colleagues are advancing for not seeking a fresh mandate from the electorate is tenuous if not fraudulent—
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it really in order for the hon. Gentleman to intervene in a debate of this nature without a speech even having been started by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not know how many words the right hon. Gentleman had said. We have been having a very serious debate on defence. I think that the right hon. Gentleman must decide how long he can allow the intervention to go on.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman feels that he has given way for long enough.
§ Dr. Owen
I was saying, until I gave way to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), that the 168 defence of this country is a charge laid upon all Members of this House. A particular onerous charge is laid upon the political parties in the House. We are debating today an issue which has very important ramifications for the defence policy of this country, not just for the next decade but for the next two decades, and also for the foreign policy of this country.
I wish to say from the outset that I shall be voting againt the decision that the Government have asked us to endorse, namely, that in 1981 we should make a decision to go ahead with the Trident missile system. I say that as someone who studied this issue extremely carefully in 1978 and 1979. I came then, even against a much better economic climate, to the conclusion that this country was not able to afford the expenditure on the Trident missile system at that particular moment and, what is more, that it was premature to make such a decision on the Trident system.
I shall try to develop my argument in some detail later. I should like, first, to deal with the question raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—the question of absolutes and relativities.
I believe that the right hon. Member is right, in that the choice of whether to continue with a strategic nuclear weapons system is a matter of some relativity. What is, however, not a matter of relativities and what is an absolute choice is whether this country lives within the NATO Alliance and accepts the commitments of that Alliance. Those commitments are very clear: they are to detente, through multilateral disarmanent negotiations and arms control, and to deterrence, through conventional defence forces and nuclear defence forces.
That is the issue about which we now must ask anyone who speaks in this debate for the Labour Party. Are such Members endorsing a commitment to membership of NATO, which accepts nuclear deterrence? The reason why we must ask that is that the Labour Party outside the House is committed by resolutions to unilateral disarmament. Furthermore, in fairness to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), his amendment on the Order Paper is fully compatible with the conference decisions that have been taken. I never thought that I would live to see the day when what one might call the Tribunite motion would be the policy of the Labour Party.
What we have not heard and what we have the right to hear, and what the country at large has the right to hear, is whether the Parliamentary Labour Party accepts the decisions of that conference.
§ Dr. Owen
It has a lot to do with the people of this country. Will the Parliamentary Labour Party be defying that decision? In particular, are those who are voting against the Trident missile decision also voting against the Polaris weapon system? Are they saying that the Polaris patrols should cease, should the Labour Party ever form the Government again? Are they saying that a cruise missile decision has been taken now irrespective of what happens in any theatre nuclear negotiations—which it is hoped will ensure that it is not necessary to deploy cruise missiles in either this country or Europe because of a major decision by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries relating to their theatre nuclear weapons 169 systems, the SS20 and many other missile systems? That is the decision that needs to be told to the House from the Labour Front Bench.
Is Polaris to continue in 1984 if a Labour Government were to be returned to office, and in 1985, 1986 and 1987 Or is it a decision that the present Parliamentary Labour Party, were it to be elected and to form a Government, would endorse unilateral nuclear disarmament?
That is an absolute decision. All other issues are relative. It is those relativities that I now wish to discuss. Let it be very clear that a Social Democratic Government in 1984, were they to be elected, would carry on the Polaris weapon system, would put cruise missile systems into European theatre nuclear arms limitation negotiations, would commit themselves to strategic arms limitation talks, and would do their utmost to persuade the United States and the Soviet Union.
Here I believe that the Government have missed an opportunity—one of the many opportunities that they have missed. In standing four square for the defence of the country, as they are right to do, they have neglected over the last two years their other commitment, which is to stand four square for genuine disarmament and arms control.
In President Brezhnev's most recent speech, there are some aspects which deserve to be taken up—in particular, the statement about confidence-building measures being possibly extended into the Soviet Union, which could unlock the door to a European disarmament conference, a proposition which has been pushed for some time by the French Government. It also needs to be recognised that President Brezhnev has accepted the realities of life in the United States and that SALT will have to be reopened, and he is not sticking by the absolute letter of the treaty that had been negotiated by the previous American Administration. That is a hopeful sign. It is a sign that should have been seized on by the Prime Minister when she went to Washington, when she should have encouraged President Reagan to respond positively to the speech of President Brezhnev.
So it is in that wider context that I believe that the Government are seriously at fault. They have talked much about the need to protect against nuclear weapons but not enough about the need to negotiate a much lower balance of nuclear weapons. They have not given a sufficiently clear lead to the country that they do not believe in limited nuclear war, that they do not believe that one can have an exchange of nuclear weapons in the European theatre without it spreading forward into a much wider exchange. The Government need to be very much clearer that, even if they were to have to accept, as a result of failure in the negotiations over European theatre nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, mobile cruise missiles are not a first-strike weapon system, and that they must accept that they are a second-strike system. That needs to be made very clear.
I wish now, however, to deal with the more detailed questions about Trident and to say why I believe that this decision is premature. In his speech, the Secretary of State fairly said that one of the major issues to which he attached importance was that the Polaris vessels should be on continuous patrol. In fairness to the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett), he has argued for five new Trident missile submarines, and it is an undoubted fact that that is one of the easiest ways of ensuring that one has continuous patrols. I have never held the view that with Polaris, which is a contribution to the NATO Alliance and 170 to the NATO deterrence, it is vital for all weeks of the year for there to be a British Royal Navy Polaris submarine submerged beneath the waters.
The fact is that it is a contribution to the NATO Alliance. I believe that it is a marginal but, nevertheless, an important contribution to the NATO Alliance. I believe that that Alliance is strengthened by the fact that no single nation within the Alliance makes the sole contribution to nuclear deterrence. It is a strength that there is another European country contributing to it, and I believe that it is seen as so by other European allies and by the United States.
The question that must be asked of the House, however, is what price it is worth paying for us to make that particular contribution to the Alliance. The Secretary of State has not given the House some of the basic information. He has not told us how many submarines he thinks are necessary, but presumably it is five on his own argument that a continuous patrol is essential. That is only essential if one holds to the rather strange interpretation of an independent nuclear weapons system. Let us be clear about this the control of any nuclear weapons system must be held by the politicians. There is no way in which one can commit Royal Navy submarines to NATO and allow the decision as to their employment to be made by a SACEUR or a SACLANT. The decision has to be made by a political leader. It is inconceivable that any Member of this House would wish a Royal Navy Polaris submarine to be put under the command structure of the President of the United States. To that extent there must always be control within our political democratic system.
But it is not necessary to have a continuous patrol. It is not necessary for us, in my judgment, to conceive of this weapons system in terms of independent action. It is inconceivable that it would ever be used in an independent sense. Where it does make a contribution to the Alliance is not just in the number of missiles but in the decision-making framework within the Alliance. That is an important contribution. It means that any decision taken by a United States President has to take account of the fact that there is another nuclear contribution within that Alliance.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that he is delirious with joy at the fact that there is joint control of nuclear weapons by President Reagan and the present Prime Minister?
§ Dr. Owen
I am not delirious with joy at the fact that this world has to have any nuclear weapons at all. I long for the day when we are able to have complete abolition of nuclear weapons as once happened over gas. The one successful multilateral arms negotiation that has succeeded is the eradication of all biological weapons. To those who are wholly sceptical about all forms of multilateral disarmament, I would say that there has been a record of achievement.
I wish to come to the detail of the Trident missile decision. The life of the Polaris submarines has been extended beyond the initial 20 years to 25 years. Many people believe that its hull life could continue for over 30 years. Furthermore, there are good grounds for believing that, with a little negotiation with the United States, the Polaris missiles themselves could last certainly to the end of this century. It is also true that even if it was decided that the Polaris missile system could not be extended—this 171 matter has not been dealt with in anything like sufficient detail—there are other options for Britain which are less sophisticated and less effective in a strictly military sense but which nevertheless would allow Britain, should it decide to do so in 1990 or 1995, to retain a nuclear option.
I believe that the Secretary of State must apply his mind to this matter. I share some of the scepticism of his hon. friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). I believe that the budgetary pressures on this decision are mounting. If there are to be five submarines, the cost will escalate considerably over that given to the House. We know from the excellent investigation carried out by the Select Committee on Defence that it is an open question whether or not we go for the Ohio submarine, a very much larger submarine. Were we to go for that, the cost would again be increased. The right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) shakes his head. I know that he has studied the matter carefully. If we go for a smaller submarine we shall incur some cost for adaptation of the American machinery which we would be able to purchase directly if we went for the larger submarine. There is a balance of advantage. We have not yet been given the costs.
All the evidence, in every single arms programme we have undertaken, shows cost escalation with the one exception, I admit, of Polaris. Polaris has been one of the best deals that this country has ever had. It was delivered to time and to cost. I do not have the same confidence in the Trident missile system. The evidence already exists. If one reads through the Senate records on the Trident missile, one sees repeatedly cost escalation both in terms of the missiles and the submarines. The House is under a delusion if it reaches a decision tonight on Trident on the basis of the very sketchy costings put before it. Those of us who are every bit as committed to our contribution to NATO as the Secretary of State have the right to ask what else in the programme is likely to be sacrificed if the cost escalation continues. What aspects shall we not be able to fulfil?
I think that our new tank replacement will come under serious questioning. I believe already there is a strong feeling that the build rate of the SSN, the hunter-killer submarine, will start to be sacrificed, I have often argued in the House that the number of hunter-killer submarines is not sufficient for the tasks imposed on the Royal Navy at this time. This is why I believe that the House should look at another option that has not been given sufficient scrutiny.
The right hon. Gentleman will know that I insisted in 1978 and 1979 on the option, which was examined in some detail and with some care, that a decision need not be made for at least another eight or nine years about whether to fit cruise missiles using the torpedo tubes of an SSN. It is not, of course, as sophisticated as a Trident missile system. If one does not believe that the Moscow criteria are a crucial element and one believes that it is not necessary for us to have a deterrent that can penetrate ABM defences, there is a serious question whether it would not be wiser, more economic and more in keeping with Britain's economic position if we were to keep open the possible option of building more SSNs, putting cruise missiles into those SSNs and having that as a submarine platform—a second 172 strike that may be less effective but still a contribution to the NATO Alliance which we could afford while still carrying some of the other aspects of our defence budget.
We are being pressed to make this decision now. I believe that it has a great deal more to do with the Prime Minister's wish constantly to project herself as the Iron Maiden and the lady who makes all the tough decisions.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor rose—
§ Dr. Owen
I do not wish to give way any more. I believe that this decision has been rushed. It is known that there are people inside the Government, experts, who have considerable doubts about this decision. We have heard the voices of many people outside who have doubts about the decision.
There is another final and much more important reason why I feel that the decision is premature. In the next two or three years, there is the chance, if President Reagan and President Brezhnev can seriously start to grapple with arms control, that we shall enter into a major change—a quantum change—in what happens in arms control negotiations. It would be the height of folly for the House to agree to commit precious parts of the defence budget to an endeavour that it might not be necessary for this country to undertake. To those of my hon. Friends who say that they have grave doubts about whether President Reagan can make a contribution I would only say that it should not be forgotten that it was President Nixon who signed the SALT I treaty. We should not forget that there is growing pressure now—I am grateful for it—from people all over the free world and the Western democracies to insist that their Governments take arms control and disarmament seriously. Many of us wish to see the special session of the United Nations in 1982 as the launching pad for some major, constructive negotiations. The French Government, who have taken little interest in disarmament for many years, have now started to take an interest.
The Secretary of State showed in his speech a welcome recognition of his other responsibilities to detente and to arms control. The right hon. Gentleman did not speak with the same degree of scepticism about it as we are accustomed to hear from the Prime Minister. He will carry a great deal more conviction with the House, even on his controversial decision over Trident, which I believe is not justified, particularly at this time, if he shows the same commitment to trying to pursue detent and disarmament. This is what the House expects of him. This is what the country expects of him. If we are to win the argument among those many people who believe that no progress can be made in multilateral arms control, who have given up the possibility of negotiation, who have taken refuge in unilateralism, who have absorbed the mush and slush of unilateral disarmament, if we are to convince them that multilateral disarmament and arms control offer a safer path for this country—.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman must be allowed to speak without being subjected to barracking.
§ Dr. Owen
Perhaps the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) might remember that one does not always go out for votes. It needs to be said that challenging appeasement was not a popular policy. It would have been easy for those Members who opposed appeasement in this House to have said,"We could go out and get more votes by being in favour of appeasement". Appeasement was upheld by the people of this country and by public opinion for a long time. Fortunately there were people on both sides who held out against appeasement.
It needs to be said that the defence of the country is not something that can be determined on the question of whether one can win votes. A political party and Members of the House have to pursue a path on defence which they think is in the best interests of the country. I am sure that is what the Secretary of State is doing when he advocates this course. It is a difficult choice. It is not all black and white. One should or should not go for Trident. Were we a rich country, I would agree with the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). There is a case, were our economy responding, to have the best and most sophisticated. But we are not in that position and have not been for some time.
That is why I believe that the decision for Trident ought to be examined with a great deal more care. It is premature. I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against Trident but not in any way to use that as an excuse to endorse unilateral disarmament. I hope that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) will come to the conclusion that it is not in keeping with his responsibilities to continue to peddle the doctrine of unilateral disarmament. I hope that when he votes against Trident he will be voting in the full knowledge that, were he ever to become Prime Minister, he would continue Polaris and he would not send cruise missiles back without having put them into the forum of multilateral negotiations and made his contribution in those debates as a member of NATO, committed to nuclear deterrence as part of an overall strategy of detente and deterrence.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) made a speech to which we all listened with great care. I respectfully suggest to the House that he is deluding himself if he thinks that a postponement of this decision is possible. Let him look at what is stated in the Government's White Paper dealing with this whole matter. In the exchange of letters between the then President of the United States and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, let us note that this was said:As you are aware, the United Kingdom attaches great importance to the maintenance of a nuclear deterrent. It will be necessary to replace the present Polaris force in the early 1990s and in view of the options the Government have concluded that Trident I best meets the need to maintain the viability.As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that document was prepared on the advice of the people who advised him when he was Navy Minister, as they did me when I, too, had that role. It is made clear in that document that decisions have got to be made now and cannot be long postponed. The idea that these difficult decisions can be put off further to enable the right hon. Gentleman to get 174 his own affairs and those for his colleagues in order is one which deludes the House. There cannot be a case for further postponement.
I am glad however, that the first question on which the House has to arrive at a determination tonight is one on which the right hon. Gentleman is clear, namely, that there should be a maintenance of our independent nuclear capacity. I wish indeed that a speech of a similar character had been made by the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John). I have great respect for him, but he made a speech which I found extraordinarily disappointing. He is a man who was devoted, I had thought, to the cause of the defence of this country. Yet he made a speech very dissimilar to that which we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Devonport from below the Gangway. It is interesting to see new faces below the Gangway. The right hon. Gentleman is not what we usually associate with below the Gangway, but we shall get used to that.
I wish that the speech which has just been made by the right hon. Member had been made from the official Opposition Front Bench. The right hon. Member for Pontypridd—the hon. Member, I beg his pardon; I am sure it is only a matter of time, in spite of the speech—made it clear that the official Opposition are going away from the idea of having a British independent deterrent. That I find tragic from the point of view of the country's defences. There has always been able to be the basis of a cross-party agreement on defence. Judging from the Opposition Front Bench speech which we have had today that has clearly gone, though perhaps not for ever.
This debate resolves itself into two parts. There is, first, what might be described in defence terms as the overall strategic decision whether we as a nation should remain in what one might call the nuclear game, whether it is right that we should seek to maintain that which we have had for a quarter of a century and more, namely, our own independent deterrent. It is a deterrent which certainly is integrated with NATO, but in the last resort it is independent.
Then there is the second half of the debate. If we arrive at a determination that it is right for us to maintain the basic defence posture which we have had for a quarter of a century and more, we have to decide whether it is right to go for the Trident rather than other options which might be available to us.
As to the first matter, in the debates which we have had in the past on the independence of our deterrent I have found that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), now the Leader of the House, made very convincing contributions. The first and most important factor is that there should be another centre of decision-making. We have to look at these matters through the eyes of the Kremlin. It might well be that in years to come there will be a change in the presidency, and in the whole of the political attitude in the United States of America, which might make the Americans, in the eyes of the Russians, not such sure supporters of this country as they are today.
I welcome greatly, as I think all hon. Members on this side of the House do, the rapport which seems clearly to have been established between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States, Mr. Reagan. We all hope fervently that that rapport will continue. But we have to consider the situation which may arise in five to ten years' time. My right hon. Friend will, I have no doubt, still be Prime Minister of this country but 175 constitutionally it must be that there will have been by then a change in the presidency of the United States.—[AN HON. MEMBER:"NO".]—Unless there have been constitutional changes, I think two and a half terms would be beyond the realms of possibility, but there are those who perhaps know more about that than I do. It is unlikely that it would then be the same President of the United States even if that were constitutionally possible.
Whilst we can now rely, no doubt, on the American nuclear umbrella, we have to look at what the situation might be a decade and a half or two decades ahead. I am not completely confident that we can be assured absolutely that always and for ever the Americans will provide us with a totally effective nuclear umbrella. When one talks among friends in the United States of America one finds that they similarly are realistic about this matter. Be that as it may, it is surely wise for us to have the capability of defending ourselves in the last resort.
Our relationship with the United States of America, close though it is and closer because of the efforts of my right hon. Friend, is a family relationship. From time to time there may be quarrels within the family which might lead those in the Politbureau to think that the nuclear umbrella is not available to us. If hawks were to take over there, it might cause them to take risks such as to precipitate a holocaust.
The first question is whether we should remain in the independent nuclear business. I answer in the affirmative. It would be unwise to change the tactics and strategy that have helped us to contribute to the longest period of peace in Europe that has ever been seen. It would be wrong for us to change that strategy now. Indeed, it would also be irresponsible to change our strategy now. Therefore, it is right that we should remain in the nuclear business.
The second question that the House must consider is whether the Government are right to go for Trident or whether they should go for some other option. Tomorrow, I shall read with care what the right hon. Member for Devonport said. I understand that, along with others who have spoken, he suggests that we should run on the Polaris system. The right hon. Gentleman once had responsibility for the hulls of boats, but not for their deployment, just as I did when I was Minister for the Royal Navy. He knows that those boats are beginning to get old. Although they may retain their credibility for another decade or so, that credibility will become suspect thereafter.
If we had done something that the right hon. Gentleman's party did, we should have been accused of being Machiavellian to the nth degree. It updated the potential of the Polaris weapon, by going for Chevaline, without telling the House. From time to time the Labour Party Front Bench has the nerve to talk about open government. I do not quarrel with what the Labour Party did, because it was right to update Polaris and to make it more credible. It was right to alter the delivery system in order to make it a more credible and viable deterrent, but let no Opposition Member ever dare to talk to this Government about open government. The Labour Party did that without telling anybody. It rightly spent hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, but it should have told the House about it.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
As my hon. and learned Friend was dealing with a point raised by the right hon. Member 176 for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), I thought that he might like to recall that the Minister in the other place, my noble Friend Lord Trenchard, dealt with the suggestion that Polaris could be prolonged. He said that it would certainly be ineffective in the late 1990s and that it would probably be more expensive after 1995. He also said that until then it would probably be at least as expensive as Trident.
§ Mr. Buck
I had the advantage of listening to a considerable part of my noble Friend's speech. I understand that I might be in certain difficulties if I were to quote in depth from that speech in another place. However, I commend the speech to those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who did not hear it or read it. It was a valuable speech. We look forward to the fact that our noble Friend will come to talk to some of us in the near future.
The House would be wise to endorse the Government's firm decision to remain in the nuclear business in present circumstances. That decision has been endorsed by certain Opposition Members. I hope that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) will forgive me if I mention him in his absence. He has always been robust on defence matters. I did not understand the drift of part of his argument, but I shall read the full report of what he had to say. The right Gentleman and other Opposition Members have been moderately robust on defence matters. I am not one of those who think that the Conservative Party has a monopoly of concern over defence. There are some Opposition Members who care about such matters. However, I wish that they would sometimes concede that they do not have a monopoly of concern on compassionate matters.
There are Opposition Members who consider these matters realistically. It was a bitter disappointment to hear the Opposition Front Bench spokesman say from the Dispatch Box that the Labour Party rejected our nuclear role in the world. It would be a terrible misfortune if there were to be a Labour Government, because the very safety of our nation could be put in jeopardy. I am sorry to have to say that, and I do not say it lightly.
§ Mr. John
At one stage in his curious speech the hon. and learned Gentleman said that he did not claim to have a monopoly of concern over defence matters. I hope that he will agree that I have shown my concern about defence. The hon. and learned Gentleman means that everyone has the freedom to agree with whatever he is espousing. My argument was that other defence commitments that are vital, or more vital, to this country would be distorted beyond measure if we were to go through with the Trident project.
§ Mr. Buck
The hon. Gentleman has gone in for intellectual gymnasticism. He was a member of a Government who decided to update the Polaris system at the cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. They did not even tell the House about it. He has changed his view about the credibility of Polaris and about the updating of a new generation of weapons despite the fact that the same arguments apply to the new generation as applied to the old.
So far, this has been an interesting debate. Perhaps the time allowed is too short and I apologise for having to rush my remarks. I commend what my right hon. Friend said when he opened the debate and I look forward to what he has to say at its conclusion. Perhaps he will reassure the 177 House on one point. The cost of retaining our independent deterrent is considerable. Therefore, I should like my right hon. Friend to comment on the exchange of letters that took place between the former President of the United States of America and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend will be aware of what was stated. The decision to go for Trident and the deal with America was taken on the basis that it would enable extra funds to be made available for the updating of our conventional forces. That is set out in black and white in the exchange of letters, which has been published. There is a letter from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and a response by the former President of the United States of America which laid special emphasis on the need to do that. There is almost unanimity of support on this side of the House for the Government's decision. However, we are a little worried about the cost and we wish to ensure that it will not in any way truncate the efforts in the more conventional spheres that are emphasised in that exchange of letters. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would deal with that point as a necessary complement to the admirable speech that he made when he opened the debate.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Everybody can agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport, (Dr. Owen) that the defence of this country is a charge that is laid on every hon. Member. We are discussing the best way of defending this country. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) rightly made the point that this was a complicated matter and that it was not a good idea to hurl abuse at one another. There are different attitudes and approaches towards what hon. Members may feel to be the best way of defending our country. Therefore, we must start by accepting that hon. Members, whatever their point of view, are sincere in their belief that they know the best method of defending our country.
The right hon. Member for Devonport seemed to base his argument on the ground that the Labour Party had departed from its policy. I want to tell him that he is wrong. The Labour Party has not departed from the policy upon which it fought the general election. Let me quote what the manifesto said:In 1974, 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.We did not say, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that there was another option. His option, of course, was cruise missiles. We did not say that in our manifesto, yet the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that he is arguing on the ground of the party manifesto. He is not, and it is not true to say that the party has moved from its manifesto.
On the other hand, in another part of the manifesto we said:We think it is essential that there must be a full and informed debate about these issues in the country before any decision is taken.Did we have an informed debate in this country? Did not the present Government take their decision without a debate in the House of Commons? In fact, we are only now having the debate in the House of Commons to agree to the decision that the Government have already made.
The situation has changed considerably, because Labour's manifesto was never put into effect. We did not 178 win the election. Therefore, although we pressed the Government to accept the need for a full debate in the country, it never was accepted. Is every manifesto frozen for all time in a certain spot? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman is saying? Does not the situation move on? Can any hon. Member put his hand on his heart and honestly say about every manifesto that it has never been changed during the lifetime of a Parliament or that political parties have not moved on from a form of words that they used during one election as against another?
Is it not a fact that when the Labour Party conference discussed this matter of defence and nuclear weapons it took into consideration precisely the fact that this Government had made a decision without a full debate in the country, had made a decision behind the backs of the Members of this House and behind the backs of the people?
Therefore, the argument that the right hon. Gentleman has used about basing his policy on the Labour Party manifesto for the last general election is, with all due respect to him, a phoney argument and an excuse used in order to find reasons why he and a few of his colleagues should break with the Labour Party and form some sort of new grouping that they call the Social Democrats. I could say something about what they mean by Social Democrats, but of course that would be outside this debate.
§ Mr. Strang
Is it not a convention that when a political party loses an election it is no longer bound by its manifesto, and that is why it is fraudulent for a new political party to use the Labour Party manifesto as a justification for not seeking a fresh mandate from the electorate—
§ Mr. Heffer
Hon. Members are laughing, but I can well remember the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister making all sorts of statements about getting rid of rates. I can also remember many other commitments.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I wish to draw to your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the fact that the hon. Gentleman is using the debate on the Government's missile policy as a method for having a battle between the old and the new Labour Parties, and those parties can fight this out elsewhere.
§ Mr. Heffer
If I strayed from the subject of the debate it was only because I was invited by Conservative Members to express my opinion about Social Democrats I do not want to stray, because we are discussing the most serious question facing this nation.
I agree with the Secretary of State that the next decade will be a most difficult and dangerous period. Only fools would treat this debate in a silly, sniggering fashion. We are concerned with the very future of mankind. We are concerned with the defence of our country. In fact, we are concerned with whether we shall have a country, whether we shall have people in it. That is why we must treat this debate with the utmost seriousness. As I said at the beginning of my speech, we are all concerned about the defence of our country, and what we have to decide is the best way to defend it.
179 Over the years the Labour Party has argued for multilateral disarmament. That has been our position. We have wanted to roll back the frontiers of war in Europe by trying to wind down both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. That is still our position. But we are also saying that we cannot now tolerate the existence of nuclear weapons of the most destructive kind on our shores, because we are likely to be the prime target in any nuclear war in Europe in which our entire country and people could be wiped out.
I know the argument on deterrence and there may well be a great deal of truth in it, but nuclear weapons get more and more destructive with each one that is built. The right hon. Member for Down, South said that we ought to hark back to the first bombs, those which were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and he argued that they would not have been dropped had the Japanese had similar bombs. Neither he nor anyone else can know whether that scenario is correct; we shall never know. Had they had a nuclear weapon, they might have dropped it. Certainly, had it been Germany under Hitler, the Germans would have dropped it. So there is no point in saying that we can be definite or sure that that is the correct scenario.
Is that not the situation that we are in now? The right hon. Member for Devonport asked"Is the Labour Party in favour of being in NATO or not?" He knows the answer to that. The answer is that the Labour Party conference voted for our remaining in NATO. So it is no good trying to pretend something different, although of course some of my colleagues think we should come out of NATO, just as some of them think that we ought to have a successor to Polaris. But that is because we are a democratic party, and there is no need to run off and form some other organisation to argue this matter. It can be done inside the Labour Party.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South that this has been a continuing argument. It has continued for many years, and it will continue further, unless, of course, some madman actually puts his finger on the button, at which point there will be no argument but only utter destruction.
I ask the House to look at a different scenario, since we have to start somewhere. I must tell the right hon. Member for Devonport and his friends that even in the German Social Democratic Party there has been a great argument on this question, and the party almost split as a result. The Dutch Socialist Party takes the same view as the Labour Party does. The Belgian Socialist Party also is not happy about nuclear weapons. One of my hon. Friends shakes his head at my reference to the Dutch Socialist Party, but I have been studying this matter pretty closely and I know the view that it takes. I am a member of the international committee of the Labour Party and I meet Dutch Socialists. I happen to know. Perhaps others have not been following the matter quite as closely as I have.
Throughout Europe not only are there Socialists and Social Democrats who take the view which I have described but there are many other people who are now deeply concerned about the future of Europe.
§ Mr. Heffer
Of course. I said at the beginning of my speech that I accept that everyone in the House is perfectly sincere in his approach to the question of our defence and nuclear weapons. What we are now discussing—seriously, 180 I hope—is how we should deal with the problem, how we should settle the best way to defend our country, and whether nuclear weapons offer any defence in any case.
Some of us argue that the nuclear weapon is not a defence and that it is in no way helpful to the defence of our country, because of the character of the weapon, because of its destructiveness, because of what will happen if it is fired and we end up in a nuclear war. It is no laughing matter; it is most serious. We can all be laughing when the first bomb goes off, but then there will be no more laughter in the world—and certainly not in Britain, because only about three bombs are needed and Britain will not exist. So obviously we must be concerned.
So let us start in our country by fighting for an international agreement. As the Labour Party manifesto said, that must be our objective. But within that we can begin the process, in each of our our European countries, of getting rid of the nuclear weapons from our soil as a positive move towards ending the prospect of nuclear war. That is the way we should proceed.
Someone sneered at neutralism. I am not opposed to neutralism, because I do not want to be ruled and dominated by the Soviet Union. But neither do I want Mr. Reagan to determine our policies. I want neither of them. I want us to take our own decisions in our own way, in association with our colleagues from all the European countries, whether in the Common Market or outside it. That is what we should be aiming at, so that we might have a neutralised Europe, with no nuclear weapons. That is a much more positive way to defend Britain than the way presented in the proposals which have been advocated this afternoon.
§ 7.4 pm
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne (Knutsford)
I entirely recognise the sincerity of approach of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). However, I do not think that I ought to follow him too far down the path which principally engaged his attention, because he was much concerned with the content of various Labour Party manifestos, and that is a matter on which I do not feel myself well qualified to judge.
Nevertheless, I must put to the hon. Gentleman the question whether he is well entitled to complain about the absence of debate on the Government's decision to purchase the Trident system in view of what happened when his own Government decided to embark upon Chevaline to sustain Polaris. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) said, as far as we recall there was not a word of debate or discussion about that. I do not, therefore, think that we should hear such comments from the Labour Party.
On one aspect of this debate I feel a twinge of personal relief. I refer to Mr. Speaker's decision not to select the amendment in the names of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and his hon. Friends. I have that sense of relief because—I freely confess it—there is a certain amount in that amendment which I find attractive, and, having listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I found much that was very persuasive in it. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman on many other things, but I agree with him, and with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), that we are here discussing a matter of relative choice, not of absolute choice.
181 I have promised to be brief, and I can express my anxiety quite shortly. My anxiety is that we may find ourselves in the late 1980s and on into the 1990s with an extremely sophisticated nuclear deterrent system which will in the event turn out to have stripped us of the resources to maintain at full competence and efficiency our conventional defences. That is my prime concern tonight.
There have been references to the debate in the other place. In that debate some figures were given of the relative cost at its peak of the Trident system as a proportion of expenditure on new equipment. They were given by two people with whom I do not regularly agree—Lord Chalfont and Lord Carver—but I have to say that I do not think that they had an altogether convincing reply from my noble Friend Lord Trenchard. My noble Friend said that their figures were greatly exaggerated, but he did not give any alternative figures. There may be some difficulty about that, of course, and I respect it, but I think that we are entitled to ask ourselves, to put it no higher, whether there is at least a danger that a combination of what my right hon. Friend referred to as resource pressures and a possible escalation in the cost of this weapon system will find our conventional defences most dangerously squeezed.
It was with that in mind that I put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State my question as to the time at which it would still be possible for us to review this decision without involving ourselves in massive expenditure. I have seen references in the newspapers in the past few days to the fact that, in practice, no extensive cost would be involved until perhaps the mid-1980s. It seems to me that perhaps by that stage we shall be in a better position to judge what the relative pressures upon us and the relative strength of our economy to sustain those pressures will have become.
§ Mr. Buck
In considering the balance in these matters, will my hon. Friend take into account the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States, in which she referred to the economies made possible by the co-operation of the United States in making the Trident I missile system available in order to reinforce its efforts to upgrade its conventional forces? There is the question of the economies which are coming up now because of that decision. Will my hon. Friend turn his mind to the economies that the Prime Minister referred to in that correspondence?
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I am most grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester for drawing our attention to that exchange of correspondence. I readily accept that the best estimate that is now available to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is that this weapon system can be accommodated within the evolution of our conventional defence equipment. Nevertheless, I am anxious about the possibility of escalating costs and the possibility of other pressures from the evolution of the economy.
However, after careful thought, and in the light of the fact that Mr. Speaker did not select the amendment of the right hon. Member for Devonport and one or two other hon. Members around or below the Gangway—I am not quite sure how we should refer to them—and also in the light of the fact that I am greatly relieved to see that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put his names to the motion standing in the 182 names of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, I have decided, not without anxiety and uncertainty, but in the conviction that there will be time at a later date, if need be, to review these matters again, that with those reservations I can support my right hon. Friend.
§ Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)
For the first time since I came to the House, I shall not respond in the Lobby tonight to a three-line Whip. It is not because I have made up my mind on the issue before the House, but because I am paying the Secretary of State for Defence the compliment of not having made up my mind before hearing his evidence to the Select Committee,, tomorrow. The fact that the Government's business managers are holding this debate now is a discourtesy to the Select Committee of which I am a member, and it is a discourtesy to the House which appointed that Committee to advise it. It is also a discourtesy to the Secretary of State, although he would be the first to deny that.
I do not object—nor have I ever objected—to the United Kingdom having a strategic nuclear capability. These things are beastly weapons, and there is no need for me to regale the House with details of their beastliness. However, in my view, they have helped the world to keep the peace since 1945. I can think of several occasions since then when the tanks might well have rolled in Europe had there not been a balance of terror within Europe. One has only to think of the East Berlin riots, the Berlin blockade, the Czech crisis, and even the recent Polish crisis, to realise that all these matters could have been discussed in very different terms if both sides of the Iron Curtain had not possessed a strategic and tactical nuclear capability. We must accept that this beastliness has preserved some stability in Europe, and we all crave peace and stability.
So far, therefore, nuclear weapons have been stabilising, not destabilising, factors. I know that I do not carry all my hon. Friends with me, but I do not consider that the acquisition of Trident in itself would be a destabilising factor. Trident procurement is merely intended to replace a system that is being withdrawn.
There are many serious destabilising factors, at the head of which I would put the conventional arms race, particularly the conventional arms race outside Western Europe. The spread of battlefield nuclear weapons is distinctly destabilising, because of the difficulty of exercising political control over their use. In the strategic sense, I am particularly concerned about the continuing research programmes, in the Soviet Union and in the United States, into anti-ballistic missile systems. Worst of all would be the possibility of the present anti-ballistic missile treaty not being renewed when its present validity runs out.
On none of these subjects have we heard a word today from the Secretary of State for Defence. I find that sad, because these are crucial ingredients in any system of arms control that he can negotiate. I hope that in his reply he will say something about anti-ballistic missile systems and the anti-ballistic missile treaty.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said that we could not rely on the United States for ever and I entirely agree. It is not right to accept the shelter of the United States nuclear systems and then denounce any contributions made to them, by ourselves, however marginal, on the ground either of morality or of 183 fear of the military consequences of partaking in a shared responsibility. We have heard ominous murmurings from the new United States Administration about how long they are prepared to defend Western Europe if Western Europe is not prepared to make a greater effort to defend itself.
Trident procurement is simply a question of costs. If Trident were available for £1,000 million instead of £5,000 million, I do not believe that many hon. Members, other than those who are completely opposed to all nuclear weapons systems, would oppose that procurement. On the other hand, if the system were to cost not £5,000 million but £25,000 million, few hon. Members would want it at that price, though some of the cavalier remarks made by the Secretary of State—which I shall scrutinise with care in tomorrow's Hansard—made him appear extraordinarily equivocal about that. So it is a matter of costs. Is £5,000 million a reasonable price, and will it be the final price at 1980 prices?
One of the most extraordinary things—it was made very clear in the evidence to the Select Committee—is that the Ministry of Defence does not know what size of boat it wants or how many boats it wants. It will not say yet whether it is trying to conserve an ability to procure later a Trident 2 system. It has not even decided how many missiles or warheads it wants at sea at any one time. It is a most flimsy basis on which to make a procurement decision of this magnitude. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said, until such decisions are taken, the cost estimates that have been made can only be vague and variable in the extreme.
I do not believe that the Ministry of Defence will want an Ohio size boat. We are told that one extra boat will cost £600 million, but we have not yet been told what size of boat that £600 million represents.
At the prices on offer—I emphasise that phrase—I believe that Trident 1 is good value for money. The questions are: do we need that value, and, can we afford that value? Whether or not we need it, Trident 1 offers this country, over and above the capability that we possess with the Polaris system, greater range, greater accuracy, more warheads and more throw-weight. One might think that any one—if not all—of those increments to nuclear capability was otiose. If the present system has been an efficient and an effective deterrent—and we are told that it has been—why do we need considerably to enhance it? The trouble is that there are very few options available that give somewhat less than Trident.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport talked in terms of running on Polaris. It is a subject which has attracted me, and hon. Members may have noticed the line of questioning that I pursued in the Select Committee. But the saving, on the evidence given, would be of the order of only £400 million, and the shortfall of capability would be so great that I am persuaded that Trident 1 is better value—at the prices on offer, I emphasise again.
The other question is whether we can afford the value. Here I am talking not in terms of pounds and pence but in terms of opportunity costs. I say straight away—mainly to my hon. Friends—that if one were to scrap the Trident programme one would not be thinking of an extra £5,000 million available for schools, hospitals and housing. That is a very sad fact of life. We would have to invest very 184 heavily in additional conventional defence capability, and that might be even more expensive than the capability that we would be forswearing.
Here I come to my biggest indictment of the Ministry of Defence on this issue. Witnesses from the Ministry of Defence have been uniformly forthcoming to the Select Committee in terms of the technical and military capability of the Trident weapon system—more forthcoming than the Select Committee might have expected them to be. But in the matter of opportunity costs—what the defence of this country is having to forgo in order to acquire Trident—the witnesses have been uniformly most evasive.
The Secretary of State has told us today that over the lifetime of the Trident system he—or he and his successors—will be spending about £80 billion on equipment, if he is lucky. The high point of Trident expenditure comes after the time when the Government have committed themselves to increasing expenditure on equipment by 3 per cent. per annum in real terms. It will be coming at a time when, as far as we can see from Ministry of Defence evidence, increments in defence equipment expenditure will be of the order of only 1 per cent. per annum in real terms. If the Secretary of State knows that he will be spending £80 billion on equipment over the lifetime of Trident, he should lay out the entire equipment budget over that period for scrutiny by the House and by the public.
It is no good saying—as Ministry of Defence witnesses have said time and again—that the menu of opportunity costs is infinite. The Secretary of State must know what are the options that he has discarded. If he does not know, he is derelict in his duty, because he must surely have looked at what he will have to give up in order to acquire Trident. I am not talking about the other strategic nuclear options; I am talking about conventional options.
The other strategic nuclear options are set out very clearly in the Ministry of Defence publication DOGD 80/23. I found the arguments in that publication very persuasive. I thought that it was one of the best produced documents to have come out of the Department. I emphasise that I am talking about the conventional capability that the Secretary of State will be forced to give up in order to procure Trident. He will have difficult choices in front of him, heaven alone knows, even without Trident. I simply do not think that there is an easy option for him down the cruise missile route, as has been suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport. In my view, it is, quite simply, a ballistic system or nothing.
The escalation of equipment costs is horrifying, even without Trident. We are now in the days of the £1 billion system. One torpedo procurement, of which we are buying only penny packets, will cost about £960 million. That is for a handful of lightweight torpedoes. The cost of the next generation of naval helicopters will be in the order of over £1,000 million. These are relatively minor items in the arsenal of military equipment that this country has to maintain. From one generation to another the capital cost of new equipment is, rising, for tanks by a factor of the order of 2; for frigates by a factor of the order of 2½; for planes by a factor of the order of 4; and for electronic equipment by a factor of the order of 7.
There is simply no way, arithmetically, in which one can contain real increases in costs of that order within a 3 per cent. followed by a 1 per cent. increase in the defence 185 budget in real terms year by year and slide Trident into it as well. It is simply arithmetically impossible, and we are already seeing the effects in defence procurement.
When I was at the Ministry of Defence, there was a project called MBT 80—the new main battle tank for the 1980s. It is now called MBT 90. In the days when my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was Secretary of State for Defence, it was MBT 60 or MBT 70. So it goes on and on.
The Harrier Jaguar replacement programme is clearly in the most serious difficulties. The fact that there has been a recent reallocation of the Tornado IDS force from its maritime role to a land role strikes me as very significant for the light it casts on the practicabilities of getting a Harrier Jaguar replacement through in the near future. The SSN programme and the SSK programme, the diesel submarine programme, to mention only two of the more conspicuous items, are also in difficulties.
It is quite clear to me that, if the Secretary of State is to have any hope at all of sustaining a Trident programme, there will have to be major surgery in his Department. I am not talking about the salami slicing away of little bits here or there, ordering five fewer planes or 20 fewer bombs or 50 fewer torpedoes. There will have to be a major strategic reassessment.
§ Dr. Gilbert
In my view—my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), who has just said"Hear, hear'' to me, will, I fear, probably not endorse what I am about to say—the major surgery would have to fall on the surface fleet and on our anti-surface ship warfare capability. In my view, the investment in anti-surface ship systems is quite excessive. Most of the tasks that will be undertaken by the new through-deck cruisers, now unveiled as aircraft carriers, could be undertaken from land bases, and as high value units they are extremely vulnerable.
The Secretary of State must have two objectives tonight. First, he must seek to win the vote. That, for him, will be easy. His second and far more important objective must be to carry the country with him, and that will be much more difficult for him. He must take the whole of the country into his confidence in a frank disclosure of the options that he is rejecting, what his opportunity costs are, and what are the full strategic implications for our defence posture of going ahead and maintaining a strategic nuclear capability. To my mind, he has yet to do it. I am still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt until I have heard his evidence tomorrow, but unless he carries the country with him in 1984 or at some subsequent election, the whole project will be scrapped and he personally will have contributed to its fate.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
It is a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), who brings to our debate a great depth of knowledge and understanding of the subject of defence and whom I had the pleasure of shadowing in opposition for a couple of years. The issue before the House has been crystallised by the speeches of the right hon. Member for Dudley, East and his right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen).
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Member for Dudley, East took the right hon. Member for Devonport as his friend even though some other hon. Members did not. The question is whether the Labour Party is to take the path of appeasement and to deny its honourable part over the past 40 years in our national defences. There has been a bipartisan policy ever since the war—indeed, since the beginning of the war. That bipartisanship has extended not merely to the generalities of defence but specifically to the independent strategic deterrent of the United Kingdom. It is thanks to the British Labour Party that Britain today has an independent strategic deterrent.
It was Clement Attlee and a small, narrow group of Cabinet colleagues who took us down that road. He was followed by the right hon. Members for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), both of whom played a major part in devoting upwards of £1,000 million of defence resources on the Polaris improvement programme, code-named Chevaline. They did so without mentioning it to the House of Commons.
Tonight it would appear to be the intention of the new leaders of the Labour Party to jettison that bipartisanship that has served this country and its people so well for so long. No wonder Radio Moscow hailed the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), on his election as leader of the Labour Party, as the standard bearer of the Kremlin's policy towards this country for securing the unilateral nuclear disarmament of Great Britain, the removal of United States bases from this country and the withdrawal from NATO of the United Kingdom. I firmly believe that, in the very unlikely event, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues ever holding high office again, once armed with the facts, even the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale will find that his patriotic instincts will lead him to recognise that for Britain unilateral disarmament would be a dangerous gamble.
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
I hesitate to refer to any speech made in the House by any hon. Member as hypocritical claptrap, but that is the description that best fits what the hon. Member has said. In the seven years that I have been a Member, I have never heard him do anything other than castigate Labour Defence Ministers because of what he said were their failures to defend the nation. Let us hear no more nonsense about bipartisan policies. It is all too sadly typical of the hon. Gentleman that he should make such a deplorable personal attack on the patriotism of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) when my right hon. Friend is not here to defend himself.
§ Mr. Churchill
If the hon. Member had listened he would have realised that I was saying that I firmly believe—I repeat my words—that, in the unlikely event of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale ever becoming Prime Minister, his patriotic instincts will lead him to reject the position which now he apparently holds.
I firmly believe that, far from being a path of safety, the path of unilateral disarmament, if pursued by this country, could be the thing that would precipitate a nuclear world war, which so many well-meaning people who lend their support to the pacifist cause are so anxious to avoid. My reason for saying that is that for the last 35 years there has been some sort of balance in the relationship between West and East. That has been based on the fact that, although the Soviet Union has had a preponderance of two 187 to one, and more recently three to one in tanks, tactical combat aircraft and manpower, none the less the West has had the offsetting advantage of supremacy in nuclear weapons. Today those advantages have been lost. We are moving into a new era where there is inherent instability that can only be a matter of great anxiety.
Nothing could precipitate a disintegration of the NATO alliance more rapidly, or more closely invite adventures by the Kremlin, than for Britain to choose this moment of all moments to throw overboard its policy, let alone throw overboard, as some would suggest, our alliance with the United States, and the provision of nuclear bases in this country. It should never be forgotten that the only occasion when nuclear weapons have been used in anger was against a non-nuclear Power. No one in the House would ever have heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if the Japanese had had nuclear weapons in 1945 and the capability of delivering them on the United States. It is self-evident that the United States would never have dared attack in those circumstances.
No one visiting Hiroshima—as I and no doubt many other hon. Members have—can fail to ponder the full horror of nuclear weapons, especially bearing in mind that one weapon system, the Soviet SS18, has a destructive power equal to 1,500 Hiroshima bombs. I came away from Hiroshima not only with feelings about the horror and awesomeness of the new weapons that exist, but with a determination, as far as I might have any small contribution to make in this matter, that never should the people of Britain be placed at risk from nuclear-armed Powers in the way that the inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were at the mercy of a nuclear-armed Power in 1945.
The build-up that confronts us today is massive. In spite of the restraint by the United States and the Western Allies—indeed, since 1967 the United States has not added one single nuclear missile to its strategic inventory, which has been constant at 1,710 submarine and silo-launched missiles—every 72 hours the Soviet Union has added a new missile to its inventory, increasing from 600 systems in 1967 to 2,400 today—40 per cent. more than the United States. It is this relentless build-up of two or three nuclear missiles a week, each equal to several hundred Hiroshima bombs, that brings us to the debate tonight.
The question before us is not merely the generalised question of whether we should retain our strategic nuclear capability but what that capability should be. What steps should we now authorise to be taken to maintain the validity of that deterrent?
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his maiden speech in a defence debate. It is quite an achievement for a Secretary of State for Defence to make his maiden speech on defence matters as Secretary of State.
I fully endorse everything that the Secretary of State said in support of the Trident decision. Without question it is the most cost effective of the systems available. I also endorse my right hon. Friends who suggest that we should have a five-boat force rather than a four-boat force. The extra cost will be only 10 per cent., but it will double our capability. Only with five boats will the Royal Navy be able to guarantee two Trident vessels on station at any given moment.
188 It is right for hon. Members who welcome the part played by the United States in NATO and who look to the United States to be the major support and strength in the defence of Western Europe to acknowledge our debt and appreciation to the United States Government for their generosity in making the system available. We should express our appreciation to the United States for making the system available, not at a bargain basement price, but at a price which does not reflect the full development costs attributable to the limited number of missiles which we have in mind to purchase.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that the Polaris fleet and, following it, the Trident fleet, was but small beer compared with the massive nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union. That is true. However, he should not overlook the fact that none the less it will have the effect of making the United Kingdom a prickly hedgehog which no one will wish wantonly to tread upon. The cost involved in going conventional by disbanding our nuclear capability and relying solely on a conventional defence, particularly one that is not closely linked to the United States, would be colossal.
The Soviets have deployed 30,000 tanks west of the Urals. They are increasing their tank strength at a rate equivalent to outproducing Britain's entire inventory every three months. How on earth can we even begin to compete in terms of a conventional defence capability, let alone safeguard our vital national interests?
That is why I firmly believe that Trident is not only essential but by far the cheapest of the options available—and that includes the option of a purely conventional defence, which would be infinitely more expensive.
Trident is the right choice, above all, for its invulnerability. The invulnerability of the system is the most important aspect of any strategic second strike capability. It is reassuring to have the Secretary of State's confirmation that up to this moment the Soviet Union has never been able to detect a Polaris vessel in its deployed station.
However, one should not neglect the fact that the Soviets are devoting enormous resources to underwater detection systems. Out of a budget which is 50 per cent. greater than that of the United States, they are devoting twice the proportion to research and development in the military sphere. They are spending 28 per cent. compared with the the United States' 14 per cent.
Many resources are going into research in the Soviet Union. They are devoted in large measure to anti-submarine warfare. It would be foolish to underestimate the Soviet capacity to make a breakthrough as it has made a breakthrough in missile accuracy and the MIRV-ing of their missiles in recent years.
The greater range of the Trident—4,000 nautical miles compared with 2,500 for the present Polaris—means that the new submarines will have 10 times as much sea space in which to lurk and evade Soviet detection as the present Polaris force, while still being able to strike at targets in the Soviet Union.
I turn to the question of cost. My hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and the right hon. Member for Devonport made cost their major themes. The cost of £300 million a year over the next 15 years is a small insurance premium to pay. It represents one-third of what the House is providing this year for 189 British Leyland and one-third of what we are providing for the British Steel Corporation. I believe that £300 million a year is a very small price to pay for the maintenance of peace and freedom in our land.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
I was in Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of 1945, so I saw them just after they had been flattened, whereas the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) saw them only five years ago. My experience had a considerable effect on me.
There has never been any doubt about my party's attitude to the independent deterrent. The Liberal Party has consistently opposed its conception and naturally it opposes the replacement of Polaris by Trident.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman says that his party consistently opposed the independent deterrent. Archibald Sinclair, in the coalition Government, was a party to Tube Alloys and the development of the weapon was associated with the decision of the then Secretary of State for Air for it to be used against Japan.
§ Mr. Ross
That was before my time, but I accept the correction.
Since the decision to purchase Polaris we have been opposed to it. We have made that clear on every possible occasion. We instigated a debate in the House on 4 August 1980. However, we have always supported Britain's membership of NATO and the obligations which that implies. We reiterated that support at our annual assembly only last September when we reafirmed our continued support for NATO as the best means of protecting Western democracy.
§ Mr. Ross
No, we achieved a better majority than I thought we would. We had a majority of over 100 in a vote of about 1,000. We called for the strengthening of our conventional forces in the face of the increasing Warsaw Pact superiority and supported, subject to greater urgency being devoted to arms limitation agreements, the deployment by NATO of the latest tactical nuclear weapons. In other words, if we cannot make real progress over the withdrawal of theatre nuclear weapons, we agree that we shall have to deploy cruise missiles in one form or another, if necessary on this country's soil. Therefore, we obviously oppose the Government's motion.
Apart from the reference to Polaris, we would have found the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) acceptable had it been called. It is particularly strong on its emphasis on disarmament. That is reassuring. I only wish that the Government had said more on that subject. I hope that more will be said later. If it had been called, the amendment of the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) would have been perfectly acceptable to us. We are, however, rather mystified about the view of the Labour Party Front Bench and we hope to hear more about it. It has remained a mystery so far. The amendment of the Social Democratic group has been the subject of comment in the press.
I see a limited continuing role for Polaris under full NATO control. It is obvious that a dangerous vacuum exists that will not be filled until updated theatre nuclear weapons are deployed or we have meaningful progress on disarmament. To my mind, it would be foolish and utterly 190 irresponsible to disband our Polaris force, which has just been updated at a cost of about £1 billion, because as a party we happened to be opposed to its creation in the first place. Any new Administration would be obliged to assess the world situation. They should phase out Polaris only as our defence circumstances permitted. To do otherwise would surely be not to safeguard the true interests of our nation.
I refer the House to the debate that took place in another place last week. I think that there are some excellent debates on defence in another place, but this, incidentally, is the best debate that I have sat through in this place since I became responsible for defence matters on behalf of my party. In another place Lord Chalfont said that Polaris could go on to 1993, if not longer. That is 12 or 13 years away. We still have time. Trident itself could be almost out of date by that time. I have always been convinced by the arguments of Lord Carver, whom I heard personally on the subject only recently. He gave a lecture on defence policy that was lucid and understandable. It was the finest that I have heard. I think that no one would deny that he is an expert, irrespective of whether one agrees with his conclusions.
According to figures published about 12 months ago, the cost of acquiring the missiles that we are likely to obtain from the United States will be about £1,250 million. I do not know what the figure is today, but no doubt it is slightly higher. I suspect that there are still some Chevaline costs to be met, if not the full cost. I hope that we shall be told about that. The cost of the warheads is put at another £1,750 million. Research and development will probably amount to £500 million. If we have four submarines, the cost will be about £2,250 million. The estimate of the cost of base facilities ranges from £500 million to £750 million. I suspect that the total cost already is about £6,500 million. When the system ultimately arrives, it may be more than that.
What about the current problems at Aldermaston? Will the Government make a statement on Aldermaston, which has a crucial role to play in the development of a warhead to fit the Trident C4 missile, not to mention improved warheads for other weapons? When will the plant be safe once more for use following its almost total closure due to radiological hazards? How much will the safety work cost that will be necessary before the plant can be reopened? Will it be as much as £500 million? Why should Councillor Trevor Brown be penalised for bringing these problems into the limelight? I think that he did a service to the nation.
We have only one naval shipbuilding yard that can build the submarines, namely, Vickers.
§ Mr. Ross
Vickers is already committed to the fleet submarine construction programme. If it is suggested that Cammell Laird could build them, are we intending to reactivate Cammell Laird? Are we intending to spend a fair amount of money to enable the yard to take on the project? I hope that that will happen. I have been to Birkenhead, and if we are to have these vessels I hope that Cammell Laird will get part of the job. Merseyside is a depressing place at present.
What will be the cost of updating the Cammell Laird yard? The proposed ship construction programme, which surely is necessary, has already been delayed by the cuts 191 announced on 20 January. We hear Conservative Members talking about employment, and the Minister who is responsible for the Navy is now on the Front Bench. I am especially concerned about what is to happen in our naval shipbuilding yards in the years immediately ahead. If all the resources are to be diverted to the Trident programme, I suggest that yards such as Vosper Thornycroft and others will find life extremely difficult. Work forces will be run down if there are not new orders and replacement orders in the coming year for the destroyers, frigates and minesweepers that are so necessary.
We must also consider the Army replacement programme and the new generation of aircraft for the Royal Air Force. What will happen to those programmes if so much of the budget is to be expended on Trident? There are the extra costs of the rapid deployment force. Apparently that programme is to be accelerated. If we are to have such a force, I hope that it will employ a few hovercraft. The Russians have some very large hovercraft and they are able to land troops very quickly on beaches. We have been wondering about that for at least 10 years on the Isle of Wight.
How is it all to be done? Our forces are already restricted on fuel supplies and necessary exercises are having to be cut out. Much of the equipment within BAOR is outdated or on its last legs. I gather that there is to be a programme on television on that very subject tonight. I suppose that such sophisticated new weapons are necessary. They are extremely sophisticated and desperately expensive. I suppose that we are right still to go for the best. I have been converted to that belief only recently. I suppose that we still have to pursue that policy.
The one heavy cost which in my view is expendable is Trident. I do not believe that there is a sane scenario in which we would independently fire our ultimate nuclear deterrent. Why do we need it? I heard the Prime Minister say only recently that she rejected extravagant spending on projects that showed little or no return. I think that she probably had Concorde in mind. I wish she would review Trident and comment on it in the same way.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
It would be very difficult to argue in a rational manner against the lucid, concerned and analytical presentation of the case of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
The contributions, with certain exceptions, from the Opposition have been based on a kind of emotive reaction which we all of us respect, which is deeply founded in the beliefs of the Labour Party, but which—and I pay regard to the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), in which he cautioned us against any imputations of motive to Labour Members, and of course his own speech was quite outstanding in presenting a perspective of a wholly different kind—in the main has been relevant in a critical sense only where Labour Members have concentrated on the aspect of cost.
Here it seems that the speakers fall into two categories. There are those who make the mistake of arguing—and the right hon. Member for Down, South cautioned against this—that one should object to the weapon system because it costs X, or plus or minus X. The question is not about the detailed minutiae but about the percentage variations in the cost. Either we have to have it or we do not. In my 192 view, the arguments presented by the Secretary of State were conclusive in that respect. The other argument, presented in particular by the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) and my hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), relates to how the costs should be distributed within the overall limits of the defence budget.
It was agreeable to hear the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) trying to sort out his former colleagues on this subject, but I felt that there were certain inconsistences in his speech, and in particular in his advocacy of running down the existing weapons systems and ignoring the Trident system because of cost. That seemed to me highly suspect. We both have constituents who work on the same project in the naval dockyard at Devonport.
It is not long since a party of laggers was faced with a difficult and highly dangerous task in which much blue asbestos lagging was breaking down and there was a serious danger to health. The gang withdrew from the engine room in which it did the work and objected to the conditions under which it had been charged with the job. A series of negotiations took place. The workers then agreed to finish the job because they would be paid time and a half. Writ large, that is exactly the same error. A fundamental decision of security and of life and death is at stake. It cannot be settled by considering relative costs in the margin. The way in which the costs must be distributed within the confines of the defence budget is another question. It is something to which the House should devote itself in all seriousness.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) has frequently and persuasively argued that this country cannot sustain a quadrangular defence responsibility: we cannot manage the air defence of the United Kingdom, our maritime responsibilities, our strategic nuclear deterrent and our commitment to the Rhine Army on the mainland of Europe. Of those four commitments, there is only one that is not, in the last resort, essential to our security. It is highly expensive and greatly encumbered with incidental costs in terms of infrastructure, foreign exchange and support costs of every kind. The only responsibility which is dispensable or long overdue for revision is the Rhine Army commitment. To say that that must be considered is not to say that we must withdraw from NATO or end our presence in Germany or that we must adopt any of the other extreme solutions which, although attractive in some quarters, are not realistic. But there is now a clear need, which cannot be postponed any longer, for a greater specialisation of roles within NATO.
We have had indications of that possibility from Ministers and most lately from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her enthusiasm for our participation in the rapid deployment force. Anyone who can add two and two can see that to that existing quadrangular obligation one cannot, within the confines of the defence budget, add a fifth—the expansion and deployment of a rapid force to trouble spots all over the globe. Therefore, our commitment to the Rhine Army, with all that it has entailed in skills, infrastructure, projects and so on, must be scrutinised and adapted.
The right hon. Member for Dudley, East mentioned the main battle tank. Let us face it that to be flexible in that matter is simply to accept reality.
193 The old dispositions on the mainland of Europe date from and follow the occupation zones in which we took stations in 1945. Was their pattern set immutably—surely not, I hope—at the time of the 1948 Berlin airlift? They have performed a useful function. The right hon. Member for Dudley, East and other hon. Members said that tanks might have rolled during earlier crises, but I believe that those dispositions are now out of date, expensive, cumbersome, and due for revision, and greater flexibility should be imposed.
My hon. Friends may have some misgivings about that suggestion. One could also suggest that the intentions of the Soviet Union in central Europe are not necessarily as aggressive as many of my hon. Friends claim. The inventory of the Soviet Union's weapons has risen to a high level. That is partly a function of the greater sophistication of equipment with advancing years and partly a function of a genuine paranoiac fear of possible developments in the future. However, I ask the House to consider the proposition that the Soviet Union in central Europe, measured in terms of policy, achievement, territorial aggrandisement or adventures, has been consistently on the retreat since 1948.
If one measures the extent by which the strength of the Soviet Union has been eroded in central Europe by defections of one kind or another since that high point at the time of the Berlin airlift, one sees that effectively, it has lost Austria, half of which it occupied, and Finland over which it exercised almost complete dominance. It has lost, irreparably, Yugoslavia. It has lost Rumania in all but name. In Hungary, the regime has become more relaxed and more inimical to Soviet influence. Finally, there are threatening developments for the Soviet Union in Poland. Seen from the Soviet side, this shows a steady pattern of retreat and disintegration.
Therefore, one can argue that it is necessary, in the parlance and from the viewpoint of the military industrial lobby in the Soviet Union, to maintain high force levels in central Europe, because without them there could be a risk of a conflagration and a major defection within its eastern European empire spreading and getting out of control. Unless it has a high force level in central Europe, it will be difficult for it to prevent developments in the medium or distant future by the West Germans or some other Power, which might take an opportunist and possibly aggressive posture against it.
My hon. Friends have been tolerant in letting me put that argument, with which they may not sympathise. I put the argument because I believe that one must comprehend it, not in coining to the conclusion that the Soviet Union is not a threat, not concluding that it is not a totally repressive and alien ideology which in other parts of the globe is expansionist, adventurist and highly dangerous, but concluding that in central Europe the dangers are limited. The West has been winning most of the shots. We should urgently consider that, within the limits that resources impose, forces must be deployed elsewhere on the periphery.
The Wehrkünde conference at Munich, which I attended two weeks ago, was the forum in which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force first aired in public the principle that the European countries must consider the possibility of taking on additional responsibilities on the periphery of the Soviet expansionist arc. I do not say that it was received in an atmosphere of uniform sympathy, but it was followed by 194 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's conversations with the President of the United States and their joint agreement on the overriding need and priority for a rapid deployment force. That cannot be compressed within the existing confines of available resources. It can be made up only by taking units and equipment and making a general redeployment of what is available to us in the European theatre.
There are considerable diplomatic tasks ahead in persuading our European allies to accept the idea of such a force and persuading possible host countries to appreciate that our intentions are protective and nor colonialist, but the concept of a rapid deployment force is here to stay and it is a thesis which involves acceptance of the facts that resources are limited, that Europe is no longer the key threshold sector, and that perspectives in defence and foreign affairs have altered.
The leading article in The Times today said:The present European security system, imperfect though it is, has prevented war for a … long time… It will … have to be modified over the years to reduce tension and bring eastern and western Europe closer together".It is my belief that the Trident option, which I believe that the House will endorse, will have the effect, in addition to updating our strategic deterrent capability over the next 20 or 30 years, of forcing us away from the unnatural position of maintaining an expeditionary force on the mainland of Europe—something which was discarded by the Angevin dynasty in the fifteenth century on the ground of expense and left alone for 500 years. It is plainly utterly inappropriate to the military, diplomatic and foreign affairs postures of this country; and we shall be forced into adopting a more flexible and, at the same time, more effective policy of peacekeeping.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark). He addressed the House with his customary freshness, cogency and candour and I am sure that I am not alone in claiming that his speech was once again stimulating and important.
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) said that the debate was important, and he was correct. There can be few more important decisions before us than that set out in the motion. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Sutton thought that the approach of many of my hon. Friends had been emotive and that they were critical only on the ground of cost. I shall try to steer clear of those two indictments.
When we address ourselves to the future of Britain's independent strategic deterrent, we are on very important business. It is a question which has been with all of us throughout our political lives and, in the thinking of hon. Members on both sides, it has always involved the security of the nation and our relations with allies.
I submit that, to a much greater extent tonight, it also involves complex issues, some of which have scarcely received an airing in the debate. We heard a powerful speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), and anyone who heard it will agree that it was a tremendous contribution. I am sorry that the Secretary of State was not able to be here for that speech. No doubt he will read it, but he would have benefited from hearing it.
Much of the rationale for replacing Polaris with the more advanced Trident system is, as the Secretary of State 195 reminded us, that Britain has been a nuclear Power for nearly 40 years. That has been the policy of successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative. Nuclear power has become a crucial factor in deterrence strategy—arguably the most important from the point of view of the West, given the preponderance of Soviet conventional arms. Yet NATO is demonstrably successful. All too often we tend to take that for granted or perhaps not even appreciate it. NATO has worked and does work. Europe is at peace and member nations enjoy unprecedented conditions of stability, mutual trust and voluntary integration.
One of Britain's contributions to the deterrence that has made that possible and has helped to nurture that unique development is the Polaris squadron. It needs to be said that in 12 years' deployment of our submarine-launched ballistic missiles the United Kingdom has sustained a continuing patrol and the highest level of performance. The Polaris squadron can act as an independent centre of nuclear decision-making within the Alliance. Its essential ingredient is uncertainty—keeping the other side guessing about one's own capacity and intentions.
What has not been said but needs to go on record is that it is difficult to assess Polaris's deterrent function because it operates within the overall strategic umbrella of the United States strategic forces, but nuclear deterrence is more about political perception than military hardware. If it were not, we would all have been incinerated a long time ago.
Polaris is also less expensive than conventional programmes, such as the Tornado aircraft programme. It is less vulnerable, too, and less demanding of manpower than are conventional arms. It is also the most cost-effective element of the British maritime force. Finally, it is manned by men of the highest quality and with a personal dedication and sense of public duty that always filled me with pride when I was privileged to meet them. I am in no doubt that they are equal to their awesome responsibilities and fully deserve the trust and confidence of the people of this country.
Nevertheless, the Government cannot expect the House to acquiesce uncritically in the decision to acquire a successor to Polaris, because the proposal before the House raises questions about strategy, costs and the impact of the costs on conventional arms which do not apply to Polaris. Perhaps I could look at each of those aspects in turn.
On strategy, Polaris is basically an area weapon, suitable for striking at large targets such as cities or industrial complexes, but only as an ultimate weapon when we have been abandoned by the United States. Trident, on the other hand, is designed to strike specifically at pinpoint targets, such as enemy missile sites or high command headquarters. In short—the Secretary of State did not bring this out sufficiently clearly—Trident is designed to fit the current American strategic doctrine which calls for nuclear missile systems to have a war-fighting capability as well as simply a deterrent capability.
I have to ask the Secretary of State whether he can truly envisage any conceivable contingency in which it would be necessary for the British independent nuclear striking force to be able to attack such pinpoint targets. He must know that in order to acquire that kind of strikeability we should have to enter into new dimensions of strategic 196 confrontation and strategic analysis. In short, we should be in another ball game. That has not been brought out sufficiently by Conservative Members, although the point was made by my right hon. Friend in opening for the Opposition.
Secondly, the cost of replacing Polaris will be out of all proportion to the purchase of Polaris itself in 1963. I know that this point has been made, but it needs to be made again and again. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East reminded us of some of the implications of agreement to what may yet turn out to be an open-ended commitment. The Government state that the total cost represents about 3 per cent, of the total defence budget between now and 1995, or about 5 per cent, of the equipment component of the defence budget.
What will happen if the same escalation in cost takes place as has afflicted the Tornado programme? The Government have said that they are considering a fleet of four or five submarines to provide a fully effective force on station at all times, and I am bound to agree with Conservative Members who have said that a fifth submarine will almost certainly be needed. The suggestion that the Trident programme will cost only 5 per cent, of the equipment element in the defence budget is therefore, if I may say so, misleading, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), the previous Secretary of State for Defence, suggested earlier in the debate. Indeed, the table shown as figure 22 on page 88 of the 1980 defence statement suggests that Trident will consume not 5 per cent, of resources dedicated to new equipment but between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent, by the end of the 1980s. That calculation is based upon Ministry of Defence figures. I ask Conservative Members who listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East to imagine some of the programmes that may prove to be casualties before the end of the 1980s.
Thirdly, what will be the effects of these costs on the rest of the defence budget? One way to find the money would be to reduce Britain's contribution to the defence of the eastern Atlantic and the Channel, which would mean savings in the shipbuilding programme and in the Royal Air Force's maritime patrol squadrons. Another might be to reduce the number of armoured divisions in Germany from four to three, as was recognised by the hon. Member for Sutton. He might also have argued that we could reshape Royal Air Force, Germany, and cut the provisions for reinforcement in wartime. Yet another way might be to make even slower progress on the long-term development programme, although improvement in certain of these cited priority areas—I have in mind particularly reinforcement, maritime posture, electronic warfare and air defence—may yet prove by the mid-1980s to be crucial to our security.
The Government will be increasingly tempted to raid all of those programmes for scarce resources. It has already begun with the £200 million cuts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East has suggested that surgery will yet be a practice of the Government. The NATO exercise"Elder Forest 80" showed how vulnerable our air defence system might yet prove to be. Instead of carrying through the strengthening of Britain's air defence embarked upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), the previous Under-secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, the Government have stood down the third Lightning squadron. I know that that has not met with agreement 197 from all Conservative Members. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force—I hope that he will not mind my singling him out, now that he has returned to the Chamber—only a few days ago publicly called for Britain to assume additional global responsibilities. With the greatest good will for the hon. Gentleman, I cannot imagine how he could possibly make that speech, given his knowledge of the present pressures and demands on the defence budget.
In evidence to the Select Committee on Defence, Mr. Michael Quinlan, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Policy and Programmes at the Ministry of Defence, admitted thatsqueezes elsewhere in the budget may be more severe.Are the Government therefore not at risk, at least in logic, of being tempted to reduce substantially our military capability in such vital areas as our maritime NATO command areas outside the missile fleet, and therefore to reduce our maritime contribution to the defence of Western Europe?
The Government have already cut shipbuilding orders to the bone. In their first year in office, they placed only three orders, only one of which was for the sharp end. Can the Minister deny that a decision to proceed with the Polaris replacement will inevitably reduce the number of jobs in yards building surface warships, unless the Army and the Royal Air Force agree to an increase in the defence vote assigned to shipbuilding?
What will be the impact of the Polaris replacement decision on the construction of submarines? More people than I are raising this question. Will the Secretary of State tell the House when he winds up what specialist warship building capacity will be available to provide Trident submarines as well as our nuclear attack submarines? Where is the yard? The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy, who is present now, knows that Vickers cannot do both, and that is the only yard that we have which can provide those advanced hulls. The hon. Member for Sutton raised the possibility of Cammell Laird, as did the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. But the Under-Secretary of State knows that Cammell Laird has not built submarines since 1969 and that at present it does not have the capacity. I wish that it did, and I hope that it will yet be able to muster it. But, as the Under-Secretary of State knows, it is not just a question of yards. Incredibly, at a time when there are 2½ million people unemployed, there is actually a shortage of tradesmen. There is actually a shortage of men required for outfitting our specialist ships. We therefore do not have the capacity in men any more than we have it in yards. Where, too, is the capacity that will provide the SSKs, the diesel electric submarines, to which my hon. Friend referred?
The dilution of the quality of conventional forces seems inescapable at least so long as there is the insistence on keeping up the appearance of an all-round contribution by the United Kingdom to the Alliance, instead of a balanced contribution, based upon balanced priorities. Furthermore, any conceivable deployment to the Gulf, such as the Prime Minister called for in Washington last week, can only cast the Trident programme in an even more questionable light, for Gulf deployment can only be at the expense of commitments elsewhere. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who are well aware of that truth. For example, the crisis in the Gulf a year ago actually sucked in one carrier from the Mediterranean and one from the 198 Pacific. But in advance of that crisis the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic was already reminding us that he was short of carriers.
In short there is no fat upon which to call. The plain fact is that forces earmarked for tasks outside NATO have to be drawn from those which may already have been assigned and which in some cases have been assigned twice over in Alliance plans. The penalties, then, of any Gulf deployment will be real and painful, and Trident will then add to them.
The first requirement of our defence policy is to get our priorities right—otherwise we run the risk of lowering the nuclear threshold.
The second requirement is to keep the United States in Europe—not to insure against its intentions and integrity. What the Americans want from us, given the speech 10 days ago by Mr. Carrlucci, the United States Deputy Defence Secretary, is a greater effort in the conventional field. A marginal increment in the capacity of Alliance submarine-launched ballistic missiles is not even on their list of priorities in the maritime sphere. They are looking for more ASW capability, more escort vessels, more hunter submarines, more maritime patrol aircraft, more small carriers, more mining capability—all of which the United Kingdom could provide, but not with Trident.
The third requirement is to be more mindful of the wishes of our allies. More and more of them now view Trident as a needless duplication.
The fourth requirement for the Minister is to be more sensitive to feeling within our own Armed Services. The Army does not want Trident. It wonders whether it will ever get its new battle tank. The Royal Air Force does not want Trident. It is worrying too much about the replacement for its Jaguars and Harriers. Everyone in the Royal Navy does not want Trident. There are many men within the Royal Navy who have a different order of priorities.
I conclude, therefore, that Trident is both unnecessary and undesirable. It is unnecessary because it does not really replace Polaris but presupposes a new role, a duplicating role. It is undesirable because it means that fewer resources will probably be devoted to conventional forces. It is undesirable also because it encourages proliferation when, mindful of the Pope's recent pilgrimage to Nagasaki, we ought to be redoubling our efforts on behalf of multilateral international disarmament.
We ought not, therefore, to be taking steps to increase the numbers and types of new weapon systems of this category. We should be exploring every avenue and taking advantage of every opportunity to halt the arms race and then begin to lower it. In no other way can we accord President Brezhnev's recent overtures a constructive response.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) is pro-NATO, as we all know. He sang the praises of the Polaris squadron, quite rightly, but he came down against Trident, for two basic reasons. One of them relates to its accuracy. That is an argument that I cannot follow, because surely it is better if a missile can take out the Kremlin without wiping out the whole of Moscow.
The real reason, however, why the hon. Member came down against Trident was its cost and the effects on the 199 conventional arms programme—as did his right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) in a major speech on which I shall comment later.
I want to take up two points mentioned by the hon. Member for Attercliffe. He referred to the Select Committee and said that maritime capability would have to be sacrificed if Trident continued. If the hon. Member reads the Select Committee report carefully, he will see that the nuclear deterrent is outside the three Service Estimates and therefore should not affect them. Admittedly, it may affect the global sum, but it certainly will not affect just the Royal Navy, which seemed to be the burden of the hon. Member's remarks.
Secondly, the hon. Member talked about capability for building nuclear submarines. The Select Committee has visited both Cammell Laird and Vickers, Barrow. Cammell Laird is perfectly capable of building SSNs, the hunter-killer submarines, if Barrow has the orders for the SSBNs. In fact, it is in a better condition in some ways than Barrow because it has a covered building site, which Barrow does not have, submarines having to be assembled in the open. Scott Lithgow could perfectly well build the SSK, if and when we go on to that programme.
However, at this time of the evening it is only necessary' to summarise some of the arguments that have been made and to concentrate on those that have not yet been made.
The first question is: why have a nuclear deterrent? The Secretary of State says that it is because it is insurance of peace. Many hon. Members have said that it is because we cannot always rely on the United States—our best ally at present, although no one knows what may happen in the future. Having recently visited the United States, I would say that if Europe does not do its stuff and does not pay for its own defence rather more than it does now, there is a grave danger of isolationism in the United States, and that would alter the whole strategic balance.
Thirdly, there is the question of French leadership. I remind the House that the French have not only six nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but 18 IRBMs on the Plateau d'Albion and nine in the Haute Provence, and the force de frappe based on the Mirage IVA. The French will not give up their nuclear deterrent. France would certainly lead Europe if we gave up ours. I would not like to see that happen. We are a key member of NATO and the only European Power fully integrated with NATO that has a nuclear capability. I believe that we should retain that capability.
The question that arises is, why Trident? Most of the reasons have been given. Polaris is 25 years old. The life of the missile engines will not continue for ever. Even with Chevaline, it will not be effective in the 1990s, which is the period we are discussing.
What are the alternatives? First, there is the airborne cruise missile. A new air fleet would be needed to carry it. That would be more expensive than submarines. Secondly, as the right hon Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) suggested, there is the submarine-launched cruise missile, using tubes of existing submarines. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, with his naval experience, put forward this proposal. He must know that a ballistic missile submarine hides in the depths whereas a hunter killer submarine attacks surface ships or enemy submarines. To carry a ballistic missile in 200 a hunter killer submarine would be a negation of the rules of this kind of warfare. If it did happen, it would mean a much larger number of submarines and higher cost.
The final alternative is the ground-launched cruise missile, to which the House has not addressed itself fully. I believe that we need to consider the time of flight of the various weapon systems. A ballistic missile takes about 30 minutes to cover the distance from this country to Moscow. The ground-launched cruise missile would take three hours. That is a big difference. To use cruise missiles would mean flooding the enemy's defences because of the slow, subsonic speed and the time taken to reach the target. As the Select Committee report stated, one would probably need 10 cruise missiles to one ballistic missile, bearing in mind that the ballistic missile is MIRVed.
The cruise missile also depends on satellite maps. We have no satellites. We cannot be sure that they would always be available to us.
The ground-launched cruise missile is also cumbersome. It is accompanied by control centres and other vehicles which, I believe, would be easily detectable by enemy intelligence satellites. It would also be vulnerable to sabotage or fifth column work. It would be far better to have a submarine hidden in the depths which, as yet, is virtually undetectable.
I believe that we should give more consideration to having the Pershing 2. The Pershing 1 is a ballistic missile with a range of about 700 miles. It is being stretched to 1,000 miles. The hon. Member for Attercliffe will agree with me that we are told it could be stretched to 2,000 miles or more, roughly the range of a cruise missile. It is a ballistic missile and could therefore travel as fast as a submarine-launched ballistic missile. It is much less vulnerable to satellite reconnaissance and much more mobile than the ground-launched cruise missile. It should be given serious consideration. Pershing 1 and Pershing 2 are, however, infinitely inferior to the proposal before the House for the Trident missile.
The North Atlantic Assembly has been carrying out a two-year study of anti-submarine warfare. It is fair to say, I believe, that there have been considerable advances in allied anti-submarine warfare but that there is most unlikely to be a major breakthrough in the next two decades. The submarine, the SSBN, although not necessarily the SSN, lying in the depths and avoiding enemy vessels, is likely to be as invulnerable in 20 years' time as it is today.
One aspect of vulnerability has not been mentioned. There are developments in particle beam weapons that are said to be able to bring down ballistic missiles. They are a long way ahead. Probably satellites can be used to bring down other satellites. But the actual destruction of ballistic missiles in the air is a long way ahead. On the other hand, there is an article in The Daily Telegraph today about British Aerospace which says:The company's Dynamics Group can now spot hostile aircraft out of sight from the ground without the planes knowing they have been detected.It goes on to say that the company is:well advanced in developing a passive infra-red surveillance system with no detectable emissions from the ground equipment. Heat signals emitted by the aircraft itself are used to alert the air defence system.Presumably that can be used against aircraft and also against cruise missiles. Therefore, if there are developments in particle beams or any other form of defence based on heat emission they are more likely to be effective 201 against cruise missiles with a time of flight of three hours than they would be against ballistic missiles with a time of flight of 20 seconds and a much higher trajectory.
On the question of manufacturing capability, which I have already mentioned, there are two yards in this country with this capability. Unless we go ahead with this programme, I fear for the future of Cammell Laird. It would be dangerous for the country if we had only one yard which was capable of producing nuclear-propelled submarines.
As other Conservative Members have said during the debate, we must have five submarines, for the reasons that have already been given. When they are built, these submarines should be big enough to take Trident 2 if in the future we should decide to fit this more modern type of weapon. That is well ahead. We were rather foolish, when we decided on Polaris submarines, not to have them big enough to take Poseidon. If we had, we might not be having this debate. The Government should recognise that.
In regard to the effect on conventional weapons, it has been said that in the present five years 1.5 per cent, of the defence budget will be allocated to this; in the next five years, 1985–90, it will be 5 per cent.; and in 1990–95 it will be 1.2 per cent. That will not have a very great effect on the defence budget. It is much the same percentage as for the Polaris force. That did not have a very great effect on the defence budget and it has kept the peace since those submarines were built.
There is one point I should like to raise following the speech by the right hon. Member for Dudley, East. We should have a greater offset for Trident. We have virtually no offset. According to the Select Committee, we are spending £1,350 million to £1,500 million on American equipment, missiles and guidance. What offset do we have? I know that we have no direct offset, but what about indirect offset—combat boats, £40 million, Rapier for United States airfields in Britain, £140 million?
There are other offsets which I believe we could get. There is the new American rapid deployment force. They could take tracked Rapier and the Scorpion light tank as they do not have light tanks. They could take Sea Wolf, particularly the light-weight Sea Wolf for the defence of both merchant ships and warships. They have only one mine hunter; they might buy one or two of ours. In the long term, the real answer is co-operative projects. The future developments of torpedoes should be a matter for Anglo-American co-operation. The same should happen with the naval training aircraft and the AV8B, about which I hope we shall have an announcement in the not-too-distant future. There is also the question of the joint development of Smart shells, which are very accurate guided shells.
There are plenty of ways in which we could have an offset. I hope that my hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when she was in Washington, discussed this matter with the American President. I believe that we should have Trident and that we should buy these American missiles, but there should be some offset. I think that Congress understands this and will do its best. Of course, when the pressure of American industry is put on individual Congress men it is not quite so easy. However, if there were savings, whether they would go towards more conventional defence expenditure is doubtful. They would probably be siphoned off by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in some other way.
202 There are no amendments from the Government side of the House. I shall, therefore, refer to the amendment tabled by members of the Tribune group, because it reflects the way the Labour Party seems to be going. It seems to be based on two fallacies. The first is that the Soviet Union has a peaceful intent. One needs only to remember events in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and other activities in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Aden and Afghanistan. What about the future of Iran, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Saudi-Arabia and Poland? There is not much peaceful intent towards those countries.
Perhaps the amendment is based upon the Soviet desire to negotiate. For how long has the conference on security and co-operation in Europe gone on in Madrid? For how long have the negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions been going on in Vienna? Of course, we want the SALT negotiations to succeed. The Americans have made it clear that SALT II is dead but that they are prepared to enter into SALT III negotiations. We wish them well and support them. However, we should not think that the Russians want to negotiate. The evidence of the past six or seven years proves that the contrary is true.
Today the danger is more acute than it has been for many years. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) gave the simple reason, namely, that the Soviet Union was collapsing. Its house of cards is gradually falling apart. The Russians cannot feed themselves. The Soviet economy is deteriorating. The satellite countries are restive. Even the component parts of the Soviet Union are restive. That makes the position dangerous. When dictators are faced by such situations they tend to turn towards the offensive in order to take the thoughts of their people off their own troubles.
An article on unilateralism has already been quoted from The Times. It states:instability increases the risk of war, and unilateralism increases the risk of instability.I go further than that. The Tribune group believes that there should be no more nuclear weapons and no more American bases in this country. That means that Britain would have to leave NATO, because we could not throw the Americans out of Britain without leaving NATO. The effect on Europe would be devastating. It would mean that the Americans would eventually withdraw to their own continent. In 1940, we saved Europe. In the 1980s, are we to betray it?
Some Opposition Members would like to see this country become a Soviet satellite. I would not, and I am convinced that the people of Britain would not.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) made an interesting observation. He said not that the Russian State was collapsing, but that it had—over the past few years—received setbacks. That has not been the tenor of the debate. However, it reinforces my point, namely, that if we went into the conference chamber, we would be far from naked, although a Conservative Member has suggested that that would be so. For example, the United States of America has deployed more strategic warheads than the Soviet Union. As regards nuclear warheads, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has said that there is a ratio of 2:1 in favour of the NATO countries in Europe. Therefore, there is patently no need for Trident.
203 It is worth reflecting—although no one has so far done so—on what sort of weapons we are dealing with. Between 1939 and 1945 both sides dropped about five megatons of high explosives against each other. One Polaris submarine carries more megatons than that. The Home Office—which is not the most reliable source of information—suggests that in a nuclear interchange this country would be on the receiving end of about 200 megatons. In any nuclear exchange the country would be turned into a radioactive cinder heap.
That is the sort of thing we are talking about and we are possibly talking about a nuclear interchange because the point of mutually assured destruction was reached in 1963 and since then, when both sides could blow each other off the face of this planet, we have been building up nuclear weapons to the point where this is an extremely dangerous planet on which to live.
The counter force strategy under presidential directive 59 now suggests that people in the Pentagon are talking seriously about a limited nuclear war, and what might to the Pentagon be a limited nuclear war would, for us, be a holocaust and turn us into a radioactive cinder heap. At the same time as the Government are talking about massively increasing expenditure on Trident, they are cutting back on education, social services and everything that this country holds dear in the provision of a Welfare State.
Of course, the Conservatives will say that the Russians are spending more and more money, and they say that because the Ministry of Defence says that and puts it in the defence White Paper, and the MoD says that because the Pentagon says it. It is purely on the basis of prejudiced estimates. Indeed, Senator Nino Pasti of Italy, a former member of the NATO military committee and former NATO nuclear affairs deputy allied supreme commander wrote in August 1979:The truth is that NATO forces, both conventional and nuclear, are stronger than those of the Warsaw Pact countries. During the last ten years, the Soviet military budget has remained stable. My colleagues were unhappy about this situation because they could not justify an increase in their own expenditure. So they invented a 'pricing system' … it is easy to see how the figures were inflated to show higher Soviet expenditure.That source is, to say the least, one that should be reckoned with, and it certainly has not been reckoned with by the Government in embarking on this massive amount of expenditure.
Indeed, paragraph 111 on page 6 of the White Paper says:We have no reason to believe that the present Soviet leaders are deliberately planning to attack NATO.Even on that basis, with the massive nuclear weaponry that already exists in Western Europe, it is absolute nonsense to embark on the expenditure of £5 billion for a potentially even more devastating weapon, and a weapon, moreover, which, because of its increased accuracy, fits in very well with counter-force and the Pentagon strategy under directive 59.
The arms race is developing, not only through Trident but by the Government's decision to embark on a process of turning the United Kingdom into a parking lot for American cruise missiles, which is mentioned in the amendment which I and some of my hon. Friends have tabled. It is worth pointing out that if the Government are serious about disarmament and if some people who have 204 splintered off into a political desert are serious about disarmament, they should be considering the matter of verification, because cruise missiles are not easily verifiable and therefore represent a dangerous escalation of the nuclear arms race, in addition to the step taken on Trident that we are debating tonight.
The development of those two weapons makes the United Kingdom a more dangerous, not a safer, place; we have become an absolute certainty for attack in any nuclear exchange. The decision by the last Labour Government to spend £1 billion on updating Polaris, which has been mentioned several times from the Government Benches, is not a decision that I defend. I think it is quite wrong for any Government to spend any amount of money for which it does not account fully to the House. But, since the Conservatives have raised it, it is worth pointing out that they are following a precedent that was set by Attlee and Truman in 1951 and endorsed by Churchill in 1952, and that in October 1952 the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said that he was surprised that the money had been spent in secret on developing a British atomic weapon but intended that the Government should follow the secret ways of their predecessors.
So, once again, the expenditure on the updated Polaris was very much a result of a consensus among the parties. But when people say that the Labour Party is moving away from that consensus position on defence, they are right. Some of us fought for many years to establish that situation in the party and reach policy decisions which meant that the next Labour Government would take defence seriously and attempt to put a brake on the arms race, which is developing its own momentum.
No hon. Member can guarantee that by the end of the next 30 years we shall all be alive to tell the tale. I know that it is argued that we have had peace for 30 years in Europe and it can therefore be said that nuclear war has been avoided and nuclear weapons represent the security of that guarantee. But the truth is that we cannot guarantee the future so long as nuclear weapons are around.
A multilateral agreement is made up of a number of unilateral decisions. It is not something like jam spread everywhere. It means a number of individual countries coming together and making an agreement. But somebody has to take the initiative. If we remain members of NATO, as is Labour Party policy, and we abandon nuclear weapons, we shall not be the first country to do so. Canada has already laid down that path and operates in that way. So it would be nothing startling or unique. But it would be an encouragement to all those countries of Europe where there are hundreds of thousands of people—in fact, millions—who, because of heightened international tension, for a variety of reasons, are beginning to wake up to the nightmarish danger which faces the world today.
I shall oppose nuclear weapons for as long as I have breath in my body. I am opposed to nuclear weapons here, in NATO, or anywhere else in the world. I do not say that our initiative would lead to the abandonment of nuclear weapons by Russia and America, but I believe that it would send waves of concern and support within those two countries so that they, the two super-Powers, would move towards a disarmament posture. [HON MEMBERS:"Why?"] For one thing, because in America it might give heart to all those who forced the American Government to get out of Vietnam when they were waging the fiercest war ever inflicted on a tiny agrarian country.
205 Such an initiative would also give heart to those millions in Eastern Europe who also want to see disarmament, people such as the Poles and others in the East European countries mentioned by the hon. Member for Sutton. The hon. Gentleman says that there are cracks appearing in the East European bloc. It will give heart to those there also who want to see freedom from the nightmarish fear of nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Alan Clark
The substance of the hon. Gentleman's amendment—that it is better to be red than dead—is a strong argument, and I think that there is a lot in it, but the catch is that one is likely to end up both red and dead. If one disarms completely, the probability is that one's country will be occupied by one of the contesting Powers, and that means ending up dead as well.
§ Mr. Cryer
If that were true, it would mean that there was no possibility of a long-term future for humanity. All the arguments used for the United Kingdom's retention of nuclear weapons must apply to every other country throughout the world. The possession of nuclear weapons being regarded as a prerequisite for peace could be argued by every Middle East country, by India and by Pakistan, and we should have proliferation. One of the reasons for unilateral disarmament is to call a halt to proliferation and say that, as the beginning of a move towards a European nuclear-free zone, we can at last see a way to live without nuclear weapons.
If we do not do that, if we do not at some time take an initiative, then by accident or by design—the recent computer errors are an indication of the sort of accident which looms as reality round the corner—we may find ourselves in the middle of a radioactive cinder heap.
I do not accept that any Government of any party have a right to determine the lives of myself, my wife, my family, my community and my nation. The truth is that, perhaps on a false reading, perhaps because they think that international tension is such that they must support presidential directive 59 and make a strike on military targets, or because they feel that retaliation is required, those who send these weapons off will know full well, as we know, that at the very minimum they will exterminate 40 million citizens of the United Kingdom. They have absolutely no right and no justification for that. I do not hand over that right or power to any man or woman in any Government.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
The interest engendered by this topic has been amply illustrated by the attendance of hon. Members on both sides of the House during the whole debate and by the quality of the contributions.
I remember the first speech as Secretary of State for Defence made by the present Leader of the House, when he said that the Government's own estimate of the cost of Trident—that is, four submarines over a 15-year development and construction period—was"up to £5 billion". He said that on 15 July 1980. During the same debate the same Secretary of State announced his decision in favour of Trident.
It has taken from July last year until today for us to debate the project. It would perhaps reflect greater credit on the House if these matters were occasionally debated before being decided, though I do not say that the result 206 would be different However, the decision has been taken, and presumably Conservative Members, whatever misgivings many of them may have, will therefore be bound by a three-line Whip to support their Government tonight.
When the present Leader of the House made that estimate, he was already erring towards the top end of the estimate for the Polaris replacement programme, which he had provided in the debate on nuclear weapons policy debate six months earlier in January 1980. He had then said:I think we can accept it as reasonable to discuss the matter on the basis that a total capital cost in the range of £4,000 million to £5,000 million at today's prices might be a realistic estimate."—[Official Report, 24 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 682.]Such reasonableness and caution was, of course, well advised in the light of experience of the unreliability of such estimates. Perhaps their only reliable aspect is their invariable and inevitable growth.
During our debate today many hon. Members have mentioned cost and the likely effect of the Trident programme on other vital aspects of Britain's defence budget. Let us consider the history. Let us consider a matter that will be of interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy)—the through deck cruiser. The estimated cost of that project in 1974 was £60 million. In 1979, it was £167 million. In 1981, it is £210 million. Then there is the multi-role combat aircraft, Tornado. In 1969, cost per copy was projected at £1. 5 million for the IDS version. In 1979, the cost was put at £9 million. In 1980, the IDS version was costing £10.1 million. The cost escalated tenfold in just over a decade.
If such massive increases do not worry the present Secretary of State or the Ministry of Defence, they certainly worry other people, including our allies—for example, West Germany. On 21 February this year The Economist reported:the total shortfall for 1980 and 1981"—for the Tornado project—is now running at DM 1.3 billion (£260 million at current exchange rates).The article continued:But it is now reckoned that the Tornado project will be short of at least £160 million next year and possibly £140 million in 1983, without allowing for inflation in the project, which the Germans at present put at 13 per cent.Let us take the Chevaline renewal programme, which has been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides during the debate. It was projected originally in 1974 at £200 million. By 1976, the cost had leaped to £450 million, and by 1977 it was being costed at £800 million. Now its cost is put at the nice round figure of £1,000 million. That is a fivefold increase in almost as many years.
Doubtless the Secretary of State awaits with bated breath the next instalment in this unfolding saga of rocketing expenditure. Indeed, the worrying thing is that the record of uncontrolled and uncontrollable expenditure is endemic to the defence effort. The blunt fact is that all experience goes to show that major weapon systems—and in European terms they do not come much bigger than Trident—are critically prone to cost escalation. As the right hon. Gentleman must be fully aware, there are vast areas of uncertainty associated with the submarine aspects of the programme, and considerable opportunities for precisely the kind of cost escalation to which I have referred.
207 Estimates are never particularly accurate, sometimes because, with the best will in the world, military men are inclined to underestimate the technical difficulties of doing things; and sometimes because they and occasionally their political masters calculate that if they come along with a low figure at the start of a project, they can beef it up later after the commitment has been made and it is too late to turn back.
The penalties are clear for the taxpayer and should be clear, too, for the politicians. I quote again from the same article in The Economist, which refers to"the hapless Mr. Apel", the right hon. Gentleman's West German counterpart, and predicts the Tornado affair,could cut short the once promising career … of the man once regarded as the successor to Mr. Schmidt as Chancellor".I do not know whether the Secretary of State has any great ambitions to take over from the right hon. Lady, but he ought to reflect on what has happened to his counterpart in West Germany. But however terrible the fate likely to befall the right hon. Gentleman, there are other more serious implications of the West German experience with Tornado, and they do not relate solely to the matter of cost escalation.
I quote for the last time from the same article in The Economist:It seems inevitable that if the deliver)' of the German Tornadoes is to go ahead as planned, new equipment for the Navy and Army will have to be delayed or even cancelled.Indeed, by 1984 Tornado alone looks like swallowing up more than a quarter of Germany's defence equipment programme. The article went on to conclude:Defence specialists are now beginning to ask whether it is worth sticking with the Tornado project through thick and thin at the expense of the other services".During the course of today's debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said that he could not bring himself to support his party's three-line Whip this evening unless he could be assured that further damage to Britain's defences, as he saw them, would not be effected by the cancellation of the project. I hope that he will accept from me that that further damage about which he is so concerned will happen if the Government go ahead with the Trident programme.
It is precisely the fear of escalating costs—
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
What the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said was that one cannot safely base defence policy on the Russians not attacking a country that is too weak to resist.
§ Mr. Snape
My right hon. Friend is more than capable of defending himself. Unusual though it is to see the hon. Lady, with her other commitments, in the House at this time in the evening, I would rather hear the words from the person from whom they originally came than from someone else.
It is precisely this fear of cost escalation that many authorities in the defence field are expressing in regard to the impact of Trident on our conventional defence programme. What is still far from clear is the extent to which expenditure on Trident was built into the Government's defence budget projections for the 1980s.
Even those projections—commitments amounting to about 6 per cent, of GDP in 1985, rising to 7 percent.-plus in 1990—look increasingly unrealistic in the present economic and social climate. They are levels of 208 expenditure which must impose an outrageous burden on the national economy in circumstances of even normal growth.
Yet even assuming that Trident was manageable within the projected defence budget, the fact is surely that it will exert unacceptable pressures on the defence equipment programme during the peak expenditure years of the late 1980s, when expenditure on Trident is projected to be running at the rate of £600 million in 1986–87 and 1987–88 and £750 million in the next two financial years.
The 1980 White Paper, Cmnd. 7826, in paragraph 805, figure 22, shows that about 60 percent, of the equipment procurement programme tends to be devoted to major projects, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) mentioned earlier. Commitments already made will account for some 40 per cent, of major project expenditure in 10 years' time.
Trident is surely likely to raise that figure to about 70 per cent., leaving 30 per cent., or possibly even 25 per cent., for almost every other major project at the end of the decade. All this is promised on a continuing yearly defence expenditure increase of 3 per cent. If that proves to be as illusory as the Opposition believe it will, the existing commitments plus Polaris will consume nearly all the expected expenditure by the end of the decade.
Before the right hon. Gentleman meets the Defence Select Committee tomorrow he should read the memorandum submitted by the two Smiths, Dan and Ron—although I do not think they are related—headed"Polaris Replacement and the Defence Budget in the 1980s".
§ Mr. Snape
If the right hon. Gentleman has, I am anxiously waiting to hear, but he does not look as though he has. I trust that he will before tomorrow. Their projections are more worrying than those that I have given the House. The House has the right to know which conventional programmes the Government are prepared to sacrifice in what we believe is their crazy pursuit of nuclear grandeur.
Even before the introduction of Trident we had the cancellation of many once cherished projects. We have lost the redesign of the Sea Dart missile system. We have lost the opportunity of developing the alarm defence suppression system and the production of Sea Skua and Sea Wolf have already been slowed down. That is happening now, before we contemplate the major expenditure involved in the Trident programme. Is it not inevitable, in the face of the demands of that programme, that there will be a general disposition to go for lower cost options than previously planned or intended or, even more simply, to cancel? What are the programmes at risk? Will they include urgently required developments in air-to-air weaponry? Will the surface-to-air missile systems, particularly the medium SAM systems be affected? What difficulty can the Royal Air Force expect in connection with a whole package of procurement choices associated with the Jaguar-Harrier replacement? Will there not be a disposition when the time comes for the decision about the next generation of tactical combat aircraft to buck that option in favour of existing types already in service and in favour of upgrading? Will there not be an inevitable affect on the later part of the Navy's nuclear-powered fleet submarine building programme when the peak arrives in 209 the Trident build? Will there not be obvious question marks over the post-Broadsword class frigate building programme? Is the Navy, in practice, to write off any serious possibility of developing the next generation of air defence of the fleet or the next generation submarine defence of the fleet?
There are further threats for the Army. What are the plans for the modernisation of the first British corps for the late 1980s and the early 1990s or the plans for the next generation anti-tank system? Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there are urgent requirements for the advance of the third generation of anti-tank missiles? Are those projects also to be sacrificed on the altar of Trident? What of the next generation air defence systems? What of the main battle tank 80, or, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East reminded us earlier, MBT 90, as it is now called? Surely the House is entitled to demand that the answers to those questions and similar questions are given when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate.
Our concern will be shared by our allies in Western Europe. They are worried now and will be even more worried in future about the reduction in our defence capability as a result of the cuts already experienced, the cancellations and the postponements in our conventional programme.
Where do the Secretary of State and Ministry of Defence stand? We heard a couple of illuminating interventions. The first was by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt), the Chairman of the Select Committee, who said in his courteous way that the debate was badly timed. He felt that the Secretary of State should have done his Committee the courtesy of attending it first.
§ Sir John Langford-Holt
I tried to make it clear that I asked the Secretary of State to appear before the Committee after the debate.
§ Mr. Snape
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. As the Secretary of State said, there has been immense confusion about getting in and out of the Committee at the correct time. We are fairly sure that the Secretary of State will attend tomorrow. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East felt that the Secretary of State had been guilty of some discourtesy to the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Snape
I was in the Chamber to hear my right hon. Friend. It is no good shouting"nonsense" because I am sure that my right hon. Friend will tell me if I am wrong.
In the delicate way that he has when speaking to his own Ministers, the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) had a few harsh words to say about the future of the programme. At the risk of being shouted down by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman), I had the impression that the hon. Member for Knutsford believe that we should wait and see before we went ahead with such massive expenditure on the Trident programme. That is a valid view. I wish he had expressed that view with the gusto with which he normally attacks my right hon. and hon. Friends. I appreciate his difficulties. He at least made his view plain.
§ Mr. Onslow
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because if anybody is having difficulty with his speech it is clearly him. The hon. Gentleman was 210 speaking about our allies in Europe. Can he tell the House whether any country with which we are allied in defence has indicated its support for a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament to which his party appears to aspire?
§ Mr. Snape
If the hon. Lady will contain herself for a moment, I shall attempt to do that. The motion deals exclusively with the strategic independent nuclear deterrent. That is the purpose of the debate. [HON. MEMBERS:"Answer."] If hon. Members want to pose questions they should attend the whole of the debate and attempt to speak.
I turn to the contribution by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). He said that he would vote against the Government's motion. I run the risk of further contradiction, but the right hon. Gentleman implied that the party to which he may or may not belong at present is somehow totally anti-NATO and that the Labour Party has moved recently to being anti-NATO.
I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the composite resolution debated at our last annual party conference. He was there, although I do not think that he enjoyed it as much as I did. The neutralist resolution—composite resolution No. 42—said in effect that the conference should commit the Labour Party, whether in opposition or in office, to renounce membership of NATO, or any other grouping based on nuclear deterrents, in favour of a policy of genuine neutrality and non-alignment.
§ Mr. Snape
If the hon. Lady will contain herself, I shall tell her. There were 826,000 in favour of the motion and 6,279,000 against. I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not approve of the block vote, but as far as I can remember he made no great protest about it on that occasion.
The Labour Party's position on NATO was accurately expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). The Labour Party believes in NATO and will continue to support the NATO alliance. If there is the slightest criticism of defence expenditure, especially in prestigious areas such as nuclear weaponry, all too often Conservative Members make various accusations. Those of my right hon. Friends who have the temerity to criticise defence expenditure are accused of being in league with Moscow. That is a rather hackneyed phrase—
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman rose—
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman rose—
§ Mr. Snape
No, I am not giving way. I waited for the return of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) before dealing with his contribution, which I found predictably bellicose and belligerent. I find it sad that the hon. Gentleman, whose patriotism we do not doubt, although we sometimes have doubts about his grey matter, should make deliberate personal attacks on my right hon. 211 Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He drags in the old and typical red herrings about my right hon. Friend's attachment to Moscow, which are not true.
I am sure that if it were possible to de-mothball a squadron of First World War Sopwith Camels, the hon. Member would be off like David Niven in"Dawn Patrol" to throw tennis balls at the spires of Moscow.
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman rose—
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must tell the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) that it would be far better to sit back. The Minister is not giving way—[HON. MEMBERS:"Who?"] The Shadow Minister is not giving way.
§ Mr. Snape
That is a Freudian slip, I hope, Mr. Speaker, but one never knows. You said, Mr. Speaker, erroneously"The Minister is not giving way". The surprising feature about the debate is that the Secretary of State himself, one of the recent arrivals in the defence team, has chosen both to open the debate and to reply. Let us consider the collection of talent that surrounds him. For example, the hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie), the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, is the senior member of the Government's defence team. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy, has a great deal of experience in military matters. It is somewhat surprising that the right hon. Gentleman does not think that his Under-Secretaries of State are competent enough to participate in this debate.
The combined parliamentary and ministerial salaries of these hon. Gentlemen are costing the taxpayer about £60,000 in the current year. Perhaps their silence is of then-own choosing. Perhaps they do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps there is a deep fissure within the Ministry of Defence about which none of us knows anything. We know that the Conservative Party is far more adept at covering up splits than we are. Possibly there are some deep-rooted differences and some rows going on in the Ministry of Defence since the recent arrival of the right hon. Gentleman. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will either clarify whether, or deny that, that sort of thing is happening and explain why the collection of talent surrounding him sits like the three surly customers in a Lancashire pub—"Hear all, see all and say nowt." Surely they have something serious to say about this matter.
§ Mr. Snape
I refuse to get involved with my right hon. Friend as to whether it was Lancashire or Yorkshire. As a Lancastrian, I heard it on my side of the Pennines.
As was said earlier, the debate has also been about foreign policy. We know what the Prime Minister's foreign policy is. We could write a song about it, which would be entitled"If it is all right with Ronnie, it is all right with me." It is not all right with us, however.
The right hon. Lady might like the pomp and circumstance of the guards of honour at the White House, but she does no service either to President Reagan or to the 212 people of this country when she comes back and gives the impression that the United States foreign policy, which she will slavishly follow, has returned to the dark days of the sixties, when any Right-wing gangster who could guarantee that he was anti-Communist could get the backing of the United States. Despite the right hon. Lady's views, which she expressed forcefully on television at the weekend about the supply of arms to El Salvador—
§ Mr. Snape
It is entirely predictable that it would take five minutes for the penny to drop for the hon Gentleman. He is not known as"bomber" in the House for nothing.
Left-wing arms in El Salvador did not slaughter the priests saying mass. There is no point in the Prime Minister murmuring in her husky voice that something must be done to assist the President of the United States in relation to El Salvador. There is no point in her talking about the rapid deployment force. I do not know whether she frightens the Russians with that sort of talk, but by God she frightens the Gulf States. They have made their views plain.
Trident represents a massive escalation of Britain's nuclear arsenal. At present, the 64 Royal Navy warheads account for 1.3 per cent, of the combined United States-United Kingdom submarine-launched ballistic missile force.
§ Mr. Snape
If the hon. Gentleman would lend me his teeth, I would be delighted to try it.
When Trident achieves operational status, Britain's contribution will amount to 14 per cent, of total missiles and at least 14 per cent, of re-entry vehicles, a ten-fold increase in the number of separate targets threatened by the United Kingdom.
Why is it necessary for such an escalation of British nuclear power? Can and will the right hon. Gentleman answer that question? Why is this country committed to a level of growth in its nuclear weaponry which, for example, enormously outstrips by 200 to 300 per cent, the expected increase in French nuclear strength over the next decade? Can the right hon. Gentleman do us the favour of answering that question?
There is a moral argument to be deployed against nuclear weapons. We have not heard much about that from Conservative Members. We heard an extremely interesting speech from the hon. Member for Sutton (Mr. Clark), who, courageously as usual, pointed out that the Soviet Union is not the great invincible monolith which some Conservative Members try to say it is.
Indeed, I sometimes think that some Conservative Members do more for the myth of Soviet invincibility than do Pravda, the KGB, the Kremlin and all the other organs of Soviet power. We heard from the hon. Member for Sutton that the Soviet Union is under intense strain in relation to its satellites. Do Conservatives believe that in the event of an attack in Western Europe, the Poles, East Germans, Hungarians and Czechs would fight or could be regarded as reliable allies of the Soviet Union? If so, I am sure that they would be swiftly disabused of such a notion. The hon. Member for Sutton would go some way in agreeing with what I am saying about the instability of Soviet satellite countries.
213 The Labour Party is against Trident. It ill behoves the Conservative Party, which has cut, cut and cut again in relation to the social structure of this country, to spend a minimum—and Conservative Members know that it is a minimum—of £5 billion on the Trident project.
Those of us who are concerned for not only the future of Britain but the future of our children are determined to ensure that there will be no Trident project in the future. My hon. Friends and I are the vanguard of a movement which has a great depth of feeling throughout the country. The Secretary of State sneered at the anti-nuclear feeling of many people, but it is a legitimate feeling, which is shared by many of us in the Labour Party. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends and other hon. Members will join me in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Nott
By leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.
Perhaps the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) will allow me to pass over his criticism of the timing of the debate in relation to my appearance before the Select Committee. It is clear from what was said by the Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt), that I merely did what I was asked to do. Although it may be disgraceful, if it has happened that way round the blame does not lie entirely with me.
An observer of the debate would have been struck not so much by the gulf that divides us across the House as by a large element of common ground. It is clear that many votes will be cast against the Government's motion, but those"No" votes will be cast for many different reasons.
It is not my purpose in winding up the debate to emphasise the inconsistencies and differences that undoubtedly exist on the Opposition Front Bench and between the Opposition Front Bench and Back Benches or between the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Labour Party conference. I should prefer to emphasise the agreement that exists across the House in several areas.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) made an entertaining speech, on which I congratulate him, but I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him in that vein, because this is a serious subject and there are many matters that I have to try to answer in the next half hour.
I heard no speech that did not deplore the Soviet action in Afghanistan, the deployment of SS20s, at about one a week, and the continuing programme for the Backfire bomber. Although the hon. Member for Pontypridd suggested that we wanted Trident—and I quote him with care—"to fight a sophisticated nuclear war", I can assure him that a situation in which we needed to use Trident could hardly be called sophisticated. It would be a calamitous situation. I have never before heard anyone suggest that we wanted a strategic independent nuclear deterrent with which to fight a war. NATO is a defensive alliance and we want Trident for deterrence, to preserve peace, not to fight a war.
The problem that underlines all our difficulties is that we face a horrific escalation of conventional and nuclear weapon procurement by the Soviet Union. Last year alone Soviet industry produced some 250 new intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 3,000 tanks and nine nuclear 214 submarines. That is the product of Soviet industry in one year alone. It already possesses a massive superiority in most of those weapons right across the board.
An observer might rightly ask what madness leads a small group of party members at the top of a repressive regime to lead this lunatic race which serves no conceivable human purpose. I cannot think that even in the wildest moments below the Gangway we should be accused of leading that race. I ask myself whether they have created a military industrial establishment which would destroy their leadership if they tried to change course.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)rose—
§ Mr. Nott
No, I shall not give way, at least for a few moments.
It is part of the double-speak that we often hear that such a charge about the industrial military establishment is made against the Western democracies. But, if it is true that there is a strong industrial vested interest in the procurement of new weapon systems in the West, it is doubly and trebly true of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, unlike the West, people are deprived of even the most basic consumer needs that we take for granted. They are deprived of that essential element of human dignity that we in the West possess. Were it not for the provision of grain from the West, they might even be deprived of food. It may be that the Soviet leadership is bent upon building up its armaments with the direct intention of confronting the West. I do not believe that myself. But I ask myself what leads to this arms race on their side. Is it fear of encirclement?
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I have sat through the debate, which is more than some of the hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative Benches have. The Secretary of State has said that the Russians are building up their power and that therefore there is a threat and we must defend ourselves against it. I put it to him that that is exactly what the Russians say about NATO. Both sides are correct.
§ Mr. Nott
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that in this imperfect world we have to maintain a measure of individual and collective defence that will deter the potential aggressor from seizing his victim. I believe that to be the case. I believe that that objective can best be achieved by establishing a broad equality of military power by arms limitation and by negotiation, so that the necessary equality of power is reached at the lowest possible level of military expenditure. That is the policy of the Government.
This brings me directly to the points made by the right hon. Members for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and others who were concerned about arms control and about the fact that, although I had spent some time on this topic in my opening speech, I had not spent more time on it. I shall do so now.
The furtherance of arm's control and disarmament remains among the matters at the very top of the 215 Government's priorities. Our possession of nuclear weapons has never altered our perception of the need for practical, verifiable measures of arms control. Nor will it in the future. But we cannot negotiate from weakness. It has never been our policy to match the Warsaw Pact weapon for weapon. But we believe that it is only on the basis of rough equality—the capability ultimately to inflict unacceptable damage on the other side—that we shall ever get the Soviet Union to the negotiating table.
The right hon. Member for Devonport asked for a full-hearted commitment to the success of negotiations to limit theatre nuclear forces. We have given that. It was the NATO decision to pursue both modernisation and arms control in 1979 which led to the first round of talks in Geneva.
We have been asked for a mutual and balanced force reduction agreement. That is a prize which successive Governments have sought, and I know of the great personal contribution made by the right hon. Member for Devonport, when he was Foreign Secretary, to this cause. But the right hon. Gentleman knows the problems—problems caused not by intransigence on the part of the West.
There is call for a comprehensive test ban treaty. That is why we are negotiating in Geneva now. Hon. Members call for full commitment to the 1982 United Nations special session on disarmament. The present Government will give that. Hon. Members call for a further strategic arms limitation agreement. The new United States Administration has made it clear that it intends to continue the SALT process, and it was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that, while we would want to look at the Brezhnev speech carefully, in no way should it be rejected out of hand.
Looking at it objectively, I think that hon. Members will know how consistently we have favoured securing our defence at a lower level of armaments. That is our objective.
Frankly, right hon. Members accuse my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of rhetoric about the intervention force. But perhaps I may say, in response to that, that it is just as easy to be rhetorical about arms control, to make grand sounding calls and gestures; but to seek honestly and realistically to achieve success in negotiations is very much harder. I know that the right hon. Members for Devonport and for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) and others will accept that, even if the Leader of the Opposition may have rather more doubts.
The right hon. Member for Dudley, East asked about the ABM treaty. This is due for review next year. I share his view that it has been an important factor in stability.
I come to one of the main arguments in the debate—that we should support the nuclear deterrent through a NATO capability, and that we should also support the modernisation of long-range theatre nuclear weapons—that was the view of many Opposition speakers—but that we no longer have any reason for the continuation of an independent British strategic deterrent. I think that that is the position of many Opposition Members.
The suggestion comes in several forms from several people, but I think that for many the argument is basically about cost. For Opposition Members, it is a somewhat odd conversion. Several of them have served in several Labour 216 Governments, who have confirmed and then supported the continuation of Polaris. This means, presumably, that it is not the concept of an independent deterrent that has lost its value for them—otherwise one might have assumed, in many of the years for which they have held office and have had the opportunity of overturning that concept, that they would have cancelled it. If that had been the case, I hardly think that the previous Labour Government, who have been out of office only for the last two years, would have secretly decided to spend an extra £1,000 million on Chevaline. It is all very well for the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East to criticise us for not having had a debate here earlier on Trident. Five whole years passed while we were in Opposition and there was never a debate in the House on Chevaline, because no one, outside a small circle—of which the right hon. Member for Devonport was one—was even told about the project.
§ Mr. Nott
The idea of modernising the strategic deterrent was raised, but all the detailed work of Chevaline was never given.
I want to take the two arguments against the independent strategic deterrent as they were advanced. It is, after all, in the end, about influencing the calculations of an opponent before he makes a move. The principal argument for an independent British capability is to provide added insurance against a Soviet calculation, or a Soviet miscalculation, that when the crunch comes the United States might, at that critical moment, hold back.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that the argument is not absolute. It is relative. One can argue about how much such an insurance premium is worth against risk of a Russian miscalculation. If, as the Opposition Front Bench did, one has actually accepted the capital cost of Polaris, its running costs today plus its improvement with Chevaline, it is hard to see why 3 or 5 per cent. of the defence budget should change one's mind.
The strategic deterrent has been an integral part of the British defence budget under all Governments up to now. Trident is not an addition to that budget. It is the modernisation of an existing system. I pose this question. Is there much purpose in retaining a nuclear capability at all, at any level, including the theatre level, if it is accepted that there are absolutely no circumstances in which we would ever use it independently of the United States? If the answer is that we would never, in any circumstances that anyone can conceive, use it independently of the United States, we might just as well go on to dual-key United States weapons and save the cost of our indigenous nuclear research and procurement facilities altogether.
The reason for retaining it is surely this: if the independent British deterrent, right across the range, is to retain credibility, we must be able to convince an opponent that, in the last resort, it could be used where all else has failed. The Soviet Union simply would not believe and, if it did believe, it would not be deterred by a threat of using theatre weapons, say against its armour, if the United States backed away and Britain had no further card to play if the Russians raised the stakes. The blackmail 217 argument, used by the right hon. Member for Down, South, was not, for me, blackmail of the sort that he was discussing. I believe that it is blackmail in the sense of escalation of the nuclear exchange, once the horrors of it have begun, knowing that, ultimately, the other side has an invulnerable strategic deterrent buried under the oceans of the sea and we have not. I shall come to this argument in more detail—
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
What rational ground is there for supposing that, if the United Slates did not react by the use of the nuclear weapon to a Russian invasion of West Germany, we should not equally shrink from doing so?
§ Mr. Nott
I said to the right hon. Gentleman in my opening speech that certainty in these things is not something that can be assured. I made it clear that it could not be assured. I equally made it clear that the policy of deterrence must be based on the first use of a nuclear weapon, not first strike, in some circumstances. Otherwise the deterrence makes no sense.
I have to pass over a number of matters with which I would have liked to deal about the system. With respect, I do not think that it is sensible to defer decisions further. That was one of the principal arguments. One cannot go on deferring decisions of this kind. One has to decide whether one is to remain in this business. If one is to remain in it, one has to get on. The timetable is already very tight. I do not think, for reasons that I will elaborate at some other date—I cannot fit them in now—that it is sensible to run on the Polaris force. These matters are dealt with at great length in paragraphs 41 and 42 of the memorandum.
My hon. Friends the Members for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) and for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall)—and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy)—raised the question of four boats or five, and all of them registered their own strong preference for five. I understand the argument, but we have to make a complex judgment with factors both ways, extra costs, the greater availability of submarines of modern design, the operational and other risks. This judgment does not have to be made now. The Government plan at present simply to keep the option open. I think it would be premature at the moment to go further than that.
Throughout this debate great concern has been expressed about the possible impact of the Trident programme on the rest of the defence budget. I should perhaps say in passing that it is interesting to note that the French are spending about 15 per cent. of their defence budget on their independent strategic deterrent, which is twice what we shall be spending on our strategic force, even at the peak spending on Trident. I mention that only because other Western European nations have made a judgment and they are spending more than twice what we shall be spending at the peak.
To talk as if this money could buy 24"Invincible" class cruisers or 5,000 main battle tanks, as was done in another place by a distinguished speaker last week, is wholly misleading. It would not come anywhere near buying these items even in bare form, let alone equipping and arming them, manning them, supporting them and fueling them. Even if we could produce and man such equipment, the cost of running conventional forces of this size would be out of the question. If we were to agree to build 24 more"Invincible" class cruisers, can one imagine the demands 218 that would come immdiately for additional naval dockyards to equip them, escort ships to look after them, helicopters and aircraft to defend them and admirals to command them? My hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford would come running to me, beseeching me to reduce the cost of the defence budget by building something cheap, such as a strategic nuclear capability, if we were to go down that route.
The hon. Member for Pontypridd and the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and other hon. Members have asked about the proportion of the equipment budget and, more particularly, the money for new equipment that Trident might be expected to take. Over the whole 15-year period Trident equipment will account for about 5 to 6 per cent. of total equipment spending. In the peak years it might account for about 10 per cent. of total equipment spending.
As regards new equipment, we do not have a new equipment budget as such. However, if we take expenditure on Trident equipment as a proportion of total development and production expenditure other than on spares, which I think is a fair definition of new equipment, it will, even in the peak spending period, account for only about 15 per cent. of the total. This is a lower figure than Tornado at its peak. I have noticed the figure of 30 to 40 per cent. for Trident quoted recently in another place. I can find no valid basis of calculation which leads to such figures.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East waxed as worried as I am. I can assure him that I am continuously worried about the escalation of defence costs, as he will understand. Since he made an entertaining oration, perhaps I may say to him that to be lectured by a sponsored Member of the National Union of Railwaymen about the escalation of costs is quite exciting. There has been escalation in regard to many things in the last 10 years, not least the problem of travelling on the railways. May I ask him which investment programmes he would recommend for cuts by British Rail?
The hon. Member for Pontypridd complained that the money we were spending on Trident would be better spent on other defence capabilities, but in another part of his speech he made it clear that his party would have no intention of spending it in any such way and would cut our planned defence spending, that is, the provision for our security. I do not know which way he wants it. Does he want more conventional defence or just less defence? We all know what his leader intends, but I do not find it wholly consistent to argue for less spending on Trident but for spending it on other things, and then to say in the next breath that one wants less spending on defence as a whole.
§ Mr. John
However much we can afford to spend on defence, I want the best total defence packet for this country. The right hon. Gentleman has written articles in the News of the World and elsewhere, and has spoken about the hard choices that are to be made. Would he care to tell the House which items of equipment will have to be displaced in order to afford the Trident programme?
§ Mr. Nott
I also want the best possible defence packet for this country. Naturally, everybody wants the money to be spent in the most cost-effective way. However, if we take the cumulative impact of the additional expenditure by this Government on defence, we shall have more than £1 billion a year more, in real terms, to spend annually on 219 the defence budget at the end of the decade. Therefore, there will be more money available to spend on conventional forces. I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman wishes to make about the distribution of resources and about how we should spend our money. However given his party's view or the view of one of his parties, or the views of one part of his party's views, or one part of his policy, the hon. Gentleman is not in a position to criticise us for not spending more on defence.
§ Mr. John
It is not I who has spoken about these cuts, but the right hon. Gentleman. He continually talks about hard choices. If the picture is so rosy, what hard choices will he make and what hard choices does he have to make? Perhaps that was just rhetoric to fill up an article in the News of the World.
§ Mr. Nott
In my short time in the House I have never known a Minister to end a debate by devoting his remarks to complicated resource matters that involve the next 10 years. It would be reasonable to ask that question in a Select Committee, but one cannot deal now with the minutiae of the defence programme for the next 10 years.
The nuclear deterrent, for all its threat of horror—indeed, because of that threat—has provided a very stable system of security. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said that nuclear power was a great leveller not of cities but of aggressive intentions. For over 30 years we have had peace in Europe. It would be a perilous step if we were to gamble away one system of security that has worked for one that is untried.
In this century there have been two dreadful wars, which have devastated Europe. The First World War arose as a result of an arms race. That is why arms control is vital. However, the Second World War arose because of a great disparity of power and because the democratic nations failed to organise their own collective security. The responsibility on the British Government—as a crucial link between our American and European allies—is immense. It must not be us who destabilise NATO.
It is nonsense to suggest that Western policy requires us to sit with our thumb over the button, poised to launch Armageddon if some computer or radar tube were to go on the blink. Since Cuba, nearly 20 years ago, when Khrushchev's gamble taught the Russians a hard lesson, we have come nowhere near the nuclear brimk. We are nowhere near the brink now. Through the years, mutual comprehension of the realities and some useful agreements about how to manage them, by hot lines, by the exchange of information and by arrangements to ensure against nuclear war by accident have helped to increase stability further. We are nowhere near the brink now. We need not, unless we lose our nerve and our common sense, come near to it in the future.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 316, Noes 248.224
|Division No. 89]||[10.00 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Atkins, Rt HonH. (S'thorne)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Atkins, Robert (PrestonN)|
|Alexander, Richard||Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone)|
|Ancram, Michael||Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)|
|Arnold, Tom||Banks, Robert|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fry, Peter|
|Bell, SirRonald||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.|
|Bendall, Vivian||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Bennett, SirFrederic(T'bay)||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Benyon, Thomas(A'don)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Benyon, W.(Buckingham)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Best, Keith||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Goodhart, Philip|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gorst, John|
|Blackburn, John||Gow, Ian|
|Bonsor, SirNicholas||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gray, Hamish|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Greenway, Harry|
|Bradford, Rev R.||Grieve, Percy|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Griffiths, E.(B'ySt.Edm'ds)|
|Bright, Graham||Griffiths, Peter(Portsm'thN)|
|Brinton, Tim||Grist, Ian|
|Brittan, Leon||Grylls, Michael|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Gummer, JohnSelwyn|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n)||Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury)|
|Browne, John(Winchester)||Hampson, DrKeith|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Hannam, John|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hastings, Stephen|
|Buck, Antony||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Budgen, Nick||Hawkins, Paul|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hawksley, Warren|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Butcher, John||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Butler, HonAdam||Heddle, John|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Henderson, Barry|
|Carlisle, John(LutonWest)||Heseltine, RtHonMichael|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hicks, Robert|
|Carlisle, RtHon M. (R'c'n)||Higgins, Rt HonTerence L.|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Holland, Philip(Carlton)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hooson, Tom|
|Churchill, W.S.||Hordern, Peter|
|Clark, HonA. (Plym'th, S'n)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Clark, Sir W. (CroydonS)||Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)|
|Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)||Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hunt.John (Ravensbourne)|
|Cope, John||Hurd, HonDouglas|
|Cormack, Patrick||Irving, Charles(Cheltenham)|
|Corrie, John||Jenkin, RtHonPatrick|
|Costain, SirAlbert||JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jopling, Rt HonMichael|
|Crouch, David||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)||Kaberry, SirDonald|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Kellett-Bowman, MrsElaine|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Doug las-Hamilton, Lord J.||Kimball, Marcus|
|Dover, Denshore||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Kitson, SirTimothy|
|Dunlop, John||Knight, MrsJill|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Knox, David|
|Durant, Tony||Lamont, Norman|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lang, Ian|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Langford-Holt, SirJohn|
|Eggar, Tim||Latham, Michael|
|Elliott, SirWilliam||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Emery, Peter||Lawson, RtHonNigel|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lee, John|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lennox-Boyd, HonMark|
|Farr, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Fell, Anthony||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Loveridge, John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Luce, Richard|
|Fisher, SirNigel||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Forman, Nigel||MacGregor, John|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||MacKay, John (Argyll)|
|Fox, Marcus||Macmillan, RtHon M.|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury)|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Rossi, Hugh|
|Madel, David||Rost, Peter|
|Major, John||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Marland, Paul||Sainsbury, HonTimothy|
|Marlow, Tony||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Mates, Michael||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Mather, Carol||Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Shelton, William(Streatham)|
|Mawby, Ray||Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)|
|Mawhinney, DrBrian||Shepherd, Richard|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Shersby, Michael|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Silvester, Fred|
|Mellor, David||Sims, Roger|
|Meyer, SirAnthony||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Smith, Dudley|
|Mills, lain (Meriden)||Speed, Keith|
|Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Speller, Tony|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Spence, John|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Moate, Roger||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Molyneaux, James||Sproat, lain|
|Monro, Hector||Squire, Robin|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Stainton, Keith|
|Moore, John||Stanbrook, lvor|
|Morgan, Geraint||Stanley, John|
|Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)||Steen, Anthony|
|Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)||Stevens, Martin|
|Morrison, HonP. (Chester)||Stewart, lan(Hitchin)|
|Mudd, David||Stewart, A.(ERenfrewshire)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Stokes, John|
|Myles, David||StradlingThomas, J.|
|Neale, Gerrard||Tapsell, Peter|
|Needham, Richard||Taylor, Robert (CroydonNW)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Taylor, Teddy (S'endE)|
|Neubert, Michael||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Newton, Tony||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Normanton, Tom||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Nott, Rt Hon John||Thompson, Donald|
|Onslow, Craniey||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Townend, John(Bridlington)|
|Osborn, john||Trippier, David|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Trotter, Neville|
|Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Vaughan, DrGerard|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Viggers, Peter|
|Parris, Matthew||Waddington, David|
|Patten, Christopher(Bath)||Wakeham, John|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Waldegrave, HonWilliam|
|Pattie Geoffrey||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Pawsey, James||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Pollock, Alexander||Wall, Patrick|
|Porter, Barry||Waller, Gary|
|Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)||Walters, Dennis|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Ward, John|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Watson, John|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Wells, John(Maidstone)|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Wells, Bowen|
|Raison, Timothy||Wheeler, John|
|Rathbone, Tim||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wickenden, Keith|
|Renton, Tim||Wiggin, Jerry|
|RhodesJames, Robert||Williams, D. (Montgomery)|
|RhysWilliams, Sir Brandon||Wolfson, Mark|
|Ridley, HonNicholas||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Mr. Anthony Berry|
|Abse, Leo||Anderson, Donald|
|Adams, Allen||Archer, Rt Hon Peter|
|Allaun, Frank||Ashley, Rt Hon Jack|
|Alton, David||Atkinson, N.(H'gey, )|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Ginsburg, David|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Golding, john|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Beith, A. J.||Graham, Ted|
|Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood||Grant, George(Morpeth)|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN)||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Hamilton, James(Bothwell)|
|Bottomley, RtHonA (M'b'ro)||Hamilton, W.W.(C'tral Fife)|
|Bradley, Tom||Hardy, Peter|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Harrison, RtHon Walter|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith)||Haynes, Frank|
|Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Callaghan, Jim(Midd't'n&P)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Campbell, Ian||Hogg, N.(EDunb't'nshire)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll)|
|Canavan, Dennis||HomeRobertson, John|
|Cant, R. B.||Hooley, Frank|
|Carmichael, Neil||Horam, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Howell, RtHon D.|
|Cartwright, John||Howells, Geraint|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Huckfield, Les|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Mark(Durham)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Cowans, Harry||John, Brynmor|
|Cox, T.(W'dsw'th, Toot'g)||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Craigen, J. M.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Crowther, J.S.||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cunningham, G.(lslingtonS)||Kerr, Russell|
|Cunningham, DrJ.(W'h'n)||Kilfedder, James A.|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kinnock, Neil|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L 'lli)||Lambie, David|
|Davies, lfor (Gower)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lamond, James|
|Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Leighton, Ronald|
|Deakins, Eric||Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Litherland, Robert|
|Dempsey, James||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Dewar, Donald||Lyon, Alexander(York)|
|Dixon, Donald||Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW)|
|Dobson, Frank||Mabon, Rt Hon DrJ. Dickson|
|Douglas, Dick||McDonald, DrOonagh|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McKay, Allen(Penistone)|
|Dubs, Alfred||McKelvey, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||MacKenzie, RtHonGregor|
|Dunn, James A.||Maclennan, Robert|
|Dunnett, Jack||McMahon, Andrew|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||McNally, Thomas|
|Eadie, Alex||McNamara, Kevin|
|Eastham, Ken||McTaggart, Robert|
|Edwards, R. (W'hampt'nSE)||McWilliam, John|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Magee, Bryan|
|Ellis, Tom(Wrexham)||Marks, Kenneth|
|English, Michael||Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton)|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Marshall, Dr Edmund(Goole)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS)|
|Ewing, Harry||Martin, M(G'gowS'burn)|
|Field, Frank||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Fitch, Alan||Maxton, John|
|Fitt, Gerard||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Flannery, Martin||Meacher, Michael|
|Fletcher, Raymond(llkeston)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Fletcher, Ted(Darlington)||Mikardo, lan|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Ford, Ben||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Forrester, John||Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)|
|Foster, Derek||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)|
|Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Freud, Clement||Moyle, RtHon Roland|
|Garrett, John (NorwichS)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|George Bruce||Newens, Stanley|
|O'Neill,Martin||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Rowlands,Ted|
|Pendry,Tom||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Penhaligon,David||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Silkin.RtHonJ. (Deptford)|
|Prescott,John||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Silverman,Julius|
|Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|Richardson, Jo||Snape, Peter|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Soley,Clive|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Spriggs,Leslie|
|Roberts,Gwilym (Cannock)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Robertson,George||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Rodgers, Rt Hon William||Stoddart,David|
|Rooker, J.W.||Stott, Roger|
|Summerskill,Hon Dr Shirley||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Whitlock, William|
|Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Thorne,Stan (PrestonSouth)||Williams, SirT. (W'ton)|
|Tilley,John||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Urwin, Rt HonTom||Wrigglesworth, lan|
|Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Wainwright,E. (Dearne V)|
|Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Watkins,David||Mr. George Morton and|
|Weetch, Ken||Mr. Frank R. White.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That this House endorses the Government's decision to maintain a strategic nuclear deterrent and the choice of the Trident missile system as the successor to the Polaris force.