HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc292-380

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [19 May]:

That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1981, contained in Cmnd. 8212—[Mr. Nott.]

Which amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: regrets that in the current economic climate there are no measures proposed by Her Majesty's Government to reduce the excessive and uncontrolled defence expenditure to the same proportion of gross domestic product as that of the United Kingdom's major European allies; deplores the failure of the Government to review the number and size of defence commitments and to cancel the Trident project which distorts all defence priorities; and, believing that the safety of the world depends on easing international tension and reducing nuclear and conventional arms, condemns the Government's failure to pursue vigorously disarmament talks with the major countries concerned."—[Mr. John.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that over 40 right hon. and hon. Members, including seven Privy Councillors, wish to speak. I appeal to all to remember that other speakers can be called only if self-discipline is exercised.

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

I think that it would be useful, given recent press speculation, which might have led some to refer back to our electoral pledges on defence, to recall what we actually said on this matter in our 1979 manifesto. The manifesto stated: We shall only be able to decide on the proper level of defence spending after consultation in government with the Chiefs of Staff and our allies. But it is already obvious that significant increases will be necessary. Soon after taking office, this Government declared their support for the NATO aim of annual increases in defence spending in the region of 3 per cent. in real terms up to 1986.

The actual position is that in the first three years of this Government, taking the 1978–79 outturn as the baseline, the increase in expenditure on defence in real terms is expected to be 8 per cent. Among our major NATO Allies this performance, in real growth terms, is only surpassed by the United States. The two following years should further increases of 3 per cent. in each year.

The question then arises, however, that if the Government have been able to honour their pledges in terms of defence expenditure, why is it necessary for my right hon. Friend to institute a reassessment of the way in which our forces fulfil their roles? The answer lies in the fact that even the increased expenditure in real terms not sufficient to contain what I would describe as technological inflation, which is a way of indicating the upsurge in costs caused by the sheer complexity of modem defence systems. We have attempted to illustrate this inexorable form of escalation in a diagram on page 45 of volume 1 of the White Paper. I mention it now because it is acutely relevant to the problems that we face. In the context of these problems, for those who did not hear it, I commend the fine and constructive speech made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren).

My right hon. Friend set out clearly in his introduction to the White Paper that We must re-establish in the long-term programme the right balance between the inevitable resource constraints and our necessary defence requirements. It is interesting to note that this introduction received scant attention when the White Paper came out on 15 April from the same press that has been speculating so wildly in the past few days.

I should like now to focus on an area which I believe is best encapsulated in the title of the first chapter of this year's White Paper, which is "Defence Policy in a Changing World". The critical word here is, of course, "changing." The change is not simply one of the central balance of military power in Europe, or in certain armaments, or, indeed, the altered circumstances created by actions occurring elsewhere in the world.

It is also a function of the changing pattern of relationships between nations, and particularly those between the developed and developing worlds, and the implications that these hold for our future security. The world is now an intricate and complex web of economic inter-dependence. Such a relationship brings with it both benefits and new points of vulnerability, especially for the West. The most well-known of these points of Western dependence and hence vulnerability is that of oil. In 1977, Saudi Arabia and Iran exported 40 per cent. of all the oil coming on to the market. The United States took over 20 per cent. of the world oil imports in that same year, while France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom took about 5 to 8 per cent. each. While oil is perhaps the best known of these pressure points, it is not the only one.

A recent report by the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Committee has revealed that even the United States, once seen as that self-sufficient and self-perpetuating generator of industrial growth and material affluence, resilient to external economic pressure, is no longer immune. The United States is now more than 50 per cent. dependent on foreign sources for over half of the minerals that have been described as most essential to its huge economy. Many of the world's reserves of these minerals—for example, cobalt, titanium, chrome, diamonds, asbestos and uranium—lie in areas of the developing world subject to volatile political change and instability.

By contrast, the Soviet Union, in most of these strategically important materials, is either self-sufficient or does not share the West's degree of dependence. This is likely to remain true for many years to come. In 1978, the total trade between the developed and developing world was some $200 billions each way, whereas the Soviet Union and other European centrally planned economies exported only $17 billion and imported $11 billion worth of goods from the developing countries.

In trade with OPEC countries, the contrast is even greater. The West imported $108 billion worth of goods and the Warsaw Pact only $3 billion. In metal ores from the developing world the West took $4.6 billion, the Warsaw Pact only $0.38 billion. Soviet involvement in the developing world therefore is not a function of economic interdependence and mutual benefit. The main motive is political, and by that, I mean the expansion of its influence at the expense and to the detriment of the West, Japan and China.

The means by which the Soviet Union seeks to achieve that objective is primarily military. Large scale military aid, in terms of hardware, the provision of advisers and the intervention of forces—whether its own as in Afghanistan, or surrogates such as the Cubans in Latin America and Southern Africa, or the Vietnamese in Kampuchea—is provided. Development aid is, by contrast, meagre. That is hardly surprising. The Soviet Union's claim to super power status rests on its vast and burgeoning military might. Her ability to operate outside her traditional spheres of interest has grown enormously in recent years.

We must not be mesmerised by the ever-increasing cavalcade of Soviet might. Military action by the Soviet Union in those sensitive areas of the world is not the sole challenge that we in the West face. That challenge is multi-faceted and covers a whole range of options. The Soviet Union does not need to send in its troops to create a political situation favourable to itself, albeit it has demonstrated its willingness to intervene directly in Afghanistan, a previously non-aligned and independent country, in the teeth of world condemnation. Subversion, disinformation, aid to dissident elements, inspired coups and insertion of surrogate forces are all sub rosa means of achieving the same ultimate objective.

Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)

Does the Minister condemn subversive activities when they are carried out by the United States in many parts of the Third world, as they have been, which has been clearly documented in the past?

Mr. Pattie

Subversion of any State by another is to be deplored. I am addressing myself to the Soviet Union's activities in that area.

Nor does the Soviet Union necessarily need its satellites, so created, to deprive the West of those raw materials so vital to its continued economic health and stability. Continued supply, but at vastly inflated prices, could easily create the same destabilising havoc as denial. The oil price rises of the 1970s plunged the economies of the industrially advanced nations of the West into a state of turmoil from which, it could be argued, they have never fully recovered.

I am not suggesting that those price rises were the result of Soviet inspiration, nor am I claiming that all instability in the world originates from the Kremlin. Obviously deep-seated local differences and rivalries, such as the current war in Iran and Iraq, play their part. But such areas of instability provide opportunities for those ill intentioned enough to wish to embarrass the West when they are linked to sources of vital raw materials. The message that I wish to convey is not that the central threat in Europe has been replaced by newer ones, but rather I am attempting to say that those latter challenges are additional to those which we have previously had, and continue to face. We must not allow ourselves, and the Alliance, to adopt a static defensive mentality. We do not want to become smugly ensconced in the Maginot line of the Central European theatre, only to discover that our Ardennes lies somewhere outside the traditional NATO area. We welcome the growing recognition of our Alliance partners that changed conditions outside its traditional boundaries can inhibit its freedom of action elsewhere and that its allies should work towards achieving stability outside the NATO area and coordinate their actions in this field.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Is it not true that the American Senate recently carried a resolution approving the supply of arms to the rebels in Angola? There is an established Government in Angola. Surely—[Interruption.]

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham and Heston)

Listen and you will not go out as stupid as you came in.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Sedentary interruptions from either side of the House—especially the last one—are undesirable.

Mr. Allaun

You have my support, Mr. Speaker.

Surely the American action is as reprehensible as anything that the Soviet Union has done. It is unfair to blame all the troubles of the world on one super Power when two super Powers are involved.

Mr. Pattie

I thought I made it clear a moment ago that I was not attempting to blame all the ills of the world on the Soviet Union. It could be argued with some force that if the United States had acted with the requisite degree of resolution at the time of the original Angola difficulties the present supply of arms would not be necessary.

As the Soviet threat is multi-faceted, so must be the response of the West. We recognise that defensive measures must be integrated with political and economic assistance to reduce sources of tension and conflict. But they must nevertheless be available to deter the use of force by the Soviet or its surrogates, and to demonstrate our resolve to defend our essential interests and those of our friends around the globe. We shall achieve that by assisting Third world countries in building up their capacity for self-defence and by continued peacetime deployments of our forces overseas. The third element is an enhancement of our capability to intervene at the request of the States concerned. The United States has already embarked on the formation of a rapid deployment force for that purpose, and Her Majesty's Government welcome and support that development. For our part, we have in mind modest improvements to the flexibility of our forces for operations outside the NATO area.

I have said that the new dimensions of the threat are additional to those traditional elements which still persist.

We therefore, cannot, and do not, propose any major diversion of resources to meet these added dangers, but rather to make best and flexible use of those capabilities which are already at our disposal. That point is referred to in paragraph 416 of volume 1 of the White Paper. The threat to the Alliance in Central Europe is still grave and growing, both qualitatively and quantitatively. At this point I wish to turn to one of the more significant elements of the Soviet military threat facing the Western Alliance, namely its nuclear forces.

I shall not delay the House with any detailed rehearsal of the changes in the nuclear balance in recent years, from one of Western superiority, to equivalence and, in some areas, to Western inferiority. Figure 2 of the White Paper, volume 1, does that in graphic terms for all to see. I propose to deal with the arguments of those, who, in the face of that balance, call for the unilateral relinquishment of nuclear weapons by this nation—that is now the policy of the official Opposition.

It is natural, given the number of issues in the defence nuclear area on which this Government have had to take decisions—I refer to those on Trident and cruise missiles—that there should be public interest, and indeed concern, about those matters. We readily appreciate the anxieties of those of our fellow citizens who, in the shadow of the bomb, fear for the future. We welcome informed discussion on that topic, as has been proven by the information provided at the time of those two decisions and in the subsequent debates in this House. It is our task to show that, while appreciating the genuine anxieties expressed, we have taken decisions in the face of the harsh realities and uncertainties of the world today, which we believe serve the common cause of peace and freedom.

First, let me assure the House that I and my colleagues have the same wish as that of any sane individual, namely, peace and a diminution in the level of armaments m the world. Where we differ from those who want us to disarm unilateraly is in our starting point for the analysis of how best that can be achieved.

We start by taking the world as it is, and not as we wish it to be. It is a dangerous and uncertain world, in which nuclear weapons exist, here and now, and cannot be disinvented. What must be achieved is the prevention of war—both conventional and nuclear. We believe that that is best attained through the dual process of deterrence and multilateral disarmament. I define deterrence as a defensive military posture that seeks, above all, the preservation of peace. Its central aim, at every level, is to influence the calculations of anyone who might consider aggression, to influence them decisively, and crucially to influence them before aggression is ever launched. There must be no possibility in an aggressor's mind that he can impose his will other than at a wholly unacceptable cost to himself. In that context, I noted the contribution in yesterday's proceedings of the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), in which he argued that the new generations of nuclear weapons represented a significant change in strategy away from mutual assured destruction to a nuclear war-fighting posture. That is a fundamental misconception, which I want to put right now.

The basic aim of NATO's deterrent posture is unchanged—it is to prevent war, conventional or nuclear, not to fight it. We do not believe that nuclear weapons could be used to achieve a military victory in any meaningful sense, and that once nuclear exchanges began there would inevitably be grave risk of early escalation into all-out war. But the Russians may be tempted to think differently. To ensure that they do not, NATO must have options for responding to aggression at any level—the long-standing doctrine of flexible response.

That aims to convince an adversary that he could never use conventional or nuclear weapons against NATO, at whatever level, without incurring unacceptable risks of escalation. The aim is therefore to prevent aggression before it is launched. That is all the more necessary when we face an adversary which has built up, and is continuing to build up, a vast apparatus of military power at all levels and in all fields, and who has demonstrated his willingness to wield that power. We have to inhibit the possible use of this machine against ourselves by deterrence; and this is what our nuclear weapons crucially help us to do. I remind the House that the East-West peace has held now for 35 years. While no one can prove that deterrence centred on nuclear weapons has played a key part in keeping the peace—and not just the nuclear peace—common sense suggests that it must have been a crucial contributory factor.

I recognise, however, that a growing minority of people, particularly young people, appear to believe otherwise: that the danger of war would be reduced through unilateral disarmament by Britain. I believe that they are being actively and irresponsibly encouraged in that belief by some Labour Members. It is for this reason that I want to consider the claim in more detail. It is based, I assume, on the supposition that the other nuclear weapon States, and the Russians in particular, would follow our example. But there is, of course, not a scrap of evidence to suggest that this would be so. Indeed, what evidence there is suggests quite the opposite.

First, there is an immediate danger that talk of unilateral moves will encourage the Russians to block any negotiations—as they did when NATO first proposed holding talks on limiting long-range theatre nuclear forces. The Russians would have good reason to believe that, if they waited long enough, the West would disarm on its own. Why should the Russians disarm if they have all the cards and we have none? It is inconceivable in such a situation that we in Britain would be any safer. By undermining deterrence, we would be putting all members of the Alliance at risk.

The truth is, of course, that the Russians would not abandon their nuclear weapons at the very least until all other nuclear weapon States did the same. They have already made it clear that they are opposed to unilateral disarmament. For example, two Soviet policy makers have recently written: The Soviet Union cannot undertake the unilateral destruction of its nuclear weapons—and indeed has no right to do so as it is responsible to the people of the whole world for peace and progress. That is the authoritative Soviet view on unilateral disarmament. And it displays the worst kind of naivety to imagine that public pressure in Britain or in any other country for unilateral Soviet disarmament, let alone in the Soviet Union itself, would have any effect whatsoever. Indeed, one could ask whether anything has changed since the world disarmament conference of 1934, where it was said: Disarmament by example simply does not work and those were the words of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald.

A variation on this first unilateralist argument is that unilateral disarmament by the United Kingdom would make Britain less of a nuclear target. This seems to me equally misguided. Of course we would still be a major Soviet target. Even if we had no nuclear weapons, the Russians could not ignore a country of such obvious political and strategic importance. As a member of NATO, neither Britain nor any other Alliance member could expect to be exempted from any armed conflict involving a nuclear exchange between East and West.

Some of the extreme unilateralists—indeed, I suspect, some Labour Members—would then argue that Britain should become neutral: that we should not only give up our nuclear weapons but leave the Western Alliance. That course, I believe, would be decisively rejected by the vast majority of the British people.

Quite apart from the political undesirability of neutrality, for Britain to withdraw from the Western Alliance wuld leave this country vulnerable to conventional takeover and would undermine the stability which has allowed some European countries to remain neutral. Neutrality in the past has not always proved a sure shield against the territorial ambitions of acquisitive powers.

Mr. Frank Allaun


Mr. Pattie

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I gave way to him earlier. I am conscious of the fact that other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.

Outside the Alliance, with its accepted policy of deterrence, I truly believe we would have no security worthy of the name.

Over the past year there has been some pressure to extend this concept of a nuclear-free Britain to Europe. There have been calls for the removal of all nuclear weapons, Western and Soviet, from Europe—from Poland to Portugal. The argument is that a nuclear-free Europe would be a more stable Europe; that Europe would then also ceast to be a target for attack. But this is to ignore the massive Soviet preponderance of conventional weapons in Europe. The West could, if it wished, match the East here, given our greater economic power overall. But the cost to our social and cultural life would be huge, to the point of political unacceptability—and this is not the only objection.

The Russians already have large numbers of missiles in Soviet territory capable of striking any target in Western Europe. A nuclear-free Europe would leave the West open to political blackmail, let alone the possibility of nuclear attack or threats from unconstrained Soviet systems while removing the threat to the Soviet Union from similar Western systems in Europe.

The truth is that Western nuclear weapons in Europe have imposed a real measure of restraint on the aggressive use of Soviet conventional military might. And, so long as the Russians have nuclear weapons aimed at our cities, NATO must either remain a nuclear alliance too—and an alliance with an adequate nuclear presence in Europe—or it will cease to be an effective alliance at all.

In short, there can be no doubt whatsoever that a nuclear-free Europe would be a less stable Europe, one in which the Russians would have an increased advantage. They have therefore everything to gain from the proposal and nothing to lose. Many of us have recently read the words of a Czechoslovak dissident who said that, the movement for European nuclear disarmament is an unconscious analogy of the appeasement of the 1930s…a very influential force which works unconsciously in the interest of a totalitarian system whose aim is world domination based on the liquidation of human rights. It is why, I hope, all Members of this House will decisively reject the proposal.

So much for the main arguments. They may appeal to the heart but they cannot win the mind. In the real world, faced as we are with the massive conventional and nuclear forces of the Soviet Union, unilateral disarmament by the United Kingdom is neither a realistic nor a responsible proposition. Those who advocate it, on whatever grounds, are in effect serving Soviet interests. If they do not realise it, they have not thought through the full implications.

What they may not also realise is that such unilateral actions as have been taken from time to time have not produced satisfactory responses. For example, between 1968 and 1972 the United States carried out a planned and unilateral reduction in its defence budget. By contrast, the Soviet Union accelerated its military spending and in 1971 overtook the United States as the world's largest military spender. In 1977, the Americans adopted a policy of voluntary restrain on arms exports, virtually cutting off the supply of United States weapons to the Third world. Once again, the Soviet Union moved in and quickly became the largest supplier of arms to the poorest countries.

The fact is that unilateralism is a discredited doctrine in every sense of the word. But it is not just a question of the choice between deterrence on the one hand and unilateralism on the other. That way, the choice lies between the risk of an unbridled arms race and, at the other extreme, abject capitulation. This is why, while maintaining deterrence, we pursue the complementary search for worthwhile arms control, in areas where the security interests of both sides overlap. By a process of negotiation we attempt to stabilise and, if possible, reduce the level of armaments of East and West.

This dual approach—deterrence and arms control—has been shown to work. Take the topical case of theatre nuclear forces. We did not hear a sound from the Russians about TNF arms control when the deployment of their SS20 missiles began. It was only when NATO began to consider the need for the modernisation of its own forces that they showed any interest at all; and, after much bluster and a barrage of propaganda, they came to the negotiating table only when it was clear that the Alliance was firmly embarked on the modernisation programme. We warmly welcome the recent American decision to hold negotiations with the Soviet Union before the end of 1981.

The lesson of all this is clear: we can expect the Russians to negotiate seriously about limiting their weapons only if we make it abundantly clear to them that, in the absence of a balanced and verifiable agreement, we will go ahead with our plans to preserve deterrence and to maintain an overall military balance: that we shall not tolerate a situation of inequality and inferiority. It also goes to show that we shall not get the results we want by negotiating from a position of significant weakness.

I would dearly like, as I believe we all would, to see the world kept in peace and freedom by a security system which had less need or, better still, no need to possess such awful instruments in reserve. But to desire a new system is one thing; to make it real or dependable is quite another. We are not yet in sight of that.

Meanwhile, I for one am not prepared to be part of a Government who wished to pull down the structure which protects us at a time of increased uncertainty. But that does not mean that we are complacent about nuclear weapons. If we wish to seek for a more stable world order, this is where arms control must come into the equation. I believe that multilateral conventional and nuclear arms control is vitally important—but only if it is mutual, verifiable and balanced on all sides. I also remind the House of this country's unique contribution to arms control and our continuing efforts in this field.

We initiated the biological weapons convention of 1972, the only genuine disarmament measure since the Second World War. We played a prominent part in the negotiation of the partial test ban treaty and the nonproliferation treaty, two important treaties in the nuclear field, now with over 100 parties. We have supported the efforts of the United States and the Soviet Union to reach agreements on the limitation of strategic arms. We want to see the SALT process continue. We are participating in the comprehensive test ban negotiations in Geneva, the talks in Vienna on reducing conventional forces in Central Europe and the CSCE review conference in Madrid. We have signed an agreement with the Soviet Union on the prevention of accidental nuclear war.

We have given the non-nuclear States an assurance about nuclear weapons not being used against there. We introduced the draft convention on inhumane weapons, which was adopted by a United Nations conference in 1980. We were among the first countries to sign it last month. Our draft convention on chemical weapons in 1976 was a major contribution to the negotiations, which are continuing in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva. We have also given strong support for the principle of negotiating limitations on the long-range theatre nuclear forces of both the United States and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

What representations are Her Majesty's Government making to the United States Government in view of the considered judgment by Caspar Weinberger that SALT II is a dead duck?

Mr. Pattie

The representations which we are now making are centred on the matter to which I referred a moment ago, namely, the resumption of discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union about long-range theatre nuclear forces.

Dame Judith Hart (Lanark)


Mr. Pattie

I should like to continue.

Dame Judith Hart

My question relates to this point.

Mr. Pattie

I wish to continue.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is clear that the Minister does not intend to give way.

Dame Judith Hart

I am seeking to ask a question on this point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must have an orderly debate.

Mr. Pattie

I have given way on several occasions. I said to the House that I wished to proceed. I hope that the right hon. Lady will be successful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker.

All this adds up to considerable international activity, in which Britain is playing a full part. The results achieved have not been insignificant. Already the nexus of existing international and bilateral agreements circumscribes a number of military activities. But much more remains to be done. The best hopes lie in a measured approach by negotiation. It is inevitably a slow, laborious process. But where vital security interests are at stake no side can offer the sort of hostages to fortune of the kind that unilateral disarmament implies. No agreement will be reached if one side gives the other what it wants before negotiations start.

Unilateral disarmament is the enemy of multilateral disarmament. Unilateral action by country A reduces the incentive for country B to negotiate. A policy which encompasses both either reflects a lack of clear thinking or must be the result of a shabby political compromise.

I have left one point till last. It is perhaps the most difficult—the moral and ethical questions raised by nuclear weapons. There are no cut and dried answers. Each individual must make up his own mind. The Government's view is that any readiness by one nation to use nuclear weapons against another, even in self-defence, is, of course, terrible. But I do not accept that it is the possession of weapons which is immoral, it is rather the circumstances of their employment. Clearly nuclear weapons are the dominant aspect of modern war potential, but we should also not forget, as my right hon. Friend reminded the House yesterday, that 50 million lives were lost in the Second World War before nuclear weapons were used and about 10 million people since then have been the victims of conventional war. The greater good must be served by preventing war—nuclear or conventional—in the first place.

Whatever moral stance one takes on that matter, I am sure that all would agree that there could be no integrity in an ethical position which demanded abandonment of our own weapons as fundamentally immoral, while remaining content to shelter under the nuclear umbrella of the United States through membership of NATO.

We live in unsettled times. The nature of the threat which we face is developing new facets which we must recognise and to which we must respond. But these cannot be at the expense of our response to the old challenges which still persist. The central pillar of our current security is the Alliance policy of deterrence based on the possession of adequate levels of conventional and nuclear armaments. In such a turbulent world it would be unwise unilaterally to divest ourselves of this protection without assurance of satisfactory reciprocation. That does not mean that we should neglect steps to achieve a curtailment, and ultimately the eradication—if that is possible—of such, indeed all, armaments, but I hope that I have shown that there is indeed a fundamental link between progress towards that goal and the maintenance of armed defence against aggression. This dual policy of deterrence and arms control has worked. Because our policy is working, the Government do not believe that nuclear war is imminent, despite understandable public concern.

We are not at the edge of the nuclear abyss. Those like the CND who reject this policy must show convincingly why their policies would further reduce the danger of war. They have so far singularly failed to do so. For the foreseeable future, there can be no alternative to the policy which we and our allies are pursuing—a policy, after all, which has been followed by successive Governments. The Opposition, when in Government, played an honourable part in this process, but now they seem totally unable to produce a recognisable policy calling, for example, at last year's Labour Party conference for the withdrawal of United States forces whilst remaining in NATO.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

Will the Minister take note that, despite the disastrous economic policies of his Government, millions of Labour voters in the next general election will completely repudiate the lunatic demand that Britain should abandon its allies, scrap its defences and adopt a policy of craven appeasement to the Soviet Union?

Mr. Pattie

I am sure that the hon. Member's remarks will be well noted in other quarters of the Labour Party. If it does not embarrass the hon. Member, who is my predecessor, too much, may I say that the cause of peace and freedom is well served by his comments.

We for our part are determined to ensure that this land and its people will continue to be blessed with the benefits of peace and freedom, benefits that are so easily taken for granted by those of us who have never lived under a totalitarian regime.

This year's defence White Paper has carried further the improved presentation and new information levels begun in the 1980 White Paper. It is a clear and candid assessment of the difficult task we face in defending our interests and our way of life in a dangerous world. I commend the White Paper to the House.

4.28 pm
Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

As we are discussing the Government's Defence Estimates, I felt it strange that the Under-Secretary should refer to what can only be described as the small print of the Conservative Party election manifesto at the last election. It may have been in small print, but it is not what was said on television, or what was portrayed on platforms or over the media. The message which came over loud and clear at the last election was that a Conservative Government would increase expenditure on armament regardless of the economic position of the country. That was at issue then and it is at issue now.

Underlying our amendment is the basic philosophy that a defence policy depends upon the country's economic base. When I see what has happened in the past two years—manufacturing capacity is down 20 per cent.—I do not see how we can sustain an increasing defence budget such as the Government are presenting to us.

Much of our manufacturing capability is lost for ever. Jobs and capacity have gone. As the Prime Minister is so fond of telling us, we must cut our suit according to our cloth in defence as in other matters. The Prime Minister has certainly cut the cloth in housing, education and social services. She must do the same with defence. There is no other way.

The Under-Secretary of State was unfair when he accused the Labour Party of pursuing a policy of neutrality. He knows that that is not our policy. He knows that we are committed to working within NATO. I want that clearly on the record so that there can be no misunderstanding.

Yesterday's and today's debates will be overshadowed not only by the Estimates but by the cuts, or review, which we are expecting in July. It is not surprising that hon. Members with constituency interests raise matters with Ministers. When the Under-Secretary replied yesterday he did not answer all the questions. Some issues arise from the Estimates and the newspaper reports.

Over 1,200 men and women in the Royal ordnance factories have been made redundant at Birtley, Blackburn, Nottingham and Radway Green in the past 12 months. The Government have said that a committee of inquiry has investigated the Royal ordnance factories. When shall we receive the committee's report? This is vital because many people in the industry have given years of loyal service. They are understandably disturbed about the rumours emanating from Whitehall.

Is it true that the Conservative Government will do to the Royal ordnance factories what they did to the Forestry Commission? There is an analogy. The Forestry Commission was set up after the end of the First World War with all-party support. Successive Governments did nothing to privatise it. The same is true of the Royal ordnance factories. They have been accepted by Conservative and Labour Administrations as essential to the national defence. We understand that, for purely ideological reasons—to try to satisfy some of their supporters—the Government are planning to sell them off to private industry. We reject that approach and ask the Minister to reconsider.

I turn to the question of defence industries and procurement. We appreciate that, as a small nation, we are operating a world-wide arms defence capability. We realise that we have to co-operate and co-ordinate with our allies. We fully accept that. We accept that, in collaboration with our allies we might decide to purchase equipment from abroad. In return we expect our allies to purchase British equipment.

The traffic seems to be one way. For example, what about the Marconi Sea Wolf missile system? What will happen? Will it go Dutch or will the capacity be kept in Britain? What about the heavy torpedo? Will it go to Marconi or across the Atlantic to the Amerians? If it is to go to the Americans what offset will there be? I understand that no offset arrangement can be guaranteed. The same applies to the Harrier. I understand why the McDonnell Douglas/British Aerospace AV8B should be built in collaboration—we accept that—but all the traffic must not be one way. Britain's defence industries must not end as subcontractors to America. That is an important aspect. I hope that the Minister will tell us the Government's approach.

Anxieties have been caused in the Royal Navy by recent press statements. I do not want to rehash yesterday's arguments but I want to press the Minister on the effect of the proposed review of British Shipbuilders which is operating in a difficult economic climate. Last year, it achieved an order book which was said to be unachievable. It was achieved almost entirely on merchant orders, with practically no help from the Government. Since the Government have been in power, only four ships have been ordered. Since then the whole basis of the company's strategic plan has been threatened. The new strategic plan will be threatened unless some naval shipbuilding orders are placed. Britain's shipbuilding industry may collapse.

I warn the Minister of that because the relationship between naval and merchant shipbuilding is close. Many yards could not survive if they were not underpinned. That was so when the industries were privately owned. Now that they are nationalised they still cannot survive without naval orders. I draw to the Minister's attention the large proportion of British Shipbuilders workers who are employed on naval work in spite of there being only four orders.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

Is the hon. Gentleman advocating officially from the Dispatch Box that there should be an increase in our maritime capacity and that we should have new orders for warships? I hope that he is, because I would agree with that.

Dr. Clark

The hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) should address his remarks to the Secretary of State. We are debating the Defence Estimates. We are debating the Government's plans for the British shipbuilding industry. The consensus in the House is that we should be examining closely the make-up of our Navy. Perhaps we need a different form of Navy. Perhaps we need a surface as well as a submarine Navy. Perhaps the equipment is too expensive. We want the Government's view because they place the orders and the orders provide the jobs in British shipyards.

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is so keen to press me, I must ask whether he has changed his mind about the five patrol boats which have been ordered for use in Hong Kong waters. I recollect that in the South China Post—or was it The Times?—when I was advocating that all five should be built in Britain, the hon. and learned Gentleman argued that four should be built in Hong Kong. The hon. and learned Gentleman should be consistent in his argument.

We cannot blame British Shipbuilders for the cost of naval vessels. The blame rests on the Royal Navy's high specifications. Most hon. Members will agree.

Will the Minister explain how we are to provide the hunter-killer submarines? From answers given to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) I understand that only the yards at Barrow can build them. The Secretary of State is nodding. How can we conceivably go ahead and build the four ships at the Vickers yards at Barrow and still maintain the programme for the hunter-killer submarines, which I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that we need? It seems that the capacity is not there. Has the right hon. Gentleman got plans to open other yards and does he intend to build them elsewhere?

If the Government do go ahead with the draconian measures on surface ships that were rumoured in the press over the weekend a tremendous social cost will be involved. I know that the Minister will say that it is not his responsibility but it is our responsibility in the Tyne, Clyde, Mersey and other shipyard areas, where we already have massive unemployment. In my own constituency almost one in four of the men are without jobs and if the Minister goes ahead with his programme there will be a tremendous social responsibility on the Government to make sure that the situation does not get beyond control.

While we are on the Defence Estimates I want to refer to the British Army of the Rhine and the costs in foreign exchange. I fully understand what the agreement was and that it costs this country a lot of money in foreign exchange to have our troops in Germany and elsewhere. I find it very strange that nothing has been done or said about this matter. It costs overall about £1.2 billion in foreign exchange to have our troops overseas, which is almost equal to our overseas arms sales. I suggest that if NATO wants us to perform these four tasks—on the central front, as a strategic nuclear force, in the Channel and the East Atlantic and in the home base—which makes our role a very wide one indeed, and one which none of our European allies accepts, it must surely help us to pay the cost of doing so. I hope that the Secretary of State, when he winds up, will be able to elaborate on that point.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We are being called upon to defend Europe in an unequal way by sheltering it under our nuclear umbrella. When NATO was established it was a very small group, but now we are expected to defend a very much larger area, whether it is called the EEC sea lanes of communication or anything else. I believe that a further contribution from European countries is necessary if we are to maintain our defence budget at a safe level.

Dr. Clark

I fully accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman and I am very grateful for it. This further illustrates the danger of increasing our activities in the rapid deployment force outside our own area.

I turn now to that part of the Estimates that refers to arms control and disarmament, a subject which the Secretary of State yesterday saw fit to dismiss almost as an afterthought in four brief paragraphs in a speech of over 50 minutes. He referred to this only in connection with a clause in our amendment drawing attention to this point—a fact which in a sense indicates and supports our criticism and condemnation of the Government.

I listened to the Secretary of State today and I thought that he was trying to redress the balance, but he was not very successful in doing so, We of the Opposition, and I hope the Government as well, believe that arms control and disarmament are an integral part of our defence policy—part and parcel of the same approach. I think we all accept that the world is caught up in a vicious, ever-increasing nonsensical arms race, with the cost escalating in geometric proportion and with accompanying risks. I am sure that that belief is common to hon. Members on both sides of the House.

We oppose Trident not only because the costs damage the defence budget but because it represents a new generation of weapons which it is not necessary for this country to have at the present time. I believe that efforts must be made to resolve speedily some of the problems of disarmament with which we are faced. I accept that, as the Secretary of State has said, it is a long furrow to plough but, although it is not an easy task, it is a worthwhile one, and a worthy ideal which we must try to achieve.

As I see the situation, the British Government and the American Adminisration at present seem to be dragging their feet in this sphere. Admittedly they have said that they are prepared to negotiate with the Russians on the medium-range theatre nuclear weapons at the end of this year, but they have been dragged kicking and squealing into the conference chamber. I will try to show why I believe this. I stress that it is as much in the interests of the West as of the Soviet Union and the third world that we take some positive steps in the next few years, because the odds are increasing all the time.

My own view, and I think that it is shared by many people in this country, is that the result of the presidential election in the United States did not help many of these matters. Once the election rhetoric begins to fade—and we hope that the air of reality will become dominant in Washington—I hope that we shall find a much more responsible attitude in America. I feel that we, supposedly having a special relationship with the Americans, are able as friends to impress on the Americans the importance of arms control.

We on the Labour Benches certainly send our good wishes to Chancellor Schmidt on his trip to the United States today. He has an uphill struggle ahead of him and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will publicly and privately back him in his efforts to persuade the Reagan Administration to press ahead with great speed with disarmament talks, because it is absolutely vital that this is done. I hope that the Secretary of State will throw the full weight of the Government behind Chancellor Schmidt in this respect.

While talking about our friends across the Atlantic, I must say that the Secretary of State for Defence's statement on "Panorama" was not particularly helpful to United States interests in this country. Especially damaging was his apparently hard-line approach to arms control and disarmament. That is something that we are not used to in this country and that, by and large, we do not expect. I thought that he did his country and himself a great disservice by those remarks. There is not only great concern in this country but great concern throughout Europe about the stance of the Americans. I have here a report from the Herald Tribune on Willy Brandt—no slouch when it comes to standing up for himself and the interests of the Western world.

Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)

A Socialist.

Dr. Clark

He may be a Socialist but he is a man who defends freedom as strongly as anyone in this House. He is a man who fought against the Nazis. If the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) had as honourable a record in fighting fascism as Willy Brandt I should be willing to accept his point of view.

I will just quote what Willy Brandt said. He said that the United States was making absurd demands on Bonn, and went on: I, who know the value of German-American co-operation, find it disappointing how many absurd things have been demanded of us from Washington in recent times. So we are not alone in being worried about the Americans and I believe that, as friends, we have the right to tell the Americans where they are going wrong and why they must be prepared to make moves towards disarmament and arms control.

We are also concerned when we learn of certain attitudes emanating from Washington. Such attitudes are epitomised by the desire that I have heard expressed for spending the Soviets into the ground. Nothing could be more suicidal, more dangerous. The Soviet economy is hugely overstretched by its military demands at the moment. It spends a proportion of its gross domestic product that no free country could afford to spend. I believe that if we forced it to spend more that would lead to instability and increase the risk of a war. I cannot think of any other single factor that would increase the risk of war more than instability in the Eastern bloc.

I find support for that kind of approach in a clear speech by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) on 7 May. He said that he had just returned from Washington and that one of the first clear impressions he received in Washington had been the hostility to arms control which is held strongly in certain sectors of the Administration, in the State Department and in the Pentagon. That is the position in Washington now. It is right that the House should have knowledge of the attitude there and that the Government and right hon. and hon. Members should try to influence American opinion and show the Americans the error of their ways.

Mr. Cranky Onslow (Woking)

Having had the advantage of being in Washington relatively recently, I put it to the hon. Gentleman that it would be more accurate if he said that there was considerable criticism in Washington of the approach to arms control by the previous Administration, who appeared to believe that it was possible to negotiate from weakness. But there is no evidence that Washington has lost interest in negotiating on arms control from a position of equality, if not of strength.

Dr. Clark

The real point is not whether one negotiates from strength or weakness, but whether one negotiates a treaty which both sides can accept and which will be lasting and workable. I cannot accept the same interpretation of events as the hon. Gentleman. The NATO decision in 1979 for the modernisation of theatre nuclear weapons was a two-part decision which we fully appreciate—at least, I hope we do. The decision to deploy was dependent on a serious and meaningful attempt to negotiate with the Soviets on arms. Reluctantly, and as I said, kicking and squealing, the Americans have agreed to enter negotiations, but not until the end of the year. Why have we had to wait for the past 12 months? Why have we to wait virtually another five months? I am reassured that Secretary of State Haig met Ambassador Dobrynin only last Friday evening. I hope that the newspaper leaks are true and that at that meeting arms control was discussed, because it is vital that we press ahead.

I want to move now to some of the other arms forums. There are so many that it is difficult to monitor the effect and progress of each one, but we are entitled to put to the Secretary of State certain points. We heard the American Secretary of State for Defence recently on "Panorama" say that SALT II was dead. Most of us—certainly on the Opposition Benches-would regret that. I hope that our view is shared by Conservative Members. However, I regret even further the Government's attitude on this matter. On 7 May, when this matter was raised, the Lord Privy Seal said: There was then no question of the American Senate ratifying the treaty. The right hon. Gentleman then said: At this stage, at least, we can play no useful part."—[Official Report, 7 May 1981; Vol. 4, c. 278.] That is not good enough. We should be making representations and putting pressure on the Americans, if not to ratify SALT II, at least to proceed with other SALT programmes and possibly to accept all the conditions laid down by SALT II and not to deviate from them. I hope that the Government will make such representations to the Americans.

I turn now to conventional arms control. What progress has been made on mutual balanced force reductions?

Finally, on disarmament, I come to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe which took place in Madrid. At the Madrid conference, the French took considerable initiatives on disarmament and made some interesting and far-reaching proposals. We welcome their lead in that respect. The Government have said that they broadly endorse the French approach. What is meant by "broadly endorse"? I presume that they endorse the French proposals for the confidence-building measures. I hope that is what they mean.

But where do the Government stand on the other French proposals about an international satellite agency, open to all States, responsible for the gathering, processing and dissemination of information relating to disarmament? It seems to us that the key to successful arms control negotiations is successful verification and monitoring. Where do the Government stand on those matters?

Many constructive developments are emerging in arms control. There is the World Disarmament Council and the United Nations conference next year. We have seen a bold initiative taken by the French and the Germans. Chancellor Schmidt and Giscard d'Estaing have given a lead to the world. But where has Britain been? We may have been in the negotiations and the discussions, but we have been the laggards rather than the leaders. It is lamentable that we have not played a part in the van of the movement towards peace and disarmament.

When I started my speech I said that we believe that defence depends upon the ability to pay; it depends on a sound economic base. In addition to the ability to pay, there needs to be a willingness to pay. In a sense, that is what differentiates the West from the Eastern bloc. Defence expenditure ultimately depends on a willingness to forgo personal and other social projects.

The Government have reduced the willingness of the British people to pay for defence. As people look round and see their manufacturing industry crumble, their jobs go and the social fabric of the nation being destroyed—

Mr. Onslow


Dr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman may say "Rubbish". I have already quoted the unemployment rate in my constituency. The council house waiting list has doubled in the past two years. Further, whereas two years ago we were building 700 houses a year, next year we shall be building only five council houses in an area of great deprivation.

The Government have destroyed the morale of huge sections of people. That has affected the willingness of people to pay for defence. In a sense, the Government have done a great disservice to the defence of this country. Young people, in particular, are worried about this matter. The Government have the responsibility not only for providing better social services, but for providing a moral lead towards arms control and disarmament. In my view, the Government have failed to take up that challenge.

4.58 pm
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), in the second part of his speech, expressed the anxiety of himself and his right hon. and hon. Friends about United States policy. He asked why it had waited so long before resuming disarmament talks. On reflection, I think that he may feel that his speech would have been better balanced if he had expressed some anxiety about Soviet policy. Perhaps the answer to the question why it has waited so long, is summed up in the words "Afghanistan and Poland". However, I shall not pursue that matter. The main problems mentioned by the hon. Gentleman are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to answer.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the clear reaffirmation of our commitment to the Trident programme. I spoke about this matter some months ago, and I shall not repeat my argument. I should like to ask only one question about it. In the White Paper my right hon. Friend states that the decision on the fifth boat does not have to be taken for some time. Perhaps he will indicate in his winding-up speech approximately when that decision will have to be taken. We would not want it to go by default.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in her exchange of letters with President Carter, assured the President that the agreement under which we were to take the Trident—on remarkably favourable terms—would not entail any diminution of our contribution to the general Western defence effort. Yesterday, at Question Time, my right hon. Friend said that there was no question of any cut in defence expenditure, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence reaffirmed that in his speech, which I read again this morning for greater accuracy

. Of course, we understand that there is no question of cutting defence expenditure. The problem is a different one and one which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force perhaps brought out more clearly than did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State yesterday, although both have been frank about it. Although there is no question of cutting defence expenditure, equally, no increase is contemplated in the cash limits under which my right hon. Friend took over his present office from my right hon. Friend who is now the Leader of the House.

If there is a sacred cow in the debate, it would seem to be the cash limits. If they are the sacred cow, there will be cuts in our defences—not cuts in defence expenditure but cuts in the military power that we deploy. This is because of the inevitable and immense escalation in the cost of manpower and weapons to which my hon. Friend referred. A 3 per cent. annual increase in defence expenditure is not enough to meet that escalation.

My right hon. Friend took office with instructions to keep within the cash limits, so naturally he asked the Ministry of Defence to work out different ways to get the best possible results for the money that he was entitled to spend. I have known the Ministry for years. Those in it have no doubt been working in the way that they do. They have produced various models and schemes, and, as a result, there has been a great deal of speculation about the future of the British Army of the Rhine, the surface fleet and certain weapons systems.

It is all very well for my right hon. Friend to laugh off what the The Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote, but there is a bit more to it than that. A solid citizen like my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) does not put his neck on the block and prejudice his whole political career unless he believes that something pretty serious is amiss. From what I know of the Ministry of Defence, his professional advisers would not have allowed him to do so unless they, too, believed that something was pretty much amiss and that there was rather more fire behind the smoke than has been admitted.

I reflected on all this, and share the idea with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that it would have been rather fun if, instead of making his speech at Tenterden, my hon. Friend had held his fire and made it from the Dispatch Box last night. I wonder what the Front Bench reaction would have been to that.

None of us with friends or contacts in the defence community is in any doubt that there have been great goings on in that world. Some of them have been ably described in articles by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), and they give cause for anxiety.

The central theme of the White Paper is the relationship between the threat that we have to face and the money that we can afford to spend to meet it. What is the origin of the cash limits against which my right hon. Friend is operating? If I am not mistaken, they are based on expenditure in 1977, to be increased by the NATO decision that year by 3 per cent. per annum over a longish period. However, 1977 is four years ago and a lot has happened since then. The Ministers who concluded the 1977 agreement still believed, however misguidedly, that detente was a reality. They were deliberating and deciding before the SS20s had been deployed on their present scale, before the Shah had fallen, and before Afghanistan had been invaded and we had seen the startling growth in Soviet strength. The situation today is very different.

The Soviets have achieved strategic nuclear parity. It is fair to say that they have superiority over NATO in quantity and quality. My old friend Captain Liddell Hart laid down that the defence was stronger than the offence in the ratio of 3:1. The Soviets have achieved that in almost every category in Europe today.

A new factor has come into being. Not long ago we saw remarkable exercises by the Soviets in Aden and Ethiopia, where they landed an airborne force of 20,000 men, with tanks and associated equipment. They have a capability to land about 50,000 men. What forces do we have available in Britain to outflank the central flank of NATO if such an attack took place?

Then at last there is a belated recognition, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force made in unequivocal terms, of the threat that faces us out of the area. I very much welcome what he said. I have been banging on about the subject for a long time, but this is the first time that it has had such explicit recognition.

A window of opportunity has opened for the Soviet Union. From now on it has the lead, and will keep it for some years. Such is the lead time of modern weapons systems that we cannot, even with the greatest effort, hope to close that window with any certainty for between five and 10 years. We are therefore, in a period of unprecedented peril, and that period has started now, as we sit here.

Clearly, the situation calls for a defence review. Europe's principal ally, the United States, has no illusions about the danger. The Americans have undertaken a defence review which has concluded that over the next two years they should increase defence expenditure by 17 per cent. Equally, the Government have no illusions about the peril. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made speech after speech about Soviet imperialism. When he was Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House also made several speeches to that effect. The White Paper sets out the facts as clearly as I have.

Therefore, the Government are not in the same position as Mr. Neville Chamberlain, who believed that he could achieve detente with Hitler. In retrospect, that gave him some excuse for having neglected our defences—although it should be remembered that even he increased defence expenditure by 6 per cent. in 1938, before the Munich agreement, and by 12 per cent. after, even though he still affected to believe in detente.

If the threat is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the United States Administration say it is, we must find the money to meet it. If the fate of the nation is at stake, there are no sacrifices that either side of the House would not agree to, including rationing and cuts in much of our civilian life, if necessary. However, the increases in the present cash limits that I believe are necessary would not be so dramatic. We need to put flesh on defences that have been cut to the bone and are already inadequate to meet the present threat.

I believe that there would be general agreement among those who have studied the matter that our Armed Forces are seriously undermanned. The White Paper admits it. By contrast with the Soviet forces in East Germany, the British Army of the Rhine is seriously undermanned. Its state of readiness is not what it should be. Instead of reducing or compressing the Royal Marines, we should have another Marine commando and build up the Parachute Regiment to where it was before.

My hon. Friend spoke about the need for an ability to intervene overseas. That must be undertaken seriously, not, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested in a television interview some time ago, with perhaps a company or even a battalion. Anything less than a brigade group with supporting air and naval support would be derisory.

We need more manpower for the Navy. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford is right, as I have no doubt that he is, we are short of crew to man the ships that we have, when we should perhaps be hoping to bring some ships out of mothballs. The Royal Air Force is still desparately short of pilots.

On home defence, if there is a threat of an airborne landing, the least that we could do would be to do what Neville Chamberlain did in the days of appeasement and double the strength of the Territorial Army. We should take the advice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) and at least have a compulsory register of everybody in the country. If a crisis comes, thousands of people will be queuing up asking how they can help. That happened in both World Wars, but there was no machinery to tell them what to do or where to go. It would not be too expensive to set up an organisation to decide how people's services could be allocated.

I suggest that we should take advantage of the recession and the unhappiness of unemployment to try to boost recruitment well above existing manpower ceilings. It is not only pay that counts here, but convincing potential recruits that the Government want them and care about defence. The impression created, no doubt by mistake, over the past few weeks has been quite different.

Training is also extremely important. Men are no use unless they are trained. The present level of training is deplorable. If men are not trained, they become rusty, as does the kit.

If the Government are right in their analysis of the gravity and urgency of the threat, we should have a crash programme to get as much equipment as possible into service in the short run because the threat is here and now.

Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)

I hope that my right hon. Friend will appreciate that I intervene in a spirit of great humility to ask him, from his long and deep knowledge of foreign affairs, to enlighten me. If the ideal military programme that he postulates, which would necessarily be at a colossal expense, is really so urgently necessary, what positive evidence can he give of the Russians' aggressive intent, other than the attempted takeover of Afghanistan, which is within their own sphere of influence? Is there not, on the contrary, almost unbroken evidence of Russian restraint in foreign affairs at a number of crisis pressure points during the past two or three years, such as Iran, the Iran-Iraq war, the Israel-Palestine disputes, and, indeed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is that the speech that the hon. Member intended to make? I know that he will try to catch my eye.

Mr. Amery

My hon. Friend indicated to me yesterday that he did not intend to speak in the debate, but he has at least made a contribution. If I tried to reply to him, however, it would be with a foreign affairs speech, which would not be in keeping with the debate and would unduly prolong my contribution. I should simply remind the House of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, SS20, Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia and a good many more examples which come to mind.

If the threat is as serious as the Government and the American Administration believe, whatever my hon. Friend may think about it, we should have a crash programme of rearmament. We should use the current recession to do that. My right hon. Friend will never get this so cheaply or so quickly as now, when there is surplus capacity in industry. The sooner we close the window of opportunity on the Russians, the closer we shall be to safety. Nobody wants an arms race, but if there has to be one, we had better win it.

What are the implications of what my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) ventured to call an ideal programme, although I regard it as far less than that? It would mean a small setback to the counter-inflation policy and a small increase in the borrowing requirement or in taxation. It would not be much more than that. I leave it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to try to cost it.

Of course, these things are unwelcome, but are we really so poor after two years of Conservative Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—that— we cannot afford this small addition to the defence budget? The living standards of those in employment are still higher than they were. The balance of payments is safeguarded by oil. Sterling is reasonably strong. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry continues to stuff subsidies down the necks of lame ducks like an Alsatian farmer producing foie gras.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says that we have reached the limit of cuts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State quoted Adam Smith yesterday. I remind him that Adam Smith also wrote that defence is more important than opulence. Our credit abroad is not so bad. Have we thought of obtaining an interest-free defence loan from Japan as a form of burden sharing? That might not be so unproductive. In the wars against the French under Marlborough and Wellington, we subsidised our allies. Cannot we at least subsidise ourselves in order to defend ourselves?

I wish to say a word about the international implications of the cuts. If we cut our defences—and it is not our defence expenditure, but our defences—the impact on the neutralist currents in France, Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia could be serious. If we cut our defences, we shall lose the respect of many neutral and non-aligned countries. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is always warning against the danger of subversion. The ability to show the flag is important in discouraging subversion. If our defences fall much below their present level they will become irrelevant in the eyes of the world.

What matters above all is the impact on our American allies. At the moment, they are taking a very robust view, which the hon. Member for South Shields denounced, but it would not be impossible for them to relapse into isolationism or turn to the Pacific. There is certainly a school of thought in the Pentagon to that effect. Alternatively, they might be tempted to try to do a deal with the Soviet Union—a kind of super-Yalta—at the expense of Europe. A leading article and an article by the commentator Joseph Kraft in this morning's Herald Tribune rather bear out what I have said. A much more alarming editorial in the current "Strategic Review" discussed whether the Mansfield amendment calling for the withdrawal of American forces from Europe should not be dusted off.

I know all the arguments against extending the cash limits. They are the same arguments that one finds in the memoirs of those who served in the Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain Governments, namely, that it is unsound financially, that it is unpopular and that it could lose votes. We might even be told that it might lose us the election, so that the Labour Party would get in, with all the implications of that. Those were the party political considerations which brought us to the brink of defeat in 1940 and brought the Conservative Party to disaster in 1945.

Unemployment and weak defences make a bad combination for the Conservative Party. If we had announced a review on the lines now being discussed, although not yet presented, at the time of the general election, we should have lost a great many votes.

I realise that no decisions have been taken. I assume, of course, that there will be consultation with our Allies. I also assume, although there was some uncertainty about what my right hon. Friend said, that there will be a full debate when he makes his statement.

This debate has been extremely valuable. Its value has been greatly increased by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, which catalysed the situation.

I close by saying to my right hon. Friend that if something has to give, let it be the cash limits. For a Conservative Government to cut defence in the face of an immediate and growing threat would be to put the credibility and honour of that Government and of our whole party at issue.

5.20 pm
Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I hope that the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) will allow me to pick up on my way some of the interesting points that he made, instead of replying to him directly. There are some issues on which I should like to make amendments to his point of view.

My understanding of the Government's attitude is that they do not share the right hon. Gentleman's view of the seriousness of the situation. They do not believe that it resembles 1938; nor do I. If any evidence is required, it is to be found in paragraphs 105 and 106 of Cmnd. 8212-I: Experience suggests, however, that we cannot be confident the Soviet Union will be content with peaceful competition. We still have no reason to believe that Soviet leaders are specifically planning to attack NATO. That is the Government's appreciation of the position, and, as I understood it, it was what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) was saying in his intervention. No doubt if the Government shared the apprehensions of the right hon. Member for Pavilion, they might wish to embark on some of the projects that he mentioned. But I believe that they would be wrong to do so.

I take more or less the Government's view, that there is a potential threat from the Soviet Union. I do not trust the Soviet Union, but I do not see real evidence yet, despite the window of opportunity that has been opened up, that the strategic stalemate has been broken. That strategic stalemate has preserved us, in my judgment—although not in the judgment of some of my hon. Friends—for the last 30 years.

I believe that the Soviet Union has a tactical advantage at the present time, but that it is not sufficient to warrant it embarking on a war that would destroy it as well as the West. I cannot see that that is the scenario, and I understand that that is the Government's assessment. If I may say so, they are in their assessment broadly following the assessment that the Labour Government made. There is a difference of degree but not of perception in this matter, and I do not intend to say anything different today about our defences from what I said when we were in office.

We are grateful to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) for opening up—however inadvertently—the review to all our eyes. I dare say that this debate would have taken a very different course if the hon. Member had not made his speech last week, although I do not suppose that he particularly wanted it to result in the course that has been taken. But we owe him a debt of gratitude His serious contribution to the debate yesterday enabled us to put some of these matters into focus.

Yes, there is a need for a review of defence expenditure. There is nothing new about that. All Governments, half way through their term of office, discover, as the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force said this afternoon, that the increasing technological development of weapons has rendered impossible the programme on which they thought they were embarked. This Government are likely to be a little more kindly treated by the Opposition, in making that discovery, than we were treated by them when we were in office. However, I do not particularly wish to make a party speech this afternoon.

The value of the debate is that it gives us all a chance to influence the Government before they reach their conclusions on some of the worrying ideas which have been put forward—on what authority I do not know. This may be the only opportunity that we shall have of making an appeal to the Government and of expressing the view of the House to them. I thought that I detected yesterday some degree of retreat by the Secretary of State for Defence from at least some of the things that were put before us in the speech of the hon. Member for Ashford. Indeed, the Government may already be backtracking on some of them. If so, his resignation will have been worth while. I am sure that there will be many opportunities for him to serve in the years that lie ahead.

I have heard it said that I speak as a Navy man. It is true that 30 years ago I occupied the office from which the hon. Member for Ashford has just resigned. But 30 years is rather a long time, and I do not now have any particular connection with the Navy, and I want to approach the question as objectively as I can. I agree with the Secretary of State that sentiments should not be decisive in these matters, whether one has served in the Navy, the Admiralty or anywhere else. But the cost effectiveness, or opportunity cost, is equally not the only factor that should be considered. It is taking almost a merchant banker's view of the position to talk about cost effectiveness as the sole factor.

The morale of the Services is important. The esprit de corps that has been developed, and the traditions of this country, make up something that is very important. The right hon. Member for Pavilion quoted Liddell Hart and his factor of three to one. My recollection is that it was Napoleon who said that the morale to the material was as three is to one. The cost effectiveness approach that the Secretary of State commended to us is not, therefore, the only factor that should be considered.

I have no apology to make for appealing to our history in this matter. The Secretary of State recognised that our history has an important part to play when he said in the White Paper that our least obvious natural role is the deployment of our forces on the Continent.

It is clear from what the hon. Member for Ashford said that the Soviet Union has built a huge surface fleet. Thirty years ago, when I was at the Admiralty, it would have seemed unimaginable that the Soviet Union could ever have a fleet of that kind. I say to the Secretary of State and to the Government that the United Kingdom is the nation that is best fitted to guard the shores of this country, to guard the shores of Europe, and to keep open the sea routes.

We have been told that the Soviet Union is self-sufficient in raw materials and minerals. Why, then, does it need such a powerful navy? If it were of such a mind, it could easily interfere with the passage of our cargo ships, which are vital to our life blood. What do we reply with—Trident? Of course not. We need a fleet in being, with ships that are capable of standing off and protecting our own cargo vessels—the very life blood of this country. That is vital to us, and I repeat that we are the nation best fitted to make that provision, not only for ourselves but for Europe as a whole.

I want to refer particularly to the question of the troops in Europe. I recall that we debated this issue in 1954, and the right hon. Member for Pavilion took part in that debate. Why did we go to Europe? I remember the speech that Sir Anthony Eden made. He said that the Government had two reasons. First, we went to Europe as a deterrent. We had about four divisions there, and the feeling was that if we kept those four divisions there after the peace treaty was signed, together with the Second Tactical Air Force, that would help to defend Europe against any attacker.

But that was not the main reason. The main reason, as Sir Anthony Eden made absolutely clear at the time, was French and German mistrust of each other, and it was felt that our presence on the Continent would be a psychological aid in assisting them to come together. As Sir Anthony Eden said at the time, the real problem was how to handle the Germans. That was why we had 55,000 troops and the Second Tactical Air Force in Europe. Are not the French and the Germans getting on pretty well without us? I think they are.

Thank God, I am not one of those who are jealous of the Franco-German alliance. Anyone of my generation is deeply appreciative of the fact that that long enmity has now disappeared. But we do not have to keep 55,000 troops there in order to prevent the Germans and the French from getting at each other's throats. However, I accept that troops are still needed as a deterrent.

I wish to make a strong point to the Secretary of State. I strongly believe that it is necessary that this country should have a maritime air capability—I am not talking merely about surface ships—that is capable of guarding our shores, of looking after not only our trade routes, but those of Europe, and of ensuring the reinforcement of this country as well as of Europe from the United States of America—if, unfortunately, that should become necessary. I have long felt that the time has come—indeed, it is long overdue—to take up seriously with our allies in Europe the reason why 55,000 British troops are on the Continent.

Sir Frederick Burden (Gillingham)

Do we not also employ 30,000 Germans and pay them accordingly?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman has added to my point and is absolutely correct. With the exception of four individuals, we all agreed when Anthony Eden wanted us to put our troops in Europe. At that time we were not talking about employing 30,000 German civilians. I do not wish to be chauvinistic, but I would far sooner that those 30,000 people were employed in Britain, if 30,000 jobs must be paid for.

Unfortunately, the Labour Government finally had to bring the question of offset costs to an end. We did so to my great regret, although I did not think that it was a good thing to haggle about it every year with the German Government. Hon. Members will appreciate that when we stationed four divisions in Germany we were told that the cost in foreign exchange terms would be £15 million to £20 million a year. Last year, the cost, in foreign exchange terms was about £800 million. It was certainly not less than that.

For all those reasons many of us want a proposition to be put to our allies to the effect that we should at least halve the number of troops now stationed in Germany. If Mr. Henry Stanhope was correct in his piece in The Times, that would do far less damage to NATO than if we were to make the cuts proposed in the Navy and in the maritime air force. If I were to discuss this issue with our allies, it would not come as a shock to them. They know about it and they know that discussions go on. They also know that our 55,000 troops are not of the same total value—I am not decrying them—as they were in 1954.

We might find that our allies had a surprising degree of understanding if we were to tell them that we wanted to bring home at least 25,000 troops and that in doing that, we would maintain our naval and air strength. I must tell my hon. Friends that that might involve retaining Trident. I might take a different view from some. However, if such a proposition involved retaining Trident, it would be a bargain that would be well worth making. However, we should not give the Admiralty its head, or indeed the air marshals.

I was taken by some of the criticisms that have been made about the nature and size of the platforms from which the missiles are to be launched. There is a good case for a serious review. However, I do not disagree much with what the Secretary of State said about the nature of the maritime or air forces. I would sum up my sentiments by saying "Keep your platforms, weapons and aircraft rugged and simple. Let them get in as much time at sea and as much time in the air as possible."

The right hon. Member for Pavilion holds only one point of view. He believes that if the threat is there, we must find the resources. That is not the only task of statesmanship. If the threat is there we must find a way of circumventing it by other means. One of those means was put forward in an excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). At present, there is a vacuum in disarmament. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not disagree that both we and the Soviet Union have a common interest in wishing to stop this mad arms race.

Given the difficulties that confront the Soviet Union—there is no need for any hon. Member to rehearse them, because we can all think of them—it cannot want to embark on a further arms race in order to offset the great additional programme that the United States has begun. This year, the Americans say that they will spend $33 billion extra. That is about the size of our whole defence programme. The Soviet Union will think that it is compelled to reply to that. It will over-insure. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields is right. We must stop this mad arms race. As we have said before, if it cannot be stopped, it will be the first arms race not to end in war. Every other arms race has ended in war. Whether we are discussing nuclear or conventional weapons, I cannot conceive of another war from which the Soviet Union, Europe or the United States of America can emerge in any civilised form.

Both parties are right to say that Afghanistan and the hostages in Tehran have incensed and inflamed public opinion. The rhetoric of the general election has added to that. It is difficult for any president to embark on serious disarmament discussions. In addition, the Soviet Union sees, or thinks that it sees, us attempting to line up with China in order to encircle it. Both sides are wrong about such things.

Britain can take the lead. We could have taken the initiative, but thank God, Helmut Schmidt has already done so. Every one of us has a vital interest in ensuring that disarmament discussions on both nuclear and conventional weapons begin at the earliest possible moment. We cannot afford to do anything else. I deeply deplore the fact that SALT II is dead. It was our policy that it should be ratified. After initial hesitation by the Government, it became their policy that it should be ratified. Now there is a vacuum. There is nothing in its place. The American Administration have a share of the responsibility. Given public opinion, they have a great responsibility to put forward proposals now that will help us to overcome the present deadlock.

Over the years I have been through enough of this sort of thing and, as a result of my experience as Foreign Secretary and as Prime Minister I know the difficulties that exist in the numbers game. We did not even get as far as deciding how many troops each of us had in the conventional sphere. Therefore, there is room for radical new thinking. We should try again on the same basis, but, equally, we should consider whether a new approach would not be successful. I refer to what I am told is called the "missions approach", as an alternative to measuring numbers.

The anti-ballistic missile agreement, under which only Moscow and one capital city in the United States of America are protected is an example of what I mean by the "missions approach". There is room for fresh thinking. For their sakes as well as ours, we should earnestly and sincerely make a proposal to the Americans. We are doing them no favour, but we are certainly doing ourselves a favour. We should propose a deep cut in the level of armaments.

I regret the argument in my party about unilateralism and multilateralism. The Labour Party could have great influence in these matters, but I think that we shall destroy it. I fear that we shall just have an argument and that we shall be subject to taunts from Conservative Members. Unilateralists and multilateralists should make common cause on such issues. I can understand those of my hon. Friends who say that they cannot have anything to do with such terrible weapons. But they can make common cause with those of us, like me, who say that the whole world must disarm.

All of us must approach the issue with sincerity and determination in order to achieve our end. If we could only unite on that instead—as we probably shall at our next conference—of telling people who believe in multilateral disarmament that they are not fit to be good Socialists and saying that those who believe in unilateral disarmament are naive. The Labour Party has a role to play and we should play it by getting together on the issue instead of tearing ourselves apart. We would have an influence on the Government and the world if we could do that.

I regret that the Government took the decision on Trident. The right hon. Member for Pavilion said that cash limits were a sacred cow. He might have added Trident, because Trident is a sacred cow too. I have expressed my idea about the circumstances in which I might support it. However, I should prefer to suspend judgment at present. If our defence review followed a particular course I would find myself in support of it, but it is not right, as the Secretary of State has done, to rule it out of consideration, to have excluded it from all consideration, when looking at the alternatives.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields to whom I was very glad to listen, made the right point about the economy. I read in the Financial Times this morning that next week the Secretary of State for the Environment will tell the local authorities that they will have another £900 million chopped off their grant at a time when, as he said, we are cutting down on education, health, local authority grants and the rest. The Government are making their job twice as difficult.

I appeal to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to understand that if they are—as they are—sincerely concerned about the future of this country's defence, there is only one way to handle the issue. It cannot be dealt with in a recession. They must press the Government to expand the economy and get it moving as fast as they can. Of course inflation is important, but it is not the only issue. It could be controlled. We have reached the stage when it is important to get the economy moving again so that we may have the resources to meet the defence requirements that are considered necessary as well as to meet, as I and all my hon. Friends want to meet, the social requirements of our country. If we combine that with a serious attempt at disarmament, we should have a policy that the country would follow and which would unite us.

5.42 pm
Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

It is a pleasure to follow in debate the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), a former naval person such as I am, but I rather more humbly. I agree with much of what he said. It was good to hear from the Labour Benches a firm exhortation for a strong defence commitment on behalf of our nation. I shall not get involved in the internal machinations of the Labour Party between the unilateralists and the multilateralists; that would be presumptuous of me. We all want multilateral disarmament, on a mutual and balanced force reduction basis. I want to see effective strategic arms limitations. On that sort of disarmament the Conservative Party can agree with certain Members such as the right hon. Gentleman. We are realistic and hardheaded about it. We are not taken in by unenforceable treaties. It was good to hear the right hon. Gentleman putting forward a robust view about the defences of the land.

I shall not rub it in, but what worries us all are the substantial elements in the Labour Party who do not share the right hon. Gentleman's robust view. There are many in the Labour Party whose programme of defence is akin to that which is sometimes adumbrated by the Scandinavians, namely, the policy of sending a telegram saying "I surrender". That is not the universal feeling of the Labour party, of the right hon. Gentleman or of other hon. Members who have spoken, but it is the view frequently expressed by hon. Members below the Gangway.

I welcome the opportunity of making what my hon. Friends will be glad to know will be a brief contribution as so many right hon. and hon. Members want to speak. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his speech yesterday which has gone some way to ending the uncertainty about defence matters. The atmosphere of uncertainty existed before his speech and will continue, but to a lesser degree as a result of that speech, until more final decisions on defence are made late in the summer.

Mrs. Peggy Fenner (Rochester and Chatham)

I regret to tell my hon. and learned Friend that the uncertainty in Chatham has not ended. I hope that by the end of the day we shall hear some words that will end the apprehension and the uncertainty in my constituency.

Mr. Buck

I understand my hon. Friend's strong feelings. The night is young. If the House gives leave to my right hon. Friend to make a further contribution, I hope that he will be able to go even further to end the uncertainty, especially on the problems of the Chatham dockyard to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner) is so devoted and on which she has such expert knowledge.

What my right hon. Friend said yesterday will have gone some way to dispelling some of the more exaggerated claims or suggestions being made about what has been suggested about cuts. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said yesterday. His words should go out loud and clear to the Services and to the nation. He said: At no time have I contemplated, sought, proposed or recommended—or been asked by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to contemplate, seek, propose or recommend—any cut in the published defence budget of the United Kingdom".—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 161.] That is a fair measure of reassurance. I am glad that we have those words on the record from my right hon. Friend. Later in the summer, when we receive the results of further talks and investigations in the Department, they will be remembered and quoted.

The uncertainty of which I speak is an awful thing to live with. It is bad for our Services. That sort of uncertainty is a comfort to our enemies. It causes grave concern to our allies. However, we hope that some of it has been dispelled by my right hon. Friend. Further studies are being undertaken by the Department. Therefore the uncertainty continues albeit to a lesser extent. I hope that my right hon. Friend will expedite the researches so that by the summer we may have a full debate about what is proposed.

It is sometimes said that defence is not thought to be important electorally. That is wholly erroneous. My constituency, Colchester, is a garrison town, but I estimate that in every constituency there are retired Army, Navy and Air Force officers and many others who support our party because they realise that it has a deep concern about defence. However, I do not have the arrogance to think that we have a monopoly of concern. I know many friends in the Labour Party at constuency level who are deeply concerned that the Labour Party is now led by someone who is traditionally a unilateralist and a great marcher in the anti-nuclear cause. I freely acknowledge that we have no monopoly of concern on defence, but I wish that the Opposition would sometimes acknowledge that they have no monopoly of concern on social and welfare matters. It is important that yesterday my right hon. Friend established the Government's firm defence commitment. I warn the Opposition that if they continue to be so equivocal about defence matters they will have to look to their future grassroots support.

Regrettably, we face a further period of uncertainty because of the reviews that are continuing within the Ministry of Defence. I exhort my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to come to the House with his basic proposals as soon as possible so that the uncertainty can finally be dispelled.

I regard certain matters as almost sacrosanct. First, we must have a major commitment on the Continent. Perhaps we do not need 55,000 men there. That may not be the right number, but we must retain a major commitment to the maintenance of the strength of the Alliance on the Continent. I look forward to hearing from my right, hon. Friend the Secretary of State whether we are deploying our commitment in he most cost-effective way and whether it needs to be 55,000-plus. The precise figure could be negotiable, but the major commitment must be maintained.

The other important commitment is what can be described as our maritime capacity. An interesting leader in today's international Herald Tribune states: If the Alliance is to be effective, each nation must play the role for which it is best suited. In Britain's case that role is the defence of the North Atlantic, including the Iceland Gap through which the United States must resupply its forces in Northern Europe. That means cuts in Britain's naval strength will weaken the Alliance's ability to fight a prolonged eventual war in Europe. The leader stresses: If British ships are taken out of service, there are currently no Allied naval forces to replace them. The United States Navy is stretched so thin and is so undermanned that at the moment it could not possibly fill the gap. We all know about those difficulties. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would find it difficult to get support from his hon. Friends for any substantial diminution of our commitment within BAOR—although the numbers are not sacrosanct—or for a major diminution in our maritime role. I was glad that my right hon. Friend spoke robustly yesterday and pointed out that he had never been asked to make major cuts beyond those already announced.

The credibility of the Government and particularly that of the Prime Minister are involved in our keeping a strong, sensible defence posture. We realise that we are no longer a super Power and that we can never again have a Navy that is equal to any two others. We still have the third most powerful Navy in the world, but it will never again be one of the world's massive navies.

We are realistic in our approach. The credibility of the Government and the Prime Minister are involved in keeping up our defence posture, and I believe that the possibility of getting mutual and balanced force reduction talks under way or starting another round of strategic arms limitation talks depends on our maintaining a strong posture. There will not be such negotiations if we are seen to be lowering our guard unilaterally.

5.53 pm
Mr. William Rodgers (Stockton)

The right hon. Member for Brighton Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said that this was a valuable debate. It is certainly the most fascinating defence debate that I can remember during my time in the House. It is not unusual for the Government or the Opposition to be in disarray, but it is unusual for both to be in disarray at the same time.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) made a wise speech on which many of us will reflect and with which many of us agreed. We are debating the great issues of priorities in defence spending and, though this has appeared peripheral to the debate, the political control of the Ministry of Defence.

I add my good wishes to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). I regret his sacking, because he is an honourable and moderate man and his dismissal was unnecessary and harsh. He may have transgressed, but the Secretary of State should be more than a little ashamed at going along with the Prime Minister in her display of strength. The political system of which we are part would have been better served if the hon. Member for Ashford had had a ticking off but been allowed to remain in office.

I had the privilege last year of moving the official Opposition amendment to the Government motion on the defence White Paper. The opening sentence of that amendment, which I remember writing, was: That this House reaffirms its commitment to the proper defence of Britain through membership of NATO". I regret that the official Opposition amendment in this debate contains no reference to NATO. That represents a significant shift within the Labour Party from the leadership that was provided by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East.

I do not criticise the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), who spoke well in opening for the Opposition yesterday, or the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who wound up for the Opposition, and I join the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East in praising the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) for his wise, sensible and helpful remarks about disarmament which we all endorse.

However, the hon. Member for Hamilton referred to: our participation in NATO, to which the Labour Party is still emphatically committed".—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 238.] I do not believe that to be true. I have great respect and affection for the hon. Gentleman and I believe that he is emphatically committed to NATO, but I do not believe that the Opposition as a whole are emphatically committed. In fact, they are much less committed to NATO than they were last year.

I read, but did not listen to, the speeches of the hon. Members for Harlow (Mr. Newens), Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and Dundee, West (Mr. Ross). None supported the official Opposition amendment. It was a roll call of the opposition within the Opposition and that faction is getting bigger every day. The danger is not that there are unilateralist voices—they ought to be heard in the House—but that there are more and more unilaterialist voices and that they can easily become neutralist voices.

I do not doubt the commitment to NATO and to multilateral disarmament of, for example, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and, as I understand from the newspapers, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I read in The Times recently that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook had said that he would quit if there were any question of our leaving NATO.

I also read the report of the interesting and powerful speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East in the House on 7 May. It was in keeping with the man whom I believe to be our most distinguished former Secretary of State for Defence. However, I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is not sufficient for him to make an occasional speech asserting his belief in the importance of NATO. In present circumstances, that speech must be made frequently. It is necessary to campaign in favour of continued membership of NATO. The right hon. Gentleman has a responsible position among the leadership of the Labour Party and he has an obligation to repeat the commitment to NATO loudly and clearly on every possible occasion.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

The right hon. Gentleman is misleading the House, perhaps inadvertently, when he refers to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). My right hon. Friend did not say that he would quit. He said that in the circumstances to which the right hon. Gentleman referred he would not take office in Government. He made it clear that he had no intention of quitting the Labour Party and that he would regard any such action as reprehensible.

Mr. Rodgers

If I have misrepresented the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, no doubt he will make the matter clear and reiterate exactly what his position is, both here, and outside.

In The Times of 4 May the headline was: Hattersley says he will quit over Nato". That was the headline on which I based my remarks. I have no wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. I am not suggesting that he would quit the Labour Party; that is a matter for him. I am suggesting that he is committed to NATO and, like the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, he should say so loud and clear on every possible occasion. A campaign is needed among those who believe in membership of NATO, and more people should take part in that campaign than do so now.

A year ago I published a short pamphlet called "Defence, Disarmament and Peace". I have every reason to believe that I was expressing in that pamphlet the views of a shadow Cabinet of which I was a member. However, I have to say that there was not a squeak of public support from any of my colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet for what was a plain statement of their view, particularly concerning membership of NATO and the obligations that follow from that. In matters of defence, there are times when silence is the ultimate treason.

I wish to comment on some aspects of the Government's approach. I welcome the extent to which the Government are considering a serious review of defence spending. I welcome the extent to which the Secretary of State is asserting firm ministerial control. Anyone who has had the privilege of serving in the Ministry of Defence will know that it is a very difficult Ministry to handle. One is given authoritative advice of the most professional kind. It is not easy for the Secretary of State to stand up to that advice when he has to do so. Therefore I welcome the extent to which the Secretary of State appears to be doing that.

I noted and welcomed what the Secretary of State said yesterday about ASW carriers. He was unusually frank with the House in expressing his doubts about them. He said that as the programme was going forward it should be completed, but added: I do not believe that we would order them if we were making the decision today".—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 165.] I do not believe that we should have ordered them five years ago. That was my position at the time. It would be improper for me to reveal the discussions that took place, but I believed that it was a mistake to proceed with the second and the third of the ASW carriers.

I thought that it was a mistake to build the Sea Harrier, too. It was an unwise diversion of resources. I expressed my views to my elders and betters, but I did not win the argument. I am glad that the Secretary of State recognises that it was the wrong decision then. In the management of a great Ministry wrong decisions are bound to be made from time to time. It was the result of two things. The first was a deal done between the Chiefs of Staff. I remember the Chief of the Defence Staff at the time saying to Ministers that it was the firm collective view of the defence staff that we should proceed, when Ministers knew that it was not their firm collective view at all.

I remember, too, the strong argument of our defence salesmen that we should proceed with a second carrier and the Sea Harrier because that was the only way to ensure that they could be sold to the Shah of Iran. As soon as the decision was made to proceed, we heard no more of that argument. It was plainly a ship that the Iranians could not operate and, in retrospect, we can see how foolish it would have been to seek to supply it.

I am strongly critical of three aspects of the Government's policy. First, I am bothered by their developing obsession with Trident, and I remain unconvinced that it deserves the overriding priority that they intend to give it. It involves dangerous assumptions, and I think that the Secretary of State misunderstood an intervention yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw). It involves an expensive diversion of resources, and, whatever may be said in the House, we all know that it will cost much more than the £5 billion, when the moment comes. Trident is clearly not NATO's first priority. I maintain the view that all decisions of the British Government on defence should be made in the context of NATO, a NATO which we should seek to strengthen, and of which we are part.

Secondly, I regret the Government's obsessive commitment to an increase of 3 per cent. per annum, confirmed unequivocally today by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force. I do not believe that we can sustain that growth in defence expenditure, given the present rate of economic growth. It is better not to pretend now, and to suffer afterwards and require the Ministry of Defence to have yet another review.

Thirdly—and here I come back to what I said earlier about the remarks, which I applaud, of the hon. Member for South Shields—the Government have failed to take positive initiative in arms control and disarmament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) spoke about this matter on 7 May. No one has a better record as Secretary of State—if the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will allow me to say so—than he has in seeking to make real progress in arms control and disarmament. He tried very hard, and he believed that there was scope for initiative for this country. However, time is now running out for an agreement on tactical nuclear forces. In December 1979 we were able to argue that there was a breathing space of four years, and that that breathing space could be used in such a way that it might not be necessary to locate cruise missiles here, and in return the Soviet Union might abandon the SS20. Eighteen months of that breathing space have gone, and the pace of the United States Government is simply not good enough. It is not sufficient to wait until the end of 1981 for the first preliminary steps towards progress.

I hope that the Prime Minister will consider seriously the suggestion of the Opposition Front Bench that she should join Chancellor Schmidt, who has a special interest in the matter, in urging the United States Government to adopt a much more rapid timetable, and in particular to revive SALT at the earliest possible opportunity.

The speeches that have been made from the Front Benches in this debate have shown that both the Government and the Opposition are deeply entrenched. Perhaps the nature of the debate suggests that there is a wider divide than there really is. I believe that there are many Conservatives who believe passionately in the need to stop the arms race and to achieve practical measures of multilateral disarmament. On the Opposition Benches, as was made clear by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), there are many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who deeply believe in the need for collective security and the proper defence of Britain. I only wish chat there were a plainer statement by both Front Benches chat defence and disarmament go together.

I cannot support the Government in the absence of any indication of the concern for disarmament which we all believe to be essential in the period ahead. Equally, I cannot vote for the official Opposition amendment, which makes no reference to the proper defence of Britain or to membership of NATO.

I said at the beginning of my remarks that this has been a fascinating debate, and so it has. However, at a different level, it is a sad and disturbing debate. Defence and disarmament are matters on which there should be a reasonable measure of bipartisanship, at least about the ends, and a serious attempt to find an understanding about the means. Neither the Government nor the Opposition have shown that spirit in the course of yesterday or today.

6.10 pm
Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

I shall not take up the points made by the right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) in his review.

There has been a good deal of agreement across the Chamber on aspects of defence policy with which I disagree. I rise to speak because my party is committed to ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons. My constituents are anxious about a planned NATO base in the area. The Defence Estimates document says: Talk of choosing in some simple or exclusive way between…a 'maritime' and a 'Continental' effort is misconceived. That is not so. The crux of the controversial arguments during the debate has been the choice between applying financial resources to the Trident—at present the estimated cost is about £5,000 million, but that will inevitably escalate to £10,000 million by the time it is in operation, if it ever is—and sustaining conventional forces. We cannot do both.

It has been argued today that because the Russians are escalating their armaments we must continually keep on notching up ours. But that is beyond this country's resources. Those of my age group will remember the derision that was poured on the Nazis when Goering said that their philosophy was guns before butter. We are getting dangerously near that philosophy in some of the arguments from the Conservative Benches. We are not in a position to keep up with a totalitarian State that has no regard for its own people. We can never beat it at that game. We can only take part in seeing that we have reasonable defences in our own country.

David Greenwood, of Aberdeen university, formerly an employee of the Ministry of Defence, blew the whistle on Tory defence spending long before the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) did so. I was impressed, as we all were, by the hon. Gentleman's frank statement yesterday.

The Secretary of State for Defence was very critical of The Daily Telegraph. It is not my favourite daily reading, but I recall what George Orwell once said—that something may still be true, even if The Daily Telegraph says that it is. Although at yesterday's date the report may have been inaccurate, it may be the state of play within a short time.

The room for manoeuvre in defence spending is very tight, in view of the £5,000 million already earmarked. The Government will soon have to bite the bullet and decide which part of the Services will be cut drastically.

I share the doubt about Trident and the opposition to this weapon. If, as we were told over the years, the Polaris was deterring all that time, I see no reason why we should escalate to this other weapon. The quality of the Trident is that if one had enough of the missiles, and if one were deranged enough, one could possibly carry out a successful pre-emptive strike that would knock out every Soviet missile system. However, to procure enough missiles to enable us to do that we should need, because of the cost, to sacrifice some of life's little luxuries—such as food, clothing, shelter and all the other items that make life reasonable. I sometimes wonder whether the Conservative Party's thinking is leading us in that direction.

Apart from the moral aspect of these weapons of mass murder, it is the height of pretentiousness for a British Government, even with the wealth of Scottish oil at present supporting them, to continue acting the played-out role of an influential, domineering Power. Those days have passed. Some right hon. and hon. Members should face that.

The "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1981" contains the following passage: The Alliance"— NATO— has never sought, at either the conventional or the nuclear level, to match the Soviet Union and its allies weapon for weapon. If that is true, why is there such emphasis on the comparison of nuclear strike capability and the presentation in the document of conventional forces and firepower possessed by NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries?

I join those hon. Members who have said that we should support the initiative of Helmut Schmidt in pressing on the President of the United States of America the need for urgent talks on disarmament. Unfortunately, this country's position has been compromised by the Prime Minister's uncritical promise to give unconditional support to anything that the American President decides. He takes the naive view that in the very involved and dangerous world of today he can speak to Soviet Russia in terms of "Get out of town before sundown". Unfortunately, matters are much more difficult.

A total of 10,000 to 15,000 strategic missiles are available in Western and Eastern Europe for what is now described as a "theatre nuclear war". NATO's developing doctrine of flexible response binds the nations of the United Kingdom increasingly to the concept of such a war occurring. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) talked as if the Russians would walk in tomorrow. If we are really in that state, talk about Trident is pie in the sky.

The Conservative Party is supposed to be the party of freedom of choice. In Scotland we have no freedom of choice in the way in which we have been forced into being a forward base for the United States and NATO. We suspect that a good deal of the defence is in fact defence of the United States, which is determined that, come a third world war, it will be fought on this side of the Atlantic, far from its shores.

The hon. Member for Ashford said yesterday: It is all very well for Opposition Members to talk about public expenditure on defence, but they forget the hundreds of thousands of people involved in support for defence and the defence industry—shipyards and radar and armaments factories and the spin-off to commercial firms. Hon. Members from both sides of the House have written to me to complain about lack of orders."—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 182.] I have never done that. I was disappointed that today the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) demanded more naval vessels. There may be a good argument—I do not have the expertise to say—for expanding the Royal Navy. I can understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about unemployment in his constituency, but it is sad and pathetic when hon. Members throughout the United Kingdom demand more armament orders simply to keep their people in work. Surely those people can be far better employed.

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

The point, which I also made last night, is that there are orders already committed, promised in two defence reviews. As a result of the delay in placing the orders, jobs in shipyards in Scotland and the North-East of England are being prejudiced, although the orders may yet be placed. That was the complaint that was made from the Opposition Dispatch Box by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). It was not a call for more arms for the sake of arms.

Mr. Stewart

I accept that that was the case advanced by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) but it was not the level at which his hon. Friend the Member for South Shields argued the case today. I accept what the hon. Member for Hamilton said as a fair point; I accept that if the orders are already committed and people are without jobs there is no reason why the work should not be done. That is a matter to be hammered out with the Government.

In my constituency we have been obliged to take a NATO base against our will. Virtually the whole community, including the local authority, is against it. We are to have the base imposed on us—and that in peace time—and live with the inconvenience and even the possible danger of accidents. We think that we have made our contribution in many parts of Scotland. There are many dangerous installations of that kind, and we do not look kindly on being forced to take these installations against our will.

We in my party are in favour of a genuine defence policy for Scotland. As a small nation, we must be able to defend ourselves and our resources against aggressors by conventional means. I am not a pacifist. I think that very few people in my party are. Every country is entitled to a system of defence. We do not believe, however, that our wealth should be squandered on joining a pointless nuclear arms race. It is pointless because it does not lead anywhere except to total destruction.

At the start of the debate, the Government stated that they deplored the idea of an arms race, especially a nuclear arms race. Like so many statements from the Conservative side of the House, it has a hollow ring. The reality was expressed yesterday by the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) who declared that the Government's proposed defence expenditure would be a crippling economic burden that we could not sustain".—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 183.] I believe that the hon. Gentleman was stating the reality of the situation. Even this Government, for all their sabre rattling, will find, like all Governments since the war, that economic facts concentrate their mind about defence expenditure. To talk of escalating expenditure beyond infinity is madness. The sooner we join the efforts being made towards disarmament, the better for everyone.

6.20 pm
Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)

I hope that the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) will not regard it as discourteous if I do not follow his rather regional arguments. I should like to refer instead to the speech of the right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers), who, unfortunately has now left the Chamber. He made one remark with which I think all hon. Members can agree, namely, that today and yesterday the House has enjoyed one of the most stimulating and constructive defence debates that we have ever had. I pay a warm and friendly tribute to the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), for a contribution to which I listened attentively, and with parts of which I found myself not altogether in disagreement. I am grateful for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman intervened on such an important occasion to give a broad review.

I am not sure to whom the main tribute should be paid for the standard of this debate. It is perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). It is perhaps The Daily Telegraph. It is perhaps the decision of the new Secretary of State for Defence that he could not keep the muzzle on his policies until the middle of July and that it would therefore be wise to allow the House a wide-ranging debate at this stage. I do not know the causes. At long last, however, we have been able to engage in a debate in which hon. Members are not discussing salami cuts in the sense of saving so much here and there. This is the usual hash-up that occurs when the Treasury tries to squeeze a saving of a few pounds for example by, putting 22 bullets in 300 rifles in Germany.

Hon. Members know that defence debates in the past, under different Governments, have been conducted along salami lines. It is preferable that we now have a more fundamental review of the form of our defences, not only during this decade, but during part, at least, of the next decade.

The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) was almost the only contribution that has tried to take the debate even wider in order to achieve some kind of public consideration outside the House of the future of our defence posture in popular political terms and what people expect from hon. Members. We have become accustomed over a long period to a system of reckoning in which spending is allocated between different Departments. Defence has simply been one of the Departments queuing up for money.

The Prime Minister gave the lead when she included in our manifesto before the last election words to the effect that defence and our Armed Forces should have a special place in this across-the-board consideration. I do not believe that the figures are sacrosanct. No one can pretend that the world remains the same as it was in 1978–79. No one can say, especially in view of the escalation of costs, that the 3 per cent. annual increase necessary for the security of this country in 1978–79 is the right figure today.

I should like to give an example. If the Soviet Union had not gone into Afghanistan, had not indulged in the placing of its SS20s in Central Europe and had not shown its threat to Poland, I am sure that our attitude, in an eased world situation, would be to start talking in terms of 2 rather than 3 per cent. The same argument can be applied to a contrary purpose. I believe that the situation is more dangerous, and will become still more so. That entitles me to say that 3 per cent. is not necessarily the right figure. When that figure was decided, the Soviet Union had not shown its hand in Afghanistan. It had not shown its hand fully in the Middle East. Nor had it shown its hand in Yemen and Africa to the extent that is now revealed. All these developments are continuing. None of us can predict how long the Polish situation will remain as it is.

Does any hon. Member imagine that if Russian troops invaded Poland, absorbed that country and were directly facing us, the Government would insist on sticking to the 3 per cent. figure decided in 1979? In a situation of that gravity fresh demands would be made on the British population, as they were made when we were threatened with what eventually became the Second World War. It is time that we stopped talking in Treasury mathematical terms. We should try to decide as a nation and a Parliament what we are trying to achieve and what defences we need.

I abhor this endlessly repetitive, misleading and even devious reference to comparisons with the GNP in different countries leading to the conclusion that we do not need to spend more. It is not logical to argue that because one country in the Alliance does less, we should also do less. That is not the right approach to defence. It should, indeed, be an occasion for deciding that we shall do more. We have no alternative if we are to fulfil our duties towards our own national security.

There is another failing in this GNP reckoning. Even my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force this afternoon argued that we were doing better than anyone, after the United States. However, if there were a development that led to a steady and continuing decline in our GNP, but our defence expenditure stayed at the same level, we would eventually be able to say that we were contributing double what was provided even by the United States, yet the same amount of money would be involved. This fiddling with figures is nonsensical. It fails to get to the heart of the matter. We should discuss what we need to safeguard ourselves.

I do not believe that this is the occasion to go too deeply into the various options. Despite what has been said and written in the press during the last few days, I am prepared to give the Secretary of State the benefit of the doubt when he says that he has not yet taken decisions. I am a trusting person. I am prepared to wait and see what happens in July. I hope that the review in July will be produced in the context of what this country needs, and that it will not rely on worn-out jargon with no application to the threat that is now faced. I share fully the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion. We face a dangerous five years. I only hope and pray that we can get safely through such a dangerous period. In the 1930s we faced all the dangers of a well-armed expansionist empire, but even more dangerous in historic terms is a well-armed empire in the early processes of disintergration. History shows that this is where the real danger lies. We should look at that scenario today.

If the Government think that more money is required for our defence, not to fulfil election manifestos, but because it is needed, I want them to come to the House and say that they need that money. I believe that the Britiish public would respond to a call for increased taxation to pay for their defence. I do not believe that the Britsh public would not do now what they have done in the past.

Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

As a contribution to that theory, will the hon. Gentleman support the restoration of the higher bands of taxation that were abolished by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Sir Frederic Bennett

I do not want to dodge that question. If there were any such changes in taxation I should be prepared to support them if they bore more heavily on those who could better afford to pay. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that reply without entering into a Treasury argument at this stage. I am prepared to envisage a defence levy, if it were necessary. I should expect it to bear more heavily on those who could afford it. I speak with complete sincerity. It is no good Opposition Members trying to make a party point out of this issue. Defence is a priority requirement. If we need additional money because of the size of the threat, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Defence should come to the House and say so.

I said that I was prepared to give my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the benefit of the doubt and to wait for what he reveals in July. However, it is right that some Conservative Members should say that there has been a great deal of conflicting talk during the past few days about loyalties. No one has proved to be a more loyal follower of the Tory Party than myself. No one is more devotedly loyal to the Prime Minister and her policies than myself. But I must say that even above and beyond those loyalties I have an even greater loyalty, which I hope will never be called into account, namely, loyalty to the country's security interests.

6.33 pm
Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I want to discuss NATO because the review being undertaken by the Secretary of State should be judged in relation to its needs both now and in the years that stretch ahead. It is easy to overlook the fact that when NATO was founded more than 30 years ago all the world sea and air lanes were undoubtedly and indisputably under Western control. With the exception of the Soviet raw material sources, all other sources of raw materials in the world were indisputedly accessible to the West. Since then fundamental changes have taken place which have profoundly affected the policies, and even the structure, of the Alliance.

If we are to understand why none of the many crises since 1945 has produced consequences, such as those of August 1914 and September 1939, and ask whether the avoidance mechanisms will continue to work during the 1980s, we must consider three main factors. The first is the state of military technology. The second is the state of the balance of power. The third—which is a recent factor and more crucial for most, if not all, of us—is the effectiveness of crisis management.

The first factor is changing. It may, although I think it unlikely, alter the second factor. In contrast to 1918 and 1939 the two sides of the post-war balance since 1949 have been regimented into two relatively tight military coalitions—NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The question in the minds of us all—not simply when we are listening to the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) reminding us of the fears of Henry Kissinger about the window of opportunity opening to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s—is whether the stability that we have known since 1949 can persist through the 1980s. Certain factors cause certain changes. There is the undoubted decline of the power of the West vis-a-vis the East. There are economic and political changes. The West has economic problems, notably that of energy supply which would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Interestingly enough, there is a growing political assertiveness—even independence—discernible in the European Alliance and on the Continent of Europe.

The litmus tests that can best be applied to the condition of the Alliance are, first, the belief among our European allies that they have more at stake. They believe that they have even more at stake than Britain, not only because of their geographical position but because some of them have stronger trade ties with the Soviet Union. Secondly, there is undoubtedly a more hawkish mood in the United States, especially within the new Administration. Thirdly, the all-important test in the short term for the Alliance is how to reconcile the divergent moods on either side of the Atlantic to preserve the central commitment of NATO to deterrence and to more than detente so as to ensure—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) called for in his powerful speech—more meaningful arms control policies.

How well we cope with the dangerous decade that lies ahead, especially with that window of vulnerability—I prefer to call it that than the window of opportunity—will turn much less on the state of military technology and the balance of power and increasingly on the effectiveness of crisis management.

Until recently NATO relied extensively upon the qualitative superiority of its forces to offset the numerical superiority of the Warsaw Pact. We are all aware, even if we do not have detailed information, that that margin of quality in NATO is rapidly disappearing as the massive Soviet arms investment of the 1970s is paying off. Soviet modernisation has given the Soviet Union the capability, at least in the early stages of a war, to threaten NATO's sea lanes of communication with attack submarines and surface combatants as well as Backfire bombers.

It is evident that, for the first time since 1949, we can no longer look for consolation from the United States. Even that country no longer has the resources to cope with all contingencies. The stretch on its resources has been accentuated by the emergence of the new commitment in the Gulf. Now, forces and transport assets that were to have been used in emergencies to reinforce Europe have been assigned to counter threats in the Gulf or in other areas beyond NATO's boundaries. That development is leading inevitably to an increased demand for greater European participation.

Mr. Carlucci, the United States Deputy Secretary of Defence, gave voice in a speech in Munich in February—it is rumoured that it was inspired by President Reagan—to the strong feeling in the United States that European members of the Alliance must contribute more to the common defence of not only Europe itself but of its vital lifelines and raw materials.

I turn to the first danger that I think confronts the Alliance. In some respects the United States wishes to go it alone, but on the other hand it is entering more than hitherto into defence co-operation. We would all prefer to see the United States set much more store on defence cooperation. It is by no means certain that it will do so for centripetal forces are at work. For example, in 1980 a census that was taken in the United States revealed that for the first time 50 per cent. of the American population lived in the West and South-West. I do not have to stress the significance of that to right hon. and hon. Members. There are many hon. Members who will be aware from their own reading of the growing public questioning of NATO in United States literature. That must be countered by better defence co-operation.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the crisis in the Gulf, the Alliance has evolved the division of labour concept to cope with the new Gulf commitment. Alliance members have recognised in the Gulf a new dimension to their security. Budgetary pressures as well as the Gulf crisis require NATO members to enter into a new division of tasks and to make better use of existing resources.

In opening the debate yesterday the Secretary of State mentioned the second consideration but not the first. To that extent his argument was too narrowly based. It needed to be deployed in a wider context to be fully reflective of current realities as they affect NATO.

When subject to the division of task criterion, Trident falls. A majority of hon. Members, if not all hon. Members, know that within the Alliance outside Britain there are many with good will towards us who view Trident at best as a marginal increment to NATO's nuclear armoury or at worst as a needless duplication. Even on better utilisaion of resources grounds, the Secretary of State has a severe problem in trying to fund Trident and a wide range of conventional weaponry without making apocalyptic choices between the Rhine Army—this is the popular notion—and our ASW commitment in the Eastern Atlantic. I do not think that there is anyone in the House who believes in his heart that the right hon. Gentleman can square that circle.

Something apocalyptic will have to go. I cannot understand how the Royal Navy can be severely cut back given the maritime threat. It was stated only last year in paragraph 328 of the Defence Estimates that in a time of tension or war we in Britain would supply the main weight of forces readily available in the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel. That commitment is then spelt out. However, time does not permit me to remind the House of it. I suggest to hon. Members that they consult paragraph 328.

If the Secretary of State believes that the new commitments to NATO can be met by SSNs and Nimrods, even if their inventories can be doubled within the decade, which is extremely unlikely, he stands in danger of being profoundly mistaken. Any holder of the ancient office at the Admiralty which the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) held with such distinction until yesterday could not have reacted in any other way. I was especially glad to hear the warm tribute paid to the hon. Gentleman by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East. My right hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Ashford and the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) will know that any hon. Member is fortunate if he is appointed to that office. I shall continue to try not to be subjective. However, as long as the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State insist on maintaining the appearance of an all-round contribution by the United Kingdom to the Alliance instead of a balanced contribution based upon balanced priorities that reflect the emergent philosophy of division of task as well as greater cost-effectiveness, Britain's defence posture will remain unconvincing within the Alliance and its defence policy will remain confused.

It is noteworthy that in President Carter's letter to the Prime Minister confirming the missile purchase deal he applauded the right hon. Lady's statement that the Polaris successor force will be assigned to NATO and that your objective is to take advantage of the economies made possible by your co-operation to reinforce your efforts to upgrade the United Kingdom's conventional forces. Is that really assured? The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State may no longer be well placed to persuade the new Washington Administration better to understand European perspectives and problems as they currently change—notably, the unrelenting pressure on defence spending and the need to relieve it by RSI and offset. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) suggested from the Opposition Front Bench, there is no two-way street when the imbalance is about 3:1 against the United Kingdom and 20:1 against our allies in Europe.

The crucial obligation that lies on the Government, although they are scarcely in a position to discharge it, is to persuade the new Administration headed by President Reagan to change their present negative attitude to arms control. The announcement in Rome a fortnight ago that the United States is ready to resume nuclear arms control talks with the Soviets is welcome. However, it is striking confirmation of the success of America's European allies in being able at long last to push the United States in a direction that causes senior members of the Reagan Administration to have serious reservations.

Indirectly the announcement is a tribute to the remarkable growth of the nuclear disarmament movement in Western Europe over the past year. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force talked freely about disarmament but showed no awareness of it. When he refused to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) he demonstrated that he does not appreciate that in principle the Washington-Moscow negotiations on TNF will take place within the SALT framework. That is an extremely important qualification for it will ensure that there are talks on both halves of the nuclear equation—theatre and strategic.

Without the campaigning of the nuclear disarmers and the impact that that has had on a number of European Governments, it is unlikely that the new Reagan Administration would have moved to talks this quickly. Most United States policy makers wanted a longer delay while the United States rearmament programme made its impact on the East-West balance. I still find it extremely difficult to understand why the United States has to wait until September before Mr. Haig has his first meeting on TNF with his Soviet counterpart.

Instead, the new Administration in Washington, with the active encouragement of London, should acknowledge the fundamental importance to the Alliance of reestablishing momentum in arms control negotiations, for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East called in his powerful speech. Nothing could do more to preserve the cohesiveness of the Alliance on this side of the Atlantic, especially in Holland, Belgium and Germany, than early and substantial progress on arms control negotiations. That is why the well-being of the Alliance turns on the effectiveness of crisis management—namely, on leadership rather than military technology or the state of the balance of power.

6.49 pm
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

I shall follow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) in much of his thinking, particularly in geographical terms, as I shall centre my thoughts on the United States.

The background of the debate is the failure of detente so far to slow down arms expansion and modernisation. The opposite is true. Increasing sophistication and a rapidly increasing threat are developing. Even allowing for Russian insecurity and giving the Russians the benefit of every possible doubt, the Russian-Warsaw Pact forces are now out of proportion with any realistic need for their own defence. Moreover, Russian Communism has developed an adventurous policy which has turned the world into a place of shifting sands. In particular, areas of Africa and central America have been subverted by Cuban adventurism. Russia has shown its military resolve in Afghanistan. All this is at a time when improving air transport has made the world seem a much smaller place. Not only air transport is important. Sea transport also plays its part in shrinking the world. Improved transportation techniques have meant that our food, for example, can come readily from any part of the world.

Faced with those threats and changes, we must review our defence priorities. I ask Ministers to ensure that their hon. Friends are taken into account when they review defence priorities. Defence is the subject. We are not going to attack anyone. We must respond to potential aggression. It is not for us to decide in abstract what forces to produce. We must counter the threat, whatever it may be. We must be clear in our thinking and concentrate on defence. This is not a debate about shipbuilding or unemployment.

Other thoughts are relevant to defence. Social and employment effects are important if the changing pattern of defence should result in a different geographical spread of forces and a different range of functions. Of all right hon. and hon. Members present, I know that more than any other.

The constituency that I represent has a more complete dependence on the Ministry of Defence than any other. The service in question is the Royal Navy. My constituency is the home of the Royal Navy and its name, Gosport, is synonymous with the home of the Royal Navy. We have a submarine base, a naval hospital, training establishment, a helicopter repair yard, an armaments depot and a pay centre. It is one of the greatest naval concentrations in the whole world. The social and employment consequences of any diminution in the role of the Royal Navy would be disastrous for the area. However, the people of Gosport know too much and care too much about defence to expect me to argue on a narrow constituency basis. Therefore, I turn to the strategic argument.

I recognise the pressure on resources. In 1980, expenditure and defence rose by 5 per cent. when industrial output fell, and, to quote from the Defence Estimates: Changing technology has posed new problems…new ways must be found of coping with resource pressures…we must reshape our forces to meet a developing threat. What are the essentials upon which we must concentrate and who are "we" in this context? We are part of the European civilisation. I choose those words carefully lest anyone should shrink from hearing that we are part of the European Community. We must remember that the European idea grew out of a war which left the Continent in ruins. It is not credible that Britain could remain alone and unscathed if the rest of Europe were to fall to aggression. Our island location must not make us insular. Our commitment must be with other European nations. The role of NATO is vital.

What are the defence essentials? First, a deterrent is important. The ultimate threat to an aggressor is the ability of the attacked to fight back. I shall say no more about that, but I shall concentrate on the second essential, that is, reinforcement and supply. The North Atlantic connection is vital to support European civilisation. We cannot fight alone. We need the strength of the United States with us.

It is so easy to take United States support for granted. We all grew up in our schoolrooms with the conventional mercator projection on the board, showing Britain in the middle of the world with America on the left and the rest of the world on the right. As the hon. Member for Attercliffe, said, things look different from the United States, especially with a President who comes from the far side of the United States. With the United States in the centre of the world, Europe can appear ancient, culturally fascinating, disparate, self-centred and infuriating.

From a military point of view Europe comprises Norway—a terrier of a country, but numerically tiny; Germany, whose fighting record is second to none, but who has yet to be proved on the same side as the United States; France, which is too proud to commit itself to NATO; Italy, which is half paralysed by political uncertainty; Greece and Turkey, which do not speak to each other, and Sweden and Switzerland, which are not part of NATO. Of all the European countries it is Britain which provides the bridgehead to the United States. Britain shares the English language and has the special relationship with the United States. In military terms, that special relationship manifests itself in the provision by Britain of 70 per cent. of NATO's maritime forces in the East Atlantic and Channel.

If Britain's commitment to the North Atlantic were to be reduced, how would the United States view Europe? The purpose of the North Atlantic commitment is to provide anti-submarine warfare capacity to cover reinforcement of Europe by the United States. Could we expect the United States to provide the reinforcements, the transport for the reinforcements and the cover for the transport? Let us think again from the point of view of the United States. Let us look the other way.

The United States has a common border with Russia at the Bering Straits. It went to war in 1941, not because of Europe, but because it was attacked in the Pacific. Whereas Europe has the past, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines have emerged as industrial nations and have increasingly become major trading partners for the United States. They, too, live under the umbrella of United States security. The demands on the United States are so great that it would be stretched by an emergency. We cannot afford to stretch it further.

There is a grave danger of complacency after 35 years of peace. If one visits South Korea, Israel or Norway, one sees countries where troops might come over the borders. We have become rather complacent about that. The United Kingdom cannot go it alone. We must not be conceited or self-centred. The United States, which is our main ally and reinforcement centre, does not need us as we need it. The United States has so many commitments that we must work to ensure maintenance of the special Atlantic link.

Convoy support is vital. The convoy system tilts the balance between the aggressor and the attacked because the attacked can choose the battlefield by choosing the convoy route. We need defence in depth against submarines, which are the main threat to reinforcement. We need hunter-killer submarines, Nimrods, helicopters and a substantial surface fleet. If we deleted any one part of that—for example, ship support for Atlantic convoys—we would expose those convoys to risk and indirectly lower the nuclear threshold because we would increase the risk that we would need to rely on nuclear deterrent. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) asked what we would use then—Trident?

There is a further crucial and difficult point which has not been raised. Our present defence planning is immovably based on reinforcement across the North Atlantic from the United States. Without certainty of reinforcement, our defence posture would not be credible.

Who is to provide the reinforcement? The United States. Who is to provide the ships for the reinforcement? The United States. Who is to provide the convoy cover for those ships? Could that be the United States, too? We must remember that the reinforcements will not be brought in by the President and the Administration or the Congress of the United States, but that the reinforcements will comprise hundreds of thousands of sailors, pilots, soldiers and engineers. All those people from the United States will have friends, family commitments, private worries and apprehensions. We need to win and hold their hearts and minds if they are to provide our reinforcements. How can we expect them to risk their lives for us unless we can show that we are prepared to go as far as we can to help them?

We must show our commitment credibly and visibly. The clearest, most visible, sign of our commitment to the North Atlantic Alliance is our surface fleet. We shall change that at our peril.

7 pm

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

On the subject of arms control the Under-Secretary of State today was at least a little more forthcoming than was the Secretary of State yesterday or the Lord Privy Seal on 7 May. The Secretary of State yesterday, and the Lord Privy Seal then, seemed to be alarmingly casual about the need to speed up negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union both on SALT II and on theatre nuclear weapons. The Secretary of State spoke of arms control "playing a part" in defence policy. But surely it is the core of the problem, if we are to avoid a reckless arms race.

When asked on 7 May about the prospect of reviving SALT II, the Lord Privy Seal said that the SALT negotiations take place between the United States and the Soviet Union. We do not take part in them."—[Official Report, 7 May 1981; Vol. 4, c. 278.] We all know that the disastrous invasion of Afganistan prevented early ratification of SALT II, and I believe that if the Soviet Union wants ratification it must make some concession over Afghanistan. The Reagan Administration is still, all too slowly, thinking out its defence policy. Surely those are reasons why the central aim of the British Government should be to bring the two super-Powers together again, in their own interests as well as ours. As one of their principal allies in NATO and because we have rightly agreed to co-operate with cruise missile defences, surely we have every right to press the United States Government—as Chancellor Schmidt is doing—to move more rapidly.

The cruise missile agreement was made on the assumption that SALT II would be ratified. Has any progress been made in Washington? Has a definite date been fixed for the proposed further talks on the Soviet SS20s and the cruise missiles? It is not sufficient for us to be told that something will happen before the end of the year.

The cost and the scale of the arms programmes, particularly of the two super Powers, are not merely terrible threats, as many hon. Members have said, but powerful incentives, particularly for the Soviet Government, to call a halt to this incredibly expensive race. I give one example. The defence White Paper tells us that a nuclear-powered submarine costs £175 million. According to information from the Ministry of Defence given to me a year ago, the Soviet Government has 160 nuclear-powered submarines in service. Even allowing for lower labour costs in the Soviet Union, that means that the Soviet Union must have spent about £20 billion or £25 billion on nuclear-powered submarines alone.

The total Soviet arms budget must be a crushing burden on the Soviet economy. The Secretary of State also says that the Soviets are completing one nuclear-powered submarine every six weeks and SS20 missiles at the rate of one a week. The first conclusion that I draw from those grim facts is that international arms control agreements are not only vital, but urgent if we are to stop the race. Other conclusions follow from those hard facts. One is that Soviet industry cannot be as inefficient as some people would like to believe. If it were it would not be able to produce such sophisticated weapons at that rate.

It also follows that it is no good just shouting at the Soviet Union and the Soviet leaders, as our Prime Minister, President Reagan and Mr. Weinberger are a little too inclined to do. It might be good tactics to shout at a rabbit, but it is not good tactics to shout at a tiger.

Another even more alarming inference which is perhaps not yet fully grasped by the British public, is that for the first time in three centuries Britain is faced with a hostile world Navy that is more powerful than our own. From that, I believe, it follows that for our Government at this stage to cut our naval programme, and to let precious shipbuilding capacity go out of existence, would be one of the greatest national follies that we could commit.

But the most inescapable conclusion of all is that since we cannot now defend ourselves alone against a Soviet naval, let alone nuclear threat, membership of NATO and the American alliance are vital to this country's future. That may be a platitude, but one must reaffirm it from time to time. It means that we cannot refuse to co-operate with the United States in whatever defence measures, including cruise missiles, may be necessary until genuine international arms control agreements are made. We cannot, morally or politically, say to the United States "We are relying on you to defend us, but we will not give you the facilities to do so".

That does not assume that a Soviet threat is either imminent or probable. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) that things are now so serious as to be comparable with 1938–39. One does not, however, insure one's house because one believes that it will catch fire. One insures one's house because one cannot be sure that it will not catch fire. Those, therefore, who are sincerely tempted to advocate unilateral disarmament by Britain have at least to answer this question: what do they suggest Britain should do if faced by a Soviet threat of force, however improbable that is?

There are only three possible answers. The first is that we should defend ourselves alone. But we cannot do that, certainly without a nuclear deterrent. The second is for us to call on NATO and, in effect, the United States, for collective deterrence and defence. The third is to surrender. I choose the second course. To rely on the Alliance and the United States would undoubtedly be the safest alternative for the country, and I should regard our own independent deterrent only as an insurance against the improbable, but not impossible, contingency of NATO breaking down at some time.

Some people believe—or used to—that by unilaterally disarming Britain could set an example that would induce others to do the same. But anybody who believes that an abandonment of our deterrent would induce the Soviet leaders suddenly to change their policies is not living in the real world. Some others say that possession of any nuclear weapons by Britain makes us more vulnerable to attack. I do not find that convincing. The evidence from experience since 1945 is that the Soviet Union invades only countries which are too weak to defend themselves and which have no allies, such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. There is, however, I agree, a strong case for saying that if we must have nuclear weapons for a time, they are much less vulnerable if submarine-based than land or air-based. In that there is truth.

Another argument put forward is that Britain cannot afford an adequate defence programme, and the Secretary of State now threatens us with naval cuts. I was not wholly convinced by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday when he said that he did not have in mind some form of cut in our naval defences. But with 20 per cent. of our industrial capacity idle, this argument is really simply another form of the monetarist fallacy. With productive capacity unused, there would be no real economic cost to the nation in making use of it. Indeed, in so far as public orders—whether for defence or anything else—could keep vital shipbuilding capacity from going out of existance—Cammell Laird, for instance, or the Portsmouth or Chatham dockyards—there would be a positive economic gain, as well as the defence gain.

To destroy such capacity or to let it disappear now would be to sacrifice a vital part of our defence capacity to purely monetarist fallacies. The limit of our defence programmes is our productive capacity, and not any money figure just plucked out the air; and that, incidentally, applies to a lot of things other than defence.

For that reason, in the light of the present Soviet naval building programme, to cut our naval surface forces now and destroy shipbuilding capacity strikes me as being indefensible. It is no good having forces in Germany if we cannot reinforce them from across the Atlantic. It is no good having oil rigs all over the North Sea if we cannot protect them from attack. If cuts have to be made—and I do not believe that they have—for economic reasons, I, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), would rather reduce our land forces in Germany than our basic naval defences. Let us also remember that, just as in 1916 and 1942, this country cannot lose a war on land, but it can lose a war on the seas.

If the Government had been pursuing a sane economic policy, I believe that Trident could have been afforded in the long run and I would in those circumstances have supported it. The Government told us last year, however, and told us many times, that Trident would not mean dangerous economies in other parts of the defence programme, but if Ministers are now saying that their economic policy means decimating the Navy, I would rather preserve the Navy than embark on Trident.

My advice tonight to Ministers is: Concentrate the energies of the Alliance on achieving effective international arms control before it is too late; and meanwhile stop destroying this country's industrial capacity and its naval strength—if that is really threatened—which are at the core of our defence capacity.

7.13 pm
Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

It is a pleasure to follow in debate the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who brings such knowledge to our debate and, above all, such a commitment to the NATO Alliance.

Of all the many defence debates that I have been privileged to take part in in this House this has been the most thoughtful and thought-provoking. That is above all, if regrettably, thanks to the gallant stand of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) in the defence of the Royal Navy. I am bound to say that I regret and find unworthy the charge of disloyalty that has been levelled against him. His loyalty has been above all to the Royal Navy, and I believe that the service and the nation will rightly honour him for his sacrifice.

I should like to join with those who have already paid tribute to the Armed Forces, especially to those serving in Northern Ireland. They are the finest and most courageous of their generation, and the cold-blooded murder yesterday of five Green Jackets on the South Armagh border forcefully reminds all of us of the dangers they face and the grief that their families have to bear. They have laid down their lives so that others may live in peace and security within our nation's borders. The debt that we owe them is measureless.

Foremost among the Conservative Party's pledges on defence at the last election was to bring Armed Forces' pay up to full comparibility and to maintain it there. That is a pledge that, I am glad to say, has been amply honoured and fulfilled, and I warmly congratulate the Government on it.

A second pledge that has been fulfilled is the commitment on the Trident nuclear missile, as the successor system to Polaris. I not only welcome that decision but endorse most strongly the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in opening the debate yesterday when he said that there is no field in which comparable resources could be deployed that would begin to provide as great a deterrent to war in the perception of those who wield power in the Kremlin as will the Trident missile force.

It is undeniable that, second only to the United States, Britain has been doing more than any of our allies to increase the resources available for defence. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State reaffirmed only yesterday the Government's commitment to a 3 per cent. increase in real terms, and I fully accept that this commitment will be honoured in the years ahead. But, in spite of this, there is a deep disquiet, indeed a widespread conviction, within the Services and beyond that serious cuts in the strength and capability of the Armed Forces of the Crown will flow from the current review.

To find the grounds for this conviction it is necessary to look no further than page 45 of the defence White Paper, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) referred in opening the debate today. This shows how much greater is the rate of technological inflation in the military field at the present time than is the rate of the run-of-the-mill inflation in other fields. I shall quote only two specific examples. The cost of a modern Type 22 frigate compared to the old Leander class is three times higher in real terms. The cost of a Harrier jet compared to a Hunter is four times higher in real terms. The truth is that a 3 per cent. increase in resources in real terms does not even provide sufficient resources to enable the Armed forces to maintain their present capability and strength. That is even before Trident is included within the existing budget. Therefore, it is inevitable that, in terms of the present budget, even with the 3 per cent. increase in real terms, there will have to be massive cuts in the strength and the capability of the Armed Forces.

The first casualty, although there has been very little trumpeting about it, understandably, in the pages of the defence White Paper, is clearly to be Britain's contribution to the long-range theatre nuclear forces of NATO. At present, through the 55 Vulcan bombers of the RAF, Britain is contributing one quarter of that capability. The rest is contributed by the United States with its F111 aircraft based at Lakenheath and Upper Heyford. Although there is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton knows well, a plan within the Ministry of Defence costed at no more than £450 million to provide a cruise missile replacement for the Vulcan capability, that is not to go ahead. Within three years the Vulcan force will wither on the vine and the United States will be left to shoulder alone the burden of the long-range theatre nuclear defence of Western Europe. I regret this.

Where is the axe next to fall? No doubt the Government will be looking to further cuts in the numbers of civil servants in the Ministry of Defence. That is still a possibility. However, it is worth pointing out that, of the 42,000 Civil Service jobs saved in the past two years, 18,000 have been found by the Ministry of Defence and only 24,000 by all other Government Departments combined. It is about time that other Ministries started making their contribution in that respect.

That leaves only the conventional or general purposes forces and their equipment programme: Where can these be cut? Our Army is already small. It is highly trained and it has some excellent equipment, though I doubt whether even Ministers would claim that the Army has that modern equipment in anything like an adequate volume. There can be little scope for cuts there.

It has been suggested that we should reduce or pull back entirely the British Army of the Rhine.

Mr. Alan Clark

Hear, hear.

Mr. Churchill

My hon. Friend says "Hear, hear". That is of course a possibility. But, given the fact that Western Europe is today confronted by a force of 1 million Soviet soldiers west of the Urals armed with 30,000 tanks, is this the moment for us to think in terms of leaving a 42-mile gap in the front line in view of all the pressures that would place on our allies? I believe that such action would do untold damage to the cohesion of the Alliance.

Then there is the Royal Air Force. My hon. Fiend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force was eloquent in Opposition, as he is in Government, about our lack of strength in the air. Today, we have fewer than 100 aircraft for the air defence of the United Kingdom. That is one-tenth of what was available to the immortal "Few" who saved us from invasion in the summer of 1940. There is not only an urgent need for Tornado to the fullest extent of the intended buy, but a decision on a Harrier/Jaguar replacement is overdue. I can see no scope for cuts in the Royal Air Force either.

I agree with what has been said by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and others about the Royal Navy's contribution and its vital importance in countering the growing Soviet maritime threat. In such circumstances, it would be unthinkable for us—though a change in the mix between surface and submarine forces is possible—to reduce in any way the overall capability of the Royal Navy. That, I venture to suggest, would be unacceptable to the country as a whole.

The Conservative Party, in its election pledge on defence, did not specifically commit itself to a figure of 3 per cent. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State made that clear in opening the debate. What we said—and I was authorised on behalf of Her Majesty's then Opposition to give the pledge—was that we would strengthen our defences. The implication, as I understood it and as it was understood throughout the country, was that we would seriously strengthen—certainly not reduce—our defence capability.

Since then we have given a pledge to the United States that the Trident missile purchase will not be at the expense of the resources earmarked for the general purpose forces of the United Kingdom. That pledge will be impossible to honour if Trident is to come out of the Royal Navy's budget, or even the existing defence budget. Above all, the level of the threat confronting us today demands that we strengthen rather than decrease our capability.

I believe that we are entering a new era of unprecedented danger. Now that NATO has lost all the offsetting advantages that it has enjoyed for 30 years of having clear pre-eminence in the strategic theatre and tactical nuclear fields, we are left confronted by the Soviet Union which has a three-to-one superiority in conventional military power in Europe.

Given the present volume of Soviet military production, we face a critical situation. Paragraph 103 of the White Paper draws attention to the fact that no fewer than 25 combat aircraft and 60 tanks are being produced by Soviet munitions factories each week. One submarine is lauched every four weeks and one surface ship every 10 weeks. Most disturbing of all, not only one SS20 missile is being built every five days, as the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has pointed out, but no fewer than five intercontinental ballistic missiles each week. The figure given in the White Paper is 250 a year—each one with a destructive potential equal to more than 100 Hiroshima bombs.

Given the dangers that confront us and inadequacies of our present capability, I believe that I am not alone in finding unacceptable the idea of any reduction in the strength and capability of Britain's Armed Forces which would inevitably flow from a rigid adherence to cash limits and the 3 per cent. as a maximum annual increase.

The Secretary of State has said that in his review of defence nothing is sacred. I am glad to hear that, and trust that that goes for the cash limits as well. Of course, the Government must consider what the nation can afford and what is realistic. But I firmly believe that we can and must afford a defence that is sufficient to maintain the peace. That must be the criterion. The fact is that if the Government wished to give as high a priority to defence as the Government of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) were giving in 1965, we would need to increase by 50 per cent. what we are spending on defence today.

According to a reply from my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 2 December 1980, defence expenditure in the current year represents only 11.5 per cent. of Government spending. In 1965 it represented no less than 17.8 per cent. Why do the present Conservative Government give so much lower priority to defence than the Labour Government of the mid-1960s when the perceived threat from the Soviet Union was so much lower?

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman on this point. The reason why Labour Governments have appeared to give greater priority to defence than Conservative Governments is that under Labour Governments the economy of the nation has prospered and under Conservative Governments it has failed.

Mr. Churchill

I do not think that anyone can be expected to believe that. It is well known that if the Labour Party were by some misadventure to be returned to office, it would slash defence wholesale.

I find it dificult to avoid the conclusion that the Cabinet as a whole does not share the Prime Minister's view and conviction of the gravity and urgency of the Soviet threat, which she has so eloquently outlined in her many fervent speeches on the theme both in Opposition and in Government. If so, I regret the Cabinet's misjudgment, for I believe the Prime Minister to be right.

Representing a Northern industrial constituency, I am acutely aware of the industrial devastation created by the world slump and the unacceptably high level of unemployment that goes with it. I make this plea to my right hon. Friends: Hold the line on public sector pay certainly. Cut resources flowing at unprecedented levels in subsidies to the nationalised industries. But, at the same time, increase resources for defence and, by so doing, bring about an expanding economy, create new jobs and, above all, save the peace while time remains.

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

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) made one point with which I entirely agree. He said that we were in an era of unprecedented danger. Although I agree with the sentiment, I probably draw different conclusions from it.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State opened with an interesting quotation from the "Wealth of Nations", which is often quoted nowadays. Firearms probably cost more than bows and arrows, and Trident certainly costs a lot more than so-called conventional firearms.

I shall begin with a quotation from the Bertrand Russell-Albert Einstein manifesto, issued by those two eminent gentleman in 1955: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death. We should all bear that in mind.

I listened carefully to the speeches today, and, although I was not able to be in the Chamber throughout yesterday's debate, I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) and others. Many of the speeches omitted one entirely changed circumstance, which relates precisely to the unprecedented danger that we are in. We now have nuclear weapons that are so destructive that only a handful of bombs dropped on our lovely and wonderful country would leave no people, animals or vegetation. That is new.

The bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were horrendous, but those of today are far more destructive. It is estimated that if a 1-megaton bomb was dropped on the city of Newcastle at least 70,000 people would die immediately, and within a nine-mile radius of where the bomb fell no one outside a building could possibly survive. That is horrendous.

Having heard some of the speeches today, I know that what I say will not be popular, but I unashamedly support the amendment, which sets out the realistic policy that we must pursue. There is no defence against nuclear weapons, so there is no point in protesting that if we build more and more horrific bombs we shall be in a better defensive position. In the past, that may have contained a grain of truth, but the existence of atomic weapons has not prevented warfare since the end of the Second World War.

The existence of nuclear weapons may have held off war in Europe, but it did not stop Korea, Vietnam, the wars in the Middle East, the horrible wars in Africa and the conflagrations in Latin America. The atomic bomb's existence may have prevented a great confrontation between the West and the Soviet Union, but it has prevented nothing else. It did not prevent Russian intervention in Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan. It is a myth that the mere existence of the atomic bomb has stopped war. It has been said that 10 million people have been destroyed with so-called conventional weapons since the end of the Second World War. I wish that the existence of the atomic bomb had stopped wars. I should then support it. One day, somewhere, someone may press the button; weapons will go off and mankind will be destroyed.

I hope that he is proved wrong, but Arthur Koestler believes that because of man's innermost aggression we are in a terminal state. I hope that we are not declining to a terminal state, but, unless we take positive steps and work hard to get rid of nuclear weapons, he may be proved right. Ultimately, man may be wiped off the face of the earth. That is the new and horrific dimension that we must consider. Judging from some speeches from the Labour Benches but especially from the Conservative Benches it would appear that that has not even been considered. One would imagine that we are talking about fireworks instead of weapons that can blow mankind to pieces.

We should not consider building up new generations of nuclear weapons. We should not say, because the Russians have done that, we must do this, and vice-versa, and on and on. We should ask what we can do positively to reduce nuclear weapons, with the ultimate aim of eradicating them. The Labour Party has concerned itself with that matter.

All of us who argue for the amendment agree 100 per cent. with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that there is no reason why those who believe in unilateral disarmament for Britain should say that those who believe in multilateral disarmament are our enemies and that we cannot work together. The concepts are two prongs of the same attack to get rid of nuclear weapons. Of course, we must seek international agreement through Governments to reduce and ultimately get rid of nuclear weapons.

Incidentally, I draw the attention of the House to the interesting speech of George Kennan in the United States only yesterday. He warned that the world appears to be in a dream over nuclear weapons. He said that we should seek an agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States to reduce nuclear weapons by 50 per cent. We can all agree with that objective, but in the meantime, we must consider our role.

I do not take the view of some of my colleagues that we must have nuclear weapons here and then we can hide under the umbrella of the United States. In my view, precisely because we have nuclear weapons on our soil and around our seas, we shall be a prime target in any nuclear war and we shall be in the firing line right at the beginning. We shall not know what happens to the rest of the world, as the matter will by then be totally academic from the point of view of this country.

We have a responsibility to save our people and ultimately the people of Europe and of the world. We must begin to get rid of the bases and nuclear weapons from our soil and around our shores. We must then work with all those in Europe who feel the same way.

I am not arguing that we should withdraw from NATO tomorrow, but I want a position in which we can wind down both the NATO pact and the Warsaw pact, so that sooner or later both will disappear and we shall have a nuclear-free zone throughout Europe.

I have listened to Conservative Members and I noted today that in an interview in The Times the Secretary of State has said that he intends strenuously to fight CND. The reason was revealed today. It is that, as he said, many young people believe in CND. I bet they do. They do not have much future if they do not get rid of nuclear weapons. Young people naturally wish not only to have lives of their own; they want their children and grandchildren to have lives. Of course they believe in getting rid of nuclear weapons. The Secretary of State argues: What I am saying is…a successful campaign for unilateral disarmament, a successful campaign against nuclear power, a successful campaign for a peace zone in Europe…you would have to be demented in the Kremlin and the KGB if you did not look upon all these campaigns as a god-given opportunity. It is argued that if one believes in getting rid of nuclear weapons, one must be an agent of the KGB. One must therefore wish to see the Soviet Union march in and take over this country. One must be a Left-wing extremist who cannot believe in the defence of his own country.

I make it absolutely clear that if we could get a nuclear-free zone in Europe, that would mean that the peoples of Eastern Europe who at the moment are trying to get rid of the bonds of the KGB and of Soviet control would be free. Also, in the Soviet Union itself, the struggle for freedom, free rights and a new society would be taking place. Hon. Members do not understand that argument because they cannot believe that there are people in those countries who are seeking change. A Czech dissident has been quoted. There are other dissidents in those countries who argue precisely what we are arguing here. One is Medvedev, but there are many others. I know that it is more difficult for people in the Soviet Union. We are free. We can speak in Parliament and we can organise. They cannot organise so easily, although the Polish workers have shown that they can organise through their trade unions. That is the great step forward for the working people of Poland and I believe that, sooner or later, it will be followed in other Eastern European countries. They, too, will then demand that foreign troops leave their soil and that their country gets rid of nuclear weapons. Hon. Members should not think that all of those people can be ignored and that the situation is crystalised for ever.

In conclusion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) said yesterday, I and my hon. Friends will vote tonight not only for the official amendment but against the defence White Paper because we have no other choice. Our amendment has not been called. Therefore, voting against the White Paper, we shall be voting for our amendment. I had hoped that the official amendment would incorporate our ideas. I see no contradiction between the two. We must begin somewhere to protect the very future of mankind.

This has been the first speech on these lines today. The debate so far has put me in mind more of "Alice in Wonderland" than of a decision about the future of mankind, which is what we should be discussing in the House today.

7.46 pm
Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)

I shall be very brief and try to put my few thoughts into a form of shorthand. I wish to try to place the fundamental defence review that is due in eight weeks or so in the foreign policy context. In that way, one gets some idea of what it will in fact contain.

First, there is a need to liaise with NATO. Both the Germans and the British are considering a reduction in their defence forces without direct reference to NATO itself. That is harmful to the interests of the Alliance.

Secondly, while both the USSR and the United States are re-arming at a radical and alarming rate, which clearly makes the case for arms control, both of those super-Powers are in economic difficulties. Europe is rich enough to ensure its own defence. Yet it is talking in terms of disarmament. That dichotomy will clearly lead to great difficulties between Europe and America in the context of Alliance relationships.

The defence review will clearly be a fundamental review. There are two graphs. One is the 3 per cent. increase over a period of years which we inherited from the Labour Government. Underneath that, there is the second graph of the ever-rising cost of men and equipment which threatens to go straight through the roof. Clearly something will have to give. We spend rather too much on defence in proportion to our GNP as compared with other countries, but the fact the we estimate a saving on defence of £8,000 million or £9,000 million over the next eight or nine years says something not only about the cash limit policy but about the economic policy of the Government, which is perhaps not all that it is cracked up to be.

The Secretary of State for Defence has said that nothing is sacred. That should also apply to the Trident missile. By the mid-1980s, the £5 billion to £6 billion that Trident will cost must impinge on the conventional budget. Those of my hon. Friends who, not unreasonably, are concerned about the future of the Royal Navy cannot have it both ways. It is no good being strongly in favour of the Trident missile but not being prepared to recognise the opportunity cost that it must imply in terms of the conventional budget. The Thatcher-Carter agreement, when we went over to get Trident, stated specifically that the Americans would present us with Trident only if there were no cuts in the maritime defence of the United Kingdom. So much for that assurance. Clearly, that will annoy the American Administration.

I am most concerned with the reactions of the Alliance to what might be included in a fundamental defence review. There has been a series of newspaper articles and leaks of one kind and another. As a consequence, one of the proposals, which was for a one-third to one-half reduction of Rhine Army, has been dropped. It has been dropped because of the opposition, not merely of the United States and of the Germans, but of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Clearly, then, something more marginal will remain in regard to the Rhine Army cut. It is something like 1,000 headquarters jobs, and a redistribution of Fourth Division among the other three—a marginal reduction. That will be more than enough, because what NATO needs are "ready forces", forces in being on the ground, which do not have to be reinforced over a long period but who are there in the event of a sudden or surprise attack.

Supposing that the Royal Navy is drastically cut, what effect will drastic cuts in the Royal Navy have upon the United States of America, upon the Federal Republic of Germany, and upon NATO? Clearly, the Federal Republic is not prepared to build more ships or to make up the difference if we withdraw a proportion of our ships from the eastern Atlantic.

There is to be a 17 per cent. increase in United States defence spending over two years. Mr. Weinberger has said specifically that one of the purposes of that increase is to restore United States supremacy at sea. A drastic cut in the Royal Navy would upset American opinion very greatly. NATO, to put it mildly, would be distressed if the cuts were drastic.

The effect, therefore, upon the Thatcher-Reagan accord—of which very much has been made by our great party and Government in recent weeks—would be very dramatic. Cuts there must be at the end of the day, but all the foreign policy constraints on the Secretary of State suggest that they will be marginal cuts and not major cuts. If so, I think that we in our party can live with them.

7.53 pm
Dame Judith Hart (Lanark)

I, too, shall speak to the amendment in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) and others, including my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I share with them their regret that some of us will have to vote against the Defence Estimates because we cannot reconcile them—even though we fully and completely support our Front Bench amendment—with our amendment, which has not been called.

I share the vague feeling that it is almost as though we were playing with tin soldiers and re-enacting the battle of Waterloo in the kind of debate that we have had today. I say that without disrespect, because the speeches have been extremely well-intentioned and sincere, from people who believe in what they are saying.

Defence debates, defence White Papers and defence plans are about how we can best defend our people. That is a truism, but it is sometimes forgotten in the complications and complexities of debate, between both sides of the House, and within both sides of the House. The debate is about how to avoid the risk of war and how to avoid devastation for our people.

One Conservative Member said that a single 20 megaton bomb was 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. He was wrong; it is 1,000 times more powerful. A single 20 megaton bomb contains four times the total amount of TNT exploded by all countries during the Second World War. Many of us are familiar with that fact.

I notice with great interest that the defence White Paper, in presenting the argument for maintaining British nuclear weapons, tries to be persuasive. It is not just a matter of assertion; there is recognition of the fact that there is an argument and that it is necessary to try to persuade people. That is an interesting development.

The argument against the Trident independent deterrent has been fully deployed. I cannot envisage the practical or diplomatic circumstances in which the United Kingdom would contemplate using its independent Trident on its own. I greatly welcome the fact that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force concentrated his remarks on nuclear weapons, and to some extent on cruise missiles. We are aware of the complete range of United States facilities in Britain at the moment, even before we begin to have cruise missiles based here. Those facilities stretch from South Wales to the Shetlands.

In terms of the European nuclear theatre, therefore, we are the front-line suicide squad. What is more, we are the front-line suicide squad without even the right to decide whether we want to take our own suicide pills, for clearly there would be no consultation about whether cruise missiles based here would or would not be used by the United States. That does not seem to me to be entirely reasonable, and it needs a great deal more justification than the Government have been prepared to offer, whether in the White Paper or in some of the speeches that have been made from the Government Benches.

Over the last few months there has been a major Government exercise to persuade people that these nuclear bombs are not so terrible and that there can be some effective civil defence, yet no attempt is to be made to dissuade the little firms that are setting up in business to try to sell family shelters for £2,000 or £3,000.

The Department of Health and Social Security has apparently been asking area health boards to make preparations by way of a war plan. The have been asked how they would meet the problems—an extraordinary understatement—of a nuclear attack. The Cambridgeshire area health authority first assumed that 20 per cent. of its population would be dead. It went on to say that any fresh supplies would be exhausted within hours, that there were no stocks or arrangements for distribution, and that it would be a matter of self-help and cottage medicine. The area health director went on to say—this was a leak, because it was not said publicly: Publication of details now could well lead to embarrassment". I imagine that that sort of thing could be repeated all over the country in every area health board that is looking at these matters.

A month or two ago I visited the constituency of one of my hon. Friends in Derbyshire, and I heard that Derbyshire county council, anxious to do its bit in civil defence in response to Government urging, had decided that it would double its expenditure on civil defence by employing eight more typists.

The House will realise that, as a Member of Parliament with agricultural interests, I keep in touch with agricultural journals. Recently there was an article in Big Farm Management by a science editor from the Central Office of Information, who said that widespread absenteeism among farm workers during harvest time could cause heavy loss of crops". He was referring to the result of a nuclear attack, and the general conclusion from the article was that it would be better to have such an attack in the winter, so that the soil could recover for spring planting. Indeed, correspondence on this subject is now raging in Farmers Weekly.

Sixty local authorities—with the GLC added to their number this morning—have now demanded that they become nuclear-free zones. I know that some people are sceptical about public opinion polls. Indeed, someone in the Library here told me that the people there take no notice of public opinion polls, although all hon. Members do. I take a little notice of some of them.

One of the latest public opinion polls—perhaps this is why the White Paper is trying to be so persuasive—shows that 50 per cent. of the population of this country, as at 16 April, were saying "No" to cruise missiles. That is what Marplan found. That is half of the population, so it is no good saying that there are just a few extremists or pacifists. There is a parallel in the demonstrations that have been taking place in Munich, Bonn and West Berlin. It supports the view of those of us who believe that our initiative should take the form of saying that we are not prepared to have cruise missiles in Britain and make ourselves the No. 1 target. That should be our initiative if we are concerned to protect the lives of our people.

Not for one second does that mean that there is any conflict between that view and multilateral disarmament. If it did, one would expect some of the other important countries to share the Government's view and the opinion of those of my right hon. Friends who do not share this position. Neither Canada nor Norway has nuclear weapons. Indeed, an argument is raging in the governing Norwegian party not about whether Norway should have nuclear bases, but about a residual matter—whether they should allow some minor storage of American materials.

Austria has no nuclear weapons. A great debate has been raging in the Netherlands, and one gathers that it was only as the result of concessions made at recent talks that the Netherlands has been persuaded that it can hold its people, without abandoning nuclear bases. I have already mentioned West Germany. Those countries are not exactly pro-Soviet. They share the view that we must protect the freedom of our people, but they also believe that there is not much freedom when most of the population have been destroyed and radioactivity kills all the children born thereafter.

It so happens that 20 years ago, almost to the date, in March 1961, I made two speeches in the House. One was on the Navy Estimates and the other was on the Air Estimates. I spoke about the dangers of accidental nuclear war. At that time I had the good fortune to be one of the only people in the country who had obtained a copy of the Rand Corporation's Mershon report, which was published by Ohio university. I did not have much ground for optimism that what I said was being listened to by Conservative Members.

Mr. Alan Clark

Twenty years later it is still much the same.

Dame Judith Hart

I think that the hon. Gentleman was not in the House at the time. He is supposed to have a reputation as a historian. From something that he said earlier, I recommend that he looks up copies of Hansard before he intervenes in the speech of someone who has been at it for a great deal longer than he has.

The causes of accidental nuclear warfare include diplomatic miscalculations. There is a perfect example to hand. There is a report that the CIA has revised its estimates of Soviet oil resources. Therefore, America's concern about the Middle East and the idea, which the Prime Minister so eagerly and rapidly supported, for a special force was based on a misconception. The CIA now admits that. That was a diplomatic miscalculation. There is also the possibility of mistaken intelligence.

Computer errors provide some of the gravest dangers. This morning BBC Radio mentioned a report from the United States. This evening The New Standard gives the report in more detail. The general accounting office in Washington has published a report, and this morning the BBC described that office as having a reputation for being thorough and impartial. The report is about the risk of computer error in the control of nuclear weapons.

The article in The New Standard mentions NORAD's present Commander. It states: General Hartinger said human error and a defective component, not the computer system itself, were to blame for three incidents in 1979 and 1980 in which false alerts of an imminent enemy missile attack were sounded. Therefore, human error and defective components must be added to the possibility of computer error.

Mr. Robert Atkins


Dame Judith Hart

I shall not give way, because the Minister did not give way to me. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that.

Let us consider what would happen if the computer were to go wrong, if a computer component were to go wrong, if there were a human error, mistaken intelligence or a diplomatic miscalculation. In addition, it must be borne in mind that in a period of great tension either the Soviet Union or the United States might decide that a preemptive strike was necessary. If we were to have cruise missiles and independent weapons, we should become target No. 1. From my experience of the past year or so, I find that there are two dimensions of thinking in the United States of America. I am sure that that is appreciated by those hon. Members who have been in Washington, New York or in the West. One dimension of that thinking relates to the conscious logistics of the Pentagon and Washington. They are fully aware of what the European nuclear theatre may involve and of our role in that theatre. They are fully aware of the importance to us of proceeding with arms control talks.

Outside that small circle in Washington—which has different views within it—there seems to be no concept of a European nuclear theatre. In the eyes of the average American, the war, the tension and the risks that may arise involve Moscow, Washington and New York. It is as though everything bypasses Europe. They are not aware that we are in the front line. There is a great gap in our mutual understanding. There is as great a gap in the understanding of our people—50 per cent. of whom say "No" to cruise missiles—and of ordinary people in the United States of America, as there is between our thinking as a party and the thinking of Ronald Reagan and the Government in Washington.

We cannot say that SALT II is dead or that arms control should be seen as a soft option, as the United States Defence Secretary said this week. We cannot continue on the blithe assumption that we should go on regarding nuclear weapons as if they were a logical development of the TNT used in the last war. If we are concerned about the defence of our people—which means the defence of our values and freedoms—we must enter a new dimension of thinking. The great debate that has opened up, and which will continue, is most serious and will compel the support of more and more hon. Members.

8.9 pm

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

First, I congratulate the Minister on the style of the Defence Estimates. It is time that someone said that. If it was said yesterday, I did not hear it.

There is a wealth of information in the booklets. There are excellent diagrams and they are easy to read. I was not aware beforehand—I may have been remiss because it is relevant to the speech of the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart)—that it is not intended to introduce cruise missiles on to the Molesworth, Suffolk, site until 1988. Thus we have some time to go. I agree with the right hon. Lady—I wish they did not have to come at all. We have a year or two until those missiles come to the Greenham Common site—at the end of 1983—to make progress on disarmament and to get the SS20s withdrawn in the East. That fact should be made more widely known at possibly less expense, because the Defence Estimates do cost £10.

On defence policy generally, I reiterate that the position of my party has remained consistent. We say "No" to Polaris replacement because we do not believe in its role and we do not think that we can afford it. We say "Yes" to the efficient procurement and greater standardisation of arms. We say "Yes" to European co-operation and closer NATO co-operation. We say "Yes" to greater flexibility in the adaptation of our defence forces, recognising the changed role of the United Kingdom in the world and possibly within NATO.

Our troubles seem to stem from the fact that the Government have ignored too many of those aspects. In Trident we have opted for the most expensive system available and there is trouble already—as far as I know we have had no comment on this in the debate—over the development of Trident. The United States Government are having difficulties. They have had to move orders from one shipyard to another and already the price is escalating. If there is strain on the defence budget now, what will happen when the Trident programme gets into full swing?

As has been pointed out, the cutting of our conventional forces in Europe is a matter of extreme sensitivity with our NATO allies. If cuts are to be made—they clearly must be made—what discussions will take place within the Alliance before final decisions are taken? Now that the matter is so urgent, is there a chance of achieving greater European co-operation, more consultation, more effort to standardise products, more joint planning, greater sharing of burdens and so on?

Commissioner Tugendhat made an interesting speech on this subject in Edinburgh the other day. He was very much on the ball. In The Times today Mr. Roy Grantham contributes a letter to the correspondence columns which all could read to advantage. He says: We can only remain independent of United States military production capability if we pool our procurement programmes. We spend too much on research and development for the numbers we produce in each nation. Only an initiative of the kind I proposed last year in which all the EEC countries and European NATO countries pool 1 per cent. of their gross national product to common military procurement, and each country gets orders equal to its contribution, can see Europe through its conventional defence problems in this decade. I suspect that the Minister who has many problems in arguing Britain's case in NATO for orders might take note of that and have sympathy with that suggestion. Surely attempts should be made to reach agreement on those sorts of problems before we take steps to weaken our conventional forces.

As I see it the choice—it has come out all through the debate—is between the forces of BAOR and our naval responsibilities in the eastern Atlantic. That choice is unacceptable in the present context. It seems undesirable to weaken our ground forces in Europe, which is likely to have difficult consequences among our allies. It is unthinkable, as an island nation so dependent on outside supplies, for us to run down our Navy. Both acts increase the possibility of the unthinkable, that is the more likely use of the nuclear deterrent.

At the end of the day, I have no hesitation in supporting the view of The Times leader yesterday with the headline "The Navy must come first". I regret that the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) was sacked from his job because there is no doubt that he was well versed in his subject. It is sad that both he and his predecessor have taken so long to wake up to the suggestions from many quarters—people well respected in independent ship designing—that it is possible to build ships for the Royal Navy substantially cheaper and less sophisticated than those built at present. The "Osprey", and its derivatives, are almost dirty words in the Ministry of Defence, but that concept, or something very like it, will, I suspect, finally win the day. Why does it take so long to overcome such entrenched attitudes? I do not knock the Royal Navy's existing ships, but they are gold plated Rolls-Royces built to the highest standards with the most advanced equipment in the world. They should be looked after and put to good use, not mothballed, as there are roles that they can play. But many tasks carried out at much less cost, as the Secretary of State said yesterday.

One problem is lack of competition between the various warship yards. We should give every encouragement to some of the smaller yards which, thank God, are beginning to reappear. There is one yard on the Mersey, Mowlems, which I gather is now building tugs and other small ships, and is competing with Korean prices. I do not think that I am letting a secret out of the bag but the yard is prepared to put in a tender for the Hong Kong order which is £6 million less than that put in so far by British Shipbuilders.

Our overseas sales of naval ships is pathetic. The sales figure was only £59 million in 1980. I see that a Castle class is quoted at £10 million. When I visited the Ministry of Defence a year ago I was assured that it would cost between £6 million and £6½ million.

It seems to me as a layman that there is still far too much inter-Service rivalry. I do not understand why the Chiefs of Staffs have asked to see the Prime Minister for a second time. Does not the Chief of the Defence Staff have sufficient independent back-up? Surely the Chief of the Defence Staff is the man to take the overall view and he should be sustained.

Dealing with the subject of equipment, I have to point out that it takes too long for orders to get into production once they have been agreed. I am thinking particularly of the MCV 80. I have a constituency interest. There is a firm in my constituency which is laying off people. That company will be making parts for the MCV 80 but that part of the order will not be received until 1984. Why is it so slow in getting off the ground? Can we not do more to provide our Territorials with more up-to-date equipment? They are still using vastly out-of-date weapons.

The effect of any rundown in defence orders for ships, radar, aircraft and so on will be traumatic in many parts of the country—most certainly in my own—on films such as Plessey, The British Hovercraft Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Westlands, making helicopters, Portsmouth dockyard which employs many of my constituents, and Vosper Thornycroft employing 128 of the finest boilermakers from the Isle of Wight. They cross daily and it costs £7 and £8 to get there. Marconi is another firm where my constituents work and Heaven knows what will happen if that firm has its orders cut or cut out altogether. In my constituency, where the unemployment rate is 10½ per cent. and rising rapidly, the prospect of further cuts in those areas is almost unbelievable.

I echo the pleas for greater urgency over disarmament talks. The public demand that, and expect to see more positive action from the Government. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force outlined the many areas where discussions are proceeding, but they seem to be bogged down and they urgently need to be revitalised. The initiative must come from the top in this country. We should not leave it all to Chancellor Schmidt.

8.19 pm
Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)

I follow directly on the substance of my intervention in the brilliant and inspired speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who drew on the whole depth of his knowledge of world affairs accumulated over many years. I greatly enjoyed his speech, but I feel that without further elaboration my intervention may have made some of my hon. Friends a little restive.

If one sees the Soviet Union as presenting a single, aggressively directed and monolithic threat, along the lines of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the level of defence expenditure that we and our allies are engaged in is grossly inadequate, and doubling or even trebling it would hardly be enough.

However, if one sees the Soviet Union as being essentially cautious, opportunist, prone to exploit power vacua, and braver and more adventurous on the periphery of our affairs than in the central position where, effectively, a stalemate has existed for many years, our existing expenditure must be thought nearly adequate and the only question to settle is the priorities within the ceiling that has been agreed and which the Government have pledged to increase by about 3 per cent. a year.

I feel that the latter perception is not only the correct one, but is shared by the majority of the people of this country, including even my constituents who are so dependent on the Services. We must remember hat our people carry a heavier burden in terms of defence spending, without complaint, than do those of any of our European allies.

It remains essential to settle the correct scale of priorities within the ceiling. That is why I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his integrity and courage in not hiding behind the formal small print of the White Paper, but in coming straight out and dealing with the rumours and charges that have been levelled over the past few days and effectively putting the whole question of the defence review on the Floor of the House. We have had the most interesting defence debate that I have ever heard, and I have attended every one since being elected to the House in 1974.

It is important to consider the four pillars of our defence commitment, because it is helpful to see where alterations are most desirable and can be made most readily.

First, the House recently debated the Trident weapons system and agreed to procure it. My only comment is that it represents a substantial sum—not as substantial as is claimed when amortised over the full period of its life—and it must be desirable, because of Trident's key position as a pillar of our defences, that it should be separately funded. I mean not that it should be funded separately from the aggregate total of the defence budget—though one could argue the case for that—but that it should at least be funded under a separate head, because that would prevent the effective fining of the allocation of the other three Services.

Secondly, the air defence of the United Kingdom. This is essential in both a conventional and a nuclear war. It is inadequate, and I have a feeling—no more than that—that, because of the strategic sense of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the vigour of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, it is considered to be relatively inviolate in the various review options. However, I should say to my hon. Friend that there are unhappy historical precedents for keeping a proportion of what is, from the start, a small total air strength stationed on the mainland of Europe.

Thirdly, there is the Royal Navy. I was interested to note that in every speech in this two-day debate there has hardly been one speaker who at some point—frequently occupying the main thrust of the argument—has not only paid tribute to the Royal Navy and its role, but expressed the fervent hope that, whatever measures are taken in reviewing our defence commitment, no damage will be done to that role and no reduction made in its effective strength. I use the word "effective", because my right hon. Friend made many useful criticisms—implied, if not direct—of much of the Royal Navy's present equipment. Much of it is grossly expensive and not especially suited to any particular task. When I made my maiden speech on this subject, I said that not a single ship in the Royal Navy at that time was capable of fighting a surface engagement with any prospect of success. The position has not altered much, even today.

No one in the House disputes that we have to modernise the Navy—long overdue—bring it up to date, and simplify its equipment. We have been almost unanimous in asserting that there must be no reduction in the overall allocation of funds to the Royal Navy. That must embrace the caveat that, above all, the Royal Navy, with its admitted need for modernisation, to which my right hon. Friend drew attention, should not also be saddled, on its own, as it were, with the task of finding the money for the Trident deterrent system.

The fourth pillar of our defence is the Rhine Army commitment. In terms of cost-effectiveness, it is very poor value. It contributes only a small proportion of the NATO strength on the central front, and it carries a heavy burden of debt in infrastructure, civilian jobs, and support costs of every kind. In my view it is dangerously deployed with weak and uncertain elements on the ground on both its flanks, it is relatively small, and its chances of survival in any conceivable scenario for which it has been trained, must be reckoned to be almost nil.

Yet, if it were, to be drastically cut or withdrawn, we are told "The NATO Alliance will fall apart". That is what we are told will be the immediate consequences. We are told not to touch it because of political considerations. "It may be rational to do so, but if you do it NATO will disintegrate." I do not believe that that is true. Alliances are based on the perceptions of mutual self-interest of the Powers concerned, and adaptions can be made as they evolve, as evolve they must. The NATO Alliance was formed 30 years ago, at a time when the balance of power and conditions on the central front were totally different. Now that an effective stalemate has been established on the central front—I cannot believe that 30,000 men of the Rhine Army, the maximum that would have to be withdrawn would make any difference to that stalemate—it cannot be true that the whole Alliance will disintegrate if we alter our defence priorities along these lines.

I sometimes wonder whether my right hon. Friend realises that he has a perfect right to do that. After all, we are the only country in NATO that is presently maintaining the undertakings that all the countries made. We, and we alone, have increased defence spending along the lines that were recommended. It is we, and we alone, who have actually announced where we propose to locate the bases for the new range of theatre nuclear weapons. There is scope for my right hon. Friend to opt much more forcefully for the possibility that I have described, if he believes, as I hope and believe he must, that it is the correct solution.

The review which my right hon. Friend is undertaking, and which he has so generously thrown on to the Floor of the House, is hailed as being the most important since the Sandys review. It may well be even more important. Let us hope that in coming to his conclusion my right hon. Friend will pay regard to everything that has been said here today and yesterday; that he will not allow political considerations which may well have lost their original validity to influence him; and, above all, that he welcomes the general debate on this subject, which will continue and which must at all times be conducted openly and with candour.

8.30 pm
Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) on the courage that he has shown in the past few days. Whilst one may question the effectiveness of his tactics, his courage in sticking by his principles does honour to us all.

I entirely agree with the Secretary of State for Defence that it was right to approach the present review from the ground up and not simply as a cost-saving exercise, a series of salami-like slices here and there, without thinking through the fundamentals of his business. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has pointed out, he has still kept one sacred cow—Trident. Why Trident? What is the Government's reason for Trident? It is to cover the most unlikely scenario—the Soviet Union's deciding, without any period of tension, without any warning, to press a button and launch a nuclear strike with strategic weapons against this country alone. I find that implausible in the extreme.

All the other arguments for cruise missiles, for having a land-based system, have been rejected, because it is feared that the Soviet Union might give us no warning. Not one planner in NATO believes that that is a likely scenario. It would be a very ineffective way to fight a war. The whole of NATO planning is based on a minimum of 48 hours' notice, and the consensus is that there are likely to be at least 14 days of tension before the outbreak of any nuclear hostilities. The Ministry of Defence has declined to assess the price that it is paying for this increment of insurance against a scenario that the Ministry itself, in evidence to the Select Committee on Defence, admitted was very unlikely.

One does not have to be a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, as I emphatically am not, in order to have reservations about the Trident decision. Those reservations exist within the Ministry and on the Conservative Benches, and they relate to, amongst other things, the drastic opportunity costs of the Trident decision, a subject on which the Ministry has been singularly unforthcoming.

What are the likely consequences, the likely casualties, of the Trident decision? We do not know. We shall not know until the Secretary of State makes his statement in July. My bet is that one of the consequences will be that we have already seen the last new military aircraft to be built in this country. When I went to the Ministry of Defence in 1976, we were told that the first priority was to get agreement on what was then called the AST403, a Harrier-Jaguar replacement. That is five years ago. We are now about to have a joint production arrangement with the Americans for the AV8B, but there is no sign of the other element in that Harrier-Jaguar replacement.

I suspect that the European combat aircraft is a dead duck, that the Tornado is the last example of a multinational production agreement on a major weapons system, and that, as I have said, we have seen the last major new military aircraft to be built by the British aerospace industry. This is one of the inevitable casualties of the Trident decision. These difficulties are nothing to be ashamed about. They affect countries with much stronger economies. Dr. Apel, the German Defence Minister, is wrestling with difficulties of exactly this sort. We have no need to apologise for our contribution as a country to the joint NATO defence capability.

There is one other problem with Trident in addition to the opportunity costs. It flows from the opportunity costs. As a result of procuring Trident, we shall inevitably have a degraded conventional capability compared with what we would otherwise have been able to procure. We are thereby reducing the nuclear threshold. We shall reduce inevitably the period over which British forces can conduct conventional hostilities if that situation should arise in Western Europe. The decision will reduce the time available for the statesmen of the world to avoid the crossing of a nuclear threshold in any major conflagration.

I wish to turn one particular aspect of the review that the Secretary of State is making. I am afraid that I shall break the unanimity to which the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) referred over the Royal Navy. Much of the debate has been conducted in terms of irrelevancies. It has been conducted in terms of whether the Royal Navy should have surface ships or submarines. That is not the issue. The question is what functions the Royal Navy should continue to perform—whether it should preserve its existing anti-submarine capability or its existing anti-surface ship capability and whether we expect it to be involved in convoy work and the movement of amphibious forces. I have a view on this subject. I was not alone in holding that view at the Ministry of Defence. At present, this country has a gross over-investment in anti-surface ship capability.

Mr. James Callaghan

Will my right hon. Friend put that into English?

Dr. Gilbert

We have far too great an investment by both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force in a capability to sink Soviet surface ships. That is what I mean by anti-surface ship capability. I hope it meets with my right hon. Friend's approval.

I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware of the intelligence assessment of the size of the anticipated threat from Warsaw Pact surface ships. It is very small. It is extremely unlikely that the Soviet Union would put at risk its high value unit ships—for example, the "Minsk" and "Kiev"—in a war at sea.

How has the Navy succeeded in achieving such a large share of our limited resources being devoted to what I consider to be largely a spurious threat? I have several serious indictments to make of the Navy. It has a series of billion-pound systems. The Sting Ray torpedo that was to have cost £200 million when it was begun will cost about £1 billion for a penny packet order of torpedos. It is a very good weapon. I wish I could say that about all Navy weapons. It is, however, a £1 billion weapon.

The next generation of naval helicopter, the Sea King replacement, was due to cost more than £1 billion. The next generation of Sea Dart, which provides area air defence for the Fleet, was costed at about £1 ½ billion before I left office. I have named only three weapon systems of the Royal Navy. I have not touched upon many others or the platforms that will carry them. It is common ground among hon. Members on both sides of the House that they are far too expensive.

There is nothing new about suggestions for cheaper platforms for the Royal Navy. The Navy department has been resisting them. We suggested that there should be fewer varieties of hull size. We also suggested that the department should press ahead with modular ships. We suggested not only the use of tankers but also cargo carriers, the VLCCs, as platforms for VSTOL operations and also for helicopters.

As far as I am aware, nothing has been done year after year. There are always excuses about the problems of refuelling, rearming and control difficulties. No doubt that is the case, but I see no evidence of any real attempt by the Navy department to solve the problems. In my experience of having been responsible for defence procurement for two and a half years, the Navy has lumbered itself with a higher proportion of inferior systems such as Exocet and Sea Slug than any of the other Services. Worst of all, the Royal Navy is planning to fight a wholly different war from either the RAF or the Army. It plans to fight a war that would last longer in weeks than either the Army or the RAF could fight in days, in either a conventional or nuclear role.

The Navy seems to imagine that Warsaw Pact submarines will sink allied shipping at random for weeks during what it calls a period of tension without there being an ensuing general conflagration. To say that I consider that to be an unrealistic scenario would be an understatement. Its other justification for fighting a war for far longer than it could be fought in Western Europe is that it must be able to continue to protect convoys after the war has ended. How anyone can imagine that there will be a role for protecting convoys when everyone else has been incinerated passes my credibility.

For many years the Navy has won an excessive share of defence resources on a bizarre assessment of future major conflicts between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Why has the Navy been so successful? It is largely because procurement decisions in the MOD are taken on the basis of "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours". There is a total absence of any adequate methodology for taking decisions about resource allocation. At a very high level officials are lukewarm, at the best, about attempts to introduce any proper system. The previous Conservative Secretary of State was as defeatist as his advisers and scrapped the system that the Labour Government had attempted to establish. The present Secretary of State understands the problem. He understands the techniques that are susceptible to economically sophisticated analysis. I hope that he will consider the matter as a fundamental tool, the introduction of which is a much needed reform in his Department.

I turn to the question of procurement. I have always argued against defence expenditure simply as a means to create employment. I argued against it when I was in Government, and do so again in Opposition. I do not believe that it is a function of the MOD to spend money creating jobs by building weapons of war. Defence expenditure should be related to the defence needs of Britain, and not a penny more should be spent on defence than is required for those defence needs. If we wish to establish a major job creation programme—which, by God, we need—it should be done not by building weapons of war but by peaceful investment. Defence expenditure can and should be justified solely on defence needs.

The Secretary of State is finding himself inexorably coming up against the conflict between quality and quantity. That pressure will grow throughout his term of office. Britain produces so few of each item of military hardware that our unit costs are necessarily much higher than those of our competitors. The dilemma between maximising employment and maximising defence capability presents itself again. In the past the Ministry has been lukewarm to ministerial involvement in discussions about standardisation at international level. There will be more and more pressure put upon the Secretary of State to buy United States equipment as the only way to maintain his capabilities. We see signs of that already with the AV8B decision. Before very long the Secretary of State will be forced to ask the Chiefs of Staff as we asked them some years ago, which items of equipment are essential for our security and should therefore be procured in Britain.

I make two constructive proposals. First, we should reconsider the idea of SACEUR and other major NATO commanders being staffed adequately to make recommendations about the type of weapons that they think they need. I know that there were unhappy experiences at the time of Fontainebleau. We should try again. Political attitudes are different now from those that prevailed at the time of Fontainebleau. We should have recommendations for open tendering among all the NATO Powers on the basis of agreed staff requirements.

Above all, in the interests of the Alliance, it is time that we had a Heads of Government meeting that is directed to enhancing the standardisation and specialisation of defence equipment procurement within the Alliance. If we do not do so, we are all lost. We must obtain more effective weapons systems for the resources that we jointly allocate to defence.

Time and again Secretaries of State and Ministers of State have mouthed pious words on the subject and nothing has been done. However, I detect an improvement in the political atmosphere. I have alluded to the problems that West Germany experiences in meeting even its defence commitment with an economy so much more buoyant than ours.

I note with pleasure the election of M. Mitterrand. I hope that there will be a less isolationist attitude on the part of the new French Administration than that from which Europe has suffered since the war. On the basis of the recent discussions that members of the Select Committee on Defence had with members of both Houses of Congress and with the new Administration in Washington, I am optimistic about the possibilities of a major advance in that area if an initiative is taken at the highest level in Government.

I direct my remaining remarks to arms control. I do not share the sense of disaster felt by many hon. Members on both sides of the House at the failure of the SALT II talks. I contend that SALT II was valuable as a symbol. However, in my assessment it did not prevent either major power bloc from doing anything that it otherwise wanted to do. I hope that with SALT III we shall get a much more realistic and arms-limiting treaty than SALT II ever was.

I view with great concern the increased accuracy of the new strategic weapons systems. The enhanced accuracy of the Trident system is a distinctly destabilising element in the strategic nuclear balance. I hope that future arms control discussions will lead us to negotiate an agreement to reduce the accuracy of counter-strike weapons that have the potential to wipe out the other side's weapons in their silos before they are launched. I hope that the Secretary of State will use all the influence at his command to ensure that the anti-ballistic missile treaty is kept in force when it is due to expire at the end of next year. I hope that he will give his attention to the problems of political control of tactical battlefield nuclear weapons. In that respect we are again on dangerous ground.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do everything in his power to increase confidence—building measures in Europe. We should support the French view that confidence—building measures should cover the whole of Europe and we should not feel reluctant to approach the new Socialist Government in France along those lines. I am sure that the French, the Russians and the Germans will be open to initiatives from him and from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This is an opportunity that should not be allowed to slip. If the Secretary of State wants to be remembered with gratitude by the House and the country, this is one area in which he must concentrate his undoubted abilities, and he must do so before very long.

The sense of despair that nothing is being done and that we are on a slippery slope from which we cannot escape and the sense of impending doom and helplessness are leading many sincere and respectable people to wonder about embracing unilateralist and neutralist sentiments. They are a growing number. Their fears will not be set at rest merely by a more cost-effective defence policy. The Secretary of State's supreme duty is to bend all his efforts and energies to measures of disarmament and arms control as the major task of his period of office.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I understand that the Opposition Front Bench has agreed not to seek to catch my eye until 9.20 pm. If by any chance we had eight-minute speeches, I could call four hon. Members.

8.52 pm
Sir Frederick Burden (Gillingham)

I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). In all the years I have been in the House I have never before heard a defence debate cover such a wide range. The speech that my hon. Friend made last Friday evening probably brought that about. As a neighbour I have found him to be extremely interested and helpful in all the matters that affect my constituency of Gillingham, which has Chatham dockyard within its boundaries.

I have a great interest in, and affection for, the Royal Navy as a result of an incident when a convoy in which I was going out to the Far East was attacked. Several ships were sunk. Ours was saved by the Royal Navy. Therefore, when I went to Gillingham, with all its Forces' traditions, particularly the Royal Navy, I quickly acquired a great interest in and a desire to serve those interests to the best of my ability.

Yesterday and today there has been a wide sweep over affairs regarding defence generally. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I am rather more parochial. When I first went to Gillingham, Chatham dockyard, the Royal Marines and the Army were within its confines. Now it has only the dockyard and a small unit of engineers. The Army has also gone.

Therefore, it is not surprising that in the years I have been there I have felt great concern about the dockyard and its future. It has always carried out a magnificent Fleet support role for the Royal Navy in peace or in war. It is the largest employer in the Medway towns. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner) and I greatly are concerned about its future.

In August last year the study on the dockyards categorically stated that Chatham, Devonport, Portsmouth and Rosyth would be retained. In a letter dated November last year, the then Minister of State for Defence, Ministry of Defence stated that in the long term, there would be a need to take on more employees at those yards. On 15 May this year, I received a letter from my hon. Friend, the Member for Ashford, when he was Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy stating that although the number of apprentices passing out this year could not be guaranteed jobs consistent with their training, he hoped that there would be vacancies shortly and that they would be able to take them up.

I was horrified when I read in The Daily Telegraph on Monday of last week what was said to be my right hon. Friend's plan for reductions in the Royal Navy, the Royal Dockyards and the Royal Marines. I wondered whether the article was a figment of the imagination of the paper's naval correspondent. I thought that if it was it could not be too strongly condemned. I am horrified at the way in which irresponsible journalism has grown in recent years in Britain.

Was it a figment of the naval correspondent's imagination? I remind the House and my right hon. Friend that the editor of The Daily Telegraph was an eminent member of this House and a Cabinet Minister. I cannot believe that the article appeared without his scrutiny. I am sure that he was convinced that much of it was true. If the article were true and my right hon. Friend were to use the axe that he has as Minister responsible for the Royal Navy, it would be a tragedy for Britain. Many of our surface ships would disappear. The surface ships meant much to those of us who were in danger on the seas during the war. They protected us in our convoys. The Government must think the problem out carefully.

If the proposals described in The Daily Telegraph have any semblance of truth, the action in relation to the Royal Navy will be unprecedented in our history. It appears that my right hon. Friend will use his axe as efficiently as the Gurkhas that he commanded use their kukris to lop off the heads of their enemies. The Navy is not the enemy.

My right hon. Friend gave a clever and convincing performance yesterday to dispose of our fears and criticisms. I hope that it was not just a clever performance or an act to quieten our fears so that he can gain time. I hope that he does not expect that the issue will simmer down so that he can introduce cuts just before we go into the recess and have little opportunity for discussion. If that happened, it would be a gross betrayal of right hon. and hon. Members, the Royal Navy and public. If there are anything like the savage cuts mooted in The Daily Telegraph for the Royal Navy, there will be complementary cuts in the work load on surface ships in the Royal dockyards.

Is the future of the dockyards assured, as promised last August? Is the future of Chatham dockyard assured, as promised? Is the future of the other dockyards assured as promised last August? Chatham dockyard is the largest employer in the Medway towns. It employs 7,500 people. Many of the workers are industrial civil servants. They help to keep the ships at sea. We cannot wait in apprehension until July. My right hon. Friend must come out openly. He must know whether the dockyards will be needed. If so, he must give that undertaking. How can my right hon. Friend attempt to brush away the promises that were given so categorically and so recently to Chatham, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Devonport? I believe that hon. Members will look very seriously at what my right hon. Friend comes up with in July.

I also remind my right hon. Friend that in April of last year I said what I thought the function of the dockyards should be. I made the point very firmly that the dockyards' work load would carry them on for a considerable period and that they would probably need to take on more employees. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not try to switch the work in the dockyards to the private yards, because there will be no possibility there of their working with naval personnel, as they can now. Those ships would very soon be blacked if that were attempted. Indeed, if that is the aim it is simply playing the numbers game when it comes to reducing the Civil Service and means no real reduction; the cost is still there. If the promises that were made are abrogated by my right hon. Friend it will be nothing short of gross betrayal, which I am not prepared to support.

I am reminded of what happened some years ago when a very great man, Ernest Bevin, was at the Foreign Office. He took one of my colleagues who was extremely interested in foreign affairs to look round the Foreign Office, Before lunch they went to the men's room. Ernie Bevin put his arm round the man's shoulders and said "Now I will let you into a very important secret. This is the only room in the Foreign Office in which everybody knows what he is doing." I wonder whether today that could not be applied equally strongly to the Ministry of Defence.

Above all, I would say this to my right hon. Friend. Unless he can reinforce the undertaking that has been given categorically three times about the future of Chatham I, unfortunately and most reluctantly, shall abstain tonight.

9.3 pm

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

I shall follow the point made by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden) about dockyards, because I, too, represent a dockyard constituency. I pay a great tribute to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) for the great help that we received from him and his understanding not only of the development of Rosyth, but of recent happenings. I ask the Secretary of State, if he gets the chance in his winding-up speech, to give us some updating of what has happened to the cobalt isotope. If he cannot do that when he winds up the debate, perhaps he will write to me very speedily on this matter which is causing great concern to people in the area, especially in the dockyards. If the Secretary of State mumbles and grumbles from a sedentary position he makes life very difficult for us all. He will have an opportunity to respond, one way or the other, to the debate.

The dockyard study is referred to in the Defence Estimates and review, and we must have an undertaking about whether this type of study is to be looked at anew. The trade unions, I think wrongly—and I say that quite openly—have been very co-operative as regards the general outline of that study. They were co-operative because of the persuasive influence of the hon. Member for Ashford.

If this matter is to be looked at anew, my strong advice to the trade unions is not to accept the package, and certainly not the concept of a training fund. If I were negotiating, the Secretary of State would find me very tough on this matter. The hon. Member for Ashford and the trade unions were negotiating against the background of security of employment. But, as has been pointed out in relation to the article in The Daily Telegraph, that security has not been forthcoming for all dockyard workers.

The Secretary of State and his Cabinet colleagues must get it into their heads that there is a connection between our defence commitment and industrial strategy. No other nation would behave so stupidly as to get such a small procurement percentage. As regards procurement, we find that our shipbuilders are held up in their planning because of what Bath is deciding in design and other terms. We cannot sustain a shipbuilding capacity, not only in the naval yards, but in the mixed yards, against such uncertainty. Nor can we sustain a contented labour force in the dockyards against this uncertainty.

Yesterday the Secretary of State said: The vast majority of the Ministry's civil servants are not bureaucrats—they are welders, plumbers and electricians producing tanks and other armaments; they are fitters, boilermakers and blacksmiths, refitting and maintaining ships".—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 161.] The right hon. Gentleman recognises that aspect. We cannot act like a gardener pulling a plant up by the roots to see whether it is growing. That is no way to conduct an industrial enterprise such as the dockyards. Nor is it a way to sustain British shipbuilding.

I am not a unilateralist. However, I recognise the force that is gathering in the unilateral argument within the country and the Labour Party. The United States and the Soviet Union seem to be embarking on a strategy that will inevitably lead to a nuclear war. The United Kingdom Government's posture is almost to aid and abet the United States in this atmosphere. In this respect I was horrified to witness the recent "Panorama" programme, involving Caspar Weinberger. The United Kingdom has a role to play in trying to get balanced force reductions and to reduce international tension, but the Government are not adopting the correct posture in that respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is not in his place. However, I should point out that one of the reasons for the development of the atomic bomb was the alerting of Franklin Roosevelt by Albert Einstein to the fear that the Germans would get there first.

We live in a world in which these horrific weapons are a reality. I recognise that we have a commitment to defend ourselves, but I hope that the Secretary of State and others in the Government will strive to achieve a reduction in world tension—we shall not rid the world of these weapons overnight—and a closer understanding between the nations of the world and so give young people in particular a better prospect of a more peaceful future.

9.9 pm

Mr. D. A. Trippier (Rossendale)

In view of the short time available, I shall confine my remarks to the finest corps that God gave to man—the Royal Marines. I intended to speak on naval strategy generally, but yet again the Royal Navy will have to take second place to the Royal Corps.

In any realistic maritime strategy the Royal Marines have a vital role to play. In the defence White Papers of 1980 and 1981 the significant number of references to the Royal Marines reflected the wide diversity of our world wide commitments, yet the Corps' reputation and its significant contribution to NATO was not sufficient to save 41 Commando from the axe in the latest defence review. The masochistic exercise saved a mere £3 million, and demonstrated the senselessness of the policy of equal misery for all that has bedevilled our defence thinking for too long. If a wind of change is blowing through the Ministry of Defence on the lines referred to in the White Paper I welcome it, if only because in a reassessment of priorities the Royal Marines and their contribution to the Alliance can and will stand up to critical examination.

By the Secretary of State's own definition, the greatest priority in conventional deterrence is flexibility, which is a characteristic amply demonstrated by the Corps. It played a significant part in Hong Kong in 1979 and in the New Hebrides, and in South Armagh in 1980. The Royal Marines, the majority of whom are trained in mountain and Arctic warfare, provide significant support for the northern flank of NATO. In addition, the joint United Kingdom-Netherlands amphibious force consists of a brigade headquarters, 3 Royal Marines Commando, an amphibious combat group of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, amphibious shipping and combat helicopter and logistic support. Its deployment options include Norway, Denmark and the Atlantic islands.

The flexibility retained under that concept is invaluable to NATO, as it enables the force to deploy ahead of formal NATO alert measures, if necessary, without political or military commitment. It retains the ability to react rapidly when required and preserves the inherent tactical flexibility of deployment, which is an essential characteristic of an amphibious task force. I was able to witness the effectiveness of that vital flexibility on "Excercise Teamwork" last year, when I played an active role with 3 Commando Brigade as a reserve officer in the Royal Marines, a capacity that I have always regarded as being as great a privilege as being an hon. Member of this House.

It is a matter of grave concern to the country, not least to Service chiefs, that fundamental defence decisions may be made by politicians who are more strongly influenced by economic considerations than by defence needs. Although it is true that politicians need to balance the representations of Service chiefs with the resources available, I have always felt that, in attempts to find the right balance, the Royal Marines' voice is not heard. They lack muscle when it comes to political decisions that may affect their future and they are vulnerable in cost-saving exercises because they have no capital equipment to throw into the pot. They have only manpower.

Once again, if we consider the Secretary of State's directive on the need for flexibility and his wish to see men on the ground performing vital tasks, we comply with the requirements to the letter. The Corps is cost-effective. Apart from its amphibious capability and its long experience of working with the Royal Navy, it enjoys a special relationship with the United States Marine Corps, and that relationship is enhanced by the exchange of officers.

From what I saw in Norway on "Exercise Teamwork", I was entirely satisfied that no other arm of any other Service could defend the northern flank as we do. The exercise combined all the attributes that I mentioned—close co-operation with the Royal Navy, involving sophisticated communications and control, and close co-operation with the United States Marine Corps, the United States Navy and the Dutch Marines.

My task in the debate is not to reinforce the argument for the retention of such specialist troops. The case has been made time and again by deeds rather than by words. The alternative view expressed in Monday's now famous edition of The Daily Telegraph is unthinkable in both practical and political terms either for the Government or for the country.

My prime task is to convince my colleagues on the Front Bench that the Royal Marines have an increasing role to play in maritime strategy. It now seems certain that within the "grand plan" Britain will make a contribution to the rapid deployment force which will operate out of the NATO area.

There is really nothing new about the RDF. The concept dates back at least to 1966, when the Lyndon Johnson Administration pressed Congress to approve a new class of fast deployment logistic ships—FDLs—and C-5A cargo aircraft. The rapid deployment force, however, differs from the old concept in several respects. First, the United States Marine Corps is the centrepiece of the RDF. Secondly, the concept of a joint task force with a commander and staff of its own could be viewed as innovative.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in answer to a question that I put to him at defence Question Time on Tuesday 17 March, said: We envisage the possibility that HMS "Hermes", with a Marine Commando and with support forces, would be available for an RDF-type task."—[Official Report, 17 March 1981; Vol. 1, c. 189.] I should be grateful if the Minister will confirm that possibility when he winds up the debate tonight. I naturally cling to that assurance, but I warn of the danger of holding a force trained for rapid deployment in an ASW/Commando carrier which would not be a permanent presence. The degree of flexibility of the Corps, of which I spoke earlier, could be adopted to enable the Marines to passenger themselves either on American ships with which they are familiar or on British LSLs and LPDs.

The task is ideally suited to the Royal Marines. While the future of the Corps must be assured, with its role on the northern flank and its increasing role in Commacchio Company protecting certain key naval installations and offshore interests, the significance of the Royal Marines having a role in the RDF cannot be over-emphasised.

The career prospects of serving Marines have recently taken a severe knock as a result of major surgery inflicted on 41 Commando. The Government's credibility over their commitments to defence expenditure is now at stake. The credibility of the Royal Marines is not.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)


Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member feels that he can say something in three minutes, I am happy to call him.

9.17 pm
Mr. Leighton

Thank you for those kind words, Mr. Speaker. I shall not say anything about the Royal Marines, as the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) has gone into the subject at great depth. It seems that they will be guarding the Northern flank, plus the Persian Gulf. I wish them good luck.

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) spoke of the increased cost of military equipment. I wonder whether the House realises just how expensive that equipment is and what the world is now spending on such equipment. In 1980 the world spent $500,000 million on military equipment. That is equivalent to $1 million a minute. This country now spends between £10 billion and £11 billion per annum, which is £30 million per day or £3.80 per person per week.

That total expenditure is increasing all the time. The world now spends 70 per cent. more on military expenditure than it did in 1960. Looking back to the First World War, one sees that expenditure is 10 times greater than it was in 1913, and military manpower is seven limes greater than it was then. There are 60,000 nuclear weapons—enough to kill the entire population of the world many times over. One therefore wonders why we need to build even more, but even more are being built. Surely, therefore, we are entering the most dangerous decade in human history. Thirty-seven years after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the risk of conflagration is getting worse instead of the danger lessening. That is because there is a breakdown in political communication between East and West and an upsurge of unrestrained military suspicion between East and West.

It is for that reason that many people, certainly in my constituency—and I am sorry that I have to end here—are suspicious and are opposed to the whole idea of the arms race, and in particular the nuclear arms race. That is why we want to stop it.

I support my party's policy on this issue. I do not have time now to go into it. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that on another occasion you will be able to call me earlier in the debate.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Member for co-operating. I thank also all those hon. Members who co-operated in response to my appeal.

9.20 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

This two-day debate has been wide-ranging. It has also been the most interesting defence debate to which I have had the privilege of listening during my seven years' membership of the House.

For that we ought to thank the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). It is probably due to his sacrifice that the debate has been as hard-hitting and wide-ranging as it has. I join hon. Members on both sides of the House in congratulating the hon. Gentleman upon the quality of his speech. If it will not blight his career any further, may I say to him that I am sure it will not be too long before we see him back on the Government Front Bench. I refer, of course, to the lifetime of the present Government and not to the period after the next general election.

During the debate there has been very little mention of Cmnd. 8212, the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" 1981, and almost every speaker has concentrated on the somewhat bizarre happenings, the rumours and the leaks with regard to Britain's future defences. It is a little difficult to understand why that should be so, for as long ago as January this year the convulsions that the Conservative Party has suffered over the past two days were fairly widely forecast.

The Financial Times of Tuesday 6 January, the day following the transfer of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) from his position of Secretary of State for Defence to his present position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—and the day following the banishment of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) from the Front Bench to the Finchley equivalent of a Siberian power station—said: His departure"— referring to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire— is almost certain to be interpreted by the Treasury as meaning that Britain's defence commitments will again have to be reexamined. Mr. John Non, who replaces him, is much more of a Thatcher man. His commitment to the idea of defence should not be in doubt, but he might also be more realistic about what can be afforded and about Britain's role in the world". The Times of the same day said: Mr. Pym fought a tough behind-the-scenes battle against further defence cuts, almost to the point of resignation". The article went on to say: Mr. Non, as Secretary of State for Trade, has shown that he belonged to the strict monetarist school of Cabinet Ministers". None of us doubted the right hon. Gentleman's ability. It was certain to lead to further promotion. The fact that he belonged to the strict monetarist school of Cabinet Ministers doubtless did his career prospects no harm at all.

The projected sums involved in the purchase of the Trident missile system are amazingly similar to the projected savings arising from the virtual destruction of the Royal Navy's surface fleet. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the naval lobby—which has been so well marshalled over the past two days by both sides of the House—might yet save the Royal Navy. If the Secretary of State has anything to do with it, that saving will certainly be at the expense of some other branch of the Armed Forces.

When I referred to Trident, I talked about "projected" sums, because no one knows how much Trident will cost. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said: a total capital cost in the range of £4,000 million to £5,000 million…might be a realistic estimate."—[Official Report, 24 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 682.] However, today's newspapers are talking about a bill of £6 billion for Trident. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position this evening to give us more accurate figures. Nor do I know whether any other Conservative Member will be in a position to give us accurate figures for Trident. After all, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) said yesterday, 88 per cent. of the Trident budget is to be spent on work that has a development content. I should think that that type of work is difficult for the Secretary of State to quantify in financial terms.

One problem that has yet to be resolved concerns whether Trident will use C4 or the bigger D5 missiles. Indeed, it has yet to be resolved whether the United States of America will persist with the older, smaller C4 missile. Its decision on whether to go ahead with the C4 or D5 will depend on resolving the problems that the United States of America has with the Ohio class submarine. Clearly the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to say how much Trident will cost. I appreciate that he has done his best to give the House a general guideline. But is it necessary for the house, and particularly for the Conservative Party, to go through these public spasms about a project which, as far as we know, is unquantifiable? There are misgivings about it although few of them have been expressed from the Government Benches.

I see that the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) is in his place. It is fair to say that he has misgivings about the Trident project. No wonder.

Paragraph 202 of the Defence Estimates states: The Alliance has never sought, at either the conventional or the nuclear level, to match the Soviet Union and its allies weapon for weapon. Is that true? The numbers game has been played for many years by both the Soviet Union and the United States of America. If that statement is correct, it presupposes that at some time, the United States of America and its allies enjoyed superiority in either nuclear or conventional weapons—or—both—over the Warsaw Pact nations.

Mr. Amery

It did.

Mr. Snape

I shall come to the contribution of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) shortly.

In my seven short years here, I do not remember the right hon. Gentleman or any of his hon. Friends saying anything like that.

In a "World in Action" programme, Granada TV recently produced some film clips from the past which illustrated the views of various American Presidents. One clip showed President Truman in 1952. He said: The Soviet Union and its colonial satellites are maintaining armed forces of great size and strength in both Europe and Asia. Their vast armies pose a constant threat to world peace. There was a clip of President Kennedy. In 1962, he said: The harsh facts of the matter are that our relative military strength has not increased as fast as the Russians' in ground forces, submarines and missiles. Shortly after his inauguration, President Reagan was shown saying: We're outnumbered in Navy surface ships and submarines two to one, we're outgunned in artillery three to one, we're outmanned in tanks four to one. They"— that is the Soviet Union— have bigger, more powerful missiles than we have. We're no longer negotiating from strength. At no time has the United States ever conceded that it has been negotiating from a position of strength. One of the Opposition's objections to the Government's defence policy is that our view is coloured not only by our abhorrence of nuclear weapons and the dangers to world peace arising from them, but that the decision to purchase Trident binds us ever closer to the United States.

In the debate on nuclear deterrence on 3 March the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said: It"— that is, the decision by the United States to sell Trident to us— 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."—[Official Report, 3 March 1981; Vol. 1000, c. 157.] I have no doubt that many hon. Gentlemen will be happy for this country to be a satellite of the United States. Conservative Members have given that impression during the two days of this debate. Indeed, I cannot remember one word of criticism emanating from Members on the Government Benches about the United States' foreign policy in the past, now and in the future. Perhaps they are happy.

Mr. Buck

It is a defence debate.

Mr. Snape

The hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) tells us that it is a defence debate. If there is no connection between defence and foreign policy, many hon. Members who have said much in the debate would have been ruled out of order by you, Mr. Speaker.

Many Conservative Members can see no evil in the United States and no good in the Soviet Union, but the world does not consist entirely of black and white.

Mr. Churchill

Which side is the hon. Gentleman on?

Mr. Snape

I treat that remark with the contempt that I usually reserve for the speeches of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill).

In a "Panorama" programme on Monday this week, we heard of the new ruling bodies within the United States and the new attitude among the leaders of that country. We were told that the military age is with us again. The arms race is on with a vengeance. In the Kremlin and the White House, there are groups of bellicose and belligerent old men. In the United States they believe that "Ivan" can be bombed into submission now that the United States has found its heart again. In the Kremlin, it is believed that the time is right for a final push to bring about the collapse of capitalism.

In that "Panorama" programme, Mr. Caspar Weinberger said: We do not have the kind of lead that we had in the 1950s and 1960s"— the age-old distortions that always figure in United States foreign policy. I mentioned that the United States did not concede that it had that kind of lead anyway.

That assumption was challenged in the same programme by Mr. Paul Warlike, who was the chief United States negotiator on the SALT II treaty. He said: There is no point at which the Soviets would have had nuclear superiority over the United States. He went on to say that the present Administration had no policy and no theory on arms control. Later he said: arms control is now seen in Washington as a soft policy Mr. Weinberger said: SALT II is dead so far as the United States is concerned. He said that there has had been a significant change in policy in Washington.

What worries me and certainly worried the interviewer, Mr. Tom Mangold, is that there is a substantial and growing body of opinion in the United States that believes not only that a war with the Soviet Union is inevitable but that in such a war the United States would emerge victorious. That opinion does not envisage the fighting taking place in or above the United States. It is felt that the war would be fought in Europe, and that the United Kingdom, crammed as it will be, if the Government have their way, with United States-controlled nuclear missiles, would be a prime target for Soviet nuclear weaponry.

I do not believe that that scenario is particularly fanciful. If my constituency were close to Birmingham, Alabama, instead of Birmingham, England, I would think it legitimate to want to put the United States nuclear shield as far as possible from the people I represent.

I do not want to mention Admiral G. La Roque; we have heard from him before. If the United States perceives it to be in its interest to push nuclear armoury as far as possible from its shores, that is legitimate, but I am surprised that our Government, who alway profess to defend British interests, though invariably betray them, should be complacent about it.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Stick to the railways.

Mr. Snape

I should like to take the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) for a ride on a train. It would be a single ticket for him.

I have outlined the situation in which the United Kingdom will find itself unless there is a change of mind and policy. The Government have shown no interest in arms control negotiations since they took office. Arms control was not mentioned by one Conservative Back Bencher.

Mr. Michael Mates (Petersfield)

I mentioned arms control.

Mr. Snape

The speeches of the hon. Member for Petersfield (Mr. Mates) are usually so confused that he will forgive me if I did not understand him.

What action has the Secretary of State taken to start real negotiations towards arms control? Has the Prime Minister met the new United States ambassador, and has he been told of the genuine fears of many people in this country about their future and the future of world peace? Has either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State responded to Chancellor Schmidt's initiative in Germany? If so, they have kept it fairly quiet.

On Monday's "Newsnight" television programme—

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Back on the "box".

Mr. Snape

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) should watch the "box" more often. He might learn something. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said on that programme that the world was in the run-up to world war three. How many of his colleagues agree with him? Is that the view of the Secretary of State?

Does the Secretary of State seriously expect the House to believe that the Government are pursuing meaningful negotiations? He said yesterday that arms control can be successful only if we respond more effectively to the threat which faces us."—[Official Report, 19 May 1981; Vol. 5, c. 169.] Is that not the opposite of arms control? Is that not participating in the arms race which the right hon. Gentleman professes to deplore?

As my hon. Friends have pointed out, Trident will cripple the rest of our defence and procurement budgets. The forecasts made by many national newspapers in the past few days were not, as the Secretary of State said, "pure invention". They were not made only in The Daily Telegraph. I do not want to get involved in the private quarrel between the Tory Party and its house magazine. On Monday the Daily Mail, which is not noticeably generous towards the Labour Party, carried a headline: Now 10,000 soldiers face the axe". The Sunday Telegraph last week had a headline: Thatcher faces revolt over defence cuts. The Sunday Express headline was: Tory MPs in revolt over more Navy cuts. On Monday the Daily Express headline was "Don't sink the Navy". Was Fleet Street attacked by some sort of collective madness so that it invented all those things?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I cannot believe that the reporters on those good Tory newspapers have been suborned by Moscow gold. The leaks were fairly well substantiated, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

I come to the projections. Certainly, they are bad for the Navy, but there is perhaps a chance that they will be withdrawn or changed as a result of the row that has taken place during this debate. The only speaker who supported them was my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), who made an informed and extremely powerful speech from the position of an ex-procurement Minister.[Interruption.] I hope that Conservative Members will not get too excited because I am still speaking at 9.40. I am sure that the Secretary of State will have no objection if I overrun for a couple of minutes, as he said that he would not have a great deal to say at the end of this debate.

No one is to blame for the rows and problems of the past few days. We know that the iron hand of the Prime Minister manipulates the Secretary of State from morning till night. We know full well that the right hon. Lady has given him his orders. I welcome her to our debate. After this review, she will probably be known as a latter-day Helen of Troy, but in this case hers is the face that sank a thousand ships. No one should be surprised that the right hon. Lady has broken her pledge about defence expenditure. After all, she has broken every other pledge that she made when she was elected in 1979. The House needs not an explanation of this glossy farrago of nonsense that we have been discussing for the past two days, but a general election and a change of Government.

9.43 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Nott)

We have had an excellent debate. My ministerial colleagues and I have listened with great care to the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends and of Opposition Members. I assure them that all their points, together with the valuable report of the Select Committee will be fully taken into account in all our considerations of these vital defence issues.

I start with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). I pay him a great tribute for the work that he did for the Royal Navy and the dedication he showed. Although our time together in the Ministry of Defence covered only a few months, he was of the greatest assistance to me personally on my arrival in my post. His speech was a model of its kind, and I much admired the way in which he made it. I find myself agreeing with much of what he said, and indeed with much of what he said in his constituency on Friday. He knows that it was not the content of his speech that caused our problems.

My hon. Friend mentioned Admiral Gorshkov. I want to say of Admiral Gorshkov—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sack him."]—that he has created an enormous fuel-guzzling monster of a Navy which his successors will never be able to maintain and man. In my view the statues that they build to him today will be torn down tomorrow, or his successors will be forced to use the monster that he has created, because in the end it will come to control them.

I asked this morning for the admiral's biography, and it arrived from the Ministry of Defence in an unclassified version. Sergei Gorshkov became an admiral at the age of 31 and Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy at the age of 46. Now, 25 years later, he is still in post, although one of the youngest members in the Kremlin, the only changes being his promotion to Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, a rank that had not previously existed.

The admiral's main achievements are seen as threefold. First, he has always managed to keep the Navy in the news through skilled publicity, and he has shown no qualms in bending history to suit his needs. Trafalgar was of no great significance, according to Admiral Gorshkov. Russia's allies in the Second World War played no part in the Murmansk convoys, and Japan surrendered because Russia invaded the Kurile islands. Secondly, Admiral Gorshkov's lengthy pontifications on the role of navies, particularly the Soviet Navy, have brought him into the limelight. Thirdly, the admiral has totally restructured his Navy, tailored to meet the roles that he has so lucidly defined.

I am not suggesting that the admiral is not a great man in many ways. He is. But he and men like him in Moscow have bequeathed to the Soviet people a terrible legacy, and in bequeathing it to them they have also bequeathed it to us.

There has been a great deal of discussion about arms control. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) talked about it, as did a former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and many other hon. Members. But may I pause to look at the present structure of Soviet society? Increasingly, there are two nations in Russia, on completely different levels. There is the privileged nation of the scientific, industrial, military elite, and there is the rest of society. The former, the defence elite, is relatively efficient, probably because, almost uniquely in the Soviet system, it responds precisely to the needs of the customer. The military, as the final customers, seem to command wide choice and huge resources.

Even a cursory examination of that situation, attracting the intellectual elite of the Soviet system, reminds one of the huge vested interests involved in that establishment. How will the Soviet leadership, how will people like Admiral Gorshkov, switch the machine off, even if they wish to do so? Would they be able to do so without imperilling the Soviet system? It is clear that they have immense problems.

Some hon. Members have used that argument in the debate to wish away the threat, but it is precisely because of what that elite group are creating that we should be worried. Many of my hon. Friends made that point. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and many other speakers that we are entering a dangerous period. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) talked of a window of opportunity for the Soviet imperialists. I am more concerned that they are creating an empire and a navy that they will not be able to control. My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) said that an empire in disintegration was a dangerous thing.

Mr. John

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer a simple question on arms control? Does he back Chancellor Schmidt in what he intends to do in Washington?

Mr. Nott

Of course I do. I said so in my earlier speech.

The hon. Member for South Shields spoke of the Royal ordnance factories. I should like to say a few words about those factories and also about the Royal dockyards. The four dockyards have been the subject of a careful study by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. Copies of the report have been available to the House and to the unions for some time. I accept the main thrust of the report that dockyard management must be given greater freedom to manage in an environment much closer to that of the commercial world. We are taking work forward on the report as quickly as possible. We shall not, however, be able to come to any firm conclusions until we reach decisions on the future shape of the defence programme.

I understand the concern of the work force, expressed notably by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden). I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner) shares this concern. I shall give more information as soon as it is possible to do so. As I have explained to the House, I am engaged in reviewing a wide range of options. I cannot pre-empt each one of them, one by one. That is not possible.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made a most interesting speech, to which the whole House paid great attention. In particular, he made the bold statement that the time had come to talk about halving—in other words, reducing by 25,000—the number of troops that we station in West Germany. Such a request, coming from the right hon. Gentleman and an ex-Prime Minister, deserves to be taken seriously. I have made it clear that in the costings exercise that I am carrying out I am looking at all the options. Nothing, including Trident, has been sacred. I made that clear when I opened the Trident debate recently. I approached the matter with an open mind. I looked at Trident. I am convinced, as I explained yesterday, that it is an essential part of the deterrence of the West. I cannot go into that issue again.

I wish, however, to say a few words about the British Army of the Rhine. I spoke about the Atlantic and antisubmarine warfare in my opening remarks. I do not want to stoke up further speculation by a specific reference to any particular option that I am costing. There is a world of difference between asking about the costs of an activity—I should be failing in my duty if I did not do so—and deciding that an activity is no longer cost-effective.

I wish to comment on the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion. With only 25,000 or 30,000 men in Germany we can maintain only two, not particularly strong, armoured divisions. I am sure that my professional military advisers will tell me that with only two armoured divisions in the BAOR we could not mount an effective forward defence of the 65 kilometre section of the front for which we are responsible.

We would have to reshape our contribution towards, for example—it is only an example—providing armoured forces as a reserve for the Northern Army Group. Someone else would have to take over our 65 kilometres of front. It would not be right for me to speculate in the House about which of our allies could take on this reponsibility. Nor should I do more than point out the political problems that such a hypothetical contingency would create for the social democratic parties of Western Europe and for their support of NATO. This is not an easy time for many of our allies on the Continent of Europe.

The costs argument would need careful study. If we were to reshape our Army into a new role, it would need new equipment for the new role. How many of the men brought back would we have to send across the Channel in time of war? What would be the military risk involved in doing so? If we brought back 25,000 men to the United Kingdom, we would have to house them and their families here. This would involve massive works expenditure which would have to be part of the costings option.

There would be a variant on the option, which would involve disbanding the units brought home and making 25,000 men redundant. In the long run, this would produce substantial extra cost in redundancy payments to those 25,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman lectured me, in a reasonable manner, saying that cost effectiveness was not everything. He talked of the esprit de corps and the traditions and pride of the Royal Navy. I share his views on that matter. We have also to bear in mind that the cap badge tradition of the Army is strong.

There is a second sub-option which would involve raising new Territorial Army units. There is also the link between RAF Germany and BAOR. Obviously, I am conscious of all those issues. However, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, as, I am sure, will many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that that is as dramatic a course as many of the other courses suggested during the debate.

Mr. Mates

More significant, such a move would involve giving up our command of the Northern Army Group and the Second Tactical Air Force, which have been in British hands since NATO was founded.

Mr. Nott

That is probably right. I have asked for costings for almost every part of our defence capability. If I had not done so I would not have been doing my duty. If a Defence Secretary cannot ask for facts and options from the Service boards without them being advertised as plans, and if every Service aspiration that is confounded is published as a cut, we shall find ourselves living in bedlam rather than democracy and that has nothing to do with open Government.

It is right that all right hon. and hon. Members should speak on behalf of their constituents. I hope that their constituents take note of the two amendments tabled by the official Opposition. I was not sure to which of the two amendments the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) was addressing his remarks.

A brave remark was made by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), who asked whether Ministers—I think he was referring to Tory Ministers and not to potential Labour Ministers—would take note that millions of voters in the next general election would repudiate the lunatic demand that Britain should abandon its allies, scrap its defences and adopt a policy of craven appeasement to the Soviet Union. He spoke not against the selected Opposition amendment but against the other Opposition Shadow Cabinet amendment, to which I referred in my opening remarks—[Interruption.] Shadow Cabinet names appear on both amendments, which makes it difficult to understand any difference.

The amendment tabled by the Leader of the Opposition calls for a reduction in defence to the same proportion of gross domestic product as that of our allies. That means 3.3 per cent. rather than 5.2 per cent. of gross domestic product. That is the average spent on defence by our allies. It would be a reduction in defence spending of £4½ billion below the Estimates that we are debating. Such a reduction would have a catastrophic effect on our defences. Even if it could be done, it would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in every constituency throughout Britain. By contrast, since coming into office the Government have spent an additional £2.2 billion on defence above the level that we inherited.

In asking the House to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates, I ask for the support of hon. Members for the present work of our Armed Forces. The motion is to approve the White Paper. Those who support it do so in admiration of our Services. Paragraph 1 of the White Paper states: The first obligation of any Government is the defence of the realm. Foreign, economic and social policies all play their part; but defence is fundamental. That is the Government's position.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 313.

Division No. 191] [10 pm
Abse, Leo Bagier, Gordon A.T.
Allaun, Frank Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)
Alton, David Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)
Anderson, Donald Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bidwell, Sydney
Ashton, Joe Booth, Rt Hon Albert
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Boothroyd, Miss Betty
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Hardy, Peter
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Brown, R. C.(N'castle W) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Brown, Ronald W.(H'ckn'y S) Heffer, Eric S.
Buchan, Norman Hogg, N.(E Dunb't'nshire)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Home Robertson, John
Campbell-Savours, Dale Homewood, William
Cant, R. B. Hooley, Frank
Carmichael, Neil Howell, Rt Hon D.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Huckfield, Les
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S) Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Cohen, Stanley Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Janner, Hon Greville
Conlan, Bernard John, Brynmor
Cook, Robin F. Johnson, James (Hull West)
Cowans, Harry Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Craigen, J. M. Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Crowther, J. S. Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cryer, Bob Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kerr, Russell
Cunningham, G.(Islington S) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cunningham, Dr J.(W'h'n) Lambie, David
Dalyell, Tam Lamborn, Harry
Davidson, Arthur Lamond, James
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Leadbitter, Ted
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Leighton, Ronald
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Litherland, Robert
Davis, T.(B'ham, Stechf'd) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Deakins, Eric Lyon, Alexander (York)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McCartney, Hugh
Dempsey, James McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Dewar, Donald McElhone, Frank
Dixon, Donald McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Dobson, Frank McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dormand, Jack McKelvey, William
Douglas, Dick MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McNally, Thomas
Dubs, Alfred McNamara, Kevin
Duffy, A. E. P. McTaggart, Robert
Dunn, James A. McWilliam, John
Dunnett, Jack Magee, Bryan
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Marks, Kenneth
Eadie, Alex Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)
Eastham, Ken Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Edwards, R.(W'hampt'n S E) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're) Martin, M(G'gow S'burn)
English, Michael Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maxton, John
Evans, John (Newton) Maynard, Miss Joan
Ewing, Harry Meacher, Michael
Faulds, Andrew Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Field, Frank Mikardo, Ian
Fitch, Alan Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Flannery, Martin Miller, Dr M. S.(E Kilbride)
Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston) Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mitchell, R. C.(Soton Itchen)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Rt Hon A.(W'shawe)
Ford, Ben Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Forrester, John Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)
Foster, Derek Morton, George
Foulkes, George Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd) Newens, Stanley
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Ogden, Eric
Garrett, W. E.(Wallsend) O'Halloran, Michael
George, Bruce O'Neill, Martin
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Ginsburg, David Palmer, Arthur
Golding, John Parker, John
Gourlay, Harry Parry, Robert
Graham, Ted Pavitt, Laurie
Grant, George (Morpeth) Pendry, Tom
Grant, John (Islington C) Prescott, John
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Price, C.(Lewisham W)
Hamilton, W. W.(C'tral Fife) Race, Reg
Radice, Giles Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Richardson, Jo Thomas, Dr R (Carmarthen)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Tilley, John
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Torney, Tom
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Robertson, George Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Robinson, G.(Coventry NW) Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Rooker, J. W. Watkins, David
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Weetch, Ken
Rowlands, Ted Wellbeloved, James
Ryman, John Welsh, Michael
Sever, John White, J.(G'gow Pollok)
Sheerman, Barry Whitehead, Phillip
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Whitlock, William
Silkin, Rt Hon J.(Deptford) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Silverman, Julius Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Skinner, Dennis Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Smith, Rt Hon J.(N Lanark) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Snape, Peter Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Soley, Clive Winnick, David
Spearing, Nigel Woodall, Alec
Spriggs, Leslie Woolmer, Kenneth
Stallard, A. W. Wright, Sheila
Stewart, Rt Hon D.(W Isles) Young, David (Bolton E)
Stoddart, David
Strang, Gavin Tellers for the Ayes:
Straw, Jack Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. James Tinn.
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Adley, Robert Carlisle, Rt Hon M.(R'c'n)
Aitken, Jonathan Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Alexander, Richard Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Chapman, Sydney
Ancram, Michael Churchill, W. S.
Arnold, Tom Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n)
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Clegg, Sir Walter
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Cockeram, Eric
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone) Colvin, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Cope, John
Banks, Robert Cormack, Patrick
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Corrie, John
Bell, Sir Ronald Costain, Sir Albert
Bendall, Vivian Cranborne, Viscount
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Critchley, Julian
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Crouch, David
Best, Keith Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Bevan, David Gilroy Dickens, Geoffrey
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dorrell, Stephen
Biggs-Davison, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Blackburn, John Dover, Denshore
Blaker, Peter du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Body, Richard Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Durant, Tony
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dykes, Hugh
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Bowden, Andrew Edwards, Rt Hon N.(P'broke)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Eggar, Tim
Braine, Sir Bernard Elliott, Sir William
Bright, Graham Emery, Peter
Brinton, Tim Eyre, Reginald
Brittan, Leon Fairgrieve, Russell
Brooke, Hon Peter Farr, John
Brotherton, Michael Fell, Anthony
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Finsberg, Geoffrey
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fisher, Sir Nigel
Bryan, Sir Paul Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Buck, Antony Fookes, Miss Janet
Budgen, Nick Forman, Nigel
Bulmer, Esmond Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Butcher, John Fox, Marcus
Butler, Hon Adam Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Cadbury, Jocelyn Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Fry, Peter
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marland, Paul
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Marlow, Tony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mates, Michael
Glyn, Dr Alan Mather, Carol
Goodhart, Philip Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray
Goodlad, Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gorst, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gow, Ian Mayhew, Patrick
Gower, Sir Raymond Mellor, David
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Greenway, Harry Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Grieve, Percy Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds) Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Miscampbell, Norman
Grist, Ian Moate, Roger
Grylls, Michael Molyneaux, James
Gummer, John Selwyn Montgomery, Fergus
Hamilton, Hon A. Moore, John
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan, Geraint
Hampson, Dr Keith Morris, M.(N'hampton S)
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes)
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mudd, David
Hawksley, Warren Murphy, Christopher
Hayhoe, Barney Myles, David
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Henderson, Barry Needham, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Robert Neubert, Michael
Hill, James Normanton, Tom
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nott, Rt Hon John
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Onslow, Cranley
Hooson, Tom Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mre S.
Hordern, Peter Osborn, John
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Page, Rt Hon Sir G.(Crosby)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Parkinson, Cecil
Hurd, Hon Douglas Parris, Matthew
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Patten, John (Oxford)
Jessel, Toby Pattie, Geoffrey
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pawsey, James
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Percival, Sir Ian
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Peyton, Rt Hon John
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Pollock, Alexander
Kershaw, Anthony Porter, Barry
Kimball, Marcus Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
King, Rt Hon Tom Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Kitson, Sir Timothy Prior, Rt Hon James
Knight, Mrs Jill Proctor, K. Harvey
Knox, David Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Lamont, Norman Raison, Timothy
Lang, Ian Rathbone, Tim
Langford-Holt, Sir John Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Latham, Michael Renton, Tim
Lawrence, Ivan Rhodes James, Robert
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lee, John Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rifkind, Malcolm
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rossi, Hugh
Loveridge, John Rost, Peter
Luce, Richard Royle, Sir Anthony
Lyell, Nicholas Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
McCrindle, Robert St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Macfarlane, Neil Scott, Nicholas
MacGregor, John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
MacKay, John (Argyll) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Shelton, William (Streatham)
McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McNair-Wilson, P.(New F'st) Shepherd, Richard
McQuarrie, Albert Shersby, Michael
Madel, David Silvester, Fred
Major, John Sims, Roger
Skeet, T. H. H. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Speed, Keith Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Speller, Tony Viggers, Peter
Spence, John Waddington, David
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Wakeham, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waldegrave, Hon William
Sproat, Iain Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Squire, Robin Walker, B.(Perth)
Stainton, Keith Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Stanbrook, Ivor Wall, Patrick
Stanley, John Waller, Gary
Steen, Anthony Walters, Dennis
Stevens, Martin Ward, John
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Warren, Kenneth
Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire) Watson, John
Stokes, John Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stradling Thomas, J. Wells, Bowen
Tapsell, Peter Wheeler, John
Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Whitney, Raymond
Tebbit, Norman Wickenden, Keith
Temple-Morris, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Wilkinson, John
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Thompson, Donald Wolfson, Mark
Thorne, Neil (llford South) Younger, Rt Hon George
Thornton, Malcolm
Townend, John (Bridlington) Tellers for the Noes:
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry.
Trippier, David
Trotter, Neville

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 312, Noes 75.

Division No. 192] [10.15 pm
Adley, Robert Budgen, Nick
Aitken, Jonathan Bulmer, Esmond
Alexander, Richard Butcher, John
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Butler, Hon Adam
Ancram, Michael Cadbury, Jocelyn
Arnold, Tom Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Aspinwall, Jack Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Carlisle, Rt Hon M.(R'c'n)
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone) Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Churchill, W. S.
Banks, Robert Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)
Bell, Sir Ronald Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Bendall, Vivian Clegg, Sir Walter
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Cockeram, Eric
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Colvin, Michael
Best, Keith Cope, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Cormack, Patrick
Biffen, Rt Hon John Corrie, John
Biggs-Davison, John Costain, Sir Albert
Blackburn, John Cranborne, Viscount
Blaker, Peter Critchley, Julian
Body, Richard Crouch, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dickens, Geoffrey
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Dorrell, Stephen
Bowden, Andrew Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Dover, Denshore
Braine, Sir Bernard du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bright, Graham Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Brinton, Tim Durant, Tony
Brittan, Leon Dykes, Hugh
Brooke, Hon Peter Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Brotherton, Michael Edwards, Rt Hon N.(p'broke)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Eggar, Tim
Bruce-Gardyne, John Elliott, Sir William
Bryan, Sir Paul Emery, Peter
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Eyre, Reginald
Buck, Antony Fairgrieve, Russell
Farr, John Loveridge, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey Luce, Richard
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lyell, Nicholas
Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gh N) McCrindle, Robert
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Macfarlane, Neil
Fookes, Miss Janet MacGregor, John
Forman, Nigel MacKay, John (Argyll)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fox, Marcus McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury)
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh McNair-Wilson, P.(New F'st)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) McQuarrie, Albert
Fry, Peter Madel, David
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Major, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marland, Paul
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Marlow, Tony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mates, Michael
Glyn, Dr Alan Mather, Carol
Goodhart, Philip Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray
Goodlad, Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gorst, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gow, Ian Mayhew, Patrick
Gower, Sir Raymond Mellor, David
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Greenway, Harry Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Grieve, Percy Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Griffiths, E. (B'y St.Edm'ds) Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Miscampbell, Norman
Grist, Ian Moate, Roger
Grylls, Michael Molyneaux, James
Gummer, John Selwyn Montgomery, Fergus
Hamilton, Hon A. Moore, John
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan, Geraint
Hampson, Dr Keith Morris, M.(N'hampton S)
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes)
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mudd, David
Hawksley, Warren Murphy, Christopher
Hayhoe, Barney Myles, David
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Henderson, Barry Needham, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Robert Neubert, Michael
Hill, James Normanton, Tom
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nott, Rt Hon John
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Onslow, Cranley
Hooson, Tom Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hordern, Peter Osborn, John
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Page, Rt Hon Sir G.(Crosby)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Parkinson, Cecil
Hurd, Hon Douglas Parris, Matthew
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Patten, John (Oxford)
Jessel, Toby Pattie, Geoffrey
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pawsey, James
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Percival, Sir Ian
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Peyton, Rt Hon John
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Pollock, Alexander
Kershaw, Anthony Porter, Barry
Kimball, Marcus Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
King, Rt Hon Tom Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Kitson, Sir Timothy Prior, Rt Hon James
Knight, Mrs Jill Proctor, K. Harvey
Knox, David Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Lamont, Norman Raison, Timothy
Lang, Ian Rathbone, Tim
Langford-Holt, Sir John Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Latham, Michael Renton, Tim
Lawrence, Ivan Rhodes James, Robert
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lee, John Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rifkind, Malcolm
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rossi, Hugh
Rost, Peter Thompson, Donald
Royle, Sir Anthony Thorne, Neil (llford South)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Thornton, Malcolm
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Townend, John (Bridlington)
Scott, Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Trippier, David
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Trotter, Neville
Shelton, William (Streatham) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Shepherd, Richard Viggers, Peter
Shersby, Michael Waddington, David
Silvester, Fred Wakeham, John
Sims, Roger Waldegrave, Hon William
Skeet, T. H. H. Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Speed, Keith Walker, B.(Perth)
Speller, Tony Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Spence, John Wall, Patrick
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Waller, Gary
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walters, Dennis
Sproat, Iain Ward, John
Squire, Robin Warren, Kenneth
Stainton, Keith Watson, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stanley, John Wells, Bowen
Steen, Anthony Wheeler, John
Stevens, Martin Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Whitney, Raymond
Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire) Wickenden, Keith
Stokes, John Wiggin, Jerry
Stradling Thomas, J. Wilkinson, John
Tapsell, Peter Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) Wolfson, Mark
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Younger, Rt Hon George
Tebbit, Norman
Temple-Morris, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry.
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Allaun, Frank Bidwell, Sydney
Alton, David Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)
Ashton, Joe Campbell-Savours, Dale
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Carmichael, Neil
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Carter-Jones, Lewis
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Cook, Robin F.
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Crowther, J. S. Maynard, Miss Joan
Cryer, Bob Meacher, Michael
Deakins, Eric Mikardo, Ian
Dixon, Donald Miller, Dr M. S.(E Kilbride)
Dobson, Frank Newens, Stanley
Dubs, Alfred Parker, John
Eastham, Ken Parry, Robert
Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're) Pavitt, Laurie
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Price, C.(Lewisham W)
Field, Frank Race, Reg
Flannery, Martin Richardson, Jo
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Roberts, Allan (Bootie)
Foster, Derek Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Rooker, J. W.
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Skinner, Dennis
Heffer, Eric S. Stallard, A. W.
Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Stewart, Rt Hon D.(W Isles)
Home Robertson, John Stoddart, David
Homewood, William Straw, Jack
Hooley, Frank Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Huckfield, Les Tilley, John
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Torney, Tom
Kerr, Russell Welsh, Michael
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Lambie, David Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Lamond, James Winnick, David
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wright, Sheila
McKelvey, William
McNamara, Kevin Tellers for the Noes:
Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton) Mr. Ernie Ross and Mr. Clive Soley.
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Maxton, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1981, contained in Cmnd. 8212.