§ 2.36 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH rose to call attention to questions of defence, with special reference to the situation arising from the N.A.T.O. Conference; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I am sure it is in the minds of all your Lordships that in the past few weeks there has been growing anxiety in the public mind about our position as a nation in relation to defence and security in all the modern circumstances which have arisen; and that that anxiety has included, certainly among large sections of the population, what is likely to be the policy arising out of the Conference of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Paris last December, the White Paper in respect of which was laid before Christmas. One thing that is always essential in these matters of defence and security is that we ought to try on all occasions to abstain, so far as we can, from utterances which may give rise to unnecessary fears in the minds of the population. Anybody who has been associated with the organisation of national defence knows how strongly this aim has to be promoted in the course of that organisation. The situation is such, however, that I think the more frank the Government are with the population the less likelihood there will be of misunderstanding and of unnecessary fears arising, although far be it from me to say that at the present time there are not sufficient circumstances operating as would be 72 likely to give rise to fairly widespread fears.
§ This Conference of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation took place in Paris, and if we are to have a number of references to it in the course of our debate to-day, as no doubt we are, it might be as well for me to say a few words at the outset about my own Party's attitude to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. There seems to be a tendency in some quarters to be surprised at the fact that a member of my Party should have reiterated in the other place during the debate on December 20 our general support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. But the people who take that line must surely have forgotten that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was not initiated in the United States of America. It was initiated largely as a result of the failure to come to anything like a reasonable basis of agreement with Russia and the satellite States at the Paris Conference of 1946, and subsequent near events after that date, which led to my noble friend who will be replying to the debate to-day for our side, Lord Attlee, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, and at later stages, myself, being responsible for the ab initio steps which led to the formation of what ultimately resulted in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. There is no need for anybody to question the general support of the Labour Party; and no Party has less reason to be ashamed of its contribution in the defence elements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation than the Party which I have the honour to represent. I say that at the outset only because I want us to have in mind in what we say, so far as we can, the general anxiety for a desire to contribute to the security and safety of our nation and the Commonwealth.
§ The situation arising out of the 1946 Conference and leading to the initial steps which were first brought near to fruition was the signing of the Treaty of Dunkirk, in March, 1947; and I am proud to be the only living British representative who signed that Treaty. It had very important and wide developments. We could not have got the Treaty at Dunkirk (let me say this factually) if we had not already published the decision, later to be implemented in May, 1947, to introduce National Service. We should not have got the Treaty at Dunkirk and, therefore, 73 we should not have proceeded to the Treaty of Brussels, nor to the stocktaking of the military position of the Brussels Treaty Powers, to which we invited representatives of Canada and the United States; and, therefore, we should not have got, so far as we can see, looking back, the beginnings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I think it is important to keep these earlier basic facts in mind. I also want to make my position quite plain—and I am sure I speak also on behalf of the great majority of my Party in the country—as to the reason for doing it.
§ The position was made equally plain, as some people think it has been made plain to-day, that some such steps to empower the Western nations to defend freedom against any departure from it were made necessary by the clear attitude of the Russian representatives during the three and a half months of the Paris Peace Conference and by the subsequent breakdown of the negotiations at the Moscow Conference of Foreign Secretaries. The attitude that we as a Government felt obliged to adopt, taking the advice of our military advisers, and gradually getting to some understanding with the United States and Canada, was that it was essential to bring about the greatest organisation of power possible, within the limits of what could then be done by Western nations, recovering from the enormous contributions that they had had to make in the general fight for freedom.
§ There is no doubt in my mind—subsequent events have proved it—that if we had not taken the initial step to get the Dunkirk Treaty, in announcing our decision on National Service; if we had not had National Service to give us the strength, we could not possibly have carried out our commitments, both as regards occupational forces and as regards the more violent, although more minor, outbreaks of trouble in different parts of the Commonwealth, and also our general Commonwealth policing work. The building up of the Western defence service in general could not have been carried on for the length of time that we carried it on, unless we had had adequate personnel to do it.
§ There came a time—and all these things must be borne in mind—in the late 1940s, when the attitude of the 74 Russians in Germany was such that my Government had to co-operate with the United States in a vast and continuous airlift to relieve the West German section of Berlin and other surrounding West German territory. Without that organised operation we should perhaps not be in the position even that we are to-day, of being able still to discuss what we are to do. That particular phase led to what was perhaps the breaking of the chain in the building up of collective Western strength, because it led to the obvious conclusion that, if there was a possibility of still further developments of the Russian attitude, that certainly was something we had to guard against. That led to the triennial programme, which amounted in the first instance to an enormous figure, of which the British share was to be £3,500 million in three years and which, during the course of the early operation of that programme, we were persuaded by the United States to raise to £4,700 million.
§ Looking at the state of affairs to-day, and looking back, one has to sort out the contributory factors which have led to the kind of national defence and security position that we have to face to-day—apart, of course, from the other obvious scientific and technical developments in major weapons of aggression. We were able to go on with that programme right up to 1951. We had in the meantime to strengthen overseas forces; we had to send another division and squadrons of aircraft to Hong Kong, and we had to take part in the operations in Korea. Again I say that we were able to do it only because the forces were kept up to strength in manpower and equipment. Let all who contemplate the general situation of national defence and security first of all bear these basic and modern historical facts in mind.
§ As the Government in 1951, we were faced with a deterioration in the situation of the £, and we had been facing two Election campaigns—and here I must be political—in which the country was urged to give up controls and restrictions and told that there must be much more economic freedom for the people and no restraint. The consequence was that, instead of getting the controls for which we asked for a mandate to continue our defensive as well as economic measures, we had the political results which have gradually led up to the situation to-day. 75 For mark the general position of our forces! They are not on the basis of the Labour plans of pre-1951. Our expenditure has been increasing from year to year almost up to the full monetary position in figures that would be one-third of the £4,700 million programme. But we have not the forces or manpower, or the equipment, that would have been provided under the estimates of costs in 1949 to 1951. As a result of the general economic policy and a free-for-all, we have had to continue spending almost the same figurative amount on the armed forces, yet finding delivered far less, in really trained manpower and the modern equipment that we need to-day, than was planned. I want to make that clear as my plain opinion of what the situation is.
§ Having regard to what I have said, your Lordships will see that my conviction, at any rate, is that if we are to have an adequate defence against the possibilities of the onward march of totalitarian Communism in the world we must go on supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. But there are more ways than one in which that can be done. It seems to me that if this country was in fact one of the countries responsible for bringing into being the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, we ought to have and to continue to retain the most vital influence in that Organisation. The question I ask myself after the Paris Conference is, do we still retain that position? Of course, in the United States the Conference is claimed as a general victory for the enormous programme which is now foreshadowed in the record total amount of the Budget announced in the President's message to Congress. We are told it is a victory, whereas it is quite clear, from reading the concurrent detailed and informed Press accounts, that there was a good deal of division of opinion among certain members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
§ When we come to consider that position, I wonder whether we have done all that we could, as a nation, to retain our vital influence in the Organisation and to be able to speak our mind at the right time. First of all, we dealt a shattering blow to our influence in the Organisation by the Suez adventure; of that there can be no doubt at all. The details of that matter I am certainly not going to discuss 76 this afternoon. But the other thing which I think has had an equally deteriorating effect upon our influence is the fact that we find, if we look the facts straight in the face, that we as a nation at the present time are in process of unilateral disarmament, included in which is the withdrawing of certain British forces from the occupational forces. We must bear in mind that it was Sir Anthony Eden, as Foreign Secretary, who gave the pledge, wise or unwise, that we would retain our occupational forces there for fifty years. We cannot close our eyes and ears to the utterances amongst the Powers as to the general effect upon the collective strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, especially in view of the dangerously increasing offensive power of a potential enemy, of our withdrawing forces at this time.
§ I think there is a lot of sound logic in the Ministers who have said that we must do the best we can in present circumstances and we ought not to have to take more than the fair share we have to bear. That was always a point in my mind when I was arguing with Ministers of Defence of other countries in the years 1947–50. But if you want to retain the vital influence in this great Western Organisation, you must, in both those matters I have mentioned, see to it that you consult them first. Was that done? There was certainly no consultation over Suez, and I do not know that there was any consultation at all about the reduction of our occupational forces. Some people say that perhaps there were consultations; others on the Continent have denied that there were any such consultations. However, I am putting this position forward because I want our country to be a worthy member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which was set up with our help purely for defensive, and not offensive, reasons. I feel that if we are to make it into the wider organisation, as is indicated—and I am glad to see it indicated—in the White Paper, of economic co-operation in general, then we must have the common sense to be really frank with all our Allies in that Organisation, and before we do things have consultations with them.
§ I would add also that when we come to the general consideration, as we must do, of what is to be done about the great 77 and new powerful weapons that are called the ultimate deterrents, we must remember that all the Western nations have said that, even if an agreement were made, partial or whole, on the banning or putting out of action for the time being of this ultimate deterrent, it would not be satisfactory to them unless we proceeded to a wider and fuller agreement covering conventional weapons as well. I beg the House to note that in the process you are now in the middle of pursuing, of unilateral disarmament, you will have little to put on the table if it comes to a discussion, ultimately, on the banning of the ultimate deterrent and then continuing to a further agreement on conventional weapons.
§ I must say, too, that I think it is much to be regretted that we have been forced to this position of unilateral disarmament not because of international political considerations; we have been forced to this position, as I understand the statements of the Government from time to time, purely on economic grounds. And those economic national results can truly and fairly be laid at the door of the "free-for-all" policy for the community ever since 1951. I think that that is a very serious position to take for a country which must, whatever mistakes this section or that section of political opinion may make from time to time, secure its defence and its security.
§ Having said that, let me say a few words about some details of the present defence position. The announcement was made last July by the Minister of Defence of the reorganisation of the Army. I am certainly not going into any of the minor differences that have taken place about the regimental dispositions which the Government desire. But I do remember that all this arose out of the decision to cut the Army very much indeed and to do away with National Service and finally to bring in a system by 1960, if possible, of voluntary recruitment. I said at the time that I thought it was very unwise to make a public decision on the abolition of National Service without first having ascertained, as nearly as possible, that you would be able to meet your target of manpower in the Army by 1960.
§ Since then most of us have been watching the recruiting figures closely, and I have been able to obtain some estimated figures which I think are most important and far-reaching. They were prepared, 78 strangely enough, by my honourable and gallant friend in another place Mr. George Wigg, who, again strangely enough, has an Adjournment Motion on this matter on this very day. When I examined these careful estimates I came to the conclusion that the Government ought to consider this matter again and try to find out what should be done. An announcement was made (I have not the exact reference in my mind) to the effect that it was the intention of the Government, within about twelve months, to reduce the target for three-year enlistments to an annual figure of about 1,000—I think I am right—and to promote enlistments for periods of six years and nine years respectively, including, of course, any re-enlistments from those periods for even longer periods of service, if acceptable, afterwards.
§ I have looked at these figures most carefully. In dealing with the strength, we have to take into account what will be the actual number of men serving under the existing three-year enlistment. The calculation is that in 1957 the number under this enlistment was 21,000. But in 1958 we take into account only the expected recruitment of 1,000 per year under the new plan, and the figure will have dropped to 3,000; and by 1959 it will still be 3,000. In 1961 the strength at the beginning will be 9,000, and the intakes in 1958, 1959 and 1960 will be 3,000, and so it goes on until 1964. You get 1,000 in each of the years 1961, 1962 and 1963.
§ If you take the effect of the figures which have been estimated for the longer-service enlistments, you find that, in the six-year enlistment category, starting in 1957, there should be just over 3,000, and that in each of the next five years there will be added (if you take the optimistic figure enlisted for the month of November, 1957, as likely to be continuous through that period), an actual figure of 9,972, which would give a strength in 1963 for the six-year enlistments of 52,000-odd men. Without going through the details I can say that in the case of the nine-year enlistments there would be a total in 1963 of 13,265. That makes a total of just over 66,000. With the further addition of the three-year enlistments, and with the addition of those who enlist as boys and who will have fairly long service—perhaps an average of eight years—and allowing for a fixed 79 figure of, say, 18,000 officers, the strength by 1963 would not be more than 109,000, whereas we have understood from the target of the Minister of Defence that his requirements for the Army at that date will be 165,000. That is a very large shortage. What is to be done in those circumstances?
§ It could well be argued by people who have had the sort of experience that I have had in regard to National Service that you ought to make quite sure that you have something at work to replace your lack of voluntary recruits by National Service. But it seems to me (the Minister who replies will correct me if I am wrong) that the decision to revert from National Service to voluntary recruitment was taken without having in mind a certain plan to be operated if there should be a shortage of recruits.
§ Various experts that I have met have examined this problem, and I was interested in the note in the leader in the Daily Telegraph of January 16 emphasising that, in their view, the ending of conscription is anti-inflationary in the long run and therefore worth what they called the extra expense in the short run. We do not yet know, and I take it that we must wait until we have the annual Defence White Paper and the various Departmental Estimates to know whether it is the intention of the Government to launch a special scheme of high inducements to potential voluntary recruits. I am told that "Rumour is a lying jade," but there have been a good many people who have an opinion—this is one of the matters upon which dispute arose among Ministers which led to resignations—as to the amount to be provided to boost the number of voluntary recruits. Of course, that will remain to be seen by events as they emerge, unless, of course, the Minister in charge to-day can tell us more about that particular aspect of the matter.
§ I should have hoped that the country would not want to reach back into a National Service scheme of the magnitude and breadth of the one which we have had operating for the past few years; but if we are going to be faced with some form of service it is almost certain that, in existing circumstances, it would not be possible to rely upon the general kind of National Service that we 80 have had, but that some selective scheme of service would be required. But directly you come to a selective scheme of service you find that you have so many exemptions or long delays in the professional and technical categories—from the medical, engineering and scientific sides—that in the end it would be the poor ordinary industrial, general clerical and lower middle-class section which would have to bear the burden of selective conscription. Therefore, I hope that we may have at least some general indication from the Government about how it is proposed to deal with what seems at present, on all the reasonable estimates that we can make, to be a serious lag behind the target—the reduced target, let me emphasise—for the Forces which was set by the Minister of Defence in his Statement last April.
There is another thing I should like to ask about which gives me some cause for concern. Your Lordships will remember that there was issued a dispatch from the Commander-in-Chief of the Government's forces which were engaged in the expedition to Suez. I want to draw special attention to two short paragraphs. At page 5328, in paragraph 3, he mentions among the main limitations to his operations:
limited resources of landing craft and air transport,
and he says:
We had only a total of 18 L.S.T.s and L.C.T.s. We had an air lift for two battalions but very limited air supply resources.s
On page 5330 he again emphasises:
The next problem was when to use our airborne forces. We had a limited airborne effort but in particular our air supply lift and air supply resources were very restricted.
I believe that as recently as in the Defence Paper of April, 1957, the Minister laid down that there were to be central reserve forces and that, because of the need for moving them about, an ample or sufficient lift to convey them must be provided. Will anybody suggest that the kind of resources placed at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief whom I have just quoted were anything like adequate?
§ The original Labour Government programme provided that by Hastings and certain other classes of aircraft we could have reached, certainly long before 1957. a total airlift weight of nearly 6½ million lb.; and, so far as I can gather, taking 81 an estimate of the wastage that has taken place in the planes built under that programme, we have had delivered as replacements only about forty-seven Beverleys. I believe that there are Britannias on order but not one has been delivered, and I should like to ask the Minister a straight question: whether the total airlift at our disposal to-day would reach 2½ million lb. I hasten to say that, disastrous as a position of that kind is, and could be in an emergency, the same thing applies to naval craft and should also be very carefully examined. In fairness to this country, I would say that if one looks at the evidence of Admiral Radford, the Allied Chief, before the Congressional Committee, one sees that he had to admit that they had not sufficient transport planes to give an airlift to one division to any other place in the world—and America is the principal military country in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. These things that I am saying to your Lordships this afternoon are not just wisps of fancy. So far as I can check them, they are the facts, and I want to ask the House, and the country if need be, whether they are satisfied with our state of defence and security.
§ There are one or two other things I should like to say briefly. I am sorry to have taken so long, but I wanted to be quite careful about my facts. From the beginning of my association with my noble friend Lord Attlee in setting up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, I have argued the vital importance of being able to proceed at our international discussions from strength. I have never Jailed to support that principle. I am not for a moment saying that that view has always been secured from every section of the supporters of my Party; nor has that been so in other Parties. But I have wanted to be able to proceed to argue from strength. But the situation to-day is that, while we have become, on the whole, very much stronger than we were, to take a date, in 1948–49, when we were still in course of beginning a build-up, nevertheless Russia has grown much stronger still and is all the time under the great advantage that by her totalitarian and cruel methods at home she can so move up or down the standard of life of her people as to make sure, whenever she wants to concentrate on technology and scientific 82 rearmament, that everything else goes by the board. That is a very serious position. During the whole of the time that we have gone on increasing our strength there has never been any let-up in the numerous conferences with Russia on disarmament and cognate subjects.
§ Is it to be thought that in our present economic position, with the continued drain not merely upon our resources but also upon American resources, with the kind of Budget now projected by the President, the free populace in these countries will accept a continuance of that rate of expenditure to enable us to say that we are going to negotiate only from strength? Or have we to return to a very old and, I believe, on the whole, in our history a well-tried system—to arm as much as we can and to parley?
§ That is almost all I have to say. I am afraid that I have taken too much of your Lordships' time but I do beg this House and the other House, and the nation, to note some of the facts that I have tried to put before your Lordships; and I beg of Her Majesty's Government that when they come to present their White Paper on Defence within the next few months they will try to give the country some hope on two things. First, we want to be sure that they are seeing what they can do to improve the efficiency of the defences that we have and deciding a better basis for the defences we may yet have. If we are going to cut our Army by one half then we must surely give them much more powerful weapons of defence. What, and at what cost? It is matters of this kind that I have never heard discussed or projected here, and which we ought to know when we are dealing with major defence policy in the circumstances in which we live today.
§ The second thing for which I would ask is that there should be a clear indication not only that there may be closer consultations between this country and other N.A.T.O. members before we go into individualistic action, but also that the members of the N.A.T.O. Council will see that they are in control. We have had a great deal of anxiety shown in this country about flying hydrogen bombs in American aviation practices and the like. All kinds of things have been appearing. I have been reading of the kind of mentality that gets into the minds of professional staffs when one is dealing with 83 these things. I have protested over and over again about the policy statements made by high officers in the course of the last five or six years. Let me quote from the Royal United Services Journal of November, 1956. Though this is not in quite the same category it indicates a frame of mind.
In answering questions after a lecture on "The Panorama of Warfare in the Mechanical Age," the noble and gallant Viscount Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein said this:
We at S.H.A.P.E., at Supreme Headquarters in Europe, with the full political agreement of the N.A.T.O. Council, are basing all our plans on the fact that if we are attacked we use nuclear weapons in our defence.
That is to say, if we are attacked by conventional weapons we will use nuclear weapons in reply. That is agreed, he says, with the full agreement of the N.A.T.O. Council. He continues:
The only proviso is that the politicians have to be asked first. That might be a bit awkward, of course, and personally I would use the nuclear weapons first and ask afterwards. I believe that a firm statement on those lines by the West would stop any aggression.
He went on to say:
As regards the difference between the tactical and the atomic weapon, we do not distinguish them; we use a nuclear weapon if we are attacked. Now it is a nice point which you might take me up on as to whether it is considered likely that in the limited war such as, for instance, of the size of Korea, if it occurred again, nuclear weapons would be used.
I would not call Korea a small war. It was quite a party, and it is my view that if a war of the size of Korea occurred again nuclear weapons would be used. I do not say our political masters would agree, but you asked me what I thought!
§ It is about time, I think, that, from the American, British, German and French sources, statements on policy, military and other, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation should be confined to ministerial statements. When the country expresses its anxiety about the way in which atomic weapons are thrown in practice, they are bound to take note of what is being said of this sort of thing and how far they can trust the particular finger which is likely to be on the trigger. As to my second point, therefore, I do 84 beg that the Government will see to it that statements, when they are made, are made by Ministers and not by professional staffs.
§ In conclusion, I will ask the House, and the country, to believe—and I am quite sincere when I say this—that perhaps one of the most notable things (which most of our Press did not report) at the N.A.T.O. meeting in Paris was that, at the end, the President of the United States asked the delegates to stand and join in prayer. It was noted at the time of the settling of the basis of the United Nations Organisation at San Francisco that nobody bothered to think that prayer was required. But if ever this nation required to resort to prayer for its condition and security, I do not recognise the need as being greater than it is at the present. I bet; to move for Papers.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE had given Notice of his intention to move, That there be laid before the House a Paper relating to the plan of military disengagement in Central Europe, to include relevant statements by Sir Anthony Eden at Geneva, Mr. Allan Rapacki at the United Nations, President Eisenhower. Mr. Khrushchev and others, with a view to enabling the opinion of this House to be further expressed before definite commitments are made as to the distribution and control of nuclear weapons in Europe. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, you may well think it bold for a private Member of the House and a civilian to put his name down to speak in this debate. I listened with great pride to the account given by my noble friend and Leader, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, of the part played by the Labour Party in the war and in the construction of the, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation., As a defensives shield its value has been proved, and no one desires to destroy it. But if my noble Leader will permit me to say it, he seems to have made his speech—I am not complaining of it—in a "pre-Sputnik" setting. He told us about the number of recruits, the difficulty in getting recruits, the number of recruits in five years' time, and so on but what he did not mention until the end of his speech—again, I am not criticising his 85 speech—is that one bomb would destroy your recruits of fifty years at once. It is in the "post-Sputnik", post-bomb era that we really have to consider the problem. Therefore, it is in no sense in contradiction or criticism of what my noble Leader has said that I put down a Motion which asks that certain considerations should be taken into account before we go further and deeper into the nuclear era.
§ The strain is immense. We cannot keep it up. I do not profess to have the figures exactly in mind, but when one reads that 4,000 million dollars is to be added to the American Budget for missiles alone, it must be obvious that our small country can do nothing. It is quite impossible to compete with that sort of thing. We are clean out of the race. And when we come to a stage—and this is the particular reason for my venturing to address your Lordships—when we are going to spread among all the fifteen N.A T.O. Powers the potential ability to set that type of war in motion, then I think it is a reasonable and cautious thing to ask your Lordships if the Government would tell us whether they have explored every other possible way before we are submerged in this sea, in which we shall be very small fish.
§ I think that one of the most depressing things of to-day is to read the accounts of what goes on in the discussions of our great ally, the United States of America. You may have read Mr. Sherman Adams this morning, or Mr. Dean Acheson. They are not denouncing Russia; they are proving, on the one hand that the Democrats, and on the other hand that the Republicans, are responsible for the condition in which they find themselves. It shows a lamentable lack of proportion, of which we are not guilty. We recognise, and I am sure the Government do—it is recognised on both sides of the House—that we have an absolutely common and united desire to defend our country. The lack of proportion in America is a dangerous thing, but more dangerous still is the fact that one would have to search with a powerful glass to find in the American speeches any idea of how to settle this matter, except by a vast and mounting increase in nuclear power. There is no other idea at all—nothing. A cheque, somebody said, can settle anything. That is not so. It is absurd to use fantastic phrases, but a 86 cheque might cause tremendous and inconceivable harm to mankind.
§ Therefore, what I am asking is this, that before we carry out the apparent intention to supply and authorise every one of the fifteen members of N.A.T.O.—to supply them either under control or otherwise—to use atom bombs and ultimately to authorise their use by their commanders, we should explore other avenues. Because what my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough said was perfectly true: a commander is not going to wait for a word from someone at a distance who can perhaps reply only slowly, if he sees an instant military need be will meet it, and if it has to be met with a nuclear weapon, he will meet it with a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, Lord Montgomery of Alamein spoke the plain truth. As a Parliamentarian I believe that the control should be retained by Parliament. But when you come to a moment of acute emergency, the duty of a military officer is to succeed with the means at his disposal.
§ Therefore, all that I intend to ask the Government, and it is only, one might say, an addendum to the debate, is what their policy is in reference to exploring other avenues before this decision to distribute the bomb to the N.A.T.O. Powers is finally made. Have they some plan? Is there something they are aiming at? Or are they a sort of blind Samson, like the United States, merely attempting to amass, or to get others to amass on our behalf, a mighty strength, and will then consider what to do. On the other hand, have they considered the situation, particularly the more recent situation, in order to see whether there are some means, if not of solving, of mitigating, or beginning to mitigate, this horrid affair?
§ If I may run through from memory the situation since the war, it was like this. At the end of the war the bomb was exploded at Hiroshima. That hastened, or tended to hasten, the end of the Japanese war. Incidentally, historically, that will not be its record; it will be recorded historically as an event which stamped for a long time to come the Asian thinking on world affairs. Then the strain between ourselves and the Soviet Government increased. Our relations with them have always been on a basis of strict realism. In 1919 we did our best to prevent their coming into 87 existence. Efforts have been made to reach agreement from time to time. I think that one of the most successful visits was that of Sir Anthony Eden to Moscow in 1935. But after the war the Dictator of Russia showed tendencies to try to build up again, on a Bolshevik foundation, the great Empire of the Czars. This caused a great amount of anxiety. so much so that Sir Winston Churchill, as he tells us himself, at one time sent a telegram to Field-Marshal Montgomery telling him to be ready to hand over arms to the Germans to prevent any further Russian advance.
§ That is a relationship of what we may call intelligent realism, a relationship which is based upon what is imagined to be for the moment our community of interests. But people were seriously concerned and we were always told (I hope I am right in this, but I am only a member of the public) that it was all right; that they could not act because we had a monopoly of the Bomb. That reassured everybody. We had the monopoly of the Bomb and so long as we had the Bomb, they would be kept in order. But the appearance of the sputnik began to turn back the pages and made it clear that we did not have the monopoly of the bomb, and that at some point Russia had enough of this power to commence the general destruction which the bomb involves. When the sputnik went into the sky, people were rather too excited about it, but it became clear by all measures that partly—I do not think I would say entirely—public enthusiasm, combined with central and severe disciplinary organisation (I have visited Russia widely three times and have seen something of this), had produced a technological level which was extremely high.
§ When the Russians were in this position of strength, with their sputnik and with their technology, one would have expected that they would have renewed their diplomacy of firm demands, wanting this and wanting that, because they were in a position of strength at that time and they knew it—although we did not know it. Yet they did not do this. For some reason or another they pursued a policy of going around the world spreading the idea that they were pursuing a policy of peace and that we were opposing it. And they had a tremendous success in this. I 88 was in India at the time Mr. Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev made their tour and they had a great success in persuading the people of Asia and of the uncommitted countries of their policy. They did not put forward a number of demands for themselves, backed by their inner knowledge of their power. What reply are we going to make, on our initiative? We do not want to wait until other people put forward a policy and then try to prove that they have some sinister motive behind them. We want a policy of our own. When any idea comes forward, we should examine it and, in my modest judgment, the Government should say whether it is a policy they can support and whether it will help us or not.
§ For some months now Mr. Adam Rapacki, the Polish Foreign Minister, has been promoting the idea that it would be possible to have an area of Europe which should be free from nuclear weapons. He thinks, and I think most people would agree, that if there were an area such as he has in mind—I have forgotten what the square mileage is, but it has about 100 million people—in which nuclear weapons would be forbidden. effective control could be enforced. It is not a new idea that we should have a "demilitarised" area—I do not know what the right word is, but this type of area. It was put forward in one form by Sir Anthony Eden when in Geneva in 1955. But this suggestion was renewed by Mr. Rapacki at the United Nations in October. It was approved and patronised by Mr. Bulganin in his recent letter to the Prime Minister. The modest proposal of the Poles, which was that they, in agreement with the Czechs and the East Germans, should ban nuclear weapons from their countries, was embroidered and enlarged authoritatively by Mr. Bulganin in his letter, when he said that so far as the Russians were concerned they were prepared to join in the scheme; and at one point he said that they were willing to withdraw their troops from the satellite States.
§ What do we say to that? What is our policy? I listened to Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's speech in another place and read what the Prime Minister said, but I have never heard the Government tell us what is the objection to an examination of this scheme. It does not matter whether we have a summit talk or not—as Mr. Dulles said rightly the other day, all 89 talks are summit talks. No talks can take place without the assent of the "All-High", and it does not matter at what level it is. But is this scheme to be examined, and, if so, what will be the judgment of the Government on it? Its advantages, if it were possible, are patent.
§ First of all, it would relieve the area involved of a tremendous sense of strain. We are still an island, although hardly an island in the air era; but the strain of people living in Czechoslovakia or on the Oder-Neisse border is very much greater than anything we can conceive. It would enormously relieve the financial strain. It would avoid also the very difficult question that is coming—namely, who is going to have the launching sites. I can imagine that the Danes and the Norwegians will not be very popular if it is known that they have refused to be the targets for attack but are willing to profit from the fact that other countries are willing to have the sites and take up the position of being targets. Furthermore, if such a scheme were possible (I do not say it is possible; there may be some irrefutable argument against it, but I have never heard it and it has never been put forward by the Government) the political effect would be enormous.
§ The sore point in Europe, as everyone knows, is the German frontiers with Czechoslovakia and with Poland. Once Dr. Adenauer has the atom bomb he will be in a position to veto any decision, because he will be in a position to pull the trigger that brings the whole world down. But so long as there is this unification of the two Germanies—if it is possible; if the Russians think again—and there are no nuclear weapons, there is a much better chance of dealing with the question of the frontiers. If you speak to a Czech or to a Pole about East Germany—we speak about East Germany as something you must not mention; you must not call it a State—you Lind that to them East Germany is the one part of organised Germany which, has accepted the boundaries and made a treaty to that effect. So far as the Bonn Government are concerned, I do not know what their policy is. But there are people in Federal Germany to-day who claim that the settlement made at Munich and the frontiers fixed at Munich are still the legal frontiers 90 of Germany; and so long as any substantial body of opinion takes that view, it must be obvious that there cannot be peace in that part of the world.
§ Will the Russians do any of these things? It is pure speculation as to whether they will, and I do not know. Some remarkable speeches were made on the wireless a few months ago by Mr. Kennan, an expert who has a great knowledge of Russia and also a great knowledge of diplomacy. The sort of argument he puts forward is this. He says: Is it not possible that, after the Hungarian experience, and knowing perhaps more about the state of public opinion in the neighbouring small States than we do, the Russians have come to the conclusion that they would be well advised not to hold these countries by a display of force? So far as I know, there are no Russians in Czechoslovakia; but there are in Poland and in East Germany. If the Russians were out of East Germany, then the whole solution of the unification of Germany is settled, because the fact that they are there and will not move until some settlement is made is the great stumbling block. If they will do these things, there will be an immense advantage for the peace of Europe.
§ Finally, Mr. Kennan said this—and I was very much struck by what he said: Are we doing the outlook of the Russian public full justice? We always imagine them as people who are crushed under the heel—and I have no doubt there is a lot of truth in that. But they are also a great people who are very proud of their own country. They have great pride in building a new dam or making a new road, and they regard that as a proof of the success of their way of life. I remember in the war they regarded the destruction of the Dueipestroi, which they had to do when the Germans advanced from the Balkans, much in the same way as we should regard the destruction of Westminster Abbey. Therefore, is it possible that one of the thoughts in their minds is a desire to maintain and protect from atomic attack these wonderful productions—their great university, with its skyscraper, and even their underground railway and other monuments of their industry, some produced under duress, but much of it produced by patriotic pride.91
§ Some time ago I went to the Black Sea; and all along the banks of the Black Sea to the Crimea and right round to the Turkish border was one array of convalescent homes on which millions and millions of roubles had been spent. I asked myself: How can these people be so foolish as to erect all these targets which would disappear overnight if the Turkish Fleet came across the sea? Therefore, one reason that may explain the strange conduct of the Russians in not taking advantage of their temporary military strength may be pride and the desire to protect their own internal achievements. Another reason may be that they think the success of their ideology, their philosophy, is more likely to be achieved if they have the money to act generously to the countries of Asia that need their help. Some remarkable figures were published in detail in the New York Times a few days ago, but what I remember was a figure that came out in The Times recently, where they said that for every fifteen units (milliards, or whatever you call them) the Russians were spending, America was able to spend only nine.
§ I do not agree with the idea that we are on the way to Armageddon and everyone must be on one side or the other; I think that is a narrow and uninformed opinion about the state of affairs. But if it were so, it may be that the Russians consider that by economy and by putting their money into this other effort they may do better than by maintaining unwanted troops in the centre of Europe. All these things are speculation, and my own opinion has, of course, no value whatever. My only purpose in putting down the Motion is to ask the Government in their reply, before they commit us to something which will nuclearise the whole of Europe and bring right up to the border this inflammable material, which, if it is lit, will blaze a way through the whole world, to tell us whether they have examined these Polish proposals; and, if so, what their judgment is upon them.
§ 3.48 p.m.
My Lords, it has been a great joy to listen to the speech the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has just made and, if he will forgive me as a man at any rate a few years younger than he is for saying so, I would say that we 92 on these Benches most heartily agree with a great deal of what he has said. Modern science has progressed—if "progressed" can be considered the right word—to such an extent that complete destruction can come at any moment. If there is to be destruction, then it is we, here in this island, who will be the first to be obliterated. Geographically we should be much happier and much safer here if many modern scientific discoveries had never been made. However, we must accept the position as it is and attempt to carry out our heritage in the way that is wisest for those who follow us.
In matters of defence, therefore, I would suggest that if we wish to survive we must speak as one voice. I was always brought up to understand that there were certain things above politics, irrespective of how we were born or what we thought, and that although, through our democratic principles, these things were always debatable, they were agreed upon by all members of all Parties. If only this debate could further that point, it would do much more than a great number of things have done since the end of the war. In another place, before the Recess there were sharp exchanges between the leaders of the two main Parties on the carrying of hydrogen bombs by American planes over this country. That was only one instance of the fact that, unless we speak as a nation, whichever happens to be the political Party in power, we can never restore our position as leaders; and if we are not leaders, the world becomes an even more dangerous place than it is at the present time.
We realise, of course, that we can no longer live in isolation, as our American friends have tried to do on more than one occasion. Now, there would appear to be little difference between defence and foreign policy. But if anyone had to live in isolation—and let me make it perfectly clear that I should never support that—then I think we should make it quite clear that our Commonwealth would find it less difficult to do so than any other nation in the world. It still seems to me that it is only on Christmas Day, when we hear that wonderful and inspiring message from Sandringham, that we realise the extent and greatness of the Commonwealth, of which we are the original member. It is true that the Prime Minister is at present on a Commonwealth tour, and I feel we should wish him every possible success in his venture. But it really 93 is a tragedy that this is the first time that a Prime Minister has ever made such a tour. Nevertheless, it is just as important that he is making it, even though that is the case. I propose to refer to the Commonwealth later on, but unless we associate ourselves infinitely more closely with them than we are doing now, we shall not make our voice heard for the benefit of peace and prosperity.
There is one great difference between now and pre-war clays, and that is that in pre-war days the defence of this country was built up against any adversary. Nowadays, the whole world is divided into two camps, East and West, with some poor unfortunate countries between the two who have the choice neither of allegiance nor of independence. This cannot go on in perpetuity. Sooner or later either someone will go too far and the global war will have started, or, if that does not happen, the expense on both sides will amount to such excessive sums that some settlement will have to be made. I feel that the sooner that settlement is reached the better, though I think we must agree that we have now realised that we can go into such a settlement only through strength. Again, I welcome the Prime Minister's approach to this matter in his New Year's reply to Mr. Bulganin regarding a non-aggression pact. These things are so easy to scoff at—they are "another piece of paper". But an approach in that way must be made while the balance of power is reasonably stable. I know we have the sputnik against us, but that is not in itself at the moment a military weapon, and I do rot think it has proved that the Russians are so vastly superior in military strength, although they are perhaps superior at the moment in scientific discoveries.
There have been many abortive attempts at top-level talks and, of course, they of themselves are no answer. But they are at least a base upon which peace can be secured, and however doubtful we may be of the result of such talks I do not think we should refuse an opportunity when it is offered. Communism is an evil which must be kept under control. We cannot obliterate it, nor do I feel that we should attempt, at any rate at this stage, to do so; but we must not allow it to interfere with what to us is a completely different view of the value of life. I realise the great things the Russians are doing in their own country, in their buildings 94 and everything else. But let us make one thing quite clear: their belief in life is material while ours, I hope, is still religious. Unless we realise that vast difference we cannot go completely with understanding to get the answer. But we must come to some mutual understanding whereby co-existence is possible. In fact, unless we do so our days and their days are numbered, and so our chief attempt at the moment should be for a reasoned form of disarmament to prevent what will otherwise be inevitable destruction. But under such a plan all countries must be able to live the life they wish. Hungary is too near to our thoughts for us to think that that is in actual fact the case at the present time, and we must not allow these Communist offers of peace, genuine though they may well be, to lull us into any sense of security.
By all means let us have these talks, but do not let us relinquish at this stage one iota of our defence until we have some kind of proof that there is a true move from the other side for understanding with us; and that, at the moment, has not been evident. The Government's reply to Mr. Bulganin's letter gives them a chance of showing that they are genuine. It is now up to them. It is up to them to show that all the things we have believed up to now have been pure propaganda and, more than that, that they are sincere in their wishes. However determined the Communists are to expand their doctrine, I believe they are now realising that, without some understanding with the West, they will destroy themselves as well as us.
We have accepted N.A.T.O. as our basis of defence, and to that we are pledged. I know the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is going to speak on that particular subject a little later in the debate, and I am not going into it fully. The members of that Organisation are, of course, in theory equal, though from the material point of view we rely to a great extent on the United States of America, and in accepting this situation we have allowed this island to become a huge armoury. The example of American planes flying with hydrogen bombs is only one point. Heated arguments have been made about this matter, not because of the danger, which is completely negligible, but because the whole thing may well get out of control. We are told, and I read in the Press, that 95 we have a complete veto on these planes. But how far is that in practice effective? Can we really stop them doing anything if they want to? I feel that the nation is very much in the dark in this question, and I would call for a positive and clear statement as soon as possible.
I realise, and I think we all do, that a complete understanding between America and ourselves is essential for the wellbeing of N.A.T.O. and, in fact, for peace in the world. We know that in a global war our alliance with America is simply signing our own death warrant, and that there is no contracting out. It is difficult to know, when we look at the question of global war and our alliance with America, whether we are right in allowing America the leadership of the West. They are a very young country, and though materially they are of the greatest help they do appear to lack that something which we in this country seem to feel and know is necessary for true leadership. Twice in war time they have procrastinated to such an extent that they came in all but too late. In peace time there has been some kind of feeling of petulance which it is very hard indeed for us to understand. I feel that we cannot hand over the leadership of the West until we are infinitely more satisfied that they are more capable of fulfilling the true function of leadership than they have been in the past. There is no certainty that in the future they might not, by an impetuous act, lead us into global war, leaving us as a mere pawn without any say in the question at all.
While we are the arsenal of the West, we really have no say in anything that happens. If, however, we worked as a Commonwealth, rather than as a nation, I think that things would be very much different. This country became great through brains and bravery. We have no vast national assets except these to offer to any possible conqueror, and those assets would never be handed over for their use if that time ever came. The present policy means that if we were destroyed our Commonwealth would be scattered and have no centre. Though a strong front is absolutely essential against the East, our part in it should be with our Commonwealth and not by ourselves.
I sincerely hope that during the Prime Minister's visits on his present tour he 96 will encourage that idea, and that through it he will widen the West to include those countries that are not at the moment in N.A.T.O. but who are so nearly and, I sincerely hope, so genuinely attached to ourselves here. Together we could work for peace very much more strongly than we, as a nation, could on our own. As long as amateurs are allowed to speak in your Lordships' House I am going to go on fighting for a strengthening of the Commonwealth cause. Of course if we accept a united Commonwealth we must be prepared to guarantee some kind of security to them in times of trouble; and that in itself adds to the bill. But I feel that it is a very small price to pay for an, understanding and loyalty between nations which could completely change the whole destiny of the world.
The chief policy we have in N.A.T.O. seems to be the strategic distribution of nuclear weapons throughout the area. In so far as that is a proof of strength, which is the only thing the Russians understand, that must be correct, but I think that in deciding the maximum effort we can put into this we should try to consider the Communist mind. Only they, of course, know the true answer to that. But whereas the Hitler doctrine was to infiltrate by force, to go into one country after another, the Communists take the fifth column way of infiltrating from within, building up from however small a start until they have an interest in the politics of a country and, finally, control the political sphere of that particular country. Of course there is absolutely nothing new in that. I suppose that it could be claimed to have been the down fall of the Garden of Eden. But it is none the less dangerous, even in those countries, including our own, where we think it is completely impossible. In practice, it may well be the only way of winning a global war, because military conquest of that size, with the holding down of people of various countries that would be essential, would seem to me to be now an impracticability. I agree that it would be completely foolish entirely to rely on that, but we should be prepared for it, and in the defence of any country it is just as important to defend ourselves against fifth column activities from inside as it is from military aggression. I think we in this country rather tend to look at that as something quite negligible, but it is one of our weakest points.
97 I feel, therefore, that there should be a genuine and immediate attempt at disarmament. As we know the seriousness of our position in a global war, so we must realise that we have equal responsibilities in the way of providing defensive power in a limited war. Our policy (I may be wrong in this, but I read it as such) seems to sacrifice some of our strength in conventional weapons in order to enable us to keep up with our big brothers, in the nuclear race. Only if we can use this nuclear power for peace as well as for war should we make any efforts in that direction. Cancellation of the order for the S.R.177 was a perfect example of reducing our strength for a limited war for the sake of bigger nuclear weapons. To me, that was an extremely serious mistake. For the defence we want, to sacrifice that particular machine seemed to me to be far too high a price to pay.
Let us not forget that in saving money and personnel on defence for a limited war we may well turn it into a global war, with the consequences I have mentioned. It would be an absolute disaster if, were we to be attacked in any part of the world in a limited way by conventional weapons, we had no reply except the use of nuclear weapons. The Communists appear not to be interested in limited wars, but there is always the danger of their waging such wars, and particularly if they think they can do so without any risk of a global war. I feel that this country would fulfil its obligations much better if we went on with the limited sphere of conventional weapons rather than race side by side with people, infinitely richer than we are, towards what is bound to be the goal of pure destruction.
Let us leave atom bombs to others, and if we are going to make bombs at all, let us make bombs for peace. It is again a question of leading or following. May I reiterate what I said in the last debate? What nuclear power we have let us use in our Commonwealth, getting out of this unbelievable state of being an arsenal—or an Aunt Sally really—to be put up to be knocked down at the first possible opportunity. With our limited resources we can fully carry out our pledge to N.A.T.O. if we concentrate on highly trained mobile conventional forces. And again let us train these forces in the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth, and not entirely by ourselves here. Let 98 us, of course, in that include all three Services, because a small mobile Navy in the next war may well be our saving grace. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, said that those of us who are not in the Government do not really know the facts of the case; that we can only read things; that we hear only as one of the public. But it would appear that we have the grave danger of running into a global war which we neither want nor can prevent.
In conclusion, may I say this. We must curb our expenditure. We cannot afford the vast sums that we are now spending on defence, and if we must save let us save on nuclear and not on conventional weapons. With our experience it must still be our duty to lead, and our first effort, surely, should be to attempt some form of disarmament and some form of understanding with the East. Let us, above all, speak with one voice in this country and, if possible, with one voice as a Commonwealth, so that, by leadership, we can bring back some hope of peace to a very despondent and demoralised world.
§ 4.12 p.m.
My Lords, I was very pleased to hear from the noble Viscount who moved this Motion that he and his Party still support N.A.T.O. in spite of one or two dissident members. I do not propose to follow the noble Viscount on the question of National Service and recruiting, as that largely refers to the Army. I was most interested, as I am sure were all your Lordships, in the most thoughtful speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.
I should like for a few moments to deal with the proposal to establish missile stations in England and Scotland foreshadowed by the N.A.T.O. Conference. At first sight it would appear to be the right thing to do, but I should like to examine the proposal a little more closely. Surely these proposed stations will add less to the deterrent than perhaps would obsolete bombers. Bombers can at least keep in the air and they can be immune from surprise attack. What good will these missile stations do? The Russians will have their situations pin-pointed and they will become vulnerable, and surprise attack could come to them at any time.
Can we not look towards submarines equipped with missiles? Have we the design for such a submarine, bearing in 99 mind, of course, that the Americans have one or two, and it is very likely that the Russians have some? The ideal would be the nuclear-powered submarine, equipped with missiles, which could live almost continuously under the sea. Owing to her high speed she would be very difficult to detect and destroy, and her great asset would be that she would be a movable base both for offence and defence. I cannot help feeling that the proposed land missile bases will tend to be a great waste of money, possibly out of date before they are completed, and definitely dangerous, as they will attract reprisal on land and could be so easily destroyed by the enemy.
I fully realise that it is extremely difficult to come to a proper judgment on these highly technical matters unless one is in full possession of the facts, and it may well be that Her Majesty's Government feel that they cannot fully disclose them, but I feel that much more consideration should be given to these proposed missile bases before they are in fact established. I am well aware of the immense cost of the nuclear submarine, but could not two or three American nuclear submarines be established on our Eastern seaboard, as we are the first line of defence to America? Surely that would be much better than establishing missile land bases. I presume that it is not essential to have a nuclear submarine. Why not a conventional type of submarine specially designed to carry missiles? Surely that would be much cheaper to build than the nuclear type. I think that the country should have an answer to these questions as far as it is possible to go, as I believe there is a good deal of anxiety about them.
I should like now to deal with another matter raised at the N.A.T.O. Conference. It appears that it was proposed that the Royal Navy should concentrate particularly on anti-submarine measures and that the power to strike should be left to the United States Navy. Does that mean that our Task Forces are to be immobilised and some of our aircraft carriers laid up? I think many of your Lordships would like to know a great deal more about these proposals. We have heard a good deal about the establishment of an Eastern Fleet. Can we be told what steps are being taken in that direction? It may be right to move towards a balanced 100 collective naval force amongst ourselves and our Allies, but it must not be carried too far. We must not forget that we may have to fight a conventional local war on our own, and we must have a few, and a sufficient number, of the necessary type of ship available apart from antisubmarine vessels. I do not think the country has yet realised the possible effect of the agreements entered into at N.A.T.O. on our future naval position. Are we going to witness a reorganisation and a streamlined Navy completely under the command of a N.A.T.O. Commander, both in peace and in war? Are we going to see Coastal Command also turned over to the N.A.T.O. Command? Those are all questions to which we ought to have an answer.
I think we must know what the term "interdependence" really means. It reminds me of the word "rationalisation" which used to be bandied about by many people who did not quite know what it meant. If the word "interdependence" means anything at all, it must mean a regrouping or a rearrangement of national military forces to fit into N.A.T.O. defence, so as perhaps to avoid duplication, and that each State will make its own particular type of contribution. But I think we must hear in mind that it may well involve a loss of national sovereignty—in fact, it might be that Britain would cease to have any kind of balanced defence force. I hope that the noble Lord who is going to reply for Her Majesty's Government will be able to enlarge on these military agreements so that we shall all know where we are going.
It is generally agreed that defence must be based on a sound economy, but I must say I was rather struck by the recent speech of a member of the Opposition in another place when he indicated that it was not worth while to maintain the exchange value of sterling at the expense of the effectiveness, and hence of the morale, of the armed force on which the prestige, the greatness and the position of England depended. I cannot say that I can go quite so far as he, because of course we must strike a sound balance, and I hope that that will be done. The weaker our conventional forces become, the greater becomes the risk that they will fail to provide a cushion against wars waged with less desirable weapons. We 101 must realise that we cannot get defence on the cheap, and I trust that in the forthcoming Defence White Paper we shall not see a slashing of the forces instead of economies in perhaps another direction.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
My Lords, this debate was originally put down as a straightforward defence debate, and the noble Viscount has changed his terminology so as to make it a debate on N.A.T.O. I take no exception to that; in fact, I think it is right and proper, because in the course of a few months we are to have a White Paper on the defence policy of the United Kingdom and it would be much more appropriate to discuss in detail on that occasion the more domestic side of defence. I do not intend to anticipate what may lie in that Paper.
I was very glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, speaking in the very robust way he does, say that there is no need to question the support of his Party for N.A.T.O. policy. In fact, I think that he should take, as he did, proper pride in the development of this plan which was, as he says, built up while he was Minister of Defence. I think that he should take a little more pleasure than he has done in the meeting which took place in December. Frankly, I think, the communiqué which was issued on that occasion is the most informative communiqué which has ever been written about one of the ministerial meetings of N.A.T.O. It contains a great deal of information which is of considerable importance. I believe it is not only fundamental but of great advantage to this country that our policy in supporting N.A.T.O. should be bipartisan—because this is a great organisation, formulated, as the noble Viscount has said, after Czechoslovakia became a satellite and the Berlin blockade occurred. It is a defensive Alliance, comprising fifteen countries who have guaranteed each other against aggression for twenty years, and one which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, will be of indefinite duration.
it is fair to say that such a Treaty is unprecedented, not only in the history of this country but certainly in that of the 102 United States of America; and that is probably so of any other of its members. I would just correct the noble Viscount on one point: there is no intention of our entering into unilateral disarmament. If there should be evidence of any considerable change in Soviet policy then it might be right and proper for us to disarm. The point about our new defence policy is that to-day there is an increasing need for highly trained personnel—a need which is it not wise to underestimate. But let me correct the noble Viscount on another matter. We have not removed a single unit from Germany without the prior acquiescence of SACEUR and of our Allies.
I think it is also fair to say that during the time of its existence N.A.T.O. has gone quite a long way, and that the measure of military integration which exists to-day is without parallel in peace time. Anyone who has seen the N.A.T.O. international headquarters at work (and I believe that many of your Lordships have done so) will, I am sure, have been struck by the efficiency with which staff officers of the different nations work in the closest association, extremely harmoniously and efficiently with each other. When they say "we" they do not mean their own particular country they mean SACEUR or SACLANT, or one of the organisations to which they happen to belong. The same thing applies to the N.A.T.O. Defence College which has an Italian commander, a British second-in-command and pupils drawn from Portugal, Turkey, Belgium and, indeed, from all the other N.A.T.O. countries. This is a remarkable achievement, one which I do not think anyone can decry and which gains in strength as it is more and more understood.
If anyone should ask, "What is the necessity for this Organisation?" I would simply state the facts: that there are to-day, counting the satellites, between 300 and 350 divisions which can be called on behind the Iron Curtain. There are some 500 submaries and some 20,000 front-line aircraft; and eventually, according to their own declaration, there are to be inter-continental ballistic missiles. This is the position to-day when nobody covets one yard of Russian territory. I believe that we can claim that in our Organisation we have had some success. The noble Viscount who 103 opened the debate emphasised the importance of arguing from strength, but I believe it is true to say that there has been no Soviet advance in Europe since the time when N.A.T.O. was formed. Broadly, their tendency has been to change the emphasis from the military to the economic and the political, and more and more to go outside Europe rather than to attempt to advance in Europe. Probably we can say that that is the measure of our success.
Turning to the political side, and considering the importance of getting a political understanding, I believe that this Organisation is necessary because if we are to make the fullest use of the resources of these countries we must draw them together, so that there can be real co-operation and an intimate sense of association. This is the more necessary to ensure that the resources are turned to the best use and that uneconomic duplication does not take place. It is well known that once a year, at least, Parliamentary representatives from the various countries of N.A.T.O. come together to discuss and learn about the problems of the Alliance. I have not yet had the pleasure of doing this myself, but I believe that those who do go come away from these meetings convinced of the importance of the work that is being done and of the necessity of seeing that it receives the fullest support.
The chief criticism that is made is that we do not exercise enough influence in the counsels of N.A.T.O. Many people have written books on how to influence one's friends. Perhaps the noble Viscount will write a hook on how to influence other countries. It is not always easy, in a gathering of fifteen countries, to ensure that one's will is necessarily the one that is accepted. But, as the noble Viscount knows well, the Organisation is there to enable voice to be given to everyone's views. The North Atlantic Council sits in permanent session and provides a channel through which any one of its members can put forward views which he wishes to voice. The Ministers meet together. Heads of States met in December last to give emphasis to what is taking place, and quite a number of things have flowed from that meeting. The first—one on which there has been some discussion 104 to-day—is the question of interdependence. That arose from a meeting of the President and the Prime Minister in Washington, at a time when M. Spaak was also there, and serves to indicate a further step in the close co-operation between the countries. To a certain extent we have always had interdependence, but this is a recognition that it must be taken a stage further. We are not simply an assembly of national units but a single balanced force whose members can contribute those forces which they are best equipped to provide and which fall into the N.A.T.O. plan.
The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, referred to one example mentioned by the Prime Minister—the provision by the Royal Navy of anti-submarine forces for N.A.T.O., and perhaps I might elaborate upon that matter. We have our Commonwealth and Empire commitments for which we require a balanced all-purpose Navy. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has said, the importance of a balanced mobile Navy might be considerable in certain circumstances, and it is always necessary for the Navy to play its part in maintaining stability in different parts of the world. In the Atlantic, however, N.A.T.O.'s main task is the maintenance of communications; that is no new task for the Royal Navy—indeed, it is a problem we have had for more than forty years. But that does not mean that our carriers there would not carry fighters or strike aircraft; in fact, they would be defenceless without them. It does mean, however, that greater emphasis would be placed on anti-submarine aircraft and equipment of all kinds.
The other point to which the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, referred was control. There is no alteration in control. The position of the control of the Royal Navy is exactly as it always was under N.A.T.O. We have declared virtually the whole of our naval forces to N.A.T.O. and in the event of global war they come entirely under the control of N.A.T.O. Command. But in peace time our naval forces are, as usual, entirely under the control of the naval authorities. We do, of course, conduct a substantial number of exercises and work closely with N.A.T.O. staff in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and we are constantly exchanging information and knowledge 105 about our defence equipment. But it is only in the event of global war that our Navy comes under N.A.T.O. Command.
One other point I should mention which is of importance is this: the field of research, development and production. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has very properly said that we cannot afford all we want. That is true, I dare say, of Russia, and, I have no doubt, of America too. What is important is that, so far as possible, we should share the cost, particularly in the research and development fields, because there the increasing cost of producing modern weapons is extremely heavy. What we intend is that certain countries should specialise in certain types of research and development and production in order to meet the requirements of their fellow countries. What I can say here is that a good deal of the preliminary work has been completed, and is being carried on, and that is particularly so in the field of research and development.
There are other fields, of course, in which the meetings were successful which have not been mentioned to-day, and I would refer to them shortly. N.A.T.O. agreed to extend the field in which they were prepared to examine problems, particularly a closer association with the Baghdad Pact. Indeed, the representatives of Turkey called a meeting of the Baghdad Pact Powers before the N.A.T.O. Council, so that they could speak authoritatively on the views of the countries in that part of the world. It was also recognised that part of the defensive armour of the Free World was to assist in providing a rising standard of living in non-Communist countries. I am sure that no one differs from that in principle, and, indeed, we welcome the assurances given by the President of the United States for increasing both the Development Loan Fund and the lending authority of the Import Export Bank. This sustained flow of dollars will be of great value not only to the whole of the Free World but particularly to the less-developed countries.
The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, asked a question about intermediate-range ballistic missiles. I will only say here that discussions are proceeding with the United States authorities, and that there is nothing further I can say at the present time, though a statement will be made as 106 soon as anything has been arranged on I that point.
My Lords, I do not want to go into the foreign affairs field in this debate—I think it would be wrong—but there is a good deal of emphasis on the anxiety felt on the divisions which divide Europe at the present time. I must say that I always feel the words "competitive coexistence" strike me as a pretty low level of life, and we ought to strive to achieve something a little more constructive than that. We have, of course, invented these weapons of immense power, and it is the supreme test of our civilisation whether we are going to be wise enough to live in peace with them.
I have discussed the various aspects of the military strength of N.A.T.O. May I turn to one or two other things which have been suggested? I should at the outset like to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that it really is not quite true to say either that we have no other plan or, indeed, that we had not tried other policies. I would ask the noble Viscount whether he would be good enough to look at the Communiqué and see the passages on disarmament, paragraphs 8 to 17. It seems to be a pretty full statement on all we have struggled for in this country for years and still are in trying to get a measure of agreement at the present time.
Two things have been mentioned in some detail here. One is what is called discussions at the Summit, and I would just say this: I think it is an illusion to believe that the only way in which we can ever get agreement is between heads of States, if an agreement is going to endure, I believe it is perfectly possible to reach it at a lower level. In the second place, a Summit meeting would actually do more harm than good unless it reached a substantial measure of success; it would be a terrible disillusionment and, indeed, there would be an increase of tension. It is for that reason that I am certain that a great deal of preparatory work would be necessary before we should enter into anything of that sort. If I may say so, the sort of lack of courtesy with which the Soviet spokesman is reported to-day to have spoken of our Foreign Secretary does not seem the best method of procedure for this type of thing.
107 The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has also raised the problem of what is generally called disengagement. He was speaking, he said, as a private Member. When he regards himself as a private Member, I often wonder what the rest of us are. Be that as it may, I think in his Motion—though he did not say much about it—he asked whether we could help him in getting the information together. I can assure him that all the statements on this subject have been made public, and if he has difficulty in obtaining copies I should, of course, be glad to give him any assistance; but I do not think it is necessary for the Government to put those statements together.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, would the noble Earl agree that there have been many sources of these suggestions, starting mainly with the Polish Foreign Minister's statement? Could not the Government consider whether the Foreign Office might, in the course of some White Paper in which they would deal with the points themselves, include the documents from these various sources?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I should be glad to let the noble Viscount know all that we know about the statements. There are only about three or four, I think, but I should be glad to do that. I should not like to undertake to make a special document—we are not a reference library, and publications must have some sort of purpose. What I wish to say to the noble Viscount is that the letter of Mr. Bulganin referred, of course, to a nuclear-free zone. As the Prime Minister has said in his reply, we are studying this with a view to seeing whether there are elements in it which can be made the basis of some alternative proposal. That is already being considered now, and I assure the noble Viscount that it will be considered extremely carefully. But I should like to say this—and I do not want him to misunderstand me—that we should take no action of this sort except in full concert with our Allies in N.A.T.O.
These proposals make no reference to the reunification of Germany. That does not appear in any of the proposals at all. I believe that Mr. Rapacki makes no reference to evacuating East Germany. 108 I should like to emphasise that we regard the reunification of Germany as an essential element to future stability on the Continent. We have no intention of deserting Germany by any arrangement of this sort. I would add that, so far as I can see from the German Chancellor's reply, this proposal does not seem to commend itself to him. But I would add this point: we have really no particular reason to believe that this particular proposal would increase security, because with the modern weapons, with much longer range, it is difficult to see how a limited nuclear-free zone would be of any greater strength in maintaining security.
I would end by saying this: we intend to play our full part, commensurate with our economic strength, in the N.A.T.O. alliance. We have done so in the past and we intend to do so in the future. I think we can say that N.A.T.O. has achieved quite a lot during its life and I believe its basic structure, with commands in Paris, Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia, is sound. Their staffs are working well together and their common services are being used with increasing effectiveness. Adjustments, of course, will be necessary from time to time to meet new methods and new weapons. No doubt there will be growing pains; but I am confident that both the direction in which the growth is taking place and the strength of the association are matters on which we can be well satisfied.
May I add this final word? We are members of a great defensive Alliance, whose central purpose is to deter aggression against any one of its members. We have an immense interest in maintaining world peace, probably greater than any other country in the world. Our whole trade position, our whole survival, depends on international conditions: and we believe profoundly in free institutions, in human rights and in human dignity. These purposes can best be pursued by giving our full support to N.A.T.O. If we hold together, there is small danger of aggression, but if we allow any action, or any sequence of actions, to weaken this position, we may probably find ourselves defeated piece by piece. I have endeavoured to answer the points which the noble Viscount has raised. The point 109 about recruiting will be answered by my what the noble Viscount is saying is noble friend Lord Mancroft when he replies later.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, I believe that I have the right of asking leave to withdraw my Motion. That I intended to do at the end of the debate, but I think that it would serve the purpose of the debate better if I did it now. I have never heard a reply which was so disappointing and so depressing as the noble Earl's reply on the question of the Rapacki proposal. He says that I can see it in the newspapers. Of course I can see it in the newspapers but this is an Assembly of Parliament. He says that we cannot do anything without the North Atlantic Council. I put in my Motion that it should come before the Atlantic Council, but what the noble Earl has failed to tell us up to now is that the Government will give any serious attention to a proposal, coming from the highest quarter, which suggests that three great countries of Europe should neutralise themselves and which, secondly, has been supported by the Russian Prime Minister, who has said that Russian troops may withdraw from Eastern Europe. The noble Earl says that that makes no contribution to the reunification of Germany. We cannot re-debate the matter now, but it is perfectly certain that the noble Earl's reply will strike dismay into the hearts of people who saw perhaps some escape at the last moment from this nuclear disaster.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I am always encouraged when the noble Viscount says that my reply is disappointing, because probably it is better than he suggests, but I must assume with great respect the noble Viscount has just not heard what I said in my remarks. Either that or the noble Viscount is deliberately distorting what I said, which I trust he is not doing. I said that in the reply which the Prime Minister has made already to Mr. Bulganin, which I can only conclude the noble Viscount has not read, this proposal of a nuclear free zone is being closely examined.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
If the noble Viscount knows it, why does he say that it is not taken seriously? I think that 110 what the noble Viscount is saying is absolute nonsense.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, we need not charge one another with not reading one another's documents—a pardonable offence—but I do not think that the noble Earl has read my Motion. Would the Government postpone the distribution of nuclear weapons to fifteen petty N.A.T.O. Powers until this question of Polish neutralisation has been settled?
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount this question, as he proposes withdrawing his Motion after the extreme denunciation he has just delivered. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, as I understood him, said plainly that the Polish proposal would be commented upon when the British Government made their statement in reply to the Bulganin letter. Would the noble Viscount not agree that it is much more important to everybody in this country, and also to all the N.A.T.O. Powers, to have not some isolated consideration of one proposal but the considered pronouncement of the Government, both on the Bulganin letter and on this Polish proposal, and also on all other matters which are relevant, all of which must be considered surely in their proper perspective? That, I understand, is what the Government are taking time to do and are proposing to do. One thing I thought the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, wanted, or certainly other noble Lords on his Benches would wish, is an initiative from the British Government and not merely a re-statement of everything everybody else has said.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, if I may be permitted to reply to the question put to me, I would say that I do not at all disagree with the noble Earl. All I am saying is: do not make a decisive reply, such as the decision to install these nuclear sites, until this issue has been clarified.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I hope that I shall still be in order if, in a moment or two, I make some reference to what the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, said in his earlier speech. This debate is not one of the easiest defence debates we have 111 had in your Lordships' House for some time: it comes only a short time before the White Paper. I should like to say how pleased I was that my noble friend Lord Selkirk was able to say so much at a time which cannot have been too favourable. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, changed his focus several times. He opened his speech with a consideration of wide matters and then came to one or two points, important enough, but relatively minor compared with those with which he opened. Perhaps I may say a word or two on these minor points first.
I should hesitate only a short time before accepting the figures of the noble and gallant Member for Dudley, who is an expert in these matters, and whose figures I have studied before with great interest. The question of recruiting is bound to cause anxiety to everyone interested in the Regular Army and what it is doing. I think the noble Viscount will remember that in previous debates there were voices from this side of the House, not opposing the idea of recruiting our Forces on a Regular basis but asking that we should reserve judgment on the discontinuation of National Service until we saw how successful the efforts in Regular recruiting had been. I hope that, before my noble friend Lord Mancroft sits down, we may be able to hear from him about the measures taken to stimulate Regular recruiting. I agree that these are not going too well at the present time. Perhaps my noble friend may be able to tell us something on the credit side, while he is about it, on how the support costs in West Germany have been settled.
To my mind, the same applied to what the noble Viscount opposite said about the scarcity of landing craft and transport aircraft, though it does not apply to his general remarks on the Suez campaign in which I am not going to follow him. This is a point that has been made many times from these Benches. One of my noble friends who has ventilated it is the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. He is not in the House at the present time, but he has spoken about it several times. That is something which will go on being a trouble so long as transport aircraft can be obtained only at the expense of weapons, fighter aircraft, bombs and so on, in the Air Estimates. We shall never get the position right so long as this 112 conflict of interests goes on, and in Whitehall we must try to find some way of removing that conflict of interest.
May I go back to the main theme of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, which was the general position of N.A.T.O. and Great Britain's position in it. I am sure that everybody was pleased, and not surprised, to hear his firm championship of N.A.T.O. I think that will show in pretty well every speech that we are likely to hear to-day. But the fact that we champion N.A.T.O. does not mean that we are not aware of a number of difficulties through which we are going at the present time.
I am not sure that some of our difficulties are not created by thinking too much of the political set-up of N.A.T.O. and not enough of the military set-up. A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since the time of which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, spoke, when he was Minister of Defence, ten years ago. These powerful weapons have been invented, and are still being developed, and because of the increased range of these weapons and the weight of shell which they carry, in one way or another we are now being led into certain geographical considerations which did not exist even ten years ago; and still less, of course, when people were armed with muskets or with bows and arrows. The range and weight of shell have increased so much, indeed, as to traverse a great deal of our earlier conceptions of what we call sovereignty.
It is no good thinking that if we, or any other nation, for that matter, are in possession of these weapons of long range and great weight we shall not end up by using them. None of these restrictive covenants has stood the test of history in the past, and I doubt very much whether they will in the future. Nor do I think, whatever the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, may say (and I am anxious not to provoke him) that it was wrong for Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein to discuss that matter in his own way before a purely Service audience at the Royal United Service Institution.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
We are, indeed, faced with those factors, and our 113 political consideration of N.A.T.O. defence must, I think, work within those limits, at least, unless and until there is some change in the political boundary between the free world and the N.A.T.O. countries and the Iron Curtain countries. If there were a change in the boundary, then we should have to reconsider our strategic ideas and the layout of nuclear weapons and their sites. But so long as there is no change in that boundary, we shall be largely governed by the range of weapons and the weight of shell; and not only by the weapons as they are, but by the weapons and the equipment as we conceive they will be in, say, two or three years' time. If we knew, as I think ray noble friend Lord Teynham hinted just now, that we were going to have submarines which would do away with expensive bases in difficult political situations, we should not spend a great deal of money and time in constructing such bases, particularly if they could not be completed in time to be equally useful to the submarine.
I have no idea whether that type of submarine is a possible conception, but I am trying to make the point that we must base our strategy on the weapons we are going to have; because those weapons are so expensive, as several noble Lords have said this afternoon, and because other things we want in this country are also expensive, that we cannot afford to waste any effort, whether it is financial effort, manufacturing effort, or effort of any other kind, in duplicating within the N.A.T.O. set-up. I do not think one can emphasise that aspect of the situation too strongly at the present time.
Yet this is not an easy matter, because whereas we want to avoid duplicating with the Americans, or anybody else, and we think it right that we should share between the two nations our scientific secrets and our manufacturing potential, it is at the same time important that, in our particular situation as the centre of the Empire, and with our Commonwealth associations, we should maintain a flexible defence organisation, able not only to play our proper part in a global war, if by chance it should come, but also to deal with the emergencies which since the end of the Second World War have plagued the British Commonwealth 114 and Empire. We can do that only by keeping a flexible organisation. I am not going to use the words "conventional weapons" that were used by one noble Lord; I believe that term to be entirely misleading: it suggests that it is possible to draw a hard and fast line between one type of weapon and another. About thirty years ago, I think, an attempt was made to do that at one of the old Disarmament Conferences at Geneva: an attempt was made to distinguish between offensive and defensive tanks. Nothing was more futile and nothing had a more baleful influence on our preparation for the Second World War. So do let us think not of conventional or unconventional or nuclear weapons, but of keeping within our own British defence organisation a range of weapons suitable for every emergency we are likely to encounter or, at any rate, of having access to that range of weapons.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am most interested in this argument, which the noble Viscount has put so clearly. What I am anxious to know is whether those of his professional experience really feel that, in having this range of weapons within the British organisation for all our British needs, we are going to use an atomic bomb of the weight of the Hiroshima bomb as a tactical weapon, as outlined by the Minister of Defence. Is it really contemplated that we shall use an atomic bomb up to the weight of the Hiroshima bomb as a tactical weapon?
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
The noble Viscount must ask that of somebody in the military profession who is much more up to date than I am. But the correct use of a tactical weapon, surely, depends on one's appreciation of the state of affairs on the battlefield at the time. The state of the battlefield, the strength of the enemy and points of that sort will decide the weight of the weapon to be used against the objective, bearing in mind the old doctrine, which so far as I know still stands, of using the minimum force needed to achieve the desired object. That is the best answer I can give to the noble Viscount, and I hope that it is a satisfactory one. However, I should be sorry to become involved in a tactical discussion when we are debating a subject which goes so much wider.
115 I will conclude by repeating shortly what I have just said. The important thing now is for us to stand firm with N.A.T.O.; to waste no effort by duplicating our range of weapons, our manpower or anything else with any other member nation of N.A.T.O., and to do everything we can to see that no other constituent member of N.A.T.O, falls into the same pitfall. And. with that, we must keep our own flexible range of force for use within the British Commonwealth and Empire. I do not see that those two aims are mutually exclusive. Anything short of complete unanimity and integration of effort with N.A.T.O. will never, I feel, achieve the object we have in mind, which is to provide a deterrent sufficiently real to make disarmament conferences sufficiently real too.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I hope that I shall not be considered presumptuous if I speak for the first time in your Lordships' House in a debate on such an important question as that of defence. I feel fairly strongly on certain aspects of this subject, however, and I trust that I shall be granted the customary leniency shown by your Lordships on such an occasion. As the purpose of this Motion isTo call attention to questions of defence, with special reference to the situation arising from the N.A.T.O. Conference",I should like mainly to limit my remarks to the question of our strategic air defence, with particular reference to our medium-range bombers and medium missiles. I welcome the declaration of the Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Paris—namely,That the Alliance will never be used for aggressive purposes.At the same time I feel that we could find ourselves in a position, arising out of Russian influence in the Middle East, where the Western Powers might no longer be considering the U.S.S.R. as a potential aggressor. For she might be achieving her aims in the Middle East by propaganda, cold war, ideological theories, economic pressure and infiltration, whereby we should have to consider possibly taking decisions which could be termed offensive in order to protect the supply of our vital oil requirements—for I believe I am right in saying that no other deposits or outputs can compare with those of the Middle East.
116 Whilst agreeing with the Government's proposals outlined in the Defence White Paper of last April, and in particular with paragraph 14—namely, thatWhile comprehensive disarmament remains among the foremost objectives of British foreign policy, it is unhappily true that, pending international agreement, the only existing safeguard against major aggression is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons".I feel that at this stage of development in guided missiles it would be wrong to rely exclusively on ballistic rockets. I therefore welcome the Government's statement in the Defence White Paper that they will only "supplement" our strategic bomber force. If it is this country's policy to adopt the principle of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, should not the Government's aim be to provide this country with a more flexible form of nuclear deterrent-launching vehicle than the 1,500-mile-range Thor or Jupiter missile, with its static base? I should have thought—and here I am in agreement with much that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham—that one of the essentials for the launching platforms is that they should be mobile, particularly in view of the geographical situation of this country, in which case one of their main advantages would be to provide unpredictable launching points which would not be subject to surprise attack.
For that reason (I believe that this question has been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham), I should like to see consideration given by the Government to the fitting of certain of our surface vessels or submarines of the future with launching platforms. If that is not possible, on the ground of cost, perhaps the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that we should obtain from the United States some of their nuclear-powered submarines, may be a good one; for these submarines, I believe, can carry two solid-fuelled Polaris intermediate-range missiles. The solid-fuel missiles have the advantage of ease of handling and of having a short count-down. Apart from the questions of the cost of these I.R.B.M. bases, with their great blockhouses, fuel storage facilities, dispersal and transport problems, there still remains the question of vulnerability of these bases. It may be felt by the Government that it would be simple to conceal these missiles below ground, but, 117 much of the equipment will still remain above ground. I believe that in the event of attack, which I sincerely pray will never come about, the No. 1 objective of the enemy would certainly be the destruction of these bases.
That brings us to the highly important question of density of population in this country. It is wise, I feel, to remember that England and Wales together have a density of population of 753 inhabitants per square mile, while Scotland has 171. Compare these figures with those of the European Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, with its 46 inhabitants per square mile, and the United States, with their 50 per square mile. If one remembers that the Asian Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic has less than five inhabitants per square mile, one can easily appreciate how different the problem is when considering static missile bases in these countries.
There is another aspect of this problem which also has its importance, and that is tile range of these intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The design range for these missiles is 1.500 miles, in which case, for instance, the highly industrialised Urals would be out of range. Your Lordships may be interested in being reminded that the Urals are one of the richest sources of metals in the world, producing such minerals as iron ore, tungsten, platinum, chrome. lead, nickel and several others. The population of such important Ural industrial areas as Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk—the last-named town being the greatest centre of ferrous metallurgy in Russia—is rapidly developing, for the Moscow or Central region accounts for only one-third of the total industrial production of the U.S.S.R.
May I enumerate one or two of the reasons why I should like to see a development in our V-class bomber force, fitted with the megaton bomb, the stand-off bomb, or an air-to-ground guided missile? First, there is the possibility of maintaining it at immediate readiness, whilst liquid-fuelled intermediate-range ballistic missiles can be fuelled only immediately prior to launching. Even assuming that solid fuelled I.R.B.Ms, were available for static bases, and basing my argument on the natural assumption that we should not launch the first nuclear attack, I think it can be safely assumed that, as I have previously said, 118 the enemy's first objective would be to render inoperative those bases whose location would be known well beforehand and pin-pointed, so that whether the missiles were at immediate or at 15-minute readiness would make little difference. Furthermore, our bomber squadrons could be based at alternative airfields; they could take off from this country and land at another, or vice versa. A bomber has also the advantage that it carries a crew with human brains, thus making it a weapon which can adapt itself to changing conditions, as well as one which can seek out its target.
Before I conclude, my Lords, I would refer to the American Government's recent prototype order for a chemically fuelled supersonic high-flying bomber, the WS110A. Will not the repercussions, although not exactly within the sphere of defence, adversely affect our own aircraft industry, in so far as the indispensable research into heat-resistant steels and higher-energy fuels will no doubt benefit the American commercial airliners of the future? We must not forget that at the end of World War II the turbo-jet, which is so extensively used in our airliners of to-day, was then considered suitable only for military aircraft.
So, to sum up, I would repeat that I sincerely hope that constant attention will be paid by the Government to any development in the Middle East occasioned by Russian influence, being in complete agreement with the statement in the Communiqué which says:We believe that the stability of this important area is vital to world peace.I should like also to repeat that I do not support any proposals for the establishment of static missile bases in this country. Bearing in mind the Prime Minister's words at last month's Conference in Paris, which he quoted in another place on December 20 last—namely [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 580 (No. 34), col. 853]:…we believe it is right…to adapt the contributions we make to the alliances which we support so that they produce the greatest possible accretion of strength to those alliances."—should not our contribution to N.A.T.O. consist mainly of powerful, highly efficient, mobile strategic bomber forces fitted with the stand-off bomb (I believe I am right in saying that this bomb will be made available to 119 the V-squadrons somewhere in 1959), or even with the free falling megaton bomb? The mobile I.R.B.M. bases can be provided by surface vessels or nuclear-powered submarines with their launching sites—if I may use the term "site" in considering Naval craft—far removed from populated areas. Naturally, this would imply the acceptance of the stockpiling of the requisite nuclear warheads.
§ 5.15 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, before making the few remarks which I intend to make it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, on his maiden speech in this House on a subject which he has obviously made his own and knows a very great deal about and which is very interesting. I know I am expressing the wish of those who are here and those who are absent when I say to the noble Lord that we hope he will take an active part in the discussions and sittings that lay before us.
My Lords, I am afraid that my remarks will be on a lower level than many of those that have been made this afternoon. Between the debates we had in July last upon the Naval Estimates and the recent meeting of N.A.T.O. the Government seems to have modified and revised their appreciation of the naval situation. I hope that that is true and that a more realistic view is now being taken. I was rather (if I may use a vulgar expression) "bucked up" by the remarks of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and, if I may presume and venture to say so, I like very much the full-blooded remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. I think that this new view is a good thing, because it obviously is going to take first things first. It is not going to allow the future to blot out the present, and it takes note of the great danger that exists at this minute of a possible Russian attack by her submarine fleet.
As a result of the N.A.T.O. Conference the naval forces have been integrated, and presumably that means more close working together and is to be welcomed. But I join my noble friend Lord Teynham in saying, "Please do not make this too generous", because there are British responsibilities for which we must have not only the ships necessary to carry them 120 out but a margin of safety—and a good margin of safety. For instance, one responsibility which can be only a British responsibility and nothing else is that we must take the full burden of the protection of our food and the supply of our food to other people. It will not satisfy the people of this country if we come to starvation point and are told that Ruritania did not have her frigates in the right place at the time. That matter should be administered by the Admiralty without any reference to foreigners working in the Atlantic further South. Home waters ought to be guarded by ourselves.
There can be no question of the fact that we are living in a very dangerous time and a war might be commenced, perhaps by accident. You cannot have nations armed and looking at each other and blackguarding each other as they are now without there being a great risk of some war starting. If so, are we ready to repel that war? Certainly not. On the contrary, we are doing what is unusual in countries which may be forced into war at a moment's notice, and that is we are reducing our armed forces, our three Services, and getting rid of trained reserves. We are doing this on the plea of economy. For this sort of economy we are taking a risk of great national danger.
We have one advantage, if we choose to make it so, and that is that we know what the enemy's strategy is going to be at sea, and what they are going to do. The development of the Russian fleet since the late war has been one of the most significant happenings in the world. We know now—the First Lord has told us—that the Russian Navy has 32 cruisers, 180 destroyers, 500 submarines, 300 escort vessels and frigates. It is a mighty armada. What is it for? The Russians make no secret of what it is for. We have been told by a prominent Russian officer that in the next war the sea is going to play a more important part than it did in the last war. He went on to say that the object of this Russian armada is to cut the lines of communication between the United States and their Allies in Europe. We call them "lines of communication". Whatever they are to others, to us they are lifelines; if they go, we go.
In an East German magazine there appeared an article by their Moscow 121 naval correspondent which stated quite clearly that the N.A.T.O. alliance in Europe consisted of small industrial States, none of which was self-dependent and all of which, to some extent or the other, had to depend on seaborne supplies. He also stressed the fact that the United States, the most powerful Power in N.A.T.O., was 3,000 nautical miles from her European Allies. According to Russian computation there are in the Atlantic on any given ordinary day 2,500 Allied ships, and in the ports bordering the East and the West of our coast there are another 1,800 ships. He points out, quite rightly, that on a declaration of war the shipping will be largely increased by the movement of the American Army, with its vast stores and machines, to reinforce the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe. If those do not get across, for a time it will go very hardly with the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe, and they will not be able to hold out for long. All this indicates exactly and precisely where these 500 submarines are to go. A large proportion of them are quite powerful vessels, and it is said by authorities that the fact is now known that the Russians have nuclear submarines.
Those who ventured to express any anxiety about our position at sea in the recent past have been met by some rather superior people who say, "We are in the nuclear age now", or, "We shall not be alone." So far as the nuclear age goes, it will be some time before we are in the nuclear age at sea. We have no guided missiles; yet we were told quite recently that they were laying down the first vessel. We were told that they were going to build a nuclear submarine. I am not trying to complain that these things are not being done; but I say that they are not done yet, and we are not in the nuclear age. Of course, many great changes have to be made, and we shall make them as our resources allow, but I think it is wrong to talk only of the future and not to have regard to our armaments at the present moment. Who knows but that in three months' time a war may not have flared up? We are promised many naval weapons for 1960, but that is two years ahead. If your Lordships would carry your minds back to the two years from 1939 to 1941, you will be reminded of the vast number of things that may happen in such a time.
122 The White Paper on Defence tells us that a considerable number of vessels in the Reserve will now be disposed of. This is part of the economy. I believe that some 100 vessels have been sold or got rid of since the war. No doubt some of them were worn out and useless, but many more were capable of being quite useful. Within the last three weeks we have been told that another seven frigates are going to Germany. It is cold comfort to be told that in two years' time they will be replaced. We do not want replacements; we want additions.
To those who put their trust in the fact that we shall not be alone, all I can say is that those people who have worked with some of the people we are going to work with cannot be quite sure of that. Many calls will be made on the two principal Allies. I am not suggesting that they will not be where they are wanted, but they might not be. France and the United States have long coast lines—the Americans have a very long coast line. They have to guard their frontiers; they have their troops at sea, being supplied on the sea, and they will want their vessels for their own particular use.
In reading a number of books that have been published about the war with Germany we have been able to discover why we were not always able to carry out the operations which had been decided upon: it was because they did not happen to fit in. America had the Pacific, and the vessels which were to have been used on ventures were not available. We even had Mr. Churchill writing to Mr. Stalin and telling him in regard to the Second Front, I think in 1943:We have got the soldiers all ready, but we have not got the ships or the escort duties.Reading those books through, and particularly Lord Alanbrooke's book, one sees time out of number that these international agreements fell through because there was no shipping. "Shipping" was the constant cry.
After Munich, and after a year of preparation for war, what happened? In the first fortnight of that war we lost 285,000 tons of shipping—sixty ships, and the loss of life must have run into hundreds. That is where a number of these small vessels might be most useful. That is not always counted; it is not always considered. The number of crew that has been lost when 123 a ship has gone down is hardly ever mentioned. We cannot spare officers and seamen at such a rate. Through both wars there have been constant calls for more merchant seamen to man the ships, and they, in diminishing numbers, have always found a way to do it and have brought us through two wars. Without the Merchant Navy bringing home supplies, and doing much of it in unarmed and often unguarded ships, we should not have got through either of those wars.
I foresee a situation. It occurred in the last war. It would be much more dangerous with 300 or 400 enemy submarines out in the Atlantic. If our ports are to be bombed and our harbours destroyed, the food has still got to arrive off our coasts. This is a British responsibility and nobody else can take it. It is going to be very difficult to get the food to the people. It will have to be done partially by trans-shipping at sea and in the small inlets and harbours, and we should need something to get the food away to the people. I have not seen that difficulty mentioned; I hope it is provided for. I do not see the First Lord moving his head to indicate that it is provided for; I hope it is.
The work that we require from small inshore navy vessels and maritime air units would be tremendous and constant. We should want everything that we could get. No submarine wishes to come to the surface and engage in a gun battle, or to have its position accurately recorded. For that purpose we want more and more ships and those ought to be under one control—under British control—and kept out of entanglements in expeditions in which we are not really interested. I am not asking for great sums of money to be spent on the Navy at the present time, for probably it would be useless to do so; but we can do a lot by keeping the vessels that we have and making use of them. I defy anybody to stand up and tell me that those five destroyers which we sent away the other day and which were built in 1945 could not engage some of the dated submarines that the Russians have. Many of their ships were built in 1945. Those vessels have engaged in useful work, but now they have disappeared up the Eastern Mediterranean and are as much good to us as a headache. I conclude these rather disjointed remarks by 124 submitting that in all these discussions we have to remember that the Navy is built, and always has been built—not for just forty years but always—for the great battles which were fought in defence of our trade, to bring food and materials to this kingdom.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, as usual I propose to address your Lordships for only a few minutes, but I feel that I must add to what was said by my noble friend who has just spoken in praise of the noble Lord. Lord Merrivale. I believe that he will be a great asset to this House as a Back Bencher with a vast and intimate knowledge of our present-day affairs, covering a wide range of weapons, and I heartily congratulate him on his very informative speech.
We are discussing defence, with which the noble Viscounts, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough and Lord Stansgate, have both dealt to a great extent, and I believe it is proper for the House to do so. One noble Lord behind me thought we had departed a little from that subject, but surely it is the one thing we must talk about some time. I hope that some of the very wise remarks made by the opener of this debate and by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, will become known in the country and make people realise that the situation is a serious one. I will put to your Lordships a proposal which has not yet been touched upon, except that it is embodied in the Prime Minister's wish to have a non-aggression pact with the Russians. This is no Party question, as the noble Viscount who opened this debate, informed us, and I was very glad to hear him say how united his Party were with this side of the House and Her Majesty's Government in attempts to deal with this appallingly difficult situation.
What would be the most splendid thing for our defence? It would be if, somehow, we could get the Russians to collaborate with us and get on more intimate terms with us. There is no question that they are not on intimate terms with us now. That may be all their fault, or it may be our fault to a great extent. We have an intimate relationship with other countries. We find that our Foreign Minister "pops "over to France to have a discussion with the Foreign Minister there. I should like to see us reach with 125 Russia something of the intimate relationship that we have with other nations. I do not despair that they would come considerably nearer to us if we were to do what I suggest. These long discussions at N.A.T.O. and the United Nations seem to lead only to sarcasm from the Russians; and they make propaganda out of them. Would it not be simpler to point out to the Russians in a friendly way that they must realise that the first thing they must do to help towards disarmament is to lift the Iron Curtain a bit? That Iron Curtain is there, and anything we get through it, over it or round it is very problematical. If we could get nearer to them it would be very much easier to raise the Iron Curtain a little.
The Prime Minister mentioned only the other day that there must be agreement on inspection. If we had such an Iron Curtain I should not expect the Russians to reciprocate with us. I feel they must know now that this Iron Curtain is a great impediment to our getting on more friendly terms with them. They must know that we want peace, and they must realise that the only reason why we have all the frightful weapons which are being produced, and which have been mentioned ad nauseam this afternoon, is the growth of their power: that if it were not for their great power, power that has been built up since the last war, we should not be worrying as we are, nor spending this enormous amount of money in order to protect ourselves should they come to use what they have now brought about in armaments.
Then there is the question of sites for guided missiles. I believe that the Russians are seriously worried about that. I wonder whether, if we got on more favourable terms with them, we might say to them, "We do not know how many sites you have; we are only guessing; and the only way in which we can really protect ourselves is by doing what we imagine is done behind the Iron Curtain. There must be any number of sites for these missiles that we are frightened of, and therefore we must prepare, in case you use what we are only guessing about at the moment" I feel that if we got closer together we might easily get information and agreement, and a realisation that, if we are going to do certain things, then they will do 126 certain things; and that if they do certain things we are bound, in order to protect ourselves, to do the same.
It seems to me that we have periods in which things quieten down a bit, yet we never seem to take the lead. It is always Russia that comes out with something, so that we are put on the defensive, explaining something which is often not accurate on their part; and that puts us in a bad position. Why should we not come out sometimes and say, "Look here, we are worried about this or that. We should like to talk to you about it"? I believe that it would not be impossible to ask them what they would agree to with regard to this question or that question. My Lords, I feel that my suggestion is quite worth thinking about and studying, and I believe that if we pursue what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister referred to, namely. this non-aggression pact idea—which some people do not seem to like, though I do; I think it is a splendid idea to have that combined with an attempt to get on more intimate terms with the Russians—then we might get into a situation in which neither of us would be as worried as we are to-day.
§ 5.43 p.m.
My Lords, I am intervening in this debate to bring one matter only to your Lordships' notice. It concerns our anti-submarine forces and their relation to our own submarine building programme. I shall deal with the matter very briefly, and, indeed, I propose to touch on only one aspect of it in the next few minutes. I hope your Lordships will not think on that account that I regard it as in any way unimportant; the contrary is the fact. I believe it to be a matter of very great importance.
The great potential menace of Russia's 500 submarines has been discussed in your Lordships' House before. It is often referred to in the Press, and now, quite recently, we have been given some interesting information in the recent edition of Jane's Fighting Ships. This excellent and usually accurate publication tells us that by 1961, only three years from now, Russia may be expected to have 700 submarines, some of them nuclear-powered, and that the Russians themselves regard the largest of these as their capital ships of the future. The 127 publishers make this further significant comment. They say:It is not impossible that nuclear-powered submarines with guided missiles could replace aircraft carriers as the spearhead of naval warfare within a few years. The importance of underwater craft in sea warfare has increased considerably in recent times.And now, turning from Jane's Fighting Ships to the N.A.T.O. Conference in Paris last month, we find the Prime Minister saying this:Perhaps the greatest menace, or one of the greatest menaces, that we have to face in the military field, is the enormous fleet of Russian submarines. We believe that the British contribution to the naval forces of N.A.T.O. would perhaps be most effective if it were concentrated more on anti-submarine warfare and less on other thingset cetera.
I think everyone agrees on what a very formidable threat these Russian submarines represent, and yet I wonder, as I wondered at the time of the debate on the Navy Estimates last year, whether we are prepared, or whether we are preparing, on an adequate scale to meet that threat. When the matter was brought up in a question about two months ago by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, the First Lord of the Admiralty told us that when looking at these matters we should consider not only our own anti-submarine forces, but the anti-submarine forces of all the countries of N.A.T.O. together.
If we can rely completely on the solidarity of N.A.T.O., if we can be sure that all the N.A.T.O. countries will be with us from the very beginning of hostilities, that is fair answer. But your Lordships will remember that, on completion of the large-scale N.A.T.O. exercise "Strike Back" last autumn, both Admiral Wright, the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, and Admiral Sir John Eccles, the Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Atlantic, remarked in no uncertain terms on the lack of forces at their disposal. I am not aware whether the forces that took part in that exercise were comparable to the forces that would be available to those two Commanders at the outbreak of war; but, having read my newspapers, I am inclined to believe that they were. And if those two Commanders were anxious, as clearly they were, then I am anxious too; for who can know better than they what forces they will require to fight those 500 128 Russian submarines, and, of course, formidable surface forces as well?
I believe that Mr. Macmillan was right when he said in Paris last month that our naval contribution to N.A.T.O. would be most effective if we concentrated more on anti-submarine warfare. I think we can take it that very formidable antisubmarine forces are vital to our survival in the event of a war with Russia. And it is not only the number of ships and aircraft that comprise those forces which matters; it is their quality and the training of their crews as well. The training of anti-submarine forces is a long and arduous business. In order that it may be carried out efficiently it is essential to have an adequate number of up-to-date submarines to act as targets to represent the enemy; and when I say "up-to-date", I mean submarines with modern characteristics of speed, diving, depth and manœuvrability, so that the exercises and training may be in every way realistic. If they are not, false conclusions will quickly be drawn and substandard training will result. My Lords, we cannot afford anything sub-standard in this respect; we must afford the best.
I should be very concerned if it ever appeared that our submarine force was out of date or was becoming out of date. I was anxious, therefore, when I read in the Press a little while ago that the work on our first nuclear submarine, the "Dreadnought", was not to be proceeded with. I was equally relieved when I heard that this statement had been contradicted by the Civil Lord in another place. Nevertheless, I am still anxious, and I am anxious because the completion date of the "Dreadnought" is, I believe—I know—years behind the "Nautilus". Already the Americans have three nuclear-powered submarines in commission. By the end of the year I understand that they hope to have nine, and by 1961, within the next three years, they are hoping to have fifteen, of which one, the "Triton", is a ship of nearly 6,000 tons with a speed of something like 40 knots. How far the "Dreadnought" may be behind the Russian nuclear submarine programme I do not know; but if the Americans can have fifteen in three years' time, maybe the Russians can, too. We have, of course, the two experimental submarines, "Explorer" and "Excalibur." I believe that they are very useful ships 129 and they will go some way to meeting our requirements, but there are only two of them and I understand that in any case they are in some respects inferior to the "Nautilus."
I know that we have to watch the money side of the business. We have to husband our resources. I have not the slightest doubt that the design, development and building of the "Dreadnought" is a very expensive business, but I hope and trust that, in spite of this, our nuclear submarine programme will be pressed forward with the greatest energy, so that before long we may have some up-to-date nuclear submarines. Quite apart from their important rôle as launching sites for guided missiles, they are urgently required for training our anti-submarine forces and those of our Allies, to keep them up to date and in all respects ready to carry out their functions in war.
§ 5.52 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am rarely enough able to picture the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Stansgate, in the rôle of Good King Wenceslas; but on this particular winter's night I had been intending to follow in some of his footsteps while rather carefully avoiding others. Since then he appears to have blown up and gone home, and I am left to trudge on through the snow alone. I most ardently hope that as the outcome of this debate the Government will formally take into account the possibilities, the opportunities, of a neutral belt in Europe, and, having taken them into account, will turn them to account.
l am stirred by the same wish as my noble friend Lord Teviot. I see here a chance to take the initiative, a dynamic initiative, in peace proposals. I think that most of your Lordships would agree that the great political absurdity of this epoch is that Soviet Russia, the only great Power that in reality threatens the peace of the world, that has a whole string of savage, successful and unpardonable aggressions to its debit, can take on the guise of the paragon among peacemakers. Admittedly, even the Kremlin cannot hope "to fool all of the people all of the time" and many are now wise to the Russian pattern of peace manœuvre. But the remorseless fact remains that the Russians know how to play upon the deep, the sometimes desperate, craving for peace of the majority of humanity. 130 By threatening at one moment and placating the next, they maintain the war of nerves, and by every separate operation tighten or extend their hold upon the freedom of some part of humanity. They have taken the bully's licence to declare: "You want the best peace; we can refuse it."
My Lords, I have never been personally, individually brain-washed—indeed, I doubt if anyone would find it worth his while. But it seems to me that collectively the West is being subjected to the technique of brain-washing. As I understand it, a victim of N.K.V.D. is not continually tortured or terrified during a treatment. After a period of incessant pain and terror there is a period of relief, of apparent kindliness and solicitude. And the victim, having hardened himself almost by habit against incessant pain and mockery, is softened by solicitude, by the unexpected but calculated benevolence of his tormentors. And, once softened, another period of torture awaits him. I have spoken to survivors of this process and they have told me that by the end they even wished to believe the lies that were being put into their heads.
No one will regard this allegory as picturesque, and I hope that not many will regard it as being far-fetched. I sincerely believe that it would be perilous for us to want to believe the Russians too intensely in this period. But is that possibility very far removed? The sputniks were employed as cunning instruments of torture, to inflict fear and uncertainty, to sap the assurance of the Western peoples. They were accompanied by boasting and mockery from the Kremlin. Did they fail in their purpose? There was near panic in Washington and an immediate deflection in American foreign policy. Now comes the period of solicitude. I am sure that we must beware of that solicitude.
But, having said that, I am by no means led to the conclusion that Summit talks should be avoided. They should be welcomed. They should be taken as an opportunity, not to swallow the Russian proposals but to expand them, an opportunity to take the initiative and put forward a plan that will dwarf the Russian plan. I believe that the instrument lies at our hand and is under discussion in this debate—an opportunity, not just to ban rocket bases, but to withdraw Russian forces from the satellite 131 countries and N.A.T.O. forces from Western Germany.
In supporting this project, I should like to make it very clear that I do not wish to see N.A.T.O. weakened, far less liquidated. Indeed, I hope that in this way it may be strengthened for its main purpose, the preservation of peace. A number of far more distinguished exponents of this theory have published their views in recent months, certainly no one more lucidly than Mr. Denis Healey in the central theme of a pamphlet which came out in the New Year. I am not going to quote his or anyone else's words, far less my own which I addressed to your Lordships in July of last year. But I should like briefly to address myself to the critics, or to the main criticisms, of this plan.
When I spoke in favour of the plan six months ago, the Government's technical objection, uttered by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, was that we should be sacrificing defence in depth. With all respect—indeed, with all reverence—to the noble and learned Viscount, I cannot help feeling that if we are reckoning defence in depth, to-day, in terms of 200 to 300 miles, the breadth of Western Germany, then we are indeed preparing to fight the last war, instead of prevent the next—a criticism which has been often enough levelled against our military pundits in the past. Surely, if defence in depth is to have any meaning at all in the nuclear age, it must be reckoned in thousands of miles.
My own perhaps rather primitive calculations discover that a neutral belt—that is to say, any neutral belt acceptable to ourselves as well as to the Russians—would provide a warning area some 800 miles wide at its narrowest point; and that is to say 500 miles more than the distance between the Iron Curtain and the Channel Ports. I am assuming that any treaty establishing such a neutral belt would give the right to Russia and to N.A.T.O. to have civilian observers on the frontiers concerned; that is to say, the Western and the Eastern frontiers of the neutral belt.
The main disparagement of the plan is contained in the question of what would be done if the warning were given 132 from the other side of this neutral belt; if the Soviet Army in force crossed the Eastern frontier and swept back into the liberated territories. Again, I think it must be assumed that anything less than a major offensive could be halted and contained by the armies of the neutral countries themselves; and, my Lords, we can take it that the newly-freed nations would be vigorous and valorous in repelling any minor incursion with conventional weapons by their former masters after the free elections, written into the treaty, had been held.
The critical question still remains, of what happens if, after disengagement, the Russians attempt to move back in overwhelming numbers to reoccupy the vassal States of to-day, or even one of them. The last thing I want to do is to evade this problem, on which I have my own definite views, but it clearly involves issues and decisions which cannot be outlined. still less argued, in a sentence or two. Measuring your Lordships' indulgence against the clock, I feel that I must leave on one side the form that this guarantee would have to take, a guarantee by which I recognise the whole feasibility of the neutral belt plan would stand or fall. All I am really hoping to-day is that the Government may give an opinion that such a neutral belt would be desirable, if it could be made workable, and that its opportunities will be fully investigated. I confess that I did not entirely understand from my noble friend the First Lord to what extent they had been investigated.
I remember that on the last occasion the Government also posed the conundrum: "If you create a neutral belt, who keeps it neutral?" That would be a riddle, indeed, if we had no faith whatever in international agreements. But if that were so, I must ask: how could we continue talking in terms of international agreements and in terms of disarmament and non-aggression pacts? That is a form of scepticism which I should hardly care to pursue.
The general argument advanced against the plan is the hypothesis that the Russians would never accept it. Apart from seeming to me no valid argument against trying it, that looks a dubious argument in itself. What, in fact, would Russia be giving up? An asset or a 133 liability? From the Soviet point of view, the Warsaw Pact is worse than dead; it is actively dangerous. Economically, the whole satellite area is a burden. On the previous occasion I offered your Lordships figures to show that Russia was having to subsidise every satellite except Albania at tremendous cost. Since then Albania has been added to the list, and the all-round cost has been enormously increased. But the most commanding factor is the simple factor that Russia does not want a nuclear war in Europe. I think that that is generally recognised. Russia is quite as aware as anyone else of the devastation that nuclear war would bring upon the conqueror and the capitulated alike. The Soviet Government also has a vested interest in any plan which renders such a war less probable. Here is a plan, and here, I think, is a fair and feasible way of presenting it.
There is another reason that moves me considerably in supporting this plan. It would mean the release from bondage of 110 million human beings. I am not the only Member of your Lordships' House who has been behind the Iron Curtain. But the memory, the sensation of life in those countries, is very much, very agonisingly, with me all the time. It is not life as we understand it or demand it. I must reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that I saw very little patriotic satisfaction in these great engineering endeavours; and cannot believe that patriotic pride was much involved in the attempt to build a Black Sea-Danube Canal, in which 30,000 political prisoners died.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Would the noble Lord see any patriotic endeavour in the defence of Stalingrad, which was a very important thing in the war?
LORD ST. OSWALD
Stalingrad was not in a satellite country. Your Lordships need no reminding that we have a duty towards these people. If we forget that duty, we are failing ourselves as human beings. By their valour in Poland and Hungary, by the everyday heroism of people living in those countries and refusing to give in, they have earned the admiration of the human species. In all conscience, it is only right that this admiration should be translated into practical understanding. While we speak to-day, a new anxiety is infecting those 134 peoples, as they read of Summit talks and non-aggression pacts to come. Needlessly, I hope, but inevitably, they are chilled by the fear that a non-aggression pact might include the recognition of a status quo in Eastern Europe; that they may be written off, dismissed as they were dismissed from Western calculations until the risings in Poland and Hungary so little time ago. They are hungering for some Western assurance on this point, before the Summit talks begin. Because without it they are ominously aware of Khrushchev's persistent statement, that no problem of Eastern Europe exists, and the danger that he might demand it as a premise in Summit talks. That danger is, I think, pointed in the interview he gave to the Daily Express a week or two ago. If ever we were to accept that premise, for convenience or to smooth the path of negotiations, apart from the human offence itself we should, to our own cost, be abandoning more than 100 million friends to cynicism and final slavery.
A positive alternative is a neutral belt, and I believe this neutral belt plan has a real chance of enactment if presented with courage and with its motives clearly stated. I disagree entirely with the argument I read the other day that the Soviet Government can well afford to enter protracted and superficially promising negotiations which in reality are unlikely to succeed. I believe precisely the opposite. Once such negotiations are entered upon, once the wholesome possibility of their fruits appears within reach, that whole vast population behind the Iron Curtain will be demanding a fruitful conclusion. No Government, however powerful, however ruthless, could afford to delay artificially, or to reject, that conclusion.
It may be thought by some noble Lords that I have raised points outside the immediate subject of defence. But I have catechised myself on each point, and I am convinced that each is directly related to defence. Surely, in this age prevention is not only the first line of defence, it is the only true line of defence. We have within reach not only the opportunity to establish a warning area and to remove the current peril of spontaneous combustion leading to war; we have the opportunity to release into freedom those many millions of fellow Europeans and, by our 135 concern for them, to prove, in terms of history, that what we have here ourselves is worth defending.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, in accordance with our usual practice I should declare an interest in some of the aspects of this debate in what I am going to say. There are two aspects of defence which are fundamental—men and material. Both of those are required in the highest quality and in adequate quantity. Unfortunately, I believe it is true at the present time that there are signs that we are not getting either of those requirements, either in manpower or in equipment. Since the publication of the Defence White Paper last April there is no doubt that the morale in the Forces has been seriously affected. One experienced officer, whose views I treat very seriously, has told me that he thinks that morale is at its lowest ever. I hope that that is not true; but there are certainly signs, and signs which we must take into account. Far too many of the best men are retiring from the Services. At some levels, more officers are putting in for retirement under the new scheme than can be allowed to retire. We must all appreciate the work which the Minister of Defence did in obtaining satisfactory and fair conditions for those who have to retire in the present circumstances, but I do not believe that those conditions were ever meant to encourage people to retire beyond what was deemed necessary; the compensations were prepared with the idea of being scrupulously fair to those who were forced out of the Forces. Recruitment in many branches which in the past found it easier to recruit men—particularly in the Navy, and in some branches of the Air Force—is seriously below requirements. Families with generations of Service traditions behind them are no longer recommending their sons to go into the Services.
Those are the symptoms. I believe there will be general agreement that they are serious symptoms. What is the diagnosis? I believe that fundamentally the difficulty over the last year has been bad presentation of the problem and of what is being done to meet it. There has been far too much emphasis on the negative, on reductions, on cancellations, 136 on what we cannot do, and on how we are to deal with this and that reduction or cancellation. There has been far too little emphasis on the positive: what is the job for the Services, what are they to train for, and what is the vital contribution that they are making to the nation's problem. The Press have followed that line, and my own experience is that that means bad public relations. I do not think it is fair to dismiss it as the result of a wicked Press. With bad public relations the wrong emphasis will be put on news reports in the Press.
The result of all this has been that Servicemen feel unwanted, and all the other symptoms of morale being affected follow directly from that. Service life has many disadvantages. Men have never joined the Services to make their fortunes or for a soft, easy life; they have joined because they like the way of life. They think there is an important job to do, and they think they are going into a job where they will be respected. In spite of the considerations of the disturbances of family life and the relatively low pay, they have stayed in and re-engaged, because of the comradeship in the Services and, above all, because of the pride they have taken in their Service and the importance with which they have regarded their jobs. Without those you will not get recruitment and you will not get men to stay in the Services.
Now what is the remedy?—for a remedy must be found. First of all, I am quite sure that we want a new and positive approach to the problem: clear statements on what the functions of the Services are; on what is the job they have to do; on the importance of the job the Serviceman has to do; on the measures being taken to make the Services more effective, and on the means that are being adopted to deal with all the problems. We must have better public relations, which in itself will lead immediately to a better Press. There must be more liberal interpretation of the present financial rules. There is far too much niggling about allowances for removal and for education; and, where necessary, changes in those rules must be made. I heard the other day of a regiment which is going overseas in a month or two, and naturally the wives and families of the men in the regiment are asking whether they can go, too. The War Office are anxious that 137 they should be allowed to go, but the reason why they cannot be given any answer as to whether they can or cannot go is because no ruling can be obtained on whether there is to be sufficient money to provide married quarters for those families.
That is the kind of vacillation, the kind of pettifogging administrative disorganisation, which lowers the morale in the Forces, and must be improved. The whole objective of a future policy in this respect must be to make men in the Services feel wanted, rather than that they are simply a drain on the economy. For wanted they are now—wanted, probably as they have never been before. We all know that many changes are necessary—we have applauded the courage of the Minister of Defence in making clear the changes which he thinks are necessary—but the needs and the objectives must be more clearly stated or we shall simply go on as we are now, with the morale in the Services at a low ebb.
So much for the vitally important field of manpower. I should like to say a few words now on the other side of the picture, equipment, for in these days men, however brave, are no good in the field without the best equipment. There has been controversy since the White Paper on whether we should have this equipment or that, but I am not going to be drawn into an argument on that now. We shall discuss that when the White Paper is published. No one will dispute that the Services must have the best equipment in the quickest possible time, and as cheaply as possible. In my view, the Services are being prevented from getting the best equipment by bad administrative organisation. Those in industry, who make most of the equipment for the Services, are anxious to provide it, and they fully appreciate the need for the strictest economy. At present, I believe they are held back by lack of decision, by administrative delays, many of which come back to the Treasury. I will return to that in a moment, if I may. Often decisions are taken and perhaps a week, a month or two months later there are rumours going around that the decision is to be reversed. That does not create the type of atmosphere in which to obtain rapid and efficient production.
Not only does this cause delay, but the policy which is now being adopted of 138 placing orders in penny packets, which is thought by some to make for economy, in actual fact makes for extra cost, as anybody who has anything to do with the engineering industry will know. It makes planning impossible. It is sometimes thought that if it takes a certain time to make a particular piece of equipment from the time of placing the order, that is the time-span that is necessary from the taking of the decision to the time of delivery. But before production can start there are all kinds of forward planning to be done; manpower and space and resources have to be allocated, and they cannot be kept waiting for possible decisions. There must be a forward plan.
The point that I was making of the increased cost through placing small orders becomes more and more important as the equipment becomes more and more complex, as it is to-day. In my humble opinion, the basic problem is that so many of these delays are caused by the fact that those who make the decisions are not in full possession of the facts. At the moment, under our present system the Treasury has the last word on every thing; it does not allocate money to other Departments and allow those Departments, such as the Ministry of Supply, to get on with the job. The spending is controlled in every detail at every stage by the Treasury. That is leading to immense delays and also, in my view, increased costs.
There are two ways in which the Treasury can work. One is that it can assume detailed control, as it does now but in that case those who are taking the decisions must come out of their-offices and see what is going on in Industry; at present they do not do that. The alternative is to allocate the money and allow those best qualified to do so to make the detailed decisions and allocations.
I believe that the present system is slow, wasteful and inefficient. I do not want to get involved here in a discussion on the Ministry of Supply—that is a subject for debate in itself—but I do believe that, though the staff are first-class, devoted and knowledgeable, they are working entirely in the wrong framework, as I said to your Lordships about a year ago. In many respects the Ministry of 139 Supply is acting as an unnecessary barrier between customer and producer, though basically there are many valuable functions it can perform if only the framework in which it works can be reorganised.
I have spoken about morale in regard to the forces. Morale in industry is also important. You must have the atmosphere right for those in charge to take the necessary risks., For risks must be taken, and are all the time being taken, to make sure that adequate resources are available; and you must have the right atmosphere to encourage recruitment into the industries concerned. You will not get that by uncertainty and continuously altering decisions. I believe the remedy is to take decisions, many of which will be unpopular and hotly resisted, but to take those decisions, good or bad, for better or worse, and stick to them and promulgate them so that everyone knows where he stands. And within the agreed limits of expenditure laid down by the Treasury, let the decisions in detail be taken by those who know most about it.
On every front we must get rid of the feeling that the Services get what is left. Recently we have heard a lot about the Saunders-Roe 177 aircraft. I do not know whether or not that aircraft was needed for the Navy, but what is abundantly clear is that the way it was handled was disastrous. If that aircraft was needed for the Navy, then the decision whether it should be produced or not should not have been dependent on whether it was sold abroad; the decision should have been taken on its merits. For you can imagine the effect on the morale of the Navy, that here was an aircraft which they considered was important for the future defence of their carriers, and yet the decision was not taken on any sensible ground but was related entirely to whether it was sold elsewhere or not. I give that only as an example of the bad psychological atmosphere which has grown up during the last year.
My Lords, I hope you will not think I have strayed too far off the terms of this Motion. But I do believe we cannot play our part in N.A.T.O. in the maintenance of international security and in defending our own interests, without adequate forces. I sincerely believe we 140 shall not have those adequate forces unless clear objectives are set to inspire our Servicemen and unless we cut out waste and delay in the supply of equipment. It is for those reasons that I have ventured to take up your time this afternoon.
§ 6.28 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, in view of the lateness of the hour I do not propose to try to cover the very wide fields which are contained in the Motions set down by noble Viscounts opposite, although I should like to say how much I appreciated the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. There are many observations which I should like to make, because I was in Paris as an observer during the last meeting of the N.A.T.O. Heads of Governments. I would fully support everything the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said in the earlier part of this debate about the concrete results of that Conference, especially, for example, the measures providing for the development of greater scientific co-operation and in defence production among the different N.A.T.O. Powers.
To-night I desire to make only two observations, and to ask one question of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. I shall not expect him to give an answer to-day, but none the less I think it important that it should be raised.
The first thing I want to say is that never, I suppose, in the history of N.A.T.O. has a meeting been held in such curious circumstances. Towards the end of the meeting, and of course outside the Palais de Chaillot, I had a conversation with two distinguished Soviet observers—I had known them well in the past. Both of them said that they thought it had not been too bad a meeting, first, because neither President Eisenhower nor Mr. Dulles had been so bellicose as they had been in the past; secondly, because it was gratifying for them to see that the Bulganin letters had been taken very seriously by the Western Powers, and of course especially by Norway and by Denmark. Thirdly, they said that they were very glad to see the considerable publicity which had been given to the Kennan broadcasts, and especially the last one, in which Mr. Kennan had said words to the effect that there was a kernel or core of sincerity in a great deal of what the Russians said and did. I have no doubt 141 that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, would think that I had undergone unconscious "brain-washing" in this conversation, but I do not think that in fact I did undergo that process. We must recognise that there is a remarkable relaxation of tension. Whether this relaxation is altogether a good thing I hesitate to say, but I do not believe it to Abe wholly bad.
Therefore, while we must certainly not throw away the N.A.T.O. shield, and never forget Hungary and other horrors perpetrated by the Soviet Union, I believe that we should do everything possible to maintain the detente by multiplying the number of contacts between ourselves and the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, especially in the economic and cultural fields. There are a number of ways in which this can be done: sonic are already in operation at the moment. There are a number of visits to this country, but I agree that there are a large number of other ways in which we might expand that traffic. I will not go into them to-night, but I propose to put forward some suggestions through the proper channels.
LORD ST. OSWALD
The noble Earl gives me the impression, which I know he does riot intend to give, but it might be given to others as well, that it might be suggested that he is not prepared to forget Hungary but is prepared to forget the other countries occupied by Russia.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
No; I certainly did not mean to give that impression. I said that we must not forget Hungary, and I added that we must not forget the other horrors which the Russians perpetrated.
One other thing I wanted to say was that I think we must look warily into the neutral belt plan. I am doubtful whether it would be in the interests of the country to accept it as it now stands. Moreover, I do not myself see how a zone can be de-nuclearised. For, after all, nuclear weapons are now fast becoming conventional weapons, and certainly, as other noble Lords have pointed out—the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, in particular—it is becoming exceedingly difficult to make a distinction between them. In that connection, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. quoted some interesting remarks by the 142 noble and gallant Viscount, Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein. Even if perhaps those remarks should not have been published, I think that Lord Montgomery of Alamein was basically right in what he said.
Finally, I come to the question which I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft; it is not related to anything I have just said, but it intimately concerns the solidarity of the Atlantic Alliance as a whole. The question is this: does the noble Lord believe that there is any foundation to the disturbing rumours, some of which have appeared in the Press, that the United States has been unfairly undercutting Britain in the provision of arms to Western Europe, both in respect of the Centurion tank and of the Saunders-Roe aircraft? I do not expect the noble Lord to give an answer immediately, but I hope that on a later occasion he may be able to make a statement. If there is any truth in these rumours, it is most damaging to our American friends and to the Alliance as a whole. I hope, therefore, that we may in due course be told the true position. Differences of opinion of this kind between Allies make me feel that, if we cannot achieve a common N.A.T.O. policy in foreign affairs and defence. at least we should have a co-ordinated policy—at any rate, a more systematically co-ordinated policy—than perhaps there is at present. One last word: as other noble Lords have said, I believe that this country must take the lead. I believe that our Prime Minister is doing so, and that we shall soon see quite well what is to be Britain's rôle in the new world. I think his present tour is already giving a hint of it.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I confess rather to the reactions of a split personality on this occasion, in that a debate which was conceived to be concerned primarily with defence has had introduced into it the whole grave issue of disengagement in Central Europe—and what greater matter could be put forward for our consideration in 1958, involving, as it does, nothing less than the whole of our relationship with the Soviet Union? Bearing in mind that the soldier is the servant of policy, it would, I suggest, have been more logical if we 143 could have had our policy debate first and then, when our ideas on a European policy had been threshed out, to have come to the defence debate. I personally shall hope when Lord Alexander of Hillsborough raises the whole question of international affairs next month, to concentrate on some of the grave and important issues which the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has raised. Even so, I shall hope just to make a footnote on these grave issues.
If I may draw attention immediately to the problems of defence appropriate to the Motion to-day, I would use this communiqué, the official declaration after Paris (Command Paper 339), as the background. I speak only for myself when I say that, in following the Press accounts of the Paris Conference, I was disappointed to find that Ministers seemed fairly consistently to be concerned with what I can describe only as the "big bomb obsession"—"Is or is not your bomb bigger or better than mine?" It was with some relief that when one came to read the Paper itself, if nothing very revolutionary in thought emerged, at least one realised that matters of principle and political morality had been considered, and that there was a re-statement, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk has reminded us. of our frustrations over such things as disarmament.
But I submit that while a soldier is extremely grateful to know that the principles of defence and strategy are being looked after. and that behind the scenes plans are being made and adjusted constantly to changing policies, for reasons of psychology involving not only the impact on the British public but on the free peoples of the world, and indeed on the peoples behind the Iron Curtain, it is extremely unwise to convey the impression day after day that all we are concerned with is keeping abreast of the potential enemy in the arms race. I should have thought also that some open and heated discussion which has surrounded considerations as to whether this or that N.A.T.O. country was going to accept launching bases on its soil, was going to accept stockpiles of warheads and so on, would have been hardly in the interests of security. Sometimes it seems that we have made the task of the Soviet intelligence services considerably lighter 144 for them. I would therefore plead for reticence in the official communiqués and in the material given to the Press, when it comes to plans which may follow in the wake of the very correct but somewhat negative decisions, as I see them, which were taken in Paris the other day.
I take this opportunity to submit that, if and when a Summit Conference is ever held, the cameras and the television people, with their concomitant set smiles and artificial handshakes and the droves of journalists, should be deliberately and completely dispensed with; that far longer time should be provided for discussion, so that statesmen can escape from this obligation always to appear as successful actors taking their curtain call and can get down to hard discussion on down-to-earth matters, such as disagreements about Hungary and the fact that Hungary still remains a barbed-wire cage, so far as its 6 millions or 7 millions are concerned.
In regard to matters of pure defence I have very little to say on this Command Paper 339. One notes with satisfaction, from paragraphs 20 and 21, that decisions have been taken to establish stocks of nuclear warheads and intermediate-range ballistic missiles; and we accept that. The details are to be threshed out by a military conference in March.
There is one development on which I would comment. Paragraph 22 tells us that the Treaty Powers will seek as high a degree of standardisation and integration as is possible in all fields, both in the composition and in the equipment of their forces. I would reinforce what the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, had to say about this aspect. I would put it in this way: to what degree is the standardisation and integration of equipment of an army of 165,000 to suit the N.A.T.O. defence purposes compatible with the practical demands on the Services, and particularly on the Army—demands which have been constant during these last twelve years and will most certainly continue in future? I have tried to make this point before, and at the risk of wearying your Lordships, and the noble Lord who is to reply, I would remind the House of the list of such demands. May I recite it?—Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, Palestine, British Guiana, Aden, Oman, Kenya, Suez; and, a few days ago, the 145 Bahamas. That was essentially a Commonwealth list, and if the standardistion of equipment and of the composition of the Army means that the Army is to be tied to the unpredictable and perhaps hypothetical demands of Europe, then I suggest that inevitably we shall be faced with revision of that figure of 165,000. If not, one of two interests, it seems to me, must be abandoned—either the interests of Europe or the interests of the Commonwealth must be skimped in a way which raises the whole question as to whether any contribution at all is worth while. Because it is very wisely said that it is no good being strong unless one is strong enough.
I would add only a word of comment on the great issues raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. My reaction is that if, subsequently, it were found that the West had come to appreciate the real advantages of disengagement in Central Europe, surely in the meanwhile nothing would be lost by implementing decisions which may already have been taken or been considered in regard to their nuclear weapons and their distribution in Europe. Let me admit immediately that I have been profoundly impressed by Mr. George Kennan's Reith Lectures. Before I studied them, as some of your Lordships may recall, I supported, as did my noble friend, the whole concept of disengagement in. Europe as the only hope, not only of reunification of Germany but also of seeing that some 110 million people in Eastern Europe were freed from slavery. It cannot he said with precision that the removal of twenty-two Soviet divisions from Eastern Germany would result in the collapse of the Communist régime there. It can 'be said that that day might he nearer, and it can most certainly be said that so long as those twenty-two divisions are there. the Communist régime will remain and Germany will never see the day of its reunification.
I submit that those who are suspicious of the disengagement concept are apt to jump to hasty conclusions. One has heard employed terms such as "appeasement" and "the abandonment of N.A.T.O.". Recalling that the range of an intermediate-range ballistic missile is in the region of 1,500 miles, look at the map of Europe and at those countries which have been mentioned by Mr. Khrushchev and by the Polish Foreign Minister in this context of dis 146 engagement—and I would always hold that the atom-free zone and the disengagement of troops in Germany are all part of the same proposition of disengagement—and then subtract those countries and note what is left. It will surely be seen that the whole of Soviet Russia, up to and beyond Moscow, could be smothered by these ballistic missiles from launching sites in what is left or perhaps, as other noble Lords have said, from submarines. I imagine that that is the reason why Soviet Russia is to-day trying to include Turkey and Greece in an atom-free zone.
But let us be quite clear on this fact. We desire neutrality in Central Europe for very special purposes. We want to allow Communist imperialism and the free peoples to fight their battles out on an entirely different plane--a plane free from political intimidation supported by military strength. All that we want to do is to clear the arena, and then to let the best side win. Now those are conditions which in no way apply to Turkey and Greece, and therefore I suggest that we should be perfectly justified in ignoring Soviet suggestions to spread the net wider and include inside a disengagement area, or indeed an atom-free zone area, countries on the circumference. But whether we agree or disagree on this issue of disengagement. I would submit that if ever there was an issue which cries to the skies to be divorced from considerations of local domestic politics, it is this one.
We are surely g surveying nothing less than how to remove the whole ideological issue from the plane of military strategy and military thought in which it has been submerged, not by soldiers but by politicians, and to restore it to where it belongs, as a battle of mind and thought, concerned both with abstract matters and hard practical facts, to be fought out according to fairly recognisable techniques. And if one feels that way about it, how utterly unreal it is—and I say this because at one time there was talk of a Division on this Motion to-day—to vote, if asked to do so. in support of or against any domestic political Party!
A few weeks ago I took part in a B.B.C. Overseas Service discussion on the North Atlantic Treaty Meeting in Paris with a Frenchman, an American and a 147 prominent Member of the Opposition in another place, who has devoted much time to this particular matter. It was clear that my colleague and I fully agreed with each other in regard to this matter of disengagement. After we had finished I approached him with the suggestion that it might not be a bad thing if we could form an all-Party Parliamentary group to study this great issue together, if only to ensure that these artificial divisions would not jeopardise the kind of settlement which we had in mind. And to-day, surely, we have had two or three speakers on this side of the House fully supporting the new conception of disengagement. The response which I received from my friend was that it would not, in his view, suit his Whips, and a hint that it would also not suit the British democratic idea of conducting Parliamentary affairs.
Compare that approach to the approach of Sir Hartley Shawcross, who has implied that we shall be out manœuvred all the way down the line in the West if grave matters of foreign policy are subjected to reconstruction every time we change our Government. In former days it may not have mattered very much, when countries negotiated on a bilateral basis and political policy changes came naturally, with no dire consequences. But compare that with the position in 1958, when we all live in each other's backyards, and are faced with an issue of ideology and great subtlety such as a Pitt or a Palmerston would never have been called upon to face. If we cannot evolve a coalition approach in handling such matters as the linked issues of European defence and policy in relation to the Soviet, could we not at least attempt inter-Party consolidation on it? The one thing I could never understand would be to be asked to vote against another Party on such an issue. Indeed, if I were asked to do so, I could only remain a spectator and hope, with the poet, thatHe also serves who only stands and waits.
§ 6.53 p.m.
My Lords, most of the remarks I had intended to make to your Lordships to-day will, I think, come better in the debate after the Defence White Paper has been issued, so I shall not detain your Lordships for very long, to-night. The noble Earl, Lord 148 Selkirk, mentioned the conference which takes place every year in Paris of Members of Parliament from all N.A.T.O. countries. I myself was a member of the party of British Members of Parliament who went there, together with the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who is following me in our debate to-night, and I want to say a few words about the N.A.T.O. meeting as one saw it. It is chiefly from the military point of view that I have a few remarks to make.
I do not think that anyone who goes to N.A.T.O., and particularly anyone who visits S.H.A.P.E., can fail to be impressed by the great strides they have made in the time at their disposal. From the Supreme Commander, General Norstad, downwards, one is greatly impressed by the very high standard of officers of all nations. The language difficulty is overcome by their all speaking either English or French, and they are all very definite as to what they are there for and the plans which they have got to make. As to the plans in general, most of your Lordships know them, and many of the briefings that we had were naturally not in public session. But the planning, to my mind, is extremely good and has gone a long way. It has resulted in considerable practical works. We all had the opportunity of visiting an institution like the N.A.T.O. Defence College. That is extremely interesting and it is a very well run institution. Again, they consider the language point of view—English and French—and officers who go there are given lessons in French or English, in order that they may take part in the discussions; and integration is extremely good. One saw the integration in the last war at Allied Forces Headquarters, but this has gone infinitely further because the question of languages has, I think, been overcome.
There is a small point about that Defence College: they are rather upset that officers who pass through the College have nothing to show for it. Officers who pass through the various Staff Colleges here, or in various other countries, have some form of letters to put after their name; and it is felt—and I rather agree—that when officers have been through a N.A.T.O. Defence College something should be put after their name, in order to let everyone know that they have been there.
149 Another point is that this College is—I will not say suspicious, but a little anxious as to how good a purpose these officers are put to after they have been put through the course. That feeling, of course, is not confined only to that College: one knows it only too well in our own Services. But they will all say that the whole thing depends on the fact that they expect all nations in N.A.T.O. to keep their training and the fighting strength of the forces they have promised to produce up to a very high standard. I think there was some misunderstanding at one time about our own British forces, because some nations did not fully understand that it is quite possible to streamline and reorganise and re-equip an Army without its losing its strength, even though doing so may result in having rather fewer men actually on the Continent. But that is quite possible, and has been stressed many times by the Government. I very much hope—and I believe it to be so—that the forces we do keep on the Continent acting for N.A.T.O. will be hard-hitting and mobile. The numbers there are not very great; they are not very thick on the ground. The frontages which the formations have to keep are very broad, so they must have mobility and they must have hard-hitting strength.
The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has already been quoted once to-day. I should like to quote him again. I saw him on a television interview when he was asked about the future of the infantry. He was very emphatic about that: he said that one could create missiles but one must have the infantry. And I hope that, if there is to be any more cutting down in the Army, it will not be at the expense of the infantry, who in the end are always needed, the Tank Corps, the armour, and also the S.P. Gun. As another noble Lord has just dealt with it I will not go into the question of conventional weapons, because that would take a very long time and it is a rather difficult subject. I trust that the Forces will not be cut in those directions. By all means let us cut the "tail". I believe that there are many more "tails" that can be cut off—and some do not live far away from this Chamber.
I should like to say a word about recruiting and manpower. I agree with 150 every single word which my noble friend Lord Caldecote said. I think that we have the whole thing in the wrong perspective; and it is the nation's fault. The Serviceman is not really looked up to in many quarters. He is regarded as a man who is too stupid to make a lot of money and stand about the streets in ridiculous looking clothes. We have to get it into the minds of the whole nation that the Serviceman is needed, is important and is a highly trained man after he has been in the Service for a little time. I 'believe that Government propaganda has failed on that point. I think tat more could be done through the new medium of television. We must make the Serviceman realise that he is a terrific chap and get away from the attitude of people who say, "He isn't much good; he has gone into the Services."
The other side of the manpower question is that once a man is in the Army we must do our best to keep him in it. It is the niggardly little things that annoy the soldiers. They do not always complain—they just do not stay on. It is matters like married quarters in Germany (though I understand that the Government: have already this matter in hand) which annoy the soldiers, and so they will not sign on. It is the man who will sign on and who has been partly trained and might become an N.C.O. whom we really want. As has been said many times, it is the N.C.O.s who are the backbone of the Army.
§ 7.4 p.m.
My Lords, it is getting late and I know that your Lordships are waiting to hear the two speeches still to be made by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, who will be replying for the Government; therefore, I will restrict my remarks to two points. I will not endeavour to follow my noble friend Lord Goshen, with whom I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Paris in October. He has already explained lucidly the situation of the N.A.T.O. Defence College and other matters connected with it which were explained and shown to us. I should like to say that the two matters to which I am going to draw attention have nothing to do with the Liberal Party line, but I think that my noble Leader will not mind my mentioning these 151 matters. What the Liberal Party feel on defence questions has already been dealt with by my noble friend Lord Moynihan.
It strikes me that what we are discussing is so difficult technically that many people, even senior commanders who may have to use these weapons, are not really clear about their scope and what may happen when they are used. I know that there have been trials and tests, but it is a different matter when we come to use them in anger. Scientists play a leading part in the world nowadays, for better or worse, and it is difficult for ordinary people to keep up with them. I cannot begin to keep up with them myself and do not even attempt to. To ask us to discuss some of these matters and try to make up our minds is really asking too much. Therefore I should like to confine myself to two factual matters of which I have some knowledge, either through the Press or directly.
The first one is the refusal of the Federal Government of Germany to honour their obligations in regard to their contribution towards the cost of B.A.O.R. As a country which has recently reduced its bank rate to a figure exactly half ours, one would think that their economic position must be reasonably stable, and we find ourselves in the humiliating position of having to go, if not actually with cap in hand, to the Federal Government to ask them whether they will please fulfil the financial obligations into which they entered, if not freely, at least quite clearly. We have had to think of some way out of the difficulty, and the first thing we did was to reduce our Forces in Germany. The result of that was unpopular with other N.A.T.O. countries. As my noble friend Lord Goschen has said, nowadays we can have fewer men, better trained and with better weapons, and a smaller army may have the same effect as a larger one. That is partly true; but it is a difficult idea to "sell" to other people.
The Western German contribution to N.A.T.O. in respects other than their contribution towards our occupation costs is equally unsatisfactory. For instance, lately there has been the cancellation of the Saunders-Roe contract for jet fighters, to which the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, referred, and which caused some alarm and despondency in the Isle of Wight. If I am using the word 152 "cancellation" wrongly, then I withdraw it, because perhaps no contract was lodged, but it seems that the Saunders-Roe Company were clearly under the impression that these jet fighters for the West German Air Force were to come from them. We find that the order for the British Electric P.1.B. Rolls-Royce engine has also been revoked by the Bonn Government. It begins to look as if West Germany intend to avoid their commitments for first-line aircraft altogether.
However, I must be consistent about this, because in 1954, at the time of the European Defence Community debate, I advocated—and incurred the displeasure of some of your Lordships in doing so—a much slower build-up of the German armed forces. This, in fact, has taken place, not as a result of that debate but because the rate at which the men for these forces have been coming forward has fallen a long way behind schedule. If this slow rate has been caused by the fact that the officers of the new German Army are being carefully "vetted," to try to exclude any resurgence of Nazism, obviously it is all to the good. No doubt General Speidel, the Commander-in-Chief of the ground Forces, is a good man and has studied this question. As I have said, if that is the reason it is all to the good, but the members of N.A.T.O. are not impressed by this. They would like to know why the German contribution is coming forward so slowly. I hope that Her Majesty's Government are satisfied with this rate, or at least that they are fully informed of why it has fallen behind schedule.
Before I leave the point of the German contribution I should like to add that one Government after another in this country has stressed the need for German reunification. Rightly or wrongly, they have taken this line. There are many people in this country who are not in favour of it, and they could be right. But in point of fact it is taking place now in a way which is not observed clearly: that is, through the enormous number of refugees which cross every day—the figure has been given to me as 2,000 a day—from Eastern Germany into Western Germany. Thus, Western Germany is becoming progressively more populated, and Eastern Germany less so. If a nation consists of a lot of people, as opposed to 153 a geographical area—and, in my opinion it does—then that number of people is steadily increasing in Western Germany by means of this tremendous number of refugees which is continually coming in. That may eventually bring the whole question of German reunification into the right perspective. I mention this because I do not think it is generally appreciated. The advocates of the plan for the neutral nuclear zone will perhaps take that into consideration when they think or talk about it.
I have only one other matter to which I should like to draw attention, and it arises, to some extent, out of the first: that is, that if the senior commanders in N.A.T.O. are worried about shortage of manpower (and they are) especially in regard to ground troops, then there is an obvious source at hand, which is recognised by the United States but not yet by other members of N.A.T.O., and that is Spain. The military contribution that Spain might make to N.A.T.O. might not be very large, but it would certainly be as large, if not larger, than that of certain other members such as Portugal, Greece or Denmark, and possibly others. When you look at the geographical position of Spain on the map of Europe, you see how important it is; there is no gainsaying that strategically Spain is important. Spain is also a close link with North Africa, and since our French friends and Allies are involved in North Africa to an increasing extent nowadays, with problems both military and political, it seems that membership of N.A.T.O. by Spain might be a great help, taking the larger picture where North Africa is concerned, Then, taking an even longer view, the affinities which Spain has with the Republics of South America—not with all of them, but with some—might have some political significance and some political use in the future.
These are only thoughts on the subject, but the Americans have done more than think about it. They have established five bases there for the use of the Strategic Air Command; and they have also built an oil pipeline which I understand has now reached Salamanca. American Service personnel on all these bases are treated by the Spaniards as if they are Spaniards: they do not have trouble with visas and so on, such as our garrison at Gibraltar has. The Americans spend dollars, and 154 they are personœ gratœ. These bases are, as I have already explained, strategically comparatively distant from the area from which we fear attack might come. I asked the Commander of the Strategic Air Command in Paris whether he thought that five bases in Spain were enough and whether possibly there was not room for a few more. He thought about it before replying, and then he said that five was "not too bad," from which I took it he was not going to commit himself further on the point.
In this matter of the possibility of Spain joining this Western organization—and it is a joining organisation—opposition is to be expected, of course, from the Right and the Left. From Parties of the Left in every country, and especially, I think, in Norway, there are certain to be voices raised in horror at such a suggestion. Personally, I feel that the Civil War is now twenty years old—twenty years is long enough—and a great deal has changed in Spain since then. It is an unlucky fact that few English people go to Spain—a few go as tourists now, but that is about all—and I think the picture in most peoples' minds is that which they had in 1937 or 1938, when a stern grip was needed to restore order out of chaos. But that grip has now been relaxed, and it is not what it was then. Finally, the attitude of Spain in the last war, if not exactly friendly, was, at least (and this is a masterly understatement) no more unfriendly than that of Germany and Italy, who are now members and Allies in N.A.T.O.
I think the time has come not to hark back on old wrongs and on what has happened in the past, but to look forward and to be realistic in a matter where we could gain considerable advantage. If N.A.T.O. is seen almost exclusively as a mechanism of deterrence, or defence against Communist aggression, then it seems that the arguments for admitting Spain are unassailable. But if the objects of N.A.T.O. go further than that—and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who a few moments ago drew our attention to that point—then I believe that historically, culturally and in other ways Spain shares a great deal of what may be described broadly as the European-Western heritage. The test is not really whether 155 at a particular time particular personalities happen to hold sway over a nation. Personalities, after all, are transitory and are not there for ever. I believe there is every reason to assume that Spain would be a useful and loyal member of N.A.T.O., and I hope that the Government will consider the possibility of sponsoring her membership or, at least, of giving support to any other member of N.A.T.O.—and obviously the United States of America springs to mind in this connection—that may do so. I did not give notice to the noble Lord who is to reply that I was going to raise this matter, and I shall well understand if he does not reply in detail, or indeed at all, and it will then be left open to me to put down a Motion on the subject at a convenient time.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, we have had an interesting debate, with a number of good speeches to which I should like to refer later. But, as so often happens in defence debates, the debate has tended to get a little desiccated. I think it was unfortunate that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, did not reply to the two powerful speeches made by my noble friends on the Front Bench, which I think required a reply, as this would have given a line on the debate. My noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough dealt with N.A.T.O. and with a particular matter intimately concerned with N.A.T.O.—namely, what is going to be the position of our forces, and particularly our ground forces, in the years ahead when they attempt to substitute voluntary recruiting for conscription. That, obviously, is a serious matter.
Then my noble friend Lord Stansgate dealt with a subject which is very much in everybody's mind; that is, whether it is not possible to get some kind of a neutral zone. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, left the one speech to be answered by another Minister, and practically ignored the other. I have been trained in another place, and I must say that I know of no occasion when a Minister in another place has got away with treating two leading speeches in a debate in that way. I think the trouble is that the debate runs loose, because we have to wait for the Minister who is to speak at the end to answer points made at the beginning.
156 One interesting point was brought out by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in dealing with N.A.T.O. He stressed—and it has been stressed again by the noble Viscount, Lord Gosehen—the integration at the United Nations of this force drawn from so many different nations. I remember well that between the wars I was a strong advocate of an International Police Force. We were always told that it was quite impossible, and that forces from different nations would never work together. As a matter of fact, we saw it done in the Army in Italy of Lord Alexander of Tunis; and now we have a repetition of it. Members who have been there have seen how you can form an international force. It seems to me encouraging to those who have always advocated that the United Nations should have a force of its own, to see that in practice it is found to be possible.
The next point I should like to make concerns N.A.T.O. and the original purposes of N.A.T.O. My noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough has given the history of that. The particular danger at that time was that Europe might be overrun by ground forces from the Soviet Union. It was not thought then—it has never been thought—that we could put comparable forces into the field. It was thought that we could put into the field sufficient forces to defeat some minor attack or interference. It is true that during the years we have been successful in that respect. It is also true that at the back of our minds was the major deterrent. But the point of N.A.T.O. still remains—not as a lining up for a major war, but for preventing any outburst that might lead to a major war.
What disturbs me very much is the conception of arming N.A.T.O. forces with atomic weapons, because if there is to be a fight, that fight with atomic weapons will presumably be somewhere in the centre of Europe. I can hardly imagine Germans in West Germany wanting to destroy German towns with atomic weapons, or wanting large areas to be put out of action. That seems to me quite impossible. We have reached the stage of thinking that it would be possible to use these tactical weapons, which would cause immense destruction and render whole areas uninhabitable, by scaling them down and using them in a minor way on some transportation centre, without 157 having the conflict carried further and leading to a major atomic war. That is why I think my noble friend Lord Stansgate was perfectly right to stress the danger of distributing these weapons among all kinds of people. It means, in fact, destroying the whole purpose of N.A.T.O.
I believe that there is a case for a careful examination of this idea of a neutral zone, because it would get away from a great deal of the need for these forces to be instantly ready to suppress aggression. It is true that with modern weapons you could fire over a neutral zone, but it is the checking of the aggression you wish to achieve. I was much impressed by what the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, said about his talks with the Russians. I have had a fair amount of experience of dealing with Russians, and I know that you need a pretty long spoon. But I do not believe that at the present time the Russians think that it is in their interest to have a major world war. On the other hand, I believe they think it is worth their while to involve us in heavy armaments, because there are always two sides to the cold war. One is the possibility of a cold war becoming a hot war, and the other is that of weakening the economic position of the West in order to win, in effect, a bloodless battle.
I was much impressed by what the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, said about needing to get away from the idea that competition between the Communists and the free world must always be on the basis of war. I believe the noble Earl went further. I do not think it should be on the material plane alone. Re battle will ultimately be won in the minds of 'men. That is why I was rather disturbed at the result which the launching of the sputnik by the Russians had on the United States of America. It seems to me that the United States, ignoring their other great heritage, tended to rest their power on their material ability to produce goods of various kinds. It has been a bad shock to them to find that in some matters they have been surpassed by the U.S.S.R. I think it has brought out a dangerous mood of hurt pride, which adds to a certain amount of fear which already exists. It also reinforces the point that has been made in this debate, that a lead is needed from this country. I feel that there is a little danger that we always hang back and 158 wait for our American friends. I am all for the fullest co-operation with America, but that does not mean we always have to accept their line. I believe that there is a great cause for Anglo-American unity, and that most people think a change in the State Department would be of advantage, both for America and for the world. I do not find that that is a thing which separates Americans and British at all, but I am bound to say that I think at the present time almost every approach to international solutions tends to be blocked by a somewhat hasty remark delivered from the State Department.
There are one or two other points I should like to make before I sit down. I was impressed by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, on the question of morale in the Services. I think he is absolutely right. I believe that a great many Service people do not know where they are, or what are their functions. I was also impressed by the difficulty of getting "all-weather" forces to perform on the Continent of Europe and, at the same time, to act in the kind of way which is required in our far-flung Commonwealth and Empire. It would be an enormous advantage if we could get a relaxation in Europe, if we could get the neutral zone so that we could have the kind of force which I think we need—a mobile force of all arms, merely as a kind of police force for the Commonwealth and Empire. If, ultimately, that could be superseded by a police force for the world, then we might be on the way to an enduring peace. I feel that at the present dine there is rather more open-mindedness in the world, and I think that, whether there is what is called a Summit Conference or some other conference, wise words were spoken by the noble Lord who said it should not be marked by photographs and every kind of publicity. I agree that there must be preparation and a programme. You can settle a programme only if you have the support of all countries behind it. I believe that at the present time there is a slight relaxation, and I want Britain to lead.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD MANCROFT)
My Lords, I do not think I shall be guilty of understatement if I say that this has been a far-ranging debate. We have ranged from 159 what is now known as "summitry" to "ferrous metalitry", which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, told us about in an extremely interesting and technical maiden speech. I hope I shall not be considered eccentric or exhibitionist if at the conclusion of a defence debate I address my short remarks primarily to matters of defence. I hope I shall not incur the wrath of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, if I do not go further with him along the paths of disengagement and neutral zones. I thought, if I may say so, he was less than fair to my noble friend, Lord Selkirk. My noble friend made it perfectly clear how important Her Majesty's Government think this matter is and how earnestly they are studying it.
I have little to add to that save to repeat it, and to bring to the notice of those noble Lords who may, I think, perhaps have slightly over-simplified the difficulties and problems a most interesting and graphic letter in this morning's Daily Telegraph from the distinguished French statesman, M. Paul Reynaud. He sets out the pros and cons of all the difficulties with great clarity and shows some of the dangers which some of the more optimistic of us may have overlooked. I would beg those noble Lords who have not done so to read that letter most carefully.
The fact that that letter comes from a distinguished French statesman highlights one of the points which I would bring to your Lordships' attention: that this is not a matter for us to decide by ourselves. We have ultimately to decide it in concert with fourteen other friends and Allies. More than one of your Lordships in this debate have emphasised this question of the Alliance, integration. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned it. I was glad to hear him endorse the growing strength of integration in N.A.T.O. My noble friend, Lord Goschen, drew attention to it and produced as his example the constituent parts of the N.A.T.O. Defence College. He made also one or two specific complaints about postings and conduct in that college. As the Defence College has the misfortune to listen to a lecture from me at 9 o'clock to-morrow morning in Paris, I will make it my business to find out what the noble Lord is com 160 plaining about and see whether I can help in some way.
My Lords, I would address myself first to the subject which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, dealt with in some detail in the course of his vigorous, interesting and considered speech, the subject of recruiting, to which several other of your Lordships have naturally given attention. The recruiting task we have set ourselves is, I think we all recognise, a high one, not least because with the smaller all-Regular Forces at which we are aiming we can afford to recruit only men of good quality who believe in the importance of the job they are doing. I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goschen, when he points out that, competing as we are with industry, we do not want in the Forces the spivs and layabouts and no-goods. We are not trying to raise an Army of "angry" young lance-corporals.
There has been much speculation, not all of it quite disinterested, about our chances of building up the Regular Forces we need by the end of 1962. There has, of course, been no lack of prophets of doom who tell us that our objective is hopeless from the start. The truth is, that no one can be sure yet just how things will go in the next two or three years. Whether or not one takes into account the positive steps to improve recruiting, about which I shall have a little more to say in a minute, attention has been rightly concentrated on the prospects of achieving an all-Regular Army by the end of 1962. By saying this, I do not mean to say that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are without their recruiting problems, but merely that they are less difficult. If we succeed with the Army, we can hardly fail with the other two Services.
Can we then measure our prospects of getting this all-Regular Army? My answer is that at this point in time no one can do this with any real claim to accuracy, not even the honourable and gallant Member for Dudley, who did me the great courtesy of coming and showing me the figures which the noble Viscount. Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, quoted and whose interest and ingenuity in this matter calls forth admiration from us all. Until the autumn, when the six-year engagement was introduced, there were no means of knowing how many genuine recruits we were getting. The large 161 numbers of men undertaking three-year engagements completely obscured the picture. Many of them were simply disguised National Servicemen. Since then, figures have begun to come in which give some preliminary idea of the level of recruiting we may expect, not merely in total, but also to the various arms and corps within the Army. These detailed figures will, of course, be just as important as the total, in that they will determine whether or not we shall get the balanced force that we need. So far, we have firm recruiting figures only up to the end of November; that is, about six weeks' worth of the new six-year engagement.
If the pattern which seemed to be emerging in the late autumn is confirmed in subsequent months, and there is some reason to believe that it will be, both the size and nature of our task will become clearer and we shall then be better placed to work out the right measures to deal with the problem. It is, I think, too early yet to forecast any accurate trend, but the current figures (certainly for long-service Army recruits) are by no means discouraging. I hope that the White Paper which will be published shortly will include the figures for December and January and submit them to a more detailed analysis than I am in a position to do to-day.
It is, I am sure, common ground here among all of us that we want to succeed in obtaining all-Regular Forces so that conscription can finally disappear from this country. It is going to be a hard task, but I believe that we can succeed. I am equally convinced, though, that the task will not be made any easier if we are confronted at every turn by much-publicised attempts to prove that success is impossible. Nothing has happened since the publication of the White Paper a year ago to make us revise our opinion about the prospects of obtaining the Regular recruits that we need. In view of what I have read recently in certain newspapers, I should like to make it quite clear that the Government have no thought of abandoning their policy to end the call-up in 1960.
Now, my Lords, what about inducements to get the recruits? Most of your Lordships have asked about this and put forward helpful suggestions. I welcome those suggestions. I hope that any of your Lordships who have concrete proposals 162 to improve recruiting will let us know about them so that they can be passed to the right quarter. I would remind your Lordships that there is no easy solution; there is no gimmick: there is no one solution of this recruiting problem. The Government, I assure your Lordships, take this matter most seriously. As the House knows, the Grigg Committee has been set up with the following terms of reference:To examine the factors bearing on the willingness of men and women to serve in the Armed Forces and to make recommendations.Let me make this perfectly clear: whilst the Committee is examining all these matters there will be no standstill. It will not be a case of "waiting for Grigg." Certain measures have already been taken and others are on the way. I regret that the oratorical purdah enforced upon me by the pending Defence White Paper prevents my giving more detailed information this evening. I can, however, indicate some of the considerations and factors which will carry weight with the Government as decisions are made. Many of the factors influencing recruiting are already welt known to your Lordships. I put accommodation very high, particularly married quarters. I put high the problem of turbulence, frequent moves, the distress which it causes to wives and families, the difficulties it causes in the matter of the education of the children; pay; uniform, the desire for a new uniform; discipline. I should like to offer a very few observations on these matters, personal observations based on a visit last week to the Second Tactical Air Force and the British Army of the Rhine.
The first thing I would say is that I came quickly to the conclusion that many more National Servicemen have enjoyed their service in the Army and in the Air Force than popular legend would lead one to suppose. I think the reluctance of many men to sign on is due to the fact that they have a job waiting for them, often a job in the father's or family business, and not to any dislike of the Service. Nor is sensible discipline resented—quite the contrary. Good soldiers or airmen respect good discipline, and there is all the difference in the world between what is vulgarly called "bull," and panache, in which the good soldier joins as much as anybody. A good deal has already been done to eliminate unnecessary 163 "bull." Panache is wrapped up with uniform, and I think the need for a smarter uniform is universally accepted. Plans are now far advanced. The trouble with the uniform is like that with road traffic; every member of your Lordships' House has a Traffic Bill in his dispatch case and everybody has his own ideas about the new uniform he would like to see the Army wear. But this difficulty must be overcome.
I put very high a moment ago married quarters. The Government are bending their minds to this matter most seriously, because we shall not get men to stay in the Armed Forces if they cannot have their wives with them. The Navy has an entirely different system, of course. It is the fiancées and the wives of young N.C.O.s who force the men to come out of the Army, quite naturally, if they cannot be given decent quarters. The Government have already made considerable progress in regard to the question of accommodation. Those of your Lordships who have recently been near Tidworth or Wilton will have seen some of that progress. Only to-day in the newspapers there were pictures of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War knocking Woolwich about. He is a guardsman. I, as a gunner, had a slightly more nostalgic feeling for Woolwich, naturally, than he, though I spent only five days there. I understand that those who spent longer had much less nostalgia than I.
I was impressed by the amount of weight your Lordships gave to the question of morale—the indefinable question of morale. I thought I knew as much as there was to know about morale in the Army; but one always comes across some new imponderable and I was surprised to find in Germany something that I have not come across before—the number of other ranks who object to being referred to as "other ranks". Perhaps somebody will find a better name, other than "personnel", to embrace the whole of the soldiery and airman. But the Government take this matter very seriously and are doing everything possible to maintain and improve morale. I appreciate the seriousness of the remarks that have been made. I think they can be summed up in one sentence: that what the Government, and 164 all succeeding Governments, always have to do in respect of the Forces is to appear to them all in the rôle of a good employer.
I have talked about Germany and I now turn to a problem which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgem'an—the question of local defence costs in Germany. This, I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, is not due to the difficulties with which we are faced, due to the economic "free-for-all". The position really is this. The Deutschmark funds made available by the Federal German Government under the agreement of last March will soon be exhausted. These funds met £50 million out of the total cost of about £130 million for our Forces stationed in Germany in 1957-–58 This £50 million covered the whole of the costs which are unavoidably incurred in German currency. If no other financial aid is forthcoming, not only will the British taxpayer have to assume an additional burden on the Budget of about £47 million in the year beginning April, 1958, but our already serious problems over the balance of payments will be further aggravated. Her Majesty's Government decided, early in December last, to invoke the revised Brussels Treaty wherebyIf the maintenance of the United Kingdom Forces on the mainland of Europe throws at any time too great a strain on the external finances of the United Kingdom "—Her Majesty's Government—will… invite the North Atlantic Council to review the financial conditions on which the United Kingdom formations are maintained.This is what Her Majesty's Government have done.
The United Kingdom case has been endorsed by three independent experts appointed by the Secretary General of N.A.T.O. in accordance with a N.A.T.O. procedure established earlier this year to investigate currency problems arising from the stationing of forces in other member countries of the Alliance. We now look with confidence to our N.A.T.O. Allies to suggest a speedy solution to this problem. Discussions are continuing in the North Atlantic Council. We have warned our Allies, both in the North Atlantic Council and in the Council of Western European Union, that in the absence of a satisfactory solution a very 165 serious situation will arise. This position has not yet been reached. Her Majesty's Government await the outcome of the North Atlantic Council's deliberations. Therefore at this moment I think it would be inappropriate for me to say much more than I have done. But, obviously, if we do not get support costs the whole question of how the foreign exchange and budgetary charges could be met will have to be looked at again.
My Lords, I turn now to another problem which has occurred in many speeches, the problem of the S.R.177, to which I think the noble Lords, Lord Caldecote, Lord Moynihan and Lord Windlesham referred. The reason why Her Majesty's Government decided not to go on with this aircraft is quite simple. It was originally intended for use both in the Royal Air Force and in the Royal Navy. The Royal Air Force requirement was cancelled on the grounds that the threat which the aircraft was designed to meet could be met by other means. The cancellation of projects for the development of fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force of types more advanced than the supersonic P.1 was announced in the White Paper on Defence last year. The decision to cancel the naval requirement was taken later on similar grounds. I should like to follow this up by making a point of general application. The exclusion of a piece of equipment from the defence programme does not necessarily mean that we have no confidence in it. Very often we have, much to our regret, to cut out weapons which it would be convenient to have, but we simply cannot afford to take out two insurance policies to cover the same risk.
The reasons which led the German Government to reject the S.R.177 are not fully known to Her Majesty's Government. The German Government informed us just before Christmas that they had decided, with great regret, to refrain from sharing in the further development of the aircraft, but so far as I am aware they have not yet announced a decision to purchase any particular alternative aircraft. The decision not to purchase the S.R.177 does not, of course, reflect in any way upon Saunders-Roe who have a fine record of achievement. The view of the Ministry of Supply, I understand, is that the estimates of delivery which were given to the Germans were reasonable and realistic. Since the German decision was 166 announced, the firm have proposed that the Government should buy three S.R.177 aircraft for research and development. Again, this proposal was examined most carefully, but it was decided that these aircraft would not enable any work to be done which was not possible with existing aircraft, and the additional cost could not be justified in relation to aircraft for which there was now no possibility of production.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, the noble Lord has made a very clear reply, and I am much obliged; but I do not think that he has dealt quite sufficiently clearly with the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote—that the Saunders-Roe machine would be most valuable to the Navy, and that the Navy itself thought so. Do I understand that the professional advisers of the Admiralty did not want the Saunders-Roe machine?
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, that is not so. The S.R.177 is an admirable aircraft, but there were other means of fulfilling the task, and, much as we should have liked to have the aircraft, both in the R.A.F. and in the Royal Navy, we thought we could not afford to have two insurance policies to cover the same risk. We should have liked to have it, but we just could not afford it.
I should like now to deal with a matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—the question of the alarm which has been caused in some quarters by the thought of aeroplanes circling above our heads carrying H-bombs. I was glad to hear the very sensible and down-to-earth attitude (if that is not an unfortunate choice of metaphor) in which the noble Lord addressed himself to the matter. Naturally people in this country are concerned about the dangers which arise from aircraft -carrying this terrible weapon, but most of the talk has concentrated upon the rather alarmist statements of the hazards to be expected from radiation. All the Government statements already made on this subject have been based upon the best up-to-date scientific assessment of the risks involved, and upon the advice of the United States 167 Government who have had some experience of these matters.
In the first place, hydrogen and atomic bombs are not carried over our heads all day and every day, but only on the infrequent occasions on which large-scale operational exercises take place.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I do not want to delay the noble Lord, but before the Defence White Paper comes up for discussion in the House would be consider a statement on page 30 of the New Scientist journal, published on January 30, which seems to disagree with a good deal of what the noble Lord has said?
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I will, of course, do so. As the noble Viscount knows, I myself have no scientific knowledge and cannot answer the point from personal experience. I am only passing on to the House, as I believe it is my duty to do, the best scientific advice available to Her Majesty's Government; and this I have had most carefully checked. I was speaking of the weapons themselves. I am given to understand that they have been designed with many safety devices, and more effort has naturally been spent on safety devices for these weapons than upon any past weapons of war. When these bombs are carried over us they are unarmed. This means not only that they are safe, in the conventional high-explosive sense, but that they are also safe from a nuclear explosion or reaction.
At present the process of making the bomb ready for use is a complicated one, and the crew of an aircraft would all have to go raving mad together in order to arm a bomb against orders over this country. Of course with aeroplanes there is always the danger of a crash. As your Lordships know, this danger is greatest at the moment of taking off and landing, and this is particularly true in this case, because these flights take place generally over the sea. If a crash does occur, what happens? First, if there is not a fire, normally nothing happens, except the usual damage caused by a crash. If there is a fire nothing worse than before happens unless the bomb bay is involved. If the crash does involve the bomb bay, then, at worst, a conventional (for the want of a better word) explosion occurs; but the chance of this occurring is less 168 than for last war bombs and a high-explosive fire is more likely.
What about the radiation? Unless there is a high-explosive explosion or fire there is not the slightest risk; and even if there is an explosion or a fire there is only a small risk, because special precautions are taken against shock and fire affecting nuclear material. To sum up, a realistic estimate of the very worst case would place the hazard at somewhat less than that of a last war bomber crash, including conventional bombs—and this includes the radiation hazard. Your Lordships must also remember that the chance of all these unhappy events occurring together is very, very small—much smaller than most of the everyday hazards to life. In the view of Her Majesty's Government it is not unreasonable to accept this infinitesimal risk in order to maintain and increase the effectiveness of the main deterrent to war.
I have spoken of the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent. Some of your Lordships have suggested that Britain is devoting too large a part of her defence effort to that deterrent. I cannot agree. The fact is that by far the greater part of our defence expenditure is still devoted to conventional forces. This may seem surprising, because the cost of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery is, as we all painfully know, very high; but the numbers required and the numbers of men needed to operate them are much smaller than the numbers required for conventional forces. We sometimes tend to forget how much money is still spent in the old-fashioned way on pay-day. It is very far from the view of Her Majesty's Government that every military emergency which may arise in the future would be met by the threat or use of nuclear weapons.
The greater part of our forces will continue to be employed, for as long as we can foresee, on the traditional tasks of keeping the Queen's peace and guarding her subjects and those under her protection all over the world with weapons which, though up-to-date, will not depend for their effect on the awful power of nuclear fission or fusion. But we must never forget that, so long as the Soviet Union maintains her purpose, to thrust Communist domination out over the whole world, and so long as her conventional forces are vastly greater than those of our friends and ourselves, so long will 169 our peace and security depend upon the power to retaliate, by nuclear weapons, if our vital interests are threatened. The share of our defence expenditure that we devote, and shall in the forseeable future devote, to this purpose is not, I am sure, too high, a price for Britain's contribution to the task of keeping the peace of the world until the day when, as we all profound !y and fervently hope, it can be founded upon the firm base of international confidence and genuine—I repeat, genuine—disarmament.
§ 7.5.8 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I do not want to say much in rising to ask permission to withdraw my Motion, but I must refer to two points upon which we shall be fundamentally divided. The noble Lord, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, has repeated with confidence that it is right to tell the world, as they have already clone through N.A.T.O., that even if they are attacked with conventional weapons they will, whenever they themselves choose, reply with a nuclear attack and thus launch the whole business on the whole world. That is a position of terrible responsibility, and that is why, two years ago, I made a speech in which I said that Her Majesty's Government had entered upon a policy which. if pursued, meant that there was no return. Let that be clearly understood. The second point I wish to make is that the noble Lord has not yet made any answer to what I said about the airlift. I hope that we shall eventually receive an answer about the complaint made in his dispatch by the Commander-in-Chief in the Suez episode and the figures which he gave. If the noble Lord has not the time to reply to it to-night we ought to be given the promise that we shall have full details later.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.