HL Deb 05 March 1958 vol 207 cc1092-196

2.45 p.m.

LORD MANCROFT rose to move to Resolve, That this House approves the Report on Defence: Britain's Contribution to Peace and Security set out in Command Paper No. 363. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in presenting a similar Motion to your Lordships in May of last year I made so bold to suggest that the White Paper of 1957 was one of the most important documents ever laid before Parliament. This year's White Paper has aroused equal if not more attention, and has provoked discussion throughout the world. In truth, however, it contains few surprises. It contains little that is not the logical application of principles already settled.

In considering this White Paper, the question I believe we have to ask ourselves is this: Is Britain building the right sort of military force for the right sort of job in the world? In our present Defence Budget we are spending about one-tenth of our money on the nuclear deterrent—our strategic bomber force, its nuclear bombs and the research and development that go with them, including work on ballistic missiles. We plan over the next five years to spend roughly the same amount as this year. We are also spending roughly another 10 per cent. on the defence by conventional forces of our deterrent bases at home. This figure includes the fighter force, the control and warning system, our defensive guided missiles, and the research and development related to them all. The total of these adds up only to about one-fifth of our Defence Budget.

Let us see how this fits in to the general pattern of our Forces. If we gave up all bombers larger than light bombers, all missiles, all megaton weapons, all air defence at home and all related research and development, we might possibly save something like one-fifth of the money which we now spend on defence. But do your Lordships really imagine that we should give up all these things, even if it were, as a matter of policy, decided to give up the United Kingdom contribution to the deterrent? Should we give up all work on air defence, including research on the means of development of anti-missile defence? Of course we should not. We are not, I maintain, spending an undue proportion of our defence effort on the deterrent.

But that is only the financial aspect. It does not dispose of a view held and expressed nowadays with increasing vigour and increasing audibility that we should not have the deterrent at all. I gather from the terms of the Opposition Amendment that noble Lords opposite at least do not go quite so far as this: they just decline to approve a defence policy which relies predominantly upon the threat of thermo-nuclear warfare, insists on the installation of strategic rocket bases in Britain before the projected Summit talks and fails to provide effectively for the defence requirements of Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth". There are certain fundamental questions involved here, and it may be as well if we try and clear our minds upon them now.

The first question we have to ask ourselves is: Do we trust the Russian Government and rely on their making no attempt to overrun, or threaten to overrun, the free world by violence?

If the answer is, "Yes, we do trust the Russians," then obviously we do not need the deterrent. But, my Lords, do we? Heavens above, how we wish we could! But I think we may be forgiven if we do not yet feel quite confident in the good will of the Russians, and if some of us are still prepared to try to defend ourselves against possible attack, rather than tamely and lamely surrender our rights and freedom. We seek, therefore, to provide for such a defence.

The Russians have 200 divisions, 500 modern submarines and 20,000 military aircraft. Rule out the strategic nuclear weapons and see what happens. Western Europe would lie at the foot of the Russian. We should be quite incapable, even with the help of American conventional forces, massive as they are, of withstanding the attack which the Russians could mount. The blunt and inescapable fact is that the only means of defence against any full-scale attempt by Russia to dominate our world is the threat of nuclear retaliation.

How could we try to match the Russians in conventional forces? It could mean an increase of at least £1,000 million in cur own defence expenditure, with similar heavy increases for other members of the N.A.T.O. Alliance. The increased manpower bill would be enor- mous—with no chance, incidentally, of ending conscription here. It would lower the standard of living in all Western countries. That, of course, would make them an easier prey for Communist subversion, and there is no development the Russians would like more. But even if the West could provide the resources and match its conventional forces with those of the Russians, they would still have the whip hand, because they would have their nuclear weapons as well.

If your Lordships think that this is only the case for a Western deterrent and not for a British deterrent, since the Americans have a strategic nuclear capability large enough for us all, let me say this. To shelter under the American H-bomb as long as its launching sites offer no temptation to make us the target of reverse attack is, to my way of thinking, hypocritical and dishonourable. The decision to join the "nuclear club" was taken by a Labour Government some years ago. We respect them for that; we endorsed their decision. As a result of it, we have spent much money and effort to reach the stage of development which we have now reached.

The installation of the rocket Thor is but a logical stage in this development. It offers no more provocation than do our nuclear bomber squadrons today. I doubt really whether this alleged provocation caused by the installation of Thor will prejudice the Summit talks, to which some of us look forward. One cannot help noticing that the Russians suffer from no such delicate sensitivity. They have exploded two more hydrogen bombs since the Opposition's Amendment was put on the Order Paper. And what happens if the Summit talks fail? Do we all then start installing rockets in a flurry? That will not help much. There is no argument for stopping developments at this stage and wasting a great deal of the time and money and effort which we have put into them.

Then we are told that our contribution to the deterrent, despite the political case for having an element of strategic deterrent under the control of a European Power, is so small as to be meaningless; that it has no value of its own. That, my Lords, just is not true. It is quite true that the Russians could attack this country with far more nuclear weapons than we could deploy against them; but the destructive power of these horrible things is so immense that even a few could produce such appalling consequences as to be wholly unacceptable to a realistic Government—and nobody has ever accused the Russians of not being realistic—even if they knew that their own attack on us could be ten times heavier.

The statements in the White Paper about the use of thermo-nuclear weapons have also been attacked on what I believe to be another false ground. We are told that we have recognised only two situations. On the one hand, the minor incident, the local upheaval or border skirmish, to deal with which nuclear retaliation could not conceivably be employed; on the other hand, the full-scale Russian attack, whether by conventional forces alone or by both conventional and nuclear forces—in which, equally clearly, the nuclear retaliatory power of the West might have to be employed. We have been asked whether it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to use nuclear retaliation in all situations going beyond the category of minor incidents.

We have been told that there is, in fact, a large indeterminate grey area between the black of all-out nuclear warfare and the white of the border incident. We have been told that the absence from the White Paper of any reference to tactical nuclear weapons must mean that the Government have decided that British forces are not to have such weapons; that there would therefore be nothing in our armoury between the conventional high-explosive bomb and the hydrogen bomb. There is nothing in the White Paper that could possibly justify these conclusions. We are well aware that the spectrum of possible hostilities has more shades in it than pure white or deepest black.

Equally, we are of the opinion that it would be fatuous to try to define in advance precisely what action would be taken to deal with any and every situation that might arise. For one thing, this would make it clear to a potential aggressor just how far he could go without bringing the whole weight of nuclear retaliation down on his head. And, for another, since no situation would obviously develop exactly as the planners had calmly and quietly foreseen, it would put the Government of the day, any Government, in an impossible position in trying to deal with it. What we can say, however, is this: the doctrine of the economy of force still applies, and applies here with undiminished validity. Of course, no more force than the Government considered necessary would be used in any situation. To say more than this is, I believe, wrong.

It is also argued that excessive reliance on nuclear retaliation might lead an aggressor to calculate that, as its consequences would be so appalling, the other side would risk using it only when the attack threatened an absolutely vital interest. There is, however, another side to this argument. In deciding what risk he could afford to run, the potential aggressor would equally have to be sure that the object of his attack was absolutely vital to him, since the consequences of a miscalculation of his opponent's reaction would be so catastrophic.

We made clear in the White Paper last year that it is the Government's policy to equip British forces with tactical nuclear weapons. This is in accordance with accepted N.A.T.O. military doctrine. It would be tedious if the same things had to be repeated in the Defence White Paper every year. The fact that last year's statement has not been spelled out again does not indicate any change of Government policy. The Royal Air Force has had stocks of tactical kiloton bombs for the Canberra bomber force for some time. The Army is being equipped with the Corporal ground-to-ground weapon. This weapon has a nuclear warhead, and the first regiment will be deployed in Rhine Army this year.

Your Lordships will recall that we are proceeding with the establishment of a range in the Hebrides. The main purpose of this range is to train troops in the handling and firing of Corporal. We are also continuing with our own research and development of a future generation of tactical weapons. The circumstances in which they would be used, and whether they would be used in situations that do not call for the use of the strategic weapon, would again, I suggest, be foolish and dangerous to define in advance. Paradoxically enough, the very horror of nuclear warfare may make it the least of our dangers. It may stimulate the efforts of the Communist Powers in other directions. It may stimulate the subversion and economic penetration with which we have become so vividly familiar and of which the Western Powers have been so notably innocent. It may even, when the risks do not seem too great, stimulate military action.

Our conventional forces are the first line of defence against military threats in any part of the world, whether these come from Communist activity or from any other form of activity directed against our peace and security. During the past few years our own forces have been actively engaged in Korea, Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus. They have dealt with internal security troubles in Hong Kong and Singapore. They have provided part of the answer to a number of minor problems that have arisen elsewhere—for instance, in the Caribbean. Apart from our world-wide Commonwealth commitments, the Western Powers must jointly be able—and I emphasise the word "jointly"—to resist local hostile military actions, and they must be able to prevent Communist Powers from benefiting from such actions. They must be able to offer a stout enough resistance to Communist conventional forces to be able to establish whether or not a hostile attack is the prelude to, or part of, some major onslaught designed to subjugate all or part of the free world. We cannot, therefore, over-emphasise the importance of our conventional forces. It is obviously right that we should spend by far the largest part of our Defence Budget upon them.

Lest any of your Lordships should still think that we have neglected those conventional forces, their progress and their well-being, let me briefly draw the attention of the House to those parts of the White Paper, and to the Memoranda issued by the Service Ministers, which demonstrate how our conventional forces are being re-equipped and reorganised to as high a standard of efficiency as possible. The aircraft carrier "Victorious" has been practically rebuilt and will rejoin the Fleet this year. She is now one of the finest aircraft carriers in the world. The coming year will see the introduction into squadron service of the swept-wing Scimitar, which is a single-seater day fighter ground attack aircraft. A trial flight of Sea Vixens, with their armament of air-to-air guided missiles and rocket batteries, will be formed. Among helicopters, deliveries will continue of British built Whirlwinds, which began to come into service last year. A more powerful aircraft, the Wessex, is under development. This will provide the next generation of helicopters for the Royal Navy. Comets are now in service with the Royal Air Force Transport Command. A commando carrier will provide additional mobility for the Royal Marine Commando, which form a most important part of our conventional forces. They will be deployed east of Suez.

The frigate programme has been going steadily ahead. Nine new ships will have been completed this year and a further five next year. The conversion programme of thirty-two destroyers to antisubmarine frigates has been completed. The submarine-building programme is also going well. Three new ships will join the Fleet this year—the first new operational submarines we have had for ten years. In addition, twenty-eight smaller ships will have been completed during the current year. The naval research and production Votes, the vast bulk of which are devoted to purely conventional forces total £136 million for 1959.

In the coming year, a proportion of the Army will be re-equipped with F.N. rifles made in this country. The L.2 sub-machine gun is being produced in quantity to replace the Sten. An interim heavy anti-tank weapon for infantry units will be issued and a more advanced replacement is being developed. More of the new range of radio equipment will be introduced into service. The field formations in the Army are being reorganised on a brigade group basis to achieve greater mobility and striking power and better means of dispersal.

A large Service works programme, costing £90 million, to provide barracks and married quarters is being undertaken over the next five years. Your Lordships are already aware of the importance which Her Majesty's Government attach to accommodation and its influence upon recruiting. I have little to add to the detailed information about the Government's recruiting programme which I gave to the House in the Defence debate on the 22nd January. Regular recruiting to provide high-quality conventional forces and, in particular, a wholly Regular Army stands at the centre of our defence policy. The Government will do everything in their power to speed this programme to success.

The recruiting figures, though it is still too early to recognise a definite trend, give us hope that we shall succeed in building up these all-Regular Forces. The simplest way not to get these Forces is to say continually that we shall not get them. Men will not join what they believe, however mistakenly, is not a going concern. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the first sentences of the White Paper— Never in peace time has the British soldier, sailor or airman had a more vital part to play. Never has he more deserved the respect and encouragement of all those who live their daily lives tinder his protection. The status of the fighting man must be enhanced, but it cannot be enhanced by Government action alone: press and public have their part to play. But the Government's determination to play their full part as a good employer is firmly demonstrated in the White Paper.

My Lords, it is indeed a hideous thought that we should continue indefinitely in a state in which the peace of the world is kept only by the fear of mass suicide and mutual annihilation. Real peace will, of course, come only when all countries have the same belief in the peaceful intentions of all others. When that Utopian point is reached, no country will feel the need for any armaments except for internal security. But the growth of this conviction throughout the world will be at best a dishearteningly slow process.

What can we here in Britain do to hasten it? This is, primarily, a political and a moral problem. If the Russians are steeped, and genuinely and sincerely steeped, in Marxist doctrine, they know that Karl Marx taught them that capitalism desperately carrying the seeds of its own decay may threaten Russia. They are wrong—very wrong. We, for our part, have told the Russians time and time again that we do not covet one inch of Russian soil; nor have we any evil intentions against Russian men, Russian minds or Russian material. They do not believe us, but we must still strive to make them. There is at least one field in which great contribution to the pacification of the world could be made; and that, of course, is disarmament—a genuine balanced disarmament, properly devised and properly controlled.

I say "genuine" disarmament, because a mere promise never to use this or that type of weapon would be a dangerous sham if no steps were taken to eliminate the weapon itself. I say "properly devised" because if the Western countries were to deprive themselves of nuclear weapons without a reduction in the Soviet conventional forces, they would merely place themselves at the mercy of these overwhelmingly greater forces. Those who in Britain are now vociferously agitating for us to "Ban the bomb" are not, I think, hastening the day of world disarmament; they are seriously delaying it, since they are continually feeding the Soviet hopes of betraying the Western nations into fatal weakness by propaganda. I say "properly controlled" because without full inspection of any disarmament arrangements neither side, in its present state of mistrust, would rely upon the other faithfully to carry them out.

Even a small step in disarmament, subject to inspection and therefore known to be faithfully carried out, might turn the tide of fear and mistrust, by creating a greater confidence on the part of both sides in the peaceful intentions of the other. It was with this spirit, and with these intentions in mind, that the Western Powers put forward last summer a balanced disarmament plan which was approved by fifty-six members of the United Nations. It was opposed by nine only—the countries of the Soviet bloc. Why, my Lords? Why? These proposals would have benefited all of us and endangered none. Their rejection was a serious blow to the hope of creating greater confidence.

We still believe, however, that disarmament would be to the overwhelming advantage of all countries, and not least to Russia. We shall go on trying to find a scheme acceptable to all of us, not the least to Russia. In the meantime, the Government must do their duty. How they see that duty is set out plainly in this White Paper—too plainly, to some people; but plain speaking in the years before 1914 and 1939 might have saved us untold misery and bloodshed. To prevent yet further misery and yet further bloodshed is the avowed policy of Her Majesty's Government. We have restated that policy in this White Paper. We intend to pursue it with vigour and with determination. I ask your Lordships to approve.

Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Report on Defence: Britain's Contribution to Peace and Security, set out in Command Paper No. 363.—(Lord Mancroft.)

3.11 p.m.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, as an Amendment to the above Motion, to leave out all the words after "House" and to insert "declines to approve a defence policy which relies predominantly upon the threat of thermo-nuclear warfare, insists on the installation of strategic rocket bases in Britain before the projected Summit talks, and fails to provide effectively for the defence requirements of Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in my name and that of my noble friends. As I read the White Paper, and again as I listened to the noble Lord's exceedingly sincere, I think, but rather overconfident speech on this great, grave and important matter, I was reminded of the old classical saying which says: "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. "If one looks at the situation that faces not only this country but every country to-day, one can only think that the world is rapidly developing into a world-wide madhouse.

It is true that the White Paper does not give us many surprises—the noble Lord seemed to be rather proud of that fact—but we have had announcements from time to time in White Papers which were usually post-statements to those which had already been made by staff officers in high positions. That has been one of the great errors of the present Government in the last six years. I notice the noble Lord smiles at that, and the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty is quite amused. However, it is rather significant that when we debated Defence on January 22, I quoted from statements made by Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein in 1954, and I am glad to say that The Times, in its staggering, leading article against the Government's Defence policy only a week ago to-clay, quoted the same passages from the Field-Marshal's statement and around them largely built its case against the Government's general policy on Defence.

Up to the present we have had no real answer to The Times. I have read most carefully the debates in another place and I must say that I still want the answer to what is postulated in the title of that article, "Defence is Defence." I think that what is suggested by that is that at present our Defence policy is about as near suicidal as possible. That is not something new in our minds, nor is it something new in the minds of other people in the world. I am sure that a good many of your Lordships who have taken the trouble for many years to study in detail all the growing and multiplying problems of Defence have taken the opportunity to read the book published last year by Henry Kissinger entitled, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. In that book one finds that we in this country have been misled into adopting the wrong policy, probably as nearly all the other members of the N.,A.T.O. have been misled, by placing far too great a reliance and for too long a period, upon the deterrent power of the nuclear weapon and its possession.

Although this White Paper lays emphasis upon the fact that we must be prepared to defend upon the ground the borders and boundaries of our territories, in consequence of pursuing the policy I have just mentioned we have never been able to build up even the minimum requirements in conventional land, naval and air forces such as N.A.T.O. would need for the fight to hold, even for a period, any major attack from the major enemy. That is the fact.

If your Lordships look at Kissinger's book (which is, by the way, written by him individually after a most notable study of experts, about twenty-five or twenty-six people, and certainly seems to have been most carefully documented all the way through) you will see that he says: These trends…have placed the defence of Europe, and with it the strategic balance of the world, in, great peril. The threat of an all-out war may have been effective in forestalling a Soviet onslaught on Europe in 1950–51; its risks have been radically altered by the growing Soviet nuclear stockpile and long-range air force. A strategy which requires us to maintain the strategic balance by the threat of suicide"— so we are not by any means the first to use this word— places a disproportionate psychological burden on us"— that is, upon the United States— An alliance which relies completely on the protection promised by only one of its members amounts to a unilateral guarantee.

It goes on to say that, as a consequence, as a political organisation N.A.T.O. is at a testing time. As a political organisation it may retain a measure of validity, but as a military grouping it will prove ineffective. In every crisis it will force us either to resort to a suicidal nuclear war which would not save Europe from being overrun, or"— for the United States— to violate"— its— solemn pledge. These are not ill-considered words, or words written without long and continued and expert study. Whilst it is perfectly true and sound to say, as Sir Winston Churchill often said in the period between 1945 and 1951, that the possession at that time by the United States of the atomic weapon—the only country that did possess it—provided a deterrent, and by providing a deterrent such a safeguard against any immediate and major war as to keep people's minds at rest to a great extent and to influence the amount of other armaments required, what has happened since? Do not let us mince words about this. One has only to read the Press as printed in New York and the United States at the time of the launching of the first Sputnik to see the complete funk in which so many people were; and they have been anxious ever since to try to match the Sputnik with the one projecting power that they have proved they possess. And even long before that, from the records of the earlier test explosions in the U.S.S.R., no one could be certain any more than the possession by the United States of America of a considerable stockpile of these weapons was going to give complete security to the nations of Europe.

What has happened during those years? I fought Her Majesty's Government on the fact that it took so long for them to analyse the situation and the way it had changed, and even to produce the changed policy which they now have, with much of which I do not agree. Year after year from this Box, from 1952 to 1955, we implored Her Majesty's Government, in view of the changing scene in the world armaments position, to have a really detailed national inquiry into the direction in which armaments of the future ought to go. We were never given any satisfaction. The only bits of information that we had came from unguided and unguarded references to future policy by chief Staff Officers of N.A.T.O. and the like—until we get the final break, hinted at in the White Paper of 1955 and produced in the 1956 Paper. How much more security-minded is this or any other country in the N.A.T.O. organisation as a result of this declaration of British policy? Wherever I go I find that there is a greater fear and greater anxiety. With each step we take, it seems to me, as I meet the people—anxious as I am for them not to have these fears—their fears are increased.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, spoke as if we were all pretty foolish to take the line that we have taken about the recent agreement, most of which, apparently, was all settled at Bermuda, nearly twelve months ago, between Mr. Macmillan and his opposite number there—and the country did not know very much about it at the time. I can assure the noble Lord that the question of these missile bases is giving rise to great anxiety in all the Eastern Counties of this country. Her Majesty's Government have not only released the fact that they are to construct these bases at once but, broadly speaking, are also telling the area in which the bases are to be. I do not want to overstress this aspect from my own point of view. I know too much of the detail of how defence works in this country to be any more alarmed than I was before; for I know that our bomber bases are not dissimilarly placed. All that Her Majesty's Government have done is perhaps to increase the incentive that a potential enemy might have to attack with megaton bombs in that area. But when I read statements of the kind made about the extra security provided through our having the deterrent, all I can say is that I fail to understand them.

The actual potential destructive power of the weapon which undoubtedly could be used now is almost unbelievable, until one reckons it out. But the book I have mentioned says, after a most careful study by experts, that twenty megaton bombs on this country would destroy one-half of the British population. So unless we are prepared to immolate on the altar of sacrifice one half of our population, we have to be very careful what kind of international policy we have; what we are going to do in any negotiations, and before we threaten to be the first to launch that weapon whether or not we are attacked only by conventional weapons.


My Lords, may we get this point clear early in the debate, because it is rather important? I had understood from the Leader of the noble Viscount's Party that they were in favour of the deterrent and in favour of having rocket bases in this country, provided that they were under British control. Is he now questioning from that Bench that whole policy?


My Lords, I will come to that in a moment. What I am concerned about is the smug (if I may use that term, which I hope is not offensive) and complacent attitude being adopted by Conservatives in this matter and about the effect. of their policy. I am not saying at all that I want to be without the possession of a deterrent: I have never said so. But I am entitled to question the policy in this White Paper of threatening to use it and of being the first to use it in a given struggle. That is what I am protesting against, and that is part of the policy set out in this White Paper. I say that we have to be exceedingly careful before we even broach action of that kind, by words or, later, by deeds, without having considered what is likely to be the loss to our own country and our own population. Perhaps sufficient attention has not yet been given to that aspect of the question, about which I feel anxious. But certainly I have always been anxious that we should not be left without the deterrent or without a reply to the bomb if it was first used against us.

I have, however, been concerned about the policy of Her Majesty's Government from the moment they released the fact that in this so-called "grey" aspect of atomic warfare they were to use tactical weapons which were atomic. Under cross-examination, the Minister of Defence said in another place that a weapon would certainly be regarded as a tactical weapon if it was not greater than the weight of the Hiroshima bomb. A tactical weapon! What an amazing thing that was! Is there anybody who believes that we could possibly have an entirely "grey" period instead of black or white warfare in between, as a result of which we could then make further decisions? Of course, directly we launch an attack of that kind we shall be met by the immediate rejoinder from the other side of fissionable nuclear weapons—and we shall have asked for it. Yet that is the policy to which Her Majesty's Government are committed; and I believe that it is a very difficult situation for this country, or for the world to have to face.

If I go back to this book I find all kinds of documentation from our own Hansard. And on looking up a speech which is quoted I find that as recently as February 28, 1956, Sir Walter Monckton (as he then was: now the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, a Member of your Lordships' own House), said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 549, col. 1035]: I am far from saying that any aggressive move against the West would inevitably be countered by the use of the hydrogen bomb. That was less than two years ago. He continued: One cannot be specific in a matter of this kind"—


Hear, hear!


My Lords, I said to my colleagues just now, "Lord Mancroft is using the exact words of Sir Walter Monckton in another place in 1956," and I am glad that he is cheering him. Sir Walter continued: but one can imagine circumstances in which local aggression might be dealt with quite effectively by local retaliation. One cannot say that retaliation would not involve the tactical use of atomic weapons. It is this country, above all others, which has put itself, under this Government, into the forefront of saying, "We will use the atomic weapon in tactical and local warfare"—that is the atomic, not the hydrogen, bomb. And no one is going to question that, if this country is drawn into a major war, the reply to the atomic weapon used in a tactical sense will be-the use of the full-scale weapon on the other side. That is how one would be drawn into it. I feel that we have been very inconsiderately treated in this matter by the Government's policy.

There is something else that I should like to say. We had our debate in this House on January 22 on the basis of the Report that was made to us of the meeting of the Chiefs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council, the heads of the different states. Although the language of that Report was very guarded, it was quite clear that there was going to be a distribution to any of the countries in N.A.T.O. of the "know-how" on the use of atomic material, fissionable material, and also of stocks and supplies of these different grades of nuclear weapons. We have the case, mentioned in this book, from which I have already quoted, of France. Some of your Lordships may remember that in 1955 France declared quite specifically that she would not engage in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. But it was not long before the pressure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation got her away from that. I will quote from a speech made by the then Prime Minister, Monsieur Guy Mollet, on July 13, 1955. He said to the National Assembly: The Government's position is as follows: France commits itself not to explode a bomb of the atomic type before January 1, 1961. Taking into account the delays for research and for construction…this moratorium will not occasion any delay in France's nuclear programme. At its termination we will be at liberty to pursue independent policies…During the period of the moratorium it can pursue research with respect to military applications. Nothing prevents it from orienting its efforts toward military purposes… And so, within a few months of the declaration that the French would not manufacture atomic weapons, it became abundantly clear that France was already engaged in research for the production of the military weapon.

Then take the other point which must be kept in mind. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, spoke about the way in which our ground forces would have to hold the position, as I understood it, in almost any part of the world until such time as the Government had made up their mind whether the particular incident justified the opening of nuclear warfare. You must bear in mind that the use of nuclear weapons in the future may surprise some. Many people, of course, have considered the use of these weapons. And concurrently with the wider spreading of the "know-how" about the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes there is a storing up of a supply of plutonium from which it would be an easy matter for one of the countries which has never yet touched the making of the weapon to go on to the manufacture of the nuclear bomb itself.

Some people have doubted whether that is possible. I do not believe for a moment that it is impossible. Certainly, France has been using nuclear energy for non-warlike purposes, and it is estimated, I believe, that she produces now about fifteen kilograms of plutonium annually, and in a very short time she would have a sufficient stockpile of that to be able to manufacture several hydrogen bombs. That is the fact which has been inquired into and estimated. Bear in mind the way in which this power is going to be made available for non-warlike methods, and then consider the position of Japan. China, the Eastern States and States all over the world—many of the areas in which we are likely to have to put some of our very small and what may become beleaguered forces in far-flung places. What are you going to do if there is a danger which you are not quite sure about that the nuclear weapon will be used? I think a false beginning was made in the statement as to what we ought to be doing, from a warfare point of view, in this matter.

The other matter which I should like to mention is one which perhaps we can deal with in more detail in the debate on foreign affairs next week. There is this to consider: it was a Western nation which first sprang this weapon on the world as a great surprise, and it must not be forgotten that half the world have never recovered from the fact that that came from a Western democracy. We ought to be exceedingly careful as to how we proceed if we are to prevent at this moment—this supreme moment in the history of the world—countries which are not yet committed to alliance with and support of the tyranny of a Communist dictatorship from rising up behind Russia. Because we are not making sufficient advance in getting rid of the commitment we made to the world in 1945 at the time of the Hiroshima incident, and not coming to an agreement on a world basis to rid the world of this Horror, this dreadful thing, which makes every mother afraid of what the future for her children is going to be. That is the position, and the way in which the Government calmly declare their position on the use of this bomb really rather shocks me.

My own position is that I would not, from my experience of defence, ever want to allow my country to become in a position in which she was not in possession of equal weapons with other countries. I am not at all in favour of the policy of saying, "Do not let us manufacture these weapons and do not let us have a stockpile." I am not saying that at all. I ant saying that you are making a vast error in threatening the other side in advance that whether they attack you with conventional weapons or not, you will reply to them with this bomb. In dealing with all the great, growing and important Eastern nations, that is going to count absolutely decisively in how far they will be drawn to your side or whether they will be against you and on the side of the Communists. That is a vastly important point for us to remember.

I do not want to take too much of your Lordships' time, but I have two other questions with which I wish to deal. I wanted to deal with many more, but have colleagues who will be speaking after me and they can pick up those points. I will turn, therefore, from the first point in our Amendment, which I will leave with this comment: that we think you are placing too much dependence upon the deterrent factor of America's overwhelming possession of the bomb, because circumstances have entirely changed in the last six years. You are depending too much on that and you are not (to use the words of The Times) adequately making provision in other respects for the defence of the Commonwealth.

Now let us look for a moment or two at the results. The noble Earl the Leader of the House has already said that Labour has made it quite clear that it is not against having American air forces based here, under conditions, and that, in a similar way, it is not against having missile bases here, if there is going to be a really adequate provision about the control of the trigger. I am not at all sure that we ought to feel much reliance on these new technical resources if they take ten, twelve or fourteen hours to prepare before they can be launched with safety, even for the people who are launching them—though, of course, that all depends on the work of the future.

But a time when so many more people in the world are waking up more effectively to the frightful danger of the use of these weapons, I should have thought, was exactly the wrong time to insist on laying down these bases at once and not to await the outcome of the efforts that are being made to call a Summit conference to try to get a beginning of disarmament. There is one matter in the White Paper on which I can congratulate the noble Lord—that is, the paragraph on disarmament. The logical case set out there as to how the Government should proceed and what matters should be covered in an agreement is one with which I agree entirely. The Government may find that they will not be able to hold to every dotted "i" and crossed "t" in the statement made in that section of the White Paper, when they come to negotiations with other parties; nevertheless, it is the kind of statement of what we want to secure in disarmament of which I approve.

But at a time when we are trying to get to grips in negotiations with the other side, why consider the further irritation of saying, "Lay down these bases at once." It would take very little time to catch up on this work after the Disarmament Conference, if it were a complete failure. I think that the Government would save more time by doing that. If we are going to use American missiles, we shall have to construct bases of a certain kind, and then, when we have gained possession of the new British missiles, which apparently are quite a long way off yet from operational performance, we shall have to build an entirely new kind of base, so I am told. Why cannot the Government give us what we want on that point and suspend the building of bases until it has been settled whether or not we are going to have an effective and fruitful conference with the people on the other side? That is all we ask, and I think that it is a completely reasonable request to make. I think that the Government should follow up what they have already agreed, at least in part (I am speaking from memory), with regard to the suspension tests if tests if the other side will suspend "them also.

With regard to the Commonwealth, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, did not state at all too highly the value of the soldier, sailor and airman in the future defence of our home and our Commonwealth. We can never rate that too highly. But I wonder whether the Government are laying before the country a programme which is really going to be effective, even for doing the peace-time jobs that fall to the Services in defending not only our own country but all the scattered, far-flung links of our Commonwealth. It is a tragic thing for me to read in the White Paper what the naval forces are to be and where they are to be disposed. They are completely inadequate for their peace-time job, let alone for a war-time job. We are to have four cruisers in commission, possibly two full aircraft carriers, one remodelled for helicopter work and maybe another in reserve or under repair. Then there is the question of destroyers—but I will reserve that for the naval debate. I ought not to go into details on each of the Services, but I use this part of the White Paper on naval defence to show that the provision is so inadequate, from my knowledge of the Navy, even for peacetime circumstances, as to be an extraordinary demonstration of what the Government think to be really necessary.

We have been through these phases before, I know. What we should have done in this country in regard to the anti-submarine campaign if we had not had in reserve our V's and W's and other classes of anti-submarine ships in 1940, I shudder to think. But we are getting rid of a large part of the Reserve. We are to have only enough ships in reserve to be able to supply gaps or vacancies in the small force we are going to display at sea in the East and the Mediterranean. Has the Commonwealth been fully consulted about this matter? I have read many of the speeches of the Prime Minister since he came back from his Empire tour and I would ask: have the Commonwealth countries agreed that we are doing our part in Commonwealth defence? I should doubt very much whether they would agree with that. At any rate, it is most significant that there has been no statement on the matter either from the Admiralty or from the Prime Minister since his return. I think that the position is serious. Anybody who knows about the detailed work of the Navy and calls made upon it from all sides in peace time, with all the little disturbances occurring here and there, knows that what the Royal Navy does for us can never be fully written up.

In the falling value of the pound we get a key which answers some of the points that the noble Lord has been making, in which he prides himself on what is being done in providing modern weapons in this, that and the other direction. The fact is that this White Paper presents a Bill to the nation for barely three-quarters of the force we were providing for in 1951. If we take the figure of £1,420 million from the White Paper and recognise that a pound to-day is worth only 15s. 6d. compared with its value in 1951, the Government are not buying a very big force, are they? What is the use of the noble Lord saying that if we scrapped all the nuclear and atomic programme we should save only one-fifth of our defence budget? In actual net amount, we are paying, in terms of 1951 currency, £1,105 million, not £1,420 million. And knowing that we are committed to increasing the administrative personnel costs per head in the next two or three years, we know that the equipment of the Forces will be even more restricted. I am bound to say that I am disappointed in the effort the Government are making for the proper defence of Britain and the Commonwealth. Perhaps I may have some more to say about the details on the Services Estimates when they come up for debate.

I am horrified at the idea that we are going to cut and cut in this way for the next two or three years. We have got ourselves into such an economic position over the last six years that the pound has fallen to 15s. 6d. in value, because the Government in their economic policy have been so foolish as to let everybody go "free for all"—"free from controls, spend what you like, put up the hire purchase"—and have then come back and tried to cut it down, because that course has increased the overall cost of production. Now the first thing to suffer, apparently, is the defence of our country. I wondered this morning, and I wondered last night when I was thinking about it, whether the position in which we are allowing our affairs to pass politically, economically and militarily was the reason why we were passed over in the Note from the Soviet.

Amendment moved— Leave out all words after ("House") and insert ("declines to approve a defence policy which relies predominantly upon the threat of thermo-nuclear warfare, insists on the installation of strategic rocket bases in Britain before the projected summit talks, and fails to provide effectively for the defence requirements of Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth.")—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, while I have listened with great interest and sympathy to the points made by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition in support of his Amendment, I cannot help feeling that, behind his tactics, there is a sort of indication of his Party's mistrust or disapproval of the function of a Second Chamber—an institution which, in principle, I support and approve—because I think he has brought before your Lordships a criticism identical in every word with the Amendment brought forward by the Labour Party in another place only a few days ago. In that other place, as your Lordships know, it was defeated, and I confess that I find it difficult to see much real value in bringing the corpse before your Lordships to be even more decisively drawn and quartered, after it has been hanged in the House of Commons. Worried and mistrustful as I confess I am about Her Majesty's Government's proposals and contentions, it strikes me as perhaps a little unfortunate that the protest which failed in another place should so quickly be shown to the whole world as having failed even more drastically—as it will fail—on immediate reconsideration by the Second Chamber of the British Parliament.

Apart from that, neither can I support the substantive Motion, because I feel that both the Report on Defence and the present activities of Her Majesty' Government do not hold out enough assurance of a vigorous and effective action to stop the present arms race or to limit the further production of nuclear weapons to the two great Powers who can afford this suicidal luxury—for we cannot afford it. We all, of course, support the declared aim of Her Majesty's Government of comprehensive disarmament, for it is based on a realisation that any war of the future will be in no way comparable with past wars. Noble as it may sound to say that we shall fight for our future with our backs to the wall and in every village street, there will, of course, in a nuclear war, be (generally speaking) no walls, no streets, no fighting and no future. The horrific nature of nuclear warfare allows of no such compromise as the unconquered laws of nature afforded us in the past; the obstacles of distance and time and the limitation of destruction have all been virtually overcome.

I find myself in the difficult position (and who is not in a difficult position in this matter?) of seeing the whole problem in this way. Our defence cannot possibly be a passive defence; it must connote counter-attack. This means that, if hostilities start, either our enemies or we ourselves will let off an offensive nuclear weapon; and the other side must and will retaliate. The result may well be not only the end of 10,000 years of civilisation and culture, but also the setting back of human existence to the standards of primitive man for those few who are spared to live or, perhaps I should say, exist. Do we therefore agree that, rather than take any risk of the temporary triumph of an ideology which we totally dislike for the period of perhaps a generation or so—as has happened before in the military history of this country—we will be a party to sacrificing not only ourselves personally, as was the case in the past, but also our women and our children, our grandchildren and their descendants, and all mankind, perhaps for ever or for thousands of years, just by participating in letting off a nuclear weapon? In my own conscience and in my heart I feel that, theoretically, the only genuine answer is probably unilateral disarmament and taking a magnificent lead in setting an example to the world of putting principle before all else.

But, my Lords, we are not in this House individual arbiters of ideal conduct: we are here as representatives of the people of this country, no matter whether we are an elected or a non-elected body. And I am convinced that this nation, like every other nation, has not reached the Christian or ethical ideal of true altruism, and therefore we must compromise with such good consciences as we can muster. I would therefore beg that in our progress we should not seek the rôle of leadership, or even of equality, in matters of warlike preparation, but that we should seek primarily, urgently and continuously, to regain the traditional leadership of this great country of ours, by taking the first place among all nations of the world in the path towards peace and stability, and prosperity and freedom from fear. This we can do, at present, only through international co-operation and the production of good will among all nations whose varying characteristics debar us from being one entity but whose better nature can surely be co-ordinated.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to intervene for only a few minutes in a debate which, though not relevant to a good deal of my work, is, on the whole, one that I could not allow to pass without raising my voice in some way. I want to make it clear at the outset that I do not represent the Church, in which I hold a responsible office; nor do I represent any other opinion than my own. I must also emphasise that I am not speaking from any Party political allegiance—and I do not mean by that any disparagement of Party politics.

My first point is that in a matter of this kind, which is so vital to all the people of our country and to many other peoples, a matter which is so grave and serious, I feel that the greatest hope of advance and the first step forward should be to lift this question of national defence right up above the divisions of Party politics. In saying that, I hope that I shall not be regarded as saying anything in a dictatorial way to responsible bodies of people. I want to express my sincere conviction that national defence must, if it is to be effective, have the support of the people as a whole; and it can have that only if the major political Parties are able to find a policy which they can both support.

Apart from the grave anxiety which prevails widely in the country through this division of opinion amongst our leaders, there are two other considerations that I should like to submit. I believe that the continuance of division of opinion with regard to this matter is a serious threat to democracy itself; to the democratic way of government. We have to realise to-day that there are a great many young men and women who have grown to maturity and who have little recollection of the last war. They are sorely agitated and bewildered by the kind of world in which they find themselves. We sometimes hear them referred to as "angry young men." There are not so many "angry young men," but there are a great many agitated young men. They are agitated principally over this question of peace or war, and they are looking to their leaders to try to discover a policy which offers a hope. They know that no policy from this country will offer much hope unless it has the support of the vast majority of the people represented by the various Parties.

I would plead for the lifting of national defence above Party politics, because I believe that British influence in the councils of the nations can never be really effective so long as we are divided on this matter. It is not for me to suggest how the difficulty of lifting it on to a new level can be overcome, but in passing I would recall that in the early part of this century there existed an Imperial Committee of Defence which tried to achieve this very thing of lifting defence above the level of Party politics. I suggest that it might be worth while to look at the causes which brought that Committee into being.

My second point is this. Great as is the danger of nuclear destructive power, it is being rendered more dangerous by being pinpointed as the one deadly threat of our time. It is obsessing the minds of men. It is paralysing hearts through fear of colossal devastation and suffering. There is developing a kind of mental fixation and emotional concentration upon the H-bomb, with a growing feeling that if only we could get rid of that it would be permissible and possible to engage in some kind of war where only conventional weapons were used, and that such a war would be more or less respectable. I think we must recognise to-day that we are not confronted just with the problem of getting rid of nuclear weapons; we are confronted with the problem of getting rid of war. It is not the banning of weapons but the banning of war that would offer hope to mankind. For let us be reasonably well assured that if war breaks out on any moderately large scale, whatever agreements may have been made previously about banning nuclear weapons, as sure as day follows night nuclear weapons will be developed and used. I am not being cynical, I hope, about human nature, and I think that what I am saying is true to life. Would anyone suggest that towards the end of the last war Hitler would have refused to use nuclear weapons if he had had them, and even if he had signed an agreement not to use them?

We have been reminded this afternoon that a nuclear weapon, or an atom bomb, was used. We ought never to forget that, for it gives us an insight into what we are capable of when our backs are to the wall. I believe that any nation, no matter what it agrees to beforehand, will, when its back is to the wall in time of war, resort to any means of defence that it can make or secure. Therefore I want to see this kind of debate on defence lifted right up and related to what are the alternatives before mankind—not peace or the abolition of certain weapons, but peace or deadly destructive warfare. I believe that it is a choice between peace and destruction that confronts mankind to-day.

While politicians must deal with ad hoc situations, I should hope that they would keep clearly before their minds that weapons are secondary to a policy that is pursuing peace. It is the positive pursuit of peace that we need at this moment to liberate men's minds from fear. If we are going to pursue peace positively, far more attention, in my submission, will have to be given to a study of the causes of war. Racialism, nationalism and national aggrandisement, economic insecurity, gross inequalities confronting a great many people in different countries—those are some of the material causes of war; and no defence policy that is not thinking in terms of the causes that lead people into aggression can be effective.

There is room for more thinking about this aspect, but I would not stop there, on the material plane only. I have listened with almost increasing horror at various times to the combination of weapons of war that can be produced to-day. We all shudder. I wish I could say that I was a pacifist; but I cannot. That is too simple an explanation. I wish I could say that if the H-bomb is banned that will get us on the road to peace. But I do not believe that that is enough. I believe that we have to be giving new thought entirely to the causes that pro duce war—the material causes that I have mentioned. I cannot sit down without adding that there are other causes besides the material causes that produce war. There is the lust of power, the lust for possession, the lust for selfish aggrandisement and the lust for domination. These must be fully reckoned with in the positive pursuit of peace.

I should like to see peace pursued with a new devotion to the task of discovering the causes of war, with a new devotion to approach every problem with the yardstick of justice by which to measure every situation; and I would wish to see it approached with a new appreciation of the importance of spiritual values and not solely concentrating upon the material things that cause war. At the opening of this Session I read in the Sacred Writings these words: He shall judge the folk righteously, judging righteously every situation that confronts men and nations. He shall judge the folk righteously and then govern the nations upon earth.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships have all been very interested in the speech of the right reverend Prelate who has just sat down. He suggested that it might be possible to lift the question of defence out of Party politics, with which view I certainly agree, and I commend it not only to Her Majesty's Government but also to noble Lords opposite. The right reverend Prelate also went on to say that there is a generation of young men growing up with a fixation on the problem of nuclear weapons, and I think perhaps one can get back, as he says, to conventional weapons; that is a point I will deal with a little later on.

May I suggest that perhaps by far the most important statements in this admirable White Paper on defence are to be found in paragraphs 8 and 9? It is laid down quite clearly in those two paragraphs that our ultimate aim must be comprehensive disarmament by all nations coupled with inspection and control by a world authority. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, rather cast an aspersion on Her Majesty's Government, especially on the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who opened the debate, when he said that the noble Lord was rather over-confident in his speech about defence and disarmament. But I am sure none of us would underrate the practical difficulties of reaching an agreement and enforcing it.

May I draw your Lordships' attention to the words of warning in the White Paper? What does it say in paragraph 9? It says: If the safety of humanity is not to be imperilled, great care must be taken to maintain, at each successive stage, the balance of military power and deterrents which, for the present, constitute almost the sole safeguard of peace". Those are very important words indeed, and I fully support the policy of Her Majesty's Government in maintaining this balance of power right up to a possible Summit conference and also, if some agreement is obtained, after that has been arranged, otherwise it would be most dangerous indeed. I think I am right in saying that the noble Lords opposite favour the plan of not proceeding with the establishment of rocket bases until such time as a Summit conference can be convened. Surely this is a mistaken view. The Russians are certainly not halting their plans in installing rocket bases. If we were to weaken in our resolve to maintain the balance of nuclear power it would lead to a tightening of the Russian screw. We must maintain this balance of power in the nuclear field, because we cannot do so with conventional weapons. If we are to get some form of disarmament agreement we must include limitation of conventional weapons, otherwise the Russians would be able to sweep through Europe at will.

In some quarters fears have been expressed that it might be difficult to decide what would constitute a major attack by conventional weapons, which, of course, under present N.A.T.O. organisation would mean retaliation by nuclear weapons. I think it is true to say that no major attack could be launched by Russia without a considerable build-up which would become known to us and might extend over two months and possibly three months. That would give time for us to make clear to Russia without any shadow of doubt that we intended to use our full nuclear power in the event of attack, either with tactical atomic weapons or strategic bombs or both. There are those people who would like suspension of nuclear tests. Surely unless there is some string attached to this a suspension of tests by itself would have very little value indeed. I suggest that suspension must include cessation of production of atomic material for war purposes, coupled with inspection and control of existing stocks. Without these controls it would be useless and dangerous.

I am sure we are all delighted to know that a Summit conference appears now more likely, at which it is hoped that some kind of nuclear disarmament agreement may be negotiated. I suggest that the problem day by day becomes far more urgent, because there is certainly in the future the danger that nuclear weapons might find their way into the hands of irresponsible Governments. From time to time one cannot help feeling very despondent about this question of disarmament. But perhaps it might be even possible to make use of the strategy which is shown to us in the Greek Comedy Lysistrata, although I fear that the rulers of the world are perhaps a little too old to be appealed to by it.

In some quarters it is strongly held that we should not contribute to the deterrent at all. I may be wrong, but I rather think that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, is inclining towards that view. Do these people really mean that they are prepared to accept the shelter of the United States while at the same time considering that any participation by us would be immoral? Surely this view is completely dishonourable, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft.


My Lords, the noble Lord must not associate me with that view.


I am very glad for the correction. Surely the view of those people is completely dishonourable and in any case would in no way lessen the risk for this country. On the contrary, I should say it would increase it. The N.A.T.O. organisation would be destroyed and Communist aggression would be free to mop up each country one by one. Does the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, really suggest that we should spend £1,000 million more on conventional weapons in order to get some kind of parity with the conventional weapons of Russia? Where does he think the money is coming from? Should the social services be cut? I should like an answer to that question.

If the deterrent is to be employed by the N.A.T.O. countries it must obviously be deployed in the most efficient manner. Let us look at the tactical situation for a moment. I think it is true to say that an are of a circle passing through Norway, the East coast of Britain, North-East France and Greece and Turkey has a radius of some 1,500 miles from Moscow. I need hardly point out that all those countries are in the N.A.T.O. organisation and with intermediate ballistic rockets stationed on the are of this circle they would be able to concentrate on the heart of Russia, whereas Russia would have to disperse her fire if she wished to silence all rocket attacks. There is every military reason why rocket stations should be set up in the N.A.T.O. countries, but I hope we may in the near future be able to provide submarines, either nuclear or otherwise, fitted with laurelling platforms for these guided missiles.

Let us also be quite clear about the present position of the United States in the rocket field. I would say that it is unlikely for some years that she will be able to build up a stock of intercontinental rockets with the necessary range of something like 5,000 or 6,000 miles, and in any case their accuracy will for some time to come be very limited. The fact is that America does not come into this rocket business at all unless we throw up our hands and allow her to make the intermediate rockets for us and also to man them in the N.A.T.O. countries, and surely that is not the wish of the majority of people in this country. I am sure many of us are aware of the very grave danger of a "Peace at any price" campaign sweeping through the country. In between the wars, many of us will remember that a university passed a resolution that they would not fight for King or country. Only last night at Oxford, in the Town Hall, we had something of the game kind brewing. I trust we shall never see the like again, because such an attitude is deadly dangerous and may very well increase the risk that people are trying to avoid, because Russia may feel that we are becoming a decadent race. I trust that Her Majesty's Government will do all they can to educate the people of the country to be firm in their resolve to maintain their ideals and the safety of the free world.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords. I cannot rival the expert knowledge of many of your Lordships who will be taking part in this debate to-day and to-morrow, but perhaps I may be excused in asking your indulgence for a maiden speech on the ground that this is an important subject—in fact, one of vital importance to every man, woman and child in the country. It is a regrettable fact that ever since the last war the world has been divided into two main power groups. The Soviet bloc has certain advantages in warfare, whether it be hot or cold, over the democratic countries. Decisions once taken can be ruthlessly carried out; an unsuccessful policy can be swiftly changed without any publicity from a free Press or without the criticism of a watchful Opposition; manpower and resources can be concentrated on desired objectives without regard to the choice of the consumer—all this backed by a Communist ideology, which believes in the ultimate destruction of all other forms of government.

Against that are the freedom-loving countries, grouped in various alliances and with all the corresponding disadvantages of the fact that they are independent and not autocratically directed. It seems to me, therefore, that if we are going to have a realistic defence policy we must be as strong and united as we possibly can be in those alliances. I see the only hope of arriving at a businesslike and workable peace, or any proper form of disarmament, in a strong and united alliance of free countries negotiating directly with Russia. I feel that any disunity in our ranks will only be interpreted as a weakness. So far as this country is concerned, therefore, I feel that we must make the greatest possible contribution to the defensive alliances of which we are members—N.A.T.O., the Baghdad Pact and S.E.A.T.O. The strength of those alliances depends obviously upon the sum strength of the nations that form them. I feel that we should make the greatest possible contribution within our powers, even at the cost of certain sacrifices. After all, greater social benefits will be of little use to the people of this country if we become a Soviet satellite.

It is very easy on emotional grounds to make a popular appeal to ban the use of the hydrogen bomb. Equally, it is a political attraction, in that one feels that this country might be taking a lead and not following in the footsteps of either of the two other great Powers. It seems to me, however, that in the very fact that we should not be walking hand in hand and step by step with our Allies, and particularly our American Allies, we should be endangering the whole of our system of defence. We should not forget that it is equally easy to make an emotional appeal to various sections of the population of America, and to put it to them: Why should they send their troops overseas? Why should they pay so much for the defence of other nations overseas if those nations are not going to help themselves? Fortunately, there are statesmen in Washington and Westminster who see the danger of any loosening of the Western Alliance; but I feel that the renunciation by this country of thermo-nuclear warfare, or further drastic cuts in our defence expenditure, would be playing into the hands of the American isolationists and would seriously weaken those defensive alliances on which our very existence depends. What right have we to expect America to underwrite the defence of Europe unless we are going to help ourselves to the greatest possible degree? We have great responsibilities in the world on our own account, as a member of the Commonwealth and in alliance with our Allies, and I feel that we must retain the power to discharge those responsibilities in the modern world. To my mind, that means the use of thermo-nuclear weapons.

It has been said that this country cannot be both a great Power and a great Welfare State, but to my mind we must at least be a sufficiently great Power if we are going to remain even an independent State. It seems to me that the Government's defence policy strikes as far as possible, the correct balance in the means that we can afford to devote to our defensive preparations. Economies are necessary, and they have been made in our conventional forces where, on the face of it, owing to our size, we can make less contribution to the common defence, while concentrating on those nuclear Weapons which continue to give us as powerful a say, if not a more powerful say, in our mutual defence. I would only express the hope that Her Majesty's Government in their nuclear research pro- gramme are working as closely as possible with our Allies, especially our American Allies, in order that we can get the most out of, and make the maximum contribution to, our joint defence.

I am not impressed by the part of the Amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, which says that this House declines to accept the installation of strategic rocket bases in Britain before the projected Summit talks. I do not feel that that is going to weigh very strongly with the Soviet leaders, and I certainly cannot imagine the Supreme Soviet discussing any such unilateral gesture of appeasement. Finally, I should like to support what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle. This is such an important and vital subject for this country that I regret greatly that the suggestion originally made, I think, by a distinguished member of the Opposition in another place, is not accepted, and that we cannot take the whole of the subject out of Party politics.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will allow me to say how happy I am that it is my lot to be the first to congratulate him on what was a certainly notable maiden speech. The noble Lord has given us, in very brief compass, a great deal to think about. I hope in a few moments to elaborate upon some of his points, but everything that he said seemed to me, and I am sure it must have seemed to your Lordships, to be thoughtful, penetrating, balanced and wise. We well remember the noble Lord's father for the grace and vigour of his manhood, and even more for his long record of public service—a form of public service devoted above all, I suppose, to preserving our greatest national asset: the vigour and character of our youth. I know that I speak for all of your Lordships when I say that we shall look forward with the very greatest anticipation and eagerness to the noble Lord's intervention in future debates.

It seems to me to be one of the unhappiest aspects of human life that we can never learn by other people's experience; but what seems to me to be particularly unfortunate in our present predicament is that, judging by what one reads in the Press, judging by the mass meetings, the processions, the ballots and all the rest of it, we cannot even learn anything from our own. In many respects the pattern of the inter-war years is being repeated. Yet for some sections—highly vocal sections—of our people it seems as though those years had never been. Twenty-five years ago, in 1933, the British people, in an agony of apprehension at the prospect of mass aerial bombardment on a scale never experienced before, lay down on its back, with its four paws in the air, in the belief that by adopting such an ingratiating attitude the danger would be averted. As the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said just now, we seem in some peril, at any rate, of making the same mistake to-day.

Of course, to-day everything is not the same, happily. Twenty-five years ago the Leader of the Opposition was a respected and respectable pacifist. The present Leader of the Opposition is not a pacifist. If I may say so, with respect, he is a man far more conscious of the realities of the world situation than ever Mr. George Lansbury was. And the attitude of the official Opposition towards defence is very different to-day from what it was then. The Opposition, like Her Majesty's Government, are committed to the hydrogen bomb and to United States bases. It is a picture very different from that of twenty-five years ago, when, in effect, the Opposition denied the need for armaments at all. We must be infinitely grateful for the difference.

Yes, my Lords, there are differences between the conditions to-day and conditions as they obtained at the time of the East Fulham by-election twenty-five years ago. But though there are differences, there is a striking and dangerous similarity in the climate of opinion. If Press reports and debates in another place mean anything, it would seem as though there is a very considerable body of opinion seeking to contract out of danger to-day, just as it sought to contract out of danger twenty-five years ago. It cannot be done. If the danger is there, it is no use just turning one's back on it, turning up one's coat collar and believing that, if one does not look at it, it will disappear. The impression given by public opinion in this country twenty-five years ago was an entirely false impression. It was belied by events, and I have no doubt at all that it is equally a false impression to-day. But the fact remains that it is the impression which creates the immediate effect, rather than the reality behind it.

Your Lordships will have seen in the Press a day or two ago the comment of an American commentator, Mr. Joseph Alsop. It was a shocking and offensive comment. He said that London seemed to be "stinking of defeat". But what we ought to remember is, as I believe I am right in saying, that Mr. Alsop has always been a firm friend of this country. He still is. What we have to consider is this: if that is the kind of impression we are making on our friends, what kind of impression are we making on our enemies? It seems to me that there are signs of the same kind of panic that we remember from the inter-war years. Panic and fear are not the same thing. We must all be fearful of the present position. We must all fear the hydrogen bomb, nuclear warfare and everything that is implied by it. It is natural and desirable that we should. But the great trouble about panic is that it altogether impairs the judgment, and it seems to me that the judgment of large or, at any rate, very vocal sections of the British people is to-day in abeyance. We cannot deal with nuclear warfare by mass meetings and processions. We cannot even deal with it, I fear, by Divisions in this House or another place. We can deal with it only by seeking to bring a real judgment upon it—not just a panic judgment.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in his speech earlier in the debate, moving the Amendment, said that the Opposition were not against the idea of the hydrogen bomb as a deterrent. I would, with diffidence, submit to the noble Viscount two propositions. The first is that, in the present state of human society, if the hydrogen bomb is not a deterrent, in the sense of preventing a third world war from breaking out—if it fails to prevent that war from breaking out—it is no more of a deterrent than germ warfare or gas warfare were deterrents in the last war. They were in existence, they could be used; but the fact of their existence did not deter Hitler from overrunning Europe from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea. Unless the hydrogen bomb prevents the outbreak of war it is not a deterrent at all. That is the first proposition which I should like to put to the noble Viscount.

The second is this: if we announce that we shall use the nuclear weapon only in retaliation against the use of the nuclear weapon by the enemy, we shall, in effect, be making the use of the nuclear weapon absolutely inevitable. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle referred earlier on to what the position would have been if Hitler had possessed the nuclear weapon. He said—and I agree with him—that it was almost certain that in those last hours Hitler would have used the weapon. It does seem to me that we must accept the fact that, if a major war breaks out, someone, at some time, is going to drop the hydrogen bomb; is going to extremes. Does it not therefore follow that the only way we can prevent the use of the hydrogen bomb is to hold it as a sanction, not against the hydrogen bomb but against a major war breaking out? That is a harsh decision, but surely it is inescapable. That is the decision on which, as I understand it, the policy of N.A.T.O. is based; and I do not see how it can be avoided.


My Lords, the noble Lord has been kind enough to refer to what I have said. I would say that in any formulation of national policy resulting from the joint organisation you have to be very careful what you take as a calculable risk. What I have been pointing out to-day is that, while I am perfectly in favour of ensuring that my country is as well armed in any of the weapons as any other country, I do not like the approach contained in this White Paper, because it involves taking the calculable risk of retaliation which will kill half the population.


My Lords, I appreciate the noble Viscount's point, but it does not seem to me to be entirely valid. He is saying that we have to take a terrible risk. I agree. We have to take a terrible risk because we are in a terribly dangerous situation. There is a well-known proverb, "Fear and be slain." If ever that proverb was relevant to any people and to any situation, I believe that it is relevant to our people and to our situation to-day, and will be over the next few years.

I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments, but I should like to touch upon a point (it was his main point, I think) that was made very forcefully by the right reverend Prelate in his intervention this afternoon; it was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and it was elaborated in another place by Mr. Shinwell: that is, not only the desirability but the absolute necessity of getting this problem of defence outside Party politics. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, quoted the old tag that "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad," and he applied that to the Government. My Lords, ought we not, all of us, to apply it to ourselves? And are we not mad, insanely mad, to be kicking the hydrogen bomb about like a football in the game of Party politics? It is like children playing with loaded revolvers. Can we never grow up?

Politics in a real sense is a game; it is the greatest game in the world. But it is a game that we cannot play with this kind of toy. I do not know whether there is going to be a Division at the end of our debate; but if there is I, for one, shall go into the Lobby with a very heavy heart in support of Her Majesty's Government. My heart will be heavy not because I have doubts about the policy outlined in the White Paper; my heart will be heavy because I am beginning to feel a despair for the Parliamentary process. Democracy is a frail and uncertain growth. It has never lasted for very long. Always before it has been succeeded by tyranny; and I suppose, as a generalisation, it is fair to say that democracies in the past have failed for lack of restraint—for lack of restraint on the part of the leaders of democracy in the methods they have used to keep or to get power. Unless we here in this House, in this Parliament, and in the constituencies, can show more restraint than we have done; unless we can say there are some weapons we will not use, either to keep or to gain office, then I am afraid that this democratic system will go the way of others. The only difference, perhaps, will be that, whereas in the past democracies have capitulated to the tyranny of men, the danger now is that we shall be engulfed in the wrath of God.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will allow me, to add my congratulations from this side of the House to those which he has already received upon his maiden speech. It was, indeed, a most attractive speech, most attractively delivered, and a speech which revealed the exercise of considerable powers of thought. I am sure that all your Lordships, having listened to it, will hope that we shall frequently again have the benefit of the noble Lord's counsel and advice in our deliberations.

There was one point in the very lucid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to which I should like to refer. The noble Lord said, quite truly, that we have over and over again told the Russians, most solemnly and most formally, that we have not the slightest hostile intention towards their country. We have had the pleasure of welcoming here over many years now a succession of Russian Ambassadors. We have welcomed them, even if sometimes we have wondered at the strength of the Embassy's staffs which they find it necessary to maintain and have speculated about what can be the duties assigned to all of them. But any Russian Ambassador after he has spent three or four months in this country must know perfectly well that what the noble Lord has said is true and that we have no aggressive or hostile intentions towards Russia or towards any other country in the world.

That leads me to wonder what sort of reports the Russian Ambassadors send home. I cannot believe that they are such stupid men as not to recognise the fact that I have just quoted. Are they afraid to report the truth to the Kremlin for fear of unpleasant consequences to themselves? I feel that that is a distinct possibility. Or is it that they do report the truth but that, for their own good or bad reasons, the Kremlin absolutely refuse to recognise the truth of such reports? In any case, this emphasises the extreme difficulty of trying to negotiate or to deal with the leaders of the Russian people.

Having said that, I should like now to go on to the main purpose of our debate. We are now entering upon the defence season. This is the second debate in about a month that we in this House have had upon the subject. There was a two days' debate in another place last week. Soon we shall be starting to deal with the Service Estimates. I have re-read the speeches made in another place last week, and it seems to me that one can roughly divide the speakers into three categories. First, there are the out and out pacifists; secondly, there are those speakers who are reluctant about everything to do with war and the preparations for war, for whom it is a thoroughly uncongenial subject; thirdly, there is that category of speakers who hate war but recognise the hateful necessity of making adequate preparations in case war comes.

The second category, those who hate the idea of war, are very uncertain guides in these matters, because their reluctance is such that they will neither think nor study what is evolved. The third category, who recognise the hateful necessities under which we labour to-day, are so flummoxed by the new issues that are introduced by nuclear weapons—and I do not blame them for it for one moment—that they show signs of confusion in their ideas about what sort of a war to prepare for. The result is that in these debates it is only the pacifists who have a perfectly clear and consistent line of policy to advocate—a wrong line, in my opinion, but clear and consistent—while the other two categories, for reasons that I have mentioned, may be rather uncertain guides. The rest is largely ignorance or uncertainty or groping, and I would say particularly uncertainty.

I noticed that the Minister of Defence said in his speech that we are confronted by "various ugly choices", and those three words, to my mind, express exactly the situation in which we are placed today. As I read them I was reminded of a saying of Trotsky: A man who wants a quiet life should not have got himself born in the twentieth century. Indeed, that is very true, for we must agree with Trotsky that the natural state of twentieth-century man is one of anxiety.

Much of the confusion in these debates, I feel, springs from two causes. Many speakers speak about "we" when they should say "N.A.T.O.", and I noticed throughout the debates in another place that speakers were continually attributing to the Minister of Defence what is N.A.T.O. policy, constantly blaming our country for what are really N.A.T.O. responsibilities. We cannot act independently; we are part of an alliance. These missile bases, about which we have heard, surely are part of N.A.T.O. policy. We are not exactly free agents, even in that matter. Then, again, there was running through many of the speeches the fallacious assumption that certain results which largely depend upon other nations will follow if "we" do this, that or the other. That, I think, is one of the reasons why these debates are sometimes rather woolly.

But there is a second reason, too. We all remember that Euclid began his immortal works with certain axioms and postulates, and I feel it would be very helpful if the Minister of Defence would begin a White Paper by defining such things as "strategic nuclear weapons", "conventional nuclear weapons", "tactical nuclear weapons", and so on. These terms seem to me to be often used indiscriminately. That being so, they are confusing. What, for instance, is a "tactical nuclear weapon"? I have never seen it defined. I know only that the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima has been reduced in rank and is now a "conventional nuclear weapon". Remembering that, I must say that I wonder how long it will be before the H-bomb suffers a similar demotion.

Then, my Lords, we have heard much in these debates about major and minor wars. How does one define them? This reminds me of a well-known mathematical paradox about the difference between a big heap of stones and a small heap of stones. You show your friend a large heap of stones and he says, "Yes that is a large heap" Then you take a stone away and say, "Is it still a large heap?" He says, "Yes," and he is bound to go on saying "Yes" until finally you throw a stone away and he has to say, "Now it is a small heap of stones." I think the difference between a major war and a minor war is rather similar. One could be asked to define a Christian. It would be very hard to arrive at a definition which covered the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. Archbishop Makarios, and the Pope; but the interesting fact is that we all know a Christian when we meet one. We do not have to look for a definition when we have the experience of coming across a Christian. I can only say that you will certainly know a major from a minor war when you find yourself confronted with one. But these things do produce some uncertainty and confusion in what is, in any case, a most complicated matter. I feel that even the leaders who speak on these subjects have so many facts, so many ideas, and so many theories in their minds that they give an impression of uncertainty, of woolliness, in their speeches.

Again, I noticed a fallacious criticism running through speech after speech, that because the circumstances in which the deterrent would be used are never likely to arise (which means, in effect, that it is a deterrent), therefore there is no need to have the deterrent. There can hardly be a greater fallacy that that, yet one hears it raised very often. Then we have the advocates of unilateral nuclear disarmament. But let me pass from these broad issues raised by these debates, which certainly have revealed some grave anxieties—for instance, in regard to Transport Command. All our strategic planning is supposed to rest upon mobility, but it has been shown, both after Suez and by the recent exercise, that we are deficient in Transport Command. The essential point is that if we do not order the aircraft, we cannot get a Transport Command. If we are to have a Transport Command, we have to order the aircraft. That may sound a simple truism, but the fact remains that we do not have a Transport Command because we have not been ordering the necessary aircraft.

Then there is the missile, Thor. I am not qualified to say anything about nuclear weapons, but Colonel Wigg, who seems to know all about these matters, says that Thor is useless. I do not know, but in any case I imagine that Thor is only a stopgap. That leads me to ask: if missile bases and equipment are being prepared for Thor, will they be capable of being adapted to the use of the new missiles, when better ones come along or will the expense have to be faced all over again? I suppose the launching pads will eventually go underground, but I wonder if there is any date when that is likely to be the case. As regards the parts of the White Paper referring to the Royal Navy. I think that the proposals are shockingly inadequate, but I think that the proposals about the Navy are better dealt with in a debate on the Naval Estimates than in a debate such as this, when we are occupied more with broad principles of defence than with the derails.

I noticed that one speaker in the debate in another place criticised the powers of the Defence Minister as insufficient. I cannot agree. It is within my recollection that when the present Minister took office the Prime Minister endowed him with far-reaching powers, which none of his predecessors had been fortunate enough to possess. To-day the Minister of Defence can even veto high appointments which are made by the heads of the three Services. I do not think that he would be likely to do so, but I mention that as an illustration of the very wide powers which are now at the disposal of the Defence Minister. I cannot believe that there is any lack of powers—whether or not the powers are adequately used is, of course, a separate matter. I certainly could not agree that many of the defects in our planning and deficiencies in our weapons and equipment are due to any lack of powers of the Minister of Defence. The causes are to be found in other directions.

I think, for instance, that there is still room for more integration of the three Services at the top. The idea of one Service has completely faded out, and I do not imagine that it is likely to be revived; but I feel that there could be more integration at the top, resulting in more common services (there are some already, as I know) and more standardisation, all leading to economies. In particular, if I may mention it, for twenty years I have advocated that there should be one Defence Estimate introduced by the Minister of Defence. It should be presented and defended on broad lines by the Minister of Defence, the details being expounded by the Service Ministers. In that way I think that the country would get a broad picture of the problems of defence and the steps being taken, which they certainly do not get at the present moment.

The Minister of Defence was severely criticised in the debate in another place for the statement in the White Paper that if Russia attacks with conventional weapons we shall retort with nuclear weapons. It is not "we" at all; as I have said, it is N.A.T.O.I do not know how far we agree with N.A.T.O. decisions, but I should imagine that for certain reasons American influence might be felt in N.A.T.O. more than British influence. At any rate this is not British policy but N.A.T.O. policy, and has been since 1954. It is not something that has suddenly appeared in the 1958 White Paper. It is a policy which perhaps requires amplification, in the sense of stating which class of nuclear weapons would be employed.

I gathered from the statement made some years ago by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that it would be retaliation with everything that N.A.T.O. has got. He did not qualify his statement at all, and left me under the impression that whatever was "in the locker" would be used. But I think that N.A.T.O. has adopted a highly illogical policy. Having been warned, is Russia likely to make an attack with conventional weapons only, and in so doing expose herself to failure? What is perfectly certain is that if one side uses nuclear weapons, the other side will quickly follow suit; and if war begins with tactical nuclear weapons only, it will very quickly merge into all-out nuclear war. That is certain, because we may be sure that no country will go down to defeat in however gentlemanly a manner it might have started the business and wish to go on with it, with an unused H-bomb "in the locker." If they see defeat staring ahead of them, that H-bomb will be used. It seems to me, therefore, that this N.A.T.O. policy is a policy of world suicide. It seems to me that it must lead only to that. It is worth while to remember then, that other countries contemplate "going nuclear." so that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has said, to-day it is a question of disarmament or suicide. I believe, however—this is a purely personal opinion—that, the situation being what it is, the deterrent does in fact deter; and, of course, the missile bases are ancillary to the deterrent.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, asked if we trust the Russians. I think that I have answered that by some previous remarks: of course, most emphatically we do not trust the Russians. I say this remembering that while we were in trouble over Suez Mr. Khrushchev seized the opportunity to threaten us with rockets. That hardly squares with all Mr. Khrushchev's other statements that Russia does not mean war—but it may be that Mr. Khrushchev does not mean everything he says. I think that perhaps he says many things for effect. There is an old proverb about the appeal from "Philip drunk" to "Philip sober".

I would conclude by saying that if one reads the history of Russia one sees that the traditional Russian policy is not war, but progress by means of absorption and infiltration. Anyhow, if we seek peace, as things are it seems to me that the deterrent—though I agree a horrible necessity—must be our best bet. But the deterrent theory is subject, perhaps, to one objection. I have a most profound distrust of the scientists. I remember that in one of Shakespeare's plays dealing with the Jack Cade rebellion one of the rebels remarked: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. It may yet be that somebody will remark "The first thing we do, let's kill all the scientists"—because where they are leading us, I tremble to think. But, as has happened with other weapons, some day some scientist in some country may discover the antidote to the nuclear weapon. That may sound rather an exaggerated statement, but sixty years ago who would have thought nuclear weapons and Sputniks possible? The existence of an antidote to nuclear weapons is no more incredible than the existence of the nuclear weapons themselves. If there is to be a race between the scientists of different nations in the discovery of the antidote, and if Russia gets there first, she will have a space in which she can attack with impunity, knowing that she can defeat retaliation. That is a possibility of the future. But for the present we have to rely upon the deterrent to save us from the horrors of war.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, in the course of his speech moving the Amendment, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said that he was reserving certain subjects for the foreign affairs debate next week, and it seems to me that those words of his illustrated the complex situation in which your Lordships' House is placed in debating defence in its broadest aspect without also debating foreign policy, and perhaps your Lordships will excuse me if I remind the House of two facts. The first is that defence is the servant, and not the master, of foreign policy; that is to say, that defence needs must be the consequence of some foreign policy and not the creator of policy. The second is that our defence policy and our foreign policy are both governed by the economic strength of the country. The background of our defence policy is the failure of the post-war world to reconcile the Communist admitted aims of world conquest with the Western fears of armed aggression in fulfilment of those aims. So long as that threat exists, it is indeed the duty of any Government to take steps to protect the people and their homes and industries; and the issue over which this debate ranges is whether, in the circumstances, this Government are fulfilling that trust in the best possible way.

In defence, we must aim not at perfection but at the attainable; and in judging the Government's proposals for defence we are at once faced with the limitations imposed by our very honourably restricted economic strength. I use the word "honourably" as indicating that the weakness of our economic strength is largely due to the fact that we poured out not only blood but treasure during the war years; and since the war years all Parties have contributed to a rising standard of life for our people which was not envisaged in the pre-war years. The results of those limitations of which I have reminded your Lordships are two-fold. First, we cannot have, as the White Paper admits, conventional forces, even with our N.A.T.O. Allies, on a comparable scale with Russia; and secondly, we cannot afford to be a great, lone, nuclear Power. This inability is admitted and is allowed for in our Anglo-United States alliance, our joint efforts in production and maintenance and in joint usage control. Accepting those limitations and the results that flow from them, I should like to pay tribute to the courage of the Minister of Defence in bringing out into the open two very grim facts. The first is that there is no complete defence—only retaliation—against full nuclear attack; and this goes for both sides. The second is that Russia could overwhelm us at any time with conventional weapons and conventional forces (200 divisions; conventional forces we would use the deterrent.

There is considerable controversy over what is called the "grey area". When does a minor war become a major war? I think that a minor war would become a major war when this country saw that the result would be defeat. One cannot define all the circumstances. A man was asked if he could describe an elephant He said: "I cannot describe an elephant, but I know one when I see one." It is the same here: I think we should know when a war was a major war.

I submit to your Lordships that the White Paper is really a declaration to Russia that there will be no acceptance by this country of unilateral defeat from conventional weapons and conventional forces—or nuclear; and if there is to be annihilation it will be bilaterial annihilation: in fact, "If we go, she goes, too." That seems to me the most effective deterrent at the present time. The alternative to the acceptance of that deterrent must mean that, being unwilling to save ourselves by use of nuclear weapons from defeat due to military preponderance which we cannot match, we therefore accept Russian occupation, Russian domination and become a Russian satellite. That is the logical conclusion if we do not accept the need for using the deterrent in the last resort.

As my noble friend, Lord Coleraine, said, there is growing up an emotional state in many people's minds—sincere, but I think illogical—which is finding expression in the cry for unilateral repudiation by Britain of the nuclear weapon. I understand that the Labour Party have, new difficulties—the "Victory for Socialism" movement, the "Ginger Group"—and they are bringing great pressure to bear upon their Leaders to move away from the patriotic stand originally taken by the Labour Party Leaders when, for example, they initiated the missile range in Australia. I sincerely hope that this pressure group will be resisted and we shall not have the sort of cry, "Whose finger's on the ginger?" sweeping a rough the country so that no one knows where the possible alternative Government stands on this particular point.

Once you refuse to accept this view of surrender to Russia's overwhelming might, it is logical that you range your self behind Her Majesty's Government's policy of possession of the deterrent. I said just now that I think the Labour Party Leaders are with us there. What the official Opposition are doing by their Amendment is that, while accepting this need for ultimate nuclear force, they are criticising the timing of Her Majesty's Government; and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, wants to delay our efficient possession at the earliest practical time until after the Summit talks. They say: No missile bases, and suspend trials of the hydrogen bomb until after the Summit talks.

I would submit four questions to the noble Earl who is to reply for the Labour Party. The first is: If the Labour Party requirement in their Amendment is conceded, is Russia likely to delay her preparations? I think the answer to that is to be found in what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said in 1955: It is no use telling the Russians we should not be the first to use the hydrogen bomb … I have never found that a generous gesture brought any response from the Russian side. My second question is this: If the talks fail, should we not have weakened ourselves in the race of safety-seeking by the extent of at least months of valuable time lost? My third question is: Is not Russia likely to be more realistic at Summit talks if we talk from strength, and increasing strength, rather than from weakness'? My fourth and last question is: If the talks fail, and we had suspended trials of the hydrogen bomb before those talks, could any Government here, in cold blood, with all this enormous weight of emotional propaganda, ever restart the manufacture and trials of nuclear weapons? I suggest that the freedom of any Government would be seriously impeded if, having stopped, we then tried to re-start.

It is because of the answers I give myself to those four questions—answers which f believe would be shared by many—that I support the White Paper put forward by the Minister of Defence. But I should not have given this support to the White Paper if the document had omitted certain vital paragraphs on the hope of disarmament. Without those paragraphs, I believe that the White Paper would be worthless and hopeless, because in accepting the hope of disarmament lies the only hope for the future safety of ourselves and our children. There is no future in a world where two great sections are competing to get the edge on each other to achieve a balance of destruction. It is necessary at the present time, but there is no long-term future in it. The peoples of the world—one has only to read the Press or talk to people one knows to realise this—are stretching out their arms to find a hope of security. They are looking to the Summit talks to achieve that increased security.

In real disarmament is all hope for humanity. I believe that to talk of European disengagement without first a disarmament programme is to risk the break-up of N.A.T.O. and the United States disengagement from Europe. If we can achieve, by agreement, first the control of manufacture and trial of nuclear weapons; secondly, a reduction of conventional weapons, and, thirdly, an agreement on positioning of forces, we can then talk, and maybe more fruitfully, about disengagement in Europe. In seeking disarmament, those in charge of policy will have to forget prejudices from past events. They will have to discount the super-caution of military experts, or they will find themselves bogged down at the very beginning. They will have to take some risks for the worthwhile possible prize of success.

Before sitting down, I should like to make one suggestion to Her Majesty's Government for consideration. I believe it is worth considering whether the Government set-up gives disarmament the best chance of success. The Foreign Secretary, his Ministers at the Foreign Office, and his advisers, have to interpret the caution and the reservations of traditional policy of our Allies and of our Service Chiefs—that is their job. But those piloting disarmament have the duty of challenging and forcing justification of those very things—the reservations of traditional policy, the traditional policy of our Allies and the views of our defence chiefs. I believe that we are expecting too much in what I would term mental gymnastics in expecting Ministers at the Foreign Office and their advisers to be able to do both those things at the same time. I believe that we may have to think of a Minister with a special responsibility for disarmament negotiation.

The idea is not new. We have seen it in America, not with great success, I agree, between Mr. Stassen and Mr. Dulles. It is not new here. To-day we have Mr. Maudling in the Cabinet, with a special responsibility for promoting the Free Trade Area. He has to deal with the Foreign Office and with the Board of Trade. He does not take away from those Ministers their executive responsibilities; they maintain their positions. But if it is important enough for the Free Trade Area to have a special Minister, I think it is worth considering whether the issue of disarmament is not also worthy of a special Minister. Apparently, the Government realised that the appointment of Mr. Maudling had the effect of making the public appreciate the great importance they attach to the European Free Trade Area, and its negotiations and achievements. If the Free Trade Area is worth it, how much more so is disarmament! One man might succeed where the mass of Government weight might fail; and if such a man failed, the electors of this country would know that at any rate the Government had tried to the point of special ministerial responsibility.

I will conclude with this thought. Neither this Government nor any other Government will take the risk of disarming to the extent of laying this country open to material obliteration by unresisted nuclear attack or moral obliteration by Communist conquest. I believe that this Government are seeking peace truly, but are at the same time fulfilling a duty, however unpopular and misrepresented it may be, in giving to our peoples the greatest measure of security obtainable in this terribly complex age and this threatened world.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to align myself with the plea for lifting defence policy entirely out of Party politics—but I happen to be one of those who do not believe in Party. The twenty-five years I have sat in this House have convinced me that we might be better governed if it was not all "Party, Party, Party".

The few remarks I wish to make will not take long. That this Report on Defence is an advance on that of 1957, I suppose nobody will deny. It has a wider vision which, as a well-known weekly paper has pointed out, caused the Government to recognise the threat of Russian submarines leading to the belief that there was a use for the Navy and sonic way in which it could be employed. Apart from this, when I look closer into the Report, I do not think there is very much advance on the Report of 1957. If your Lordships turn to paragraph 4 in the Report you will find that the Minister of Defence falls back on the comforting assurance that Russia has no answer to medium-range ballistic rockets, and further stresses that the West is continuing to increase its lead in nuclear weapons. My Lords, do we know that? We seem to have heard that statement year after year, only to find it proved wrong. What proof have we that the Russians are not also in this position?

As to the Russians' ability to retaliate, the Russian Minister of Defence obviously does not concur with his British counterpart, for only last week he made a statement when he was addressing some celebration in connection with the armed forces. He said: We have close, long and extra-long range rockets which can carry hydrogen charges to any point on earth. Would not it be safer and better to accept that statement and regard it as true? It is better to be prepared for the worst than to find yourself weak when you want to be strong. Is it known what goes on in the scientific world behind the Iron Curtain? Paragraph 11 of the Report says that: Russia has been making great strides in the field of nuclear weapons and rockets. Then it switches off and stresses the overwhelming superiority of the conventional forces of Russia and her satellites, and says there are 200 active divisions facing the West, as well as 20,000 planes.

My Lords, to me there can be no doubt that this superiority of the Russians face to face with N.A.T.O. forces, in which we include 50,000 or 60,000 of our own young countrymen, must justify an attack by nuclear weapons if the Russians make one move towards us. It is only fair to the N.A.T.O. forces and to the men employed there—many of them, as I say, our own countrymen—that we should not allow them to be overwhelmed by a Russian advance of several hundred divisions while people somewhere in the rear and safety argue whether we ought to use the nuclear weapon or not. Again to quote the Soviet Defence Minister: Russian armed forces must be ready to deal a crushing blow against any aggressor who launches a surprise attack upon the Soviet Union. We know that S.H.A.P.E. relies upon its nuclear weapons to hold off the Russians, but I suggest that if we are not prepared to use them for this purpose we should do one of two things—either strengthen our conventional forces or withdraw them altogether. I feel that this Report falls rather by vacillation. We are led up the garden path one moment, and then the glimmer of hope is extinguished on the ground of political expediency or economy.

We come to sea power, in which I happen to be interested. We are told: The Government has reviewed the composition and disposition of the Royal Navy", and the White Paper goes on to say that British naval forces must be prepared for three main tasks. It gives those tasks. The first is in peace time, which we need not now discuss; then, in limited war, to protect sea communications: and in global war to make an effective contribution to the naval forces of the Western Alliance. Then follows a reference to Russia's formidable submarine force, and on that subject the Government say that they are now devoting the Navy to the anti-submarine campaign. This comes back to the old protection of sea communications. They need not pretend it is a new discovery; it was all recognised 500 years ago.

Then we come to the distribution of various weak squadrons dignified by the name of Fleets which are to be stationed in various parts of the world. When we look at the First Lord's statement and go through it carefully, we shall find that, when all these are disposed of and arranged for, we have very little to veer and haul on. Then follows a real shock. The Report goes on to say that the plans for the Reserve Fleet are being revised, and continues: It is proposed to follow the principle that the Reserve Fleet should comprise only sufficient ships to keep the active Fleet up to strength allowing for accidents and long refits". What an anti-climax! No reserve against the inevitable unforeseen happenings of war. My Lords, some principles are good and some are bad. This one, I suggest, is rotten. In peace time it is easy to form some estimate of what you want, but how are you to estimate what you will require in war? What do you do—sit down and do a little estimate of what the losses are going to be in a war fought with weapons we have not fought with before and in very different circumstances? Is it to be some little calculation like this: if we lost 60 ships in two months in 1939 when attacked by 40 submarines, how many will be lost in 1958 when we are attacked by 400 submarines? Is it something like that formula, I wonder.

As the White Paper says, we are dependent on our sea communications for our food supplies and economic life. Surely the feeding and maintenance of our own population is one of those independent British responsibilities of which the Report speaks. For that I submit we should prepare. We know we have not sufficient ships or planes, and yet we squander them by getting rid by sale or gift of vessels which have yet an active life, or could have an active life in many fields of warfare. I noted yesterday that in another place a statement was made that the Admiralty "does not wish to hoard old ships". Let us remember that half a loaf is better than no bread. I do not think any military man could not make use of a vessel, regiment, battery, whatever it might be, in those circumstances. He would rather have something than nothing. We had the Home Guard who were worth something. There may be many of your Lordships who crossed oceans in convoys during the war, and I feel sure that when you came on deck and looked around it gave you a feeling of assurance to see a certain number of vessels escorting the convoys. I protest that there is a place for every sort of ship that can fire a gun, that has an engine and can steam. It is a great mistake to say that they are old and must therefore be thrown away. All through history we have had small and old ships carrying out work of a most useful description.

The Amendment we are discussing asks your Lordships to reject the official White Paper. I find myself in the quandary that, although I am entirely in favour of being armed to the teeth, I am, on the other hand, greatly struck by the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who had such a long term as First Lord of the Admiralty and Minister of Defence. I consider that the proper protection of Britain and various parts of the British Commonwealth is of first and foremost importance, and therefore I propose to vote for the Amendment. I should, however, like to make it quite clear that I am not trying to attack any of the Service Ministries. A hobbled horse cannot gallop. If he does not go fast enough for you, do not vent your spleen on him; go for the hobbler.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords. I notice that I am number eleven in the batting order, so, as is customary with number eleven, I shall be brief. I should not have taken part in a Defence debate had not East Anglia come very much into the picture during the last few days. I will deal with that point in a moment or so, but before doing so I should like to say that I consider the first portion of the White Paper ill-timed. There is much in the first few paragraphs which could have remained unwritten and unpublished. I rather hesitate to think what the position of the Prime Minister will be, if and when the Summit conference takes place, and he is tackled on some of the matters which have been mentioned in the first few paragraphs of the White Paper.

I have nothing to say about the routine conventional portion at the end of the White Paper, but there are one or two points in regard to the first paragraphs of which I want to make note. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, spoke about mutual distrust between the Western nations and the Soviet Union—that matter is referred to in paragraph 2. I am not so sure that there is this distrust between the peoples of the Soviet and of Britain and the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. Statesmen may distrust statesmen, diplomats may distrust diplomats, foreign offices may distrust the members of other foreign offices; but so far as the people of these countries are concerned I do not think there is any distrust at all. In fact, so far as the Russian people are concerned, we are at present trying to foster additional trading relationships with them; we are cultivating social and educational relationships, and we are trying to get together, just as we should do as people of the world. We may not agree with Communism, its principles and its doctrines, but the Russians have to live their lives and we have to live ours. We should brook no interference with our mode of life and the converse applies to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, took us back twenty-five years. I am going to take your Lordships back to an earlier date, which will be well within the recollection of some of the older Members of your Lordships' House. With what favour we looked upon Russian aid to ourselves in 1914–15, and with what favour in the Second World War did we look at their heroic defence of Stalingrad and the bolding up of the German forces in the East! That and an event which took place around Britain were, in my view, the turning points of the last war. I do not think for one moment that having been Allies in two world wars, our two nations can turn so quickly right about face and become enemies.

The noble Earl who has just sat down referred to a shock. Paragraph 5 must have given us all a shock, because in that paragraph we are referred to a long period of waiting, before we undergo mutual annihilation; and we are also promised an indefinite period for the cold war. My noble Leader has referred to the question arising in Paragraph 12 in regard to a major or a minor war. I think it is obvious to anyone that directly war in any shape or form breaks out, nuclear weapons will be used at once by either side. We cannot imagine that the Russians: are so simple as to suppose that if they attacked us with conventional weapons we should not attack them in reverse with nuclear weapons.

The point I want to make in these brief remarks concerns ballistic missiles. It is within the knowledge of Members of your Lordships' House that the agreement with regard to these missile sites was first mooted in March last year in Bermuda. It has now reached fruition, at a time which, in my view, is most inopportune. How we can go to the Russians at a Summit conference, with this document in existence, and possibly in operation, I fail to see; because immediately they can ask, "On whose behalf are these missiles established in Britain, and against whom are they directed?" The answer is obvious.

Apart from that aspect, one may say on behalf of us folk who live in East Anglia that we wonder why East Anglia is always chosen for this sort of operation. We are smothered with the bomber bases of the Americans; we have flying over us, every day and all day—and most of the night—heavy bombers laden with hydrogen bombs or their parts. We get an American plane dropping a petrol tank, to the disarrangement of all our lives; and now we are faced with these ballistic missile sites. I could name many better places where these sites could be put. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, this afternoon was anxious for these sites to start operating. I suggest that one might be put near the village of Teynham, in Kent, or elsewhere. Sussex is another county which very much supports Her Majesty's Government. Why not have a few sites in Sussex?—the lot, if they like. I should be just as pleased, though I see that noble Lords on our Front Bench are looking round as much as to say, "We do not want them in Sussex".

However, I hope that what we on this side have said about the suspension of these missile bases will be taken note of by Her Majesty's Government. I believe that that is extremely important, in view of the tension which is prevailing at the moment and of the hopes which we set upon the Summit conference. I shall be very distressed if at the present time any action is taken by this country which is likely to irritate or upset the negotiations that are taking place in regard to the Conference. I commend to the House paragraph 6 of the White Paper, which says: There can, however, be no such confidence or peace, so long as the arms race continues. Means must be found to halt and reverse this process. My Lords, the nation looks to Her Majesty's Government to provide the means.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, the problem of the nuclear deterrent has been argued from all angles and I do not propose to weary your Lordships by going over all that ground again. There is, however, one aspect of it which I believe it is most important should be stressed from these Benches, as so far the arguments have come entirely from the Front Benches. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, stressed the horrors of nuclear warfare and, I thought, rather indicated that the realisation of those horrors was almost a prerogative of his side of the House and his Party. I can assure the noble Viscount that that is not the case and that I, and I know that other noble Lords and, in fact, the whole country are completely aware of the ghastly horrors which would overtake us should a nuclear war, unhappily, develop.

The whole point of the nuclear deterrent is that it is a possible way of preventing war. We all realise that if a major war starts, inevitably it will "snowball up", as has been said by many noble Lords, into nuclear warfare with ghastly and disastrous results. This argument may well prevent that. It is a possible way of preventing it. There are two important aspects here. One is that it carries much more weight if it can be said that it comes from the whole united country. I rather wonder whether noble Lords opposite and the Leader of their Party are as far apart as they seem from this theory of a deterrent. I understand they accept the necessity of nuclear weapons, though they accept it as unwillingly as we all do. Also, it is only three years ago that the Leader of the Party opposite said that it was of no use to tell the Russians that we should not be the first to use this weapon. In fact (to remove the negative) he was prepared to say that we could be the first to use it—which is all that is being said now, and said not on behalf of this Party but on behalf of N.A.T.O. and the Western nations, as is clearly stated in the White Paper. We are merely adding our guarantee to a policy that has already been agreed. My voice carries no weight at all, but I would appeal to the Party opposite to try to remove this matter from Party politics and carry out the hopes of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.

I should like to come now to another aspect of the White Paper: the importance of the conventional forces which are essential for backing up any other deterrents there may be, and also against the insidious growth of the cold war all over the world. Owing to their small size, the strength of our conventional forces depends a great deal upon the perfection of the organisation. In the debate in your Lordships' House last May, mention was made of integration, and the setting up of a defence administrative Committee. I said at that time that I realised that this was a very complex problem. I still appreciate that and I do not expect any regular reports or press for any details; but I believe it would be of great interest if my noble friend who is to reply could give us some indication as to how this Committee is faring; also whether the visits to overseas commands which were envisaged in the speech of his right honourable friend the Minister of Defence at that time have been carried out, and whether they are having any results.

Personally, I am doubtful whether integration, in the real sense of the word, can go beyond the higher levels of command and, at the other end, I would hope, the permanent affiliation of formations of the three Services. A beginning has been made in this matter in the formation of the Naval Fleet and Marine Commando as a group, and I am extremely glad that this part of last year's White Paper has been so effectively implemented. I would suggest that it is possible to enlarge on this policy: to have a small brigade group of the Army working in the closest contact, in the same way as the Marine Commando is with the Royal Navy. I know why that Marine Commando is in existence and of the help it is giving to making the best overall use of our forces. I merely put that suggestion forward as a possible extension and in order to illustrate what I mean by integrating our Forces by permanent affiliations between the Services.

I should like now to go to paragraph 53 onwards of the White Paper. Here it is important. I think, not to be led away into detail, which, as has already been stated, is much more appropriate to the debates on the Service Estimates which will take place shortly. In paragraph 54 there is, I consider, a very important statement, where it is said: The Royal Navy have completed the selection of those to be retired. Over 90 per cent. of the officers concerned, and 100 per cent. of the ratings, are voluntary applicants. The Army and the Royal Air Force, where the problem is larger, are not so far advanced; but it is already clear that it will likewise be possible to deal with a high proportion of the redundancies in both Services on a voluntary basis. I do not know whether I am reading too much into these sentences, but it does stress in the sentence referring to the Navy the question of selection, and selection is not mentioned as regards the other two Services. While I realise the great importance of volunteering, I consider that it is also important that there should be some form of selection, so that in the other two Services there is not too high a proportion of first-rate people going out on retirement.

Then I come to paragraph 55, which deals with the actual retirements. I think the time is approaching now when the full impact of these retirements will begin to be felt, and I hope that my noble friend who is to reply will be able to give some information as to how the Advisory Board, under the chairmanship of Sir Frederic Hooper, is carrying out its work, and whether the Resettlement Committees have started. I understand that one of these committees is being set up in each of Scotland and Wales, and nine in the regions of England. I realise that this is a matter for the Ministry of Labour, but it stems from last year's White Paper and it is most important to the officers who are going to be retired, the speed of whose re-employment will have a great effect on the morale of the three Services. The employment of the ratings, other ranks and airmen is, I understand, giving no great problem. This was expected. But I am still worried about the middle group of officers—namely., those aged from forty to forty-five and above—and I should like to know what results have been achieved by the Ministry of Labour's business training scheme and also by the courses which are held at the Polytechnic for, I think, more senior officers.

The officers who will be retired while serving overseas are inevitably going to present a very difficult problem indeed, and I wonder whether the visiting travelling boards which were envisaged have actually gone out to stations abroad and been helping the officers in the problem of finding employment. Equally important is the fact that officers must be given a firm date on which they will be retired. Six months' notice was spoken about last year, and I hope that this will be an unalterable rule. I would also suggest (and I do not think it would cause too great an inconvenience in the Services concerned) that if within the six months an officer obtained a firm offer of a job, he should, if it were conceivably possible, be allowed to take it, even though he had not reached the actual date of his retirement. And then one must inevitably put in a plea for financial assistance—that it should not affect, if it could be done, the amount of his gratuity and other emoluments.

I should like to stress again the great importance to the morale of the three Services that all those who have to retire should get worthwhile employment; and I should also like to say that, with very rare exceptions, these men have something very worthwhile to give to the industry to which they are hoping to go. Finally, I would, as I think has been done before, ask your Lordships to take note of the words at the head of the first page of the White Paper, which I wholeheartedly endorse.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Resolution moved by my noble friend Lord Mancroft—namely, "That this House approves the Report … set out in Command Paper No. 363."From the course of the debate on defence in another place it would seem that those who are in Opposition are themselves divided in their opinion. They have my sympathy. There is no difference in any of our aims. We all hope for the same thing: total peace. But we are divided in the methods to be employed. They want to achieve total peace by disarmament, and we want certain safeguards before we disarm. I feel, as many of your Lordships have said earlier in the debate, that this is a most important time in the history of our country. If we are wise in our next stage there is every reason why a further world war should be prevented for another generation through the balancing fear of mutual annihilation. As has been pointed out, no country can hope to gain anything by war. But, equally, there can be no mutual confidence or peace unless we can slow up and stop the arms race.

We must not underrate the practical difficulties, however. Russia has been making great progress in nuclear weapons and rockets, but her basic strength lies in her overwhelming superiority in conventional arms. The Western nations, on the other hand, rely for defence upon the deterrent effect of their vast pile of nuclear weapons. Although the democratic nations will never start a war against Russia, it should be made clear that, should Russia launch a major attack on the free nations, even with conventional weapons, they—the free nations—will hit back with their strategic nuclear weapons. So much for the threat of nuclear war.

There is an important matter to which I should like to direct your Lordships' attention. To what extent has our experience in the last war enabled us to solve the problems of attaining effective cooperation between the contingents from the independent nations that form the British Commonwealth? In the Middle East there were, as we all know, British, Indian, Australian, South African, and New Zealand forces. As soon as the fighting began in the Middle East, we found that we were out of step, as it were; at sixes and sevens. The lessons of World War I had not been thought out—in fact they had never been considered.

Things were so bad, according to their official historian, Mr. Gavin Long, that, in the case of the Australian forces, when they went to send their troops to the Middle East they had to ask the Director of Australian War Memorials to search the archives for a copy of General Bridges Charter of 1914. General Bridges was the first Commander-in-Chief of the first Australian Imperial Force. After two years a system was evolved and was made to work; but in the days of Greece and Crete, in 1940 and 1941, the senior British Commanders failed to take Blarney or me into their confidence or to understand our special status or our responsibilities. While this was going on our Governments were complaining to us, with justification, that we were not keeping them sufficiently in touch with our problems.

I trust that the Defence Minister will take notice of these problems, because in any future war one-third of the British Forces will be from the Commonwealth countries overseas. These forces must be used to the best advantage possible, and we must have a proper system of promotion to the highest positions of command and on the staff; and such positions should be open to all commanders, irrespective of their country of origin. Finally, my Lords, there is at least one factor that gives us reason for hope. In World War II both sides had gas but neither the Germans nor the Allies would use it for fear of gas retaliation. If chemical warfare was a deterrent, how very much greater will the deterrent effect be of nuclear war! My Lords, I beg to support the Motion.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, everyone who is taking part in this debate will, I am sure, share my feelings that we have a very grave responsibility in speaking on this matter at all. Particularly do I think that those of us who feel conscientiously that they must be critical of the Government's policy as set out in this White Paper should do so only if they have sincere convictions to that effect. This, after all, is a Government policy Paper, laid before Parliament for its approval, and it is one of the most important documents that has ever come before a British Parliament.

We are bound to ask ourselves in considering it: Does the policy embodied in this Paper provide the best method that can be devised at the present time and in existing circumstances for preserving the peace and for reducing the risk of war? Is the policy of the nuclear deterrent represented now by this new group of weapons the best means that we can see of preventing war beginning? If one feels, after much reflection and heart-searching, that it is not the best policy for achieving that purpose, then surely the honest thing to do is to say so. I do not quite understand what the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, whom I so admire, would have one do if one feels very sincerely that this policy contains greater risks than some alternative policy might do. Surely expressing one's view should not call down denunciation as a Party politician.

The noble Lord spoke of the East Fulham by-election. As he knows, all those many years ago I happened to be the candidate who was successful in that election. It was an accident that that election took place two or three days after Hitler took Germany out of the League of Nations and turned the whole emphasis of public thinking in the direction of foreign policy and disarmament. It is true that Mr. George Lansbury, who was a life-long pacifist, was for a short time at that period, in the depleted state of our Party in the House of Commons, the Leader of the Opposition. I was never a pacifist. I was a soldier in the first war, and in the second war I served under Mr. Churchill in the Ministry of Supply on the munitions side. I have never taken the view that it is wrong to fight for what you feel is worth fighting for. And I still take that view. The important thing, in an issue of this gravity, when any decision is an ugly one—and the decisions that we have to take are extremely difficult—is to ask whether the policy set out here is the most likely to achieve the object that we all have in view, which is disarmament and peace.


Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene just for a moment? I hope that the noble Lord did not take anything that I said about the conditions twenty-five years ago as a reflection upon him. I certainly did not intend them so to be. The noble Lord has asked: What should we do if, holding this sincere conviction, we do not express it? The only thing I would say, with great: respect to the noble Lord, is that if by taking a certain public line he gives encouragement to movements outside this House that are based largely on panic, largely on inexperience, then I think the Opposition is doing great harm.


I do not think that all the people who share some of my views—and I certainly do not share all theirs—are actuated only by panic. Look at the people who are in these organisations: they are not panic-mongers. Many of them are men of great standing and much thought; and it is possible for people, without any degree of panic, to come to these views. Fear, yes; but which of us does not fear the awful outcome of nuclear warfare? We should fear it.

I do not wish to detain the House more than is necessary to say this in the minimum number of words, but several speakers, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Winster, put their fingers on the terrible risk involved in this policy; the risk of stating that, if Russia launches a major attack with any sort of weapons. N.A.T.O. policy is to retaliate with full nuclear strength. N.A.T.O. responsibilities are widespread and we all tend to see the picture from where we stand, but the fact is; that an attack could be launched anywhere on the periphery of N.A.T.O. territories. And what is a major attack? Nobody can define it, because what begins as something which does not look like a major attack can easily seem to be a major attack within an hour. The terrible risk involved in this policy is that an enemy, particularly if the enemy is devoid of certain scruples that we might have, would take the line that, as nuclear war appeared in view of this policy statement inevitable, they would strike first and knock us out before we could strike. That that is a very real danger, everybody who has thought about it must agree.

I know that many military thinkers—one group of them has been quoted today—believe that the advantage of initiative in attack is so overwhelming in the case of these devastating weapons that the first half-hour may easily decide the whole issue. I do not know whether that is true or to what degree it is true, but if the people who are in control of Russian military policy should believe that to be true, then they would be right in advising that in view of developments their proper course is to strike while they can strike. They will see America as their major enemy. They will see us merely as a junior partner, being used as a base, and they will knock out that base before the major enemy comes to grips. That is the position into which the policy of this White Paper is putting this country, and I see no escape from that conclusion.

It is the gravest risk that we have ever taken and it seems to me that it is a risk which we have no right to take if there is any possible alternative at all. No one in his senses wishes to throw away defences for the sake of it, but is there anything we can do at this time to make some progress without running this hideous risk? We do not know the level of Russian nuclear armaments. We do know that since this statement appeared two of the largest nuclear explosions of all time have been recorded in Russia. We were completely taken by surprise by the Sputnik satellite. I think that few people, even within the inner circles of atomic science, realise how far Russian development has gone. We do not know what massive action we are inviting by putting this down as our policy. Moreover, as I said a moment ago, would an attack on Turkey because of some dispute in that part of the world be regarded by N.A.T.O. as a major issue? Who can tell until the time comes and the circumstances are revealed? Meanwhile, this position goes on.

There is another danger mounting. The time is rapidly approaching when not only Russia and America, and to a lesser extent Great Britain, possess nuclear armaments, but other smaller, less-experienced Powers and Governments will be in possession of these weapons. Think what would have happened at the time of the Suez attack if Colonel Nasser had had even the smallest nuclear bomb. What would happen if in the near future in the South American States nuclear weapons were part of the normal armament? It is a race against time, because it seems to me that unless we are able to get a far-reaching agreement between Russia and America, in which we participate, to stop this madness before these weapons spread and to embark upon disarmament as the only course of sanity, then the destruction of the world by nuclear warfare is almost inevitable. If one believes that, one cannot escape the conviction that almost any policy is better than this one, if it has a hope of securing some advance down the road to disarmament.

I listened with great attention to the graceful and thoughtful maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and I was waiting for him to come to this point, but somehow he did not. I was disappointed. Is there any other course that is worth taking a risk for?—because we take an enormous risk in following this one. I believe that there is. I believe that it falls once again to Britain to take the stand, as we have done before. Perhaps our long civilised history and our great political experience may save the world even yet. I believe that we should try to break the deadlock between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. thought that in sonic of the remarks of the Prime Minister yesterday I detected a pretty full realisation of this responsibility. Those of us who have been often in the U.S.A. know what a difficult instrument their political system is and how hard it is for us to see clearly how things will turn out. It seems to me that the state of mind of their present Secretary of State is most unhelpful in this matter. It will not profit us at all to go on repeating those old things. The Russians must be well aware of the hideous risks to them, just as we are, and I do not believe that there is no possible way of reaching agreement. But I do believe that the chances of an effective conference taking place within measurable time are remote if it is left to Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Dulles. Had we not better take some risks to try to get this conference on its feet? Because once it starts it may go a very long way.

What are the topics upon which there is some possible hope (I go no further than that) of agreement with the Russians? I think that they would be disinclined to see nuclear armaments spreading about the world. I think that they may see the dangers as clearly as we see them. We might come to an agreement about that. I think we might conic to a workable policy on the lines of halting the tests and of the Polish proposals, so that there is a disengagement of hostile forces in a most inflammatory area. One of the great dangers is that East German troops may become engaged with N.A.T.O.'s troops over some boundary or other dispute about Berlin or other area, and in the heat the thing may go off. If we could get those chances made less probable by a withdrawal of foreign troops it would be something in itself; and it may be that it would lead to an exploring of other possible areas of agreement which would lead in the end to less tension and a general reduction of armaments.

It seems to me that this policy is worth taking risks for. It may also lead us to what I think is long overdue: that is, a further discussion with the Americans as to the proper deployment of our various rôles in defence policy. For my part, I think it is foolish for Great Britain to seek to become a nuclear Power. I do not think we have the economic resources to pursue that policy and I think we could do much better otherwise. We must do it by agreement, if we can. Should we not be wiser to devote our economic strength to other purposes: to Z.E.T.A., to the development of nuclear power for peaceful purposes and to a building up of the resistances to Communist aggression on the economic front? For I do not believe that the Russians hope to conquer the world by force of arms. I think they might possibly expect that what they call the capitalist States will get exhausted in armaments and Communism will come in as the companion of despair and distress by the back door. That is what has happened up to now.

Moreover, we are wasting our immense propaganda resources. What folly it is to cut down expenditure upon the overseas broadcasts, the British Council and the various agencies (whose cost compared with this is so trifling) which are capable of winning men's minds! The object of all military policy in the end is to win the mind of the other man, not to kill him, and to cause him to do that of which you approve and not that of which you disapprove. Yet we throw away these peaceful methods of achieving that purpose in order to operate so ineffectively with these fearful and expensive alternatives. In large parts of the world, partly for this reason, we have lost an immense amount of moral prestige. One of the most crippling blows that Britain has suffered is the loss of her moral position, largely through errors of policy and errors of presentation.

So I cannot vote for this defence Paper. I find myself quite unable to do so, because it seems to me to take the maximum risks for the minimum reasons when other courses are wide open to us. I wish we could come to an agreement about what to do. But it is not the fault of one side or the other than we cannot agree about this. We agree with paragraph 6: that there can be no confidence or peace so long as the arms race continues. It is to stop the arms race that we should bend all our efforts. I hope that some indications that I seem to see of further thoughts, expressed by the Prime Minister and others on this matter, may prove to be true. There is no time to lose.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, in the few minutes for which I shall ask your Lordships' indulgence this evening I do not propose to discuss the general policy described in the White Paper; nor shall I attempt to deal with the basic questions put before us just now in the impressive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston. I propose only to ask a question and to make a suggestion with regard to one feature of Her Majesty's Government's policy on which the White Paper is silent and on which Government spokesmen—even the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who added a little more than those who spoke in the debate in the other place last week—have been either reticent or ambiguous. It has been made quite clear that in the case of a border or minor incident the Government contemplate relying on conventional forces only. It has been made equally clear that they are relying upon the ultimate weapon of the hydrogen bomb as a deterrent against major aggression. The ambiguity is in what has been called the "grey area" intervening between minor incidents and all-out aggression.

There has, as we all know, been a great deal of thought and discussion on both sides of the Atlantic as to the possibility and desirability of using, but confining ourselves to the tactical use of, the atomic bomb in this vast intermediate area. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, for example, referred to the most interesting book by Mr. Kissinger on the other side of the Atlantic. It is still, in my view, not quite clear from the statements made, either by our own Government or by that of the United States, whether in this intermediate sphere we are contemplating resorting to the tactical use of the smaller atomic bomb for limited targets with the intention and with the real hope that a conflict in which even these nuclear weapons were used would not necessarily lead to the use of the ultimate weapon. We have been told that we not only have such smaller nuclear weapons, but that they have ben issued to N.A.T.O. forces. Some statements, both by our own and by the United States Government, suggest, though not without ambiguity, that an intermediate defence policy based upon these smaller tactical atomic bombs and the hope that they will not lead to the launching of the hydrogen bomb is, in fact, an integral part of our general policy. I do not now propose to discuss whether this policy is, in fact, practicable. If it is, and if the distinction could be maintained, its advantages are obvious.

I wish now to make only a few comments on the assumption that this is, or will be, an integral part of Western policy, and to make some suggestions as to what might be done to reduce the dangers necessarily involved. These dangers are obvious. The first is that a potential enemy will assume that the use or threat of any kind of atomic weapons cannot, or will not, stop at the limited use of smaller bombs for limited purposes. In that case, in pursuing a particular objective for which he might not originally have intended to use the hydrogen bomb, he might resort to it as soon as the West used the nuclear bomb. The second possibility is that the public of the Western countries, believing that there is no valid and maintainable distinction between the atomic and the hydrogen bomb, will frustrate any intermediate defence policy of this kind by preventing the Western Governments from resorting to the tactical bomb.

Thirdly, as a consequence of this possibility the enemy may believe that Western Governments will be so restrained, and in that belief, whether right or wrong, may embark on an important aggression with conventional weapons from which he would otherwise have refrained. Lastly, since at the best we cannot eliminate but can only possibly reduce the risks of the tactical spreading into the strategic, there is, of course, the danger that a local commander will, in an immediate emergency, resort to the use of the tactical, smaller nuclear bombs in circumstances in which the political authorities of the Western Governments, if they had an opportunity to consider the question, and realising as they would more clearly than the local commander, might decide that the risk of using the nuclear bomb should not be taken.

As I said, I am not now discussing the merits of this intermediate policy of the tactical use of nuclear bombs. But on the assumption or hypothesis that this is a part of Western policy, I want to suggest two steps which might at least reduce the dangers to which I have referred. The first is that there should be a careful staff and official study, both national and joint, as to the classes of dispute and aggression for which the intermediate policy is to apply and the precise limits of the bomb and the targets in such cases. This would then be followed by precise instructions to the military commanders as to the conditions on which the nuclear weapon might alone be used, including precise rules as to securing authorisation from superior authority, by which I mean political authority. This study would, of course, be secret, as would be the precise instructions given as a result of it.

Secondly, though I appreciate what the noble Lord. Lord Mancroft, said as to publishing such definitions and rules as would fatally handicap us in dealing with an actual emergency. I wonder whether it would not be possible to formulate some clearer agreed statement of the philosophy and major principles of this intermediate policy for the grey area than has so far been made. It could, I suggest, at least go beyond the very bare and tentative indications that have so far been given. I think a fuller statement would be possible and would, at least, substantially diminish the danger, through a misunderstanding on the part of our own public or on the part of the potential enemy, of the tactical leading straight on to the strategic and to the disastrous consequences that are in all our minds. I do not ask that a reply should be given to these questions and these suggestions in the present debate. I ask only that an assurance should be given that they will be considered by the Government.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should not like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Salter, who has just sat down, on this question of the realms of influence of the tactical and the strategic nuclear weapon, but at the outset I would say that I am in complete agreement with the principle of reliance on the nuclear deterrent as the main means of defence against major aggression. As stressed in and outside Parliament, this country is in no economic position to afford large conventional forces, and must therefore rely exclusively on a policy of interdependence between Western countries, a contribution to collective defence in keeping with her resources and in line with the common defence of the West, a reduction of forces in view of the increasing complexity and cost of modern weapons, and highly specialised, trained, efficient and mobile forces, so that this country can do her share towards total peace whilst maintaining her position in the world and increasing her bargaining power.

Naturally, I agree with the point of view that our ultimate aim should be disarmament, as was so rightly said by the Prime Minister in another place during the foreign affairs debate. I should like to quote his words. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 582 (No. 56), col. 1224]: It has been argued that both sides should abandon nuclear weapons; if the Soviet get rid of theirs, we should get rid of ours. Even here we must be careful, for if this were not accompanied by corresponding reductions in what are called conventional weapons—terrible weapons, as many of us know—it might again put the West at a fatal disadvantage. The reason is simple. There are over 200 Russian satellite divisions in Europe, facing the West. N.A.T.O. would find it difficult to collect even a quarter of this number over the whole front. So whilst the balance of power in conventional weapons leans so greatly on the Russian side there is no alternative, as I see it, but for this country to be at the greatest possible degree of defence readiness so as to deter a major conflict. For this we must rely on our strategic bomber force and on ballistic missiles: but to this question I will return later.

However, there are other aspects to this problem of defence. There is the question which was asked during the defence debate in another place last week, and which was also referred to in the Press—namely, a definition of the area comprised between a border incident and a major, full-scale attack. Surely, it would not be to our advantage, when we are relying on the nuclear deterrent—as powerfully stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in his opening remarks—to inform the Russians exactly how far they can go before we will use this weapon. I believe it is right, though, that, as stated in the White Paper, without ambiguity we should inform the Russians that even if they launched a major conventional attack we would hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. In view of our shortage of conventional armament and forces, there is surely no point in tempting the Soviets into a scale of war which in advance `their knew they could win on account of their numerical superiority in troops and conventional arms, and the knowledge that we would not retaliate with nuclear weapons.

Last week in another place the Minister of Supply said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 583 (No. 61), col. 496]: A collective defence effort tries to provide for every contingency. Jointly, the whole alliance tries to provide a deterrent to global war, a preparation for conventional war, a preparation for limited war and a preparation for police operations. The question of a deterrent to global war and the form it could take will come to later, as mentioned in my opening remarks. With regard to a joint preparation for conventional war, possibly the noble Earl who will be replying to the debate may be able to clarify that question, for, as I understand the problem, this country, in conjunction with other N.A.T.O. forces, would immediately rely on nuclear weapons in such an attack, as stated in paragraph 12 of the White Paper. It is possible that the Minister of Supply, when referring to a preparation for a conventional war, may have been referring to our contribution to the conventional N.A.T.O. shield which extends from Norway to the Caucasus.

Apart from the effectiveness of the deterrent, there still remain the dangers of a limited war which, as has been mentioned many times by noble Lords this afternoon, may flare up within the sphere of influence mainly of our S.E.A.T.O. or Baghdad Pact alliances. Surely it is in such areas that one should fear the development of a limited war into a global war, for in the words of the Secretary of State for War in another place [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 583 (No. 62), col. 666]: The danger of global war lies not in the black but in the grey It is in view of such a possible development that I should welcome a statement by the noble Earl who will be replying to this debate—although he may consider it wiser to await the return of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from Manila—on the extent of the effectiveness of our agreements in this matter of collective defence in those areas, with the object, naturally, of assuring the preservation of peace.

My Lords, it seems evident, and the Government appear well aware of the fact, that we cannot exclusively rely on our central reserve and on the troop-carrying capacity of Transport Command's Comet, Beverley, Britannia and Hastings aircraft, our land and air forces normally stationed in the Middle and Far East, as well as on our seaborne commando force, to guarantee effectively that any limited war in that part of the world will not build up into a war of far-reaching consequences.

We are right—and this matter is touched on in the Defence White Paper—in not underestimating the potential power of Communist China and the increasing influence it could have in that part of the world. Backed by the rising industrial production of Manchuria, whose size is greater than the combined areas of the British Isles, France and Germany, the very great mineral wealth of China, and also by an order passed by the Chinese Parliament in 1955 which introduced compulsory military service for all men between the ages of 18 and 40 (which is making, I am told, nearly 80 million men liable for service in the army, navy or air force), the new China, with its vast reservoir of over 500 million inhabitants, extended communications and higher technical education, and a country which is so densely populated (for instance, the Kiangsu Province has over 850 inhabitants per square mile), will certainly emerge as a Power with which we shall have to contend to an increasing degree. And such a country is no more than 5,000 nautical miles from London; which brings us back to the question of strategic and nuclear weapons.

In the first instance, I think we must consider the problem of the desirability or not of the spreading of nuclear warheads to an increasing number of countries. This question was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, but I do not agree with him, in so far as I agree with the principle of the deterrent. At the moment these warheads remain under the full ownership, custody and control of the United States, as stated in the White Paper on the Supply of Ballistic Missiles by the United States to the United Kingdom. On February 25 Mr. Dulles said in Washington, as reported in the Press: It is indispensable that there be bases dispersed around the world. A Communist attack anywhere in the world would be an attack against the United States itself. We are the target. And so, my Lords, in view of the proposed extension of missile bases, what is the answer to the increased risk of the use of the deterrent at a misguided moment? Does the statement imply that the United States intend to maintain custody and control of such warheads? Should the United States, on the one hand, and the U.S.S.R., on the other, maintain exclusively the custody and control of nuclear warheads?

But do we know the Russian intentions on this matter? Would not possibly the solution lie in the creation of a global authority within N.A.T.O., the North Atlantic Council, whose members would consist of Government representatives of countries supplied with nuclear warheads? Alternatively, would such machinery prove too unwieldy for prompt action, and could the members be maintained in permanent contact for immediate decisions to be taken? These are questions to which answers will have to be found during this period of tension prior to balanced disarmament.

With your Lordships' permission, I should now like to refer to the question of supply to this country of ballistic missiles by the United States Government, our provision of the sites, and our deployment of the missiles, as well as to our other nuclear strategic weapons. Naturally, I wish the N.A.T.O. shield to be as effective as it possibly can be; in other words, that our power to deter an attack should be as great as possible. But the limited design range of Thor, though there was a statement in the Press that a distance of 2,800 miles had been achieved during a trial; the drawbacks of liquid fuelling; the fact, as stated by the Minister of Supply in another place during the defence debate, that there are improvements to be made in this weapon and that we are also developing a longer range missile of our own, coupled with the vulnerability of above-ground launching facilities—surely these are serious enough disadvantages for alternative suggestions to be considered by Her Majesty's Government. I do not agree with the suggestion of the Secretary of State for Air when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 583 (No. 62), col. 570]: I should have thought that these widely dispersed sites would have provided an unattractive target, because they would be small and contain only a few missiles. From that assumption, my Lords, submarines would provide an unattractive target. I do not agree either with the idea that our bomber force could be as vulnerable as our missile deterrent, for, as stated in the White Paper: Measures are accordingly being taken to raise its state of readiness so as to reduce to the minimum the time needed for take-off"— and it provides a mobile and flexible form of military power. With our co-ordination of continental radar warning systems, surely our aircraft would be in a position to take off for alternative airfields whilst remaining bombed-up for an offensive sortie at some appropriate time, whilst the missiles would not have such an advantage. These I feel are grounds for preferring a less vulnerable, shorter readiness or more mobile form of nuclear deterrent such as can be provided by missile launching submarines, and that question was touched on earlier on by the noble Lord. Lord Teynham.


My Lords, before the noble Lord goes on, I wonder whether I might ask him if he would read the book by Kissinger, in which he points out that twenty missiles addressed to this country to prevent our taking those measures would wipe out half the population?


I am well aware of the dangers of nuclear warfare, but I believe at the moment I am right in saying that we are relying on the vast dangers of nuclear warfare from the deterrent point of view. I should also like to stress the advantages of our strategic bomber force equipped with propelled bombs of considerable range.

We have been told that the cost of our missile bases will be in the region of £10 million, a sum which no doubt could usefully have been allocated to bomber or troop-carrying aircraft, while the American contribution, estimated at £30 million, could have gone towards the supply to this country of nuclear strategic missile-firing submarines. In view of our geographical position and our naval heritage, could we not have made a more useful contribution to N.A.T.O. by the deployment of a ballistic missile submarine force?

I believe that the strategic value of such a weapon was recognised yesterday in another place by the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, when he said that the strategic value is incalculable; whilst possibly Her Majesty's Government could induce the remaining N.A.T.O. countries to provide a static form of shield, extending from Norway to Turkey.

In conclusion, I believe, first, that we should have aimed at greater mobility when considering the whole aspect of our strategic nuclear missile deterrent; and secondly, in the advantage of having our V-Bomber force also capable of conventional action, which is not a negligible contribution when one considers the importance of what has been called by many noble Lords this afternoon the "grey" area.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, at this hour it would obviously be impossible to attempt to cover the very wide Held that the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale has just covered, or the other important aspects of the subject, such as the question of tactical nuclear weapons and whether they can be isolated from thermo-nuclear weapons. All I should like to do is to underline some of the reasons why we on these Benches are moving the Amendment that we have put down in my noble Leader's name.

That Amendment has three legs, the last one containing the assertion that the Government have not provided effectively for the defence requirements of Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth. I will not go into that matter in detail. We know that it is only sixteen months since the fiasco of Suez, when our defence forces were shown to be inadequate and ineffective in their job. But we are entitled to ask, I think, in view of the emphasis on the central reserve, how the central reserve is to get to where it is wanted—a point referred to in paragraph 40, and others, of the White Paper. Of course, we are told that twenty Britannias have been ordered. That is admirable news. But when in fact will these machines be available, and when will the central reserve be in a position to be lifted from its peace-time stations to the scene of an emergency?

The second leg of our Amendment urges that the agreement on the setting up of ballistic missile sites in this island shall be suspended until the Summit talks have taken place. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, ended his full and impressive speech with the most sincere hopes that disarmament would become possible, even by small steps, each one leading to a small increase of confidence and a decrease of suspicion. Indeed, paragraph 2 of the White Paper talks of the opposite sides of the cold war, and says: Each fears that the other has aggressive intentions; and no amount of pacific assurances in both directions have so far succeeded in removing these suspicions. That is why we object to the latest agreement to set up ballistic missile bases.

Lord Mancroft, I think, said that everything that could be done to relieve tension and suspicion would be done. That is a good thing. We know that the Prime Minister has taken a leading part; he has shown himself very willing to arrange Summit talks between the West and East. But does it make sense, if we are going to start important discussions, where mutual suspicion is the chief obstacle to achieving any result, to set ourselves up with more efficient means of attacking the person with whom we are going to negotiate? It is difficult to understand the timing of an operation like this.


In that case, does not the noble Earl find it equally difficult to understand the fact, as was pointed out earlier in the debate, that the Russians have chosen this moment to set off two of the greatest hydrogen bombs ever known?


Yes, I find it quite incomprehensible. But I see no reason why this country should follow the example of Russia. If we want to reach an agreement I think we should be ready to go a long way to making the conditions for these negotiations as good as possible. We hear a great deal from the present Government and from the Americans about our expecting deeds and not words from the Russians. Here we are going into negotiations and are prefacing them with deeds—to me it makes no sense at all.

My Lords, paragraph 11 of the White Paper makes a great deal of the Russians' overwhelming superiority in conventional armaments and military manpower. As we know, that is a big factor. But when Lord Mancroft spoke of the possibility that the Russians would attempt to overrun the West by force, he seemed to me to be putting a false interpretation on the position. No doubt the Government's advisers have written many appreciations of the situation in Europe; no doubt they have assessed what the Russians are likely to do. I was always taught that in writing an appreciation the vital thing was first to get the object right, and that if one got the object wrong then the whole of one's reason ing and actions would be wrong too. In this case, I suggest, with great respect, that Her Majesty's Government have got the object of the Soviet Union wrong. I believe they have said that the object of the Soviet Union is to overrun the West by force of arms and dictate peace. I suggest, on the contrary, that the object of the Russians is to impose, to spread, Communism on all the countries of the West by the most likely means. Surely to invade a country is not the way for them to get the good will of its inhabitants towards their own régime.

People cannot be forced to think the same as the Russians do, or to adopt their political forms. So that it does not seem likely that the Russians would attempt an armed attack of that kind. Still less do I believe that they would want to scatter nuclear bombs over the Western countries, because that, equally, would frustrate their aim of achieving Communism all over Europe. There would be no point in a Communist régime if there were no living people and no industrial or civilised life. I believe that there is a fallacy about that part of the White Paper which may easily have led to miscalculations in other parts of it.

The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, made a plea for defence matters to be lifted above Party. As an ideal, no doubt there is a lot to be said for that suggestion. But surely in any political matters the existence of Parties is due to there being disagreements on the object to be achieved and on the methods to be adopted. So I feel that agreement here is more than we can hope for—indeed, as your Lordships will know, there are members of my Party who hold views different from those of the majority. In the speech of my noble friend Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, we had a glimpse of a slightly different attitude to this matter. Though there was a lot in his very able speech with which I agreed, I could not go the whole way with him. He is not alone in thinking as he does, and we know that many people in all Parties, and people of no Party, are willing to go to much greater lengths than the two official Parties are.

My Party believe that the possession by this country of the bomb does contribute to keeping the peace; in other words, it does act as a deterrent. But we believe that we should put it to the maximum possible use in obtaining agreement, and in reducing the tension in the cold war. It is a bargaining factor that might well be used. We have seen that the first point on which agreement was very nearly reached in the disarmament field was on the suspension of nuclear tests. That seems to me to be a direction in which we could use our possession of these bombs as a bargaining factor. I should like, in parenthesis, to enter a small protest against the gibe that is always made against those who wish unilaterally to renounce the hydrogen bomb. We heard again from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that that would mean sheltering behind the United States Forces, and he called it "hypocritical and dishonourable." If we turn to paragraph 29 of the White Paper, we read that: Britain is now making an increasingly significant contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent. That means that up till now Britain has not made a contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent. Moreover, since the war the Americans have possessed weapons more powerful than we have; and yet I have not noticed any feelings of hypocrisy or dishonour on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It is a silly gibe and a totally false analogy. Those people who believe in unilateral renunciation should be given the credit for holding sincerely the views they do. I feel that I have talked long enough, but I should like to say that all of our Party wholeheartedly agree that the White Paper is objectionable for the reasons we give.

The Sitting was suspended at eighteen minutes past seven o'clock and resumed at half-past eight.

8.30 p.m.


My Lords, this afternoon the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle made an appeal in your Lordships' House that the question of nuclear weapons should be kept out of Party politics. If the right reverend Prelate meant that Parties should not exploit the genuine fear of these terrible weapons, I would entirely agree with him. But I think it would be wrong for the major political Parties, which at one time or another will be called upon to form a Government or an Opposition, not to discuss or argue the merits of their case. It would be wrong for any Opposition to act as a rubber stamp to any Government policy. Some noble Lords on the other side of the House echoed this appeal. It seemed to me that they were hinting that the Opposition were acting irresponsibly in questioning, the merits of the present Government's defence policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, recalled a period of twenty-five years ago. It is perfectly true that at that time the British Labour Party were then forming Her Majesty's Opposition and were led by George Lansbury, who was a devoted pacifist. It is perfectly true that many members of the Labour Party held strong pacifist views. But those views were not subscribed to by all. Times and views changed, and George Lansbury was followed as the Leader of the British Labour Party by my noble friend Lord Attlee—and I do not think anybody would call the noble Earl a pacifist. The Labour Party throughout that period promoted the cause of the League of Nations. It was the Conservative Party that resisted sanctions on Italy when Italy made its unprovoked attack on Abyssinia. I do not wish to develop a Party argument, but in view of Lord Coleraine's remarks I thought it only right to point out that it was, not only the Labour Party that was responsible for the appalling drift to war in the 'thirties. If anything, the responsibility was far greater on the Conservative shoulders, in that during that period they were the Government and were supported by a large majority in another place. I shall leave that matter as it is.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, this afternoon, in a very detailed speech, has asked us to approve the Government's Statement, Command Paper No. 363. I have studied this Paper most carefully in conjunction with the Estimates that have been issued by the Ministers responsible for the various Defence Departments; I have read very carefully the debate which took place in the other place last week; I listened most carefully to the detailed speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft; and, in spite of his eloquence, and in spite of the eloquence of a number of noble Lords who have spoken in support of this Statement, I frankly find it very unsatisfactory. In every Department there is a drive to reduce expenditure; but what concerns me is that, in this desire to reduce costs, we may well do it at the expense of overall defence, especially the defence of our lines of communication, at the expense of the defence of our Colonies and Dominions.

The Government seem to believe that a defence policy based largely on a nuclear deterrent will in the end be cheaper and more effective than a defence policy based mainly on conventional weapons but supported by the nuclear deterrent. There has been some doubt as to the position of the Labour Party in regard to nuclear deterrent weapons. I should have thought the position had been made amply clear by the leaders of our Party on a number of occasions. The Labour Party believe that we need the deterrent weapons. It is quite immaterial whether the hydrogen bomb is delivered by an aircraft or by a guided missile. What is of fundamental importance is that we should be complete and utter masters of those weapons, if our future depends upon those weapons, we must be masters of our destiny.

I believe it is wrong that the nuclear deterrent should dominate our defence policy. I can well appreciate the Government case that if Russia were to attack in Europe it might be necessary to use nuclear weapons. But our interests and responsibilities lie not only in Europe. We are a world power in every possible sense of the word. We are a member of the Baghdad Pact. We are a member of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. We are the main defence of our friends within the Commonwealth—in some cases we are the only defence. Can we imagine in the foreseeable future the use of nuclear weapons if we were called upon to meet our obligations under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, or, for that matter, the Baghdad Pact? We shall need for many years to come considerable forces armed with conventional weapons: and I do not include in the conventional weapons, weapons of a nuclear nature. The Government are quite right when they say that we cannot afford to maintain forces at all the danger spots throughout the world. In fairness to our colleagues in the various Treaty Organisations, in fairness to the Dominions and Colonies, in fairness to the millions of people who live under the protection of the British flag, we cannot drastically reduce our overseas forces unless we can urgently and efficiently reinforce those existing or remaining troops from the central reserve in this country. Speed of reinforcement from our central reserve is of paramount importance.

May I refer your Lordships to paragraph 33 of last year's Statement? It reads: In view of the increasing strength and efficiency of the Colonial forces and the growing capacity to send reinforcements rapidly from Britain, the Government propose making considerable reductions in these garrisons wherever practicable. What I should like to ask the Government is: What is this "growing capacity" to send reinforcements? Bearing in mind that speed is essential, we can leave out the question of sending troops by sea. Before considering the capacity of our aircraft of Transport Command of the Royal Air Force let us consider the vast distances involved. We might be called upon to meet our obligations under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. It is approximately 8,000 miles to Singapore, and that would mean long flights through most difficult conditions. It would require at least 72 hours for a modern aircraft to do the round journey; and that again would mean assuming that the necessary air crews were available.

What are the resources of Transport Command as we know them? We have a fair number of Hastings aircraft—out-of-date Hastings; we have 47 Beverleys, 10 Comets; and no doubt a few squadrons of Shackletons could well be made available. Even if we take into account the twenty medium-range Britannias now on order, can we be satisfied that the resources of Transport Command of the Royal Air Force are capable of enabling us to meet our obligations under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation? It is perfectly true that we could charter aircraft of commercial airlines, but I submit that this would not make a great deal of difference.

My Lords, I do not think that I have exaggerated the position. But it could be a great deal graver. Consider the route to the Far East, through the Middle East, India and Ceylon. If we were called upon to support Siam or Malaya under attack, it is highly probable that India and Ceylon would declare their neutrality, and might well refuse us landing and refuelling rights. We might have to take a longer route to avoid certain countries in the Middle East. I do not believe that any of the aircraft I have mentioned is capable of flying out reinforcements to the Far East in time to have any immediate effect in an emergency. In the debate on Civil Aviation last December, I put this very question to Her Majesty's Government. If we have the aircraft, and if there are routes available, I hope that we shall be told; but if we have not, then it is a very grave position. I believe that we must strengthen considerably the Transport Command of the Royal Air Force with the most modern long-range aircraft. Until we can give mobility to the central reserve based in the United Kingdom or in Europe, we just cannot afford to reduce our forces that are now stationed overseas.

In placing this problem before your Lordships, I n lay have given a dark picture by illustrating the problem for a part of the world that is far away. But let me now take the Middle East. Was not one of the basic difficulties of our operations at Suez the lack of transport aircraft that could quickly build up forces and supplies? To-day, if we are to meet aggression—or, better still, prevent it—speed is vital. I may be wrong, but I believe that if there is another war, it is more likely to start from a small incident and gradually to spread until the major Powers are involved. If prompt reinforcement to a danger spot could prevent the spread to a major war, a few squadrons of large-range freighters might have a greater effect in maintaining the peace of the world than the rather obsolete missiles we are going to establish in this country.

I have spoken at some length on one aspect of why I support the Amendment that has been moved this afternoon by my noble Leader, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I believe that the present Government policy does not take into account fully our needs to defend our lines of communication to the Commonwealth. There are other reasons why I could support the Amendment: the tragic weakness of the Navy and the rather Maginot-line complex of the Government towards nuclear weapons.

I somehow believe that the Government themselves, in their heart of hearts, are not happy with the position. They have set their hearts on reducing the bur den of the defence expenditure on the national economy. I should like to read to your Lordships paragraph 6 of last year's White Paper. It says: Britain's influence in the world depends first and foremost on the health of her internal economy and the success of her export trade. Without these, military power cannot be in the long run supported. It is therefore in the true interests of defence that the claims of military expenditure should be considered in conjunction with the need to maintain the country's financial and economic strength". I believe that those words hold the key to the present defence policy. The failure of the Government's economic policy now reflects on our policy to defend ourselves and our Commonwealth, and our obligations which we have undertaken with so many countries throughout the world. I believe that the poverty of the Government's policy is becoming more apparent month by month. One would have thought that recent by-election results would clearly show to the Government where their duty lies. But it seems, from what the Prime Minister has said, that the Government intend to die at their post, and therefore the country must pay for the folly of the last General Election. I believe that the duty of the Opposition is perfectly clear: we must support the Amendment.

8.48 p.m.


My Lords, I will follow the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to the extent of saying that he has made my task a great deal easier, and, I might say, a great deal more welcome, by rejecting the offer made earlier as between Back-Benchers to take this whole debate outside the arena of Party politics. On the occasion of the last Defence debate I felt myself to be among those gently, indirectly chidden by my noble friend Lord Mancroft for straying outside the stricter confines of the subject. So on this occasion I had better say at the outset that I find it virtually impossible to discuss Defence as such, having heard my right honourable friend the Minister himself declare, in words unequivocal, that there is no defence.

He said, if I do not misinterpret him, that in the event of a nuclear war an attempt would be made to protect the airfields—"defence of the deterrent", was his phrase—but that the, civilian population would have to take more or less what was coming to them. He also said, with equal clarity and equal power, that what we aimed at was to prevent the possibility of such a nuclear war. So I propose to maintain—I hope not too pedantically—that what we have for discussion to-day is not so much a policy of defence as a policy of prevention, a policy of prophylaxy. My noble friend Lord Mancroft said to-day that had the Kaiser and Hitler known clearly in advance what was to be our reaction to German aggression, two world wars might well have been avoided. I should have thought that an even more emphatic deduction could be made to-day in the nuclear circumstances in which we live, so long as—and this is the important thing—our intentions are made clear and are not enshrined and screened in the Socialist mystery, or wrapped in the terms of to-day's Amendment. I not only believe that this prophylactic method is entirely excellent in purpose, but I agree with the Government that it is the only hope we have to counteract the obliteration of all we possess.

Your Lordships are well aware of the unbalance between 30 N.A.T.O. divisions and 200 Russian divisions, and that a Soviet armoured corps, driving on the Channel ports, would have a bare 300 miles of territory to traverse to its objective, from a standing start behind the Iron Curtain. There is no pretence that I have heard that N.A.T.O., with its present cold war manpower, could withstand a major Russian advance if it were restricted to conventional weapons or even to tactical atomic weapons. Numbers would count, and the numbers of the enemy would be overwhelming. There is the positive claim, implicit in the White Paper, that we can prevent that attack from ever being launched, if we install and develop the prophylactic weapons available to us at this time, and declare our intention to use them in the event of a Russian aggression.

I am bound to suppose that any wise and peaceable Government in history would have opted to prevent a war rather than to wage it in any conditions, let alone the conditions imposed to-day by the crushing superiority of Soviet force in conventional weapons. And yet today, in certain quarters, there is a windiness—a reluctance to adopt that one measure, at last a forcible means to outlaw major war. How can we expect future generations to understand it? How could we expect our friends and Allies of to-day to understand it, if we were, under different leadership, to shrink from the very act of self-protection, linked with the mutual protection of Western Europe? These are undoubtedly days when it behoves us to hearten and to infect our friends and Allies with our own courage, as we have done before. This is not the time to dishearten them with a show of havering and heartsickness which, in point of fact, does not become us and is not normal to us as a nation. But it is, all the same, endemic in the utterances of some of our public men to-day.

How are we to account for it; how are we to account for this curious scruple that it is wrong to tell the Russians that we would counter any major advance of theirs with the only equitable weapon we possess? How are we to understand this bland disregard of the Russian threat, eighteen months ago, of retaliation by nuclear missiles on London and Paris, in reply to a small-scale conventional landing in Port Said, in an area not directly concerned with Soviet Russia? They have declared their moral approval of such an action. They have declared their right and their intention to take the very action that some of us would deny ourselves. My Lords, I have sought out some kind of explanation for this very curious state of mind. Living in this epoch one is bound to be aware that a great proportion of Left wing supporters, righteous even at their most ridiculous, genuinely think that everything British imperialism ever achieved was bad and nothing was good.

Anyone who has read a page or two of history knows that the record of history rebuts that belief; but still it is held by sometimes perfectly charming people. One must tolerate it as one tolerates other amiable lunacies. We can tolerate it so long as it does not lead us into danger, until it leads to an imperialism in reverse, a dis-imperialism run wild. I think it was Chesterton who, in two witty lines, satirised one aspect, as he conceived it, of the old imperialism: Whatever happens we have got The maxim gun and they have not. I am corrected; it was Belloc in The Modern Traveller. If in fact that was the attitude of some imperial pioneers, then certainly it was unedifying, at least by the standards of to-day. But what I find equally unedifying and far more foolhardy is the slogan which certain supporters of the Party opposite would like to be able to repeat with a sort of hideous satisfaction if they had their way: Whatever happens, they have got The nuclear bomb and we have not, Reading the speeches in another place and comments in part of the Press, it is my unwilling, my woeful, deduction, that some of those in the public life of this country respond with more rapture to the sickly smell of surrender than to any other palpable element. It is they and such as they who give a quite false impression to the foreign observer that this is a city stinking of defeatism.


I should like to interrupt to say that the last set of phrases used by the noble Lord is a complete libel upon the Labour movement in this country and all they did in winning the last war—a complete libel on them and their families who suffered right the way through.


Surely the noble Lord is speaking about the men who went to Munich.


I am speaking of the present day. I think both noble Lords when they read Hansard will find that I referred to certain supporters of the Labour Party.


What is the point?


If the noble Lords will disavow them as supporters of the Labour Party and disavow the Daily Herald they will be doing their Party a service.


Just as you ought to begin to disavow the people called Tories who were not averse from supporting Fascism when it suited them.


I must say that none of them is personally known to me. I will continue by saying that it is the few I am describing—and they are few—who have given this extremely false impression to foreign observers.


If the noble Lord says that these people are few why do he and his friends try to exaggerate their numbers?


I will, if the noble Lord will allow me, develop in the course of the next few minutes the point I was making. To throw away the only effective weapon we have would be defeatism and surrenderism. I could not attempt to make that point more pungently than the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, made it three years ago. This whole attitude, this whole policy, would spell surrender, unless we were to be protected by others with the weapons that we were too craven to handle ourselves. That would be a proud posture indeed for the British Islanders! Even if we were to adopt that impossible, that unthinkable, posture, can we seriously assume that our present Allies would be prepared to defend those who were able but not prepared to defend themselves?

At this point I can only assume that the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, was intentionally splitting hairs when he presented his objection to this argument by quoting paragraph 29 of the White Paper, because there is nothing in paragraph 29, in fact nothing in the whole White Paper, to suggest that we have not been making our maximum contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent, which is, after all, what is required of us.


Surely the noble Lord knows that the essence of every alliance is that each partner takes its share, not necessarily the major share; and what I said was that until now we had not taken a major share in the Western Alliance.


No. I am quite ready to stand corrected, but I think what the noble Earl suggested was that this line in paragraph 29, which he mentioned, suggested that we had not until now been making a significant contribution.


That is what the White Paper says.


Not as I read it. It may be open to discussion. What in fact it says is that Britain is now making an increasingly significant contribution … That does not say that until now we have been making an insignificant contribution.

The leadership of the Labour Party is not yet tainted by the sort of poltroonery that I have described. I read yesterday in the Daily Herald the forthright article by Mr. George Brown, followed to-day by the sickly article by Mr. J. B. Priestley, full of false pacificism which is really surrenderism. Indeed, I must say that it seems to me miraculous and depressing that anything so spiritless should have come out of Yorkshire. There is a group in the Party opposite referred to as the "Ginger Group" expounding this sort of creed of surrenderism. It might be better defined as the "Opium group" judging by the effect of its commodity on the wits of those who consume it. My great respect for noble Lords on the front Bench opposite requires me to say that, in all conscience, surely they and their colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet can "out-ginger" that bunch.


I should think so.


May I say at once that I derive no satisfaction whatever, still less triumph, from this particular split in the Party opposite—because it is more than a split in a Party. It encourages a split among our countrymen in face of a grave danger, and at a time when grave decisions may have to be taken and when it is imperative that we should be united. What I am going to say next is by way of establishing some sort of Party identity of purpose, because there is still apparent evidence that the leadership itself of the Labour Party is shaken and unsure of its course.




The noble Viscount says "Nonsense!" Five months ago the attitude of Mr. Bevan was perfectly clear. It would be hard to say that it was equally clear to-day. Five months ago he said that without the bomb a British Foreign Secretary would go naked into the international conference. To-day, Mr. Bevan (I am assuming that he optimistically sees himself in the part) is still reluctant to go naked into the conference, but he seems quite prepared to go in wearing a transparent bikini. Because let us have this one perfectly clear definition; let us answer the riddle: when is a deterrent not a deterrent? A deterrent is not a deterrent if we throw it away. Nor is it a deterrent if we make it perfectly plain to the enemy and to the world at large that, though we have it, we will never use it, or will use it only when it is too late.


Would the noble Lord also say that a deterrent is not a deterrent if it can be destroyed before it is used?


Is the noble Lord arguing, therefore, that it is better not to have it at all?




Good. I was beginning to think he was supporting the point that his noble friend the Leader of the Opposition thought I was making. The word "suicide" has been merrily bandied about in the past few days, and has found its echo in this debate. But it is those who use it who are peddling suicide in these debates, because what they offer the country is "suicide by inertia." Perhaps I am little qualified to wax prophetic, but I have travelled more than some among many peoples and I am convinced that any Government which led this country to such a dishonourable fate would be remembered, for centuries to come, as the Achilles buttock of Britain.

Here then, my Lords, is the line-up of our political defence for the next few vital years: the Government of the day and the Opposition, the reserve team. Two teams, their character and purpose described respectively by the authors of this White Paper and by its critics; one facing the future, alert to its dangers, determined to equip the country with the most modern and effective apparatus of a scientific age—a Government abreast of the times; and the other, turning their backs on the future, turning their backs on reality, depending on polythene bathing trunks to make them invisible. If, in the remainder of this debate, noble Lords opposite can persuade me, and (what I confess is far more important), can persuade the world, that my picture of them is entirely false, then I feel certain that they will be doing a great service to their Party, and to peace.

9.8 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start by making my apologies to my noble friend, Lord Aberdare, for having been unavoidably absent from the House when he made what I hear was a most admirable and excellent: maiden speech. I hope that the next time he addresses the House I shall be more fortunate. We are coming in sight of the end of this first day's debate, and may I try to see what, in my view at any rate, are some of the salient points which have emerged from the speeches of noble Lords? It seems to me that anyone who reads this year's White Paper will be struck by the evidence that it shows of continuity of policy. One noble Lord opposite (I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Wise, who is not now in the Chamber) suggested that certain portions of the early part would have been better left out. I cannot say that I agree with that. I feel that on any account, whether people agree with the Government or disagree with it, it is absolutely right that the Government's view should be clearly stated beyond any doubt.

There is continuity in this White Paper of the policy of last year. As it says in the text of the Paper, it is the implementation of the 1957 White Paper; and my noble friend Lord Mancroft gave what I thought was a pretty impressive list of steps which had been taken: in other words, of decisions which have been reached. We have in past years had numbers of White Papers which did not show the same evidence of decision as, I put to your Lordships, this White Paper does. The continuity is not, I think, merely in respect of the 1957 White Paper; it shows a continuity, by and large, since 1947, the year after the present series of White Papers started and the year in which the Iron Curtain came down. Of course, if you look back at the 1947 and 1948 White Papers you will see a great many changes, and there they are; but I put it to your Lordships that those changes are much more changes of practice—major practice, if you like—and not changes in principle, because the principles on which the 1947 White Paper started off in the days when the Iron Curtain began are principles that have stood the test of the advent of atomic and nuclear weapons.

Make no mistake, this is a problem of what might start off, of what might touch off, some horrible third world war in which we should all be annihilated. Of course, there is no denying that the fact that we now have atomic and nuclear weapons makes that prospect very much more serious; but it is not a change in principle. World wars have been sparked off by bullets in our lifetime, as in the Sarajevo incident. No doubt in former times they were sparked off by bows and arrows, and it does not follow that because we have nuclear weapons the spark off is more likely to happen. On the contrary, one could argue perfectly well that because of what is at stake the spark off would be less likely to happen than otherwise.

May I now come to a theme which has been voiced by a number of noble Lords from different sides of the House and which was also voiced, so I read, in another place by the right honourable gentleman the Member for Easington: and that is the need—I would say the urgent need—to get defence matters, and indeed foreign affairs matters, above the strife of Party politics? A number of noble Lords made that point. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle added his voice to that number, and I should like to add mine too, because, looked at in a certain way, differences of opinion, even relatively major differences of opinion such as have been voiced to-night, are, I would say, a luxury which we in this country cannot afford at the present time, however much we may be entitled to Party differences over internal matters. Mr. Shinwell in his speech in the other place, I think I am right in saying, mentioned some joint Party consultations, possibly somewhat on the lines of the old Committee of Imperial Defence; and some noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite in the time when my noble friends and I were in Opposition will remember the several times we made that same point; but, unfortunately, as I think, we got no change. However, there is still time.


My Lords, may I correct the noble Viscount? Several times I invited the Opposition leaders to come and discuss defence, and we did so, but later on they preferred not to, because a little knowledge of the facts somtimes cramped their style.


My Lords, my recollection goes back even further than that of the noble Earl. I do not dissent from that, but, having myself sat on the Committee of Imperial Defence for many years before the war, I remember some occasions on which the same sort of overture was made to the Opposition and was declined, except over things that did not matter a bit—things like the Channel tunnel. But I believe that we were both a bit at fault; and is that not a very good reason for our being perhaps more sensible to-day on both sides?


The noble Earl will remember that there was a very strong difference of opinion between the two sides. For instance, at that time we were advocating collective security, and you will remember that Mr. Chamberlain said it was moonshine. I am glad that collective security is now acceptable.


I bow to the experience of noble Lords on both sides who had the experience which has never come my way.

Now I should like to say one other thing about the White Paper itself. As I see it, one can feel in the White Paper the increased relationship of our defence preparations to the Summit talks, and therefore to the ultimate object of our defence policy, which is disarmament and, therefore, preparation for peace. I thought that in his speech the noble Lord, Lord Rea, gave the impression that in his opinion Summit talks were not in sight. If he did give that impression, I would say that he was wrong. I should have thought, though knowing little about it, that Summit talks were more in sight now than they had been for a long time, so that our defence policy must be so framed and shaped that we do everything we can to lead up to useful, conclusive and worthwhile Summit talks. Thus our defence policy should be shaped to lead to eventual disarmament.

It is very easy to say that, but one can also say that, if we are not careful, our defence policy may lead indeed to disarmament, but not to disarmament all round, which is what all of us, in this House and elsewhere, really want. In my view—and I appreciate how seriously the opposite view has been given—any failure to go ahead now with our nuclear preparations would not in the long run lead to disarmament all round. It might lead to a form of unilateral disarmament; but that would not, I think, produce the result we are all seeking. What we want is parallel disarmament in the two groups, in the N.A.T.O. group and in the Iron Curtain group. That, I am quite sure, is the objective which is aimed at by noble Lords opposite.

That brings me to a point which was made I thought very rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, when he pointed out that although we talk about "we" half the time we really mean N.A.T.O., because we are committed and obligated to N.A.T.O., and so long as we are members of N.A.T.O. and Western European Union, our policy must be part and parcel of the N.A.T.O. policy and nothing else. So, my Lords, I put it, as my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye did, that any tendency towards unilateral disarmament, even if it is only a temporary tendency, will not really make for peace in the sense of our own security.

I believe that the differences that have been voiced on both sides are not nearly so wide as some people might think. We are concentrating on whether or not it is right to establish the Thor weapon over here just now. I do not think anybody in his senses is prepared at this stage, before even any Summit talks have taken place, to contemplate the possibility of a bloodless walkover by the Soviets as an acceptable form of peace. It may be, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, said, that Russia is not anxious for a military victory but is anxious for an ideological victory. I do not particularly care which way the ideological victory comes, with or without war; I do not want to see it here, and I do not think that we are going the right way if we fail to take the measures of defence that are indicated in the White Paper.

That is where those who think as I do part company with those who want to call a halt now to the implementing of Thor in this country. In saying that, I do not want any noble Lord to think for a moment that I am not taking full account of the sincerity with which other views have been voiced this afternoon, nor do I necessarily hold the view that the implementing of Thor, to which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, referred, is necessarily the best technically. It may or may not be so. If it is not right, then what we are doing should be changed; but in this debate we are much more concerned with principles than we are with the merits or defects of any particular weapon, however far-ranging or important it may be.

While I pay tribute to the sincerity of those who hold opposite views, I must state my view plainly. This campaign for nuclear disarmament, with those associated with it, is the biggest red herring this nation has had to face since the Peace Pledge movement in 1935, and that is saying a lot. In looking at to-day's Times I see that at a meeting at Oxford one of the official speakers, who met with some opposition, asked for widespread refusal of military service. So that nuclear disarmament, like adversity in the proverb, makes strange bedfellows, because some of the people who support nuclear disarmament appear to call for conventional disarmament as well. I would say—and I hope that this is not a wrong thing to say—that when I read accounts of people outside your Lordships' House who take these views and are widely reported as holding them, I feel how very few seem to have any experience of dealing with the practical problems of defence, and still fewer have felt the weight of responsibility which comes to those, like Members of your Lordships' House and of another place, who have a share in shaping Government policy and voting for or against it. Whatever views we hold, we cannot but feel anxiety, especially if we are Christians.

My view is that the effective preparations for defence outlined in the White Paper are much more likely to lead to worthwhile Summit talks and therefore to worthwhile measures of disarmament. After all, we may dislike the idea of nuclear weapons, we may recoil from the horrible possibilities which they conjure up in our minds, but they are here; they have been invented and nothing we can do can exorcise or remove them from the world of reality. Whether or not we like to see weapons emplaced in this country, we cannot get away from the geographical position of this country or from those problems which are caused by our geographical position in the world; and the same thing, since the greater includes the less, goes for East Anglia. So we have to base our defence policy in such a way as to use our military preparations as part of a peaceful foreign policy. We cannot separate the two.

I notice that in a lecture at the Royal United Service Institution the other day Sir Stephen King-Hall complained that people talk about defence policy as an adjunct to foreign policy. He said, and I am sure that he is right nowadays, that defence policy is foreign policy. I think—and I hope that I am not presuming in saying this—that some difference of opinion, not only in your Lordships' House but outside, arises from a possible confusion of thought in three directions. First of all, I think we are wrong in regarding nuclear weapons as something basically and fundamentally different from earlier types. I thought in that matter that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, was right, but I doubted whether the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was quite so right. I myself feel—and I think this will be supported by any look that anybody takes at the history of war and weapons—that a weapon has seldom altered the principles of war, however much it may have altered the tactics of the battlefield and however much larger it may have made the battlefield grow.

Secondly, some of us are attempting, as said, to ignore the existence of nuclear weapons. But they are there; and I think if we try to take a peep into the future we shall see that they will find their place in exactly the same way as the bogies of the last generation, poison gas and bacteriological warfare, have found their place—and not nearly so frightening a place as some of us thought. Thirdly, we are wrong in not realising that with the increased range of weapons which we have nowadays conceptions of sovereignty as we used to understand them have far less meaning than they used to have, at any rate, in Western Europe. For defence purposes a great measure of sovereignty must be delegated, in our case to N.A.T.O. So we come to the conception of Allied effort in production and research, particularly in nuclear weapons, because, as everybody knows and agrees, nuclear weapons are far too expensive and there is far too much at stake to attempt to work separately from the Americans or anybody else. Any undertaking in respect of nuclear weapons must be not a unilaterally British or American matter, or belonging to any other country, but part of the N.A.T.O. operational policy.

But the opposite is equally true: notwithstanding that we act as part of N.A.T.O. in regard to our nuclear and atomic preparations, our domestic preparations must be our own—I use the word "domestic" in preference to the word conventional "because I think that in some ways it gives a better angle on the problem. After all, most of what are called our conventional preparations are preparations which are designed in order that we can undertake our own responsibilities vis-è-vis this country and the Commonwealth and Empire. In the same way that nuclear operations on a big scale imply a strategical and tactical plan beyond the scope of our own resources, equally the domestic or, if you like, the conventional preparations are well within our own resources.

There is a further point that, whatever may be the state of invention and research to-day, to my mind the time will almost certainly come when the nuclear and atomic weapons will be broken down, so that those principles can be made to serve tactical weapons on the battlefield; and if we leave nuclear manufacture now, as some people suggest, there will certainly be a point at which it will be absolutely necessary to re-enter the field of nuclear manufacture in order to safeguard what we now call, I think mistakenly, our need for conventional forces.

So we have these domestic measures which we take on our own. That brings me to welcome most warmly the text in italic printing on page 1 of the Report on Defence. It also brings me to welcome strongly what is said in paragraph 40 about the central reserve. Here again I should like to say how much I agree with a great deal of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I thought he was absolutely right, and also, reading between the lines, I felt that there were great signs in paragraphs 40 and 41 of the White Paper that the operational and logistic lessons of Suez had been faithfully learned. I am going quickly now because the hour is late. I hope that the Government will realise the strong feeling in this country that the Germans, who after all did not win the last war, should be made to pay their proper share of the costs of Western defence. There are one or two other paragraphs in the Paper upon which I am going to touch very shortly indeed.


My Lords, may I just say that we always appreciate listening to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, because he is always so fair and quiet. But perhaps he will look back to-morrow morning over what he has said in general, and then consider what the position of the Opposition really is. As I pointed out on January 22, they were the pioneers of N.A.T.O. They were the first to get the real combination; it was they who realised that in those circumstances only National Service would meet the situation. They were the ones who acquiesced in the terrific expansion of the collective army of N.A.T.O. When the noble Viscount is looking at his remarks to-morrow morning, he will realise the contrast I made between being secure through a deterrent up to 1951 and the vast difference there is in the situation to-day, as a result of the new power and discoveries of Russia.


My Lords. I will most certainly look in Hansard to-morrow morning at what all of us have said. But let me say now that I do not think that I have at any time wished to dispute the most important share which noble Lords opposite took in the formation of N.A.T.O. and in National Service. If he looks back at former Hansards I think the noble Viscount will find that he had plenty of support from those of us who were then sitting on the Benches opposite.

Now may I come to a smaller point? I noticed a curious phrase about the "framework" of Civil Defence. I wonder whether that means the present activity or reduced activity; or does it mean, to put it bluntly, that the Home Office have won this round? I am not going into details of manpower or its handling, important though they are, because my noble friend Lord Stratheden and Campbell dealt faithfully with that subject before dinner.

I should like briefly to welcome the statements in the White Paper, and the way they were amplified by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, about what is to be done for the individuals in the Forces, because, whatever our plans are, they depend upon the well-being and efficiency of those people who are in the Forces at any given time. I hope that my noble friends in front of me will not misunderstand when I say that it is a little early yet to put these announcements to the test of whether they turn out to be adequate or not. My suspicion is that the pay is adequate enough. I am not yet quite certain about the allowances, and I feel that we should not be doing our duty on the Benches behind if we did not now express our concern that these measures should in fact be designed to meet the full need that is there. No doubt they will, but we must all see to it that they do. Most of these smaller points will affect the Army, and many of us will be concerned to deal with them in the debate on the Army Estimates when it takes place before very long. The same applies to the points affecting the other Services. We have the three Service debates before us, and no doubt we shall all use them as best we can for the good of the men in the three Services.

So my Lords, may I come back to the main theme we have all been talking about to-day, and say that I, for one, strongly support the Motion moved by my noble friend, Lord Mancroft. Many of the problems that have to be faced by Her Majesty's Government are not clear cut; there are two views in many cases; but I feel, without the slightest doubt, that the views expressed in the White Paper are, on balance, the right ones. If they are to be properly implemented and lead up to successful disarmament talks in the future, the Government will need not only clear heads but also stout hearts, which I am sure my noble friends in front of me possess in full measure.

9.35 p.m.


My Lords, for a number of years in a good many debates on defence and cognate subjects the noble Viscount and I have followed one another; on some occasions he has followed me and on others, like this evening, I have followed him. This evening, therefore, presents a further instance of continuity. He referred to continuity, but perhaps the continuity he suggested in the policy set out in the White Paper on this occasion was due to the fact that this is the only ocasion for a good many years past in which there has been the same Minister of Defence for two consecutive years—an easy and simple explanation of continuity. The noble Viscount made some reference to the Army in various of its aspects. I do not propose to follow him in that, because I think it will be more convenient to deal with questions of detail, or indeed of principle, relating to the Army, as well as the Navy and Royal Air Force, in debates upon those particular subjects on special occasions. And I do not exclude civil defence.

I admired the dexterity and the adroitness with which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, presented this White Paper to your Lordships. He was unabashed by what would have troubled others—by the difficulties of his case; but then he is accustomed to dealing with difficult cases. He drew the attention of your Lordships, as did the noble Viscount who has just sat down, to the quotation at the head of the White Paper. I will tell your Lordships how this struck me when I read it. I wondered whether it was an indication of the relative importance that the authors of the Paper, contrary to the maxim of Napoleon, attached to the material and the moral, because this quotation was in type so small as to be almost indecipherable to my ageing eyes. I am glad that the quotation is there for those who could read it more readily than I.

The noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, and others of your Lordships have made reference to what they have termed the difficulty and almost the lack of public duty in one Party in your Lordships' House questioning upon this matter of defence the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I must confess that whilst I think there is, and should be, a very broad line of general approach common to us all in regard to foreign policy and armaments, it would be wrong to assume, in my view, that the Parties should speak and think alike, without discrimination, in a matter of this kind, upon what has emerged from the inner consciousness of those who happen to sit upon the Government Benches for the time being.

What is important, I would suggest, is not that these matters should be considered by one Party and the other but coming always to the same conclusions, but that they should not think of them and speak of them in a spirit of partisanship. I think that that is really what, in essence, the noble Lord had in mind. I should think it still worth consideration, however, that there might be created once more some body in the nature of the Committee of Imperial Defence within the ambit of what Mr. Balfour had in mind and the practice which prevailed during his time, and for long afterwards, in the operations of that most important, and indeed crucial, body, which conducted and was responsible for the defence arrangements of the country, at all events up to the outbreak of the First World War. I should think that very well worth consideration.

In the course of these discussions a great deal has been said about the grey area. When I think of the relative positions in this matter of those who sit on this side of the House and those who sit on the other, it seems to me that we are neither of us in the "white" country or the "black" country; we are both in the "grey" country. But there are different shades of grey—there is a dark grey and there is a light grey. However, we are all. I think, in the grey country; and which are in the dark and which are in the light is anyone's guess. I do not pretend to express any opinion about that, save to say that what is important is that we are relatively so near to one another on a subject of such grave importance as this.

I think we must all recognise that the Government—any Government—confronted with these problems is in a dilemma, and especially in a dilemma in the present economic situation of the country, when one, at least, of the problems which the Minister responsible has to consider is, as is obvious from the White Paper itself, how to fit our defence policy within the general economic plan of the Government. The degree of success that he has had is a matter upon which there may be more than one opinion; but there can be none but that his policy has been gravely influenced by the economic situation. It is a question whether the economic situation, for which, after all, the Government has a large responsibility, should determine so vital a matter as the defence policy or whether the defence policy should be dealt with as something standing especially on its own.

The noble Viscount, in referring to the continuity of the White Paper policy, brought back to my mind the debate on the White Paper of last year. Out of that White Paper we had to spell what really was to emerge from it; and spelling out from that White Paper what was really the underlying principle, one found it was "Disarmament". "Disarm or die" was the phrase which emerged from a study of the White Paper last year. This year—here is the continuity—it is not left to us to spell out of it "Disarmament"; disarmament is not merely implicit, it is explicit within this White Paper. And on the need for disarmament, or the vital necessity for it, by all means comparable with honour and safety, there can be no difference of opinion on either side of your Lordships' House. To paraphrase a sentence so well known to your Lordships, but emerging in a different context from a statesman in the other place some seventy years ago, We are all disarmers now. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, discussing the question of disarmament, suggested that it was questionable whether disarmament should be in the hands of the Minister, whoever he might be, responsible for foreign policy. I share that view. It seems to me that it may be very desirable in these difficult and anxious days that there should be, dealing with disarmament independently of the person appointed to the Foreign Office, a special Corps d'élite. I feel that that suggestion is well worth considering.

In the course of this discussion I have noticed a tendency to speak of the H-bomb as if the central feature of the White Paper were our possession of the bomb as a deterrent. That is not so, of course—and for a very good reason: that the days when the H-bomb was a deterrent are gone. They went as soon as Russia had the bomb and could use it to the same effect, as speedily and in its own judgment, as we could. It then ceased to be a deterrent. The noble Earl, Lord Home, shakes his head, but that is what the Minister of Defence implied in what he said in another place. He did not say anything now about the bomb being a deterrent. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 583 (No. 61), col. 410]: We have made it quite clear that if there is a major, full-scale attack, even with conventional forces only, nuclear retaliation would be necessary. So that what was yesterday the deterrent has now become the instrument of retaliation—the noble Earl again shakes his head, but that is what the responsible Minister said only last week. That is the right term to use if the bomb is now to be used. It has ceased to be a deterrent in argument, in fact, and in practice, and has become an instrument that can be used as an instrument of first offensive or an instrument of retaliation—and that by the other side as well as by our own side.

Far be it from me to give expression to the views of another nation, but I have recently been in the United States where I had opportunities of discussing matters such as this, among others, not with those speaking in any official capacity but with others—and if they had not been responsible people I should not have mentioned it to your Lordships' House. What I am saying to your Lordships is what they said to me: the deterrent value of the bomb has gone. It went on a particular day—the moment Russia was in a position to use it. What emerges from that fact is that we both have the bomb, and the question now is: which of us—if either—is going to use it? Which of us—if either—is going to bring pressure on the other so as to secure that it shall not be used?

One of the grave questions of policy to which perhaps not altogether sufficient attention has been given here, and which I heard mentioned time and again in the United States, in private conversations on this subject, is that when that situation arises, and Russia brings pressure to bear upon the Western Powers because of Russia's possession of the H-bomb, will they be able to bring sufficient pressure upon us to induce us to give a sop to Cerberus? In other words, will they be able to bring sufficient pressure upon us to make us give way in this respect or that respect, rather than risk the use of the bomb by Russia? That is not only what I heard in these conversations across the Atlantic; it is the obvious situation. One has only to survey tine position to see that that is the case, and that the whole problem of the H-bomb has altered since the White Paper of last year; and to-day that is indicated more accurately by the statement, which I have mentioned to your Lordships, made by the Minister of Defence on February 26. Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald—who made that interesting, fighting and enjoyable speech earlier in the evening—were here, I would say to him, in answer to his question: "When does a deterrent cease to be a deterrent?" that the answer is: "When the other fellow has it too". I think I heard somebody say that that is no argument.


My Lords, if I may interrupt, I think that the fact that a weapon has become a method of retaliation does not stop it from being a deterrent.


My Lords, it ceases then to be a deterrent in the context in which that term has always hitherto been used; it has entirely lost its character as a deterrent in the sense in which for six or twelve or eighteen months that term was used generally within this country and across the Atlantic. The only point is that across the Atlantic they have realised it more quickly and more fully than we have done here.

I do not want to keep your Lordships unduly at this hour, but I have also read the agreement about bases in this country for ballistic missiles, and I say to your Lordships who may have read it that, as a document, either that agreement does not say what it means or it does not mean what it says. But I should like to ask this question—there may be no opportunity for an answer in the course of this discussion, but perhaps there will be when we come to debate one of the Forces, perhaps the Army or the Air Force. I should like to ask this question: Where are the nuclear warheads to be kept? Are they to be kept in this country or are they to be kept in the United States? How soon will they be available for use, and at whose discretion? Supposing we want to use a nuclear warhead in a submarine capable of discharging it, whom do we ask, how do we ask him, and where do we get it from?

I should like to know how far, in practice, what is stated here has been worked out, because it is vital that we should know, if we are to have these bases in this country. It is vital that we should know whether or not the missile can be made effective by the speedy application of the warhead. The document is entirely silent upon that subject. One has to apply an element of common sense to the question of where the warhead is going to be kept, but do the Government really think that it is a wise thing to start now on the creation of missile bases, on the footing of this document, when I understand that, within a relatively short period of time (I think it says so in the Defence White Paper), improved missiles will become available, missiles of our own manufacture requiring or using underground bases in contradistinction to the surface bases required for the American missiles? That is a question to which no doubt consideration has been given, and it is a question to which we should like to have an answer.

I am somewhat troubled about these missile bases, partly for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Wise. Some of your Lordships will remember that during the last war Mr. Churchill was very much attracted by a project which was known as "Habakkuk". Habakkuk was a proposal—I am using Mr. Churchill's words—to use artificial icebergs as a stop-gap point for aircraft in the Atlantic. He goes on later to say that for some various reasons this project never became effective. I do not want to see Britain become an American satellite in this context as Habakkuk would to us have been a British satellite. I think that we must stand on our own feet with regard to these weapons. I hope that we may do so.

It is a very serious responsibility and a really very grave risk that we take, if in this difficult situation—and none of us will underrate its difficulty or its perils—we may at the moment of crisis be dependent either for our supply of bombs or our supply of nuclear warheads upon a nation 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, which may just at that moment find itself in the crisis of its own fate and may say, "Our future is even more important than the future of our brothers across the Atlantic." That is a situation in which it would be deplorable to find ourselves, and I hope the Government may find it possible to relieve the anxiety, to which I give expression with reluctance but with a great sense of responsibility and also a sense of some urgency, because it is a matter upon which, as a question of policy, the Government must make up their minds and inform the public. Do the Government feel in all respects fully satisfied that what we want will be forthcoming when we want it, where we want it, ready for use in our own defence as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation?

My Lords, I will not pursue further at this moment the various points that I have indicated, but I will say that they seem to me to be of sufficient importance to indicate that we should not at this moment commit ourselves irretrievably; and that is the reason I ask your Lordships to support this Amendment.


My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.