HL Deb 06 April 1960 vol 222 cc748-96

3.50 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I feel it is almost indelicate of me to interrupt this debate on transport, but I would remind your Lordships that before my noble friend made his statement we had just listened to a well-informed speech from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Your Lordships will, I know, have come to expect this, since the noble Lord has great experience of the subject, not only because he has served in the Royal Air Force but because of the continuing interest which he has taken in its well-being.

It is always interesting to look back on what one has said in the past: sometimes it is an agreeable experience, sometimes not. One often finds, I am afraid, that the passing of the years has made one's remarks rather less prescient or wise than they might have been. But, my Lords, I am happy to say that on re-reading a speech that I made on this very subject in your Lordships' House four years ago, I was very relieved to see that not only has the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the R.A.F. been consistent, but so have I. At that time we were still looking forward to the V-bombers coming along in large numbers. Now the later marks of V-bombers are beginning to come into service; and we are having to look seriously at the problems of the future.

There is, at any rate in this House, no Party disagreement about this aspect of our defence policy. The purpose of the deterrent, and the part which we play in contributing to it, are agreed. And yet it is a complicated and esoteric subject. Most of your Lordships will agree that, in the defence debates which we have had recently and in the discussions in the newspapers and some of the more learned journals, it has become increasingly evident that we are engaged on a kind of philosophical exercise: an assessment of probabilities, a balancing of hypothetical cases, and the closest analysis of capabilities and intentions. Not for us any longer the simplicity of the Duke of Wellington calculating what's at the other side of the hill.

Our discussions to-day of the various forms of deterrence, and the philosophies underlying them, almost resemble the endless theological arguments of the past in their fervour and weight of words. I thought, therefore, that your Lordships might welcome an attempt on my part this afternoon to put into perspective the present rôle of the R.A.F. in Her Majesty's Government's deterrent policy. I should also like to say a word or two later about the other important rôles which the R.A.F. performs. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will forgive me if I do not answer many of his questions, but my noble friend Lord Bathurst will be speaking at the end of the debate and will do so then.

One very important new fact which has emerged since our defence debate of last month is that for the first time there appears to be some likelihood of a measure of agreement on the suspension of nuclear tests. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the visit of the Prime Minister to Washington last week has an important bearing on what may emerge at Geneva. It may turn out that this small but important step forward will take us significantly closer to comprehensive disarmament under proper controls. That has always been the aim of the Government's policy. But, however optimistic we may be, no one can seriously suppose that its achievement will not take a considerable time. We must not act as if the shadow were the substance: the success of our policy will very largely depend on our continuing to show that any attempt to destroy us would bring such destruction on the aggressor that there would be no fruits of victory. In conjunction with our allies in the United States we shall do this.

The R.A.F. are very proud that they are the Service which are now entrusted with the great responsibility of carrying out the long-range nuclear part of our deterrent policy. I think that the effectiveness of Bomber Command—and the noble Lord acknowledged this—is generally appreciated, but I sometimes feel that the very large contribution which it makes to the total nuclear deterrent force of the Western Alliance is underestimated; because for geographical and tactical reasons, Bomber Command, with the European-based units of Strategic Air Command, forms the spearhead of the alliance. At the present time Mark 1 Victors and Vulcans of Bomber Command are equal to any of their class in the world to-day. The map at the back of my right honourable friend's Memorandum shows how these how these aircraft have been showing their paces, not only in Europe but across the rest of the world.

When I was in Australia we had a visit by a number of aircraft of the R.A.F. They did a demonstration in celebration of the Queensland centenary and a number of fly-pasts in other capital cities. It was heartening to see the amount of publicity they received and the appreciation of their competence and technical skill by those who saw them. My Lords, the operational readiness of the force is of vital importance in keeping it effective as a deterrent. The V-bombers can be dispersed over a large number of airfields. It has been found possible to get four aircraft off the ground from one airfield in less than four minutes; and this is not exceptional: it is part of the normal training and has been achieved throughout the Command under realistic conditions.

This year Bomber Command will be getting the first of their Mark 2 bombers, the Vulcan Mark 2s. In range, height and performance they are significantly better than the Mark 1s; and they are capable of carrying Blue Steel, which will enable them to attack without having to penetrate the close defences. As part of Bomber Command we have the deployment of Thor, which will be complete in a short time. Thor squadrons, composed of 60 missiles in all, are an important addition to our means of retaliation; and, incidentally, they represent a fine effort of co-operation between the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force.

A deterrent force, whether of V-bombers or Thor, has lost its validity if it cannot be protected. At the present time the main threat we have to counter is manned aircraft, and so our policy is to protect our V-bomber and Thor bases with fighters and surface-to-air guided weapons. These two are complementary to one another. The guided weapon is remarkably accurate and lethal, and it is the best for close defence, but it lacks the range and flexibility of the fighter and obviously has not the judgment and choice of action of the manned aircraft.

Fighter Command is armed with the latest marks of Hunter and Javelin. The Javelin carries the new air-to-air missile Firestreak. The first Lightnings are now in service and are doing their operational trials at the Central Fighter Establishment. They contain a number of completely new features. They are capable of flight at speeds greater than Mach 2; and they have greatly advanced electronic equipment in the form of a radar fire control system which computes automatically and enables the pilot to complete a successful interception culminating in the automatic firing of a guided air-to-air missile. In short, the Lightning is a substantial step forward in the technique of fighter defence. Bloodhound is coming along satisfactorily and a number of new stations are being set up. It has shown a remarkable accuracy in recent trials. Seventy per cent. of the firings against pilotless targets have achieved a kill, and this has happened even when the missiles have been artificially diverted from their course.

So much for the present and for the period up to, say, the middle 1960s. Where do we stand in the future? Here we have the intractable problem which is always with us. Changes in technology are rapid: design and production are slow. But looking to the future in deterrent policy, we must ensure two things. First, we must be able, and must be seen to be able, to hit back at any aggressor; and secondly, we must be able, and be seen to be able, to prevent any aggressor from destroying in one swoop our capacity for retaliation.

There will come a time when the enemy defences will be so sophisticated that it will be doubtful whether even the latest marks of V-bomber armed with Blue Steel will be able to deliver their weapons. And in the years ahead there is likely to be a substantial development in the range, accuracy and quantity of Soviet missiles. These are the reasons for the discussions about the future, and for the study we are making of Skybolt and Polaris as possible vehicles for our contribution to the nuclear deterrent.

We must, of course, analyse very closely the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems available, and I do not want to say more about this problem than this. In the middle 1960s the V-bombers will still have a good deal of life left in them, and it might prove to be a sensible solution to arm them with a ballistic weapon such as Skybolt. We recognise, too, that, at a certain stage in the future, both the fighter and the guided weapon will gradually become less effective for the defence of our deterrent bases against an enemy threat composed mainly of ballistic missiles. But the validity of that threat depends upon its acquiring the certainty of knocking out our bases at a single blow. Missiles will not be able to do this if we get enough warning of their approach to get our bombers into the air first. Your Lordships will realise that this is the significance of the Fylingdales Early Warning Station, about which there has been so much comment and so much misunderstanding. I can confirm that this station will provide early warning for Bomber Command as well as the United States Air Force.

My Lords, I must apologise if I have talked at too great length about the deterrent; but it seemed to me that, since it is the primary concern of the R.A.F., I should give some account in this debate of the Government's thinking on this problem. Perhaps Whitehall jargon is at fault, but I sometimes think that too rigid a concept of our deterrent has emerged, almost as if it were something very valuable, wrapped up in a parcel, sealed with sealing wax, and put in the bank, an asset which you have but do not use; or as if it were like the Cavalry in the First World War, a powerful force but with severe limitations on its use. In fact, this is a wholly wrong picture. There is nothing rigid about our V-bombers or the fighters that exist to defend them. Flexibility of air power is as important as ever, and the R.A.F. remains as flexible in its operation as it always was, and, in some ways, rather more so.

Take Bomber Command. The increased performance of the Victor aircraft and the range of photographic and radar equipment which they carry might well play an important rôle one day in the policing of the disarmament agreements under a policy of open skies; and, of course, the V-bombers now have the capability of carrying ordinary high explosive bombs very rapidly to any part of the world. Fighter Command, too, is becoming a force with a world-wide capability. For some years now it has been the practice to rotate squadrons of Fighter Command overseas so that they may acclimatise themselves to the varying conditions of flying and fighting in different climates. The ease and the speed with which we can move fighters from one sphere of operations to another are greatly improved by the new techniques of flight refuelling, for which all our new fighters are being adapted. Bomber Command have been using this for some time and it is a day-to-day operation in air tactics. By this technique a Valiant was recently enabled to perform an 18-hour endurance flight.

We have learnt enough from the lessons of the last war to realise the overwhelming importance of air superiority for our forces operating in the field, and the mobility of the fighter is essential to this task. For the tactical support of the Army the R.A.F. use aircraft, such as the Canberra and the Hunter, adapted from other rôles. But perhaps the most important asset which flexibility can bring is mobility in the form of the greatly increased capacity of Transport Command, to which the noble Lord made reference. Since 1955 the capacity of R.A.F. Transport Command has been trebled. Most of this is due to the introduction of the Britannia, which can carry 112 troops against the Hastings' 42, and can cover long distances much faster. There are, too, the Beverleys which can carry the large and often awkwardly-shaped loads required by the Army. And there will be the A.W.660, for which 20 are on order now, and a further 20 will be soon. For the more immediate support of the Army, the R.A.F. provides the Pioneer and helicopters. This year the first Bristol Belvedere twin-rotor helicopters are entering service and orders are being placed for the new turbine engine Whirlwind, which will be along next year. This will more than treble the helicopter lift at present available.

When I spoke at the end of the defence debate I briefly mentioned the recent air transport exercise "Starlight", which has just been undertaken in North Africa. I thought it might interest your Lordships if, now the exercise is over, I made one or two comments on it. On the air side the exercise was designed to practise three main types of operation: first, the air move of a brigade group and certain R.A.F. elements from this country over a distance of nearly 2,000 miles; second, the establishment of an advanced air head and its protection against ground attack; and, lastly, the maintenance of forward troops by air supply. In the main strategic lift some 4,000 personnel, over 200 vehicles, and nearly 200,000 lb. of freight were flown out from this country to El Adem by Britannias, Hastings and Beverleys, in less than 80 flights. At the same time, Beverleys maintained a shuttle service to carry the troops with their vehicles and guns forward from El Adem to the air head at Tmimi—flying 200 sorties in the process. During the next phase of the exercise single and twin Pioneers and Whirlwinds together flew as many as 350 sorties and carried over 30,000 1b. of freight, to provide the logistic support for the Army forces engaged in a tactical exercise in the field. Finally, the brigade group was flown back to this country.

I think your Lordships will agree that this large-scale exercise illustrates the growing capacity and versatility of Transport Command. Although we did not use all our transport resources, it has provided most valuable experience. I should like to mention three outstanding features: the capability of the Britannia in the long-range rôle was amply confirmed; the Beverley proved itself highly reliable in the dust and sand of the desert; and a remarkably high degree of serviceability was achieved with the Whirlwinds and Pioneers during intensive operations in difficult conditions. This reflects great credit on those concerned, in the air and on the ground.

In conclusion, I should like to mention Coastal Command. This Command, which is so well known to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is also of particular interest to a First Lord; and he would not expect me to agree with him that his picture of what has happened in the past is an accurate one. Last year the working arrangements between Coastal Command and the Royal Navy were revised, and it is very proper that they should be revised from time to time (and they were revised, incidentally, to the satisfaction of all concerned). In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity of seeing a little of how closely and harmoniously the two services collaborate at Northwood and elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago I spent a week at Gibraltar. I was in touch there with the part which Shackletons, which are based in Gibraltar, were playing in the N.A.T.O. exercise "Dawn Breeze", which has just finished. I pay my tribute to the skill and spirit of Coastal Command, whose aircraft carry out a wide variety of tasks over great distances of sea and land all over the world.

My Lords, I have not mentioned the personnel side—pay, conditions, careers and so on—and I shall leave that to my noble friend Lord Bathurst. I have purposely confined myself to the main policy conditions which govern the shape and dictate the operational functions of the R.A.F. I think your Lordships will agree that the policy on which the R.A.F. is based is the right one. Of course, conditions change: but I hope that I have shown that the Government are trying to meet change half way. There can be no doubt that its fine traditions, technical skill and adaptability will enable the Royal Air Force to respond to any challenge that the future may bring.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question on that? I am myself very much against this Yorkshire Moor business, because I think it is a complete waste of money. It is £15 million—quite a lot of money. What I should like to know, if the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, can tell me later, being a realistic person, is whether he could give a sort of résumé of what happens on this moor at one o'clock on a Sunday morning when an Army signaller, I suppose, would be in charge. That is what I should like to know.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I think the whole House is grateful to the First Lord for having intervened at the earliest stage in this debate, and for having given us such an interesting, broad picture of the function of the Royal Air Force. One of the advantages of having these detailed Service debates after we have had the general Defence debate is that we can consider in detail matters relating to each individual Service—though, of course, always within the framework of overall defence policy. The noble Lord who introduced this debate with, if I may say so, a very interesting speech, referred a good deal to guided missiles, which certainly figured extensively in the Defence debate a few weeks ago; and I want to ask a few more detailed questions without going back upon the broad, general, strategic arguments which I ventured to deploy on that occasion.

The first question I should like to ask about these guided missiles concerns the expenses and the estimates of cost. We have all seen the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and I must say that it is a pretty disquieting document. I know—I suppose nobody in this House knows better—how great is the difficulty of estimating the cost of what is unknown and untried. In my time at the Air Ministry we ordered bombers and fighters off the drawing board; we ordered the power-operated turret practically off the drawing board. And radar, with many of its earlier ramifications, which was entirely novel and was so immensely successful, was not even on the drawing board at all. It was, so to speak, constructed out of the minds of the scientists. But even allowing that, errors or excesses (I refer to the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report) of something between 600 and 1,000 per cent. are really rather disconcerting; and I should like to ask my noble friend who is going to reply whether he can now give us, clearly, further estimates of what the cost of these different weapons is likely to be. I do not mean in great detail, but in global figures: and I think he can probably now give us a good deal of information of that kind.

I should also like to ask him (and this, I am sure, he can say without disclosing any secret or confidential information) what are the financial terms of these contracts. By that, I do not mean the detail of exactly how much money this or that firm is going to get, but what are the principles of finance on which these contracts are based? Are they on a cost-plus basis? I, and those who worked with me in the Air Ministry, always felt that the cost-plus basis was a thoroughly bad principle, and we set our face against it. I do not think that in the whole time I was at the Air Ministry we ever placed a contract, whether it was for aircraft, equipment or for airfields, on a purely cost-plus basis. I had seen it in the First World War, when I was invalided out of the Army and became Secretary of the Ministry of National Service (the Admiral will remember this very well), and when our equivalent of the Liberty ships was being built. They were built on a cost-plus basis—the cost plus whatever it was, say, 10 per cent. What was the result? The man who built most inefficiently got the most money. If he built at almost twice the cost of the efficient shipbuilder, as he got a "plus" on top of his cost he got twice as much as the efficient man. My Lords, I have a great respect for most—indeed, I think all—of the main firms who are engaged in these contracts for these missiles, but the cost-plus basis must discourage economy, and must put a premium on inefficiency.

If your Lordships ask me what I would put in its place, I would say: exactly what we did during those days in the Air Ministry. Of course, you have to pay the cost incurred by the man. You cannot make him do work of which even he cannot estimate the cost with any accuracy, and hold him to a figure. If you tried, he would ask for some absolutely outside figure which covered every conceivable possibility. But what we did was this: we paid him his cost plus a fee. If I may take a concrete example, let us assume a contract worth £10,000—and, it will make many people who to-day have to place contracts for fighters envious to learn that £10,000 was about the cost of a Spitfire in those days. I remember (the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will probably remember this, too) that when I was President of the Board of Trade we gave a Government guarantee for the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth". The total cost of those two liners was about £11 million—£5 million for one and £6 million for the other. Of course, costs are fantastically different to-day, but, surely, the principle is sound.

But to revert to my example, if £10,000 was the estimated cost, then you gave him that and a fee on top of it—say, 7½ per cent., which was a fair amount to put on to the cost. Now suppose that, instead of costing £10,000, the work cost £12,000 or £13,000. The man had to be paid his certified costs of production, but he was not given any extra fee. He got his £12,000 or £13,000, but he got only his £750 fee, instead of an ever-increasing "plus" upon the cost. Then, later on, when we had turned out a batch or two, we were able to place contracts either at a fixed price or at what we used to call a "bogy price", which meant a maximum price plus a share in savings—and the cheaper the manufacturer could produce it the larger was the share in the savings which he got. Of course, if he made an awful lot of money the Treasury could tax him. But what I was interested in was that the total bill to the taxpayer was considerably less and the efficiency of production was very much greater. I should like to ask my noble friend whether something on that line has been tried.

Now may I also clear up—and I think the answer to this must be obvious—one point about the testing of missiles? Of course we all hope, and hope most sincerely, that we shall get agreement on the stopping or suspending of nuclear tests; and the whole House will endorse what the First Lord of the Admiralty has said about how much we all, irrespective of Party, appreciated the Prime Minister's going to Washington—as, indeed, the whole country has appreciated his initiative throughout in this matter. However, that plan to stop the nuclear tests would apply only to the bomb, to the warhead or to any nuclear explosions connected therewith. I take it that it would not affect the testing of the instrument or vehicle, or whatever you like to call it, which launches or carries the explosive weapon.

Those tests, of the carrier or the vehicle, have none of the dangers of nuclear contamination, which is what we want to stop. It would seem to me that they are most necessary to test the capacity of the launchers or the carriers, and they appear to be essential to decide, whenever it can be decided, this vexed question of whether we ought to go for a static or a mobile launcher. I do not intend to go over again the ground we covered and the arguments advanced in favour of mobility as against the static launcher. The First Lord will have observed—and I think probably not with any displeasure, because it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said—that everybody talked about Blue Streak, but nobody, even on the Government side, appeared very keen to defend it; and there certainly was a tremendous weight of both Service opinion and administrative opinion advanced in favour of the mobile alternative. I should be glad if the Government could say something more on that matter.

I want to ask one specific question on this subject. Most of us read in the newspapers about a new invention for jamming radar—or perhaps it is not so new; one paper, I think, said it was five years old. If what is claimed for that is somewhere near the truth, it would appear to be an additional argument for mobile as against static launchers, and particularly as the new marks of our medium bombers, the Victor and the Vulcan, can, I understand, carry the stand-off bomb. I should be interested if the noble Earl could, with out impropriety, tell us something about that; or possibly noble Lords who are so interesting on these technical matters, like the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, could enlighten us further. I do not know whether it is germanium or germane, but I should be interested to hear what he has to say about it.

I want to ask this question, also, which I put last time, and perhaps it may be easier for the Government to answer when the Minister of Defence has paid his visit to America. I am sure we all want there to be the closest co-operation with the United States in all research and development in this field. After all, we are not coming as suppliants in this matter. The United States do it on a much greater scale, of course, but our scientists have proved that they are second to none, and they seem to be able to carry out these remarkable experiments at about one-twentieth of the cost at which anyone else in the world is able to do them: it really is "a Penny a time", and the price at which some of these experiments are carried out is quite amazing. I do not differ at all from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Like him, I want to see the closest possible integration, not only in research work and sharing plans but in the use of weapons. Certainly, rich as the United States are, it would help them, and anything that can save us a little is most acceptable. I believe that in production, use, integration and everything else, the closer we are together the more efficient and economical it will be.

There is one other question that I should like to put, and it has regard to Transport Command. We were all very much interested in what the First Lord told us about the North African exercise; I thought it was extremely satisfactory, particularly as regards the way in which all the machines seem to have stood up under their strenuous and difficult time in desert conditions. I think we should all like to have a little more detailed information about Transport Command. If I may put it in a sentence, it is this: how near are we to making the Army Mobile Reserve mobile? In war, of course, you can reinforce with civil aircraft from airlines and from charter companies; but you cannot do that in peace time for a localised operation. And even if you do draw on civil aircraft, it is only a partial answer, because while the civil aircraft can carry men, they cannot drop parachutists, and they certainly cannot carry heavy freight, vehicles and guns which a mobile reserve must have if it is to be mobile and effective. Therefore, to make that reserve mobile, Transport Command must be able to carry not only troops but all the equipment which they need. With our far-flung responsibilities we may have to reinforce at long distances and at short notice, and as bases get few and far between—and they are getting fewer and further between—that means long range aircraft which can carry both troops and their equipment, and relatively heavy equipment at that.

I think, from what we have heard about the Libyan exercise, that the Beverley is efficient at a comparatively short distance. But what about the longer range? There is the Britannic. I suppose that is the answer, and it looks like being an efficient answer if it comes right. But when will Transport Command have it? In the Defence White Paper it says that the Britannic will come along in due course. What is "due course": is it 1963, 1964 or 1965? We can argue about how relatively efficient one supersonic fighter or another is going to be, but unless we have the Britannic, and have it in reasonable time and it is successful, then the Army will not be mobile in its reserve for any long distance which is more than the Beverley can cover. I cannot find any answer to that in the Defence White Paper or in the individual Service Memoranda. I hope that the noble Earl who is to answer may be a little more specific about it.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that the facts which have emerged in the debates show that the Royal Air Force still has a vital rôle to play, and will have a vital rôle to play for a long time, and we know that it will play that rôle with all the efficiency that it has shown in the past. I hope that the realisation which comes out of these debates of how important that rôle is, and will continue to be, will be an encouragement—as I am sure the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will be—to the men who are serving in the Royal Air Force to-day, and, what is not less important, an incentive to keen, good young men to come and join.

There is one thing that I feel I must say in conclusion, travelling somewhat wider than the details of the Air Estimates, on a subject which is vital to all these Services and to their purpose, and, indeed, to the whole concept of defence. I feel that I must repeat what I said in the defence debate as to the great danger to N.A.T.O. of an economic split in Europe. Since we had our debate the Prime Minister, in grave but measured terms, has spoken of it himself. I know how hard the Government have striven and are striving to avoid this, and in their effort to narrow the gap they are indeed serving the interests of the Alliance and of the Free World. There is nothing in these efforts which in any way runs counter to the closer political integration of Western Europe which this country has always supported. But it would be impossible for the N.A.T.O. Grand Alliance, on which the security of the Free World depends, to remain effective or ultimately to survive if this economic division persisted and widened. Certainly this country could not afford, and its people would not tolerate, that we should maintain on the Continent of Europe, at vast expense in foreign currency, large military and air forces if, at the same time, we were the object of a sort of economic cold war by those very countries which those forces were there to protect.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, this afternoon I propose to make only a few remarks with regard to the Air Memorandum we are discussing, and they will be limited to Bomber Command, Fighter Command and our forces in the Arabian Peninsula. With regard to Bomber Command, I should like particularly to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, for his letter, following on our recent Defence debate, in which he confirmed that realistic exercises are being undertaken by Bomber Command with a view to perfecting the technique of simultaneously "scrambling" V-bombers from a number of airfields. I am particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned this point, and also the question of dispersal of our bombers. I was also glad to note, on reading the Air Memorandum, that the number of countries visited by aircraft of Bomber Command rose last year to 23, when I believe the previous year only 18 countries were visited.

In view of the statement contained in paragraph 10 of the Memorandum, that: The Mark 2 Vulcans and Victors will be capable of carrying both free-falling and 'stand-off' nuclear weapons … I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to an article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on March 15 last referring to what was described as a revolutionary electronic device known as the Carcinotron. I believe that that may be the equipment to which my noble friend Lord Swinton was referring earlier on. The article is by an air correspondent, who says: I understand the device, which was developed in France, is fitted to Victor and Vulcan V-bombers. By giving them a much greater degree of immunity to attack than was previously possible it will enhance their value as the 'deterrent' for many years. That is a highly encouraging statement indeed. But as every rose has its thorn, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to another statement which was made in that same article and which reads as follows: It can also render the guidance system of some types of anti-aircraft missiles useless. During the course of a debate in another place on March 25 last on the Fylingdales missile warning station the Under-Secretary of State for Air said—and since it has again been mentioned to-day by the First Lord it is obviously the Government way of thinking at the moment [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 620 (No. 85), col. 896]: At present, the main threat to this country is from manned aircraft, and it will continue to be so for some years. He seemed also to stress the importance—and I would heartily agree with him—of putting the matter in its correct time scale.

That brings me to Fighter Command, and in particular to paragraph 18 of the Memorandum which refers to the deployment of our anti-aircraft missile system. In an article under the heading "Brains and Push-Buttons", which came out in the first issue of a publication produced by the Central Office of Information for the Air Ministry (the publication is called Officer), there is the following statement: The anti-aircraft rocket needs radar guidance. That is to say, it homes on to the echoes of electronic impulses either sent out by itself or by a ground transmitter. In the realm of defence, I know that directly one device comes into production another is on the drawing board with a view to countering it. But in spite of that fact, I was a little dismayed, when I checked in Paris with an authoritative source—apart from the firm concerned which produces this equipment to which I referred just now—to find out the following facts. This device first came into being about four or five years ago. At that time the inventor (I understand that he is a Professor Warnecke) was trying to promote interest in his invention. He also published particulars in a technical journal—I believe a Swiss journal—and it was then suddenly realised that this device had highly important military potentialities. It can therefore be reasonably assumed that, since particulars were published, the Russians knew of it, and may have developed its use and fitted it into their own bombers. I apologise if I weary your Lordships with these technical details—


Had the Professor produced a specimen of this equipment?


Is my noble friend referring to four or five years ago? It is a valve, and it has to be incorporated in specialised equipment.


But he has produced it—it exists.


It exists. As I say, the threat of this device lies mainly in the fact that it covers an extremely wide band of frequencies. As your Lordships who were in the Royal Air Force may be aware, if one gets jamming on one waveband, one switches to another. But here it is highly probable that, if you switched to another band, jamming or interference would still be there, and it would not be possible for a missile to "home" on the interference because this equipment gives a sort of protective electronic halo of interference which could completely confuse the missile. In view of the operational deployment of our anti-aircraft missiles to which I referred earlier, could the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, when he replies, give the House some assurance with regard to the effectiveness of our present anti-aircraft missile system?

To turn to the question of our forces in the Arabian Peninsula, I should like to consider first paragraph 34, and in particular the following statement—I apologise for again reading these few lines. … the main tasks of the Royal Air Force have been to police the frontiers of the Aden Protectorate and to operate in the Persian Gulf area. Operations in the Persian Gulf area have included the air transport of quantities of equipment, personnel and supplies to desert air strips, aerial reconnaissance and policing. I am sorry that the First Lord did not mention the question of our forces in the Arabian Peninsula, but I presume that the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, will be doing so later. From an operational aspect I was particularly pleased to read in an Army publication, the January, 1960, edition of the Army Quarterly, an interesting review of events in the Arabian Peninsula. This article rightly pays tribute to the work of the R.A.F. out there. It stresses, too—as is mentioned in the Air Memorandum, and examples were given in this Article—that one of the main problems of the Command is the distribution of stores and equipment, which, apart from one or two exceptions, is carried out by air. I believe that to Dhala, for instance, they go by road; but mainly they go by air.

The article went on to say that this distribution was efficiently and effectively done in spite of many emergency requests, unserviceability and adverse conditions. I think it is encouraging to read in an Army publication such statements as the following words of praise. These are the exact words: Taking into consideration the Aden climate, the fact that the Beverleys continue to carry out their duties speaks volumes for the ability of the R.A.F. maintenance crews. The problems of normal servicing are increased one hundred-fold by the intense heat, the humidity and the abrasive sand and gypsum-charged winds which consistently sweep the R.A.F. station at Khormaksar. During the summer months the maximum time that can be spent working on the wing of a transport aircraft varies from ten to fifteen minutes. As a member of a delegation that visited Aden last September I heartily agree with those words.

To turn now to the question of accommodation in general, I was particularly pleased to see the detail and the time that was devoted to this important matter by the Under-Secretary of State for Air in another place on March 5 last: in particular when he mentioned the question of new accommodation. All this new accommodation is to be completely air-conditioned, and I understand from the statement made by the Under-Secretary of State for Air that the temporary new accommodation which is going up at the moment in the form of aluminium hutments will also he air-conditioned. During the course of this debate the Under-Secretary of State for Air went on to say that when he was last in Aden he promised the R.A.F. that the Air Ministry would do everything in its power to jot prove conditions. A business acquaintance of mine, a civil engineer, returned from Aden three weeks ago, and he confirmed to me that everything is being done to improve conditions out there. To use his exact words: "The pressure is definitely on". According to his statement—and he is an engineer, as is the Under-Secretary of State for Air—work is proceeding most satisfactorily with regard to the construction of the school and the accommodation for our personnel.

There is one point on which I should like some clarification—I do not think it is mentioned at all in the Memorandum—and that is what is being done for our troops out there with regard to recreational facilities. I believe that a bathing pool is being built at the moment between Khormaksar and Aden, but I am certain that the House would be pleased to know what else is being done to improve the lot of our Service personnel in Aden, so that a tour of duty out there will become less and less burdensome. In conclusion, whilst hoping that the noble Earl will be able to answer one or two of my queries, I would say that I feel absolutely confident that we can have complete faith in the personnel of the Royal Air Force, provided they are given the right equipment and a correct time scale.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to open my remarks by identifying myself completely with the congratulatory remarks which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about the morale and efficiency of the Royal Air Force as a whole. Having on many occasions been a passenger and a guest of Transport Command and the Royal Air Force, and as recently as last August, I know from personal experience what tremendous efforts they make and what great success they have in providing service for their passengers and hospitality for their guests.

I would take advantage of this opportunity to follow up in some detail two questions raised the other day in the debate on the Defence White Paper: first of all, the question of inter-Service relationships, with particular reference to relationships between R.A.F. Transport Command and the Army secondly, the future development of Transport Command with particular reference to the provision of freighters, freight-carrying aircraft and helicopters. A week or so ago in an article in The Times that has already been mentioned in this debate, Transport Command was referred to as the Cinderella of the Royal Air Force. In my opinion the name was aptly designed for more than one reason. As I remember the fairy story, Cinderella married the prince and they lived happily ever after, and to fulfil its destiny Transport Command must, I am certain, be wedded to the Army. Unless their marriage is a really happy and lasting one our whole system of defence will pay the penalty and there will be a great waste of men, money and materials.

That leads me directly to the first question I wish to discuss, namely, inter-Service relationships in general and relationships between Transport Command and the Army in particular. I have been trained to pause and think deeply before using the word "vital", but I have no hesitation whatever in saying that close and happy relationships between the Army and the R.A.F. are absolutely vital if our land forces are to have the mobility they need to carry out their many and varied tasks. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in this particular field co-operation is not enough; integration more nearly describes what is required. But let me say at once that I do not share the fear expressed in the Defence debate, I think by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, that at the highest level relationships between the fighting Services are bedevilled by personal jealousies and rivalries. Speaking generally, I would say that these relationships are, in my experience, better to-day than they have ever been before. There are closer contacts at all levels, wider knowledge and understanding of the other man's point of view, and, most important of all, a great fund of good will. That is all to the good. But there are, and are bound to be, contrary interests and differences of opinion which are strongly felt and forcefully expressed. As the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, will possibly remember, I have had some personal experience of such differences in the past, and there are, and always will be, cases in which opinions differ so strongly that nothing short of an arbitrary decision will resolve the problem. Such decisions must be made promptly, otherwise there is bound to be an unacceptable delay.

The Service chiefs have to work together day by day. The three Chiefs of Staff have a duty to their own Service as well as a corporate responsibility for advising the Government on defence as a whole. Their common purpose and their common sense produce the right answer more often than not, but as the strings of the money bags are drawn tighter and tighter as our annual Whitehall witch-hunt for more defence at less cost takes place, so the conflict of interests is bound to become more acute. As the problems and difficulties become more and more complex, the differences of opinion are more difficult to resolve. If the Chiefs of Staff were to proceed on what I might describe as a "dog eat cat" basis they would soon destroy themselves and destroy their value to the Government and to the nation. As serious differences arise—differences which cannot be resolved; differences of the kind that I have mentioned—then the Minister of Defence must step in and decide. To decide rightly and to decide in time in these matters calls for knowledge and experience as well as foresight and courage; and to get the decisions accepted and carried out calls for leadership and tact. Continuity of policy and of programme also plays a very big part.

The development of Transport Command as the medium of mobility is very much a case in point. There are bound to be strong differences of opinion between the two Services involved. Success will primarily depend on relationships between them, on their confidence in each other and on the knowledge that both are set on the same course towards a common end. The impulse to that end must, in my view and experience, stem from the Minister of Defence himself. Changes there must be. But during the three years that I held the appointment as Chief of the Imperial General Staff there were no fewer than five different Ministers who held the office of Minister of Defence. I sincerely hope that those days are gone, and that we can now look forward to a period in which there will be continuity in the Ministry of Defence—a period in which the course is fairly set and the objectives clearly defined. If the Service Chiefs can count on getting decisions, and decisions in good time, on matters of policy which they cannot, and should not, decide for themselves, I have no fears whatever for the future of inter-Service relationships, or for the success of the union of the Cinderella of the Royal Air Force with the Service to which I have the honour to belong.

I should now like to turn for a moment to some questions of detail about the development of Transport Command. In the official statements made in your Lordships' House and in another place about the capacity of Transport Command, the emphasis has been more on passenger mileage than on the carriage of freight; but I should like to point out that the Army's requirement is as much a question of carrying freight as of carrying men. It is the transport by air of the vehicles and the heavier types of weapons that presents the greatest problems. As has already been pointed out, the passenger capacity of Transport Command can be increased in emergency by impressing aircraft from the Corporations and the charter companies, but those aircraft are useless for vehicles and for the heavier types of weapon. Incidentally, they are also useless for dropping parachutists.

In replying for the Government to the debate on the Defence White Paper, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that in exercise "Starlight" a force of some 4,000 men, and, he said then, 130 vehicles but this afternoon he has said that there were some 200 vehicles, were carried. They were being transported some 2,000 miles to North Africa. I am delighted and most impressed with the reports that he has given us this afternoon and which have appeared, too, in the Press, of the success of that exercise. It reflects great credit on the two Services involved. But although I should be the last to suggest making unnecessary additions to the tail of any force, even a total of some 200 vehicles for all purposes is, in my experience, insufficient to give full tactical and administrative mobility and flexibility to the number of troops involved in this particular exercise.

When we look ahead in the matter of vehicles and weapon carrying capacity, it seems that for the next two, or perhaps three, years Transport Command will have to rely upon existing obsolete Hastings and obsolescent Beverleys. The Argosy, the A.W.660, when it begins to come into service in 1962, will not, so I am told, take the heavier loads that the Army needs, and it will not be until the Britannic comes to hand that Transport Command will be able to lift everything that the Army requires. So far as I am aware—another question has been asked on this point this afternoon—no delivery date has yet been forecast for the Britannic, but, speaking on that question in another place, the Under-Secretary of State for Air said: There has been too much delay already, and I am doing everything I possibly can to push on all concerned with the business. He did not go on to explain why there had been too much delay over getting the Britannic into service, but it looks as if there is a real danger that much the same will happen again over a replacement for the Beverley unless urgent steps are taken soon to decide what the design for that replacement is to be.

My Lords, as I see it, there must, generally speaking, be three links in the chain of air transport and supply to give the Army the strategic and tactical mobility that it requires. The first is the strategic link from the United Kingdom to the main overseas airfield or complex of airfields—for example, to Cyprus, Nairobi and Aden for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf or to Singapore and the Far East. This link will not be satisfactorily provided until the Britannic comes into service; and we do not yet know when that will be. That, I think, is an item of the greatest importance.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? A date was mentioned last year as the earliest date—1964. That was mentioned by the Minister of Defence in another place.


I was not aware that a date had ever been given. May I thank the noble Lord? The year 1964 is a very long way off to find a replacement, or rather to find the aircraft that is needed to supply the first essential link in the structure which I have started to describe. So I would join with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he asks, as I think I am right in saying, for greater speed in producing the Britannic and bringing it into service, and for consideration to be given to the possibility of finding a substitute if the delay is going to be as great as appears.

The second link is what I would describe as the intermediate link—that is, from the main airfield or complex of airfields to the forward airfields: for example, Sharjah and Bahrein in the Middle East, to Northern Malaya or Borneo, or even Thailand, in the Far East. At present that link is meagrely covered by the obsolete Hastings and Beverley aircraft, for which, as I have said, no replacement is planned: so that that link does not appear to look healthy for the more distant future, as the Beverleys begin to need replacement. Finally, there is the tactical link from the forward airfields to the troops. In some cases, of course, it may be possible to cut out the intermediate link altogether, but, even so, there will remain the parachutist functions for which the strategic link aircraft are unsuitable; and on that account alone a replacement for the Beverley must be provided. For some time to come the tactical link can be filled only by helicopters and aircraft of the Pioneer type. The position with regard to helicopters is not at all clear. I was told only two days ago by a representative of Westland Aircraft that as far as he was aware no order for Wessex Aircraft for the Army had as yet been placed.

Referring again to exercise "Starlight", the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said in the debate on the Defence White Paper that some helicopters were being flown out for use in that exercise. He referred again this afternoon to the use of helicopters in that exercise; but in actual fact, if my information is correct, the number of aircraft employed in that exercise was comparatively small—and only Whirlwinds at that, which carry a very limited load. I do not know exactly what is the payload of the Whirlwind, but I believe it is something of the order of 1,500 to 1,700 1b. The Wessex payload is 4,000 1b. and it is a matter of great urgency that some of those helicopters, or something with an equivalent payload, should be provided for this last tactical link in this structure of air transport which I have been describing. Again on the point of helicopters, some fifteen months ago, when visiting, in Aden, the regiment of which I have the honour to be Colonel, I found that there were no helicopters at all in the Southern Arabian Command, an area where I should have thought they could be immensely useful to give greater mobility and also to save manpower in the land forces there. I hope that that situation has since been improved.

From the information that is available, I find it difficult to get a clear picture of the Government's plan to make effective the structure of air transport that I have been describing; and I am particularly concerned, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, about the provision of freight-carrying aircraft and helicopters. I should like to ask the noble Earl who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government whether he can give me more detailed information on three major questions, all of which, I believe, have already been raised this afternoon; certainly two of them have. The first is the programme for the production and delivery into service of the Britannic; secondly, the plans, if there are any, for a replacement for the Beverley; thirdly, the situation in regard to helicopters, and particularly in such places as Southern Arabia, where it seems to me they could be put to very good use, in addition to helicopters for the strategic reserve.

I realise the difficulties and, indeed, the dangers of planning too far ahead in these days of rapid technical development in the aeronautical field, but as I believe it takes from eight to ten years after writing the specification before an aircraft can be in service, I feel strongly that there would be much greater confidence in the Government's intention to make a reality of mobility—on which so much stress has, rightly, been laid—if they would produce a ten-year development plan for Transport Command. It would be of the greatest interest if such a plan could be produced and published. But if, for security reasons, it is not possible for it to be published, then I am certain it would be of immense value to the War Office, and indeed to the whole of the Army, in formulating its plans for the organisation, equipment and training of the Army, if some such plan could be produced.

In conclusion, may I associate myself strongly with the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, about the very great dangers of any split in the economic field between ourselves and our partners in N.A.T.O.? It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of a soldier or an airman stationed in Western Europe who is asked, on the one hand, to cooperate wholeheartedly (as indeed he does) with our Allies in working and training for the defence of Western Europe, when he knows, on the other hand, that his own country is being discriminated against in the economic field.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, for several years I have taken part in these debates on the Air Estimates, usually moving the Motion which to-day has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I should like to con- gratulate him on the clear exposition he has given us. From my own experience it is not at all an easy Motion to move, because the Memorandum on the Air Estimates is usually so tied up with the general Defence picture that it is much harder to sever that Memorandum, and to make a constructive speech upon it, than to do so on the Army Estimates.

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and also the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, in their request to Her Majesty's Government to do all they can for Transport Command. This also we have pressed upon the Government for years past. It is most important and, like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, I was rather depressed to learn that the Britannic is not coming into service until 1964. I had no idea of that. I thought we should be having a Britannic next year, or in 1962 at the latest.


That is the Britannia.


My Lords, I wanted particularly, however, to ask the noble Earl who is to reply a question about recruiting. Looking at the latest figures available to us in the Printed Paper Office, I find, to my consternation, that the actual figure of Regular other ranks on February 1, 1960, was 119,100. That is the total in the R.A.F. The actual estimate of the strength of the Royal Air Force at April 1, 1961, is 163,000. In other words, between the figure of Regular recruitment and the number the R.A.F. is expected to contain on April 1 next there is a shortfall of 39,000. That excludes women.

I should like particularly to ask the noble Earl who is to reply how it is proposed to make good this figure, because I admit that it was rather a shock to me. A shortfall of 39,000 in a total of 163,000 is very considerable. It means that in a year's time—because the National Service intake is ceasing this year—in order to keep up the numbers to the position to-day, there will have to be an extra 39,000 men recruited. As that is far more than it has been possible to recruit for many years past—indeed, the actual figures of Regular recruitment are going down slightly—this seems to be a picture that we have to face in this debate upon the Air Estimates, because although machines are very important, as we all know, the manpower is equally important.

I believe that during the war the Spitfire and the Hurricane, two first-class machines, were not in fact as fast as the fastest German fighters. So it was not only the fighters, the Hurricanes and Spitfires, that won the Battle of Britain and other air combats; the men who flew them also made an enormous contribution. It is not much good talking about Transport Command, about the new supersonic fighters and all the rest of it, if the number of men in the Air Force is declining to a figure which I should have thought would mean that the Air Force will not be able to carry on with anything like its present commitments. I think we ought to have an answer on that; it is a very serious point.

The second point I want to raise concerns the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. I, and other Members of your Lordships' House, made a strong protest at the time the Royal Auxiliary Air Force was discontinued, when it was disbanded. I felt that it was a mistake. Of course, this was all bound up in the 1957 decision of Mr. Sandys, when he decided that we were not going to need any more manned bombers and fighters, and that we were going to rely upon the nuclear deterrent. Now, obviously, though it has never been stated in so many words that there is a change, in fact the Government have changed their mind and we are going for as long as we can see to have both manned fighters and bombers. Is there not, therefore, a need to reintroduce and re-establish the Royal Auxiliary Air Force?

The reason given at the time for disbanding this fine force was that the members could not learn to fly the highly technical and complicated machines which the bombers and fighters of the Royal Air Force were becoming; that in the new jet age, with these acrobatics at enormous heights, it was quite impossible to expect civilian—part-time civilian, part-time military—pilots to master them. Surely, if that is so (and I am not in a position to say it is not), there are a number of other duties which the Royal Auxiliary Air Force can undertake. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to-day referred to Coastal Command. There is also Transport Command, which he and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, have been discussing at length. What about those? Surely there are a large number of duties here which Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons could undertake, not only in time of war but in time of peace.

I would therefore put a plea to the Government, and particularly to the noble Earl who is to reply, and ask him whether it is not possible to look at this whole question again, partly in order to assist with manpower, which as I have shown is declining very rapidly, and also because, in my own district at all events, there is no question that it was felt at the time that, from a psychological point of view, it was a great mistake to do away with the Auxiliary squadrons. They preserved with the Royal Air Force, in areas remote from London and remote from the large Royal Air Force stations, a very valuable link—a link which, unhappily, has been severed. I would say that both on practical and on psychological grounds there is a case for the reintroduction of the Auxiliary Air Force.

The third and last point which I should like to ask the noble Earl who is going to reply is this. Do the Government really think that Cyprus is worth the cost that it is going to mean in money, in fraying of tempers, in difficulties of political and diplomatic approach, of administration—all the vast complexities that will go into the handling of our bases in Cyprus? Is it worth it? Do the Royal Air Force really need Cyprus? We know that in the attack by the Jewish forces in the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez incident the French fighters flew in support from the British bases in Cyprus. But I imagine that we are not again likely to be in the position of wanting to keep a base there in the expectation of supporting a Jewish attack on the Egyptians or of supporting anyone else. Apart from that somewhat remote contingency, is there any real need for Cyprus?

At one time its real need was as a staging post and even in that respect, with the continually extending radius that aircraft have to-day, it would seem to be no longer as important as it has been in the past We still have Aden and we have, of course, the island of Gan. I would seriously ask the Royal Air Force and the Government to look at this whole question, because one can see from the way in which negotiations in the island of Cyprus are being extended—the fact that no decision is being arrived at—that there may be grave complexities in the future. Those are all the points I have to raise to-day. I should like from these Benches to join with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in congratulating the Royal Air Force and all ranks of the Royal Air Force in the fine work they have done under very difficult conditions during the past year, and to wish them every success in the year that is to come.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. I deeply regret that unexpected developments prevented my being here at the opening of the debate, but what I have heard of it has covered so much of what I was going to say that there is little left for me with which to detain your Lordships. You might permit me to say, however, I think as the only Minister who has combined the functions of Supply and Aircraft Production, that I am a little disappointed that, even now, the Government have given no clear description of what are the relations between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aviation, who take over the aviation functions of the Ministry of Supply. I wish we could get this sorted out.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening. We had a debate on this subject in which I explained at great length the relations. They are exactly the same as those between the Secretary of State for Air and the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply.


My Lords, if that is so I should like to look into it to see how it works. I will say no more about it now.

The second point has already been more than adequately covered by the interesting speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, whose knowledge is so wide and up to date that I could not hope to improve upon it, except to say this. I think it is a very sad thing, and an unexplained thing, that the Government have been so long in giving a firm order for the development of the Britannic. I should like to know whether, in fact, firm orders have been given to Short's in Belfast to get on with this job in adequate numbers, because it is a tremendously important thing, in my view, vastly to improve the transport services rendered by the Royal Air Force to the Army.

I speak from now on entirely for myself and not for my friends, but my own view is that the Air Force, like the Army and Navy, have suffered grievously from what I believe is the mistaken decision taken by Mr. Duncan Sandys, when Minister of Defence, to place primary reliance for our defence upon nuclear rockets. I believe—and I do not mind going on record to this effect—that we shall find that that has been a lamentable mistake and that this country cannot maintain an independent nuclear deterrent; and that we must therefore rely upon our partnership with America or the other great Power in this matter. What we cannot afford to do, in my view, is to run down the Army, the Air Force and the Navy for the pursuit of this illusory defence; and I believe that, with our responsibilities, widespread as they still are to those who depend upon us for their defence, our part in the world is to look after the other forms of defence. It is not to give priority to what I believe will prove to be an expensive and perhaps even disastrous illusion. I ask the Government to bear those views in mind, because I think they are shared much more widely than they believe.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, a debate upon air power by the experts in your Lordships' House from both sides of the Floor of the House is always a valuable occasion. Really valuable contributions have been made this afternoon, and I know that those will go forward to my right honourable friend in another place, the Secretary of State, and that he will consider them with all the weight that contributions from your Lordships carry. My noble friend Lord Carrington has asked me to say that he has had to be absent from the Chamber owing to an important meeting which he must attend, and he asks your Lordships' forgiveness.

My noble friend gave the broad outline of what the Air Estimates will achieve. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said—and I believe he is the only one who mentioned it—£527 million is to be spent in the course of the next year in the cause of the country's defence. My noble friend gave an outline of the broad policy, and spoke about the deterrent, the V-bomber force, Thor, Fighter Command, Transport Command and Coastal Command. Across the Floor of the House and on political platforms we no doubt use almost a jargon when referring to all these various trends in the Royal Air Force to-day. We talk about "sophisticated" weapons—I think that was the term which my noble friend used. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has just said, what is the good of even the most sophisticated weapon (the "hardware", as it is now called, whatever it may have been called in the day of the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston) unless there are the men and the women to go with it? For that reason, I am going to concentrate upon the manpower and the woman power, and on their families, too, before I settle down to answer the many questions, or as many of them as I can, put to me by your Lordships.

We have heard of the four-minute deterrent, but the men and women behind that deterrent are just the same—the men, at any rate, are just the same—as they were in the days when the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Stansgate (and it is a pity that he is not in his seat), flew aeroplanes in the First World War. I suggest that the only process in this four-minute deterrent which the noble Viscount would recognise is the old-fashioned chock which is used to keep the aircraft stationary when it is run up. Nobody has invented anything better than that, apparently, and it still has to be pulled away with a piece of string when the pilot gives the "thumbs up" signal. Those things are still the same to-day as they were in the old days, and we are almost proud of them—the old ways to which, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, paid credit.

First a word on recruiting—and this is where the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, came in; I am answering the last first. In the aircrew field, 1959 was a much better year than 1958, but we should still like to see more young men of high quality coming forward. However, the trend is welcome evidence of the fact that any damage done by over-hasty popular interpretations of the 1957 Defence White Paper has largely been put right; and I assure your Lordships that my right honourable friend will consider everything that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said about manpower. I could not quite follow the figures which he produced, but I have with me some figures which should clear the matter up. I will not weary your Lordships with them this evening, but I will show them afterwards to the noble Lord, whose misgiving rests, I believe, on a misunderstanding.

There are still shortfalls in the entrants to some of the ground commissions, particularly in the Technical branch. To meet this latter need, there is to be a new scheme for the award of permanent commissions, with the rank of up to flight-lieutenant on entry, to qualified and experienced engineers direct from civilian life. Of course, it is to be expected that the new pay rates and the new career structure for officers (which I shall refer to again in a moment or two) will also have a very marked effect in closing the gap.

As to airmen, there continues to be a welcome rise in the long-service element of the Force. On January 1 last, 60 per cent. of the airmen were serving on engagements of nine years or more, as compared with 49 per cent. in the earlier year. National Servicemen now comprise only 14 per cent. of the total. Here I should like to pay a tribute, on behalf of all of your Lordships, to the National Servicemen who have been trained compulsorily in the service of their country over the years since 1945. Many young men up and down the country have received tremendous benefit—great skills, new knowledge, and new friendships as well—from their service in the Royal Air Force. We know there are occasional misfits, and no doubt that is so in every force where conscription must be used. But remember, my Lords, that they still exist as a force of real strategic value. It needs only the word from the people who give the word, and there will be an enormous trained body of ex-National Servicemen to come into the Royal Air Force should the need arise.

There are still some shortages of Regular airmen in certain branches, mainly in the radio and electronic fields. We have heard interesting contributions from both the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and the noble Earl about the technical aspects of electronics, and I shall be coming to these later in my speech. In the less immediately attractive, though vital, jobs in the administrative fields there are also some vacancies; but the recruitment of boy entrants, in particular, has been running at a very satisfactory level.

I must add a word now about the Women's Royal Air Force, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I am glad to say that the figures—or rather, perhaps, we should say the totals—for 1959 were the best for several years. There were 2,279 new airwomen, 800 more than in 1958. I regret that research cannot give me the net increase or the net wastage (whatever we should call it) because of marriage, but I will endeavour to find out and let the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, know by post. The local service scheme accounted for 406 out of the increase—very nearly half. This increase is a most welcome contribution to the strength of the Service, although here again we should like to see the total grow still further. To make service on a normal engagement more attractive, the number of places in which the Women's Royal Air Force personnel can serve overseas has been increased; and interest in the local engagement scheme has stimulated recruiting under the normal engagement scheme very considerably. The Air Council is now reviewing this local scheme in the light of the experience gained over the past years, and is considering what changes can usefully be made.

Now I come to the pay side of the Air Estimates. This accounts for £113 million for this year—a very considerable figure. The picture of recruitment is, on the whole, an encouraging one; but, as I have indicated to your Lordships, there are still very real problems in certain areas. The principal material factor is the standard of living and the conditions within the Service; so, partly to stimulate recruiting, and still more because the Royal Air Force is in any event entitled to really high standards, the Air Ministry have set in motion plans for extensive progress in these matters.

Your Lordships are already aware of the general pay increases announced by Her Majesty's Government last February for all three Services, following the first of what will in future be regular two-yearly reviews. May I give your Lordships two examples? A married flight-lieutenant pilot in the general duties branch, could in his twenties be earning not far short of £2,000 a year; and a married chief technician in an advanced trade—say, a V-bomber servicing chief—could get in the region of £22 a week. This latter figure takes into account the Royal Air Force's new trade pay scheme. This provides for special supplements at varying rates to airmen exercising particularly high skills, and it is a further example of the increasing importance placed by the Service on the top-class technician. As an example again, I may say that these trade pay rates have been raised from the present 10s. 6d. a week to amounts varying from 14s. to 45s. 6d. a week, which I think your Lordships will agree is a considerable rise.

I come now to the new officer career structure. There have been important changes here. Your Lordships may recall the stimulating and valuable Report made in 1958 by Sir James Grigg's Advisory Committee on Recruiting, which drew special attention to the fact that the system whereby an officer might have to go out into civil life at any age from about 40 onwards, according to the rank he had reached, was a real deterrent to recruiting. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood (I am sorry he is not here to-day), made that point in our debate here last year. Your Lordships will be pleased that this new officer career structure goes far to meet this valid point. I shall not detain your Lordships with a full exposition of what inevitably is, in its details, a complicated scheme, but the crucial point is that the normal general list officer on a permanent commission will have a free choice between leaving the Service with a pension at the age of 38 and serving on until the age of 55. Between these ages he will be able to apply for voluntary retirement, subject to Service needs, at any time he wishes; but, given con- tinued good health and competence, he will not be liable to be forced out into civilian life at the awkward age when domestic responsibilities tend to be at their highest and when resettlement is most difficult. That must surely be a very real point to be considered in attracting the young men of high quality to fly and to operate the machines about which we have been hearing.

And when an officer does retire he will have the benefit of the much improved rates of retired pay announced in Command Paper 945. R.A.F. pension arrangements now are perhaps more favourable than in almost any other career; and of course they are completely non-contributory. There will naturally be some slight drawbacks in this new career structure, in that promotion may tend to be rather slower, and occassionally there may be some inconvenience to the Service itself from the decision to leave the choice of retiring point to the individual officer; but on balance we think it a great advance.

I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships to a new booklet, which I think was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, called Officer. This explains the new career structure and the career of a Royal Air Force officer. It is completely new, and I will see that it is put in your. Lordships' Library. I can assure your Lordships that it will be made available to all schoolmasters whose task it is to advise boys on careers. It is a most interesting document, and I am sure that schoolmasters, boys and their parents will find it so.

I come now to the question of accommodation. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked in particular about Aden. I do not intend to go into the whole position of Aden in detail, but I feel sure that the figures I shall give in the course of my speech will cheer the noble Lord considerably. I want to make it clear that the Aden problem is only one aspect of Royal Air Force accommodation. I emphasise, nevertheless, as the noble Lord rightly said, that the pressure is on and that work is now going ahead on a scale I shall indicate in a moment. We must get the matter of Aden into true perspective, and I want to reassure your Lordships that the Government fully appreciate the position there and will continue to act energetically to improve it. In addition to all the work actually in progress now, there is a further £3 million building programme (about which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, spoke) to be started this year. The only limitations upon what is being done are physical ones, such as the availability of land and the capacity of the local building industry.

It would be a pity, however, if this special problem of Aden distracted attention from the Air Ministry's wider plans for personnel and family accommodation. These plans are stated in paragraphs 66 and 67 of the Memorandum, but I think it would be worth explaining them more fully in your Lordships' House. There is no doubt that to-day the Royal Air Force continues to rely upon the magnificent permanent housing which was largely the responsibility of my noble friend, Lord Swinton. I can well remember certain of the noble Earl's friends at that time arguing whether the R.A.F.'s great hangars and buildings would or would not be bombed. Nevertheless, they were not bombed, or a large proportion of them were not, and we have in them a great investment for the force of to-day. I am informed that just one hangar to house a V-bomber would cost a vast sum in to-day's money. Luckily, and largely thanks to the noble Earl, there are hangars of such size available.

The Air Council have now decided that the time has come for another big advance in the field of new housing, and over £10 million is to be spent in the next twelve months. At home there are contracts for some 2,000 married quarters, and 1,800 (some of them started last year) should be actually completed during the year. Plans also include 47 new barrack blocks, each for 80 men; single quarters for 180 officers and 590 senior N.C.O.s; 13 new messes, 3 N.A.A.F.I. clubs, 8 gymnasia and 4 churches. Much work will also be done to modernise existing barrack blocks and mess kitchens. That is on the home front. Overseas, the plans provide for 600 new married quarters; some 2,350 single quarters; 15 new or extended messes; 4 new N.A.A.F.I. clubs; 2 new hospitals and 5 new schools. All this relates to work for which financial provision is made in the 1960–61 Estimates; further work is envisaged for later years. I think your Lordships will agree that the Government are tackling this problem of accommodation for men and their families in the resolute way which the noble Lord has called for.

I want to turn now to the question of manpower economy, a great deal of which is bound up with what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had to say, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also referred. In this respect the Air Council are tackling the manpower problem the other end round, as one might say; that is, the drive to get more Regular recruits is being complemented by making the most economical and effective use of the manpower already in the Service. This is essential if the Royal Air Force is to achieve as much as it would like with the smaller all-Regular forces of the future. The Air Ministry is considering with each Commander-in-Chief in turn the extent to which he can reduce his needs for Service manpower while still carrying out his particular rôle efficiently. This special review is still in progress, but it is expected to result in saving thousands of Service posts.

Perhaps I might be allowed to give some instances of what has already been clone. The Royal Air Force were pioneers in the field of work study with which this is largely concerned. Everybody knows that much of its effort goes, quite rightly, to improving operational efficiency; but work study has resulted in savings in manpower at the same time. As one example, improved signals-handling procedures—whatever they may be—have saved about 200 airmen who were previously doing such jobs. They are released for more skilled posts.

Another method of reducing the need for uniformed Service manpower is to hand tasks over to industry. It is planned to put a number of servicing tasks at non-operational stations out to contract. For instance, in one station alone 600 Service posts should be eliminated in the course of the next year by this means. In addition, during the past two years catering by contractors and by directly employed civilians has been tried out on a number of Royal Air Force stations. The trials have been encouraging, and during the year to come some ten or twelve stations will be added to the list of the places where the catering is done entirely by civilians, employed either by the Air Ministry or by contractors. Nevertheless, Parkinson's Law is being kept at bay. In the last two years, 7,000 Service posts have actually been converted into civilian posts, and yet at the same time, in the same period, the total of civilians employed has dropped by 6,000.

I ask your Lordships' indulgence for having taken so long on the manpower side. But I want your Lordships to understand what Her Majesty's Government are doing in the human field, the field of personnel, the men and the women and their families, in order to achieve high standards. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to deal now with the questions raised to-day, and I will try my best to get them in the order in which they came.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked about the TSR2. I should like to make it clear that the TSR2 is best described as a Canberra replacement. No doubt when the Ministry of Defence decide the time is ripe for a Canberra replacement, then the TSR2 will come in. It has comprehensive radar equipment, and is able to use short and comparatively primitive runways. Its main operational task will be to support the Army in the field, and to attack tactical targets in support of our Armed Forces, both in conventional and in nuclear war. I should like to make it clear that it is quite distinct from any naval aircraft. The naval specification just will not do for a Royal Air Force specification in this particular rôle.


My Lords, my point was this: might not the Royal Air Force specification have done for the Navy?


No; I do not think it can, because my noble friend the First Lord will want all sorts of specialist naval needs to be met—he would want catapulting and all sorts of very difficult features, as I am certain the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, well know.

I can now combine several of the questions together. My noble friend Lord Swinton, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser of North Cape, all mentioned Fylingdales. Your Lordships will forgive me if I stay very closely to the words I have been given. First, I should like to say that there is no conceivable way in which the station can confuse a ballistic missile with a flock of starlings. Objects which do not have a speed and altitude comparable with that of a missile are automatically rejected by the station. Secondly, objects which seem at first to possess some of the characteristics of a missile are automatically scrutinised and their points of impact predicted. All this calculation is done by an electronic computer, which will be installed in duplicate to obtain the necessary degree of reliability. There will be no question of confronting a hapless radar operator with a dilemma. I think that should go some way towards allaying the fears of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser of North Cape.


My Lords, I am not quite certain how the information goes out to all these stations in America in four minutes. Presumably all the bombers would have to have their engines running and their nuclear bombs strung under them for, it might be, months. Is that the case?


My Lords. I assure the noble and gallant Lord that there are ways and means in which they can do these remarkable things—it really is so. The station will give us from four to fifteen minutes' warning. I can assure the noble and gallant Lord that the aeroplanes can get into the air within four minutes, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, was saying in the course of his speech.


I am afraid the noble Earl has not convinced me in the slightest degree. How does the information get from this station in four minutes to all the other stations, and to America? What is more, it makes the assumption that Russia can at one fell swoop destroy every air station and every ballistic missile in this country, and in America. One hydrogen bomb over London is quite sufficient prospect to deter me from nuclear war, and I am sure it is much the same with Moscow. It seems to me that the assumption is made on a very wide scale, and I do not think it is possible.


My Lords, I know that the noble and gallant Lord must be aware of the security difficulty one is up against. But perhaps he would take it from me that in those four minutes it is possible to get the aeroplanes off the ground from one station, and that can be done from many other stations as well, as my noble friend said in his speech. By the time the missile has dropped on London, or anywhere else, the V-bomber force or a very large proportion of it is already on its way. It is a battle of the deterrent. Will an opposing Power dare then to send a missile? I doubt it. We should expect that it will not; that is the principle of maintaining the deterrent by this station at Fylingdales.


My Lords, there is just one thing I still do not understand. We have the deterrent without this station in Yorkshire. But I do not think it would be possible to blow up every single air station all over the world in one fell swoop.


I agree I do not think it would be possible to do that all over the world.


My Lords, I am not putting anything which involves security. The noble Lord said that Fylingdales would give him four to fifteen minutes warning. Is that true of a missile—maybe a relatively short-range missile—which comes from a place a few hundred miles away, and is a low trajectory missile? Might that not entirely defeat the warning system? I think I made it clear in the Defence debate that I thought this station was of great value to the Americans as part of their general warning, system. For that reason I thought that although, perhaps, they ought to pay for it, we had to have the unpleasantness of having it here. I thought that was part of our co-operation. But I should like the noble Earl to answer about the low trajectory if he can, and if he knows the answer.


My Lords, to save interrupting the noble Earl again—he is most patient—may I add this? What he has said adds to the stupendous terror of this thing, because it underlines the fact that this Yorkshire station adds nothing to our defences, but may add to the effectiveness of the American strike-back. Therefore, it seems to me that it is an assumption that above everything else it adds to the peril of this island.


I cannot pretend to be an expert in the higher realms of defence; but as I understand it, and as was said in the Defence debate, this is part of a system involving three such stations; and when those three stations are used together they should be able to detect any long-range, high-flying missile in their beams. That will give us the minimum warning of four minutes; and when we have that warning, which is the worst possible warning we could get, we shall have time to get our V-force airborne; and that is where our deterrent comes in. I must admit that I have not been able to find out about low-flying, long-range missiles; I cannot give any information about that.


I think this is rather important. The V2s came over from not far away. There will be bases not far away. Even if the potential aggressor does not advance a very long way into Europe, there may be bases only a few hundred miles away. From those, as I understand it, it is to-day possible, or will very soon be possible, with the developments which are taking place; and no doubt we can do the same thing—to send a low-trajectory projectile, which, as I understand it, can carry quite as good a head as the high-trajectory projectile. It bears out our old experience with radar in the war, that we could not catch the "hedge-hopping" raider, which will not show up on the Fylingdales screen.


I very much appreciate the point the noble Earl made; but I have not been able to find out any information about the low-level projectile type of weapon since the Defence debate. Whether there is such a weapon in existence one would very much doubt. Any sort of short-range weapon of the type known, such as one that could be lobbed; any kind of slow-flying aeroplane, or any traditional type of aeroplane flying over the North Pole, for instance, or sneaking down anywhere from the North—all these will be detected by this radar. The noble Lord's particular question, I have no doubt, will be looked at with much interest; but I cannot myself give the answer.

Now to move to the question of equipment costs, in which the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, were so interested. First, we are, of course, discussing the Air Estimates, and the development costs of aircraft do not fall within those Air Estimates. Secondly, these particular guided-weapon costs are shortly to be discussed by the Public Accounts Committee. Perhaps also I may just remind your Lordships, as my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation said recently in another place, that it is bound to be a difficult matter to assess the exact cost—as indeed the noble Earl well knows and has admitted—of venturing into entirely new fields. As to cost-plus contracts, I can assure my noble friends that cost-plus contracts are the exception, though they have to be used for research contracts.


Is that cost plus a percentage or cost plus a fee?


I will let the noble Earl know about that in writing later. I use the term the standard "cost-plus" contract one hears about. We certainly place contracts at a fixed price whenever we can, especially for transport planes, about which we have heard so much.

That brings me to transport aircraft and to the strategic freighter, the Britannic, which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, mentioned. A great deal of work has been done on this aircraft since the decision to order the aircraft was announced by my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation last year. A great deal of design work had to be done before we could decide in detail on the performance standards of this aircraft. In other words, we had to make sure that it would do the sort of job the noble and gallant Field Marshal and his friends require it to do. This process was completed last August, and since then discussions have been proceeding upon the detailed specification; but throughout this time design and development work has been going ahead steadily. I should add that it is in 1964 or 1965, somewhere in the mid-'sixties, that the delivery of the first production model is expected.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, and the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, also asked about helicopters. The Sycamores and Whirlwinds which we now have are being substantially reinforced by the Belvedere, which has just come off the production line; and we shall soon find these deployed in the Arabian Peninsula and the Far East, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and the noble and gallant Field Marshal. We have just placed an order, too, for 50 gas-turbine Whirlwinds, the bulk of which will be used for extending the tactical air-lift available for the Army. The turbine-engined Whirlwinds will come in next year. Finally, we decided to acquire a larger helicopter, the Wessex, which the noble and gallant Field Marshal mentioned. This is a little further off than the Whirlwind, but will represent a considerable increase in lifting capacity. Nevertheless, even though the Whirlwind is a relatively small aircraft, its lift is remarkable, as I expect any of your Lordships who have seen the demonstrations on Battle of Britain Sunday could substantiate.

With regard to the question of the Hastings and Beverley, about which the noble and gallant Field Marshal asked specifically, the Beverley will of course be supplemented ultimately by the Argosy—or, rather, by the military version of it, the Armstrong Whitworth 660. That will do practically everything the Beverley will, and faster and higher; but of course, because it is smaller, it cannot possibly carry quite the same load. On the other hand, the Beverley will still be available; and that, I understand, can carry nearly all the equipment which the noble and gallant Field Marshal and his friends envisaged carrying in aeroplanes. Perhaps I should mention that one particular weapon, the Malkara has to be taken to pieces before the A.W.660 can carry it. I should point out to noble Lords that both the Hastings and Britannia can, in fact, carry jeeps and trailers—it is a tight fit, but it can be done—while the 660 and the Britannic will actually be able to have them driven on and off. It may be of interest that the big American D.C.6, which is one of their standard aeroplanes, can take up to six hours to load. When the 660 comes into operation a similar load will be put on board in twenty minutes, and at the same time unloading from the other end could be carried on. That is the sort of advance which is going on in Transport Command.

I think it is quite true that in attempting to get a V-force of the present size there have had to be sacrifices. I do not suppose it is possible ever to have everything one wants. But from the shape and the size of the aircraft provision in this year's Defence Estimates we shall have a very much larger potential in the transport field. I always think about passenger-miles when I am waiting to catch a bus, and particularly so in the last two days. But if your Lordships like to know about passenger-miles I can say that Transport Command will now have 150 million passenger nautical miles per month, which is very much more than it had two years ago.


Would the noble Lord feel free to say which of those aircraft will be capable of carrying operational tanks in operational form?


I am informed that all three of the loading aircraft that I have mentioned—the A.W.660, the Britannic, and of course the Beverley—can certainly carry the Saracen and the Saladin. I doubt whether they can carry anything heavier. I do not know indeed whether there is anything heavier. But they certainly will carry this type of weapon.


If the noble Earl will permit me, of course the Saracen and the Saladin are not tanks. I do not think there is any aircraft which carries a tank as such; nor, I imagine, is one contemplated. Nor would I suggest that the effort should be put into one. But I should like, if I may, to revert for a moment to the question of the Argosy. Is the noble Earl satisfied that the Argosy can, in fact, carry everything, except the Malkara, which the Army would need for the type of exercise which was planned in "Exercise Starlight"?


So far as I know it can carry, and was specially designed at the Army's request to carry, such loads. Whether or not bigger loads may come along later is always the trouble. The noble and gallant Field Marshal's friends prepared something better five years ago; and this aircraft had to be invented. I assure your Lordships that it is a tremendous task to modify, even in the slightest degree, an aircraft of proven design in order to satisfy the specialist needs of the Army.


If the noble Earl will permit me to intervene once again, I think that adds weight to the point which I tried to make in my speech, of the need for a long-term development plan, and for the Army and Transport Command to work hand in hand, so that they develop together and adjustments do not have to be made to aircraft after they have been designed, or alterations made to equipment in order to fit it into the aircraft.


I was just coming to that particular point. I should have done so as soon as I had dealt with a number of the points the noble and gallant Field Marshal has made. I appreciate his point, and I am quite certain that it will receive the attention of both my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Air. Moreover, my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence has this point especially in mind.

Now I come to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. Who could have doubted that a noble Lord who can bring so much interest to a full-scale debate in your Lordships' House upon the Mumbles railway could also be such a great expert upon what is in fact called "E.C.M." or, in its other form, the Carcinotron? We have, of course, had a previous incursion into advanced electronics by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, earlier to-day. It may interest noble Lords to know what this Carcinotron does and why it is so called. Apparently, it is a valve which has a backward wave. The enterprising Frenchman who invented this valve looked in his Greek dictionary and found that there was a shellfish in the Isles of Greece called a "Karkinos" which in fact moved backwards; hence he produced the name for his invention.

I shall have to keep closely to the advice I have been given on this invention, but, of course, all noble Lords can consult the Press cutting of March 15. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has referred to radar jamming and to devices based on a technical development known as the Carcinotron. This is a field in which, above nearly all others, the requirements of security place very strict limits upon what can be said in a public debate. It is also a field in which the silent battle between the offence and the defence is at its most intense. I can assure your Lordships that it is very much like a game of poker—you let so much of your hand be seen to encourage the other man, and vice versa; but you do not let go your best card. There is, however, no secret about the way in which the Carcinotron works.

As we have heard, it is a French invention which was fully described in technical journals over six years ago, and its future use in radio warfare was mentioned at that time. Its application to the devices carried by the V-force has been something on which we have been working for many years. I should like to point out that, as the noble and gallant Earl has said, we invented radar, and there is no reason to suppose that we are this day behind anybody in radar. The ability to jam the enemy's radar defences successfully can make an enormous difference to the vulnerability of the attacking force, and I believe that I am right in saying that we are second to none in the tactical application of these electronic devices, both to our offensive forces and to our radar defences. I regret that the requirements of security prevent me from particularising, but I should like to assure my noble friend that an intensive and continuous effort is being made in this field, some of it in association with our allies, to whose contribution I should like to pay tribute. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale and the noble Earl will understand what I mean. I would suggest that they take certain copies of Aeroplane and Flight, combined with certain boys' books which are available, and I think that they will see something about how all this works, and how guided missiles and so forth will work in such conditions.

Here I should like to pay a general tribute to our allies, both in N.A.T.O. and of course in the United States, in all fields of work affecting aircraft. We have received a tremendous amount of help from them. Equally, though, we have given a tremendous amount of help to them. I conclude by saying that there should be no underestimating of the technical strength which is given by the Royal Air Force to the country in having the V-bomber force.

My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate in your Lordships' House, and experts on both sides have taken part. I assure your Lordships that all that has been said will be most carefully looked into, especially with regard to transport aircraft which the noble and gallant Field Marshal and many other noble Lords have mentioned. I should like to end with the assurance that the mobile reserve is fully mobile in the necessary brigade group strength. There is no doubt, too, that if an emergency occurred much more than a brigade group could be carried by using more aircraft, and using them at a higher intensity. But, whatever else may be said about our transport capabilities, by the end of this year they will be much greater than they were at the beginning of last year.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and particularly the noble Earl, far the most agreeable and competent way in which he has replied to a debate which nearly started up all over again through the medium of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser of North Cape. I do not think there is time at this stage to restate the argument for or against the deterrent; but I am with the Minister in believing that Fylingdales plays its part in the deterrent. I quite agree that it has never been suggested that it provides defence in the sense in which my noble friend Lord Wilmot of Selmeston still hopes to find it.

The end of this debate leaves me with a feeling that, although we have gone fairly far into a number of important matters, we still have not got very satisfactory answers on some of them. I do not blame the noble Earl for that. There is no doubt that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has revealed, in a more effective form than I could have done, the great military weakness in terms of aircraft on the transport side; and the fact that the Britannic is now unlikely to appear until 1965—we had a statement last year that it would enter service in 1964, but we know the way that these things go back, and for all we know it may eventually be 1966 or 1967—raises in a most acute form the point to which the noble Earl did not reply: whether we ought not to consider now trying to get suitable aircraft from America. I hope that that will be borne in mind.

As to the other great gap, the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, did not accept that suggestion, for he talked of bombers perhaps going on, with some form of airborne rocket, after 1965. From what I have heard, I believe that there is no prospect of either a suitable bomber for carrying or of the weapon itself being available until long after 1965; and it is the missile gap between 1965 and 1970 which still presents us with a dangerous situation. But, apart from that, no doubt we shall have further—


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord there? My noble friend asked me to say, if that point was brought up, that the matter is under most urgent and intense discussion at this particular time—the gap, or possible gap, that there may or may not be towards the middle 'sixties. The noble Lord raised one other point with which I regret I forgot to deal. The aeroplane that is named after his famous father—the Shackleton—is reckoned to have a life of at least a further ten years; and we believe that it is as good, in almost every way, as the Canadian counterpart of the Britannia; and that the Shackleton can carry all the antisubmarine gadgetry and so forth that can reasonably be foreseen within the next ten years.


My Lords, I am grateful to hear that, for it will take every bit of ten years, at the present rate, to get a replacement. That is a clear indication that we must have the order placed now. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his frank admission. We now have a clear statement of the seriousness of our defence position after 1965. On the noble Earl's statement that urgent discussions are going on—all I will say is that I should jolly well hope they are. And I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to face this. I do not pretend to be able to give the answer, but I believe that we are now in a difficult position and that, clearly, some urgent decisions will have to be taken this year. I am grateful for the opportunity to say that little more, and I will not detain the House further beyond again thanking the Government spokesmen and all noble Lords for their contributions. I therefore ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.