§ 2.47 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD CARRINGTON) rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the Report on Defence, 1961, (Cmnd. 1288). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that this House approve the Report on Defence. This is the annual occasion which enables your Lordships to discuss the whole field of defence and the Minister of Defence's 763 White Paper. We shall have an opportunity of discussing the Service Estimates in greater detail after Easter, when we can examine closely the proposals which the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air and I myself have put forward for the conduct of the Services for the next year.
§ But to-day I thought it would be more appropriate if I spoke to your Lordships over a much broader field. It is, I think, some considerable time since two Amendments to a Government Motion of this kind have been put down. The Amendment proposed by the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party is not in itself very unexpected, because he spoke on much these lines last year, with particular reference to the last phrase of his Amendment, about the continued adherence to independent nuclear projects, by which I take it he means our independent contribution to the nuclear deterrent.
§ The Amendment of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition is perhaps even more to be expected, since it is no doubt phrased so widely in order to enable the many diverse opinions in the Labour Party to take shelter under one very large, shapeless umbrella. Now, none of us should complain about that, and in drawing attention to the many different views which are held both in the Liberal Party and in the Labour Party on defence, I do not in any way intend to deride them. I know very well—as all your Lordships do—that they are most sincerely held. But I think the very diversity of them is indicative of the difficulty of the subject which we are discussing this afternoon.
§ In the old days, our defence policy was really very straightforward. It was almost invariably plain as to where your greatest potential threat came from and you built up your force—or you tried, or perhaps failed, to build up your force—to meet that threat. In doing that, you took care of all the other eventualities that could conceivably happen. Even in 1939, Britain was secure in her island safety. It was clear that a large Navy combined with a powerful Air Force, all composed of relatively simple equipments, would be capable of ensuring our safety against a direct attack on these islands.764
§ My Lords, the situation to-day has, I suggest, changed in four respects. First of all, the advent of the atomic and subsequently the thermo-nuclear weapon. The shattering power of these weapons has completely revolutionised our strategic thinking. The policy of the deterrent has grown up. An overpowering need to avoid global war if Western civilisation as we know it to-day is to survive; the almost philosophical debates about whether the weapon will ever be used; about escalation; about the difference between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons; the difficulties of more than three or four or five countries having a nuclear capability; the obvious uselessness of nuclear weapons in small bush fires or small limited wars; all this has wrought a complete change in defence thinking and, as the Prime Minister, I remember, once said, makes it necessary for us, if we continue with our nuclear capability—and I shall come to that in a moment—to have two sets of golf clubs, one wooden-shafted and the other steel-shafted, if we mean to cover all possibilities.
§ The second change that has taken place is the vastly increased complexity of the ordinary conventional weapon—conventional in the sense of non-nuclear. Some examples of that are given in the illustrations at the back of the Defence White Paper. One can give many more. This has meant that although the hitting power of modern weapons is much greater than previously, their cost, both in research and development and in the end-product, has also risen greatly, and the time that it takes to develop them has very greatly increased.
§ It may not have struck your Lordships that when in the Admiralty we are discussing plans for a new ship, a new design, a new concept, that ship will still be operational in 1990, nearly 30 years from now, assuming a life of about twenty years. So not only are we faced with the time and the cost of development, but we are faced with the not very easy problem of deciding what the world will look like in thirty years' time. And the pace of change and of technical advance is getting faster and faster. My Lords, there was very little difference between the ships which fought the Spanish Armada and Nelson's "Victory", a period stretching over 200 years. The 765 aircraft carrier of to-day is so far removed from the aircraft carrier of even fifteen years ago as to be an entirely different weapon of war.
§ The third thing which has changed in the last twenty years is that defence is no longer a narrow question of national politics in which only one nation is concerned. It is nowadays a great international issue, involving half the nations of the world. What happens in the most far-oft and backward country may affect the whole peace of the world. We are deeply involved with our Allies in the West, and the effectiveness of our defence depends upon our cohesion and our unity. Not only must we consider the possible effect of our policy upon our enemies; we must take into account the reactions of our friends.
§ And, lastly, the increasing complexity, technicality and cost of modern defence has made it impossible for us on our own to build up forces on the same scale as those of the two giants of to-day, Russia and the United States, with their gigantic industrial capacity.
§ What then do we conceive to be the ultimate purpose of our defence policy in these new circumstances? Clearly, it must he, acting together with our Allies, to preserve peace and to maintain and foster the spread of our way of life throughout the world. In other words, defence is the instrument of the foreign policy of the country. Without defence forces we should, in the words of Mr. Aneurin Bevan, "go naked into the conference chamber". Without them, the influence which we can exert throughout the world and which we in Britain believe to be a good influence, would be greatly diminished.
§ But any Government must first of all consider the economic problems. We have to consider the effect of our defence budget on the economic position of the country, for Britain's ability to maintain her position and influence in the world depends above all on a sound economy; and we can make our proper contribution to the stability and peace of the world only if our economy remains strong. Here, too, our problems are immeasurably greater than they were before the war.
§ Then we have to decide on a purely practical level what is the technical 766 nature of the threat to this country and what are the best ways of meeting it. Difficult choices are involved. The threat is not from one particular form of attack alone. It can take many forms. It may come from the air; it may come on land, or at sea. It can be launched with nuclear weapons or with conventional forces. It may come directly in Europe, or indirectly by an attack on our interests in different parts of the world. We cannot hope to meet every aspect of it fully with our comparatively slender resources. We have to assess the probabilities over a long period ahead, and assign some kind of priority to our various requirements.
§ In the face of all these conflicting problems and difficulties, the Government have tried to achieve a balance. We believe that we should make our independent contribution to the deterrent, and I shall in a moment come to our reasons for that. We believe that we must contribute on a considerable scale to the Western Alliance. Our contribution to N.A.T.O. is in fact our largest defence commitment.
§ About 40 per cent. of all our available Army formations; 50 per cent. of all our front-line aircraft, including Fighter Command which will shortly be placed under SACEUR; and 85 per cent. of the active and operational reserve Fleets throughout the world are assigned to N.A.T.O. In addition, we are contributing with our V-bombers to the strategic nuclear forces of the Western Alliance. All this is a very significant contribution in real terms to the whole range of common defence, and one which entitles us to a major voice in the councils of the Alliance.
§ We believe, too, that we must be prepared, with versatile and mobile conventional forces, to put out "bush tires"; and you will have noticed in the Defence White Paper and in the Navy and Air Estimates the increase in the mobility of our forces, the rise in strength of R.A.F. Transport Command and the decision announced that the Royal Navy is to build an assault ship of powerful capability and is to have a second commando carrier in commission. We must guarantee the inernal security of the Colonial Empire. We must help to train our Commonwealth friends and Allies. All these tasks we have set ourselves to do, 767 and it is the belief of Her Majesty's Government that the shape and size of the forces which are proposed to Parliament in the Report on Defence enable us to fulfil them at a cost which the country can afford.
§ My Lords, the two items of Government policy which have been called most into question are our independent contribution to the nuclear deterrent and recruitment to our all-Regular Forces. There are very many views expressed about our contribution to the deterrent. It has been challenged at every level of consideration: on purely military grounds, that it is an unnecessary duplication of the American deterrent; on economic grounds, that we cannot afford it; on political grounds, that it is a barrier to disarmament; and on moral grounds, that it is iniquitous to use it. I can assure your Lordships that the Government have most carefully weighed all these considerations before coming to the conclusion that we should and must retain our independent nuclear power.
§ From the military point of view, there is no doubt that the V-bomber force, with its existing capability, is a powerful contribution to the Western deterrent. As the Minister of Defence said in another place, the United States have made it plain that for reasons of geography, for reasons of the strength of our Alliance, and for other reasons of a more technical and secret character, they greatly welcome this essential contribution. It increases the dispersal of the Allied nuclear striking force and thereby the certainty of over-whelming retaliation in the event of a Soviet attack. It narrows the Russians' field of manœuvre in the cold war, increasing the risks which they must run in their attempts to disrupt the Alliance. I believe that our possession of it enables us to influence world affairs much more widely than would otherwise be possible. For instance, in matters of disarmament or at the conference table between nations, I believe the fact that we are in the nuclear "club" enables our voice to be listened to much more readily. And to those who say, as I think Mr. Grimond did in another place, that what we are really seeking to do is not to deter the Russians but to influence the Americans, my answer is that we seek to do both, and that there is nothing odd or foolish or wasteful in 768 trying to influence your friends by demonstrating your technical ability and your determination to contribute to the Western cause.
§ As for the economics, the facts are these. The greater part of our expenditure on it—which is tied up in the medium bomber force and in the fighter and missile defences of the deterrent bases—would be incurred in any case, unless we were prepared to do without a bomber force of any kind. The capital cost of the delivery system—the V-bombers—has in the main already been incurred. The saving in men and money which would result from the abandonment of our nuclear capability at the present time would give us an increase in conventional strength which would be infinitesimal compared to the defence which we should have sacrificed. There can be no doubt whatever that, in terms of both men and material employed, the nuclear weapon is the supreme example of the economical use of force.
§ As to the moral issue contained in our possession of nuclear weapons, I would ask those whose consciences protest to consider carefully where their attitude would lead them. Is it less moral to possess weapons of our own, and to be prepared to use them in defence of our civilisation, than to shelter behind the United States and its deterrent? Or should we renounce our partnership in the Western Alliance? That might be soothing to some consciences; but I believe that it would be highly dangerous for the future. And let us not waste time speculating on the independent nature of our deterrent. As my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence recently said in another place, an aggressor knows that we have these weapons, and that in certain circumstances we should be prepared to use them.
§ My Lords, we have these weapons. The V-bomber force exists, armed with the free-falling bomb, to be replaced later by Blue Steel. What on earth would be the point of giving up at this moment all the hard work and skill and success which we have worked for and achieved over so many years? He who thinks that such a unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons would be the start of 769 some kind of nuclear disarmament and change of attitude in the world must be a very sanguine man. Can it seriously be argued that China, for example—a nation which does not share our morality—would be deflected from her course by any act of renunciation on our part? We should simply be throwing away our own achievements for no gain whatever.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, this is a very interesting argument, and well put. But may I ask what right we have to ask them to renounce these weapons on moral grounds while we ourselves retain the independent deterrent?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord has been following my argument. I am saying that I do not think we should throw away our independent nuclear deterrent on the off-chance that, by our example, anybody else will do so.
§ LORD OGMORE
If we are now—as we are doing—asking other countries not to have the independent deterrent, what right have we to do so if we retain the deterrent ourselves?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, we have not asked other countries not to have the independent deterrent, so far as I know. If the noble Lord will consider what I have said about China, I think he will agree with me that any unilateral renunciation on our part is hardly likely to affect that country.
The Minister of Defence in another place has made clear what the future of our independent contribution is to be. After Blue Steel, the stand-off bomb, we are arranging to introduce Skybolt in the late 1960s. Skybolt is under development and is making good progress. And there are other means of delivery which we could adopt for deterrent purposes—the Buccaneer and the T.S.R.2 which will come into service in the mid-1960s. In addition, as the Minister of Defence has also told another place, a team of British Royal Navy experts is at the moment in the United States studying the whole progress of the Polaris weapon system and the nuclear submarine which carries it. And I am grateful to the American Navy for their co-operation and generosity in keeping us so fully informed on this project.
It will be seen from this, my Lords, that not only do the Government believe 770 that it is right for us to continue the nuclear deterrent, but that it is possible and practicable to do so.
I now turn to the question of manpower. There is no doubt that this is a problem which is causing the most concern throughout the country, and which was most in evidence during the debate on defence in another place. Not least are the Government concerned because success in our recruiting drive is an absolute necessity to carry out our defence plan. The revolution which, as I have already mentioned, is taking place, and has taken place, in equipments and weapons does not in any way detract from the importance of the sailor, the soldier and the airman. I sometimes wonder whether the concentration on equipment—on the radio, in the newspapers and in our speeches in this House—does not lead the ordinary man to believe that any future war will be a "press-button" affair run by scientists, in which ordinary men will be useless, and that to join the Services to-day will not provide a worthwhile long-term career.
In my view, my Lords, nothing could be further from the truth. The human element is as important to-day as it ever was. The 1957 White Paper laid down our future defence policy and outlined recruiting prospects as they were then seen. It was forecast at the time that the shortage in the Army at the end of 1962 would be 50,000, or perhaps, at best, 25,000. Even on the most pessimistic assumption these estimates are very much out of line with the situation as we see it to-day.
The problems in front of the three Services are quite different. I do not believe that the Royal Navy has a great deal to worry about. It is true that there are certain branches of the Service in which recruiting is not so good as might be, but in general the position is fairly satisfactory. Indeed, the Civil Lord told another place that last year there were over 15,000 applicants for the Royal Navy. The R.A.F. too, although the problem here is a little more difficult is a Service which should not have too much difficulty in getting the right number. As the Secretary of State for Air said, the most serious problem is a shortage of officers in the General Duties Branch, which may b3 due to the 771 wrongly held view that there is no future in flying. It is therefore in the Army that the problem is gravest. We still have not got 165,000 Regulars. During the next two years we believe that the advantage of service in an all-Regular force, with progressive training, better uniforms, better accommodation, better weapons and better equipment, will become increasingly apparent.
Your Lordships will no doubt have noticed the very imaginative proposals which the Secretary of State for War has announced. There is, first, an intensive recruiting campaign, and immediate plans include a scheme to attract National Servicemen to stay in the Army. Then there is a campaign to bring the Army to the people; more overseas training exercises—for the first time in history it is proposed to have an exercise in Canada. Other proposals include plans to unite families until housing catches up with the demand; a "save while you serve" scheme to help ensure that a man can get his own house where he wants it when he retires; and, finally, methods to help solve the loss of recruits by discharge by purchase before they have had a chance to settle down.
These very imaginative proposals, coupled with the success that we have already had, lead us to expect that we should achieve our minimum target of 165,000 early in 1963 and that, because of the upward tendency in recruiting by then, we shall be able reasonably quickly thereafter to get a little over the 180,000 ceiling. But it will not be until the end of this year that we shall be able to see clearly what the figure at the end of 1962 will be. The result of the pilot scheme of television advertising has been very encouraging, and recruiting figures in the areas concerned have increased by about 18 per cent. as compared with the previous year. It has been decided to go ahead next month with a national campaign.
In all these circumstances, my Lords, I do not believe it would be right to start talking about the reintroduction of National Service, with all the consequences which would flow. The shortages, we believe, will be only limited and temporary, and there are ways other than the reintroduction of National Service for dealing with them—for 772 example, by adjustment of medical and educational standards, and further civilianisation. All those methods would be examined.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask whether that means that the Government go right back on the pledge on the 1957 White Paper, which quite clearly stated, at the beginning of the 1957 programme, that if by 1962 we had not got the men it would be necessary to return to call-up?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not think that anything I have said goes away from that. I am saying that we shall not know until the end of this year whether or not we shall get the numbers required. If it is plain that we are not getting them, there are other ways of going about it than by National Service—for instance, selective service or the other means that I mentioned. We shall examine them all before we do it.
My Lords, I make no apology for going into some detail so far as the Army is concerned; for the Army as I said, has much the greatest problem to face. But in general I believe that these problems of recruitment should be left to the Departments themselves. It is the individual Services that men are being asked to join, and each Service should be allowed to gear its machinery to produce the best effect for its own purposes. Life in the three Services differs widely, and it is true that there is some competition in the appeal by each Service for recruits. But whatever the appeal of the sea, the land or the air, in the matter of terms and conditions of service there is nothing to choose between the three.
If we are to attract recruits we must be able to offer rewards comparable with those obtainable in civil life and make sure that the Serviceman does not find himself cast adrift in middle life with no prospect of obtaining fresh employment. The pay in the Services is now fully comparable with earnings in industry and the biennial reviews which are carried out (the next will be in April, 1962) ensure that this comparison is maintained. The Regular Forces Resettlement Service gives full advice about employment prospects in different parts of the country and about vocational training courses. All these arrangements are 773 working well and, speaking generally, there is no real problem at the present time in resettling other ranks within two or three months. Officers have always presented a particular problem because of the age at which they retire, or, rather, used to retire. We hope that the new career structure announced last year will help to overcome this problem.
My Lords, to sum up the manpower problem, the Government are modestly optimistic about the future. We believe that it was right to go for all-Regular Forces, even at the risk that, having taken that decision, we might be faced for a little time with shortages in some categories. But with the career prospects, the pay and conditions which the Forces can now offer, we believe that our target of around 400,000 will be reached in the not too distant future. I do not pretend to have covered all the many problems and difficulties which beset us. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe and the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will also be speaking in this debate and will no doubt deal with these other problems.
But I have tried in my remarks to say something about the two issues which are most prominent to-day. I have tried to show your Lordships, if indeed it were necessary to do so, some of the difficulties and uncertainties upon which any defence policy must necessarily be based. My Lords, I believe that the Government have a good story to tell, and that if the people of this country were asked to choose between their policy and the policy of the Labour Party, or the policy of the Liberal Party, they would unhesitatingly choose, as they did eighteen months ago, that of Her Majesty's Government. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Report on Defence, 1961 (Cmnd. 1288).—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ LORD REA had given Notice of his intention to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after "That" and insert:
§ "this House deplores the fact that, in spite of an increased defence budget in excess of £1,655,000,000, Her Majesty's Government have failed to provide a convincing explanation of the part to be played by Britain in a co-ordinated Western defence system 774 and further, while approving the declaration contained in Command Paper 1288, that 'a narrow nationalist policy for the choice and production of arms makes no sense today,' regrets that Her Majesty's Government do not recognise that this declaration is inconsistent with their continued adherence to the concept that Britain can only maintain her position in the world by relying on independent nuclear projects."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I will defer until the end of the debate moving the Amendment which stands in my name, so that we can discuss the whole question in all its many aspects before turning our minds to the Division Lobbies. In this way, I would respectfully submit, the character of our discussion to-day and to-morrow will have greater continuity than it would have if we had to dispose of one or more Amendments before concentrating upon the substantive Motion so ably moved just now. Therefore, with the permission of the House, if I may have it, I will now quite shortly make my few observations. Then, if I may have the leave of the House, I will rise again to move my Amendment formally at the end of the debate to-morrow.
§ My Lords, I think the clarity and ability with which the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, put his case has won the admiration of us all, and our thanks. I always find it a great pleasure to listen to him, and I must say that I wish it were somebody less reasonable and less pleasant to whom I find myself in opposition in this debate on Defence. It would seem that I should apologise also for the length of the Amendment in my name, but its apparent verbosity has an advantage, because it puts into about 8½ lines all the main points that I want to make and so relieves your Lordships and myself from enduring a long and possibly tedious speech.
§ My points are very simple ones. First, whilst I think we all agree that this country must certainly have defence, and must certainly have the best defence it can pay for, it must, to use to-day's cliché, cut its coat according to its cloth and not according to dreams of prestige. The Defence Budget, as your Lordships 775 know, increases every year, and it is already an amount of money that is more than we can afford. To be really effectual as an individual military Power to-day we should surely need to spend many times the £1,700 million now proposed; but, of course, such an idea does not come within the bounds of sanity. As it is, the immense weight of the present Defence Budget, I think, must obviously impair very drastically all our hopes of greater assistance to our national prosperity and welfare, and if we do continue at the present increasing rate, where is the money to come from?
§ Without beating about the bush, are we really to cut down on housing and health and pensions, and such things which really do matter to the poor and the old in this country. Are we to cut down on education, transport improvements and forward planning, which affects us all? Are we to defer the easement, which we look forward to so much, of heavy industrial and personal taxation, which is to-day a frustration to incentive and, therefore, is keeping our commercial status in the world lower than it might be?
§ If all this money is needed for our share in a co-ordinated Western defence system, how is it that the people of this country simply do not know what that share is—for I am convinced that they do not—or how it works. If the Government cannot tell them, is it possible that the Government themselves do not know? We have had tremendously expensive failures in Blue Streaks and the like, and still the people in this country do not know why. To-day, I suggest we are trying to keep up with the Kennedy-Joneses and the Khrushchev-Joneses, by way of "show-off" gestures of expenditure on arms and weapons which I think experience has shown are likely to be obsolete almost before they are started. What I call the "Kennedy-Joneses" and the "Khrushchev-Joneses" can, of course, if things go wrong, pour out further millions or billions on a newer destructive project. But we cannot. We should be heading for bankruptcy and should retreat perhaps to second-class or third-class national status, which is the last thing any of us wants.776
The White Paper itself in paragraph 29 says:
Both the United States and Russia spend on research and development alone sums greater than our total defence budget. We obviously cannot afford to spend on this scale.
§ Those are the Government's own words. The greatest issue is, of course, as the noble Lord has pointed out, the retention of our own national nuclear deterrent, which in itself will deter nobody if we are left to "go it alone". But is not the possession of this thing pretty terrible, as the noble Lord very frankly said, as an example to other countries? He said: "If we give it up, it will not make China give it up". But the fact that we have it when we could go without it in the general sense surely is a bad example to such countries as Argentina, Ecuador, Indonesia and Ghana. Of course they will want to follow suit. Where, then, is the progress of multilateral and universal disarmament?
There is one rather misleading and not quite fair argument used in favour of keeping this national deterrent—an argument which, I suggest, is so facile that it is rather apt to be swallowed without being analysed as being selfish, and selfishness masquerading as patriotism; for Edith Cavell's words about patriotism being "not enough", had a real meaning; they were not just a woolly aphorism. The argument which I criticise was, according to The Times, used in a speech in another place by the Secretary of State for Air, Mr. Amery. These are the words he used:
I understand and respect the pacifist case that force is wrong. But there is a rather ignoble variant about, to the effect that since nuclear weapons are so devastating, it is better to accept slavery than death.
The he went on:
This is not the spirit with which Britain faced her destiny at Dunkirk.
§ Of course that was not the spirit at Dunkirk, or at any other crisis in the long history of our country, right up to the time of Dunkirk, or even a year or two later, because, as the noble Lord has said, up to the time of the invention and use of nuclear weapons it was, I hold, often possible to save posterity by laying down one's own life. Of course, millions have done it, to their everlasting honour and glory. But after the advent of nuclear 777 weapons the offer to lay down one's own life may involve the resultant death of nearly all mankind—and which of us has the right to bring that about? It may cause the extermination of all past civilisation, which is a terrible thing, and the denial of any existence to our potential descendants. Have we, in this passing generation, a mandate to bring that about either?
§ To boast that one would rather be blown into ten thousand smithereens than endure personal national subjugation for a short time is, I think, a sort of egoism which takes no account nowadays of any generation other than one's own small, passing and relatively insignificant generation, no matter whether this boast is made by a Russian, a Chinese or a Briton. It sounded very fine and magnificent and chivalrous up to this century; but now it has become vainglorious, short-sighted and totally selfish. The voluntary sacrifice of life by one individual nation, which was once a noble thing, may now, I think, be a very evil thing. We must consider it carefully.
§ But how can we cope with this dilemma? Not, I believe, by the Labour Party's proposals of unilateral disarmament; for that, I personally think, would tend to bring war nearer. Surely, the only course is (again in the words of the White Paper) to reach agreement on general world disarmament under effective international control—I would underline the word "international". In other words, our objective must be not really to prepare for war, because war destroys all that it aims to save; but to prepare wholeheartedly for peace, which at least brings hope. It is not really easy to see what progress the present Government is making towards multilateral disarmament, when it comes to Parliament year after year for vast and increasing armament expenditure, for more armament and rearmament.
§ Of course, on the other side of the House the "die-hard" element is still with us. It is not very easy for Victorians to become Elizabethans. I suggest it is dying very hard, as we see in a Conservative Party split from top to bottom (or is it laterally?) by that traditionally Conservative element of "die-hards" on the one hand, and a more liberal element (spelt of course with a little "c") on the other.778
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
How does one spell "liberal element" with a little "c"?
The country was greatly moved by the fine and statesmanlike speech of the Foreign Secretary in this House only a few weeks ago. But how can the people be expected to support a divided Conservative Party which is pulling both ways—pulling both ways, but yet not making ends meet? Alternatively, how can the people be expected to continue support for a Labour Party, tethered as it is to unilateral disarmament and to further nationalisation, neither of which the country wants, when that Party has come to the end of its tether and does not know whether it is coming or going—certainly not coming. The Party can paper over the cracks of disunity for a short time by, shall I say, manufacturing rather hysterical Parliamentary diversions on relatively trivial issues; but it remains tethered, and divided in its doctrinaire disagreement, apparently taking as its motto "Any stigma is good enough to beat a dogma."
Where, then, is the country really to look for leadership and guidance in our curious political set-up—the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, indicated where it should not look, but I am not quite sure that I agree with him—particularly as such vital matters as we are discussing to-day are not intrinsically Party matters at all? Both the Government and the Opposition claim to detect pleasant noises of general approval when they point out with pride how liberal they are becoming. Perhaps, my Lords, they want confirmation of this trend in public opinion; and perhaps a General Election would give it.
§ 3.27 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH had given Notice of his intention to move, as an Amendment to the above Motion, to leave out all the words after "That" and insert:
this House has no confidence that the policy set out in the Report on Defence, 1961 (Cmnd. 1288) will provide effectively for the defence of Britain.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this certainly is every year one of the most important debates that your Lordships can engage in; and I must say that I 779 wondered, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was rising to move the adoption of the White Paper, whether we should get the kind of speech that we had last year from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, on which, he will remember, I passed some remarks, because then the Government had the great trouble of trying to keep off (as the noble Viscount cleverly did last year) explaining away the difference between Sandys and Watkinson, and we did not get any real explanation at that time of the White Paper. This year we have had a most interesting speech of a general character from Lord Carrington, with his usual facility and at least a smiling aspect, even If he does not always feel that way towards us inside. He puts it over very well and gracefully. But I must say that while he did go into some detail about two main points, for which we are grateful, he did not really tell us much more about the true state of affairs than we were able to get from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, last year.
§ Like the Liberal Party, we shall be moving our Amendment at the end of the debate. But our Amendment goes much deeper than does that of the Liberal Party. Ours is a Motion of no confidence, and the Motion of no confidence is even less qualified than the Motion of no confidence of last year; it is just a straight issue. The more we go on with these White Papers on Defence by the Conservative Government, the more their failure seems to emerge. That is the true situation. We have to go back in time to examine the basic facts. You were handed over large forces in 1951. You have not got those forces to-day. You were always pressing us at that time. I remember very well that when the so-called "bush fires", incidents like the Persian Gulf and Abadan and things of that kind, arose, you always pressed us to know what forces we had to deal with our commitments. Our forces were much larger than you have at any time sought to retain since the actual war in Korea.
§ The problem for the country to consider is this. The White Paper proposes a budget in manpower which, I take it, will, by the end of the financial year, be no more than 400,000. It is true that that is 25,000 better than the figure first postulated by Mr. Sandys in his 1957 780 Paper—because he foresaw a shortage as far ahead as 1962 of the strength he was seeking to achieve of 375,000. What is the cost of the programme attached to this total personnel maintenance proposed report? The budget of Mr. Sandys in 1957 was much praised by many people because for the first time there was to be a reduction in cost. The gross figure submitted to the House fell to £1,480-odd million, and then we were to get from Germany and the United States net receipts which reduced the net cost in the estimate to £1,420 million. Now we are to have, in this current year, a total personnel, beginning at 440,000 and being reduced to 400,000, on a net budget of £1,655 million. Comparing net budget with net budget, that is an increase of £235 million over the net budget of 1957, and there is not much more than half the personnel compared with the figure given in April, 1957. That in itself is the bare bones of a situation which invokes a Motion of "no confidence".
§ I believe the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has quite fairly given our appreciation of the difference in our defence situation engendered by the increasing cost, apparently, of defence efforts arising from continued research and development. It is quite fair; but let us look more deeply and closely at it. In this and in almost every other White Paper we have read since the war we have had to give lip-service to the fact that the basic economic position of the country is one of the prime factors in our defence situation. Though I have forgotten the actual words, the 1957 White Paper put it differently from the present White Paper on Defence. But who is responsible for the cumulative defence decline over the last nine years? Who is responsible if a Government gets in, in the first instance, on an ambitious political campaign stating that we need to "set the people free" from controls and proper, balanced programmes to deal with the situation? Who is responsible now for the fact that our economy cannot match up to the basic necessities of our urgent defence? There they sit, on that side of the House. Every control of the kind that would have given a management of our economy in relation to our prime defence efforts has been taken off.781
§ It was because in 1951, in the first instance, the country was completely misled on that basic issue that we have a so-called "flourishing" country today. We were told some fifteen or eighteen months ago, at the time of the General Election, that we had "never had it so good". To-day we have a situation when the basic factor in this Defence White Paper is that we cannot afford the defence we really require, and I say that that means that the country has a right to say it has no confidence in the defence policy of the Government. Let us look a little more closely at the problems. It is perfectly true that the way in which things have gone has led to divisions with regard to modern weapons which are in being and which may spread in ownership throughout the world; and it is quite true that in the Labour Party there are large sections—too large to please me—who are nervous about the position with regard to atomic and nuclear weapons.
§ But do your Lordships think that it is only from political Parties that this particular form of anxiety arises? This is coming from every kind of religious body. I believe there are representatives of almost every kind of Christian church in this country who take the same view. There is no comparison between the weight of this kind of opinion to-day and even the religious parties which stood behind the old Peace Pledge Union campaign before the war. After the war had been on for some time, some Conservatives considered that that had been a great and baneful influence on the Conservative Government, leading them, in spite of the pleas of the then Mr. Winston Churchill, to fail adequately to prepare for the war which was to break out in 1939. Mr. Baldwin used to plead that they were doing the best they could, and that in all the circumstances they had to be careful not to irritate these people, because, as he said, one could be sure that the bomber would always get through. This basic situation about which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has talked—people's opinions in relation to current circumstances—has always been there. It is now a question of degree as to how wide the damage goes if a major conflict arises.782
§ Let me say on this White Paper that what encourages me most is its first paragraph in which Her Majesty's Government reiterate that their primary desire is to be able to proceed to disarmament. I would say to noble friends of mine, who remain my friends in spite of my attitude upon military matters, that if one wants to proceed satisfactorily to an agreed disarmament, the great thing is not unilaterally to disarm oneself first. My plea to the present Government is that, in approaching disarmament, they have already given away in regard to the number of personnel, ships, aircraft and other types of equipment of our Armed Forces, more than they could afford to give away. It makes one want to ask: "When you go to the Disarmament Conference Council, how much have you got to lay on the table as a sacrificial effort towards agreement at that time?" In regard, therefore, to the reduction of forces under this Government over nine years, I would say they have really engaged in a form of unilateral disarmament.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, evidently does not accept the fact; but if that is so, I take him back to a point he made in his speech—a most important one from his point of view—as to the value of keeping the independent deterrent, a deterrent which the Government were providing and contributing to the general pool of Allied defence because it was of such international importance to have that influence with other nations. But all the other elements in defence equipment are also important. I want to tell noble Lords opposite this fact, which was strongly held by both Mr. Bevin and myself at the time; that we should never have got the first steps to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation if we had not had the plan to go in for National Service, on the same basis as France and Belgium. There would not have been the Treaty, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in its present form would never have existed. Every part of defence equipment counts with whatever influence it may have in the world.
§ If you talk about the differences of things you require as regards a major strategic conflict, or putting out bush fires, you have to remember that the noble Lord himself said, "You also have 783 to remember that the spread of the risk now is so broad over the world, and any happening in a little country anywhere may be the beginning of a big conflagration". All that makes me ask that the Government should give answers in detail, either to-day or when we come to debate the Service Estimates, and should give some explanation to the country and to this House as to how they propose to meet commitments and how far they propose to reduce them.
§ Supposing the Government started to reduce commitments now, it would not be the first time that has been done by a Conservative Government. Until the time of the 1957 White Paper we were under pledge about the size of the British Army of the Rhine. Under the White Paper of 1957 that Army was reduced by 17,000. It has since been reduced still further and, so far as I can tell, it is proposed to reduce it again. I should like to have firmer information about that when we come to the Army Estimates. What sort of force have you, then, effective on the European front, if that is to form a large part of your strategic reserve, for moving your troops to any one of your points of danger in the world? Let us have some facts about it. Let us see what is really proposed.
If we go back to the White Paper on Defence in 1957, we find that the Government were then pretty explicit as to what they considered to be their liabilities. They were stated in two parts in paragraph 8. The first, of course, we well know:
to play their part with the forces of Allied countries in deterring and resisting aggression".
The second was:
to defend British colonies and protected territories against local attack, and undertake limited operations in overseas emergencies".
§ Do not forget, my Lords, that the position as stated in the debate in the other place the other day seems strangely different from that of last year. Then, everybody was anxious to lay the ghost of the Sandys White Paper and of Mr. Sandys influence—and anxious not to talk about it. But in the other place, on this occasion, the present Minister of Defence said that we were dealing with the five-year programme that had been 784 so wonderfully and skilfully thought out by Mr. Sandys, and with the progress that had been made with it. Well, what progress has been made on this basis which I have just quoted? Let us have a look.
The First Lord of the Admiralty this afternoon has given, with figures which I saw were quoted by the Minister of Defence in another place, the disposition of our Forces in certain percentages. Eighty-five per cent. of the whole of the operational (active and reserve, that is) naval ships are denoted as assigned to N.A.T.O. I would ask: How do you cover all your other commitments? What do you send on the part of the Navy to all the great places all over the world from what is the smallest Royal Navy in the whole of my lifetime—and that is nearly 76 years? Are you, from that point of view, adequately securing even those hare bones referred to in the 1957 White Paper:
to defend British colonies and protected territories against local attack, and undertake limited operations in overseas emergencies"?
§ And please remember that the First Lord was—I will not say careful to omit it; he probably overlooked it; but when he told us that 85 per cent. of his Navy had gone to N.A.T.O. he did not tell us what the disposition of the Navy was to be for either C.E.N.T.O. or S.E.A.T.O., though I suppose that in the case of C.E.N.T.O. part of the N.A.T.O. obligations would be almost interlocking.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Viscount would allow me to intervene. What I said was that 85 per cent. of the operational Fleet was declared to N.A.T.O. That does not mean that 85 per cent. of the Fleet is permanently in European waters. It means that, in the event of global war in which N.A.T.O. is involved, they are declared to N.A.T.O. If there were a S.E.A.T.O. war, all the Fleet would be perfectly capable of going there.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, perhaps I am old-fashioned in my defence thinking. If that is the position, you first of all have to manage all your proper joint exercises in the areas in which they are likely to operate. I should have 785 thought you would require that in the case of C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O., as well as for N.A.T.O. But it makes me wonder how much you have left to put into those areas. How much have you got there? If the strength of N.A.T.O. is to be measured in your plans, maybe from the point of view of global war, what becomes of a threat of attack in any other part of the world? I think that this planning needs a little extra examination and thinking out. I am convinced that, from the point of view of the Naval commitments of this country, we are most inadequately served in numbers and ships at the present time. That is my exceedingly strong opinion.
Let us look for a while at the Air Force. Please remember, my Lords, that in the 1957 White Paper it was estimated that there would be a substantial saving, and that there would be a reduction not only in the personnel of the Forces but in the equipment of the Royal Air Force, and that they would be able to contribute to that reduction. If we look at the last part of the White Paper of 1957 we see that it was forecast that that reduction would not only be made then and for the time being but would continue in later years. The Paper said—I will leave out two sentences to be fair:It is not yet possible to forecast the level of expenditure in later years…Nevertheless, it can safely be assumed that the new plan, when it is fully implemented, will further appreciably reduce the burden on the economy".And so it was expected that when this five-year programme, which was referred to by the Minister of Defence a few days ago in the other place, was in full operation there would be a continuing reduction in the military costs to our economy.
What about the air in that respect? Was it not quite plain, when one studied it and then looked immediately at the reactions of the Government during the next twelve to eighteen months, that they really believed what they had said—that they would be able to do away with a large portion, at any rate, of the fighter force in the Air Force by the substitution of other weapons, like missiles? Now that is a fairly straight point. And what is the position now? Blue Streak was developed to "x" position, whatever "x" was. We were never told exactly 786 how far it had gone, but it was at a cost of something like £100 million—wasted unless you can count the fact that perhaps there is still some space-research value in what remains of it. Then your budget, instead of going down from £1,420 million net, is up to £1,655 million; and your personnel is certainly 270,000 less than it was in April, 1957. My Lords, am I not giving you facts which illustrate the necessity for a vote of no confidence? I challenge anybody on the other side to deny the facts that I am putting before your Lordships to-day.
I look now at some of the things that were mentioned in the rather hurried series given at the beginning of the noble Lord's speech. I must be fair; he covered them all, but I did not get them all down. Certainly he spoke about what was the difference between the strategic and the tactical. When we come to look at the question of defence in relation to the danger threatened, what can we possibly think of the policy of the 1957 White Paper which Mr. Watkinson now upholds? If you look at the statements of the Government, and carry along with them the statements of General Norstad when he talks about the difference between the tactical and the strategic target, all I can say is that at the present moment we have armed our troops in B.A.O.R. and in the Royal Air Force, and other N.A.T.O. troops as well, with atomic weapons the use of which, whether you aim at a suggested tactical or strategical target, would immediately bring back the full weight of an hydrogen, extra-powered attack upon your bases here. That is the actual basis of your planning and your equipment, and I do not see how you can possibly get away from it.
Therefore, there is a good deal more reason for the case of the people Lord Rea mentioned, because of the risk that they feel they are taking in this country; although, far myself, however unpopular it may be in some sections of my Party, I would say that we have a better chance of getting an ultimate settlement in Europe by retaining the use of nuclear weapons so long as any potential enemy is holding them against us. That is just a plain, basic fact, and I believe that, to have that, is one of the most important approaches to any disarmament conference table.
787 Now I must say that in all the years I have spent on defence I have never been more disappointed than at the situation which we have arrived at to-day. The five-year programme of 1957 is out. It is struggling; groping; hoping it will get by somehow: but it is practically impossible to achieve. If the Government were really to set about getting an export trade development, were to help that export trade development with proper economic control, and were to use the resources of the country as a whole for such defence requirements as are needed, they might be getting somewhere near the objective that people like myself have for the last twenty years been trying to achieve and maintain in the defence services of the country. But while you go on as you are going at present, I can see no hope of your getting either united Parties or a united populace behind you in your defence programme. You may go on putting it over to them, that they have "never had it so good", but the loss will be all the greater if the struggle should come. You can teach them to "eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die", but, in the end, the result will be the same.
§ 3.56 p.m.
My Lords, in the first place, I entirely disagree with both the Amendments to this Motion which appear on the Order Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, has said that we must cut our coat according to our cloth, and that our Defence Budget is far too high. My Lords, we must be prepared to pay a proper insurance premium to preserve our lives and the future of this country, and I am convinced that the people of this country would not have it otherwise. The premium may be high, but provided that it is kept within reasonable bounds, and does not destroy our economy, I maintain that we must meet it. I also suggest that we are at the present time striking a reasonable balance.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, also deplores the increase in defence costs. He must realise, of course, that supplies cost more now than during the last twelve or fifteen months, owing to increases in wages; and there has also been a considerable 788 increase in the pay of Service personnel. That alone would account for a considerable increase in costs. The noble Viscount tries to make political capital out of the abandonment of Blue Streak. But surely he realises that the use and improvement in weapons is going on continuously, and therefore we must be prepared to make changes.
My Lords, I would say that one of the most significant matters in defence that has arisen in the past twelve months is that the West and Russia appear to have arrived at parity in nuclear intercontinental weapons, and I would suggest that the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles means that the strength of the strategic Air Command may well be halved by the year 1965. There is also no doubt that the growth of the missile programme means that the need for manned aircraft is diminishing. Large reductions have already been made in the fighter force, for the simple reason that manned aircraft cannot deal with missiles. We now have to rely more and more on defensive surface-air missiles, such as Bomarc, in the United States, and Bloodhound, in this country. On the other hand, I would suggest that there will always be a future for manned aircraft, because it would certainly be a mistake to rely on any one weapon such as a missile. It may well be that in the near future we may see the development of a defensive antimissile missile which will destroy an on-coming missile in the air. And, of course, if that were to happen, the manned bomber would be required for its original purpose.
That brings us to the policy on conventional weapons and the balance between the so-called "sword" and "shield"—or, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, put it, between two kinds of golf club, wood and steel. The sword, of course, is the nuclear weapon, and the shield consists of sea, land and air forces. With a strong shield adequately trained and equipped, the enemy would be unable to face us with a fait accompli. In other words, any move against the West would require a deliberate move by the enemy against strong resistance, rather than an unopposed move which might tempt him to think we should prefer to leave it unanswered rather than resort to nuclear weapons.
789 That is the case for conventional weapons, and the question is: Have we the right balance between nuclear and conventional weapons? I would suggest that the balance is still too much toward the sword rather than toward the shield, and that we must improve the strength of our conventional forces as much as possible, not necessarily by increase in manpower, but by increase in fire power and other technical improvements. There still seems to be a possibility that N.A.T.O. may become a fourth Nuclear Power, with direct control over the use of its nuclear weapons. In fact the Supreme Commander recently asked for medium-range ballistic missiles, with, I think, a range of some 1,500 miles. Even with tactical atomic weapons, how would one explain to the enemy at the receiving end of an atomic bomb that it was only a little one, only a tactical weapon? The danger, of course, is clear for all to see.
The inhibitions about using nuclear weapons, I feel, are certain to increase, especially if we are able to conclude a ban on the testing of atomic weapons. I maintain that we must not depend too much on the use of nuclear weapons by N.A.T.O., but must be prepared to accept the paradox that perhaps the best road to nuclear arms control may be conventional rearmament. In paragraph 21 of the White Paper, it is stated thata full study of the nuclear armoury of N.A.T.O. is now being made.I wonder if the Minister who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government would like to say something about British proposals, and when the study is likely to be completed.
I must say that I am a little disappointed that very little is said in the White Paper about the Navy, apart from a passing reference to the provision of an additional commando carrier—which is, of course, very welcome—and a new concept of assault forces for the Navy, with which we shall no doubt deal later on, during the debate on the Navy Estimates. I know that it has been the policy of Her Majesty's Government to provide a Fleet with the most up-to-date equipment and weapons, but it has been said that the choice has been between quality and quantity; and the Admiralty, as we know, have chosen 790 quality. I certainly have not dissented from this view in the past, but I think now that we should not dismiss quantity as being completely unnecessary.
I do not want to deal this afternoon with matters which are more appropriate for an Estimates debate, but I should like to point out that only a year ago we had 157 ships in the Operational Fleet, and the number has now been reduced to 144. We have with us the tremendous menace of the Russian submarine—of which there are now some 450 vessels—and we can never build sufficient frigates, at £5 million a ship, to combat this terrible menace. I hope that the Minister of Defence will turn his attention to the provision of a smaller and less expensive anti-submarine ship which can be built in much greater quantities. I know the difficulties about getting all the electrical gear and Asdics in a smaller vessel, but surely our research should now be directed to this very thing. We cannot fight the submarine menace with a handful of frigates. The sea-keeping qualities of the smaller vessels have been greatly improved since the last war, and there is no doubt that smaller anti-submarine vessels could, and should, be built.
Let us look a little further down the scale of size of ships for anti-submarine purposes. It is true that the helicopter is used with the frigate for long-range detection of the submarine, but the small, fast coastal forces craft could be used for the same purpose, and with the additional advantage that they have much greater endurance than the helicopter. The Minister of Defence is no doubt aware that the United States are moving along these lines, and I cannot help feeling that we should do the same. I have mentioned these matters because I feel that our attitude to the Russian submarine menace should be in the forefront of our defence policy, and should not be just left in the White Paper by the wayside. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the enemy might bring Europe to its knees by submarine warfare without the discharge of a single atomic weapon. The Soviet Union could contemplate a nuclear war, I would say, only if she believed that by a surprise attack the whole of the West's power to retaliate could be removed; and that, I would say, is now impossible. For that 791 reason, conventional weapons are to-day of greater importance, and we must reconsider the balance between the sword and the shield.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I was wondering a little, as I listened to the noble Lord opposite, whether he was speaking on that side or on this side of the House, because I agreed with very much of what he said. My only claim to speak in this debate on defence is this. I am not an expert on this subject like so many noble Lords on both sides and on the Independent Benches who I am glad to see will speak to-day or to-morrow, but quite recently I attended two conferences of Parliamentarians, one with our American Ally and one with our N.A.T.O. Allies, and I think I understand to some extent the attitude of our Allies in Europe and North America to the main problem that confronts us and them: the problem of Western security in face of a continuing threat from Eastern Europe.
I should like to break this problem into two main parts, and to deal briefly with each of them. The first is how to stop a nuclear war from breaking out, because we all realise that that would mean mutual extinction. Here, I think the essential requirement, for us and our N.A.T.O. Allies, is a right balance between conventional and nuclear weapons. That point was made with great force by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and I agreed with him when he said that the emphasis at the moment is on the sword—that is, on the nuclear weapon—to the detriment of the shield. I feel very strongly indeed that the balance is strongly tilted in favour of tactical nuclear weapons, with the American strategic deterrent in reserve. One of my strongest objections to the policy outlined in the White Paper is that it does nothing at all to right or redress this extremely dangerous balance. We are not only planning to spend a large and growing proportion of our defence budget on what the White Paper calls "our main contribution to the Western deterrent"—that is to say, going ahead with more nuclear weapons; we are also gravely neglecting the build-up of our conventionally- 792 equipped Armed Forces, although this is the support that our Allies really require from this country.
I cannot believe that the Government are not apprehensive about the shortage of manpower for the Regular Army. I was very struck by a remark which was made by someone taking part in the debate in another place on this subject. That person said that every year there is this debate on defence, and the Government always say quite firmly that the recruiting offices will be jammed tomorrow, but never that they are jammed to-day. The Government are now considering a proposal for acquisition of further nuclear equipment by N.A.T.O., which would be joint equipment, but in which we shall share, presumably, the cost and the control. We are considering the acquisition by N.A.T.O. of an intermediate range ballistic missile which will have, I believe, a range of 1,500 miles, and may be used either in a tactical or in a strategic rôle. I have already explained to your Lordships in a previous debate why I strongly oppose this suggestion, and I will not weary the House by repeating my arguments.
But there is one reference in the White Paper to this matter which I really must challenge, because it seems to me not to make sense at all. I hope noble Lords opposite who will be speaking later this afternoon will be able to make sense of it to my satisfaction; it may only be my own stupidity. In paragraph 22 of the White Paper, under the heading "N.A.T.O.", there is the following sentence:If the Alliance should decide to set up a stockpile or pool of nuclear weapons for the tactical rôle,"—and, of course, this Polaris missile can be regarded as a tactical weapon, although it could be used in other rôles—we should be willing to participate, provided"—and this is the proviso, the condition—we were satisfied that political control was such as to ensure rapid decisions in an emergency".If N.A.T.O. had its nuclear weapons and they were no longer, as they are now, subject to American control, of course, their use would depend on a political decision, taken after proper 793 consultation between the fifteen N.A.T.O. Allies. This may be the right way to take the decision, but whatever else it may be it could not possibly be a rapid decision, and I believe that the delay would be extremely dangerous. It would undermine the credibility of the nuclear deterrent in the minds of a possible aggressor and it would expose the West to instant annihilation.
I cannot help thinking that most people, on reflection, would agree that political control by the N.A.T.O. countries and rapid decision are completely incompatible. If we are to minimise the risk of nuclear war which I think is very grave so long as there is this unbalance between conventional and nuclear forces, then we must accept a revised rôle for the N.A.T.O. forces and consider very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has said about improving our conventional organisation for training and equipment. These forces should no longer be regarded as a tripwire to hold the Russians or their satellites just long enough for massive retaliation from the West. That was the old conception. They should be regarded as something like a shield, as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said (if I may go on using a metaphor which is a useful one), which can stand up to the pressure of conventional attack until both sides, and the great Powers that may be backing them, if not openly then by other means, have had an opportunity to negotiate and the United Nations have been given a chance to intervene.
The effectiveness of this new rôle for N.A.T.O. forces, which seems to me in keeping with modern technical developments, will depend on two conditions: first, that an atomic war is not started by accident. Now this could easily happen, if a local commander were to let off a piece of atomic artillery. I believe that if you started at the bottom of the nuclear escalator, very soon you would find yourself at the top. That is the greatest of all dangers involved in nuclear armaments. I do not think that the use of these tactical nuclear weapons would avoid the eventual use of strategic nuclear weapons. The essential thing is to separate nuclear from conventional weapons in the organisation and training of our own and of N.A.T.O. forces, otherwise the temptation to turn military re- 794 verse into a success in the only possible way by the use of a nuclear weapon may be too strong for some local commander, some brigade or even battalion commander.
The other condition which I think is essential is the increased efficiency of the N.A.T.O. forces in their conventional role, and we should play our part, both in manpower and equipment, through our Army in Germany, our contribution to N.A.T.O. This means, of course, more manpower and better equipment all round. General Norstad is not satisfied at the moment, I know, with either. What is wanted, surely, rather than any increase in the nuclear deterrents of N.A.T.O., is a small mixed N.A.T.O. force, in which we should play our part, with a high degree of mobility, which can be moved with great speed to any part of Eastern Europe where trouble starts. That would be a mixed force which would not need to use anything more than convention armaments and equipment.
The other part of the problem of collective security is whether or not—and this has been mentioned, first of all, by my noble friend and Leader, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and after him, though I am not quite certain, by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham—we should go on contributing to the Western deterrent by means of our own nuclear missiles. At present, these consist in our strategic rôle of nuclear bombs carried by our V-bombers. The Government have ceased from producing the Blue Streak, which they gave up, at enormous cost, for the V-bomber, which, of course, will soon be replaced. In the meantime, what is there to guarantee that these bombers will be able to get through the latest system of ground defences? That is a technical objection, and perhaps a minor one, but I think we should ask ourselves whether we are justified in incurring the enormous expense of this constant renewal, because that is what it amounts to, of an independent deterrent, which has to be replaced in accordance with technical developments to keep pace with what is going on in Russia and the United States. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, answered this question quite definitely in the negative—though I did not agree with the noble Lord in certain of his remarks.
795 The arguments in the White Paper in favour of this independent deterrent are, I think, extremely flimsy, when they are closely examined. They are partly military, partly diplomatic. The military argument surely fails unless we believe that our Continental Allies, who have no independent deterrent, are less safe, have less protection from N.A.T.O., than we have. If it is true that an attack on one is an attack on all—and that, of course, is the provision in N.A.T.O.—then surely we have no more to fear without this independent and separate deterrent than any of our Allies.
The diplomatic argument is that possession of this weapon increases our bargaining power over disarmament and strengthens our alliance with the United States through N.A.T.O. I do not believe that our atomic strength, which is really ridiculously small as compared with the two atomic giants, affects our bargaining power in negotiations about disarmament. So far as our relations with the United States are concerned, I can speak from personal experience, because I had an opportunity of finding out what the American reaction is likely to be if we were to decide to abandon this strategic deterrent. The impression I received, after much discussion with members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House and with members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, was that neither Congress nor public opinion would care two straws if we were to give up our own miniature deterrent. I am sure that it is a fallacy to imagine that America would think we were letting them down—a thing we should never do—or wanting to run out of our Alliance, if we gave up this particularly expensive element in our system of defence. What the Americans are afraid of, and this I had an opportunity of finding out, too, is what they call neutralism—what we call, unilateralism—that possibly at some future date we may refuse them the use of the bases they need in this country. That is what they are really afraid of.
The Labour Party, as my noble Leader has said, and said with much emphasis—and rightly placed emphasis, if I may say so—does not support unilateral disarmament. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said that the Labour Party support unilateral disarmament.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
If the noble Lord will be good enough to read the recent statement on Defence, which has been approved by the Executive of the Labour Party, the Parliamentary Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, he will not see a word in that document in support of unilateral disarmament.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I was going to ask the noble Earl (I am genuinely seeking information here and not trying to make a point) whether the Party Conference had a certain influence on policy by right of the Constitution of the Party. I thought that the Party Conference had gone unilateralist. This was my impression, and if the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said it, it is only what I should have said, genuinely believing it to be true. I have thought that this more recent and, it must be added, controversial statement did not have the authority of the Party Conference.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The noble Viscount is quite right. The Labour Party Conference does influence policy, but it does not decide the policy. That is exactly the same, I believe, in the noble Viscount's Party—at least, I presume it is so.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, having been a member of the Labour Party for some years, may I ask the noble Earl where he gets this new and completely unorthodox doctrine from? Surely Conference is the deciding factor on policy.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am not going to be diverted from the subject of defence, which is the one in which your Lordships are most interested at the moment. I hope that what I have said will satisfy the noble Viscount opposite, who was making, I think, a genuine inquiry.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am bound to say that I am surprised. Is it really the case that the Labour Party Conference does not decide policy but only influences it? Am I therefore to take this statement on Defence as the authentic and only voice of the Labour Party on Party policy, and that the Conference decision is now of no importance?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, Conference decisions in the Labour Party are always important to be taken into consideration, but they vary from year to year, because we have not quite the rigid control that the Conservative Party have. We who hold what we call sound views on Defence are still fairly confident that we shall carry them.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I want to be fair to the noble and learned Viscount opposite. I agree that there are individuals in the Labour Party who believe in unilateral disarmament, but I think it would also be fair to say that there are individuals in the noble Viscount's Party who disagree with the Goverment's policy in Africa.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
So long as the Government stick to multi-lateral disarmament (that is what we want; I think that all the sane people want multi-lateral disarmament, by agreement with the countries concerned and with proper inspection and control) and to the maintenance of United States bases here for as long as they are required, no harm will be done to our relations with America by changes—and I am thinking particularly of the change I have just mentioned—in existing Defence policy.
The real reason why countries of medium power—this is my opinion; I may be wrong, but I am afraid that I may be right—want to have their own deterrent is, surely, national prestige. A country that already has televisions sets and racing cars soon begins to think it can afford nuclear missiles and space rockets. This mentality, if it became the mentality of other countries, as I fear it may, might spread nuclear weapons all over the world. Surely we have sufficient self-confidence as a nation, surely we are sufficiently old and sufficiently well-established (if I may put it that way) to have no need to assert our national prestige by indulging in a luxury taste for modern armaments. We should, of course be setting a good example to other countries, and at the same time it would save an enormous amount of money which we cannot 798 afford to spend, if we tried stopping our present attitude of "keeping up with the Joneses" in Russia and the United States. There is surely no disgrace at all in dropping out of an atomic race which, certainly if it spreads the use of atomic weapons, will threaten the world with destruction.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl which voice from the Front Bench is speaking for the Labour Party? As I understood it, his noble Leader this afternoon has pleaded with the Government to retain independent nuclear weapons and, in fact, to increase conventional weapons.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am not saying that existing nuclear weapons should not be retained; that is something quite different. All I am saying is that, for the reasons I have already given, we should not go on renewing these weapons at enormous and increasing costs.
I believe that the White Paper is clinging to an old-fashioned and out-of-date conception of national defence. Its excessive reliance on nuclear weapons increases the danger of a nuclear war. Its lack of balance between two types of weapon and its insistence upon the independent deterrent show a complete failure to realise that we no longer have the resources to keep pace with the two nuclear giants. On these grounds alone (I do not want to detain your Lordships for too long, but if I had the time I could reinforce my case), I very much hope that your Lordships will share the view of noble Lords on this side of the House that this Report on Defence is unsatisfactory and unacceptable.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I find myself in a certain amount of agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and almost in complete agreement with my noble friend Lord Teynham in this debate. On these occasions someone such as myself feels in the presence of very senior officers rather like a man up for a promotion examination. For these reasons I shall avoid being drawn into this major controversy which some of your Lordships have endeavoured to unravel, and which I think the last speaker, to a certain extent, successfully unravelled for me. I refer to the problems of control and the point at which 799 tactics and strategy meet in that curious kind of halfway house, and all those very complicated problems which arise in regard to whether or not we maintain a separate deterrent of our own.
Instead, I am going to try to make an approach which I do not believe has been made yet in Defence debates. I want to try to pinpoint certain situations which might arise on the ground, and then relate the forces to those situations, and to examine whether or not we are adequate to meet those kinds of needs. Here I should say that I found myself in disagreement with the general proposition that the First Lord, in opening the debate, put to us—namely, that a war is immediately going to get out of hand, and that, before we know where we are, the great bombs will be dropping all over the world. I want to lead into the Defence problem at that point where the political situation may have developed sufficiently to bring us face to face with military action, and I purposely use the word "action" and not "war".
I think we are all agreed, on whichever side of the House we sit, that the potential enemy does not want a nuclear war. Leading statesmen all over the world have repeated this many times. After all, when you are engaged on a programme which would develop future space travel you are not going to seek a war which will ruin it all. Apart from that, I think we all conclude to-day that the Soviet objective is to prove to their people that there is an economic Utopia just round the corner in which everyone will have luxury goods available to him.
My own assessment of the situation—and I say this in all humility, always asking a question rather than making any assertion—is that, in seeking for the process of disarmament, the Soviet would hope that we should disarm at a quicker pace than they would, and that at some point in that process the forces would be sufficiently unbalanced, uneven, as to initiate for them a process which we have always called "arguing from strength". And then what would happen? Political blackmail would follow. In that kind of situation, our task remains, as the Foreign Secretary reminded us the other day, to keep the 800 balance at every stage so that both sides are always in a position to argue from strength—not great strength, but equal strength.
If we are successful in that kind of development of the disarmament situation, what exactly have we to fear? To answer this question, I suggest that we should put ourselves in the minds of the potential enemy, and I suggest that a process something like this would then emerge. Political confusion would be created inside a country. It would be created where it is not already, or it would be fostered where it is already. Then there would be manufactured a local demand for liberation. That would create an impression of validity for subsequent action. The whole of the process may be completely artificial, but those whom it is intended to impress will not know that, and so the troops will be able to move in on their mission of benevolence. But if that is to be successful, action must be extremely rapid, because the whole object will be to face us with a fait accompli.
Once that fait accompli is achieved, my submission is that the big bombs are not going to start dropping in the area concerned. But what about the areas outside? What about the great Powers who are not protagonists of the people who are fighting? Would they set about starting the great war? Should we drop a bomb on Moscow, or would Moscow drop bombs on either London or New York because of a local situation somewhere in the world which, so to speak, had been insulated from the chances of conventional action to restore the status quo ante? Would that happen? Nobody, of course, can answer with assurance, but my own guess, indeed, my own conviction is, No: the big bombs would not start to drop.
In other words, the existence of the deterrent will still continue to deter the use of the deterrent itself. If local military action, using conventional forces, is too late to restore a situation, or even if forces are engaged and the issue is still in a state of uncertainty, wider retaliatory action—that is to say, using medium-range weapons—cannot follow, as I see it. The conclusion is that we must be able to take local action that is so swift as to be able to hold and restore a local situation before the enemy has been able to consolidate—in other words, before we are faced with a fait accompli.
801 Here, it seems to me, there arises this problem of the balance as between the nuclear deterrent and the conventional forces. It seems to me that in this White Paper thought and policy are moving towards a greater emphasis on the need to maintain highly mobile conventional forces; and one welcomes, as I see it, the recognition of that fact in paragraphs 11, 13, 14 and 15 of the White Paper. I raise only one doubt which I have in my mind (and I believe other noble Lords will possibly be expressing this doubt) as to the adequacy of Transport Command to move troops rapidly into these areas which are likely to stage the kind of situation which I have been trying to describe.
My Lords, it may be of use here to follow the map, and to know where on the map this kind of situation of potential local disturbance exists. I here make no apology for being speculative in, I hope, an objective kind of way. The experience of history teaches us that hardly ever does war break out according to prediction. We are always taken by surprise, whether as to the area or as to the kind of warfare which is waged, or both. For years the defence policy of the Government of India was based on the assumption that the great attack would come from the North-West. Yet when it came in 1939 it came from the North-East. For these reasons, I feel justified in using my imagination when thinking about these situations which might call for the rapid and sudden use of conventional forces.
There are obviously two situations. There is, first, the situation where we alone are responsible for the use of our own forces, and then the other situations which bring up these tricky problems of multilateral control. With unambiguous control of our own forces, the political decision may be very difficult, but the control and command, and the planning of the forces, are comparatively simple, because we are masters within our own house. For example, if troops had to be moved from the Reserve, mentioned in the White Paper, in Kenya (and here I may say that I did not quite follow the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition, because I think he referred to only one Reserve of troops having to be moved from a Central Reserve here 802 to distant parts of the world, whereas the White Paper mentioned three Reserves) to Rhodesia or the Congo, once the difficult political decision had been taken it should be quite simple to implement a military plan which, one presumes, will have been prepared in advance.
But both the political decision and the military planning become immensely more complicated when we are in Alliance with others. For example, the present Near Eastern Command and the Middle Eastern Command, one presumes, are associated with C.E.N.T.O., where the factor of decisive action and when to take it is correspondingly and increasingly obscure. That means that when action is finally defined and has to be taken, it must be all the more swift and sure if the element of surprise is in any way an idea which is to play its part.
Here I would ask a question. Assuming that our forces earmarked for C.E.N.T.O. or S.E.A.T.O. are sufficient, and trained for the kind of fighting which the country demands, and are equipped for the kind of geography and climate in which the troops would have to fight; and assuming, too, that the transport planes are there and the local staffs are geared to take action, how far has the higher planning got? Has higher planning reached any stage of definition or perfection in places such as Ankara and Bangkok? We are kept somewhat in the dark—I think quite rightly. I dislike the idea of the public being informed of every move, the range of every missile, the thickness of every piece of armament and so on. But I think it would give us confidence if we could be told that the C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. staffs have thought of all the possible situations that might arise, and have agreed on the various measures which might have to be taken; and that here at home our allotted contributions to these various situations is approved to the degree to which, of course, advance approval can ever be given on these occasions.
All these considerations surely become far more urgent when we turn to Europe, when we come nearer home. Where on the map of Europe can one visualise conventional forces being used in this 803 way? I should like for a moment to develop my arguments from the case of Hungary in 1956. If Hungary was ever a starter so far as any positive action by the West was concerned, would it have been N.A.T.O. action or would it have been United Nations action? Theoretically, Hungary, I suppose, should have been the concern only of the United Nations, in which case action would have been both too slow and too late. If I were told that politically Hungary was no concern of N.A.T.O., I should reply that the pretext under which the Russians now retain troops in Hungary is that of a threat to the Warsaw Pact Powers. The Warsaw Pact was a direct answer to the North Atlantic Treaty, and I therefore would submit that the Hungarians to-day would be a happier people if the N.A.T.O. Council had been in the position to regard Hungary as just such a situation as I had in mind when I drew attention to the swift use of conventional forces by an enemy who would then face us with a fait accompli.
There is nothing we can do now about the case of Hungary, but we can, I think learn from that great tragedy. I would submit that it is credible to imagine that if this sort of local situation on the fringe of the Atlantic Alliance territory is treated as of concern for the North Atlantic Treaty, then N.A.T.O. forces must be on the spot in time to make an effective challenge to opposing forces which are moving in. What would happen? There would be an appeal to the United Nations perhaps, but I would repeat that this, in my view, would not be the signal for the big bomb to start dropping. It is extremely difficult to say how such a situation would develop, and you may say it is useless to go on speculating. It can be argued, indeed, that hypothetical speculation is of no value, but I do not accept if, because I believe that this is the kind of pattern of events in the years to come which is far more probable than any other kind of development.
If that is so, it is sensible, perhaps, to ask where the next Hungarian situation might be. I would suggest that Berlin is probably as fair a guess as anywhere else. Over the months there could develop around Berlin a move to 804 present Western Berlin as a case for "liberation", and the purpose of the West Berlin garrison must be to hold Berlin until such a time as rescue is at hand. The rescue operation would involve immediate and swift movement into Eastern Germany. You may say, "This is heresy. There is your third world war round the corner", and my reply is still, No, this is not the world war, this is a local situation perhaps developing into a large engagement with a real mix-up on Eastern Germany's soil. I think it is muddled thinking to regard it as inevitably the third world war.
At this point it seems to me logical to ask whose contingents within the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance might be involved in such a situation as Berlin. As I understand it, in two years' time the Western German contribution to N.A.T.O. will be completed. It is 12 divisions. There is an advantage in regarding the safety of Berlin as an all-German affair. Germans would then be fighting Germans, and it might be said that is not a very pleasant kind of situation to contemplate. But would it be quite the truth? I once asked an East German official how he regarded himself; did he regard himself as first a German or first a Communist. He was so rattled by the question that he said it was not a fair one to ask. I submit that the way to look at this particular problem is to turn the Communist technique of liberation to Western advantage, and give the Western forces, whether they be German forces or other forces, the label of liberators, which would be nothing more nor less than the truth. But for political reasons I would submit it is obviously an advantage to have Allied troops also associated with part of such an operation where Berlin is concerned.
The rapid completion of the German contribution to N.A.T.O. is, I submit, a necessity not only in the interests of the general security of N.A.T.O. territory, but more emphatically of the territory of the German Federal Republic itself. Soviet conventional forces, as I understand it, are far thicker on the ground than anything that faces them to-day in Western Europe. In the North, we hear stories that the area of Schleswig Holstein is extremely open and vulnerable, and 805 might lend itself to just that kind of swift operation which I suggested, and it is logical to suppose that German troops should defend German soil. No one would dispute that.
Therefore my final point is just this: that the Germans must be given every facility to complete their N.A.T.O. component as quickly as possible, remembering that they have repeatedly made it clear that outside N.A.T.O. they have not, nor do they desire, any military interest. What I am referring to, of course, is the prospect that we might be asked in this country to provide facilities for German troops to train here. Paragraph 24 of the While Paper, rightly in my view, states:The interchange of research and development technique, and the sharing of logistic and training facilities, all have their part to play in strengthening the free world alliance. …It is no answer to this problem to say, "Bring your British troops back and let the Germans get on with training on their own ground." That would mean that for a period of about three years central European defence would be in the hands of half-trained troops. The German troops went to France to train the other day, and contrary, I think, to all prediction, understanding and friendship have been developed; and I think I am right in saying that the German troops have trained on Belgian and Dutch soil. I myself would go so far as to say that this is a development which we might welcome here, because I regard it as a duty, whether it be a case of German troops training on British soil or whether it be a case of an American depôt ship in British waters, to indicate to the Free World that we are not really controlled by a chorus of benevolent but rather muddled-minded moralists who might to-morrow expose us to political blackmail. For the same reason, I suggest that this is not the time to make a fierce attack on the White Paper. Of course it is not perfect, and our job is to search out its imperfections; but I say that the right spirit is there in the White Paper, and therefore it has my full support.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the purpose of national defence is to preserve the life and liberty of Her Majesty's subjects, and the White Paper now before us sets Out the Government's proposals for so doing. But there is one of those 806 proposals, the first one in the Paper, which stands alone as truly efficacious: that is, the proposal on disarmament, and that is the proposal I want to speak about to-day. My Lords, let us stand back. We have had weapons throughout human history; we have had arms races in the last hundred years or so; we have used the weapons and had wars and made peaces and avoided wars and had peaceful settlements. We have done just about everything we could in the way of using weapons and of not using them. They have been part of our life as long as we have been human; they have been part of life longer than tilling the soil, and perhaps longer than lighting a fire and cooking something has been. And then suddenly, all in a decade, we find that weapons have completely changed and we cannot use them any more. I do not propose to waste your Lordships' time proving that we cannot use them any more, or going into the dangers of escalation and limited war and so on.
I think we all know that weapons have changed from something you could use if you had to into something you cannot use, or, if you are going to use little ones, you must be absolutely certain that this does not lead on to your using big ones. Now the point about this change is its fantastic suddenness. In the scale of human history it has happened, not even overnight; it has happened from one second to another. It has happened as suddenly as a bolt is shot on a door; the door leading to all-out war has been locked on us, and it is no use our battering on it—it will not open again.
It is no wonder that we have not yet adjusted our policies and our habits to keep pace with the change. How could we have? Politics is a tortoise and technology is a hare. At first, when we had these nuclear weapons we thought we could use them: indeed, we did use them once. Then we realised we could not, but we thought we could pretend we meant to use them, in threatening their use, so as to deter the aggressions we fear. This was the age of massive retaliation, the age of "One step forward and I fire." Only slowly did we realise that, once the other side had them too, this was as 807 much as to say. "One step forward and I fire", with the pistol pointed at our own head.
Next came the period of limited nuclear war, when we thought we could safely use the little ones without going on from anger or fear to use the big ones too. We thought we could trust the Russians to understand this and agree to fight with little nuclear weapons—that is to say, on our terms. Then we understood that our whole disagreement with the Communist countries—namely, that doing things on our terms is precisely what we cannot trust them to do—applied here, too. Why should they agree to fight on our terms any more than they would agree to live peaceably on our terms? So we abandoned that, and now some real last ditchers in Washington and in London have come to the idea of stabilised deterrence. They expect the Russians, and presumably the Chinese, too, in time, though they do not talk much about this aspect of it, to abandon the forward movement of the arms race and to agree tacitly with us to arrange our weapons systems in such and such a way which will make their use less likely or less damaging. The same objections apply: why should they? They will not.
This is where disarmament proper comes in. Disarmament has been with us as an idea for as long as arms races have; that means, since the early nineteenth century. Latterly, since 1945, it has become a sort of saluting base—something you can march smartly past, giving a generous salute to the beautiful notion before getting on with the real business of life, which is arms and alliances. The last three White Papers of the Government have been couched in these terms, and so is the one before the House at the moment. But this quarter-deck, this saluting base, this vague symbol of Utopian good will, is now the best bargain; it is the best way to preserve the life and liberty of the people of this country. It is, in other words, the best defence policy. It was not always so. It is now.
The facts of life work equally strongly on both Russia and America. Everybody, irrespective of ideology, is 808 afraid of accidental war, of escalation from small war, of catalytic war, of a sudden attack launched in panic or from a mistaken assessment of the other side's intention. The Russians are just as much afraid of all this as the Americans, perhaps even more so. The Russians are extremely anxious to have disarmament before the decision in the Communist camp, whether to have it or not, passes out of their hands and into the hands of the Chinese.
Let us assume for a moment that general comprehensive disarmament is possible, and is achieved. I will come back to that later. What would a disarmed world be like? Would it be any safer? Would not the nation with the biggest national police force be able to attack and absorb nations with smaller ones? Would not Russia and America and ourselves be free to build up nuclear forces again? What about a United Nations Force to keep the peace in any difficulty? I do not advance disarmament as a course certain to avoid war, and I have never heard anyone else do so either. Nothing ever is absolutely certain. The point is this. It would take about two years for one of the great Powers to build up a nuclear striking force, or indeed a conventional force of any size, out of their heads alone. The threat of all-out war would thus be removed from a time 15 minutes ahead, where it is now, to a time two years ahead.
In two years you can think and think again; you can discover your mistakes; you can inquire; you can negotiate on either side and with your Allies. In 15 minutes you can do none of these things. If there were a quarrel, if there were what the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, calls a "Hoo-ha", each side would have to think: "Do I really want to start mankind climbing back up the slope of armaments again, the very slope which we have come down with such effort? Do I want to start all that danger and expense all over again? Do I want to lose the resources I am pouring into Africa or Asia or into my own housing programme, or whatever it may be? To become the detestation and the ogre of the world?" And it would have weeks and months to think all this out, to take advice, and to confer. I believe myself that thermo-nuclear 809 weapons would be a better deterrent against aggression if the possibility of their use were removed two years ahead than they can possibly be as they are now, at fifteen minutes ahead. That is the whole logic of disarmament: you can make better decisions in two years than you can in fifteen minutes. Once modern weapons are destroyed, I do not believe they would ever be built again; we know them too well by now.
Now to the heart of the matter—inspection and control. A couple of months ago I was in Moscow at a meeting of the International Conference of Scientists, an organisation for which, though I am not a scientist myself, I am privileged to work. The Moscow Conference was the sixth held by this organisation, which has been in existence for about five years. It has always been largely concerned with the possibilities of disarmament, and in its earlier meetings it did useful work in clearing the ground among the technicians, without the politicians breathing down their necks, particularly, for instance, in preparation for the test ban talks. But last year there was a rather dramatic change in this Conference. Science in the Soviet Union is run by the Academy of Sciences; the Academy combines functions which in this country are dispersed among the Royal Society, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the University Grants Committee, dozens of university faculties and research institutes, and the noble Viscount the Leader of this House.
When the Russians told us that all twelve of the scientific academicians would be coming to this Conference on disarmament, and nine other top Academy scientists as well, we realised that the thing was changing gear. Twenty-five American scientists came, including some who are on a par in political power with their Russian opposite numbers and are now in President Kennedy's Administration. There were seventy-six people present altogether, from fifteen countries, including six very distinguished British scientists, and two from the People's Republic of China, which made this a unique gathering. The proceedings of this Conference were private, but I should like, and I think it would be fair, to tell your Lordships this: on the great issue of inspection 810 and control, the scientists from the two sides agreed that disarmament was possible and could achieve a high degree of certainty, and they agreed how the difficulties should be looked at. They agreed what it was that the haggling would have to be about. And when you get to a situation where people are no longer talking about different things altogether, it is all over bar the haggling.
The Russians want a lot of disarmament before they permit much inspection; the Americans want a lot of inspection before they agree to much disarmament. But the two sides are coming together on this; they are, you could say, facing in the same direction. There was a true meeting of minds and clearing of decks at this Conference, and I, for one, left Moscow convinced that the scientists only stopped talking when it was no longer their business to go on doing so. It is over to the politicians now for the actual haggling.
My Lords, agreed, multilateral, phased, inspected and controlled disarmament is now possible as between America and the Soviet Union. Disarmament is no harder to achieve technically than the next step upward in the arms race. Technically, it is easier to achieve than any limited measures of arms control. Politically, of course, it is very much more desirable than either. But it may be no cheaper than continuing the arms race. Inspection and control on the scale required is going to be very expensive, at least at first; but an economic burden which we can bear in order to get more arms we can surely bear more willingly if it is leading us to a safer and more stable world, to the security our weapons can no longer give us, to a world where, in time, we shall at last be able to use wealth to create wealth, and ingenuity to create a wider civilisation, instead of wasting both on creating the risk of general annihilation.
The situation, then, is this: the arms race is very dangerous, very illogical and very expensive. It has taken us time to understand this, but we do understand it now, and the Russians and the Americans understand it as much as we ourselves; and the Chinese are beginning to understand it, too. There is an enormous uprush of serious study of disarmament in the United States. I sat for eight days, eight hours a day, in 811 Moscow, watching and listening to the scientific advisers of the Russian and American Governments threshing this matter out, and I have not the least doubt that both sides will come to the conference table with more realistic plans than ever before, and, for the first time at all, with a real determination to agree.
But what is Britain's part in all this? It is surely to help it forward by every means in her power. In September last the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister suggested at the United Nations Assembly that there should be a meeting of scientific, administrative and military experts from an unspecified number of Powers, who would then report back to the United Nations Disarmament Commission on what it was possible to do. This is the most recent British suggestion on the market, and it is a very good one. But why limit it to one instalment of advice coming from a single conference? The need for study and research would not vanish with the signature of a disarmament treaty, but would increase.
The world needs an institute of disarmament studies, an international one here in London perhaps or elsewhere, but probably better not in America or Russia. Both Russian and American proposals for something like this already exist. At present there is a certain danger of each side in disarmament negotiations producing its own studies, particularly in the non-technical fields, presenting them to the other side, and being told simply, "Sorry, we do not see it like that." But if the studies were worked out internationally from the beginning, and if there were Americans, Russians, British, Chinese, Frenchmen and perhaps others working on these problems together from the grass roots up, peering together at the cathode-ray tubes which are giving the answers to experiments devised, sitting round a table drafting, paragraph by paragraph, there would then be no wasted effort, no more inward-turning national documents which can be brushed off by the other side at the conference table. Those who best understand the difficulties of disarmament want such an institute, and believe it could be made.
If it was to do any good in the world, and achieve real, world-wide disarmament, such an institute would have to 812 include the People's Republic of China; and therefore it would be better for it to be independent of the United Nations at least until the People's Republic of China is seated there. But there are already various organisations and committees, both in the United Nations and outside it, whose experience could be brought to bear on setting up such an institute. There are qualified people available and eager to staff it. It would cost money—some pence in the pound of what we spend on armaments. All that is needed is an initiative, and I would suggest that it would be an initiative most proper for this country to take. It is in line with past British policy as exemplified in the proposal of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister in September last, and in line with what this country stands for in international affairs in general, which I take to be peaceful courses hacked by objective knowledge of the world. Above all, a British initiative would be welcome to both Russia and America, and would be easier for those two great Powers to accept than if either of them had to make it for themselves.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, only so far as I agree with him that our ultimate aim should be general disarmament. I note that he feels a certain amount of confidence that Russia and China may now co-operate more than in the past. If that is so, I am sure your Lordships will be glad to hear it. At the moment we are debating our Defence policy, as outlined in the White Paper, and the main points that emerge are recognition of the fact that peace at the present time rests on the maintenance by the West of adequate power to discourage aggression by either Russia or China, with its rising power, and also on the maintenance of adequate forces to cope with small outbreaks which could develop into a nuclear conflict.
As has been stressed by other noble Lords, the basis of this policy, rightly, I believe, is interdependence. I should like to comment first on strategic nuclear deterrent capabilities and, in particular, of our V-bomber force. As the White Paper says, it is expected that our main contribution to the Western deterrent 813 over the next decade will be provided by weapons carried in aircraft. That is the Government's way of thinking and it seems to me, then, that there are strong grounds for diversifying the deterrent. I believe I am right in saying that the right honourable Gentleman the Minister of Defence in another place on February 27 last laid stress on the importance of diversifying the deterrent.
In connection with the deterrent, I should like to mention an interesting article which appeared on November 4, 1960, in Flight headed "Deploying the Deterrent". This article referred to a number of methods whereby a deterrent could be sent on its way to a target. Without wishing to take up too much of your Lordships' time on this matter, I should like to mention those methods. They areEnormous conventional forces—in effect, men under arms.'Aircraft carrying free-falling bombs.Large ballistic rockets launched from fixed emplacements.Strategic cruise-type missiles.Ballistic rockets launched from ships, particularly from submerged submarines.Aircraft used as airborne launching platforms for cruise-type missiles.Ballistic rockets mounted on mobile launchers.Ballistic rockets launched from aircraft.Ballistic re-entry vehicles ejected from a satellite, or space craft.Ballistic re-entry vehicles launched from … vehicles above or within the atmosphere.At the moment we have two forms of deterrent, of which only one is under our control—I mean with regard to warheads. The White Paper goes on to say that it is hoped to provide a Bomber Command with a combination of methods for, in effect, reaching the target by a variety of missiles. From all that, it seems to me that it is the aim of the Government, taking into consideration the high cost of these missiles, to diversify as much as possible, and that that is what they are trying to do. But at the moment our V-bomber force is equipped only with the free-falling bomb.
I would agree, as was mentioned in another place by the Minister of Defence, that wide dispersal materially assists in the capacity of Bomber Command to reach its target. But I think that the 814 wording of paragraph 16 of the White Paper minimises a little the strength of the Russian defences. It would appear on reading that paragraph that it would be, not plain sailing but just a smooth run to the target; and I think it should not be forgotten that there would be many miles for bomber crews to fly to and from the target over enemy territory. I think it could be truthfully said that defences nowadays are certainly greatly improved over the defences that were available to the various countries during the last war.
In view of this, I would ask the noble Viscount, who will be speaking for Her Majesty's Government later this evening or to-morrow—
§ LORD MERRIVALE
Thank you.—whether he can, consistent with security, give the House any indication of the operational availability of our own cruise missile, Blue Steel. Because it seems to me that we have, regretfully, lagged a little behind the United States with regard to providing our bombers with a cruise missile. I believe I am right in saying that Strategic Air Command B.52 squadrons have been, and still are being, provided with the Hound Dog cruise missile. This is a similar type of missile, the main difference being that it has a different form of propulsion.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, could we have a little more information a bout that last point? It is a very interesting point. I understood from the Secretary of State's Memorandum on the Air Estimates that this particular weapon which the noble Lord is speaking about is going into trial in the coming year only in "management and handling", whatever that may mean. If the noble Lord could inquire a little more into what he wishes to ascertain I myself should be very pleased to see the answer.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
Blue Steel. Have a look at the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for Air.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
With regard to Blue Steel, my Lords, I was trying to find out the exact position from the noble Viscount who will be speaking later. It seems to me that they are available, or a number are available, but they are not in operational service.
With regard to Skybolt, the air-launched ballistic missile, I understand that the main modification that would be required to the Vulcan, apart from the addition of under-wing pylons, would be the installation in the aircraft of a pre-launch computer. Therefore it seems to me that the amount of modification work will not be too great. I believe that representatives of the manufacturers—at least, qualified staff from the manufacturers—are at the moment working on that matter in the United States. In view of this small amount of modification work that will be required to fit Skybolt to our Vulcan aircraft, could the House have an assurance from the noble Viscount that this ballistic missile will be coming into service—that is, operational service—at the same time as, or in conjunction with, its delivery to Strategic Air Command squadrons? In other words, can be give an assurance that we should receive them, not at a much later date but at a similar time? I hope that Her Majesty's Government will urge the American Government to supply them to our squadrons directly they have been proved over there. I believe it is true to say (and I think it has been mentioned before by the First Lord of the Admiralty) that the programme with regard to Skybolt is proceeding satisfactorily and that it is on schedule.
With regard to nuclear warheads, it is gratifying to see the statement in the White Paper that the warheads for the various missiles and weapons will be British warheads and therefore under our control. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the nuclear deadlock is safe—that is, that we can rely on the nuclear deadlock (and here I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government in their efforts to see that this deadlock is safe)—I think, as was mentioned in another place by the Minister of Defence and by the First Lord of the Admiralty here to-day, we still have with us this very grave problem of the possibility of a small affray developing into an all-out nuclear war. I must say in this respect, 816 in view of its danger, that I would opt for the raising of the threshold at which atomic or nuclear weapons, tactical weapons, would be used in the field by a greater emphasis on the use of conventional weapons. I was not in the Chamber when my noble friend Lord Teynham spoke, but I believe that he also would like to see a greater emphasis on conventional armed forces.
I feel that public opinion in this country is divided on this question of the use of tactical nuclear weapons. There is one trend of thought, as summed up by Brigadier W. F. K. Thompson at the end of his article in the Daily Telegraph, which appeared on March 3, 1961. I should like to quote from it, if I may:Nuclear weapons used in sufficient numbers revolutionise tactics and dominate the battlefield. But the conclusion to be drawn from an analysis of their effects is that those nuclear weapons which serve a tactical purpose are neither utterly devastating nor capable of rendering the countryside uninhabitable.On the other hand, there are others who think otherwise. I should like to quote from an article which was written by Mr. Dennis Gabor, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a professor of Applied Electron Physics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in the University of London. In his article in the Sunday Times on March 5 last he said:… it is absolutely imperative to break in as many points as possible the fatal chain which might lead from a frontier incident to all-out war. The most obvious and dangerous link in this chain is 'tactical' nuclear weapons. They are so evidently liable to lead to 'strategic' nuclear bombing …I might add, my Lords, that this gentleman is not against the deterrent: he is merely afraid of the effects of the use of tactical nuclear weapons. But in his article, which is entitled, "Living with the H-Bomb", he agrees with the Government's policy. I should like to stress that fact straight away, so that noble Lords will not think he is against the proposals of Her Majesty's Government in respect of the deterrent.
As I hinted earlier on, the solution may therefore lie somewhere between these two trends of thought. I think there are a number of noble Lords who rather fear the danger of a possible escalator—in other words, that a small affray might 817 develop into a larg-scale war. I think that that is a very serious danger indeed, and one to which very considerable attention should be given. That is why I should like to see, as I mentioned earlier, a raising of the point at which tactical nuclear weapons would be used. In other words, I should like to see our forces equipped with conventional weapons with a greater fire-power capacity, and used to a greater extent than it would appear at the moment, from Government statements, they are being used. This question is a very important one—at exactly what level one should cease using conventional weapons and use nuclear weapons.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to turn for a few moments to the question of civil defence, which is a very important matter. The First Lord of the Admiralty did not refer to it, but he said that it might be that it would be touched on later by other noble Lords speaking for the Government. I would say only a very few words with regard to civil defence, because I believe that there will be a better opportunity to speak on this question at some later date. I very much welcome paragraphs 39 and 41 of the White Paper. I also welcome the fact that local authorities will be receiving grants under four headings, according to Annex III on page 15. Local authorities will be receiving these grants for the purpose of civil defence.
Last December a number of your Lordships visited the Civil Defence Staff College at Sunningdale, and I must say that I, for one, was certainly most interested in the exposition that was given to us on the dangers and remedies in the event (which I hope will never come) of a nuclear attack. I would stress the word "remedy", my Lords, for it seems to me that far too few people in this country are aware of the exact effects of a nuclear detonation, and what steps may be taken to minimise them. In this respect, on this question of education, industry can certainly play a very large part, and is playing a certain part; but there is no doubt that local authorities should certainly take an increased interest in this matter, because it did seem to us—I think I am speaking for all those who were present at Sunningdale—that local authorities were not tackling this problem to the extent to which they should. One thing, my Lords, is that there is a great 818 need for wardens. Without them, it is difficult to start building up the force which is essential with regard to civil defence. Here I should like to say how much I was in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said on December 12 at Sunningdale—that:the country is insufficiently aware of the problems involved".And he went on to say thata higher priority, status and dignity should be given by local authorities to this question of civil defence".I certainly agree with the noble Lord. To end, I should like wholeheartedly to pay tribute to the W.V.S. as an auxiliary of civil defence, for their exemplary work in this field.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Carrington, because I think the White Paper shows clearly that we are moving in the right direction. There are some details in it which are chiefly concerned with retaining the right balance between sword and shield—I agree with my noble friend Lord Teynham upon that—but I think the points I have in mind would be much better raised in the debate on the Memorandum on the Navy Estimates rather than on this Paper.
I would say this about the White Paper. It is paragraph 31 which gives me the most satisfaction, and, in particular, that portion of it which reads:Some experience has now been obtained of the system of preparing in the early summer of each year a full forward costing of the defence programme, covering the following five financial years".I am quite sure that, in the past, naval, air and military planning staffs have been badly handicapped in their forward planning by the absence in a parallel form of financial planning; but, to my mind, the statement in this paragraph 31 betokens a very important step forward, and I am certain we shall reap increasing and untold benefits from it. Really serious, long-range planning now becomes more possible and realistic, because without the equivalent or parallel financial forecast one cannot deal properly with forward thinking on defence.
819 Of course, there is nothing new in this. When I was a serving officer, this desirable thing was discussed many times in ward-rooms and staff-rooms, and we all had our ideas as to which Department was the "nigger in the woodpile". I daresay we were right, but I do not want to look back. I like to remember one of Jackie Fisher's favourite quotations, "Remember Lot's wife and don't look back". I like to look forward and see what is facing us in the next five years. It is always difficult to peer into the future, and I am badly equipped to do so in this matter, but I think we must try to do it, particularly in this matter of defence, though not only in the matter of defence must we have forward planning. As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, mentioned, we should forward plan for health, transport and a number of other very important things. But I do not see how we can plan forwards for all those desirable things unless we also Plan forward for adequate defence.
My noble friend Lord Birdwood has spoken of the uncertainty of from whence the attack will come. He mentioned that for years the Government of India were planning for an attack from the north-west, which eventually came from the north-east. At that time my father was Viceroy and Acting Governor General, and I well remember, as a small boy, being told that he authorised the purchase of more horses from Australia to meet the Russian menace. Preparations for war were much simpler in those days. At any rate, I think there is one thing we can be quite certain of, and that is that if war should unfortunately come in five years' time we shall still be faced with this age-old menacing threat to our sea communications.
In all our long history, we have had to face this threat, the present-day manifestation of which can be summed up in two words—submarines and aircraft. These have long since replaced the frigates and privateers of olden days. In World War I it was U-boats, mines and surface raiders. In World War II it was U-boats, mines and surface raiders, while for the first time aircraft came into the picture to menace our sea communications. Should we be involved in a major war during the next five years, our potential enemy will once 820 again make our sea communications the object of immediate, savage and relentless attack: there is no doubt about that in my mind. This time it will be even more difficult to counter. Greatly improved submarines, including nuclear-powered, will be operating, whilst the increased range and general performance of aircraft will mean that their attacks on our sea communications will be infinitely more dangerous than those we experienced in World War II—and all your Lordships know that they were very dangerous indeed.
I make no apology for placing this question of our sea communications in the forefront of my remarks to your Lordships to-day. Your Lordships know that we have to import one million tons of goods per week to keep this country going. They are the bare necessities. Our history shows that, for this reason alone, our defence must be based on a maritime strategy. Whenever we have departed from this we have faced, and very often met, disaster. Whenever we returned to maritime strategy, we always conquered. Whether or no the Royal Navy and Coastal Command are adequately equipped to deal with this potential menace to our sea communications is, I think, a matter which I should like to turn to in the debate on the Memorandum on the Navy Estimates. I do not think I should go into detail to-day. But I should like to say that in all our long-range planning and thinking, and in particular in our research and experimentation, we must give the highest priority to the ships, the aircraft and the weapons to protect our sea communications. With those intact, we can ensure the safe and timely arrival of our convoys, not only those bringing in the one million tons of supplies per week which are essential to our existence, but those taking our troops, war-time supplies and equipment to those places where they can best act in defence, not only of the country, but of our Commonwealth and our Allies.
In our forward thinking and planning as it applies to all three Services, I think we must next face up to the fact that in five years' time we may well have considerably fewer bases overseas from which we can operate at short notice and without restriction. This diminishing base factor cannot fail to have a most important bearing on our general 821 defence establishment, our weapons and equipment, and the host of other details to which I will refer in the debate on the Navy Estimates.
I should just like to mention the matter of the design of the next generation of aircraft carriers. This question of future aircraft carriers is, I believe, of the utmost importance. Already there is a shortage of established bases, which shortage I believe is likely to grow more acute over the next five years. Therefore it seems to me that the aircraft carrier will assume even greater importance, though importance of a rather different nature than hitherto. I submit. my Lords, that the necessary design studies and preparation of staff requirements, and so forth, should be treated as matters of urgent importance; and in saying that I fully appreciate the point made by my noble friend Lord Carrington, that the ships which he is considering to-day will still be in service in 1990.
The increasing shortage of established bases, and therefore of adequate aerodromes, will also have its effect on the Royal Air Force in all its commands. In the next five years they may well see further difficulties in the matter of over flying. These difficulties can be overcome only by increasing the effective range of our aircraft, and, most of all, by improving the technique of refuelling in flight. Frankly, I do not know to what stage we have got in that connection, and I have not had the opportunity to consult my noble friend who sits just in front of me and who is my adviser on air matters. Nevertheless, I think that is a very important point.
I should now like to focus attention on Transport Command. On these aircraft we shall increasingly rely for the mobility so essential in support of an effective maritime strategy. Transport Command obviously need reasonable landing facilities where they can disembark the troops, together with their equipment, vehicles and stores. I do not think it is right at this time to pursue this matter in detail, and I shall leave the topic by saying merely that Transport Command cannot expect always to find modern airports. Moreover, where they have to make their main landing may well be some considerable distance from the points where their cargoes and freight are required.
822 I turn now to Bomber and Fighter Commands. They will, of course, face the same difficulties about suitable aerodromes, and I submit that it is really necessary to plan for some aircraft types that can, if need be, use the new aircraft carriers as a base. As to the V-bomber force, which at the moment and for some years will remain our principal means of retaliation, I submit to your Lordships that the real urgency here is to provide them with stand-off capability. I am glad to see from paragraph 17 of the White Paper that this is the intention, although I must say that the wording of the paragraph is a little disappointing, since it merely says that these aircraft will be given increasing stand-off capability over the next decade. I think we ought to try to do better than that. I am not a technician, but, after all, it is eighteen years ago since the Germans were operating standoff bombers of a type which did considerable damage from the Salerno beaches, when they jolly nearly sank the old "Warspite" for one. They succeeded in sinking one of the Italian battleships on their way to Sorrento to surrender or to join us as co-belligerents (whichever term is preferred).
I presume that both the free-falling bombs, with which V-bombers are equipped at present, and the stand-off bombs, with which they will be supplied in future, are, or will be, fitted with the most powerful nuclear warheads. In this connection, I was interested to read the other day that the A-bomb dropped at Hiroshima was 20kt, which, I believe, is equivalent to 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It caused 80,000 casualties. At Nagasaki, the same size of bomb caused 40,000 casualties. A week before the A-bomb was dropped at Hiroshima, there was a fire raid on Tokio, during which only 2,000 tons of bombs were dropped, mainly incendiaries, and there were no fewer than 84,711 casualties, of which 40,918 were wounded. I have no information, but I presume that the present nuclear warheads "pack a punch" far in excess of the original A-bomb. But even if this is so, I do not think it is necessarily true that they will cause proportionately higher casualties, and certainly this would not be true if used against well-trained troops in the 823 open or against well-trained civilian populations, with shelters properly constructed.
As I see it, the main objective of this retaliatory force is one I have described as interdiction, in the first place, of airfields, ports, railway junctions, fuel storage and troop assembly points; in the second place, of shipyards, aircraft and munition factories. Their job is not primarily to slaughter the civilian population but to destroy and disrupt the enemy's war effort. The point I am trying to make, though perhaps I am making it badly, is that I do not think that we should use too much of our limited financial resources in trying to produce bigger and better bombs in the context of explosive power, pure and simple. Surely our efforts should be directed at producing a weapon which will be effective against these vital targets of interdiction and disruption. I do not think we should forget—I am sure most of your Lordships have not forgotten—that despite all the efforts of the Allied bomber forces in World War II, the Germans were still commissioning new U-boats at the rate of 60 every three months as late as June, 1944. They were also beginning to produce the first jet-engined fighter aircraft in considerable quantity, and it was touch and go whether they would get air superiority before the war came to an end. In my submission, the bomb, free-falling or stand-off, and its aiming, requires very special attention, if it is to be a really effective weapon against military targets.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am following the speech of the noble Lord with great interest. It is simply not a historical fact that the bomber offensive had no effect on U-boat production. I was chairman of one of our bomb survey units at the end of the war, and I can say that the delay in the production of the German Type 21 and Type 23 submarines was very strongly testified to, particularly by some captured Nazi leaders who gave evidence after they had been taken prisoners. In any case, even if that were so, I do not understand what the noble Lord is now proposing as an alternative to the atom bomb. What type of weapon has he in mind?
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention, as I seem to have explained myself badly. On the question of the effect of bombing in the last war, what I said was that, despite the bombing, German U-boats were still being commissioned at the rate of 60 every three months, and Germany was producing, or about to produce, jet-engined fighter aircraft. I did not say that the bomb had not been unsuccesful in delaying these, but, despite the bombing effort, the Germans were still producing them. On the question of what weapon I would suggest, I have not the technical knowledge or the ability to say whether it is possible to invent some new form of bomb or weapon. All I can suggest is that it should not really depend on explosive power pure and simple. We want a bomb which is to be effective against the military targets I have mentioned. I do not believe that a solution lies in merely increasing the explosive power as such. It may be—I do not know—but that is my belief. We have limited funds for research; let us use them in the right direction.
Lastly, I turn to the Army for a few minutes, and if I have left it till towards the end of my speech it is not because I think that it is the least important of our defensive arms. Far from that being so, I consider that the Army has a contribution to make to our defence every bit as important as those of the other Services, and must be closely integrated with them. Looking ahead for the next five years, I see a vital need for us to take every possible measure to increase the mobility and flexibility of our land forces. I read the other day of electronic and radar devices for use of the Army in the field, I think for the detection of tanks, gun positions and so forth. I am all for the Army having every possible modern aid to battle, but it must be mobile, with a capital "M".
During the operation of the landing in Normandy, the late Admiral Ramsay, my Commander-in-Chief, sent me down to Gosport to observe the lading of a special convoy for the far shore. This was known as the "awkwards lifts" convoy, and awkward is an understatement in describing the vehicles which I saw as I drove down past to the loading hard. I have some apprehension that unless the "boffins" are watched very 825 carefully, the Army could easily get bogged down with electronic hardware. It is easier to do that than keep it mobile. During the war, I spent some time—all too short a time—as a naval liaison officer on the staff of a Major-General Administration in the field. During that time I learnt much about the supply problems of the Army and their magnitude, and I was very impressed by the efficiency with which the job was tackled. Nevertheless, I think there is much scope for imagination and development work to improve further mobility. There is a story written by Rudyard Kipling; in 1904, in Traffic and Discoveries called "The Army of Dreams" which tells something about this. Of course, it has to be brought up to date, but there are many valuable lessons in it not only about mobility but about the integration of the Services.
Although I have read with great interest and pleasure the literary efforts of many distinguished and gallant Field-Marshals, some of whom sit in this House (sometimes), I do not feel competent to voice an opinion about whether we need 160,000, 180,000 or any other number of troops, but I should like briefly to refer to the question of recruiting. Ever since I first was old enough to think about these things, I held the opinion that the Army had a much tougher recruiting job than any of the other Services, and I still think so. I think that their recruiting job is much harder than that of the Royal Air Force. I believe that this view is substantiated by the various figures and statements that have recently appeared, and also by what my noble friend the First Lord said to-day.
But I think the Army's main difficulty is to hold their men's interest during the training period and the early years of their service. There must be a spirit of adventure in any man who joins one of the Services. Therefore, I was very glad to see from the speech in another place of the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for War that special attention was being paid to giving the younger soldiers plenty of variety and change of scene. I am sure that this is the right policy. In my young days "to go foreign" was the main ambition of most of us. In some ways it is not so easy to-day, and the choice of place is 826 more restricted. On the other hand, air trooping has made it considerably easier than in the old days.
I welcome overseas exercises, such as those recently held in Portugal for the Sandhurst cadets, the larger exercise in Libya, and those planned for Canada and elsewhere later this year. Looking ahead over the next five years, I think we should plan for as many of these exercises as is financially possible; and, moreover, they should be combined to the maximum possible extent as to Navy, Army and Air Force. Furthermore, I think that as many comparatively raw recruits as possible should be sent on these exercises. I recently read another interesting book written by a distinguished and gallant Officer of this House, and I was particularly impressed with his description of the steps he took to prevent young soldiers from getting what in the soldier's jargon was called "browned off". To put it very simply he sent them off to fire every weapon in the armoury as soon as they got their uniforms on; in other words, he gave them the experience of being real soldiers as soon as possible.
I have had not a little experience of training young men in industry, and one of my great difficulties has always been to find ways and means of holding their interest while performing the routine and dreary tasks so essential to their preliminary training. I believe that money spent on giving the young soldier field experience as early and as frequently as possible will produce an excellent recruiting dividend and could lend real punch to the advocating campaign which we have heard to-day is about to be launched nationwide.
My Lords, I must refer to another important feature of the White Paper, and that is the references to interdependence in paragraphs 23 to 26. I suppose that this horrid example of modern jargon gives a better expression to the communal defence arrangements which are so obviously necessary for the free world in the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day. Therefore, despite my dislike of this word, I do not disagree with the contents of those paragraphs which deal with this matter. Nevertheless, I will not conceal from your Lordships that I would much rather 827 it were possible for us to stand on our own feet. All our history shows that Alliances have been fraught with great difficulties and special dangers to this country. My noble friend Lord Birdwood pointed out during his speech, to which I listened with great interest, that political decisions in an Alliance are particularly difficult; and that is true enough. However, I accept that to-day interdependence—in other words, a more comprehensive form of alliance than we have ever seen before—is necessary, and I want only to make one comment.
What I describe as the "nuts and bolts" of interdependence, which are clearly set out in paragraphs 24 and 25 of the White Paper, are obviously of great importance; but what I think is of even greater importance is the development of a common strategical doctrine. The need for this means, I think, that we must accept the fact that large numbers of officers and men of all Services will be required to serve on the various integrated staffs, of which N.A.T.O. is only one, though probably the most important. In the case of the Navy, this means, I fear, rather more shoregoing staff appointments than traditionally we like to see. Nevertheless, we must constantly bear the need for this in mind.
I also hope that the Imperial Defence College and the other staff colleges will open their doors even wider than they are open now to Allied as well as Commonwealth officers. I am aware that much has been done already, but I think we should plan for more. I feel certain that our Allies are only too willing to give us generous reciprocal treatment, and I hope that in our financial planning we shall arrange it so that as many of our own officers as possible can take advantage of these opportunities. Professional sailors, soldiers and airmen have strong international bonds through their chosen calling, and the battle of interdependence, integration, or whatever you may call it, is more than half won before they are brought together for joint instruction and study. But joint instruction and study is necessary if we are to have a common strategical doctrine.
Paragraphs 24 and 26 of the White Paper also refer to the interchange of re- 828 search and development techniques, and to conclude my remarks I must refer briefly to this all-important subject. I have tried in my speech to-day to indicate some of the directions which research and development should take and my view as to the relative importance to be attached to each, although I fear that I have done so only sketchily. What I want to say is that in the Admiralty during the Second World War, and in more than one industry both before and after that war, I have had some experience of what may be best described as the direction, co-ordination and administration of research and development work. It is not easy. Our scientists and technicians are certainly the equal of any in the world—in fact, I would go so far as to say that they are probably the best—but, like all scientists and technicians, they are very apt to be carried away by sheer enthusiasm for the technical aspects of their work, and in doing so to lose sight of the ultimate object of the enterprise, which, in what we are discussing to-day, is purely and simply to wage war. If we were considering industrial research and development, of course, it would have commercial application.
Another point on this question of research and development is that in my experience the true scientist and inventor is never satisfied: he always thinks (and he is nearly always right) that given time he can do better. It needs firm control from the top, coupled with a good deal of courage and judgment, to say at a certain point: "Thus far and no further. This is good enough. We will go into production now. Your improvements, when they come along, can be embodied in the Mark II or the Series II." Failure to do this, I submit, can result only in loss of valuable time and waste of our limited funds. Neither of these can we afford. I hope and believe that the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Defence has this point very much in mind. With these remarks, I say finally that I welcome the White Paper, Cmnd. 1288, and in particular the prospect which it discloses of more effective long-range planning for our vital defence organisation.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I, too, should like to support the Motion moved so ably by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should like, however, to add a few somewhat 829 critical, but I hope constructively critical, remarks on one important aspect of defence. The cost of developing and supplying equipment for the Services accounts for over £650 million, or about 40 per cent. of our total Defence Budget. It is therefore of the utmost importance to ensure that we get full value for this vast expenditure, remembering particularly that our technical resources are strictly limited. It is on this subject that I should like to make a few remarks to-day. In doing so I must declare an interest, as much of my working life is spent in a team which is proud to be making a contribution to the supply of equipment to Her Majesty's forces.
Before I go further, may I say one word in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who at the end of his very interesting remarks gave the impression that scientists (I do not know whether he included engineers, though they are a little different) were always trying to get their latest ideas into their products, to the gross detriment of the production programme. In my experience that is completely untrue. At least, the engineers who are engaged in producing the weapons for the forces are extremely conscious of that problem, and it is often—in my experience almost invariably—they who say "Stop; it is good enough". It is the people who are going to use the weapons who all too often force those who are making them to put improvements into them.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, stated so clearly, in our Armed Forces to-day it is as important as ever it was to have brave, well-disciplined and highly trained men. But in these days they must have the best possible equipment if they are to be effective in support of our national foreign policy and of our international obligations. The objective of a weapon supply policy must be to provide equipment which, by the time it is in service—and what matters is the quality of the equipment when it comes into service—will enable the Armed Forces to defeat any potential enemy, not necessarily alone, but probably in collaboration with our Allies. To do this, offensive weapons must be able to penetrate the defences of a potential enemy and the defensive weapons able to deal with any threat expected.
830 In the past, numbers have been as important as type of weapon, and the time cycle, as the noble Lord pointed out, from decision to order new weapons to supply was very short. The longbow and swords, and later on ships, armoured cars and rifles, could rapidly be provided to meet the changing situation. But the age of the tank, the aeroplane, the nuclear submarine and the guided missile has changed all that. Instead of thinking of a year or two for the development cycle, and a million or two pounds for the development programme, we must now think in terms of five, or even ten, years for a development programme and certainly in tens of millions and even hundreds of millions of pounds of cost. These changes, together with the vast increase in complexity of modern weapons, have brought about an entirely new situation which we have not yet mastered. We are still relying too greatly on methods which were barely suitable twenty-five years ago and which, in existing circumstances, are preventing us from making anything like the best use of our limited resources.
It is not yet fully appreciated by all those involved in the development of new weapons that the three elements of performance, cost and time scale are inevitably connected together in ways that can be improved only by the skill and judgment of the designers, scientists, engineers and production teams; and in no other way. Efficient financial control is, of course, very necessary as a measure of progress relative to estimate, and as a means of providing valuable statistics on which future estimates can be surely based. It may also sometimes, occasionally, be necessary, from purely financial or political considerations, to make arbitrary decisions against the advice of those directly responsible for a development or production programme. But it must be understood that such action will prevent the achievement of the required performance within the originally estimated time scale and cost.
At the conception of a new weapon to meet an operational requirement, it is normal and, I think, very good practice for design studies to be undertaken by a number of teams. These are presented 831 in the form of a report or a brochure, as it is sometimes called, in which estimates of performance, cost and time scale are set out. If the project is to proceed the team to undertake the work must be chosen without delay, for from that moment the time cycle of development starts. In other words, if the weapon is required to be in service on a certain date with a given performance and cost of development, it will be possible to meet those three requirements only if work goes ahead without delay at the planned rate. If delay does occur, the end date or the required performance will not be met, although it may be possible sometimes—certainly not always—partly to recover the slip in time or performance by increasing expenditure, by, for instance, initiating parallel development programmes for critical items. But it will certainly never be possible to ensure that the originally estimated time scale and performance and the cost are all met, except in the very rare event of a lucky and unexpected technical break-through.
If, on the other hand, development starts without delay but rates of spending are reduced below those planned, then it will be impossible to meet the required performance and time scale, and either one or the other will inevitably suffer. Similarly—and this refers to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill—if, during the course of development, higher performance is demanded, then either cost or time scale, and sometimes both, must be increased. Every day that passes the threat to be met or the defence to be overcome is inexorably changing in line with advances in technical knowledge which are occurring here and amongst our potential enemies. There is, as it were, a carpet of technical advance moving forward in time at a speed which is not under our control, but which is determined by technical progress in the world around us. Like the Red Queen, we have to run fast to stay where we are relative to this moving carpet, and twice as fast to get anywhere.
So, if our new weapons are to be of any value, we must run in the technical race considerably faster than the carpet so that our weapons will have several years of useful life before they become obsolete. If delays occur which are not 832 adequately compensated by improved performance, we shall merely, in the end, produce a weapon which is as useless to-day as the Spitfire would be. Quite apart from the huge waste of money that this entails, the prospects of selling the weapon to N.A.T.O. and other Allies, and so recovering some of the expenditure, will be greatly reduced and probably become non-existent. We cannot expect our Allies to purchase, or take an interest in, the development of weapons with which we are going ahead, when better and more advanced weapons are being developed either in their own country or elsewhere.
I must apologise for this rather detailed description of the situation, but I believe it is important for these issues to be more clearly understood, particularly in view of the recent widely publicised reports of the Public Accounts Committee and the resultant action that has been taken. With the admirable objectives of reducing expenditure and saving money on weapon development, very much tighter control of contracts in this field has been instituted. More careful scrutiny of estimates and of contract conditions, more detailed technical investigations into the feasability of proposals, are all sensible results of this new policy. But much less satisfactory results are long delays in making decisions and in the placing of contracts for even relatively small sums of money.
I cannot tell whether these steps are reducing expenditure, because that depends on the magnitude of the initial proposals. But reduction of expenditure is of no value in itself, if it means less value for the money that is being spent; and certainly these actions are involving waste of money and, of greater importance, waste of scarce technical manpower. The reasons for this are, first, that these delays are ensuring that equipment is ready later than it need be and both its useful life, and therefore value for money spent, is greatly reduced. Secondly, small sums of money spent now can often save quite large sums of money later on; and, thirdly, delays in decisions almost invariably result in technical teams not being employed in the most efficient way.
My Lords, the Treasury are often blamed for delays of this kind, where the cause is really to be found in lack of policy decisions elsewhere, but I have 833 not the slightest doubt that the system of control at present being used, in which the Treasury play a leading rôle, is the cause of a great many needless and wasteful delays. Perhaps as important, a lack of confidence is growing up between the people who design and make the weapons for the Forces, whether inside or outside the Government Service, and those who make the decisions which all too often cause delay and wasted effort. To determine what is adequate and necessary investigation and what is excessive, and to achieve the right balance between financial control, strict enough to avoid waste but not so tight as to promote waste by introducing excessive delay, are most difficult problems when we are dealing with modern complex weapon systems. But to achieve the best results there is surely no doubt that the first essential is to employ in the best way possible the experience and resources at our disposal; and this, I am convinced, we are not doing at present.
In my humble opinion, the principal reason for this state of affairs is that decisions on highly technical matters are taken by those with little or no technical knowledge, and with no experience of manufacturing problems. I fully appreciate—and this is perhaps something that needs to be said—that before large expenditure on new weapons can be authorised many decisions of high policy, both political and financial, must be taken, and these must be taken at Cabinet level, or very near it. Nevertheless, much work on design studies and similar investigations must be clone in advance to provide information on which these decisions can be taken. While decisions are being taken interim action on the technical side must be authorised to prevent our slipping behind our potential enemies, or indeed behind our Allies if we want our weapons to be acceptable; and once policy decisions are taken, speedy action to convert them into development and production activity is essential. It is at these stages that I believe much time, money and effort could be saved.
To do this there must be much closer relations between the Treasury and all those other Ministries concerned and industry. The very experienced senior technical staff—and there are many of 834 them with great experience—in the Government service must be given much greater authority, within defined, but not too small, financial limits dictated by national policy. The present situation in which many vital decisions are held up by the need to refer them back to the Treasury or elsewhere, whose officials do not come into direct contact with those entrusted with the work, must cease. So often when one is discussing these things people say, "Ah, but that is not possible under the Constitution. You cannot remove the responsibility for these decisions from the accounting officers in the Departments. We must have our system of checks and balances". But surely all these things—and in this country we have the great advantage of an unwritten Constitution—are meant to be used in the service of the country and not as a means of preventing rapid decisions and efficient action being taken.
My Lords, it would not be appropriate to go into further detail to-day, but I suggest that a Committee should be set up to investigate these points. There is an excellent precedent for this in the Committee set up by the Admiralty in 1957 under the chairmanship of Sir Barclay Nihill to advise on the organisation for handling the Admiralty's requirements in materiel. This Committee took evidence from a broad selection of naval officers, civil servants, and industrialists covering the whole field of administration, finance and technical problems. As a result of its recommendations a reorganisation of the relevant departments in the Admiralty took place, which I understand is proving most successful. I am sure that a similar Committee could make a valuable contribution to the problems in the wider field which I have tried to describe.
In conclusion, I should like to make it quite clear that I am not attacking any individual, or the Civil Service as a whole. But I am critical of Her Majesty's Government for allowing such an inefficient organisation as we have at present to continue. We are all in this problem together and we all have the same objective—to provide the Services with the best possible equipment as long as it is necessary. The old idea of industry making vast profits out of 835 the supply of armaments is out of date and as dead as the dodo. On the other hand, there are hundreds of enthusiastic pilots, engineers, scientists, and production teams on the shop floor working long hours to produce this equipment, often at times when many others are digging in their gardens or out on the golf course. To these the delays and vacillations imposed from outside, leading to wasted effort which is perfectly obvious to them, are frustrating in the extreme, for they have more than enough problems and difficulties of their own to overcome.
I must apologise for taking up so much time to put these points before the House. They may seem small, perhaps, in contrast to the issues of nuclear disarmament, the deterrent and all these great issues of policy. But 40 per cent. of our Defence Budget, over £650 million, is, I submit, an important amount of money, and I have taken up the time I have done because I believe that in our present circumstances it is of vital importance that we should obtain full value for money from these vast sums that are being spent to provide equipment for our Armed Services.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, at the beginning of this debate noble Lords were given the choice of accepting one of three invitations to express their opinion about the Defence White Paper; and if, as may well happen, we are to go into the Lobby to-morrow we shall not be able to take the easy way out by agreeing with the Motion and the two Amendments, but will have to make up our minds to vote for one or the other. So perhaps I might say a word about the three choices.
First of all, we had the noble Lord, Lord Rea. His Amendment, I think, is very largely based on the proposition that, although we are spending a lot of money, we are not getting value for it. I wonder if he quite realises that the aim of the Government in spending money on defence is, to my mind, the same historic aim as we have followed down the ages—namely, not to spend enormous sums of money and to compete with the greater Powers in the world, whoever they may be at any given time—France and Spain in the time of Queen 836 Elizabeth I; America and Russia in the time of Queen Elizabeth II—but to use our money to provide a marginal intervention. And historically we have asserted that marginal intervention in accordance with the balance of power. That, to my mind, is the object of Her Majesty's Government in these days of Queen Elizabeth II, exactly as it was in the days of the Government's predecessors in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. So I would suggest that one rejects Lord Rea's Motion.
Our next choice is the Amendment moved by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition. He and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, both made their own points; and although it was quite clear to me that they were united in their lack of confidence in the Government and the White Paper, I began to be less clear as to the exact reason why the Party of the Opposition were showing lack of confidence. It seemed to me that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said that we were spending not enough money, and that more had been spent in the time of the Labour Government. On the other hand, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel did not seem to take quite the same view. Therefore, looking at all these facts, it seems doubtful exactly what we should be voting for if we were to vote for the official Opposition Amendment. So I think my noble friend who introduced the original Motion so clearly and concisely, and so convincingly, may come into his own to-morrow; and I can do no more and no less than add my respectful advice that your Lordships should support the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.
Having said that, and having explained why I welcome the White Paper, may I come to one or two points that strike me about it? There was a phrase which was used by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence in the debate in another place which I think is most significant. He said:This White Paper is the first to be written against the background of the probability that both sides have now enough nuclear explosives to destroy one another.That, I feel, is a most significant passage. He then went on to bring in the question of China, which no doubt referred not only to defence but to some 837 higher decisions which Her Majesty's Government are making, have made or are seeking to make. I think that phrase sets the pace for the present White Paper, and it also goes a long way to explain why the 1961 White Paper is not following slavishly the 1957 White Paper, which was the point of criticism, I think, from the Benches opposite. It seems quite clear that the policy outlined in the 1957 White Paper has succeeded to the point where the emphasis can well shift away from the strategic and wholly nuclear type of warfare to what I think is wrongly called the conventional type of warfare, on which, if I may, I will say a word in a moment. In other words, the problem with which we are likely to be faced at any time now is the checking of influence, small in itself, but equally likely to be the prelude to much greater trouble, even the possibility of a Third World War.
We should always be prepared, I think, to learn lessons as they are offered to us. Therefore I hope that if anybody wants to know how not to do a thing like this we should give the most careful study to the performance of the United Nations in the Congo. I feel that there is an extremely good lesson for all of us as to how not to do anything. I think the fundamental error that was made by the United Nations was to suppose that it was possible to make any sensible use of armed forces if at the same time they were given instructions not to fire; or, conversely, if you send armed forces to the scene of trouble you must be prepared, if you are to get full value out of them, to see that, in the last resort, they use the weapons with which they are armed, have instructions to do so, and—last but certainly not least—are placed under commanders of experience, who have seen battle and know what battle is and what battle is not. We can apply some of those lessons which should be learned from the United Nations Organisation—they have been well reported in the Press—to some of the lessons which may confront us when we think of N.A.T.O. Happily, N.A.T.O. has not been put to the test; but the lessons are there, and we ourselves, I think, as the Government White Paper makes perfectly clear, must see to it that we make our full contribution to the demands of N.A.T.O. upon us, or at all events that we make good the contribution which 838 we have accepted both in manpower and in equipment.
So we come to the question of recruiting. The 1957 White Paper was quoted by noble Lords opposite, and I am going to quote it again. Paragraph 48 says thatIt must nevertheless be understood that if voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required, the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap.I hope that that paragraph still stands, because I think it should. Quite likely, my noble friend Lord Carrington was right when he said that this may not be the right time to talk about continuing National Service or to talk about a state of affairs when voluntary recruiting fails. Very well. But that is not to say that it is not the time to think about it. And I hope that the Government are thinking most carefully about it, so that, in the unfortunate event of our recruiting not coming up to the standard required to meet our commitments, we are not left with a period when, in the absence of the right number of recruits, we have no plan and fall down on our international commitments. So if we feel, as I think we all do, in every part of the House, that it is most important to keep our voluntary effort on the right standing, it is incumbent upon us to do all we can to see that it is supported.
We have heard a most encouraging account from my noble friend who moved the original Motion about new incentives given to National Servicemen now in the Army, about that old idea, which in the past has been so much more honoured in the breach than in the observance, of giving the recruit to Her Majesty's Forces a guaranteed career in the Government service, either in or out of uniform—because no one can afford in these days to go into a career, whether as an officer or as an other rank, which does not take him, or maybe her, to the full pension age and the full pension rate. Then my noble friend talked about rewards in civil life. I think that these rewards will largely come automatically as the skill of the people in the Forces increases, and they are able to attract in their own right a better job in the labour market when they leave the Forces.
There is one point which, rather surprisingly, has not been mentioned in the Government White Paper, or in the 839 Army White Paper which we shall discuss later on—that is, the use of the youth organisations and particularly the pre-Service organisations, as aids to recruiting. Surely, their potential value is great at all times, and particularly at a juncture like this. So far, the only mention I have been able to trace is the mention by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence, I think in a speech in another place where he talked about assistance to youth organisations. I am quite certain that at this time we should aim our sights at the youth organisations of the country, not only on general grounds, as everybody should, but on the specific ground that we look for the contribution which the young need to make to the defence of this country. I hope that that point will not be left out. No doubt we shall have an opportunity to come back to that in the debate on the Army.
Then we come to the question not only of manpower but also of equipment. I am not going to say a great deal on that, because the hour is late and because my noble friend, Lord Caldecote, who has just sat down, has given us a very expert speech, as well he may, since in his daily life, as I know, he is closely concerned with it, and therefore speaks with very great authority. I hope my noble friends in front of me have taken good note of what he said, and I should like to support his suggestion for a Committee on the lines of the Nihill Committee.
I myself will only trouble your Lordships again with a plea which I have made for several years past to abandon these words "nuclear", "conventional", "strategic" and "tactical". I believe they cause more unclear thinking in the defence world than anybody can possibly imagine. Opening the debate on Defence in another place on February 27, my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 635, col. 1203]:The weapons themselves are often neither tactical nor strategic; it is only the role in which they are used which makes them one or the other, and we must try to keep that point in mind.Then we get this question of nuclear and conventional forces, and it really seems to me that the two are rapidly merging together. In the White Paper 840 on the Army, from which I hope it will be in order for me to quote one sentence, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said:In the British Army of the Rhine certain weapons began to make their significant contribution to our nuclear potential.So there we have nuclear weapons and conventional warfare. Where do we go from there? My own feeling is that the more we use these expressions, the less clear will be our thinking; for to my mind the term "conventional warfare" seems to conjure up ideas not of the modern battlefield—which is what we should be thinking about in these debates—but something belonging to days past, some of the campaigns of Marshal Saxe or the rectangular strategy and tactics described in Hamley's Operations of War, a book which few people have ever read and still fewer will read in the future. Let us get away from those ideas and approach the modern strategic problems of the modern battlefield without attaching labels which, in any case, will be out of date, and try to use language which will encourage people to think in terms of the problems with which we are faced and the weapons we are to have.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, seemed to suggest that we could abandon altogether our contribution to the nuclear field. How we could do that and still carry on what I suppose we must still call conventional warfare, if nuclear weapons are to come to the battlefield, I cannot think. Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, would agree with me that even if all our nuclear research is primarily for defence purposes, it has a most valuable contribution to make to our general scientific progress, and it would be a great pity if, by taking up the line of unilateral disarmament, we found ourselves losing our most valuable potential and thereby doing damage to our progress in industry and technical matters generally. Those, I think, are all the points with which I felt I need trouble your Lordships to-night.
The noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, will talk on civil defence to-morrow. I would only say I am rather doubtful whether civil defence has, in this White Paper, quite as much of a "new look" as it will need to have. Perhaps we shall hear more on that 841 subject, and possibly on reflection it may seem to Her Majesty's Government that home defence has gone somewhat "into the doldrums" and that a little more could be said about it and rather more attention given to that problem. Of all the problems which have changed since the end of the last war in 1945, there is, I suppose, no subject in which there has been greater change, actual or potential, than home defence generally and civil defence in particular.
Once again would make a plea for the study of anti-sabotage as part of the study of civil defence, because I believe that that is one of the greatest threats to civil affairs in this country if, unhappily, we should be faced with a situation of that kind. Those are the few points I wish to raise on the White Paper. Having raised them, may I return to what I said at the start: that I hope the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will be accepted to- morrow?
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, we have had, as we always expect, a lucid and well-reasoned speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. He asked how anybody could show lack of confidence in the Government's White Paper. I should have thought that anybody who had listened to the speeches this afternoon, and not all of them from this side of the House, would have no difficulty in understanding our point of view and the reason why my noble Leader has put down a Motion of no-confidence in the defence policy of Her Majesty's Government.
We maintain—and my noble Leader could not have put it plainer—that for all the expense the Government are now incurring, the actual effective forces at the disposal of the Government are less than those that were available to the Government in 1951; and there has been no answer. Perhaps we shall hear to-morrow, from the noble and learned Viscount who is to wind up, something that will shake our view, but so far we see no reason to withdraw this Amendment which we have put down.
I would start my criticism of this White Paper on a matter of detail, in relation to its presentation. There is 842 certainly an innovation here; I notice that the Defence memoranda are launching out into the world of strip cartoons. By whom is this Paper meant to be read? Surely it is a Paper presented to Parliament; and I think your Lordships will agree that we are more or less literate. We do not need to have rather crude drawings to emphasise the points. We can grasp that £413 million is to be the cost of the Royal Navy without seeing a picture of a carrier enclosed in a kind of money-bag, with a larger money-bag for the Army and a still larger one for the R.A.F.; and a tiny little money-bag for the Ministry of Defence with, inside it, something which is quite undecipherable. I hope the right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Defence, will think again and not resort to experiment, or, if he does, will at least get the drawings done by a professional and make it a good strip cartoon, instead of a bad one.
Another thing at which I would protest—and this is nothing new—is the abnormal reticence of the Government on the disposition of the troops. Excessive preoccupation with security is normally, between wars, thrown overboard, and public and Parliament are told in the official Service lists where the troops and the ships are deployed, and so on. But this time we see in the map on page 4 these little symbols showing where Army, Navy and Air Force units are deployed, with no indication of the numbers in each place. That is, to my mind, merely a protective device on the part of the departmental Ministers to protect themselves from criticism in this country. Nobody can seriously believe that, by withholding that information from the public, enemy agents are in the least incommoded. Any amateur sleuth in any of the great ports of the world will have no difficulty in finding out not only the number of units but the identity of the units and probably the name of the commanding officer as well. It really is rather childish. It would assist Parliament and the country to know how defence is being managed by the Government if a little more information were given.
The Minister of Defence in another place quite rightly put in the forefront of his speech the paragraphs about disarmament. He said that Her Majesty's 843 Government hoped that 1961 will see the conclusion of a nuclear test agreement. We all hope that this is so, and we rejoice that the Government really go so far as to say they hope that an agreement will be come to this year. He went on to qualify that by reminding us of the risks of disarmament. He says that a nuclear test agreement would be a great move towards a broader measure of disarmament; but he points out that there is no known method of detecting hidden nuclear tests, plus the problem of clandestine manufacture, and all the rest. My Lords, of course there is a risk if we enter into an agreement on disarmament. But we have to balance that risk against the risk of continuing the arms race and the state of tension in which we now are.
I think your Lordships would agree with me that the most remarkable speech of the afternoon was that of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who not only talked of disarmament from intimate knowledge and participation in some of the work but also lifted our debate on to another plane, where we could see some hope in the future of real disarmament and something really happening to relieve the appalling state in which we live now.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, gave us a clear, lucid, forceful exposition of his case. I would not say that he convinced us. The sentence which I should like to take up and query is a sentence earlier on, where he said, I think, that our contribution to all phases, the whole spectrum, of defence would:maintain and foster the spread of our way of life.I feel a little uneasy if that is regarded as one of the objectives of our defence policy. Do we really want to spread our way of life by the possession of Armed Forces? Surely our Forces are for defence against aggression, and I do not like—and I think many people in this country would not like—the idea that it was in the minds of Her Majesty's Government that they wanted, actively and positively, to spread our way of life about the world.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I would answer the noble Earl there. I think that my noble friend really meant almost exactly the opposite of what the 844 noble Earl fears. When he said that the object of our defence policy was to maintain and spread our way of life, I understood him to mean precisely what the noble Earl is trying to say: that defence policy, in its wider sense, really depends on an adequate foreign policy and an adequate economic policy which will maintain and foster our way of life. In the narrower sense, defence policy, in the sense of maintaining weapons and deploying forces, must be seen in the context of that wider policy. I think that the very last thing he was trying to say was that weapons or armed forces maintain and foster our way of life. I think he would be in entire agreement, were he here, with what the noble Earl is saying.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount and I am very glad to have that explanation. I am sorry if I misunderstood what was said; but I think those words, if they go out from here, might also be misunderstood by other people.
To continue dealing with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I was glad to hear that the Government are optimistic on the manpower situation. We hope that their optimism is justified. He mentioned that the advertising on television has been showing good results. If that is so, that is all to the good and we are all in favour of it. But I should just like to ask this: how are all these advertisements commissioned for the television programmes? Will Her Majesty's Government have to pay? Will an advertisement be an ordinary "commercial" on the Independent network and paid for on commercial lines, or have the Government power to require from the Independent Television Authority the display of advertisements for such a purpose? Any advertisement through the British Broadcasting Corporation would not, of course, be paid for. I think we should perhaps hear what the process is and what the method of payment, if any, is for such advertisements.
As to the question of how we should stimulate voluntary recruiting, that problem has occupied many people over many years. Pay has been raised, quite rightly, to what I think everyone agrees is a very reasonable standard which compares quite favourably with that in 845 civil life. But, my Lords, money is not the only thing that attracts people to the Services. There is resettlement, of course, and we are glad to hear that that is going well, and of the arrangements so that men can feel they have a career in the Services and can get a good job in civil life at the end of it. But, more than that, I think a young man being advised by his parents, or a young man making up his own mind for himself, will want to feel that he is going into a worth-while job. Your Lordships will recall the old Cromwellian saying—I am not sure exactly how it goes:Men should make some conscience of what they do.That is what we want to aim at. I think the Army still has to work off some of the load of mistrust arising from those many cases of men being allowed to lead useless, wasted lives—being unemployed, or doing useless jobs. There was so much of that, particularly in the National Service time, and many Regulars have had similar experiences. I think the Army still has to remember that danger, and see that its organisation, right down, unit and sub-unit, really gives a man a job and a life that he feels is worth while. I am sure the Government are right not to contemplate any lowering of educational standards. The present-day Services, of course, need many more men with a high education and a high technical skill, but not every man can become a tradesman, and there are many men with something less than a high standard of education who can be useful men in their jobs.
My Lords, part of the manpower problem is mobility. I do not think we are altogether convinced that the provisions for moving troops quickly from point to point are all that they should be, or that we are making the maximum use of our manpower by having the ability to move men very quickly from one point to another. If men are to be really mobile, they have to be trained and equipped so as to be versatile and adaptable. They may have to serve in a jungle campaign one month and in an Arctic climate the next. They may have to have armoured vehicles and mechanised transport in one theatre and pack transport in another.
846 Above all, they have to be highly adaptable, and the means must be at hand to move them quickly. I think we should like to hear even more on that from subsequent Government speakers.
Then there is a point I should like to raise on paragraph 13 of the White Paper, which refers to the C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. Alliances. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, cleared up one matter of doubt, I think, over the availability of N.A.T.O. Forces for other theatres. Incidentally, he used the curious expression "declared". He said that certain Naval forces are "declared" to N.A.T.O. I do not quite know the exact significance of that. It looks as if the card-table notation has become catching to noble Lords on the other side. But perhaps he can clear this up and make it clear, above all, that the forces are not being counted twice or three times over. In other words, when we read the statement in paragraph 13:Our conventional forces are now organised to provide military contributions to the three .. Alliances …".are they the same forces that can be used at will in the Middle East or the Far East, or are there separate forces earmarked for those different theatres?
I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, on an admirable speech; and, as in the case of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, I hope the Government will take good note of it. Any of your Lordships who have been in the Services will know the frustration caused by waiting for financial sanction, and the appalling delays and consequences—and very often the appalling waste and loss—caused by the present-day methods of financial control.
My Lords, I think the points on which there is fairly wide agreement are two in number—and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, is not here, I can use the term "nuclear", perhaps, with a clear conscience. The first point on which I think everyone is agreed is that tactical atomic weapons, or tactical nuclear weapons, cannot he used without the certainty of their escalating very quickly into strategic nuclear weapon and global nuclear war. That, I think, everybody is agreed on. From that it follows, it seems to me, that the control 847 of these tactical atomic weapons must be kept at a high level. It really is not fair to saddle a brigadier or a commander—someone of that sort of rank—with the responsibility of using an atomic weapon in the knowledge, in the certain knowledge, that it will mean world-wide war and enormous destruction.
Some system must be devised in N.A.T.O. to ensure that control is kept properly centralised. If noble Lords say that that will deprive the forward troops of the protection they would otherwise get from using atomic weapons in defence, then I think the answer is that the front-line soldiers have always had to bear the brunt of an attack, and in all armies and in all regiments the tradition has come down that, on occasions, those troops have to be sacrificed in order to ensure the security of other troops. Indeed, the whole idea of an army is that it fights to protect its homeland and its people; and I think that, when the risks are as high as in this case, it is justifiable that the decision to use these weapons should be kept well back, with a senior commander.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
Does the noble Lord imply that, if those weapons were in fact used against him, a commanding officer of a brigade would not retaliate with the use of such means as were at his disposal?
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, troops have always been exposed to enemy action. It takes time for artillery support to come down and protect the forward troops, and I think the same principle applies here.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Earl, but surely he is not suggesting that at any previous time a soldier, who has a heavy weapon in his hands, has been told "No, you must not use that"?
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, he does not have the weapon in his hands. The forward troops have never had heavy weapons in their hands.
848 The other point about which I think there is a good deal of agreement is on the uselessness of this country's continuing to maintain the independent strategic nuclear deterrent. In the first place, it is a breach of the principle of interdependence, which the Minister has quoted with approval. If every contributor to collective security proceeded to arm itself with the full range of weapons, from the strategic weapon downwards, it would, in the first place, be impossible physically and economically; and in the second place it would be wasteful. Surely, in all our alliances in various wars we have agreed with our allies that only one ally would provide one type of weapon or force which it was specially well equipped to produce, and that other allies would produce other weapons; and that, by reason of the alliance, they would combine to produce a force with all arms or weapons. In the last war, we did not think it wrong or disgraceful to shelter behind the power of American forces and the American Air Force. Why should we now think it wrong to shelter—that is the word generally used, but I would prefer to say to be part of an Alliance in which America provides the strategic weapon and we provide weapons that are more within our power and range?
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, put up an "Aunt Sally" for the pleasure of knocking it down, when he alleged that my Party proposed to abolish all the V-bombers we have now. I do not think that has ever been generally accepted in our Party, or in any other. What we say is that we should not continue to attempt to be in the class of Powers owning and using the H-bomb—the independent strategic nuclear deterrent. Her Majesty's Government, having heard all these arguments, will, I hope, think again, because there is a paragraph in the White Paper that gives us hope that they may change their view. Paragraph 28 says:— we must be ready to scrap anything that has served its purpose, become outmoded, or whose ultimate cost may prove to be beyond our resources.That paragraph seems to me very sound sense, and we hope that Her Majesty's Government will bear it in mind. Sub- 849 ject to that, we remain at this hour unconvinced that the Government are producing an effective defence policy under their present arrangements.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.