HL Deb 03 May 1961 vol 230 cc1295-343

4.19 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON rose to call attention to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for Air to accompany the Air Estimates, 1961–1962 (Cmnd. 1292); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, every time I come to read and consider the various papers and reports of the debates we have on defence, I become more appalled at the complexity and, if I may say so for the Government's comfort, the difficulties that confront Governments in arriving at any sort of consistent policy. I shall make the remarks I have to make with regard to the Air Estimates and our Air Force policy, some of them critical, fully conscious of the difficulties that confront the Government.

This, in a sense, is a continuing debate. Each year the situation changes a little or a lot. In fact, there has been rather a big change as compared with last year, and we might do a good deal worse than pick up the debate where it was last year and modify it by such new information as has come to hand or such new changes as the Government have made in defence policy. I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Ward of Witley, on joining us here. I am sorry he is not to take part in the debate to-day—perhaps he feels that he still knows too much about it—but I hope he will in future years. I am sure that your Lordships feel sorrow at the passing of a former Secretary of State for Air, Lord Stansgate, who was himself also a pilot and a member of the Air Force in two wars. Whether we shall be fortified by the arrival of his son, also a pilot, remains to be seen.

I think we are all agreed that, whatever else we may have to say, the R.A.F. goes on with its usual high standard of efficiency, of which we are all so proud. I should like to start by making some nice remarks to the Government. First, I would congratulate the Air Ministry—and this applies to all the Services—on the great improvement they have made in the presentation of their case. This year's Memorandum is better than the last one. It is an intelligent and reasonable document. The fact that the Secretary of State is debarred from giving very much information is not wholly his fault; and what information is given—and there is a good deal—has been well set out. I am sure that we are all particularly appreciative of the sort of interpretative comments that appear on page 20, where the major variations of the particular Estimates appear, because they are most helpful. This, in my view, is a model way to present a case, and we should encourage those who give thought to this type of matter to go on thinking of even better ways of doing it. The Air Ministry have done particularly well, and really rather better than the Ministry of Defence, in their Paper. I shall reserve my remarks on the Admiralty document until we come to the naval debate.

I propose to deal with what might be called some of the "bread and butter" matters before I attempt to delve into the difficult field of strategy and some of the matters that are more specifically raised in detail in the Estimates and the Memorandum. I turn, first, to the question of Service pay and conditions. Here, again, I congratulate the Government on the way they have implemented the Grigg Report. Knowing their propensity for ignoring the recommendations of Committees and Royal Commissions they appoint, I think it is particularly satisfactory that in this case they should have adopted them so wholeheartedly. Whatever criticisms may come from time to time from outside, I am sure we can properly feel that our Services are adequately paid. I am fairly familiar, as many of your Lordships are, with pay and prospects in civil life and in industry, and I entirely agree with the Government when they say that the prospects for the young officer are in every way competitive, and in some ways I should say a good deal better than in other walks of life. I feel that conditions of pay, and certain of the conditions of Service, though not all, are reasonably good for the skilled man in the ranks. These are entirely right, and we do not need to justify them. We know the amount of dislocation that Service men and their families have to put up with. The only point I would make is that it is up to the Government to see that these rates are not eroded by a decline in the value of money, or that, if such an erosion takes place, they are maintained.

From the account we have been given, the recruiting situation seems to be reasonably satisfactory. We should be interested to know of any new steps or plans the Government have for improving recruiting. There are still certain posts in the R.A.F. which are difficult to fill, and I wonder whether the standards of entry are not too high, and whether, because they have these high standards of selection, the authorities do not sometimes apply them a little too stringently. The ability to cross a stream on a narrow log is not in many cases, I should have thought, an absolute requirement for an officer, say, in the Education Corps or the Engineers; and the sort of survival tests that may be essential for a platoon commander may or may not be essential in the Air Force. I am not saying that we do not want them all to be supermen, but it is necessary to man up with the best material available. Possibly some further improvement could be made in selection techniques, so that there is not such a high rate of rejection, either initially or, indeed, at the later stages. I would ask the Government to look at this. In passing, I do not know whether we should shed a tear on the closing of Henlow, which is being combined with Cranwell, but I am sure we mark the value of that institution and all those who passed through it.

I want to return again this year, as always, to the question of recruiting for the Women's Royal Air Force and the extent to which it is possible to transfer to women work done by men. Here I am not quite so sure whether prospects for the Women's Royal Air Force, certainly in the ranks, are as good as in civil life. It is difficult to make these comparisons. I think this is a matter, as in all aspects of recruiting, which has to be looked at selectively.

There is one other small point I should like to make on administration. I was interested to read the reference to work study, and I want to repeat the suggestion I made that some limited funds should be available to commanders-in-chief—and not merely abroad, where there is sometimes a greater degree of financial independence, but in this country—so that they can implement minor organisation and method work. I understand that most commands have some operational research or an "O. and M." officer. In order to give effect to changes likely to give greater efficiency it is frequently necessary to spend money. It may be found that there will be a significant economy in manpower that will amply repay the money, if you move, say, a chap from one side of a building to another, because in the course of a few months' time you may save the cost of one chap running between the points. But you find you cannot do this, because the commander-in-chief has no local money for the purpose, and application has to go up in the usual way.

I urge that some consideration should be given to a certain degree of financial independence, which industry is always trying to get into its dependent parts. This is a matter of which I have heard officers in the Services complain. It is not that "O. and M." work is not being done, but it is sometimes not possible to give effect to it. Anybody who has tried to give effect to organisation and method improvements will be aware that it is frequently necessary to spend money in order to get the major economies that can be achieved. In saying this, I think we ought to recognise that the Services have played a big part in pioneering "O and M." work. I would suggest that this is a matter on which the Government publicity officers in the Royal Air Force might give rather more information to the public. It would be informative and useful to industry. I am well aware that "O. and M." officers and similar people in the Civil Service do participate with industry, but I think it would be interesting to know a little more about it; and it would be valuable, also, in the view that is presented to the public of the Services. The general public are far too inclined to think that the Services are always bureaucratic and rather inefficient bodies.

I should like now to turn to the subject of air traffic control, which is also mentioned in the Memorandum. Here again, I think the public have a rather bad view of the Royal Air Force. In fact, I think if one talks to people about them they have a vision of the skies as a place filled by cautious, careful and extremely sober civilian aircraft pilots, with occasionally rather large-moustached young men of the fighter type, buzzing these aircraft. No picture could be further from the truth. In fact, the Royal Air Force takes immense trouble in developing air traffic control, and I think the degree to which there has been a reduction in accidents is a measure of the attention that is paid to safety. This is a very difficult technical problem, and it is a matter for co-operation between the civilian and the Service authorities. But I am satisfied that certainly the Royal Air Force are very well aware of their part and duty in this matter.

There is one other matter to which I wish to refer before I turn to the subject of the deterrent, which always takes up so much of our time; and that is the question of the R.A.F. Regiment. I noticed that paragraph 64 of the Memorandum rather suggests that the rôle of the R.A.F. Regiment is changing. Are they really responsible now for loading aircraft? For all I know they always have been, or have been for some time. But it rather sounds as if they are becoming the Royal Air Force Service Corps, as wall as fighting troops—and the R.A.F. Regiment were always intended to be a fighting regiment, trained with a specific rôle, which was complementary to the safety of the R.A.F. It is important that they should not be diverted from that—at least not without our knowing. One can well see that it would be easy to turn them into a sort of local Pioneer Corps, with spare chaps walking around. I also noticed that they are responsible for fire and rescue services. I take it that this is not air-sea rescue, but it suggests that it would be interesting to have a fairly full account—perhaps not to-day—of the work of the R.A.F. Regiment.

Having dealt with these comparatively uncontroversial matters, I should like to turn again to what might be called the main debate, on the question of the long-term and short-term rôle of the Air Force, particularly in relation to its rôle as the principal deliverer of the deterrent. It is clear that, each year that goes by, this debate takes place against an increasingly changing situation. Blue Streak is no more, except perhaps for space purposes, and the whole policy of the deterrent is more than ever in question. It is not merely in question among my friends in my Party: there are people everywhere who think about these matters. One finds that in discussions within the ranks of the Party opposite, in the newspapers, among war correspondents, and so on.

We must bear in mind in this debate that we are discussing, not merely this year's Air Force, but the Air Force of at least ten years ahead, and possibly further. The length of time that it takes to bring modern equipment into operation is very much of that order—and, indeed, longer. We have the example of the Britannic or Belfast, which we have been talking about for several years now; and it will take another four or five years before they are in service. It is the total absence of any long-term view (and I am not trying to say this to harry the Government, because I appreciate their difficulties) that is so worrying. It may be that it is impossible for them to take a long-term view—I do not know.

But whatever we may think about the use of V-bombers—and I shall have something to say about this—and even if we get Skybolt (which again I accept that we think we are going to get, as well as Blue Steel) I cannot really believe that any of this side will be operational in another ten years time—or will it? It may be that the Government think that bombers armed with some form of ballistic missile will continue. We have had talk in the past about a quite different type of aircraft, a sort of transport aircraft, a vehicle which would merely lift the ultimate missile into the air. But we do not know anything about this. We have no idea what our defence policy will be in another ten years time. It was said that when Blue Streak went we should have no Air Force deterrent. Whether it is intended in future that Polaris submarines will supply the deterrent is another matter. I shall have something to say about that.

The fact is that, as the Government have said, 10 to 15 per cent. of our defence effort goes into the deterrent and is spent in the Royal Air Force. This figure is something between £150 million and £200 million—about 40 per cent. of the Air Force Budget. I think the majority of us agree—and I certainly take this view—that we were right to build up our deterrent, or our share of the deterrent, whatever we call it; and, secondly, that there is no doubt that our strategic medium bomber force armed with nuclear bombs or hydrogen bombs is, and has been, a highly efficient and effective weapon. Here again, the question is: will it be for much longer?

I mentioned Polaris submarines. We shall have an opportunity later to discuss whether the Polaris submarine is any more credible, for other reasons. But it seems to me inconceivable that the strategic deterrent, even if it does not go for other reasons, will be fulfilled by manned bombers in another ten years. We should like to know what the Government have to say about this. Once Blue Streak went, the matter changed. Here I should like to digress to ask the noble Earl about a matter which I know used to be nearest to his heart before he went on to those Benches (and the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald is also interested in it) that is, what are the Government's thoughts about the development of the Blue Streak space project. This is not the time to discuss it, but I should like to know, since the Government are working on this, who they think is going to work it if it comes about. Is it to be a Service responsibility? Will it be run by a civilian administration, or will the R.A.F. take the responsibility? I am just as convinced as I know the noble Earl (to be of the extreme importance, on economic and other grounds, of not leaving this field entirely to the Americans and the Russians, any more than we or other countries would have left the steam engine or the aeroplane to the big Powers of the day.

I should like now to leave the "ten years ahead" view, and return to this happy phrase that is so frequently used, the "middle 'sixties" which is the nearest the Government ever seem to get to the present, day. I am wondering how long they are going to leave these Thor missiles sitting up, exposed and extremely vulnerable, and how long they are going to be an effective and credible part of the Western deterrent. I do not know. But certainly if Blue Streak was not "on" Thor is even less "on". I think I have made clear that I have not myself been concerned in these moral arguments about the rightness or wrongness of our having the nuclear weapon. I have always thought that, however sincere were those who wished to abolish it on moral grounds, it was an evasion, and there was no point between total abolition or full acceptance of ail aspects of warfare. I think we have, as I said, been right to have had the deterrent.

Without going into the motives of those who were carried off in such large numbers to Bow Street the other day, I would question whether it is right to continue with Bomber Command in its present form. None of us ever wants to scrap anything, whether it is a battleship or a bomber or a unit, which we see has an intrinsic quality of its own, but I have already mentioned that 40 per cent. of the Air Force effort goes into Bomber Command. It is in fact very largely the raison d'être of the Air Force to-day. We have a lot of information about its very high efficiency and we accept the statements that there is high efficiency and that they can get the aircraft off the ground at tremendous speed. But once you establish that sort of priority, it inevitably means that the other parts of the organisation will suffer, and there is no doubt—unless the noble Earl can correct me—that there is gross under-manning of certain non-Bomber Command units.

I have heard of fitters in some parts of the Air Force who are doing as much as a 78-hour week. There is no doubt that some of the electronics men, perhaps involved in operating not very up-to-date radar and such equipment in traffic control, are having to work very long hours. I do not say they are grumbling or that morale is anything but good, but this is the consequence of an emphasis which I accept has rightly been given to the importance of Bomber Command. I think we ought not to be afraid of considering scrapping these aircraft if, in fact, their rôle is past and there is better use for the money.

The one thing that I think has emerged in recent discussions on defence is the importance of spreading our attenuated military strength a great deal further. Unless the Government are going back to National Service—and there are many reasons why they should not—some way must be found to enable the Army, in its lire brigade rôle, to move very much more rapidly. I should have thought that one of the worst failures at the moment in Government defence -policy is the failure to produce a really adequate Transport Command. We know that Transport Command has been expanded and the air-lift has been increased three times and six times; we have heard this figure of three times on a number of occasions. We accept that there has been a great deal of improvement. But when it comes to the actual exercises like the last exercise we had last year, "Starlight", a really ludicrously small amount of equipment, 175 tons, was carried for the Army. The Government have thought again since then and they have added in the helicopters and some other equipment that was carried and get it up to 600 tons, but it is still not anything like enough.

Anybody with connections with the Army and the Services will know of the inadequacy of our transport services in the strategic or indeed in the tactical rôle. It is not as if Transport Command, largely expanded, would not have a use in peace time. They could increasingly do, as I am glad to see they are already doing, trooping and movement for the Services. I should have thought it perfectly reasonable to get to a stage where to a large extent, the Services carried their own equipment and men, whether it be the Navy, Air Transport or Transport Command.

We need equally, more short-range aircraft. Again we are well aware of the development of the Argosy, and, despite criticisms of it that have been made, especially in another place, I accept that it will be a good aircraft. But we shall need them. Above all, we shall need not only a few but actual squadrons of helicopters. I would ask the Government what is happening in the way of other kinds of vertical takeoff, whether it be helicopters or the more specialised kinds.

Finally, I come to this very sore subject of the Britannic or the Belfast. Whether by calling it the Belfast it is hoped that some of the obloquy which has attached to the long delays in the ordering of this aircraft will be escaped I do not know, but certainly this is a very controversial aircraft. I am told that it was certainly not at the top of the list of designs which were submitted to the Air Ministry. Whereas I fully accept that Governments have to take into account political and economic factors, I think it is unfortunate that so much of our aircraft ordering policy seems to have gone wrong. It is not only the Britannic. We remember the case of the Swift. The trouble really about the Britannic from the British interest point of view is that we need it now, not in 1964–65. Here, again, perhaps we could be given whatever is the most up-to-date estimate for completion, as we ought to have it now.

This is where we begin to doubt whether the Government are really determined to go in for the interdependence which we all so freely talk about. There are in existence perfectly suitable transport aircraft which we could either have ordered or have manufactured by now. I have mentioned in particular the C.130. Ought there not to be a N.A.T.O. transport aircraft? I am sold that the Germans are committing themselves to buying a French aircraft which is also under development. I was talking the other day to a German industrialist who is making exactly the same complaints about mistakes in that country as I am suggesting are being made now with regard to the Britannic. It is not as if when we manufactured an American-designed aircraft the result would be wholly American. It is likely that British engines—Tyne engines or whatever might be suitable for the C.130—would be installed and there could be an export of those engines. This is, I think, quite a serious charge.

I should like to turn to another aircraft, and that is the Lightning. I am not in a position to judge whether some of the criticisms of the Lightning are fair, or whether it will in fact achieve the speed that it is expected to do. There is no doubt that other countries have aircraft that can achieve that speed. I believe that in fact the Lightning was an adaptation of a research aircraft, and I am also told—I do not know whether it is true—that no man with a thigh length of more than 17 inches can fly in it because he would not be able to be ejected in the event of having to bale out. I should like to know whether that is true or not. Does it mean that in future there will be a special requirement for small fighter pilots? We accept that this may be necessary for a spaceman. Certainly this seems to have been the sort of slightly political decision that was taken, because at one time it was quite clear that the Government thought fighters had had their day. They changed their mind, and I do not blame them for changing their mind, as I think they will have to do on a number of other matters in regard to defence policy.

Finally, in regard to aircraft, I would ask the Government how the T.S.R.2 is coming along and whether they really hope it is going to be the remarkable aircraft people believe it will be. I sometimes wonder whether this highly-specialised equipment is in fact always so important for the sort of fire brigade rôle that is necessary. I believe that the T.S.R.2 is equipped for tactical nuclear weapons. I would rather have those weapons carried in a bomber than have them as close to the front line as the Government propose to have them in regard to the equipment of their artillery.

I could not leave a debate on the Air Estimates without making a reference to Coastal Command. Again, I ask the Government what they are going to do about the replacement for the Shackleton. I am more than ever worried this year, not merely because I think we ought to be getting a more up-to-date aircraft which can fly fast to its area of patrol, but because the present Shackleton is beginning to wear out in a big way, so that there is every prospect of a good deal of metal fatigue. The point finally comes when it really is not worth while going on rebuilding the aircraft. It may well be that we ought to order either some more Mark III Shackletons or, better still, a new type of aircraft. This does not alter the fact that there are real doubts whether we are taking the possibility of submarine warfare seriously. I share those doubts. I am extremely doubtful whether a generalised submarine war with the use of atomic weapons will ever come about. But, at the moment, unless Coastal Command is re-equipped and, indeed, more attention is given to underwater detection than is at present being given, I doubt whether the Navy will regard the Air Force as taking this matter seriously. Then, once again, we shall have this passionate battle and the fourteenth attempt, perhaps, to take Coastal Command from the Air Force.

All that I have been saying illustrates the difficulty in arriving at a defence policy. What we knew yesterday for a certainty we suddenly find to-day is no longer a certainty at all. I think it is likely—I hope the noble Earl can confirm this—that, whatever happens, there will continue to be a great deal of flying in the Royal Air Force. I think that, however much we may specialise in very advanced and sophisticated equipment, at the same time there will be more and more general purpose flying, whether of transport or limited tactical operation.

What is the future of the Air Force? I think that Bomber Command's future is in doubt; Fighter Command has been reconstituted—when I say "reconstituted", I mean saved by a change of policy; Coastal Command may or may not have any aircraft in another ten years' time if they are all worn out. The only one that clearly is going to be built up is Transport Command. In those circumstances, we cannot tell what the ultimate rôle of the two Services will be. This applies even more, in my opinion, to the Navy, and it brings me back to a plea that I have made year after year: that one of the reasons we get into these difficulties is that we have three separate Services, each bargaining for its own. It is a fact that in the Royal Air Force there are more officers, to my knowledge, who do see the need for a single Service. Virtually no progress has been made since the end of the war in this respect. There has been amalgamation of chaplains, but that is only a very small swallow so far as the summer of integration is concerned. Perhaps we have not even got that.

This is a serious matter, because it is inevitable that when you are talking to Service officers they will think in terms of their own needs and of their own loyalties. It is only human nature that they should do so. I should hope that, even if there were some integration, it would be perfectly possible, whether in the Air Force or the Navy, to preserve traditions, as the Army does in its regiments and its corps, and that we should then get a policy which would enable us to have a much clearer picture of what our Services were intended to do. It may well be that, in the long run, the R.A.F. will become a component of some United Nations or international defence body. We all hope for that. In the meantime, there would be perhaps clearer thinking and, indeed, more confidence among those officers who are concerned with planning, if the Government would, once and for all, have a more determined approach to this problem of integration.

Having said that, I would only repeat that I am convinced, as are those of your Lordships who have been connected with the Air Force, that its standards are as high as ever, and that as soon as it is given a clear rôle it will be able to discharge that rôle. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships are grateful for the wide review that Lord Shackleton has just given us. Particularly do I wish to associated myself with the first remarks the noble Lord made about the great services rendered by the former Secretary of State, Lord Ward of Witley, to the Royal Air Force. The fact that to-day we come in the main to praise, rather than to criticise, is due to no small extent to the noble Viscount and his colleagues on the Air Council during the time when he was Secretary of State. I feel that in the debate to-day we come to help and to suggest, and not to carp, even when we wish to question.

I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on one point on the debate. My own view is that this is not an appropriate occasion to discuss the major political aspects of defence, the possession of a deterrent by this country, or the merits or demerits of the pavement-sitters in Whitehall. I think all that belongs to a larger Defence debate, and not to a single Service matter. So far as I am concerned. I want in the main to deal with matters affecting the Royal Air Force. Nevertheless, I should like to register and record some creditable facts.

The first is, that we have a deterrent to-day, both defensive and offensive, in Firestreak and in the Lightning, which is in service to carry Firestreak. We have an effective V-Bomber Force, ready and able to deliver the nuclear deter- rent. Thirdly, we are at least moving towards a Transport Command aimed at meeting most of the three Services' requirements. I would not go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton did in condemning so critically the present state of Transport Command. I would, however, agree with him that it is still insufficient. Nevertheless, let us give credit where credit is due. As the Memorandum says, it has multiplied three times in the last ten years. I think that is an extremely creditable fact.

I want to say a word about personnel. The recruiting of the R.A.F. is, generally speaking, satisfactory, except for one particular category about which I will say a word in a moment. As regards the Women's Royal Air Force, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, rather doubted the prospects of a career for women in that Service. I think the prospects are very good. Not only are the Service prospects excellent, but they are such good-looking ladies that I cannot help feeling that their prospects in other walks of life are equally good.


Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? It is their prospects in other walks of life that worries me. I was not sure whether their pay and conditions were good enough to attract them. But I fully agree about the importance and value of the work they do.


My Lords, so far as I am told, the pay and conditions are attracting the requisite entry.

The most serious shortage of the Royal Air Force is in aircrews. In his speech in another place the Secretary of State said that the position gave cause for anxiety: they were, he said, a few hundred short. That is grave, because if the strength is a few hundred short last year and a few hundred short this year the deficiency is a constantly growing one and ever harder to make good. I understand that the entry is a few hundred short this year, but to that must be added a considerable deficiency from last year. So it may well be that the total shortage to-day is over four figures.

I think that the fault for that lies largely with the Government. It is just as well to face the fact that it is the 1957 White Paper which is largely responsible for the aircrew shortage to-day, due to the impression given that there was virtually no career, no future, for pilots who wished to join the Royal Air Force to fly man-piloted aircraft. If that is so, I think it is incumbent upon the Government to reassure on careers and to do what they can to repair the damage of that 1957 White Paper. I believe that the Air Ministry should make the facts far more widely known than at. present, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, what will be the defence policy when the present V-bomber force becomes obsolete in from seven to ten years is still unknown.

I do not think it would be right for us to try to press the Government to say anything on what is likely to happen; nor on their views as to what is likely to happen seven to ten years hence. What they should make widely known is that even if the present V-bomber force is replaced by non-manned weapons—which in my view is very unlikely—the requirement for pilots in the Royal Air Force will be much greater than it is to-day. I hope the Minister will feel that that is a point which, with the authority of the Government, should be stressed and made widely known. Because if it were blazoned throughout the country it would go some way to redress the wrong impressions of the 1957 White Paper.

My second point is that I hope the Ministry will make more widely known the very cogent remarks of the Secretary of State in another place when he summarised the opportunities of careers in the Royal Air Force. The Royal Air Force to-day, I believe, presents a career comparable in rewards to that in any branch of civil life. What career can offer a young man entering the service at 20 retirement at 32, with a capital gratuity of £4,000. or if he stays until he is 38, with a pension of £500 a year for life? Those are pay and conditions which are really remarkably fine. But I am afraid that they are not widely enough known at the present time.

Then there is another reason for the shortage, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Quite rightly, the R.A.F. require high standards—medically, of character and of education—for entry into the pilot category.

My noble friend Lord Shackleton questioned whether the standards are too high. My own view is that the standards are not too high, but it may be that they are being applied too rigidly. The question is this: Are we insisting too rigidly on the achievement of standards at the time of entry? Times change, and requirements are always becoming greater technically. I remember the Commonwealth Joint Training Plan with which I had something to do in the war. It was the view of the Air Staff in 1938–39 that only a sort of super-men could fly these modern fighters. I remember that the Hurricane was considered an aircraft which a select few might possibly be able to fly. Within two years, every little boy joining the R.A.F. was flying a Hurricane within a few months. The Spitfire also was considered at first the aeroplane for the super-man, almost. Within two or three years it was considered one of the easiest aircraft to fly in the R.A.F. So to-day it may be we are thinking that the technical requirements are so tremendous that it is necessary to have a standary of entry, a rigidity of the standard of entry, which in fact tends to eliminate good material—material which might make the grade if only it were allowed a longer time, if there were more flexibility in the time of courses.

The Air Staff of 1939 would have been horrified at the Staff of 1945 accepting standards of education, and even of physique and what I call traditional background, which we were glad to have in 1945. All during the war whenever we wanted more aircrews we were never short, because, as it were, as we touched each lower stratum in the social scale we got just as good material as in the stratum above. It took longer to train them, and it was sometimes thought more difficult. But the character was there; the training was there, and the keenness was there. It may well be that the shortage to-day could be eased by repeating something of the outlook we had during the war when, though the demand for aircrews was tremendous, the supply never dried up.

It is an interesting thought to-day that if one meets these young men of the R.A.F. one sees that there has been a big change in the last five or six years in the Royal Air Force. To-day the young pilots are serious, dedicated experts in their work, men of great technical skill. They play hard in their time of relaxation, but they are extraordinarily serious men in applying themselves to their duties. My wish, which I hope all noble Lords, in all parts of the House, will share, is that in this debate we should send out a message of congratulation and good wishes to those dedicated young men who are flying these complex modern aircraft.

My Lords, I have only one more subject to touch on for a very few moments—it was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I wonder how much longer we shall go on having what I term single Service debates. I think we must face the fact—and it has to be faced reluctantly, I think, within the Services—that we are gradually but surely travelling along the road of the three Services' evolution which can reach at some time in the future only one end—that is, a unified Service. I confess that if somebody had asked me about this ten or fifteen years ago I should not have taken the view I take to-day. But I think, looking at the picture, that that is the inevitable end. In the fields of planning, equipment, administration and operations the old lines of demarcation between the Services are getting more and more blurred. We have Joint Planning and Intelligence staffs, and from their work flow the tasks for the three Services. Why should separation, with co-ordination, be considered better than complete integration? It is a question which I think the Government have to ask themselves.

Then, my Lords, as regards equipment, with the ever-increasing number of technical weapons it seems to me that unification is inevitable if overlap and wasteful allocation of short-supply equipment is to cease. It is interesting, if one looks at the Estimates, to see that the Royal Air Force to-day has aircraft and helicopters; it has ships; it has ground troops; it has rocket missiles; it has nuclear tactical and strategic weapons. The Navy has aircraft; it has helicopters; it has ground troops; it has rocket missiles; it has nuclear tactical and strategic weapons. The Army, too, has aircraft; it has helicopters; it has rockets; it has nuclear tactical and strategic weapons. It is really quite a mix-up, because they all have the same thing, and the opportunities for confusion are great.

It seems that here is infinite opportunity for overlap and for waste as all the three Services attempt to get their supplies satisfied. All three Services have a need for basic research and development. If basic research is common, applied research is not, because each of the three Services is carrying out its own programme for applied research; and all three Services have their own development programme. Yet, at the same time, we in this country are short of scientists and we are short of technicians; and I cannot be convinced that the picture I have painted of the shortages, and the competition in respect to those shortages, is one that counts for the greatest efficiency.

In the field of administration a considerable amount has been done, but in the direction of co-ordination rather than of unification. The N.A.A.F.I. is an example of unification in practice. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, spoke of the Chaplains' Department. I understand that there are still three Chaplains' Departments. Our Deity is common to us all and it seems to me rather difficult to understand, except to justify a Chaplain-in-Chief, why we should continue to have three Chaplains' Departments to worship a common God. As to the Education Branch, I find it difficult Ito justify three elementary Education Branches, one for the Admiralty, one for the Air Force and one for the Army. I find it difficult to justify three separate Provost Marshal Forces and Service Police. These are matters in the lower echelon of administration, but right up the line, as tasks merge, so does separation on the level of administration become more and more difficult to justify.

Against all this, of course, one has to bear in mind the Service traditions and the separate careers in the Services. When war comes, to-day, however, it is only for civilians. If war comes, it is only a matter of luck whether a young man puts on light blue, dark blue or khaki. The First Lord of the Admiralty shakes his head, but many a man did not know which Service he was going into when he was called up in the last war. In the past, I think it was essential, and certainly preferable, to be the son of a seaman to get into the Navy; and it was almost necessary to live within the sight of salt water in order to be a sailor. That old idea has nearly gone. During the last war it was found that the man from the Midlands made just as good a sailor as the man who lived on the sea coast. I do not wish (and I do not think there is any need) to trample on tradition, or unduly speed a process which I believe is inevitable; but I hope that the Government will think on this matter of unification, and will think with detached brains. By that, I mean not put the Service Ministers on to working out a scheme—because they never will do so—but ask Ministers who are not in the Service Departments to consider the future of developments towards unification. If such a study as I propose is made now, I think that it will help when the time comes; and it may even speed up the process of time towards the result which I believe is, in the long run, inevitable and must be accepted.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, raised such an enticing collection of hares that if I were to start chasing them I should end up in a circle; but I should like to pick up one or two of them. First of all, I would agree very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in what he said about the effects on recruiting of the 1957 White Paper. Difficulty in recruiting is not a new problem; we have had it again and again. We had it very much, as he mentioned, before the last war. I happen to have been personally connected with training away back in 1917–18 and again in the early and mid-'twenties, and I ended up as Director of Training in the Air Ministry in the mid-'thirties. I felt very strongly, looking at it both from the point of view of the training commander and of the staff at the Air Ministry, that wastage during training was not a sign of bad training; it was not a sign of weakness; it was a sign of faulty selection and of not getting the right people. There is nothing more dangerous than to try to lower the standard once the men are in the machine and being trained. Once they are there, your standard should stay put; and, if they do not come up to it from a flying point of view, that is that. It is wise to be ruthless.

I agree with both speakers, however, that there is probably something (as it was put by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye) about being too rigid in the standards set for entry into the Service. I agree that those standards should be flexible, and subject to frequent review. I certainly could not put my finger on a spot now and say, "That standard is too high". The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, mentioned one, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned the requirement to cross a stream on a plank. I do not know whether that was a physical fitness test before be came in. I do not think it matters. I cannot believe that anyone would turn an entrant down on that one test. At any rate, I would say again: for goodness sake! do not lower the standard for final entry into the operational squadrons.

Now as regards recruiting, the publicity which has recently been given in the Press to the conditions and the prospects of a career in the Royal Air Force has, to my mind, been very impressive. I think it has been first-class, and one only hopes it will pay dividends. I have a feeling that one of the troubles in the past, and at the present, has been the opposition, or perhaps the apathy, of schoolmasters. I know from personal experience that that was a serious factor before the war, and I have reason to believe that it is still a factor. Here I put in a word for the university squadrons. I gather that their existence is once main threatened on the basis that they do not bring a sufficient number of recruits into the Service to justify the expense of maintaining them.

Here I must declare my interest. In the first place, I was myself a university entrant in 1914, not to an air squadron, because there was not one then, but to the A.T.C. Also, I happen to have been very closely concerned in the early stages with, of course, the Cambridge squadron, and later on with the Oxford squadron. In those days, I always made it clear that getting a recruit was not the primary object of the squadron; its primary object was, to put it bluntly, to aerate both the undergraduates and, indirectly, the College and University authorities. I gather than that position has now been slightly altered. However, the danger is there, because, going back to the early days, I found that schoolmasters, heads of colleges, and many other people were strongly opposed to this squadron on every ground. They thought it was composed rather of "handlebar types", who would be diverted from their studies by flying solo. Actually, they were not allowed to fly solo first of all, because it is bad for the nerves. It would not take much to get that sort of opposition boiling up again, so I ask that the recruiting aspect be not pushed too hard, because I do not think it will help. I think you can get recruits without that.

As I have declared my interest already, may I say I feel, very naturally, that there is a special place in the Services, and particularly in the Air Force, for the undergraduate and the young graduate. I do not think he is better than the grammar school entrant at all, but you get a rather different outlook, perhaps a rather more critical outlook, which I think is well worth having. To sum up, I would strongly urge that in assessing the value of the university squadrons, full credit should be given not only to recruits but also to the intangible and invaluable effect they have throughout the country in widening the interest and the knowledge of the public in aeronautical matters. I think this goes deep, and this is the worst time in the world to cut off such a source of inspiration and education.

The question of a single service is so important that I cannot resist having a small shot to try to get it in the jug. Logically, the case for a single Service is absolutely unanswerable; there is no question about that. But I have a distrust of logic when applied too closely to human affairs. This matter of a single Service is primarily a human question. One can say: "Why should you have a different captain for a soldier, a sailor and an airman?" It is because soldiers, sailors and airmen are absolutely different people. I know it is illogical, but it is a fact. They do react differently—and so they should, because they live a very different life and have very different responsibilities. I could go on to elaborate this subject, but the basic point is that I distrust logic applied to human affairs, and this is essentially a matter of humanity.

May I just raise one other point, to follow up, and that is with regard to this question of tactical and strategic bombers? It was a surprise to me to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, casting Bomber Command into the futuristic fogs of the 1957 White Paper. I did not think we were so near the abyss as that. I could not say more strongly that I utterly disagree with him on that point. We have not a clue as to how and when this push-button thing will ever start, and I suggest that this is no time to start havering about the existence of Bomber Command. I do not say that because I happen to have served in the Air Force. As a matter of fact, I never served with Bomber Command, so it is not of any special interest to me. But when I was in the Mediterranean during the war, I think I was largely responsible, and I plead guilty to it, for starting the distinction between tactical and strategical air operations. I may not be the only authority for that, but I know I started it. I did that to try to define "air operations" in terms which my soldier and my Admiral colleagues could understand.

Here we come back to the single Service again. I found that my Admiral and I used the same scale map. My General used an entirely different scale; his map went not much beyond the range of his guns. The Admiral was thinking strategically, one might say, of the other side of the Mediterranean. I tried to define "tactical operations" as those in direct support of the naval or land operations, and "strategic operations" as air operations going beyond that; the long-range operation, sometimes aiming at long-term effects. I am not at all clear now, when these terms are used quite extensively to apply not only to air operations but to weapons themselves. That, I feel, is doubtful and dangerous.

I am firmly convinced that the mutual threat of nuclear attack has been, and I trust will remain, a vital factor preventing the outbreak of war. I believe that the Bomber forces outlined in the Secretary of State's Memorandum can, and will, make a very real contribution towards that end. But I am not clear as to what is meant by the phrase "tactical nuclear weapons". All I would say is that I trust that there is no idea that it would be possible to isolate a "tactical nuclear" war from an allout—or perhaps I should say, an all-a nuclear war. I am sure that once a nuclear weapon has been launched, the deterrent as such will have failed and the floodgates will be opened wide.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, there are one or two aspects of the Memorandum that I should like to touch on, but before doing so I would associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, with regard to the high efficiency of the Royal Air Force, and also echo his words, and those of my noble friend, Lord Balfour of inchrye, about how much we owe to the noble Viscount, Lord Ward of Witley, in achieving that high degree of efficiency.

With regard to the financial provision, we see that there is to be an estimated total expenditure of £526.67 million, but there is a decrease of £13.85 million, compared with 1960–61, on aircraft and stores. We are told that that is due to smaller expenditure on guided weapons, in view of the approaching completion of the deployment of Bloodhound Mark I. But what of Mark II, with its greatly improved performance and air transport ability? Is one to assume that it is not yet available, and that the Ministry of Aviation is still responsible for its development?

With regard to that Ministry we find from the Defence White Paper this year that its expenditure will be £190.2 million, against £185–35 million last year—that is, an increase of only £4.85 million—on research into and development of a variety of projects. On the one hand, we are told that the deployment of Bloodhound Mark I will be completed in 1961–62 and that orders will be placed for Bloodhound Mark II. On the other hand, we are told, in Appendix A, that we expect 10 spend less on guided weapons. Bloodhound Mark II is to be used to reinforce Overseas Command. Can we take it, then, that this missile will be deployed with the R.A.F. in Germany?

With regard to the R.A.F. in Germany, I regret that there is only a brief mention of that Command in the Memorandum, in paragraphs 49, 50 and 51. Nevertheless I welcome the statement in paragraph 49 that New navigation equipment is being fitted to improve the capacity of the Canberra tactical atomic strike force to operate in all weathers. But these aircraft are to be superseded by the T.S.R. 2. Therefore, I should like to see in the Memorandum some mention of the way in which it is proposed to defend their bases. I know that the aspect of secrecy is involved here, but possibly a brief reference could be made to defending the bases of the Canberra or advanced T.S.R. 2 aircraft. I am thinking of this particularly with regard to possible attacks, if war comes about—though I hope it will not—from low-flying aircraft. Is this defence to be effected entirely by the aircraft which are listed in the Memorandum—namely, the Swift and the Hunter fighter aircraft?

I think we can be sure that the Russians have, or will have, an aircraft comparable to our T.S.R. 2, or, if not comparable, at least capable of low-level attacks. It can also be assumed, I think, that they are working on a low-altitude air-to-surface delivery system, something which would be similar to the American Wagtail missile. According to Flight, this weapon system is intended to be launched from a supersonic aircraft flying very close to ground. After launching, retrorockets would reduce the speed of the missile, and inertial guidance would steer the missile to its target, again at the lowest possible altitude, and its guidance system would sense obstructions so as to fly either over or around them. At the moment, I understand that the defence of V-bombers against enemy aircraft is mainly by means of our fighters and the Bloodhound Mark I missile. I understand that later we are to rely on our ballistic missile Early Warning Station or on a short-scramble for our bombers, and on a wide dispersal of these bombers. But in view of the difficulty of detecting low flying or hedge-hopping aircraft, surely we must concentrate on the protection of our bases in Germany.

I believe I am right in saying that the Bloodhound Mark II missile may be depressed and fired at a very low angle of elevation, and that it is effective even when it comes up against highly sophisticated forms of jamming. When is it expected that Bloodhound Mark II missiles will be deployed in Germany for area defence of our R.A.F. bases? Could my noble friend be a little more explicit with regard to the statement in the Memorandum that Orders are being placed for Bloodhound Mark II"? Now with regard to the T.S.R. 2, Mr. Watkinson referred to this aircraft at Weybridge, in Surrey, on October 2, last. He said: It is a very important contribution to our front line defence. He added that it would have a wide range of weapons, including the nuclear deterrent, and that it would carry airborne ballistic missiles, but probably not the Skybolt. Therefore, which missile will it carry?

In view of its low-flying capability, could it carry a weapon system similar to the Wagtail? I trust that Her Majesty's Government are keeping au fait with developments in the United States with regard to this weapon or to a weapon having a similar capability or similar function. I referred in the Defence debate to Blue Steel and Sky-bolt, and I do not propose to say anything to-day, except to ask my noble friend whether he could be a little more specific with regard to the words in the White Paper concerning the handling and maintenance trials of Blue Steel, if the Vulcan II's are now in squadron service.

I should like to turn to something to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred briefly—namely, anti-submarine detection. Last summer I attended an anti-submarine exercise aboard one of Her Majesty's frigates and I flew in a Shackleton of No. 206 Squadron. I should therefore like to make a few comments with regard to paragraph 34 in the Memorandum on this question of anti-submarine detection. Although I flew with a seasoned, well-trained and efficient crew, and their demonstration was a very impressive one, I still could not but gain the impression that the drawback lay in our equipment. It would be wrong if we underestimated this problem. When I attended this N.A.T.O. exercise, there were aircraft, helicopters and warships (and by "warships" I mean frigates and destroyers) taking part, and their co-operated efforts were towards the hunting down of just one submarine. The shortcomings of our equipment became apparent after the submarine had been contacted, then plotted and then lost, in spite of the search efforts of three warships, two aircraft and two helicopters, all fitted with sonar equipment: the helicopters hovering and dipping their sonar sounding equipment in the sea; the aircraft by means of sonar buoys, and the ships with their static sonar equipment. What struck me was the fact that at the end of the exercise the submarine surfaced very near to where we were.

Another point which I should mention, because I think it is important, is the lack of co-ordination that existed with regard to radio communication between the ships and headquarters at Londonderry, and also between the ships, the aircraft and the helicopters. I think that our failure to remain better in contact with the submarine was partly due to this lack of properly co-ordinated radio communication. I am wondering if a break-through with regard to anti-submarine detection would not be assisted, in what is essentially a marine electronics problem, if a similar effort in research and development were made in anti-submarine detection as is made in the guidance system of missiles. There used to be, and rightly so, a great concentration of electronics on guiding our various forms of missiles. I wonder whether a similar concentration of effort is being made with regard to anti-submarine detection.

I have brought up this point to-day because, although it is a naval matter, it affects the operational efficiency of Coastal Command, who also carry the appropriate electronic equipment for searching for submarines. I should like to ask my noble friend who is to reply if he can say whether adequate funds and resources are provided for the solution of this problem. To my mind, it is important, because it can be assumed that in future there will be few sightings of submarines by means of radar in view of the deep sea capacity of modern submarines, and the fact that they may remain under the water for a considerable period of time.

I appreciate that in the Explanatory Statement accompanying the Navy Estimates there is a statement to the effect that prominent among the projects in Admiralty research establishments is the long-range detection of fast, deep-diving submarines. This is a problem, as I have said, which concerns the Navy and the R.A.F. I am wondering whether there would not be grounds for initiating a joint Government-electronics industry committee; and when I say "Government", I mean the Admiralty and the Ministry of Aviation. A committee may not be the right body, but what I am trying to achieve is that there should be appropriate consultation between the interested parties; and certainly the electronics industry, in spite of the need for, secrecy, could contribute to a solution of this problem of anti-submarine detection. It may be that insufficient research and development contracts are being placed outside. From reading the Explanatory Statement accompanying the Navy Estimates gained the impression (I shall be corrected if I am wrong) that most of this electronics research work is done within the naval research establishments. I should have thought that quite a fair amount could have been put out to the electronics industry, though naturally with the appropriate safeguards with regard to secrecy.

Finally, I turn to a quite different subject, affecting Aden and, in particular, the sick quarters at Steamer Point. A Parliamentary delegation visited Aden in September, 1959, and since then I have been pleased to see various references in another place to improvements in accommodation, recreational facilities and schools. There is also in the Memorandum a statement to the effect that work is nearing completion on the hospital, which I presume to be the hospital that is pleasantly situated on the hill at Steamer Point. But since September, 1959, there has been no mention of the sick quarters. We visited those sick quarters, and they were certainly cramped and under-staffed; and by "cramped", I mean that the patients were cramped, and there was insufficient storage space for medicines, bandages and so forth.

Apart from being too small, the sick quarters are also, in my opinion, badly sited: for, among other defects, they are right up against the M.T. yard, where vehicles are tested and repaired, and naturally fumes emanate from the exhausts. The fact that the sick quarters are badly sited was definitely stressed to us at the time.

I should like to make it clear that I am not making any criticism whatsoever of the medical personnel who were responsible for the sick quarters, because the quarters were spotlessly clean, and very well run. The medical officer in charge was young and efficient, and appeared to be hard-working. But, as I say, the siting was bad and the facilities inadequate. In conclusion, I would ask my noble friend whether he can say anything with regard to the present conditions of these sick quarters, and also whether they are fully up to strength with regard to medical officers and orderlies, because they have to deal with a large number of Service personnel and civilians.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, my only reason for intervening in this debate is once again to draw attention to the great importance of providing proper protection for our vital sea communications—vital because on them we rely, not only for the 1 million tons of supplies per week which we require, but also so that we may pursue the maritime strategy which is this country's traditional and most successful method of waging war if, unfortunately, we are obliged to do that. Therefore, my remarks will be confined to Coastal Command, and I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, who opened this debate with an interesting speech, made some reference to that Command.

In studying, the Explanatory Memorandum, I found it disappointing that it devoted only five paragraphs to this Command. The first of these, paragraph 32, tells us that the Shackleton aircraft have been fitted with new radar, new navigation equipment and improved submarine plotting facilities. They are also to be provided, so the Memorandum says, with improved communications—which I am sure gives some comfort to my noble friend Lord Merrivale—and better means of locating survivors in the sea. All these things may be desirable, and the sooner they are supplied the better, but I should have felt happier if we had been told that these aircraft were being equipped, or were about to be equipped, with the latest weapons for attacking enemy submarines. There is no reference to this important matter, and I am slightly anxious about it.

Many of your Lordships will remember that Coastal Command started the last war armed with bombs which soon proved ineffective against U-boats. Depth charges were not issued to the Command until the Spring of 1940, and it was another twelve months before they were made really suitable for use from aircraft. Despite this initial handicap, shore-based aircraft of the Commonwealth and Allied Air Forces sank no fewer than 245 U-boats, of which a large proportion, of course, fell to Coastal Command. This number is only one fewer than those sunk by surface ships, namely, 246. This, I submit, is an indication of the important part which Coastal Command has to play in the defence of our sea routes. I hope the noble Earl, when he replies to the debate, may give us some information about the offensive weapon with which these Shackleton aircraft are equipped. I had thought of mentioning that possibly the Shackleton aircraft were getting a little long in the tooth, but out of respect for the noble Lord who opened this debate I thought I would not put it quite in that way. But now that he has done so himself, I have no inhibitions about doing so.

In paragraph 44 of the Explanatory Memorandum, we are told that, during the autumn exercise "Fallex" Coastal Command, despite the difficulties of submarine detection, made many successful sightings and practice attacks. This is the only reference in the Memorandum which I can find to Coastal Command's offensive rôle, and it would be nice to be told, if we can, that these practice attacks, if they had been the real thing, would have been delivered with really up-to-date weapons. I can well appreciate the difficulties of submarine detection referred to in paragraph 34 and in the interesting remarks which my noble friend Lord Merrivale has just made. Forty-three years ago, almost to the day, I was first-lieutenant of a submarine which was detailed to carry out some of the first tests with aircraft, which at that time were of a very elementary nature. It was very difficult then for the aircraft to detect us in the submarine, and we in the submarine made it as difficult as possible for them, but I am quite certain that it is even more difficult now, with the advent of Snorkels, nuclear-powered submarines and so forth.

In my view, the only answer to this problem is one of active and continuing research, not only into improved and new scientific devices, but also into their tactical use. In common with my noble friend Lord Merrivale, I hope we can be assured that we continue to maintain our lead in this matter, because we have had a lead in anti-submarine detection devices for a number of years. I agree with my noble friend that we must have sufficient resources made available to the establishments to carry out this all-important research work.

One searches the Memorandum in vain for any information as to the number of aircraft and personnel allocated to Coastal Command or, for that matter, to any other Command. No doubt it is a matter of security. Nevertheless, in preparing my remarks for this debate I thought it would be easier if I knew something of the size of the force we were talking about. Therefore, I did some research to find out the size of Coastal Command at the start and at the finish of the last war. I found that in 1939 Coastal Command comprised 15 squadrons, which I translate, maybe wrongly—and if so, no doubt I shall be corrected—as 180 aircraft or there abouts. At June 1, 1944, Coastal Command mustered 753 aircraft, of which 475 were anti-U-boat and 278 anti-shipping. It is a fact that when the status of duties of Coastal Command were defined before the last war—I think it was in 1937—the function of attacking enemy warships or supply ships was omitted. It was not until the war had been in operation for some time that steps were taken to repair this omission and to provide the necessary aircraft for an organised striking force, which, as I have said, had been built up to 278 aircraft by June, 1944. Therefore, I think it is fair to compare the pre-war number of 180 aircraft directly with the 475 available for anti-U-boat war at June 1, 1944.

Frankly, I was rather surprised at what a small expansion this was in Coastal Command, apart from the striking force, but I suppose that improved types of aircraft and increased efficiency, and so forth, in part accounted for that. I do not know whether the Commander-in-Chief, Coastal Command, in June, 1944, felt he had enough aircraft. If you asked me that question, I should say that he felt he had not enough aircraft. However, I, of course, do not know, nor do I expect an answer, as to how many aircraft Coastal Command has to-day. The purpose of this brief discussion on numbers is to show that we are not, at the very best or very worst, whichever way you like to put it, discussing a very large force; we are not dicussing thousands of aircraft; we are talking about hundreds of aircraft. A small force like that can be so easily squeezed out when questions of priority arise.

The fact that it is, comparatively speaking, so small may give an impression to some people that it is of no importance at all, whereas the facts are exactly the opposite. Coastal Command is most important and has a vital part to play in our defence. In 1941 Coastal Command was given a very low priority—in fact, I think it would be correct to say no priority at all—in the matter of very long-range aircraft. Your Lordships will not wish me, nor is it relevant to our debate tonight, to pursue this contentious matter now. It has had a good airing in the Press quite lately. The decision to give Coastal Command this low priority for very long-range aircraft was taken at the highest level and was certainly nothing to do with Coastal Command or even the Air Ministry or the Admiralty. However, it is fair to say that the decision having been taken, Coastal Command was badly handicapped in, if not prevented from, playing its proper part in the battle of the Atlantic during 1941 and 1942 when things there were very serious indeed. I mention this bit of history only to emphasise the importance of those responsible for giving Coastal Command its rightful priority in these matters of aircraft equipment and research.

Earlier in my speech I mentioned that by June, 1944, Coastal Command had some 278 aircraft for operations against shipping of all sorts; in other words, strike aircraft. They were armed with rockets and canons, torpedoes and bombs. I can find in the Explanatory Memorandum no mention of this particular offensive function of Coastal Command. As I said earlier in my speech, it was omitted from Coastal Command's status and duties drawn up in 1937, and was brought in during the war. There is no mention of it now in the Explanatory Memorandum, and I do not think there are any aircraft allocated to Coastal Command for this particular duty. The only aircraft mentioned in the four paragraphs relating to Coastal Command are Shackletons and helicopters, neither, so far as I know, particularly suitable for the offensive, except against enemy submarines. I merely ask, has its strike rôle been taken away from Coastal Command and handed to Fighter Command or Bomber Command or the Navy?

Finally the Memorandum says: Strategic and tactical mobility is of prime importance to our overseas defence policy. I could not agree more. This is a matter to which I referred at considerable length when I spoke in the defence debate, and of course it applies to Coastal Command as much as to other Commands in the Royal Air Force and to the other Services. It is in this context of mobility, coupled with what I described in the defence debate as the diminished base factor, that I wonder whether it is entirely wise to equip Coastal Command completely with land-based aircraft. I wonder whether perhaps the time has come to consider the reintroduction of flying boats, at any rate for one or two squadrons. At the outset of the war in 1939, Coastal Command had, I think, two squadrons of Sunderland flying boats. Suitable land bases may not be readily available, but flying boats can operate from marine bases, which in many cases can be more readily secured and more easily made ready for instant operation. Coastal Command has a very important part to play in our defences, in particular to co-operate with the Royal Navy and the navies of our Allies in support of our economy and in the maritime strategy which I think we should employ.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships welcome the opportunity the noble Lord has given us again this afternoon to debate the Royal Air Force. As usual, he has spoken persuasively, with moderation and with a deep knowledge. I think that on the whole, too, we have had a constructive debate, and we have also had a pretty brief one. I shall certainly not wish to prolong it unduly, but if I am to answer a majority of the points which have been put to me I may have to prolong it a little longer than your Lordships, and certainly I, would wish.

First, I should like, as briefly as I can, to clear away the underbrush to do with two tangential but important points that have been made in the course of your Lordships' debate this afternoon. The first is space research. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, knows, on this particular subject I am rather in the position of poacher turned gamekeeper. I was certainly a keen poacher, and I should like to be a keen gamekeeper. The only trouble is that this is not my particular covert. But perhaps I may just say this. So far as the proposed Blue Streak Organisation and the projected European Space Research Organisation is concerned, they will be dealing entirely with the civil aspects of space research, and so far as I know, the Royal Air Force will not, therefore, be directly concerned with that. But there is, of course, already Air Ministry participation in one way with the British space research programme, in that the Steering Group on space research, under my noble friend the Minister for Science, has the benefit of the attendance of the Scientific Adviser to the Air Minister. The Director General of the Meteorological Office also attends the meetings of that Group.

There are also a number of ways in which air establishments contribute directly to our space research programme. The Meteorological Office are conducting high atmosphere research using sounding rockets, and while British plans do not contemplate any attempt at manned space flight, the Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine, which conducts very useful pioneer work in physiological stresses in high-speed flying, is exploring the possibilities of designing biological experiments which might be flown in satellites. I think that is enough on space research for your Lordships this afternoon, more especially as I note that my noble friend Lord Bessborough has a Motion down, with no date named, on this whole question of space research.

Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye made a strong plea for greater integration of the Services. I am sure that on that matter your Lordships will not be expecting obiter dicta from me. In fact, this seems to me to be a subject more fitting for a Defence debate. But I am equally certain that my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence and the Service Ministers will take careful note of what has been said in this regard. Perhaps I may just add, that of course there is a deal of co-ordination or integration (call it what you will) already obtaining. I can think, offhand, of a couple of examples. The first is the unified Command in Aden, where there is already a degree of integration between the works branches of the Services. The second is on the hospital side. The Army provides single service hospital facilities in Gibraltar and Singapore which are used by the other Services. The Royal Air Force does the same in Aden, and I understand that the Navy is planning to do the same in Malta. However that may be, perhaps this process should be carried a great deal further.

I must say that I personally was impressed by the argument advanced by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder. I just wonder what would be the effect on recruitment of going the whole hog. Should we attract recruits to a grey unified Service in the same way as we do, or hope to do, into three Services with their distinct and special traditions? I will not attempt to answer that question, because I do not think that it is for me to pronounce one way or another on this vast but highly important subject.

Turning more directly to the subject of the debate this evening, I should like to come straight to the "nettle" of the heavy deterrent and Bomber Command. The responsibility for providing the British heavy deterrent force, which is the heart of our defence policy, rests squarely on the Royal Air Force. I do not propose to philosophise about the deterrent, since we have covered that ground pretty fully in recent debates—


Would the noble Earl tell the House what the light deterrent is? He spoke of the "heavy deterrent". That is a new phrase.


I do not think it is a particularly new phrase. The spectrum of deterrents runs right through from conventional forces up to the heavy strike force. I was dealing with the heavy strike force; but I think it is generally accepted that deterrence exists at every level. I was wishing merely to direct your Lordships' attention to Bomber Command.

I should like to sketch as clear a picture as I can, within the limits of security, of the effectiveness of our deterrent forces. We believe that we possess, and shall continue for the rest of this decade to possess, a nuclear striking force capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on any potential aggressor. This implies, of course, the capacity effectively to penetrate the enemy's defences. We believe that Bomber Command, with the Thors and with the existing V-bombers, at present has that capacity. Nevertheless, we recognise that the development of close defence systems for vital areas, and wider area defence systems, will steadily reduce the effectiveness of a force like the present V-bombers, armed only with free-falling bombs. That is recognised.

How, in these circumstances, will Bomber Command retain its power of penetration? First, of course, by the introduction of more modern aircraft, capable of flying higher and further, and with a greater capacity to confuse and deceive the enemy's defence systems. The re-equipment, indeed the expansion, of Bomber Command with improved versions of the V-bomber is proceeding steadily. Secondly, as your Lordships know, we plan to introduce two successive weapons. Next year we plan to introduce the Blue Steel stand-off missile. Its speed, altitude and small radar reflecting area will make it an extremely difficult weapon to guard against. V-Bombers equipped with it will be able to attack their targets without themselves penetrating the most heavily defended areas.

Then, later, by the middle of the decade, we shall have the American Skybolt, an air launched ballistic missile which will enable us, or the V-Bombers, to reach major targets without having to penetrate enemy air defences at all. There have been attempts—mainly, I must admit, in another place—to cast doubt on this missile: whether it will work, whether the Americans will, in fact, continue its development, and whether they will wish to attach unacceptable "strings" to it. My Lords, I believe these doubts to be quite with- out foundation. You will have noticed that President Kennedy recently proposed to Congress that an additional 50 million dollars be spent on the Skybolt programme in the next fiscal year. This, I suggest, is a pretty good indication of the priority and importance which the United States Administration attach to this project.

But of course it is no good having a force which, theoretically, could reach the target if in practice it were caught on the ground. Obviously we must ensure that our deterrent force cannot be destroyed on the ground. At present, whilst the main threat to this country remains the manned bomber, we should get more than sufficient warning of the approach of enemy bomber forces to get our bombers into the air before their bases can be attacked. The position will, of course, change when the threat from bombers gives way to the threat from missiles and when the warning of attack may be reduced, in the worst case, to a matter of a few minutes. We are preparing to meet this situation.

We have arranged to disperse our bombers from their main bases in emergency and these arrangements are already regularly exercised. We have also concentrated on reducing the reaction time of the bombers—the time needed to get them into the air once the critical warning is received. With constant practice, scrambling times of less than one and a half minutes are already being achieved. Finally, we are now developing in the form of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station at Fyling-dales the means of ensuring the maintenance of radar warning against the missile threat.


Would the noble Lord answer a question, which I know has been asked before—namely, at what point does the scrambling time, the egg-timing period, operate? In other words, where are the aircrew or the aircraft when they start timing the one and a half minutes?


In the aircraft. In short, therefore, we believe that through this decade we shall retain in the V-bombers, with their progressively improving adjuncts, a nuclear deterrent force of very great power indeed. Having said that, I should like to say how glad I was to hear what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder had to say in that respect.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked about the next generation. I can only repeat that we believe that for this decade our present generation of weapons and missiles and their vehicles will suffice. However, a very close study of what our contribution should be in the next phase is now being made; but further than that I cannot go. Incidentally, my noble friend Lord Merrivale—I do not know whether this is the right moment to refer to this matter—was kind enough to give me notice about Wagtail. I am afraid I have not been able to pursue his little bird to its nest, but I shall try to put salt on its tail and will let him know the results.

Next, the air defence of this country. Your Lordships already know that it is no longer realistic to attempt to provide a secure defence for this country as a whole. The emphasis to-day is rather on the defence of the deterrent bases. As long as the main threat to this country is from manned bombers, we shall continue to need fighters, and the Bloodhound missile squadrons, to defend the deterrent bases. Our fighters, Javelins and Lightnings, are equipped at present with Fire-Streak missiles and will provide flexible area defence extending well out from our coasts. The Bloodhound 1, whose deployment will be completed this year, will provide the close defence of the main deterrent bases. Together we believe that these two ranges of weapons would take a very heavy toll indeed of any attack.

That is the position to-day. When we move fully into the missile era we shall, of course, continue to need fighters to deal with aircraft intruding into our air space for reconnaissance or other purposes or attempting to jam our radar systems. For several years to come this rôle will be filled by the Lightning. Orders have now been placed for later versions of this aircraft which will have an even better performance than the Mark I which is now in service, and an air-to-air guided weapon capable of a much wider angle of attack


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again, but has the noble Earl left the point of Blood- hound? Is he going to refer to Blood-hound Mark 2 or not?


My Lords, I will come back to Bloodhound again. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I think suggested, in talking about the Lightning, that there were severe anatomical restrictions on the pilots who can fly this aircraft—that pilots with a thigh length, I think, of greater than 17 inches would be unable to get out of the aircraft in an emergency. There is, of course, always a problem, I understand, about space in a fighter, particularly one carrying as much equipment as does the Lightning, but I am glad that I am able to reassure the noble Lord about this, and also to reassure myself, since I have a thigh length (I measured it just now) of 18 inches. The restriction on Lightning pilots applies to officers over 6 feet 1 inch tall and with thighs longer than 25 inches. In fact, I think this would mean the rejection of only about 1 or 2 per cent. of the pilots who would otherwise fly this machine. I myself was at Wattisham on Monday and can vouch for the fact that Lightning Squadrons do not have to compete with the fairground for midgets.

There is one further matter on the question of air defence. We shall, of course, still need a radar warning and control system to deal with aircraft, and we are in fact planning to introduce a new system which will have not only a higher performance but also a much greater degree of automation. Here, in answering a point touched on by Lord Shackleton, I should just like to mention that the new system will have a dual rôle in peace time: air traffic control.

I should now like to turn to the rôle of the R.A.F. overseas. I have recently had the chance, which I greatly valued, of seeing something of our Forces in the Middle East and the Far East. I should have liked to convey to your Lordships the rather heartening impression I brought back of the build-up of our air-power in those theatres—and the same applies to Cyprus—of modernisation and of substantial re-equipment, but I do not think there is really time. Be that as it may, it is quite clear that the problems which the Royal Air Force must surmount will become steadily more exacting as more modern and sophisti- cated aircraft and equipment are spread more widely about the world.

Three particularly important developments are planned in this field to develop the Royal Air Force's capability in Europe and elsewhere abroad. First, there will be the introduction of the T.S.R.2 which is now in the development stage; and, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I would say that it should come into service in the middle of this decade. I should just like to say about this aircraft, although I think it is probably unwise to talk too much about an aircraft still not yet flying, that the Air Staff believe it is difficult to overstress the significance of this revolutionary aircraft, and it will be a key feature in our future plans, both in Europe and further afield.

Secondly—and I am still dealing with our Forces overseas—there will be the use of the United Kingdom Fighter Force for overseas reinforcement on a very much wider scale than has been practised so far. And, thirdly, we shall be introducing the Bloodhound Mark 2 surface-to-air guided-missile system which is being specifically designed for transport by air, so that it can be moved readily at need to reinforce the close air defences of any of our important overseas bases that may be threatened. My noble friend asked me a number of questions about the deployment of the Bloodhound Mark 2. I do not think I can give him a great deal of satisfaction about that, but I think I can say to him that at the moment its deployment is envisaged in the Near East and Far East theatres.

In reading back through your Lordships' debates, have been struck by a thread that runs through them: persistent pressure for a bigger and better Transport Command. I feel that that pressure was justified, not least because I have pushed at this particular door myself. I was not, therefore, surprised at the attention which your Lordships have paid to Transport Command in the debate this afternoon. Can we, in fact, be satisfied with our build-up here? The key to the successful fulfilment of our overseas commitments lies very largely in the strategic transport force. The existing fleet of 10 Comet 2s and 23 13ritannias is already the equivalent of a pretty large airline, as anyone who has seen the airfield at Lyneham, full of Comets and Britannias, would appreciate. We have now ordered 5 Comet 4.Cs and we expect to take delivery of them all next year. To supplement this fleet we have, as your Lordships well know, placed an order for 10 Belfast freighters.

Some noble Lords have suggested that since the Belfast will not come into service until 1964—that is the planned date and remains the planned date—there will be a considerable period during which we shall have no strategic freight capacity. But it must be remembered that, for the most part, we rely for the equipment of our Forces overseas on stockpiles built up in the various theatres. Thus in an emergency we need move equipment in these stockpiles over only shorter ranges, and for this purpose our tactical freighters, the Beverley and the Argosy, are admirable. Over the next few years, however, we shall have coming into service an increasing number of equipments which will be extremely costly and therefore uneconomic to stockpile. I refer, in particular, to the various guided-missile weapons which are being introduced, like the Bloodhound Mark 2. For these costly items overseas stockpiling is impracticable, and that is one of the principal reasons why we shall need the Belfast. Meanwhile, it is not really correct to suggest that we have no strategic freight capacity at all. The R.A.F. Britannia, with its specially strengthened floor, can carry a pretty useful load: and, except over the longest ranges the Beverley can carry even bulkier cargoes.

The strategic airlift is, of course, under the centralised control of Transport Command. The medium-range element of the force, is, however, distributed in the various theatres, and its primary task is to move troops and equipment from the main overseas bases to the forward bases. At present it consists of Beverleys and Hastings, but it is about to be increased by the 56 Argosies which have been ordered, and of which the first should be in service by the end of this year. These Argosies will be a very substantial addition indeed to the theatre airlift.

The third element of the Transport Force consists of the short-range lift for stores and men in support of the Army in the forward areas. As a glance at the chart at the back of the Memorandum will show, there is going to be a major expansion—it has already started—of the helicopter forces supporting the Army in the field. The twin-rotor Belvedere is coming into service, and deliveries of the gas-turbine-engined Whirlwind will soon begin. Later, these will be joined by the Wessex, with its much improved performance.

Thus, this year we are beginning to reap the benefits of the increasing capacity of the Transport Force. The series of exercises which have been planned in conjunction with the Army for this year is the largest ever to take place in peace time. I should like to snatch one example, which is the exercise now in progress. It is a joint Army-R.A.F. exercise called "Fabulist". Strategically, this exercise has entailed the airlift of the best part of a brigade group from here to Cyprus and back, while tactically it has involved the biggest paratroop drop this country has mounted since the Rhine crossing.

I asked earlier whether we could be satisfied with the build-up of Transport Command. I hope I have shown that a very substantial advance has been made during the past year, and that the momentum can be maintained. But the frank answer to my question is, No. We certainly anticipate that the demands on our transport forces will grow larger and more stringent. We shall need, and we plan to have, greater capacity, greater range and greater flexibility. For this reason we are particularly keen to see a further move towards the vertical and short take-off transport aircraft. In the theatre transport rôle, we are therefore naturally studying the problem of a replacement for the well-tried Hastings and Beverleys; and good take-off and landing performance is one of the main things we are looking for. We axe also studying the further re-equipment of the short-range tactical element of the force with short and vertical take-off aircraft.

Finally, my Lords, and I hope not under-rating its importance, I should like to say something about Coastal Command, with which a number of previous speakers have dealt at some length in this debate—the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friends Lord Merrivale and Lord Ampthill. Even in this nuclear age, we cannot begin to overlook the importance of sea com- munications to these islands and to the N.A.T.O. Alliance. These vital lifelines must be safeguarded, and part of the responsibility for this falls to Coastal Command in co-operation with the Royal Navy. Aircraft of Coastal Command work and train in very close cooperation with the Navy to fit themselves for the difficult and arduous task of detecting, fixing and destroying enemy submarines. This involves very long patrols, often in bad weather, and a high degree of teamwork. In their exercises, Coastal Command frequently work closely with the maritime air forces of our N.A.T.O. Allies, and have given a good account of themselves in their anti-submarine rôle.

I fear that I may not answer all the questions put to me on this, but I have an eye to the clock. However. I should like to say a word about the workhorse of Coastal Command, the Shackle-ton, and the question posed by a number of noble Lords about a Shackleton replacement. There is an extensive modernisation programme in progress, virtually completed, for the Shackleton. We are satisfied that these aircraft, with their improved equipment, should be fully adequate in the maritime rôle for several years to come. The Shackleton embodies all the essential qualities of a maritime aircraft—a long range and an ability to fly at low speeds and at low altitudes—and is capable of carrying all the weapons which exist now or which will be coming into service in the near future. I think I can give my noble friend Lord Ampthill the assurance he asked for on that point. However, the Air Staff are already working out ideas about its ultimate replacement. I am afraid that I cannot say more than that at present: but it is, however, recognised as a problem of considerable importance.

So much, my Lords, for material. But, however good the material, the R.A.F.. of course, is only as good as the officers and men who man tit. I should like briefly to review the present position and, in the light of some of the questions posed by speakers in this debate, to discuss the problems which confront us. First, there is the problem of recruitment, which has received, quite rightly, fairly concentrated attention in this debate. Recruitment to Cranwell (which will, of course, provide most of the officers who will go right to the top of the Air Force) is satisfactory. That is the first point. But to fly most of its aircraft, the R.A.F. depends on recruits under the direct entry scheme, and here, frankly, things are not going as well as my right honourable friend would like. The problem is not one of an absolute shortage of applicants it is a shortage of applicants of the right calibre. On one point of principle, however, I think the Air Force is absolutely right: that is, that they feel there can be no question of lowering standards in order to keep numbers up. That said, however, I should like to assure my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and other noble Lords who have referred to this aspect of the matter, that everything possible is being done to improve and refine the R.A.F.'s selection machinery, and that the effectiveness and flexibility of that machinery will be kept under very close review.

In addition, I am sure your Lordships will agree that everything possible has been done to make the conditions of direct entry for air crews attractive and varied. Here I should like to take the opportunity of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the bouquet which he bestowed on the Government for the prompt way in which they have carried out the recommendations of the Grigg Committee's Report. In view of this, I cannot think that questions of cash or career prospects are any real bar to recruitment, and I should like to say how entirely I agree with and endorse what my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye had to say about that. A tangential point here, I think, is the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he referred to the possibilities of erosion through a fall in the value of our money. On that, I should just like to draw his attention to the fact that there is, of course, provision for automatic review of Service pay every two years.

Why, therefore, are we not getting all the officers we need? This is a question to which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is constantly giving attention. One of the main factors, apart from the demand in all walks of life for young men of enterprise, seems to be the belief that flying in the Royal Air Force is coming to an end. It is a point on which my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye laid a great deal of stress. My Lords, nothing could be further from the truth. As my right honourable friend said in the debate on the Air Estimates in another place recently—and I am paraphrasing his words—the Air Force will need at least as many pilots in 1971 as it does to-day, and this will probably be the case in 1981 as well. Of course, equipment is getting more complicated and sophisticated; of course, there is bound to be an increasing measure of automatic techniques. But, quite apart from the more routine but still exacting tasks of flying the modern transport aircraft, there are few tasks more demanding than the control of weapon systems such as those of the V-Bomber, the Lightning and the TSR.2. In short, we believe that the Air Force will continue to offer masses of opportunity for flying and for the exercise of all the skills which go with flying modern aircraft.

These opportunities, my Lords, are now coming earlier to the young men who join the R.A.F. as pilots. Noble Lords may have seen the report in The Times the other day of the scheme on which the Air Ministry embarked some three years ago under which really outstanding young pilots are able to join the V force as soon as they earn their "wings". After three years' service with the Force, they are able to graduate as the first pilot and captain of a V-bomber. The first officer to succeed under the new scheme is a flying officer aged 23. His example should encourage all young men who are keen to fly and who are interested in a career in the Royal Air Force.

What success has been met with in our attempts to deal with this important shortage? I think it is a little reassuring to find that in recent months there has been a sharp increase in the interest shown in careers as general duties officers. In the first quarter of this year, the number of inquiries about aircrew careers has more than doubled. It is too early yet to say whether this welcome revival of interest would in fact give the Air Force the extra aircrews it so badly needs, but there is at least ground for a certain measure of optimism.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, referred to the university air squadrons in this general connection. As your Lordships will be aware, the future of the squadrons is to be reviewed later this year. In these circumstances it is hard for me to make any comment, but I can say that the wisdom and experience which the noble Lord has on these matters will mean that very careful note will be taken of his remarks in this debate this afternoon.

As regards airmen, your Lordships will be pleased to hear that recruitment in general is going well, and that there is every prospect that we shall reach the target' for 1963 of 135,000 adult males in the Service. There are certain areas of difficulty, but we hope that they too can be overcome. I was glad that the nob1,2 Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to the Women's Royal Air Force. The R.A.F. is very fortunate in having this important and efficient sister Service working as its partner, and I am glad to be able to say that officer recruitment to the W.R.A.F. continues to improve. I think the number accepted for officer training in the first quarter of 1961 was 39, compared with 7 in the first quarter of last year; and the same goes for airwomen, 536 compared with 389. I think that those figures are broadly satisfactory.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also referred to the rôle of the R.A.F. Regiment. I do not wish to detain your Lordships too long this evening, so I will say merely that I shall be happy, if necessary, to write to the noble Lord about the rôle of the R.A.F. Regiment. But I can give him straight away categorical assurance that there is no intention of using the R.A.F. Regiment as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water. There is no intention of that kind at all. Personally, I am very glad, because I once had the honour to command a squadron of the R.A.F. Regiment in Greece; and very good I found them, too.

Finally, the question of work study to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also referred. On that, I would just make three brief comments. First, there are now more than 200 officers and men trained in work study techniques, employed full-time on work study in R.A.F. Commands. The total Service manpower savings attributable to this last year were 300, so that on my reckon- ing there is a net gain of 100. Secondly, the work study of the arrangements for refuelling and rearming Javelin aircraft with Firestreak resulted in a saving of 42 men per squadron. Finally, work study has proved extremely useful in the planning stages of new projects, such as, for example, the Transport Command base at Lyneham. It is a matter to which the R.A.F. rightly give a great deal of attention, and I can also say, without going into detail, that I understand there is some delegation of financial powers, in this and other respects, to Commands.

The conditions in which men and their families work and live are no less important, and we have not lost sight of this fact. For example, over one-third of the f18 million provided in the Estimates for new major works services at home is to be devoted to building new married quarters and other accommodation. This will enable the Air Force to double the rate at which it has been completing married quarters, and to reach a figure of some 2,000 quarters a year—which is, in fact the target it has been aiming at for some time now. Nor are single men being forgotten. During the last year, eighteen new barrack blocks in this country have been completed, and a further eight have been modernised. They are on the basis, I think, of four men to a room, which is a far cry from the barrack rooms of Aircraftman Shaw's day. Work is on hand, I might mention, on a further 60 blocks. There is, in fact, a very major programme of accommodation building in hand.

Special attention is being paid—and I feel rightly so—to the improvement of accommodation and amenities abroad. This year, the R.A.F. plan to spend some £3½ million on domestic accommodation and facilities for recreation abroad in Gibraltar, El Adem, Cyprus, Singapore, and, of course, Aden. One of the biggest tasks is the improvement of conditions in Aden and the Persian Gulf, where there has been so large an increase in strength in recent years. My Lords, I could give you any number of statistics about the building programme in what has undoubtedly been a trouble spot in this respect, Aden. I could blind you with figures about new barrack blocks and married quarters, schools, swimming pools, N.A.A.F.I.'s, and the rest of it. They are, indeed, pretty impressive.

But having recently had the chance of visiting Aden, I think you might prefer it if l were to give you, very briefly, the general impression which I formed there.

Having listened with some disquiet to your Lordships' debates about conditions there, I naturally asked to be shown as much as possible in a very short space of time of the conditions in which the Services live in Aden. I was, in fact, shown a very great deal of both the good and the not so good. Admittedly, there are some Service families still living in conditions which I personally should prefer Service families not to be living in, but they are now becoming a very small minority indeed. My general impression was that by the end of this year the Service housing problem in Aden, for which the R.A.F. is, for the most part, responsible, should be "licked". I felt that it had been tackled with, I must say, real drive and determination, and, indeed, imagination.

I personally was greatly struck by the care and attention paid to the planning and design of the new married accommodation there. My own impression was that the great residual problem in Aden was that of amenities—the task of making life for the Servicemen there as attractive and varied as possible. This will take longer to deal with. Nevertheless, I felt that here too a great deal of progress had been made, both for the Servicemen and their families. Seeing, of course, in these matters is believing. Having seen and been shown, I must say I believe, at least in this particular case. While on Aden, may I just mention that I think I can give some satisfaction to my noble friend Lord Merrivale in that a new sick bay is being built on a pleasant site overlooking Sapper Bay. It will be completed by the end of this year, and will cost nearly £50,000.

My Lords, I fear that I have detained you for too long. May I, in conclusion, just say this? Unlike the noble Lord who moved this Motion, I have had no direct experience of service in the Royal Air Force. Yet I am of the generation which came of age at the start of the last war. I learned in those seven years that the Royal Air Force met, and more than met, the calls made upon it by the nation. Now, lately, I have had the chance—indeed the honour—of seeing something of the Air Force of to-day, at some of its home stations here and also overseas—in North Africa, Aden, remote Gan, Singapore and in Malaya. What has struck me most of all—and I say this with absolute sincerity—has been the spirit of the officers and airmen in the Air Force of to-day: their morale, their obvious efficiency; above all, a steadiness and firmness of purpose. Judging by that spirit, I have no doubt that the Royal Air Force of 1961, like that of 20 years ago, will meet, and more than meet, the calls made upon it by the nation.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, it is no fault of the airmen that this debate is ending at a late hour, hut, with more Business to come, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than another minute or two. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, did not say more in respect of the interesting speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Merrivale and Lord Ampthill. I may add that I listened with the deepest suspicion to the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, as a sailor intervening in this debate, but everything he said was 100 per cent. historically correct and the lessons he drew are absolutely valid today. It is true that at the beginning of the last war Coastal Command was equipped with Ansons with two 100-1b. anti-submarine bombs, and at the end of the war Coastal Command was equipped with aircraft that were carrying loads 8, 10 or even 15 times greater than that. The same thing applied also to the strike rôle which was assigned to Bomber Command before the war. By the end of the war, there was developed the specialised force that was necessary for strikes at sea. This is probably because in peace time we always lose the lessons of the last war and fall back into forms of organisation that are not really suitable.

I find it painful and uncomfortable to disagree with an ex-Chief of Air Staff, who furthermore is a Chancellor of a University, on the question of a unified service. The noble and gallant Lord said 'that this was not a matter of logic, but himself proceeded to demolish the case for a unified Service on logical grounds. It is not just a question of logic but of experience; not only of unified chaplains, but of getting over the inter-Service difficulty which leads to fragmentation of responsibilities and then to certain minor priorities being pushed by the Services at the expense of important ones, which are essentially hybrid between the Services. I am sure that we shall come to it sometime. I would have begun at the top instead of the bottom, and I suppose that a Chief of Air Staff could wear an Admiral-of-the-Fleet's uniform, if necessary.

I will not pursue the matter, except to say that I hope the noble Earl is not too optimistic about Skybolt. The Canadians depended on the Americans for Boemark and scrapped their fighters, and now they have lost an industry as well as a fighter defence. We are deeply suspicious, and I am sure that many people are, about the successful attainment of this apparently smoothly planned continuing development of the deterrent. It may come off, but I should not be in the least surprised, regretfully, to see it disappear somewhere into thin air.

I am grateful to the noble Earl for one thing. He gave us some information about the 1½ minute scramble with his crew in an aircraft. This information was rigorously refused in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Air, on security grounds. He said that a potential enemy Staff would love to have this information. I think the reason why we have got it is because the Secretary of State for Air did not know the answer and the noble Earl did. I would congratulate him on that and on his speech, and ask leave of the House to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.