§ 2.12 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON rose to move to resolve, Th0at this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1962 (Cmnd. 1639). The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the third successive occasion on which I have had the honour to introduce such a Motion to your Lordships, and this year perhaps we are discussing the most important White Paper since 1957. In 1957 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations charted the course of our defence policy over the ensuing five years: so now the 1962 White Paper looks ahead over the period covered by the 1960s. I do not think your Lordships will have expected a radical change 529 of defence policy in this new Statement. I hope not, because it would be very surprising if we were to find a Government changing direction sharply every five years or so. It takes time to plan and develop a new strategy; it takes time to provide and deploy the men to meet it; and, above all, it takes time to develop and produce the weapons which are needed to implement it.
§ It is, I believe, the strength of the Government's policy on defence, which is under attack in an Opposition Amendment this afternoon, that it has for so long been entirely stable and consistent. I must say that I am surprised to see noble Lords in the Labour Party laughing when I talk of a consistent defence policy.
§ My Lords, I note that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, has an Amendment on the Order Paper declaring, that he has no confidence in the policy as set out in the White Paper and asking your Lordships to support him in that declaration. But I do not think I should be wrong if I said that there is a great deal in the White Paper on which everybody in the House will be agreed. We have had the opportunity in this House of being able to read, or to listen to, the debate on Defence held a fortnight ago in another place, as well as those on the Estimates of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force; and certainly I came away with the feeling that there is much common ground between all Parties; that all Parties were in favour of the greater mobility foreshadowed in the White Paper; of an increase in our amphibious warfare capability and of Transport Command; of the setting up of the new Command arrangements outlined in paragraph 45; and with some exceptions, though not many, of the Government's policy of going for all-Regular forces.
§ The two areas of disagreement as I understand them—and I hope I am not misinterpreting the attitude of noble Lords opposite—is that of the balance of our contribution to NATO, as compared with our responsibilities in the rest of the world, and secondly, our declared intention of continuing our contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent. I will, if I may, concentrate most of my remarks on those two aspects of our defence policy.530
§ When I said that our policy in the defence sphere has been entirely stable and consistent, I did not, of course, mean that we should not pause every now and then, and take new bearings. In five years there has naturally been a change of emphasis. What we have been doing is to take stock of the aims and objects of our defence policy as well as the means of fulfilling them; and at the same time we have tried to forecast how the trends of the last five years—military, political and technological—are likely to develop during the remainder of the decade. As I have said, the Government have found that the two main lines of their five-year defence policy are still sound; that is to say, the maintenance of a British contribution to the nuclear deterrent of the West and reliance on smaller but more mobile and hard-hitting all-Regular forces. We believe that this broad pattern will remain as effective a contribution to the preservation of world peace during the next five years as it so clearly has been during the last five.
§ But there is a new emphasis on mobility, on unified command and on joint Service operations which is very important. Our experience in recent years, and not least at Kuwait, has given us the opportunity for the first time to put these new ideas to the test. I do not think that any of your Lordships would dispute that these ideas are right and that our task now is to develop them further into the kind of strategy which will enable British influence and military power to continue to exert itself throughout the world in the years to come. And I think you will have noticed that my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence, has set up a new Joint Service Staff, responsible through the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff to the Chiefs of Staff, to carry out this task. This new organisation will concentrate on the joint training and exercising of the three Services and will improve and strengthen the control of them in war. It does, in fact, reflect at Headquarters the idea of unified command in the field.
§ Now I should like to say a word about Britain's contribution to the nuclear deterrent because this is an important aspect of the balance which the Government have had to strike within their defence budget and where it has been 531 suggested that we have our priorities all wrong. I said, I think, last year in the Defence debate in this House that our contribution to the deterrent has been challenged from time to time on almost every conceivable ground—practical, political, economic, moral. This year there seem to be three main schools of thought. There are those who say that we do not need it; there are those who say we cannot afford it; and there are those who say that it is no good anyway.
§ My Lords, what about the "don't need it" school of thought? What matters is that we have these weapons; we have developed them over a long period of time, and we are able to use them as we think fit. The bombers are British, the bombs are British, the war-heads are British. They greatly increase the flexibility and dispersal of the nuclear forces of the West, and by complicating the Russian problem of defence against these weapons they add considerably to the retaliatory power of the Alliance. We know this; so do the Russians, and so do the Americans. And our possession of these weapons enables us to do two things which, without them, we should be powerless to do, no matter how strong our conventional forces might be.
§ First, it enables us to exploit to the advantage of the Western Alliance the nuclear balance which exists between the two giants—America and Russia. The fact that a European Power has the ability to inflict unacceptable damage on the Soviet Union—and the Russians know this—is the strongest possible safeguard against the danger that the Russians might be tempted to overrun Europe in the belief that America would not intervene with nuclear weapons for fear of the devastation which would be caused to her own country. This would, of course, be a miscalculation: but it is one which the Russians might increasingly be tempted to make as their own power grows. In other words, the nuclear stalemate, on which I believe the peace of the world depends, is not complete so far as Europe and this country are concerned without the British deterrent.
§ The second thing our possession of the nuclear deterrent enables us to do 532 is, I believe, to influence the course of world events much more widely than we could otherwise hope to do. We have been accused of keeping nuclear weapons simply for prestige. My Lords, why not, if the prestige is useful? And in this topsy-turvy world it is, I am afraid, not moral persuasion or self-denial which will count but the hard, uncomfortable possession of powerful means of retaliation. There are at the moment three members in what one might call the county championship—America, Russia and ourselves. We are well at the bottom of the table, but, my Lords, what a difference there is between playing in the county championship and being even at the top of the minor counties! I do not believe that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary would exert the influence he does to-day if it were not for our possession of these weapons. Indeed, I do not suppose that he would be meeting Mr. Rusk and Mr. Gromyko in Geneva on the same terms and with the same effect had this not been so.
§ My Lords, do we really feel that we as a nation at this vital juncture in world affairs ought to throw away the one bargaining counter which gives us a real voice in these supremely important matters? My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Air, I thought, disposed of the "Can't get through" school pretty effectively last week in another place. He made it clear that the capacity of the V-bomber force to react to the threat of both aircraft and missile attack is keeping pace with developments in Russia and that enough of our bombers would certainly get through to inflict an unacceptable amount of damage. This would still be true as the V-bombers are armed, first of all, with Blue Steel, the stand-off bomb which comes into service later this year, and, later on, with the long-range stand-off weapon Skybolt.
§ These are immensely important advantages and it is well worth paying something for them. What we pay in fact is about 10 per cent. of our total defence budget. Even this would not be saved unless it was suggested we could do without a bomber force of any kind. Any financial and manpower saving which might follow from a decision to give up our nuclear capability would be tiny compared with the sacrifice of 533 defence and influence that we should undergo.
§ That brings me to the second criticism of the Government policy by the Opposition and by the Liberal Party. If I understand the criticism aright—and I do not want to misinterpret what was said in another place—it is suggested that our major duty in the defence sphere is towards NATO, that we should increase our contribution towards NATO and that this should be done in two ways: first, by giving up the nuclear deterrent and thereby enabling money which at the moment is being spent on nuclear weapons to be spent on conventional forces; and, secondly, by cutting our commitments overseas and withdrawing troops so that they may be redeployed in the NATO area. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, who allege the waste of many hundreds of million pounds a year on the deterrent, would use the money thereby saved for schools, teachers' salaries, houses and old age pensions, and not on an increase of conventional weapons. I hope I have got that right.
Not quite. My Lords, I think this point might be left until later on. But not exclusively for those things.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I thought perhaps the noble Lord might interrupt me at this point and I armed myself with an article written by Mr. Eric Lubbock in yesterday's Daily Mirror, in which he says he is setting out Liberal Party policy, and those are exactly his words.
My Lords, let us examine these arguments. I have already dealt shortly with the argument that the amount spent on nuclear armaments would not give much in the way of men and money. If it is suggested that we should recruit more men with the money saved, I doubt very much whether these would be volunteers. And if noble Lords opposite think that the forces should rise above the figure of 390,000 to 400,000, which the Government have set as their target, then I think they will have to accept the fact that this means conscription—and they will have to put this fairly and squarely to the people of this country. What is more, they will have to make out a case why we are unable to meet our commitments with the number of men with which we are convinced it is 534 possible to manage. And from what commitments, my Lords, would they withdraw in the rest of the world? I think we are entitled to ask noble Lords opposite which of our obligations that we carry out at the moment they consider to be unnecessary.
What have been the main lessons which we have learnt since 1957? We have, I believe, to thank the nuclear stalemate—the policy of the deterrent, if you will—for the fact that war has been averted. But nowhere throughout the last five years has the world been entirely at peace. From China to Cuba the cold war has been waged relentlessly. The battle for men's minds has become more intense, not less intense. In the uncommitted countries, in the emergent nations of Africa and Asia, a spark may fan into a global blaze which neither East nor West could afford deliberately to bring about. With Europe protected by the nuclear umbrella, the real threat in these last years has not come from the direct confrontation of East and West in Germany, where the risks are too great and the stakes too high, even though we have had to take some extra precautions over Berlin in recent months; it has been forced outwards to the fringes of the Communist Empire—to the Middle East, to Laos, to Vietnam, to Cuba. Who knows where or when or how it will next appear? The only certain answer is that it will appear wherever there is instability; wherever the non-Communist Powers are weak; wherever there is retraction of Western influence; wherever there is abandonment of commitments.
It is for this reason that the whole of our defence policy is founded on a chain of world-wide alliances—NATO, CENTO, and SEATO. I do not think it is logical to try to distinguish between these alliances in their importance or our attachment to them; for while we play a major rôle in NATO, in the other alliances we occupy a special position because we have inherited influence and bases, interests and obligations, in those parts of the world which are not shared by those of any other European NATO nation.
I noticed that in another place it was suggested that we do not really have obligations to CENTO or SEATO because large forces were not earmarked 535 for them—I think that in point of fact the term used was "no forces". It does not follow that these forces will not be needed, and if it became apparent that we in Britain were not prepared to honour what the members of SEATO and CENTO firmly believe to be our obligations, by keeping ships, troops and aircraft in the Middle East and in the Far East, we shall have done much to weaken those organisations.
I know that over the past fifty years the number of our overseas bases has diminished; our purse has become lighter; the British Empire has evolved into the Commonwealth of Nations. But, my Lords, nobody who has visited or stayed in the Middle East or South-East Asia doubts that a great deal of our influence remains, finding expression in these alliances, and wherever it can remain an influence for the good, a stabilising factor in the world, a bastion against Communist expansion, we believe that it is vital and should not be weakened.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I have been listening very carefully. Am I to gather from that that the Government's defence programme in fact envisages the maintenance of at least its present number of garrisons in all these areas?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I think the noble Viscount does me an injustice. I do not think he can have read the Defence White Paper. The Government's policy in regard to our commitments overseas is very fully set out there. I am coming to the question of balance a little later, if the noble Viscount will wait for it.
That is why it is important that we should not only continue to station our Forces about the world, but find the means of deploying and operating them without too much reliance on fixed installations. This is a world-wide responsibility not shared by any other Western nation except the United States. It is recognised and welcomed by our NATO Allies who are in no doubt about its value to the cause of peace and therefore to the Western World as a whole. But it imposes a very great strain on our military and economic resources. Defence is now taking about 7 per cent. 536 of our gross national product—and that is more than any other NATO nation is spending, except the United States and France.
It has been generally recognised by our NATO Allies that in terms of foreign exchange we are bearing an exceptionally heavy burden; though, as the Chief Secretary announced on Monday in another place, this will be relieved to some extent—though not entirely—by the £54 million which the Germans have undertaken to spend in this country during each of the next two years. But how many of your Lordships, I wonder, would be prepared to see our total defence expenditure running at well over £2,000 million a year? Of course this could be done only at the expense of other equally important claims, such as schools, roads, health and aid to underdeveloped countries, on none of which are we spending as much as we should like; or at the expense of our economy as a whole, which would be disastrous for us and for the Western Alliance alike. So, if there is only so much available for defence it becomes a question of balance; of weighing our commitments and responsibilities both East and West of Suez. It is the Government's view that we have this balance about right.
My Lords, I have stressed our worldwide responsibilities and this need to strike a proper balance, because it is very important to remember these things when we come to consider Britain's contribution to NATO itself. The Government have made no secret of the fact that our forces in B.A.O.R. are for the time being somewhat below strength. We have between 51,000 and 52,000 men there, instead of 55,000. But your Lordships are by now well aware, from the debates which we have already had on this subject, that 1962 is and was always expected to be a particularly difficult year for the Army in its transition to all-Regular forces. We are going through a trough, which will gradually fill out as Regular recruitment gets into its stride—and I shall have more to say about this in a moment. But to conclude, because of this temporary shortage, that the whole of the Government's defence policy for the next five years is somehow out of balance would, I think, be to get our problems, 537 both short and long-term, sadly out of perspective.
We are, of course, taking special measures through the Army Reserve Act to fill out this trough while tension in Europe remains high. We have already sent to Germany our first guided-missile regiment, and a light anti-aircraft regiment; and another follows this month, in response to the Commander-in-Chief's request for antiaircraft reinforcement. Although we may not have our full contribution of ground forces at the moment on German soil, we have a division in this country which can be sent to reinforce B.A.O.R. at short notice if the situation demands it. Moreover, we have our plans ready to bring B.A.O.R. to war strength in a matter of days. In short, we are doing everything we can in the face of our present difficulties to meet our NATO obligations. We are maintaining in Europe the seven brigade groups which our Treaty obligations require.
It is not, I think, sufficiently recognised, as was pointed out by the Minister of Defence in another place, that our European and NATO commitments involve us to-day in supporting over 100,000 men in Europe, plus our Berlin garrison. These obligations, compelling as they are, do not become any stronger through being precisely quantified and written down in the form of an "assignment". Our forces are not "assigned" in the same way to CENTO and SEATO. But, as I have tried to show, our obligations under these Alliances are equally strong. The threat of Communism is world-wide. We are trying, with our allies, to maintain a world-wide chain of defence against it. But like every other chain, this one, too, is only as strong as its weakest link; and that link is most certainly not NATO at the present time.
My Lords, so far I have tried to fill in the broader background of the Government's Defence policy. Now, if I may, I should like to say a few words about the way in which we propose to carry it out. As I said at the outset, there is a new emphasis in this year's Statement on Defence on the mobility of our forces. We intend to concentrate in future on three main bases: one West of Suez, in the United Kingdom—and from here the strategic reserve can be sent out very quickly by air and sea to Europe, or to 538 any other trouble-spot North of the Middle East land and air barrier—and the other two East of Suez, at Aden and Singapore, from which we plan to cover the area South of the barrier. These three main bases will in future be the lynchpin of our world-wide operations.
This does not mean, of course, that we shall cease altogether to have forces in other places, such as Hong Kong, Malta, Gibraltar, and so on; we shall continue to have facilities in these places, but they will not be bases from which major operations can normally be launched and sustained. As our internal security commitments decline—for example in Singapore, if Greater Malaysia comes into being—we shall be able to concentrate our troops still more effectively in the places where they are needed.
Of course, dependence on these main bases does mean that we must provide the means of transporting and sustaining our forces across very large areas of the world. This we are planning to do by both sea and air. We already have an effective joint Service task force—as the operation at Kuwait showed. In the next two or three years this force will be considerably strengthened by the addition of a second commando ship, the "Albion", which will commission this year, and by the two new assault ships which the Government are ordering. These will be able to maintain a large number of troops afloat with all their heavy equipment for much longer than is now possible with the present Amphibious Warfare Squadron.
The Royal Marine Commandos are also being strengthened and given new weapons and helicopters; and the Navy will be well equipped with carrier-borne aircraft, guided missile destroyers and modern frigates, to protect the seaborne forces on their way to take part in operations and during the initial stages of fighting ashore.
The capacity of the R.A.F.'s Transport Command, too, will be very much improved by the Comet IV and the Argosy which are coming into service, and later by the Belfast freighter and the V.C.-10. These will also enable troops and equipment to be deployed more rapidly wherever they are needed. For short-range transport the Wessex 539 and Belvedere helicopters are being provided; and an order is being placed for a modified version of the Avro-748 to support the Army in the field and to replace the Valetta.
My Lords, what of the men themselves, on whom the whole strategy depends? For some years now the Government have had to face the charge—which we heard from some noble Lords opposite only a fortnight ago when we were discussing the Army Reserve Bill—that we had no hope of recruiting the men we want, particularly for the Army, and that, even if we did succeed in recruiting all those we said we wanted, they would not be enough to meet our commitments. I am glad to say that the first of these charges now looks like rebounding on its authors. I believe that the Army—about which there has been most concern—is going to be able to reach its target without any great difficulty. Indeed, by 1st April, 1963, we expect to have 1,500 more men than the minimum target of 165,000.
The improvement in the Army's fortunes has been the result, I may say, of an enormous amount of hard work, and not least on the part of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War. Better publicity has clearly played its part; and the television advertising campaign has been extremely successful. But I am sure that we could not have gone on "selling" the Army in this way if the image had not rung true. I believe that we are now really getting over to the public the solid advantages of a career in the Services. The improvement is not only in the numbers we have been recruiting, although these are impressive enough. Taking 1961 as a whole the numbers joining the Army were about 25 per cent. greater than they were in the previous year. But, apart from new recruits, the improvement is also showing in the numbers of men who are signing on for second and third engagements. There are, therefore, solid reasons for thinking that we are going to get the numbers of men we think we need. By this I do not mean simply reaching the target which we set ourselves for the beginning of 1963, but also keeping up the pace of recruiting in the years that follow.
540 The other question is whether our manpower targets are high enough. In 1957 we made certain assumptions about the size of the forces we should need, which have turned out to be remarkably close to the mark. Some commitments have not declined quite so rapidly as we thought they would—if at all; but others have dwindled or disappeared faster than we expected. But, taken all in all, our manpower requirements prove to have been predicted very accurately. The process of evolution to more mobile forces may well call for minor adjustments in the size of the separate Services within the total manpower, but we must get into the habit of thinking more in terms of total manpower, flexibly used, and not allow ourselves to be hypnotised (as some have been, I think, in the last few years) by rigid targets for each Service. The position in 1962 is, then, that we still want Forces of about the same size as we have been aiming at for some time past, and there is no longer any serious doubt of our ability to get them.
My Lords, this is our policy for the years ahead, and the Government have nothing whatever to be ashamed of in what has been accomplished in building up an all-Regular force, or with the equipment which is now coming into service. I noticed the other day that the spokesman from the Opposition Front Bench in another place said that the money has been spent but the weapons which have been referred to over the years as being forthcoming have for the most part never arrived. To speak, if I may, of my own Service, this year alone we have coming into service the new County class guided missile ships; Sea-slug; the Buccaneer; the new Ashanti class frigates; the Wessex helicopter, in its anti-submarine and commando-carrying version; the air-to-surface guided weapon Bullpup; the new anti-tank guided missile, the S.S.11, for the Commandos; and, last, but by no means least, our first nuclear submarine, H.M.S. "Dreadnought".
We are getting the men to build up our all-Regular force; the equipment is coming along. We are maintaining our contribution to the Western world in both conventional and nuclear weapons. We are supporting the Alliances to which we belong. We are honouring 541 our commitments to our friends. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1962 (Cmnd. 1639).—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 2.42 p.m.
LORD SHEPHERD rose to move, as an Amendment to the above Motion, to leave out all the words after "House" and to insert instead:
has no confidence that the policy as set out in the Statement on Defence, 1962 (Cmnd. 1639) will provide effectively for the defence of Britain.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, last week there was a unique occasion in Orpington in which, no doubt, the Liberal Party take great satisfaction, and to which the noble Viscount who leads the House reacted with his customary vigour. In speaking to his Party, in particular to the leadership of the Party, he said,
We should lead it, not by bad English or by language rich in platitudes.
We on this side of the House welcome that statement. We have felt for a long time that there has been far too much bromide in Ministers' statements, particularly—and I look now to the noble Lord, Lord Mills—on economic matters. The advice of the noble Viscount was delivered too late for it to apply to the White Paper which has been put before the House this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. In our view, it is a catalogue of clichés and platitudes. In many respects, in many parts, it is ambiguous, particularly that section dealing with NATO. If that paragraph were to be read in Paris or by the NATO countries, the people concerned would be bound to ask what, in fact, are Her Majesty's Government's intentions towards NATO.
§ Noble Lords on this side of the House regard this White Paper as disappointing. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, this Statement is a statement of the policy of the Government for the next five years. I should have thought that it would have been at least concise and purposeful. It is true that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has this afternoon delivered his customary speech with charm and clarity. In some ways, I will give it to him: he paints a rather different picture of the White Paper than as it is read. But, 542 my Lords, I do not propose to fall into the trap that has been set by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. In fact, he set out to reply to the debate in the other place. My task is not to reply to that statement: it is to make clear to this House the views of my colleagues on this side of the House.
§ Now in this debate we always have very good support from speakers. We are indeed pleased to see that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, will be replying for Her Majesty's Government. We always welcome the noble Earl—he is a very popular Member of this House—but I have been instructed by my noble Leader to say that we regard, and we hoped that the Government would regard, the Amendment on the Order Paper as a Vote of Censure. We have four Cabinet Ministers in this House. It is indeed surprising that, on this Vote of Censure, the Government have not thought it right to put up a Cabinet Minister to reply.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I am anxious not to interrupt the noble Lord in the course of his eloquent speech, but as this is the only opportunity I shall have of saying so, and it is, of course, entirely a criticism of my own judgment in the matter, which I accept as such, I would ask noble Lords to reflect on this. My noble friend Lord Dundee is the Assistant Deputy Leader of the House. There are four Cabinet Ministers: one is the Lord Chancellor: one is Lord Home, who is not available; one is Lord Mills, who leads us on economic affairs; and one is myself. I have spoken in this debate for the last two years running, and, although it was a great privilege and pleasure to do so on both of the two occasions, I felt—I may have been wrong—that the House would prefer to listen to my noble friend the Assistant Deputy Leader to-day, because much of what I should have wished to say on this occasion I have said twice already.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I shall leave it to my noble Leader to say whether he accepts the noble Viscount's explanation I have carried out my instructions
543 My Lords, I have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, very carefully, and I see no reason why we should not move the Amendment, which I now formally do on behalf of my noble Leader. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has asked the House to approve this year's Statement on Defence. It is noted that this Statement is a continuation of the famous, or infamous, White Paper of 1957. I wouid recall to the House that that particular White Paper of 1957 was not universally accepted even within the Conservative Party. I would remind the House that the noble Lord, Lord Head, resigned a few weeks prior to its issue. We have every reason to believe that the 1957 White Paper was in fact that of the Prime Minister. The Conservative Party has, on the last five occasions, supported that White Paper in this Chamber; and, therefore, when we are expressing our lack of confidence in the Government it applies equally to noble Lords opposite.
In brief, the 1957 White Paper stated that we were to depend more completely upon nuclear weapons, both strategic and tactical, and that there would be a very drastic reduction of conventional forces. The sole purpose of that decision—in fact, the Government never denied it—was not to meet the defence needs of the country, but was to contain expenditure on defence within a figure which they now have of about 7 per cent. of the gross national product. During the period of the Government's office we have spent within the region of £15,000 to £16,000 million. In the last five years the cost has continued.
Our complaint is not against the expenditure which has been involved; it is that, in spite of this colossal sum, this country is to-day less able to defend itself, to meet its obligations to the Commonwealth, and to meet the obligations which it has solemnly undertaken in various treaties. It is true that our dependence upon nuclear weapons has apparently increased, when their own viability has become more suspect. Our conventional forces throughout Europe and throughout the Commonwealth are undermanned, strained, and unbalanced. We expected strain in 1957, but I do not think anyone contemplated the present situation when we considered the 1957 544 White Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who then had the honour to represent Her Majesty's Government in defence, speaking in your Lordships' House, described the opposition to the White Paper as follows [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 203, col. 427]:The Government's policy has been represented by some simply as a political plan to end National Service; or as a questionable gamble which will give us missiles instead of men; or as a unilateral decision bounced upon our Allies and aimed at reducing the taxpayer's burden whilst side-stepping the consequences of the Western Alliance.My Lords, we have no strategic missile, we are desperately short of men, and if any of your Lordships have been to Paris or to Europe, I do not think you would be in any doubt that our Allies believe that they were "bounced" with this policy, a policy that was out of line with that of NATO, and which has become mare out of line as the years have gone by.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about nuclear weapons. So far as I am concerned, I have never had any doubt in this matter. I believed in 1957 (as was the case during the period of the Labour Government, and certainly now) that nuclear weapons, whether they were strategic or tactical, were an essential part of our armoury. I recognise that, in certain fields, certain political implications arise. I do not propose this afternoon to look at the political implications; to-day we are purely considering defence. My Lords, there is some loose thinking, I think, in regard to nuclear weapons. There is very little difference, if any, between strategic weapons and tactical weapons. Both are deterrents. The tactical weapon is really a replacement of the artillery barrage; and when I look across the House to the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and remember the barrage of Alamein and its destructive power, nuclear weapons rather fall into place. But if the strategic weapon is retaliatory pure and simple, it is then a deterrent, and I personally would keep it.
However, I would make that statement on two conditions. First, if we are to have an independent deterrent of our own, the cost and industrial requirement must be available to this country, not just to produce it but also to keep it 545 viable. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree that the real problem with these weapons is to keep them comparable with those of the enemy. All the time counter-measures are being developed, and therefore, if a weapon is to be viable, it must to that degree be ahead of any counter-measures of the enemy. My second condition would be that the conventional forces should remain balanced, mobile, and adequate for all the known tasks that may fall upon them.
My Lords, in 1957 the major problem was not warheads; by that time we had developed atomic warheads, and were verging on the hydrogen bomb. The real problem since then—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree—has been the provision of the delivery vehicle. In 1957 the Government had the V-bomber coming into service. There has been much criticism of this aircraft. Personally, I do not subscribe to that criticism; I think that these aircraft are very good aircraft of their type. But, my Lords, these aircraft are becoming extremely vulnerable. They are not so much vulnerable in their mission across Europe; they are particularly vulnerable on the ground. I believe that the Government recognised this when they decided to go ahead with Blue Streak. We went ahead and spent close on £100 million on the development of this vehicle. But Blue Streak itself has become vulnerable, because it has become vulnerable to attack, and I believe that the Government were right to cease production of it. But when the Government decided not to proceed with Blue Streak, and not to proceed with a supersonic bomber, then, in my view, in the context of the future, the independent nuclear deterrent of this country ended.
In that situation the Government decided to prolong the life of the V-bomber. They have gone ahead with Blue Steel. I am not going to be unfair, but I think the House is entitled to be reminded of the cost. This weapon originally cost £12½ million. When it is completed, it is estimated that it will have cost in the region of £150 million, which is a very heavy cost. Yet with the development of counter-measures in the Soviet Union, which we must anticipate, this vehicle has become obsolete, and the Government have 546 therefore decided to go ahead with an arrangement with the United States Government for Skybolt. The Americans are putting in a fantastic effort of labour and money to bring forward this vehicle, but it is still doubtful and questionable whether it will be available by the time Blue Steel is completely obsolete. I hope that Skybolt will become available, but again I must remind the House that the cost of this weapon will also be in the region of £100 million.
My Lords, we have therefore reached the situation, so far as our own independent deterrent is concerned, where we have no missile and where the life of our V-bombers is becoming limited. Is it right, just because the Americans have decided to proceed with conventional aircraft, with the supersonic bomber B58, to say that we also should continue in the same field? The American posture is completely different from our own. The Americans have aircraft well back from any possible attack, though even they are open to quick destruction. Three years ago I had the privilege of going to America to visit Strategic Air Command and the crews of bombers were sleeping beside their aircraft. That is how the Americans regarded the vulnerability of their aircraft. Our own aircraft on the ground are very close to any possible Soviet attack. Therefore, increasingly, with the known advance of Soviet missiles our own delivery vehicles become vulnerable and, in any case, may be regarded as direct incitement for attack on the ground.
I must say for myself that if I were convinced that we should have an independent nuclear deterrent, I would say we should have our own aircraft or missiles to deliver it. I would accept it if it were not at the expense of providing the conventional forces which General Norstad, the Head of NATO regards as the instrument that makes nuclear weapons credible.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about various weapons that Her Majesty's Government are bringing forward. I wonder whether he saw an article on this question in the Sunday Times three weeks ago. The noble Lord mentioned Seaslug, which is now coming in in the Navy, but is it not a fact that this weapon has been under production and development for fifteen years? Is 547 it not a fact that the original cost was £1½ million, and that in 1960 the cost was in the region of £60 million?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but he did really ask for interruption. The Seaslug was started under the Labour Government, who said that it would cost £1½ million.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Lord is now admitting that it was the Labour Government which started it, but in his speech he was taking the credit for bringing it into service. Is it not a fact that six ships are going to be equipped with this weapon at a total cost to be in the region of £140 million? This is according to the journalist of the Sunday Times, which I quote because it is not a paper which normally takes our view. These ships are to be equipped with a weapon, which, again according to the Sunday Times, is obsolete. The noble Lord shakes his head. I hope that he will brief his noble friend Lord Dundee to make a reply. This is a statement which has been made in a very respected newspaper. I do not know whether it is inaccurate, but it was printed in a paper read by millions every Sunday.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
It is not printed on Sunday. Let me turn to the Rotodyne. I listened with the noble Lord to the speech of Mr. Nigel Birch. According to the newspapers, everybody had great hopes of the Rotodyne, but the Government have suddenly decided that it is a white elephant. The cost has been between £11 and £12 million. Mr. Birch said that he thought he had scrapped it when he was Minister many years ago, yet we have continued with it until this very last moment.
I fully agree that in defence there are many unknown factors. I agree that a weapon may be proceeded with and for some reason or another delay may arise, during which the weapon may become obsolete. Our charge is that the Government have failed to watch and failed to act when a weapon has become obsolete. They have proceeded with it and there has been a fantastic waste of money. The Sunday Times article to 548 which I have referred described it as "the Rake's Progress". I suspect that in the old days a Minister would have been impeached for some of the squanderings, not only in defence but also in other sides of public policy, by Her Majesty's Government. It is fortunate that they are living to-day, when there is a plea of diminished responsibility.
My second condition for accepting an independent strategic nuclear deterrent is that we should have mobile and adequate conventional forces. We do not have these forces to-day. A few weeks ago I visited our Army in Germany and during the series of debates which we had on the Army Reserve Bill I sought to show the House how desperate was the manpower position of B.A.O.R. I do not retract any of the figures I gave them. Is it not a fact that in 1961 we had an Army strength of 217,000 men, and that during that period we were failing to provide adequately for our establishment in Germany and also failing to provide the full complement of men for our other overseas commitments? If we fail to do this on a strength of 217,000 men, how shall we provide it in 1962 with 185,000 men, and in 1963 with 166,000, to take the figure from the noble Lord's White Paper?
I was reading the Memoirs of the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein at the weekend. Good! I noted that when he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff he had a great fight with the Labour Government on manpower, but eventually he conceded the necessity for 305,000 men. May I ask the noble and gallant Viscount to say, when he speaks, whether, with his experience, he believes it possible for the Army to meet its present-day commitments on a figure of from 185,000 to 166,000 men? I am sticking my neck out on this, but I suspect that the Army would need in the region of 210,000 men to meet its present commitments.
We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that if there were an emergency we could bring up our contribution in B.A.O.R. within a matter of days. Is it not a fact that the emergency strength of B.A.O.R. would be in the region of 70,000 men? At the present moment, according to the noble Lord, we have 51,000. We have 549 to find 19,000 reinforcements. Are they going to come from our reserves in this country, from 3 Division that is being created, or are we going to call up men from civilian life into the Army in a matter of a few days? On the whole question of Reserves, I do not think you will get them quick enough to meet the type of commitment with which our Forces in Germany will be faced. You might, if you had a gradual build-up of tension, but the Russians do not work that way. They are great chess players: they hide their hand, and then act. I think it is utterly wrong to believe that you can meet your commitments by having your divisions, your troops, in the United Kingdom and get them over in time.
The Government would not accept some of the figures I gave with regard to B.A.O.R. Would the noble Lord not agree that on the question of the Royal Army Service Corps they are to-day 1,000 drivers short, which is roughly 26 per cent. to 27 per cent. of their strength? This is what I understood. When I asked a senior officer what they would do in the event of trouble, the answer I was given was that they had plans ready for calling up German civilian drivers. When you have an Army that is being trained to fight a nuclear war, can you really believe that you will be able to get German civilians to play a military part in providing the military supplies to that Army in action? I think it is madness. Our complaint has been that the Government have allowed the manpower situation to decline so badly in Germany that our military commanders are now in the position that they would have no alternative but to use tactical nuclear weapons at the very beginning. When we have pressed the Government before on this matter, they have said that the Army is being trained to fight a conventional war and a nuclear war. Of course they are. But the burden of our case is that the British military commanders have been placed in a position where they would have to use nuclear weapons from the very beginning. I am sure my noble friend Lord Ogmore will agree with me that that is completely contrary to the policy of General Norstad.
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord to 550 say that I also accompanied him on the visit to B.A.O.R., and I got the entirely different impression from the Commanders-in-Chief of B.A.O.R. that they are quite prepared and ready to fight a conventional war.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Lord will have an opportunity when he speaks later. My understanding—and if the noble Lord will remember, I repeated the question—
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, may also recall that General Stockwell has made the same observation.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
That is correct. I have no doubt at all in my mind that the British military commanders have been placed in a position that, in order to meet their commitments, they would have to use nuclear weapons from the very beginning. That is against the whole policy of NATO. General Norstad has repeatedly said that it is necessary to have a minimum force to withstand any attack that is made, in order that the military and political chiefs can assess the enemy's intention: is it a major attack, or is it some local incident?
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the Government, have said that what we can provide in the realm of defence must depend upon our economic capability. I, like all noble lords in this House, value freedom. I value freedom not only for my own country, but for the people in Europe. That freedom, in my view, can be maintained only with adequate defence. Therefore, is it not essential that we should be making ourselves so economically strong that we can provide an adequate defence. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Mills (and he knows a great deal about economics), that if our economic development, our industrial production, had risen at the same rate as that of the average country in Europe, we should be able to make a greater contribution to defence without any increase in the rate of taxation. It is the failure of Her Majesty's Government in the economic field that makes it necessary for the military commanders to work within a sphere where they are unable to meet the commitments that are laid upon them by the Foreign Secretary and by the Colonial Secretary.
551 I have only one last point to make—I tried to raise it on the Army Reserve Bill, but the noble Lord was very coy about it. Unlike the Minister of Defence, he did not speak about the obligation that Her Majesty's Government had accepted in regard to pay and allowances of the Forces. Is it not a fact that over two years ago the Government solemnly undertook to review the pay and allowances of the Forces? Is it not a fact that during the Defence debate in another place the Minister of Defence said that after the review there was every justification that the Service men, the other ranks, should have a 9½ per cent. increase in their rates of pay, and officers 5 per cent.? But because of a pay pause adopted by Her Majesty's Government, they are welching upon their obligation to the men who have taken service under the Crown. These men have no opportunity to use the industrial power of unions to fight their case, but are controlled by the Army Act. The Government have said: "You are entitled to this increase, but you are not going to get it all at once; you will have it spread over two years." I think this is a despicable action on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
My Lords, I have been speaking, possibly, for too long. I feel conscious that I have not spoken, as I should have done out of courtesy to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in regard to the Navy. I feel conscious, also, that I have not spoken on disarmament, a matter which must be in everyone's mind at this moment. It is a subject which deserves a speech and, indeed, a debate to itself. I will leave that to my noble friends who will follow me, except to say (and I am sure that all my colleagues will join with me in this) that I wish our Foreign Secretary all the very best in the negotiations now taking place in Switzerland. I would end on the theme with which I started—namely, leadership. I spoke of our having had too much of bromides. This country, I believe, economically and militarily, faces as great a danger as it has ever done in its history. I believe that it needs leadership as never before. Again, I go back to the Memoirs of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. He was asked what was leadership, and he said: 552The capacity to rally men and women to a common purpose, and the character that inspires confidence.I ask the House: how do the Government measure up to that? I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble Leader.
§ Moved, as an Amendment to the above Resolution, to leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("has no confidence that the policy as set out in the Statement on Defence, 1962 (Cmnd. 1639), will provide effectively for the defence of Britain.").—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 3.20 p.m.
My Lords, there is a long list of speakers this afternoon, and I think it would ill become one who is speaking from this particular Bench for the first time—and quite probably the last—to keep your Lordships for too long. I shall do my best, therefore, to condense my remarks as much as I can on a subject which it is exceedingly difficult to condense, and I will try not to repeat what has been said in a debate in another place, or to quote voluminously from the public Press, which we are all able to read and make up our own minds about.
Obviously, it is for me to try briefly to clarify the Liberal attitude to Defence, and especially to the nuclear deterrent. We have already had a little fun with the First Lord on the subject of the Daily Mirror, and I shall not pursue that, except to take in my hand the Daily Mirror, to which he referred, and to tell him that I think he did not read the whole of the article, but only the part of it which suited his purpose. What, in fact, Mr. Lubbock, the recently elected Member for Orpington said, was as follows:Britain's rôle in Western defence must be the one it is fitted for—conventional forces using conventional weapons.He went on to ask:What would Liberals do with the saving on H-bombs?The operative word is, of course, "saving". Had he been an older politician, he might have used the words, "saving, if any." For there, I think, is the nub of the matter. The size of the saving is anybody's guess. We should like to see bigger, better-equipped conventional forces. Generally speaking, 553 that is what we should like to see, and I think that is what Mr. Lubbock meant. Nevertheless, the First Lord is entitled to his reading of the article, and I am entitled to mine. We feel that it is possible that more and more people in the country are swinging over to the Liberal view in this matter. If that is not so, it is difficult to explain the results of the recent by-elections. Recently I saw a statement by a spokesman of the Bow Group, an organisation which I think has some importance nowadays—or so I am told. As a Liberal, I am not a member of it, but I am not entirely unconnected with it.
The question has been raised of whether our attitude is "noble" or "ignoble". The noble Viscount who leads your Lordships' House, referring to a speech by my noble Leader not so long ago, referred to his attitude as "ignoble." I am not sure where the borderline lies between nobility and ignobility in a matter which seems to me to be one of solid fact, resources, and common sense. We feel that the country should cut its coat according to the cloth available. Not to do so produces a series of problems leading to pay pauses, a capital gains tax, and all the rest of it. One does not please the City of London, and the other does not please the unions. This is the result of over-spending one's income. We should like to see the technical and scientific knowledge, the "know-how" and resources generally of which we are capable, pooled with our American allies. Naturally, we should like that, for we do not want to pull out of this effort at all. We should like to see our bases and training facilities freely used and given for the same purpose. Thus, surely, there would be more money available for effective up-to-date and, perhaps, increased conventional forces.
It is said, "But what about prestige?" The First Lord has already mentioned that in his speech. He said, "What is the matter with prestige?" Nothing at all, so long as it is kept in proportion. "Face" in the East is a great thing. Extraordinary things are done in support of "face", but I am not sure that it is right just because they are done. Did our small Allies in former wars, who were largely dependent on us for their resources, or to continue the war at all, lose face? When the war 554 was over, did we look upon them with any less respect than we did before? I doubt it. We cannot always remain what Messrs. Yeatman and Sellers referred to as "Top Nation." It is not easy to have to admit that there is not as much in the till as there used to be; but that is the fact. And the question is: what are we going to do about it? To be categorical on this subject without full knowledge of the facts and figures (of which, obviously, those of us on these Benches are not in possession in the way that the Government are) would be rather dangerous, because one could well make, in all sincerity, some statement which was quite unsound. Therefore, we are prepared to be a little careful, and not to state categorically that the Government are 100 per cent. wrong on Defence, because one must know the facts in order to make such a statement. But we are somewhat suspicious.
I have heard it said—and so have many of your Lordships: "It is all very well to talk about abandoning the independent nuclear deterrent, and relying on the Americans. But" (the argument goes on), "suppose in due time the United States began to take more interest in what was happening to the East of them than in what was happening to the West"—in other words, showing signs of "writing off" Europe.
No. I said that they might take more interest in future in what was happening Eastward of the United States—in other words, China.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but that was the point I was making: that China is not to the East of the United States.
I bow to the superior cultural knowledge of the noble Viscount, but I think it was clear to most Members of the House what I meant. I should like to say that that possibility, under the present Administration in Washington, is so negligible as to be virtually non-existent. It is a risk which I think one could easily accept, in 555 view of the advantages which would derive from this reorganisation and the great saving that I have indicated.
That is all I have to say in clarification—if, indeed, it is clarification—of the Liberal point of view on this matter. We have always said the same thing. We have not deviated on this question of the independent nuclear deterrent. We have stuck to our point that we cannot afford it, and what we want to do is to see how much money there is, and then to put it to its best effect. It is a matter of opinion whether the Government are right or we are right.
May I now, very briefly, touch on a few of the points in the White Paper itself? First of all, there is another matter of what one might call the tools of the killing trade. We are promised a new tank called the Chieftain. When we were in Germany recently we saw the Conqueror tank which we were told weighed 84 tons. I have looked this up, and I think it is rather less. Even so, it is a very heavy tank, and I rather wonder whether the question of bridge classification has been studied from this point of view. In the case of the new Chieftain tank—I am not sure whether it has actually been ordered or not—one hopes that it is the efficiency of the tank and the men in it rather than mere weight which is so impressive.
May I move from the tools to the men? Paragraph 36 of the White Paper states:… the numbers we can obtain by voluntary recruitment will be adequate for our strategy in future.My Lords, there is great harping on numbers in these White Papers. I believe quality is as important, if not more important. It is possible "to go into the highways and byways and ask them all to come in", but is that actually what we want? Of course it is not. We need men of intelligence who really want to join the Services and stay in them and not watch the clock for the day that they are going out—in other words, what the Americans call "dedicated men". Mere numbers are not the whole story. I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would agree with me there. Lately we have debated the Army Reserve Bill at considerable length and that shows straight away that the numbers are not there. That is really what it comes to, 556 and that was the reason for the Bill. The noble Lord has said, "Oh, but it is only temporary and we are getting them in". Recruitment goes up and down; we have a good year and then a bad year. We do not know exactly what causes it, but I believe that quality is what is required, and this is hardly ever mentioned in Government statements. I believe that it should be.
In this connection, one of the things which go tremendously against recruitment is that young men nowadays know what happened to their fathers where pensions are concerned. We have had many debates in your Lordships' House on pensions, and probably will again, and it is not my intention to take up the time of the House now on the matter although in my view it is relevant. But I should like just to quote one or two words from a debate in another place in December, when Mr. Paget, speaking from the Labour Benches, and addressing the Secretary of State for War. said—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord can quote what was said in this Session by anybody other than a Minister. I myself was pulled up over it, so I think I can speak without any kind of superiority on that.
I accept that from the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who certainly knows more about these matters than I do. What in fact was said was to the effect that if generations of young men now heard from their fathers that they are going to be paid in bad money, which is what pensions amount to, they would not join the Army; and that is the long and short of it. You will not get recruits from these young men.
The late Lord Jeffreys, whom many in your Lordships' House will remember and who was the much respected Colonel of my own Regiment, has now left us and with his passing went some of the drive in this matter, but I should like to try to carry it on if I possibly can because I believe it is in the long-term interest of the country as a whole that people should be given pensions which are commensurate with what they can expect when they join. That seems to me to be the point.
557 I am coming towards the end of my remarks. In paragraph 39 of the White Paper we are told:Increasing stress will be laid on interchangeability of functions and mutual support and assistance between the three Services, so that we get the best value out of our Service manpower as a whole.It goes on to say that joint Service exercises, lectures and discussions will be held. I doubt whether any of these will do any good without a uniform system of staff organisation and staff duties between the three Services. It is all in the right direction but I believe we must go much further. The White Paper goes on to say:It is intended to integrate the long-range communications systems of the three Services.Good!As a first essential step towards this a common signals procedure is being evolved …".That is all to the good, my Lords, but can we not take it a little further, if that trend can be pursued—and I very much hope it can—in the direction in which it is heading, which must ultimately be towards the emergence of a staff corps? For too long staff officers were unpopular and suspect. It was the result of the First War, when even the mast junior staff officer wore a red cap-band and red badges, which made him unpopular. In the last war none of the Services allowed officers to wear such badges, with the result that the unpopularity and suspicion disappeard. I believe that a staff corps could eventually emerge, trained to deal with the problems of what are at present three different Services.
I remember advocating this in your Lordships' House some years ago and it was taken up by a noble Lord opposite who said, "Do not let us have professional staff officers; they are no good at all". I have never advocated that. I was suggesting that officers should return regularly to regimental duty, or aboard ship or back to their units, so that they never "lost touch". But the members of the staff corps would thus be trained on a mutually overall system, and there would not be, as there still is now, a little niggling and jealousy between the Services. It has been contended that this rivalry between Services is a very good thing, but frankly, that is nonsense. It wastes time and money, and war is a 558 much too serious business for that. However, I very much doubt whether this will happen in my lifetime, although a universal defence force might emerge eventually.
The military correspondent of the Daily Telegraph wrote an excellent article on the subject about a month ago, which I commend to your Lordships' notice. It was very well thought out and I should think that the trend, if continued, must be in the interests of the country both as an economy and as an increase in efficiency. Regimental traditions and traditions of the different branches of the Services can be harmful when they become obstructive. These traditions in the mess, and so on, have been a cause of great fun and amusement but the moment they become obstructive they should be firmly put to an end.
Before going further with my speech I wonder whether I might go back again to the start of my remarks and sum up a little on the way I feel, because I had very little time to prepare my speech. Our major criticism here of the British deterrent policy is that we cannot afford to keep it up to date in terms of current technical development. The choice of this country really lies between greater integration with the NATO nuclear armies, with incidental financial savings, and maintaining an expensive, largely obsolescent, independent Army.
British production capacity for weapons is probably less than a tenth of that of the Americans. Russian capacity is probably substantially less than that of the Americans, though clearly greater than ours. So it could be argued, I think, that the British effort is superfluous from the point of view of the balance of power alone. Therefore, should we not be content to form part of an overall Western defence system using their weapons, but with our own warheads? We could better afford to finance a part of the American development programme for new weapons than we could to continue to maintain and patch up our ageing and not very convincing independent weapons system. That, I think, as nearly as I can, sums up the view of the Liberal Party on this matter. I hope that it will commend itself to your Lordships at least for consideration.
559 I should like to finish my remarks with a quotation which I found a few days ago in my house from an admirable book by the late John Buchan called Memory Hold The Door. I think you will enjoy it; it is very short and it has to do with the development of the Armed Forces, which I am so anxious to see. John Buchan wrote, years ago, as follows:A soldier's professionalism differs from that of other crafts. He acquires a body of knowledge which may be varied and enlarged by new conditions, such as new weapons and new modes of transport, but which in essence is a closed technique. … The reason is that, unlike art, law and medicine, there has, in the past, been little in the way of philosophy of first principles behind it to stimulate evolution: a powerful mind might work brilliantly inside its limits with little impulse to alter the fundamentals. Change and expansion were consequently in the nature of a revolution, and were brought about by either a great genius …I hope that Mr. Watkinson is one—or—slowly and grudgingly—by some cataclysmic pressure of facts. Hence the more competent and better-trained a soldier was, the more adverse he would be to alter his traditional creed till its failure had been proven with utter finality.Let us hope it never comes to that. But I would urge Her Majesty's Government to press on with all speed with the recommendations of the Chiefs of Staff, with many of which we on these Benches agree. After all, it may be "later than we think."
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I propose to intervene for only a comparatively short time, because I am glad to say that I have found in this White Paper a Government document and a Government policy which I can completely and wholeheartedly support. I should have been very content to preserve that silence which gives consent, but it occurred to me that, apart from my having generally taken part in these Defence debates, the Government had recently had a number of brickbats thrown at them and perhaps a bouquet from an old-stager in the wings might not come amiss.
I am bound to say that I regard this as a very good White Paper. Unlike the Labour Party opposite, I think that the policy is sound and to be commended on all counts: the broad strategy is sound, realistic and forward-looking. First and 560 foremost there is the support of NATO—and it is a very strong support. It has been denigrated to-day, but it is very considerable, certainly as compared with that of other countries. We are giving very effective support and as much support as is consistent with our other responsibilities—incidentally, I congratulate the Government on the arrangement they have reached with the Germans about payment of costs. I emphasise "consistent with our other responsibilities" because it would be a great disservice to NATO, as well as a complete neglect of our own responsibilities for the defence of our vital interests elsewhere, if we did not safeguard those interests.
Those areas in which we stand alone, or almost alone, are for us perhaps the most important; and, because we stand alone, they are, as we have seen, the areas in which we are most likely to be attacked and in which we are most likely to have to act, and to act quickly. That being so, I think that the structure of defence in the White Paper is well-designed: the bases at Aden and Singapore, permanent, well-established bases; sufficient—or I hope sufficient—front line forces on the spot, integrated and, most important, under unified command; and then behind that the mobile reserve becoming increasingly more mobile as the numbers and range of the aircraft in Transport Command increase. I add—and I think it is implicit if not explicit in the White Paper—a realisation of the importance of staging posts, as well, along the route. That, I am sure, is realised and I am sure those staging posts are essential.
On another occasion—indeed, I think, in each debate—we have discussed, as has been discussed to-day, the importance of the closer integration of the Forces. I am satisfied with what is in the White Paper; I am satisfied also with what I have seen and what I have heard from officers of all the Services. I believe integration is going forward, and going forward on the right lines, with the good will of all Services. I am sure that integration is necessary. I do not think it can be forced, as perhaps the noble Lord who spoke last would try to force it. If it is to come effectively, it must come, as I think it is coming, with conviction and with good will. I have no 561 doubt that it is that integration and co-operation, as well as greatly improved conditions of service, which have given us the figures of recruiting which have been elaborated to-day and which I must say are very satisfactory.
Really, noble Lords opposite must tell us and tell the country where they stand. They say that the numbers given in these figures of recruiting are wholly unsatisfactory. The noble Lord who opened for the Opposition said that though he thought it might be too few—and he appealed to the gallant Field Marshal to tell him whether he ought not to put the figure higher—the minimum increase required above the Government's target would be 50,000. It is perfectly certain, and I do not think anybody is going to deny this, that certainly under conditions of full employment—and I imagine they would continue (I hope they would) under a Socialist Government—you could not get another 50,000 men in the next year or two without reintroducing conscription, and not only reintroducing conscription but diverting a number of the Regular Forces who are now engaged in effective units into training units. What are the Labour Party going to do about it? They have said the Government policy is not clear enough on this matter. The noble Viscount who leads the Opposition certainly does not hesitate in what he says, as a rule. I hope we are going to be told where the 50,000 or more men are to come from. If they are to come out of the ranks of the unemployed, that is one thing; otherwise they certainly would have to come by conscription.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I think it would be more appropriate if at this stage the noble Earl, with his experience, explained first why the Government abandoned conscription.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I will tell the noble Viscount exactly why they abandoned conscription. They did so, as I understand it, because they thought they could get—and I believe they will get—the necessary number of long-service, trained men by voluntary service under good conditions. And for this reason (and the noble Viscount, who has been a Service Minister, must appreciate this; he knows it as well as I do): that under modern conditions, with the 562 abstruse, complicated modern weapons and with the intensive training, individual and combined—and this combined training is greatly assisted now by the new combined staff which is working inside the Ministry of Defence—you cannot possibly have men trained to use these complicated weapons and men under effective combined training unless they are long-service men. Three years is certainly not enough. We must have men whose whole career is the Army. It would be impossible to get these men by short-term conscription—
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will forgive my persistence, but we are both ex-Service Ministers and are both interested in this matter. I agree with the noble Earl as to the changes in the requirement of trained men, with all the modern things that they have to meet. But if that is so, what, in those circumstances, ought to be your natural Army strength, or your natural Air Force strength? That is one reason why we cannot see how you can manage on 165,000 or 185,000 men.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I am not going to pose as an expert in regard to exactly how many men you must have. I am content to take the view which is put forward by the Combined General Staff. The noble Viscount is not; I personally am. He was more able than the staff officers of his day—as I understand it, he certainly quarrelled with them enough when he was Minister of Defence. But I am prepared to accept what the Government put forward, after most careful consideration and full consultation with the Chiefs of Staff and the Chairman.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Earl say which of the many figures the Government have put forward he in fact accepts?
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I do not want to take up the time of the House unnecessarily. I understand the noble Lord is himself to deliver an oration presently. Perhaps we might wait for that. I rather like interruptions, but I think I will get on. There is one other point about this policy. Just as we seem to have left far behind the old, sterile battleground of self-sufficiency against co-operation, so 563 we seem to have left behind the bad practice of everybody lining up in the queue and nobody getting enough. There seems to be an increasing willingness among all the Services to agree on what are the most essential things, and to concentrate on them—and, what is more, to concentrate the Forces at those points where they are most needed.
I come to the mixed politico-strategic question of the bomb. I am bound to say that I thought Lord Shepherd, most comfortably from his point of view, slid away from it in saying that he was not going to deal with the political side of this matter. Well, you cannot possibly separate the political and the strategic in dealing with the hydrogen bomb. I thought that last year on this matter all of us, with the exception of noble Lords on the Liberal Benches, were more or less in agreement; but now the Labour Party have had second or third thoughts. I am the last person in the world to say that one ought not to change one's mind—most certainly not. I remember once in Sir Winston Churchill's Government, when we were proposing to alter some line of policy to which we had hitherto been committed, one of our colleagues said: "But, Prime Minister, we should be eating our words". In reply, Sir Winston growled, "Well, very often quite a wholesome diet".
I certainly have no objection to the Labour Party's having second thoughts. We can all appreciate, and indeed sympathise with, the desire of the Socialist Party on this matter to get a policy or, at any rate, a formula, upon which they can all more or less agree. I do not complain about second thoughts. What I do complain about is that their second thoughts are so egregiously muddled and wrong. The policy that they are advocating now rejects all the sound premises upon which the policy of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and Mr. Bevin was based when they decided to make the atom bomb. As I understand it, the present plan will abandon our own deterrent. I am sure that that policy will make the worst of all worlds.
There is a half suggestion which cropped up to-day—it cropped up a little, I thought, in the speech of the noble Lord from the Liberal Benches— 564 that we do not want nuclear weapons; we want a great many more conventional weapons and conventional Armed Forces. I do not think that is going to be seriously pressed, because I thought that, whatever else was not agreed, it was universally agreed that if we were to abandon the deterrent and were to rely on conventional forces without the nuclear deterrent and without effective disarmament, then we should put the whole of the West entirely at the mercy of Russia and her satellites. I do not think, therefore, that that argument is likely to be far pursued.
As I understand it, what is said is, "Do not let us have our own nuclear deterrent. The Americans have a number of bombs and missiles; why cannot we rely on them?" I have said that this thinking and this argument was absolutely contrary to the policy of making the bomb, which, with the full support of the Conservative Party, when we knew of it, was taken by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and Mr. Bevin. Observe that that decision was taken at a time when the Americans had the deterrent and it was completely effective as a deterrent because the Russians had not got it at all. That decision was taken some years before the Russians developed an atom bomb. Therefore, I am quite right in saying that this argument is certainly contrary to what was their policy.
The argument has not been advanced to-day, I am glad to say, but I reject entirely the argument advanced in another place that our deterrent is not of great value to the NATO Alliance—I will not elaborate on this point, because, for the reasons so clearly and succinctly given by the First Lord, obviously our deterrent is of great value to the Western Alliance—and that it is not welcomed by the Americans. We have often argued about this matter. Some years ago I ventured to say that I thought the airborne deterrent would continue for a great deal longer than many people believed. We were then being pressed to have no more bombers. Certainly, my view has proved true; and it may well be that the airborne deterrent will have a much longer life than many people think.
Incidentally, it was said that aircraft are no good because when they are on 565 the ground they are quite easy to attack, and they may be attacked before they get up into the air. But they get up into the air very quickly. Of course, everything is vulnerable. Certainly aircraft are not so vulnerable as static rocket bases, with everybody knowing exactly where they are and they not being capable of being moved at all. As to the value to America, I am sure that the contribution which our scientists make, whether it is to the deterrent or to defence against the deterrent, is very great indeed, and that the contribution is greatly welcomed by the United States, with whom, I am glad to say, our co-operation appears to get ever closer.
My Lords, militarily the argument in favour of our having our own deterrent is enormously strong. Politically I think the argument is equally compelling. It is not just a case, as Mr. Wilson said in another place, that we must have it because of prestige. If Mr. Wilson does not know the difference between prestige and the power to influence foreign policy he really will not make a very good Foreign Secretary. Because we have the deterrent—and only because we have it—we are in a position of having the power, the right, and the opportunity to influence policy, in the way that our Foreign Secretary is doing in such an invaluable manner in Geneva at the present time. If we did not have our own deterrent he would not have the right to be sitting there with the other two; he would not have a claim to speak and exercise his influence in the way in which he is able to do.
The deterrent is one of the great forces for peace in the world, and I say it advisedly. Our Foreign Secretary is another, and I am sure we all wish him the best of luck. Militarily and politically, I think that on this matter the Labour Party had better have a third or a fourth idea. Meanwhile, I am sure that on this issue, at any rate, Her Majesty's Government can go forward with their declared policy in the full knowledge that they have the great bulk of the people of this country behind them.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sure that there is no dispute in this House on the subject of whether we are for defence or against it. We are 566 obviously all for it. When I take up the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, it is not because the objectives we both seek are different. It is because in fact he brings precisely that lack of precision to the consideration of these matters that makes a debate on defence so very difficult. He told us that he was content to accept the figures of the Government on manpower, and when I asked him "Which figure?" he said that I should have the opportunity to make my speech. I would again ask him "Which figure?", because the Government—as my noble friend Lord Shepherd has made clear on a number of occasions—have produced any number of figures.
The criticism that I have of the Government—and I am spurred by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, to make a rather more critical speech than I otherwise might have done—is that neither the White Paper nor the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, really revealed the difficulties that exist, or the evasions, which are quite apparent to those who take the trouble to read the successive White Papers that the Government have perpetrated over the years.
I should like to remind your Lordships—and I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has brought me on to this manpower question—of the sort of figures about which we have to make up our minds. It is necessary to look back over the history of the past five years. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has given a new meaning to the word "consistency". He said that the Government have followed a consistent path. The one thing they have not done is to follow a consistent path. Whether we should blame them for it is another matter. But it is ludicrous to suggest that consistency is a word that can be applied to Government policy over these last five years.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, the whole burden of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was that there was no difference between this White Paper and that of 1957, and I should have thought that that was the consistency, if nothing else.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord said that this was an entirely stable and consistent policy. He can do his 567 own debating with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, but I am debating with him now. I would only say that this is a new definition. I will try to demonstrate some of my points. In 1957 the Government gave us a picture of a new streamlined service that was going to cost us less money. The manned bomber was out. Now we are told it is in, not only now but for many years to come. And in fact, a little earlier, I think we were told that the fighter was out as well.
On manpower, in 1957 the first estimate we were given for the Armed Forces was 375,000 men. Then, in 1958, the Government broke it down, and said that it was 165,000 for the Army, 135,000 for the Royal Air Force and 88,000 for the Navy. If we look at the Annex we shall see that its figures are fairly similar to these 1958 figures. But in 1959 they suddenly became rather optimistic about recruiting; they "upped" the size of the Army by 15,000, and then found that the units were hopelessly under-established. What they have done is to extrapolate their figure from the one they had to the one they have got at the moment which looks rather good. Unfortunately, they have forgotten the wastage figures. That is why the good recruiting is not matched by good results. We have heard nothing about wastage on this subject. The result is that we have a different set of figures. My complaint is that the Government appear at any time to be content with the figures they are getting at the moment. If this is consistency, then I say it is a consistency of contentment with precisely the situation in which you find yourselves, without any attempt to control it.
After all, it was this Government that abolished conscription. The noble Lord said that with a Regular force you need skilled men in large numbers doing long service. Of course, the Americans kept selective service precisely in order to obtain skilled men from civilian life. It is not reasonable to argue in this matter that the Government's policy is satisfactory and one with which we ought to be content. This question of conscription is a very difficult one. It is now abolished, and I think it would probably be extremely difficult to revive it, but I have no hesitation in my own mind 568 in now saying that, if we had done so, I would rather have extra men in Germany to-day and extra conventional forces than our V-bomber forces. But the fact remains that we have our V-bomber forces and I want now to talk about this argument about the nuclear deterrent.
However, before I turn to that I should like just to say this. I was shocked when the noble Lord said that he thought prestige was a good thing, boasting that we were in the "county championship" with Russia and America. I can only say that this is one championship in which I hope never to have to take on either of the other two members. This really is a rather unfortunate analogy. When we turn to the deterrent I do not disagree—nor do I think other noble Lords will—that we were right to develop the atom bomb in 1947. We had the know-how; America was very much more out of the picture, and we were perfectly right to do it. I am glad to say that there is no suggestion—and I would make no such suggestion—that it is more moral to do without the atom bomb than to be with it. It would be sheer hypocrisy to say, "Let us wash our hands of it." Indeed, I think the atom bomb—and I would emphasise this from my personal point of view—has played a decisive, possibly the decisive, part in a world more potentially rent with international disagreement than the world has ever been, and has played its part in maintaining the peace of the world.
But, my Lords, here again (and this is the one point on which I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton) in considering the retention or the future development of the deterrent and our bomber force we must set it not merely against our own insular interests but against the interests of the West, the interests of the Alliance and, above all, the prospects of disarmament. I accept that the fact that the Foreign Secretary in Geneva is able to speak with nuclear weapons behind him gives him perhaps a little more standing, but it would give him possibly even more standing if at this moment we were to indicate, in consideration of the development of a system of arms control leading ultimately to total disarmament, that we might be prepared to give up our deterrent.
569 The fact remains that to-day we have the V-bomber force, a superb force, superbly equipped, and as good as anything in the world. It is no good pretending that we can throw it away, or that we want to throw it away. But I should like to consider whether in fact, at this moment, it is of as much value as the Government seem to think. I suspect that they find themselves committed to this. They have the V-bomber force, and any Government must now consider—if there were a Labour Government to-day they would be faced with the same problem—whether they are going to plan to extend the life of that force for another eight to ten years or, as the Government did in 1957, whether the manned bomber is out.
I want to set this Bomber Command force against the forces for nuclear discharge that exist in the world to-day. We know that the Russians have already exploded a 60-megaton bomb and may well be able to explode a 100-megaton bomb. It is conceivable that they may even be developing a 500-megaton weapon, which could be exploded in space, although I suspect that it would be very difficult to make it clean enough not to finish off a large part of the world instead of merely their enemy. But a fairly large bomb, a 100-megaton bomb, if exploded at a height of 30 miles would virtually destroy everything within a 30 miles radius. What was not destroyed would be suffocated in the fire storm. It needs only about ten of these to wipe out the main centres of population in the world.
My Lords, according to my figures, the present size of the American force is about 500 B.52s, and about 1,000 B.47s; I think they already have a capacity to fire something like 200 Polaris missiles, and they will shortly have 1,000 Minutemen in hardened sites which cannot be knocked out—as I would tell the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. Even a 10-megaton bomb exploding within two or three miles of a Minuteman site would not, according to my information, be capable of knocking it out. Also, they have a nuclear capacity to-day probably amounting to anything between 20,000 and 30,000 megatons. I do not know our contribution to this at the moment, but it is perhaps 400 megatons, or 2 to 3 per cent. Against the background of Western defence, is 570 this a significant contribution? While we have it, and while it has been of importance to this country politically, we have in all seriousness to consider whether we are right to go on extending the life of this particular deterrent, first of all by Blue Steel—and it must be the only major weapon produced which, so far as I know, is going to have an operational life of only two years—and then by Skybolt, which, although I do not know definitely, will probably cost us £150 million.
I am prepared to accept that Skybolt is coming along well, and that the R.A.F. will get it; but ought we not to pause now, and ought we not also to consider it—and this is why in any Defence debate we must consider the case for disarmament and arms control—against the really serious thinking that is going on, particularly in America, about different forms of arms control? Your Lordships know that there has been set up a special Arms Control Agency, and that there are a number of plans which have been developed involving some form of arms control, which may get over the main Russian objections to inspection, and may provide protection from ultimate retaliation—getting entirely away from the existing counter-force idea. Might not our own Bomber Command, at the time we and the West come to consider such an agreement in five or ten years' time, be a great deal less valuable as an asset to the West than a much more effective and a much more mobile conventional force?
I think it is a tragedy that at this moment the R.A.F. have not the airlift capacity which they ought to have. We know that in recent operations at Kuwait—and the same thing was true earlier at the time of Jordan—there was simply not the airlift capacity to do more than bring the forces in; and then, fortunately, no operations followed. My Lords, I have several times said in this House that it is quite deplorable that this country should still be waiting for an aircraft of the Belfast type. We know that it was the aircraft which the R.A.F. least wanted out of the five designs put before it. It would have been perfectly possible for us to order C.130s or Globemasters, and we could now have had a much more effective airlift. Since it appears certain that this Government are not going to honour our undertakings in 571 Europe with regard to manpower, ought we not to consider a new basis by which we should make a greater contribution? If we are not going to be able to put the division in Germany, or maintain units up to strength, ought we not to have units in this country, or wherever they may be, which are completely mobile and able to be lifted within an hour or two, or at least within a very short period, to whatever part of the shield they might be needed? This would seem to me to be the proper logical development towards balanced forces in this particular age.
We have seen some encouraging developments on the sea. I hope that we are getting away from the past obsession about a general submarine war, which I do not believe is likely. There might be a limited submarine war, but I believe that a general submarine war is no more likely than any other major conventional war. On this aspect, I should like to say a nice word to the First Lord. Some of the ideas the Navy is developing on this matter are more in tune with the needs of NATO, and with this country's responsibilities than the ones we have heard about to-day.
My Lords, I do not want to develop my arguments any further, beyond taking up the point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, was making; that is, the need for a much more determined approach to an inter-Service attitude. For the first time the Government seem to have woken up to the many pleas that have been made, and they have said to the three Service Ministers: "Boys, write something into the Memoranda on this", and each of the Memoranda has a similar sort of statement about inter-Service co-operation. We welcome this, but ought we not once again to be considering the possibility of unified forces? Ought we not to be considering—as I believe they do in Canada—the possibility of a single Service training college, where young officers emerge, in effect, from a military university?
My Lords, we here have to deal with not two cultures but three, and I do not doubt that there will be the Doctor Leavises and the Charles Snows between the three Services on the matter of the particular specialisations and teaching. 572 But I should hope that in this matter the Government would initiate outside the Service Departments—and I would urge the First Lord to be kind enough to consider this—consideration of the question of whether there ought not to be a major investigation. It is not something we can do in a few months; it may even take years; but it seems to many of us, looking at this Service problem from outside and sometimes talking to our friends in the Services, that we are still approaching the problem in much too fragmented a way.
From much of what I had hoped to say I have been drawn off, and I will not detain your Lordships. There will be an opportunity later on, in the debates on the Service Estimates memoranda. I will conclude my remarks by saying that I fully acknowledge that any Government have an extraordinarily difficult task. I would almost go so far as to say that any Government would be bound to make a bit of a mess of it. My complaint is about the total refusal of the Government to admit their shortcomings. The result is that the good name of this country has suffered. It has certainly suffered in Service circles in NATO, where we have acquired—and I have talked to people who have told me about this—a reputation for duplicity because of our refusal to admit that we have fallen down on our commitments. It is because there are no signs in this White Paper of any awareness of the completely changing nature of the problems, or of the new emphasis on the requirements of arms control and disarmament which we must all hope (and I believe) will come; and because we still hang on to weapons which we may have been glad to have, and which we may even now be glad to have, but which we are unwilling to abandon in the future, that I support the Opposition Amendment.
§ 4.22 p.m.
My Lords, we have had a great deal of criticism from the Opposition to-day, and not many very constructive ideas, although the noble Lord who has just sat down has certainly done his best in that direction. It has been said that there is very little difference between the White Paper of 1957 and the present one, and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who described it as a bromide. I 573 entirely disagree with him. On the contrary, I would say that there is a very great difference. In my humble opinion, this White Paper, for the very first time, places nuclear weapons and conventional weapons in their proper relationship. I would also say that our relationship towards NATO is perfectly clear in the White Paper. In the words of paragraph 8 of this White Paper:A balance must be maintained, therefore, between conventional and nuclear strength. Neither element must be so small as to encourage an aggressor to seek a quick advantage …I would say that the balance must be such as to indicate to Russia that we do not fear to retaliate with nuclear weapons; and that, if we do not do this, war may well become inevitable.
During the recent debate on NATO many of your Lordships referred to the question of the pause which its Supreme Allied Commander in Europe hoped might be maintained before the use of nuclear weapons. I entirely agree with this policy, but I would say that the conventional build-up must not be carried too far so that it might encourage the Russians to think that nuclear weapons would never be used to repel aggression, which might well happen. I would say that at the present time we are not very far from the correct balance. It has been said in another place by a past Minister of the Crown that the British deterrent could not make one iota of difference. This is an astonishing statement and, I would say, it is without any relation to the facts. It is very wrong to underestimate Britain's own striking power. Our V-bombers, with their increasing stand-off capacity, such as Blue Steel, which I understand is very effective, and later Skybolt, are very capable of penetrating the enemy's defensive screen and of inflicting severe damage on Russia's industrial centres. I think it is a fact that, in the space of two or three minutes' notice, our bombers can take off with a nuclear load equal to many times the strength of the one Hiroshima Bomb. The Russians, of course, well know this—
Please allow me to continue. The Russians well know this, and, surrounded as they are by 574 points of attack from all quarters of the compass, they can never maintain a defence system which can guarantee full security.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, could the noble Lord help the House? He said our forces could get off in four to five minutes. What percentage of our forces would be able to do that?
I would say, quite sufficient of our forces to inflict very serious damage on Russian installations. Of course our bomber force is a matter of concern to Russia, and all the more so as it is stationed in Europe, and not far away in the United States. We are making a very valid contribution to the Western deterrent, and unless we are prepared to carry this burden we shall be unable, as has been said by other speakers, to play our part in the councils of Europe and, indeed, in the councils of the world. I am sick and tired of the little Englanders—and there are many of them—who are always so ready to decry Britain's strength and retreat from our commitments. We have heard them all before, between the two wars.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Lord permit me to interrupt?—because he is making rather hostile remarks. I should like to know whether, in his opinion, he thinks 30,000 megatons is the right type of defensive strength for the West, and where he puts the British contribution in this.
I am afraid I did not quite follow the noble Lord's question. Would he please repeat it?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord is talking about our contribution. He presumably knows roughly what the size of it is. I was wondering what size of Western deterrent he thought was the right one. The American deterrent probably comes to about 30,000 megatons. Does he think the British 250 megatons or 400 megatons is important? Or would he rather see troops, a bigger Navy, or what?
As I have said already, I think the balance is about right at the present time, and I believe our contribution, compared with the American Strategic Air Force contribution, is very good indeed.
575 There is no doubt that, with the new policy outlined in the White Paper, of a concentration of forces at three main bases, the Navy will become more important in the future, and the replacement of our ageing aircraft carriers will become a question of high priority. We shall hope to hear something more of this matter during the debate on the Naval Estimates.
I very much welcome the setting up of a joint Services operation staff which can plan ahead and be ready for immediate action when required. On the other hand, I would say that a great deal of nonsense is talked, both in the Press and elsewhere, about integration of the Services. It is perfectly true that a very great deal of integration, both of personnel and of supplies, may be possible at high level, and is already being achieved; but to imagine that one man can fulfil the duties of sailor, soldier and airman does not make sense, and I would say that it obscures the issue.
I was particularly interested in a remark by the Minister of Defence in another place, that, in his opinion, everyone agrees that the Services are in a class apart from the general body of wage and salary earners—which, of course, is perfectly true. I entirely agree with this statement, and for years I have been arguing on the same lines as regards pensions, and especially Service widows' pensions. As your Lordships are aware and will remember, we had a full debate on pensions some months ago, and I do not propose to weary your Lordships with the facts and figures again, but I hope that something can be done for Service widows, many of whom are living in really miserable conditions and on miserable pittances. All Service widows, I maintain, should be treated the same, regardless of the date of the husband's death or discharge. I hope that the Minister of Defence will support this claim at the earliest possible moment. I would say that it is a blot on the pensions scheme of the Armed Services of this country.
I conclude by saying that I consider this White Paper a very clear and informative document. I am delighted that it is now fully appreciated, in the words of this White Paper, that 576the great assets of seaborne power are its mobility and flexibility which enable it to be redeployed and concentrated wherever our policies require".I would say that sea power is once again one of the cornerstones of our defence system; and long may it remain so!
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I should like to begin by saying how much I agree with the remarks of the noble Earl. Lord Swinton, who, I think, got this White Paper exactly right. A Defence debate in your Lordships' House is extremely important—your Lordships notice that the House of Commons have found it necessary to have a tea-break! I believe that the great question is this: Have we advanced in our military thinking? It is very easy to criticise points of detail. We have seen many White Papers; you can pick to pieces a good deal of them any time you like. I was very interested to hear that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment had found it advisable to dig deeply into a book which I wrote. It is a great honour: I feel that I should offer to autograph his copy.
In this matter of picking holes in White Papers, I could ask your Lordships another question: is it really necessary to employ one civilian for every uniformed member of the Armed Forces? The Armed Forces consist of 400,000 men. Is it necessary that we should have an equal number of civilians, making a total of 800,000? Of course, the object is to allow the fighting man to devote all his time to training, and not to have to do housemaid work in his barracks or quarters. But I would say that this matter of training can be overdone. Under proper people who understand it, it can be fascinating. On the other hand, it can be absolutely soul-destroying; and which it is will depend very much on the training ability of commanders. One of the best trainers who served under me in the last war was my friend sitting over there, Black Rod. He had imagination, which is what is needed. If training is well organised and well carried out, a great deal can be achieved in a very short time.
Let us consider, for a moment, what happens to a man who spends 21 years in the Army. He spends seven years in bed. He has eight hours sleep a night, so in 21 years he has spent seven years in 577 bed. He spends three more years asleep, mostly in the afternoons. He spends two years cleaning his boots and equipment. He spends at least two years waiting about outside the orderly room. He probably spends two years cleaning his barracks and doing fatigues. He spends two years on leave, at the rate of one month a year. That comes to eighteen years. So far he has done no training. In the end he spends three years training, and that is quite enough. It is not a bad thing for him to do a little housemaid work; he will have to do it in civil life anyhow when he leaves the Army!
I do not think I want to go into all the points which have been raised so far: have we enough men; have we the right tank?—and so on. I should like to put the matter on a much higher plane. But before doing that, I should like to say a word about this nuclear question. The nuclear problem has been argued unceasingly, and will continue to be argued by a great many people outside your Lordships' House who really do not understand it. The point is that the advent of the nuclear weapon (I was serving in Europe when the Russians broke through the nuclear barrier) has stopped the Third World War, because no nation wants to commit suicide. Of course, all sensible people would like to see a move toward disarmament, nuclear or otherwise, and the £40,000 million now spent in the world on preparing for war devoted to other things. But in any disarmament agreement, the abandonment of the nuclear weapon must be the last thing, not the first; and as no progress in disarmament is possible until the suspicion between East and West can be lessened, we are going to have the nuclear weapon with us for many years.
We British, my Lords, must be in that business. We cannot be a "hedgehog" between two great giants. We are a great people. When you have lived in Western Europe for ten years, as I have, and have travelled about, you realise that the voice of Britain counts far more than the voice of any other nation. We are a great people; and long may that continue! There is only one exception to what I have just said, and that is in Africa, where we are not held in very great esteem. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Shackleton, said that the fact that 578 we had the nuclear weapon would give our Foreign Secretary a little more kudos at Geneva. My view would be that if we had not the nuclear weapon, he would not be at Geneva at all. He could not be there.
Now, my Lords, I should like to go on to explain what, in my view, this White Paper does. We have to take the big view of Defence, and then see what should be the structure of our Armed Forces in this age. No two wars are the same. We could not have had two wars more different than the 1914–18 War and Hitler's war. They were totally different wars, as I, and many of your Lordships, too, know very well. And the next one will be different again. I have had some small experience of the conduct of war, and in Hitler's war, the last war, it was on a fairly high level. My study of war and my practical experience teaches me that in war two factors are constant, fire-power and mobility; and those two factors dictate the result. Since the days of Carthage, that side which has had complete control of the seas has, in the end, prevailed. That is the teaching of history. It has prevailed because of the strategic mobility given by the freedom of the seas. Why did Napoleon fail? Because Britain ruled the waves. The Kaiser failed for the same reason. And Hitler failed because he was unable to win the air battle and to control the seas. In Hitler's war we could not develop our full potential until we had won in the Atlantic and opened the Mediterranean to our shipping.
In the big, overall, larger sense, the aim in any future war must be to confine the enemy to a land strategy, and that is done by the West ruling the seas, by a very skilful combination of sea and air power. I suggest to your Lordships that this Defence White Paper has made the first move to turn over to a new strategy; that is, a maritime strategy. From a very close study of it, that, in my view, is the underlying principle of its policy. It has taken courage to do that, and I would very much congratulate the Minister of Defence on his decision to grasp that nettle, and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty on the part he has played. It is right beyond any possibility of doubt. The maximum strategic mobility 579 is on the sea and in the air. We must have seaborne task forces, on a joint Service basis, based in suitable areas outside Europe and mainly East of Suez, ready to transport military strength quickly by sea to deal with incidents ashore and tackle them quickly before they blow up into something big. And we must have a strategic reserve in this country, with a massive air transport set-up, which can move Army units quickly to reinforce the task forces.
The Atlantic is safe; Europe is safe; the Mediterranean is safe: the potential danger spots lie elsewhere, in the Near East, the Middle East and the Far East and in Africa. It is to those areas that we should direct our gaze, and that is what this White Paper does. It is a tragedy that we cannot develop a maritime strategy to its full potential because of the demand on our resources imposed by our commitment in Germany. That is the trouble. I can claim to have a pretty good knowledge of Western defence. I started it. In 1948, the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition recommended to the Government of the day that I should leave the post of Chief of the Imperial General Staff and go out to head up the military side of Western Union. The reason was that the West was becoming alarmed at the growing pressure from the East. That is what I did, and I shall always be grateful to the noble Viscount for the fact that he did that. It gave me an opportunity of learning what was going on in Western Europe and I took full advantage of that opportunity.
In 1951—that was, three years later—the Western European Defence Organisation was absorbed into NATO and I stayed on as deputy to four Supreme Commanders: Eisenhower, Ridgeway, Gruenther and Norstad. I stayed there for ten years and got an insight into the problems of Western defence which, I would say, has been given to few. I do not want to weary your Lordships with all that took place during those ten years. I will summarise it all by saying one thing. To-day we are helping to defend a bit of Europe that is now perfectly well able to defend itself. That is what we are doing, and I never can understand the mentality of those people who say that our forces in Germany must not be 580 decreased by one man. Indeed, some say that they must be increased.
Western defence is a global problem and the threat from the East is not one which can be confined to the NATO area. NATO has done a terrific job in making its own area completely safe. It must cease now to look inwards at its own affairs and look outwards. Those nations which have world-wide commitments and world-wide responsibilities outside the NATO area must be given freedom to handle them. In fact, one can say that the time has come, after some twelve years of NATO, to redeploy our NATO forces.
So far as Britain is concerned, we need to develop our maritime strategy in the Near East, the Middle East and the Far East, and, in doing that, we must have bases which are completely secure. That is essential. The White Paper mentions Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong. Aden, you might say, is safe, although we never know. In about five or six years, it may not be so safe. Singapore has very doubtful security. East Africa will soon be lost to us. I am convinced that in this matter of a firm, secure base East of Suez, we ought to establish that base in Australia. Some place like Perth stands out straight away as the right sort of area.
To do this maritime strategy properly, we must keep East of the Suez a sizeable force which will be quickly available to re-enforce the activities of the seaborne task force, wherever that may be. I would suggest that we want a division deployed East of Suez, in Australia. It would create great confidence in Australia, it would help their economy, and it would be a very popular station for Servicemen and their families. The Commonwealth Brigade could well form part of that division. On no account should we spend millions of pounds—£80 to £100 million—in building barracks and shore establishments in such places as Aden and Singapore, which might not be ours for all time. They are not safe areas. By the time we have built what we need, we may find that we are "out" and the money will have been wasted. That has happened before. I should like to see it all put into a really safe base, like Australia. If we do that, then, purely from the military operating point of 581 view, all we want is certain operating centres in suitable places in British possessions in that part of the world. By operating centres I mean an airfield, some maintenance personnel and a few jeeps, or something of that sort.
I should like to deal with one more point, which concerns the Army. From my own experience I am convinced that a reorganisation of the infantry of the Army is needed. Your Lordships will know that Cardwell introduced regiments of four Regular battalions. My regiment, when I joined it, was one. Today, we are down to regiments of one battalion, and we have commitments which Cardwell never had. To-day, the cold war is largely a company war. It begins like that. Quite recently there was trouble in British Guiana, and straight away one company was sent from Jamaica. A second company went there and finally there were five companies there, which came from bits of two battalions. If we are going to wage war properly in the cold war, we must have flexibility and interchangeability in the infantry of the Army.
The brigade system, introduced in 1957, gave us brigades of three regiments and, in quite a few cases, of four regiments. But the War Office has to get out of the strait jacket which is imposed by the tight regimental system. There must be freedom to expand or contract the infantry as may be necessary; and this without giving rise to all the bitterness and turbulence that is caused by amalgamations or disbandments of old established regiments or of cutting across regimental customs. There was a case recently when a Scottish Regiment was asked to send a company of men to another Scottish regiment. They declined to do so, because, they said, the other regiment did not wear the same clothing. It is impossible to go on like that; that sort of thing must cease.
I am sure that we have to put the infantry of the Army on a proper basis now, once and for ever. I should like to see the present brigades become big regiments, say, of six battalions; and this could call for further amalgamations. We now have three main areas in which the soldier has to serve—the Far East, Germany and the United Kingdom. I know that Germany is supposed to be home service, but if you tell 582 that to the soldier, he merely uses a few rude words. However, there it is.
Turning the present brigades into big regiments of, say, six battalions, and doing away with the tight regimental system, will cause an outcry. There will be resistance, and that resistance will come mostly from what I call the "tribal areas". Your Lordships might ask: where do these tribes live? They live mostly in Scotland, with quite a few in Northern Ireland. These tribes must be heard, of course, and then silenced, as happens in all tribal warfare. You must do that. There must be changes in the make and shape of the Army during the next decade, and they must be such as will provide the maximum flexibility and interchangeability, giving the Army an organisation which can meet any situation that might develop. And this must be done without bitterness and without hard burdens. In certain arms, like the Royal Engineers, the Gunners, the Royal Armoured Corps, the Signals and so on, there is no trouble; they are big corps. And in services like the Royal Army Service Corps, Ordnance and R.E.M.E., there is no trouble; because they, too, are big corps. It is the infantry which must now be tackled, and so far they have always been "seen off" by the tribes.
I can give your Lordships an example—I think an example is always a good thing. My brigade is the Forester Brigade, of three regiments—my own regiment, the Warwickshires, the Leicesters and the Notts and Derbys; and we cover four counties. I happen to be the representative Colonel of the Brigade, and all dealings with the War Office are carried out by me. What would happen would be that the Forester Brigade of three regiments would become one regiment of three battalions, and my own regiment, the Warwick-shires, for instance, would become the First Battalion of the Forester Regiment and so on. Then you would find you had the flexibility that is needed. And this would have to cut right across the board. I think there are a few tribal areas in London—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Would the noble and gallant Viscount permit me to interrupt? He keeps on talking about the "tribes"—the Welshmen and the Scots.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am sure he would agree with me that it is these regiments from the tribes that have about the best recruiting figures.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
I personally do not agree. You will find that most of these tribal areas descend from their mountain fastnesses and come down and recruit in England. One of the best recruiting areas in England is in the Midlands, which has big cities like Birmingham; and for the county regiments, my own happens not to be too bad.
The crux of the matter, my Lords, is this: that the infantry must be able to meet the varying commitments which will crop up from time to time anywhere in the world—small-scale emergencies like British Guiana; reinforcements required in the British Rhine Army, and so on. And it must all be done without upheaval or undue fuss. It is impossible to get complete flexibility except within the framework of a big regiment.
That is almost all I want to say. I was most interested in the fact that this Amendment was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I do not know whether his background gives him a great knowledge of this game of defence or not, but I was quite unable to follow some of his arguments. I should have thought that it is not really good for the world to see your Lordships' House (there is quite a big tea-break in the House of Commons, you will notice; I hope it is a ten-minute tea break and not a five-minute one) divided on the question of Defence. If there is one thing which should be non-political, and upon which we should all agree, it is Defence.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, would not the noble and gallant Viscount agree that in his Memoirs he states that he was at one time organising a strike of senior officers against the Government?
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
That is not quite correct. What is correct is that I did have a certain argument with the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition on a certain matter. You would think 584 from some of the speeches from the other side to-day that the Armed Forces had never been in such a low state as they are at the moment.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
The noble Lord obviously thinks that. I can tell your Lordships that the lowest state the Armed Forces ever reached was when I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1948, and I had to inform the then Minister of Defence that that was the case. There was quite a "party" after that, of course. I should like to finish up by saying that I shall go into the Lobby and vote for the Government on this White Paper.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, listening to the noble, gallant and tribal Viscount who has just sat down (because we should not forget that he was brought up in the "tribal area" of Ireland), I was reminded of a novel about the Irish during the last war. When the news came through of one of his meteoric advances in the Mediterranean theatre, an old tribal Irish woman said: "Didn't I say we should breed a very swift General?". Swiftness was good in those circumstances, but it seems to me that to bring the same degree of swiftness to taking our Army out of Germany, as he appears to wish to do, and to devote it to the 400d cause of boosting the tourist line in Australia, would not be a good thing. He said that this would be good for the British troops and would help Australian economy.
To return to the main line of the debate, I would say that this is not, of course, really a Defence White Paper; it is a Deterrence White Paper. If we look at the full range of weapons and dispositions which are available to this country at the moment, we see that hardly any of them are designed to defend the people of this country against the most likely form of attack by the most likely enemy. Possibly the odd fighter might catch the odd Russian bomber in time, but, by and large, they are there to deter what we consider the most likely form of attack from the most likely enemy. I imagine that in debates such as these in the old days—it is rather hard to imagine what they were like—one would look at what weapons were 585 available to defend Her Majesty's subjects in these Islands, and if one were satisfied one would give the Government one's confidence; if one were dissatisfied, one would ask for better. Now we must look at what sort of deterrent posture we are adopting and precisely what message that will give to the other side before we decide to give confidence—not to the Government's defence policy, because I maintain they have not got one, and cannot have one in the thermo-nuclear age, but to the Government's deterrence policy.
I want to examine three points, the first of which concerns the British Army in Germany. I make no apology for going back over some of the ground covered by my noble friend Lord Shepherd in moving this Amendment, because this is crucial to the future of our civilisation. In the debate on the Army Reserve Bill, the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty said that the Regular Army would be able to meet all normal commitments. I then asked the Government what were normal commitments for that portion of the Regular Army called the British Army of the Rhine. In winding up the debate, the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, replied that NATO was capable of meeting its normal commitments. This is, of course, true, but it is not what I asked. If I took his meaning aright, under the polite shuffle of entities in which we engaged, it was that the duty of the British Army of the Rhine was to carry out the policy laid down by the Standing Group of NATO. There are many policies coming from many Commanders, many Ministers, many Standing Groups and many transient committees of these.
I should like to ask the Government whether, at the end of the debate, they can stand up and tell this House and the country that the policy and rôle of the British Army of the Rhine is in step with that held by sAcEuR—that is, by General Norstad. Does not the strategic concept of NATO at the moment consist of holding up a conventional aggression with conventional arms for a certain period of time—a few days, a week, who knows?—long enough to permit diplomatic contact to be established and negotiations to take place, to allow it to be made certain that the Eastern aggression was intentional and was full scale, and that in effect this was a conscious and 586 deliberate attack with conventional weapons; and that then, and only then, after many days, would the question of a nuclear strike be considered?
Do the Government accept that the British Army in Germany has a part to play in the policy called "The pause"? Do they accept that we have a part to play in holding up a conventional attack until the other side insists that the war become nuclear? If they do, then how is the Northern Army Group, containing the British Army of the Rhine, capable of playing its part in this policy? I do not wish to get involved in figures—the number of divisions, the number of brigade groups, combat groups and other units one comes across. It is very easy to say that a Russian division is smaller than a British division, and that in the West we have more civilian employees. It is extremely hard to find out the true balance of forces in the North German Plain at the moment. I have studied this subject as well as an amateur can, with the help of published materials, and I believe that the British Army forms part of an Army in Northern Germany which is one half or two-thirds the size of that which faces it on the other side, and it can be reinforced only at a rate very much less than the opposing Army could be reinforced from the Soviet Union. If I am wrong, I should welcome a specific correction from the Government at the end of the debate.
How can an Army half the size of another Army hold up an aggression from the other Army, assuming that both Armies are using only conventional weapons? Of course it cannot. And it is for this reason that the British Army of the Rhine has adopted the war plan, which is perfectly well known to all attentive readers of the Press throughout Europe, of retreating immediately to the nearest convenient obstacle, there forcing the other side to group to effect a crossing, and loosing off nuclear weapons on the resultant groupings of Eastern forces. Where is the pause? The idea is to retreat at once, as soon as the balloon goes up. In fact, I believe that a great portion of the British Army of the Rhine would not even retreat, because it is not there. It is not on or near the Elbe; it is in the rear in those "chintzy" barracks of which I recently spoke to your Lordships. It is all muddled up with the Germany Army in the rear. So 587 in point of fact, the first thing that would happen, if there were an attack from the East, would be that the British Army, on the first day, would sort itself out from the German Army, cross over, and, on the second day, would advance to that obstacle and there loose off its nuclear weapons on the concentrations of Russian troops waiting to cross it.
I do not blame the commanders of that Army in any way for adopting this war plan—they could adopt no other. The Army is too small, in the wrong place, and has not sufficient conventional artillery to resist conventional aggression with conventional means. The concentrations of troops would be in towns. These towns are West German towns, and they are full of West German civilians. The first thing that the British Army would do in the event of a major war in Europe would be to massacre the front million or so of West German civilians, to defend whom it has been sent to Germany. Will it do it? Are our British generals and colonels well known for their propensity for massacring civilians? Is it part of our way of fighting a war to blow up millions of defenceless women and children? Of course it is not. This House knows, and everybody knows, it is not. The Russians know it is not. So what becomes of deterrence? The Russians are not so stupid to believe that the British Army is going to go against our whole way of life and our way of fighting on the very first day of a war.
I maintain, therefore, that, because this Army is too small, it constitutes not so much a deterrent to aggression in Germany as possibly even a sort of temptation to it. Has this not struck the Government? It has struck the Americans, has it not? Are the Americans not urging all the NATO Allies, and us above all because we are doing less about it, to increase their conventional capability in NATO? What is the Government's position about this? Is it that the Americans are not urging us to do this, or is it that they are urging us to do so but that they are wrong to urge us to do so? I hope we can have a reply to that at the end of this debate. The House might feel entitled to a reply, because this is not really a matter of Alliance politics; it is a concrete matter 588 of life and death to many millions of civilians. If I am told that it is unnecessary or inexpedient to give a clear answer to this question, or if the Government take refuge behind the great cloak and comforter of muddle called "security", they will in effect be saying no more than that it is unnecessary or inexpedient to have a credible deterrent.
It may be asked: Am I, or am I not, arguing for a return of conscription? I do not know. This is something that only the Government can answer. If they can increase their Army by means of Regular service contracts and higher pay, well and good. If they cannot, there are two ways out. One is conscription, which everybody else does in NATO, except Canada and Iceland, but which is politically intensely difficult. The other is general, comprehensive disarmament, which would solve this problem, along with about nineteen others.
I want to turn now to another area where it seems that our deterrent policy has been torn to shreds and tatters. This is the area of the hoary old Thor bases in England. I wonder how many of your Lordships remember the story? They came here in 1957 and 1958 at the time when Sputnik I went up and the Americans thought that this showed that the Russians had an intercontinental ballistic missile and would very shortly have masses of them operational. At that time they did not have any themselves and so they thought that the best thing to do would be to deploy medium-range ballistic missiles, which they had, as fast as possible. That is how Thor came to England. It is, of course, an antediluvian weapon by modern standards. It is completely soft. It is liquid fuelled and takes hours to get off the ground, and sticks up above the midland plain like a church steeple. It is completely vulnerable.
I note that the Secretary of State for Air in another place said recently that as long as the main threat of attack from the other side came from a manned bomber force the Thor would have a retaliatory capacity, but I think he must be allowing himself a good long strategic warning time. It is a first strike weapon, and what it invites from the other side is a first strike. It is not needed; not only because the Americans have the Polaris missile 589 operational but because they now have the big Atlases in the United States. It is not a bit deterrent; it is dangerous. How much longer is it going to be here? Can the Government give us any news about the possibility of getting rid of at least one specially dangerous little gimmick out of the arms race?
I want to talk now about a matter which is politically even more delicate, Civil Defence. I implore your Lordships to follow me very closely in what I have to say about this, because I am going to ask whether the plan for the evacuation of mothers and children from our cities, which comes up in the White Paper, may not be a mistake. This is a very complicated matter; it will be an exceptionally difficult point to make and I hope I shall be able to make it clearly. How long does it take to evacuate mothers and children from a city? Shall we say three weeks? At any rate, even with the most fantastic training, discipline and efficiency it could not be done in under several days. At a certain moment a decision has to be taken to evacuate mothers and children.
What will lead the Government to take that decision? The expectation that nuclear weapons are about to burst over London. What will lead the Government to expect that nuclear weapons are about to burst over London? One of two things only. The first will be the famous four-minute warning, or in the case of bombers it might be an hour. You cannot evacuate people in an hour, so that eventuality is not planned for. The other possibility which will make the Government expect that nuclear weapons will burst over London is that they themselves intend to burst nuclear weapons over Russia. Then, and in that case only, would there be time for the evacuation of our cities. If the Russians see women and children streaming out of London what are they going to think? Are they going to think, "That is brave and kindly Britain seeing to the weak and helpless first?" I do not think so. I think they are going to say that this country is preparing the first strike; and they are going to be tempted, perhaps even forced, to land a strike on us first; to strike at those hopelessly vulnerable Thors and at our 590 bomber fields in order to prevent our first strike getting off the ground.
I believe it is now generally accepted among the most thorough students of the matter that to plan the evacuation of cities is, on the whole, a provocative action which shows that you have first strike intentions, and if you ever do it it is very likely to be taken that a first strike is actually on the way, which is, of course, a direct invitation to a first strike from the other side. Will the Government answer these points at the end of the debate? I do not put them as definite affirmations, for the obvious reason that there is no experience which would allow one to do that; but I put to the noble Earl the probability that such measures will make it more likely, not less, that the mothers and children in our cities would lose their lives in a war.
All that is about whether we have the safest sort of deterrent attitude at the moment. One has to think of that even during disarmament talks in case they fail. But of course if we are intelligent, skilful and determined we can probably get disarmament quicker than we can correct faults in our deterrent posture. I really think that there is some sign that the Government are taking disarmament seriously at last. Those with their ear to the Whitehall ground can hear the first faint rumblings of activity on the disarmament front. But in spite of recent improvements, are our negotiators in Geneva getting the best possible backing they could get at the Government end in Whitehall? There is no need to mince words about it: of course they are not.
We are still living in the Dark Ages concerning disarmament planning in London. The Americans have 300 or 400 whole-time officials on that job and on no other. They farm out studies on disarmament to university departments and to specialist institutes which exist solely for the purpose of undertaking such studies. This is nothing to do with the inflation of academic life or bureaucracy which we sometimes think that we see in America. This is no more than a beginning commensurate with the problem. How can you deflect human history—because that is what disarmament seeks to do—with 300 or 400 people? How can you hope to understand, let alone administer, a change 591 which is at once military, technological, political and economic, with 300 or 400 people? Of course, you cannot. We in this country are trying to do it with about five. We in the Labour Party are very exercised about the haphazard dilettantism with which disarmament planning is undertaken at the moment. A few weeks ago I asked the Government how many scientists were working on disarmament problems and the noble Viscount, the Minister for Science, answered [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 236 (No. 29), col. 998]:If necessary, the whole scientific resources of the country are available for these purposes …Well, yes, I know. A little later I asked a Soviet official, who would correspond perhaps to an assistant secretary in the noble Viscount's Department, how this matter was being tackled in Moscow. He kept, if anything, an even straighter face than did the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, when he answered:The whole Soviet people is working on disarmament.But now to come to facts and business. It will not be enough simply to enlarge the section of the Foreign Office charged with disarmament. It ought not to be in the Foreign Office at all, and it is there only as a hangover of the days when disarmament was treated as a propaganda matter. And I hope noble Lords on the Government side will not say at the end of the debate that there were never such days. There were and recently. How can one Government Department tackle a matter which is at once military, technical, political and economic? It is not the Foreign Office's business. It is simply not their job. When disarmament was a propaganda matter it was quite a good place to put it. Now, if we look at disarmament as a reality, we see it for what it is, a defence measure for keeping Her Majesty's subjects alive and preventing them from being killed by weapons of war. What is that to do with the Foreign Office? It is, if anything, far more to do with the Ministry of Defence.
This, of course, the Americans have already realised and they have a new, large, specialised Arms Control and Disarmament Administration, which is responsible directly to the President but 592 with a lateral tie with the State Department. Let there be a similar agency in this country responsible either directly to the Prime Minister or, if not, through a Minister for Disarmament. By that I do not mean an up-graded number two or three in the Foreign Office, but a man who has no departmental responsibilities for anything except disarmament. There is a precedent for such a new specialised agency and that is the Economic Planning Staff which was set up in the late 1940's to reorganise the economy of this country at the beginning of the peace. This organisation was set up, if I remember rightly, in the Cabinet Office with a special lateral tie to the Treasury. Let us follow this precedent and have a new, large, specialised disarmament staff in the Cabinet Office with a special lateral tie to the Ministry of Defence, which is more nearly concerned than is the Foreign Office.
In the meantime is it too much to hope that every decision, whether military, technical, political or economic, which is taken by this Government should be scrutinised in terms of the question, "Will it help disarmament?" Let the whole political fabric and economic practice of this Government be wired for disarmament, as an electrician will wire up a circuit to do two things, only one of which may become necessary in a short time.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion moved by my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. I feel impelled to do so because, in general, the White Paper we are discussing this evening commends itself to me. The principal reason for which it commends itself to me has already been mentioned by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, who made a great deal of the speech that I wanted to make for myself. I do not propose to follow him into tribal questions, but I should like to pursue the all-important question of maritime strategy, to which I was delighted to hear him refer.
Last year, in the Defence debate, I ventured to draw your Lordships' attention to the need for a maritime strategy, and in the subsequent debates on the Navy and Air Estimates I tried to draw attention to certain matters where I thought not enough attention was being 593 given to such a strategy. I do not think your Lordships would wish me to enter into details of that sort to-day. That should perhaps be left for the debates on the Service Memoranda, and I hope that I shall be able to refer to them then. To-day I shall confine my remarks to some very brief comment on those parts of the White Paper which bear on the proper development and understanding of maritime strategy.
First of all, I would refer to paragraph 3 of the White Paper which sets out the basic objectives of our Defence policy. I have no quarrel with these, but I should have been happier to see among them a reference to our paramount need to win and keep control of the seas for our own use and, conversely, to deny such control to our adversaries. I believe that control of the seas is absolutely essential to the security of this country, both to ensure our supplies and in order to give us freedom to develop a maritime strategy. The need for such control is implicit in the statement in paragraph 6 of the White Paper which talks of "increasing the air and sea portability of the Strategic Reserve" and also of "greater mobility by air and sea." But then we find, tucked away in paragraph 26, this fundamentally important sentence:The ability to assure free movement by sea at the right time and place remains of fundamental importance to these islands; indeed the sea may in certain circumstances be the one open highway for strategic movement free of international political hindrance".That is so true, my Lords. And how glad I was to find this forthright statement in the White Paper! My only criticism is that it was rather tucked away. I should have preferred to see it right in the forefront. I need hardly add that control of the seas means control on, under and over the oceans. Moreover, control of the seas relies more than ever on effective control of the air over them.
May I now turn to bases? In our age-long and sometimes intermittent pursuit of a maritime strategy we have acquired, one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, many valuable overseas bases. To-day, the reverse is taking place, and I have more than once described this to your Lordships as the diminishing base factor. I do not flatter myself that anything I have said in this House has had any effect on the contents of the White 594 Paper, but none the less I was glad to read paragraph 27, which refers tofurther emphasis on afloat support to supplement our shore bases and increase flexibility.Whether we are, in fact, making adequate provisions for the Fleet Train or afloat support, there are many matters which I should like to raise in the debate on the Navy Estimates, and I think I must leave detailed discussion until then. When that debate comes along, some of my friends and I will ask a few questions about Royal Marine Engineers, and, in particular, whether consideration is being given to reconstituting (or maybe it has been constituted in modern form) what was known before World War II as the Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation, M.N.B.D.O. I think probably that anything suitable nowadays would be totally different from what that organisation was, but at the time it was a good conception.
My Lords, though I have derived very considerable encouragement from the White Paper—particularly as we have got away, if I may say so, from the slight fog created by the Defence White Paper of 1957 (and your Lordships will not be surprised to learn that I took particularly strong exception to the statement in paragraph 24 of that Paper, that "the rôle of naval forces in total war is somewhat uncertain")—there is one other matter in the White Paper which slightly disturbs me. I am not entirely happy that the needs of and for a maritime strategy have penetrated all the depths of the Ministry of Defence. For example, right at the end of paragraph 30, which refers to the duties of the Royal Air Force, we find that itoperates the maritime aircraft which co-operate with the Royal Navy in the antisubmarine rôle.I could not agree that this is the only rôle which the R.A.F. has to play in support of the maritime strategy, or the only way in which the two Services must co-operate in any future war.
In these days of aircraft, mine and torpedo, close blockade, or even open blockade, in the old sense of the word, is out. It is well-nigh impossible for surface forces, or even submarines, to carry out such operations now; and it seems to me that the Royal Air Force must be prepared to undertake major responsibilities for mining and armed 595 reconnaissance, and, last but not least, offensive strikes. I hope I am wrong and that the Ministry of Defence, in their thinking and planning and training, realise the predominant part the Royal Air Force has to play in ensuring control of the seas.
It is interesting to reflect that in days gone by the principal objective of our maritime strategy was to destroy as soon as possible the enemy's main Battle Fleet. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we failed; but we always tried. I think the most recent example is the Battle of Jutland. For reasons which are still a matter of discussion, there is no argument that we did fail to destroy the enemy's Battle Fleet at Jutland. Although the High Seas Fleet hardly proceeded to sea again, this failure had a most unfavourable effect on our efforts for the rest of the war.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to say that as the German Fleet did not come out again, it was difficult to destroy them until they sunk themselves; so that we did win.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
What the noble Viscount says is perfectly true. What I was going on to say was that as we did not sink the German High Seas Fleet in the middle of the North Sea, and they remained in fact a Fleet in being, we had to keep the Grand Fleet at full strength, including, most important of all, its destroyer escorts, and we were thereby deprived of ships and men which were sorely needed to deal with the U-boats. That was the only point that I was making.
In World War II there was no enemy Battle Fleet in the sense of World War I. The "Tirpitz", the "Bismarck", the "Scharnhorst", the "Gneisenau"—all gave us plenty of trouble and imposed a serious handicap on our strategy. While the "Bismarck" and the "Scharnhorst" were finally sunk by naval action we should never have found the former in time without the help of Coastal Command. The Royal Air Force played a very big part indeed in the immobilisation of these ships from time to time, and finally, of course, despatched the "Tirpitz". I mention this only to show that it is important, 596 and because I am not quite happy that in the White Paper the Ministry of Defence really appreciate the important part that the Royal Air Force has to play over the oceans. To-day, of course, we have no Battle Fleet, and none of our Allies has any Battle Fleet, in the old sense of the word; nor have our potential enemies. But I still think that there are maritime targets, as opposed to continental targets, that will have to be destroyed by the Royal Air Force.
In its references to the Army the White Paper shows, I think, that the Ministry of Defence do appreciate the rôle Which the Army must play in pursuit of a maritime strategy. For instance, paragraph 24 says:The Army will increasingly be trained to be ready to fight in widely differing types of terrain and climate, and thus become accustomed to rapid changes of environment.I am sure that this is most necessary; but to-day, as so often in the past, we have to devote a considerable proportion of our military resources in support of a Continental strategy. To-day the NATO Alliance is the lineal successor of many Continental Alliances, subsidies and mercenary armies. Of course it is necessary for us to play a full part in the NATO Alliance. I am not objecting to that, strain though it is on our resources, both financial and manpower. Nevertheless, I believe that we must be on our guard to strike the right balance between our Continental and our maritime requirements. In my opinion, for what it is worth, the White Paper shows that we have struck such a balance. My main point in raising this matter is to emphasise that the part of our forces which is committed in aid of the Continental strategy must receive the training which they need for the part they may have to play in a maritime strategy. I have a feeling that training for the B.A.O.R. may not be quite the same as training for our Strategic Reserve. I may be quite wrong. I hope so.
I welcome paragraph 27, which says that the Government have decided to put in hand the design work for a new generation of aircraft carriers. Even more do I welcome paragraph 33, which tells us that the coming vertical short take-off aircraft for the Royal Air Force shall be capable of operating from these carriers. I personally hope this means 597 that these design studies will not lead us into producing giant carriers like the U.S.S. "Enterprise", of 85,000 tons, with a flight deck, the acreage of which I have seen but have forgotten. I have read that it is large enough to stack on it the "Queen Elizabeth" and the "Queen Mary" side by side—so that she is "some ship".
I will not pursue this matter further now. I think it is best left for discussion in the debate on the Navy Estimates. But if we had to spend £160 million (I think that is the figure) on a ship like that, we should not have much left for more than one, even if we could afford one. I should like to record my opinion that we need at least four aircraft carriers. I would remind your Lordships of an accident which happened only the other day to one of our aircraft carriers entering Plymouth Sound; it was quite a minor accident, but it put her out of action for a considerable time and dislocated her programme. During the war a similar accident occurred, with infinitely more serious results. The aircraft carrier, I think the "Indomitable", had a navigational mishap in the Caribbean, where she was working up, with the result that she was too late to join the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse", and, as your Lordships know, the two ships were lost—being utterly deprived of any air support. I therefore feel that we require more than one large aircraft carrier.
I feel that paragraph 41 announces a matter of great importance to the future of all three Services. I believe that young officers in all three Services cannot get used to joint Service problems too early in their careers. It was never done in my day. I do not think any serious effort has yet been made to bring young officers into contact with joint Service problems early in their careers. I particularly welcome this announcement. Officers ought not to have to wait for instruction in inter-Service problems until they are senior enough to join the Imperial Defence College or one of the Staff Colleges. I think the measures out-lined in this paragraph can be of immense benefit in the future to our defence thinking and planning, and ultimately, if necessary, to its execution.
While thinking about this problem here, I am afraid that I did not have time to give the First Lord, or the noble 598 Earl who is going to reply, an opportunity to answer this question; but some of us—including the noble and gallant Lord who has now had to leave us and who was at one time my commanderin-chief—are a little puzzled as to the relationship between the planners of the Ministry of Defence on the one hand, and the planners of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the other. Have the planners at the Ministry of Defence taken the place of the planners of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? If there are too many groups of planners, as we found during the war, one gets into the most frightful muddle, Finally, my Lords, I would say that I fully support the Motion moved by my noble friend the First Lord, and I will certainly vote against the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition.
§ 5.42 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SHEFFIELD
My Lords, I make no apology for intervening for a few minutes in this debate as a Bishop of the Church. The subject in many of its facets is technical and requires professional experience. I am a complete amateur on it, as I imagine are a good many Members of Parliament. But basically the subject concerns the people of this country, and it is one on which they should be helped to think in a way which is as informed as possible. Sometimes one feels that if politics were a little more realistic we might, in view of the contemporary situation, speak not of a Ministry of Defence but rather of a Ministry of Survival.
Many of our discussions these days on such things as learning for living, social justice, hospital services and the like have overhanging them this question: has humanity the common sense, the moral sense, the spiritual guts, to avoid a global war with all the dreadful weapons It now has in its hands? Will the nations who still possess these weapons be able to agree not to use them? Who can foresee whether a time will come when it will be too late? Your Lordships may well remember the well-known saying of Edward Grey long ago:Each Government feels that it would be criminal and a betrayal of its own country not to take every precaution, while every Government regards every precaution of every other Government as evidence of hostile intent.599 More recently Professor Polanyi, who was at one time in this country but who is now in the United States, said what every informed person to-day knows:The mounting spiral of precaution, fear, increased precaution, increasing fear is gaining momentum from the unparalleled scale of the 'precautions' and of the consequent fears.So the brutal fact is that, unless that process can be arrested, the end is inevitable. What society and the world would not, it finally would do.
That being the situation basically, I am bound to say that it has been rather a disappointment that in this last decade or so our Government have been so little able to give any sort of moral guidance and political leadership in this wide sphere of international affairs. I admit quite frankly that it is not their fault altogether; let us be fair. It is not easy to do so when you are a member of a world society which is amoral and unwise. None the less, I am bound to confess I was a little shocked when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said—perhaps in the heat of his argument—that virtually the only thing of any real worth that the Prime Minister could carry to a Summit conference was such nuclear weapons as he could carry in his bag. I see the point that he was making, but I do not think he was being really quite fair to our country; because I believe, quite apart from that particular form of argument, our country exerts, as indeed the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said, a very potent, powerful influence in the total life of the world, not solely dependent on the quality of its arms.
One point that I should like to make to your Lordships that I think has some relevance on this matter is this. I believe it is time that those in authority in this country took the people more fully into their confidence. I do not mean just emotionally as part of a drive for more recruits into the Army or Civil Defence. I have a fairly strong impression that one element in the partial paralysis of endeavour from which we are suffering in this country to-day and which manifests itself in all kinds of ways—for example, the prolonged crime wave among the young, and so on—is partly caused by this over-arching 600 fear of an unparalleled disaster lying ahead in the near future. If that is true—and I think it is—then I think we have to be extraordinarily frank and open and full in our discussion of policy, both short-term and long-term, on this whole matter.
Let us start by frankly admitting that an accelerated arms race with the weapons now available means complete disaster in the end. Let us again be frank in saying that those temporary pauses, to use General Norstad's words (and in a sense he means they are imposed by a balance of deterrent forces), can provide only a short respite. And let it be admitted, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was just saying, that there is no really effective Civil Defence once the thing really breaks out, if it does break out. Mr. Kahn in the United States, with all his persuasion and tremendous vigour, has only been able to say, with a good many ifs and buts, that, at the best, they might reduce the slaughter from 90 million to 50 million. That of course makes moral nonsense. Let us admit again that the arms control for which the Government is rightly pressing so strongly in international discussions will yield only a short-term reply. Evidently, and not unnaturally, it is a very difficult thing to achieve, and it will be an even more difficult thing to maintain, because research and technical advance in all countries are both moving so rapidly. So I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he said that, as part of our total policy for defence—if one may use that word—we ought to admit frankly that the only security for civilisation in a scientific and nuclear era is complete disarmament. That carries with it, of course, such very unpopular things in the public mind as a limitation of national sovereignty and an international and supranational police force.
I believe that, if this whole question could be set out in its full range and with complete frankness for the public of this country, not just as a pious idealistic hope but as something for which we are prepared to plan very carefully as the only security, then those in authority, the Government and others, would be doing a profound service to the country and helping its morale far more than they realise. In that event 601 I should like to think that those who speak for such influences in our country's life as the influences for which the Church stands would feel that, in pressing for a policy which in the end would give reasonable security for civilisation in this nuclear age, through disarmament, they were doing something which would conform to the principles of Christian faith and which could be guided by the wisdom of God.
§ 5.53 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I am placed in a rather difficult situation. One of the other speakers, who is a member of the Front Bench, is away on Executive business, and, apparently, we have had a Conservative cancellation without any notice to us at all. That is not, by any means, an easy position for us. I think that if we cancel on our side, we like to be able to give reasonable notice to the other side, so that they can make their arrangements. On a busy day like this, our arrangements have pretty well to be made in accord with the list of speakers which is so courteously provided by the Office. I now have to come into the breach long before the appointed time—and it is not the first time I have had to do that, even in the days of the Field Marshal.
The debate this afternoon has passed from the opening statement of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to consideration of the Amendment to his Motion, which shows the view of the Opposition that we can have no confidence in the policy adumbrated in the White Paper. In fact we are having a sort of two-fold review: we are having a review of what has been accomplished or not accomplished, as a result of the five years' policy laid down in the White Paper of 1957; and this White Paper before us also seeks to get the confidence of Parliament in what will be the adumbrated programme for the next five years.
This is not the first time in my experience, as a member of the Party to which I am proud to belong, of our having this kind of debate. Perhaps the one thing that saved the situation before the last World War was the extraordinary circumstance of a great man like Winston Churchill having been kept in the Tory political wilderness, outside of any real ministerial influence, for something like 602 ten years from 1929 to 1939. I wish I had time to quote many of the things he said about the situation of the country, the state of the Forces, the dangers and the responsibilities which our country had to face. But I never forget the debate of October 5, 1938, and I am going to quote something about "five years", which was uttered by Mr. Churchill. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 339, col. 366]:But we cannot consider the abandonment and ruin of Czechoslovakia in the light only of what happened only last month. It is the most grievous consequence which we have yet experienced of what we have done and of what we have left undone in the last five years—five years of futile good intention, five years of eager search for the line of least resistance, five years of uninterrupted retreat of British power, five years of neglect of our air defences. Those are the features which I stand here to declare and which marked an improvident stewardship for which Great Britain and France have dearly to pay.This was the year before the war.We have been reduced in those five years from a position of security so overwhelming and so unchallengeable that we never cared to think about it. We have been reduced from a position where the very word 'war' was considered one which would be used only by persons qualifying for a lunatic asylum.It all seems to be fair comparison with what is going on now.We have been reduced from a position of safety and power—power to do good, power to be generous to a beaten foe, power to make terms with Germany, power to give her proper redress for her grievances, power to stop her arming if we chose, power to take any step in strength or mercy or justice which we thought right—reduced in five years from a position safe and unchallenged to where we stand now.We are entitled to say to the Government, looking back upon the past five years and looking to the prospects for the next five years, that, though we may not be unchallengeable in the English language, as is Mr. Churchill, we are entitled to have our grave doubts about the situation, as a result of the five years which have elapsed since the White Paper of 1957. What was the situation then? The situation then was that we had a considerable resource of manpower. Up until then, I think the deductions from our contribution to the land forces, in B.A.O.R., had not been very great. Our contribution has been considerably reduced since, until to-day it is 51,000 only with the inclusion in that figure of the specially retained men who 603 would otherwise be giving up. I have looked at the figures very carefully—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, could give the figures to the noble Earl who is going to reply—and I say that you could not maintain, at the present moment, your figure of 51,000 without the retention—
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
Of course the Army Reserve Act has not yet come into force, but you know perfectly well that many of the men would be coming out at the present time, at the end of their normal period of service. You are so concerned about the future that you take the precaution in the Army Reserve Act of being able to retain these men for another six months beyond their normal period, if required. I am just showing what the difference is in strength and manpower between now and 1957.
What was the case that was made by Mr. Duncan Sandys for the general policy in 1957? I will give him this point—one which has been made by the noble and gallant Field Marshal this afternoon. It was reliance upon the power of the deterrent, which was very greatly pressed by the noble and gallant Field Marshal this afternoon: that, by adopting the policy which they intended to adopt, of sticking to the production of our deterrent and going ahead with such items of production as Blue Streak, with all its potential damaging power to the enemy if it were successful, we should be able to reduce our manpower requirements to such an extent that National Service could be abandoned, and it would be possible to rely entirely upon voluntary Regular forces. So confident and buoyant was the spirit of Mr. Duncan Sandys that he foreshadowed that they would be able to do this to the general benefit of the financial economy of the country in that they would be able to reduce the charge for Defence by at least £100 million in the next year.
What are the facts of the situation about that? I have not heard much reference to that this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Shepherd, to whom I am greatly indebted for his opening 604 speech this afternoon, mentioned the total figures which had been spent first of all by the Conservative Governments in their military budgets since 1951–51, and then since 1957. To-day, we stand with a budget which would be a long way over £1,600 million as it was presented; but, even with the pay pause operating, and some delay, therefore, to the known and just increases in pay to the Armed Forces which have been recommended (there is no mention of that in the White Paper), there is yet to be presented, in addition to the White Paper before your Lordships, a Supplemental Estimate for about £24 million. This is the kind of financial comparison you first make with 1957.
But what is the state of our defence, compared with what it was in 1957? We hear from all sorts of quarters about the need for having as much delay as possible before having to turn to the use of tactical and nuclear weapons if any trouble occurs on the Continent. Because it has been said (it was said many times, I think, during the period of office of the noble and gallant Field Marshal with the NATO headquarters) that, with the overpowering, conventional strength of Russia which would certainly be supplemented by her satellites you would not be able to contain those possible forces unless you were able to use the so-called tactical nuclear weapons. Almost at once, I remember, when that White Paper was being discussed, we on this side of the House, described that as being very nearly suicidal. Because once you have used a tactical nuclear weapon the firepower of which is so important to the noble Field Marshal, and certainly to anybody who has to conduct warfare, you would have withdrawn from any position of moral defence against the enemy's using at once the heavy nuclear bomb. And so you would have been launched right away into the war which the noble and gallant Field Marshal has said this afternoon is unthinkable and cannot happen, in view of the present situation.
If that is so, all I can say is that the NATO authority are taking every possible precaution to see that they have a delay, whether it be hours, days or weeks of time, before the greater disaster would occur and they would go, almost at once, if necessary, to the use of the tactical nuclear weapon. We have 605 always tried to find out what was the kind of strength and power of the nuclear tactical weapon which would be employed. I suppose it would vary from the use of atomic shells up to those other weapons which have been described as of a power which would be not far short of the power of the Hiroshima bomb.
My Lords, these are very serious matters. We chose to go off on this policy in 1957; and, to-day, what has happened? Blue Streak, after costing an enormous sum, has gone. We cannot rely upon that. Blue Steel has not yet been proved. It was to cost £12½ million. We know now it has already cost £60 million. I am not sure about the figure which my noble friend quoted, but the final cost is certainly going to be pretty considerable by the time this weapon is ready.
We have heard all the arguments as to how this could be delivered. I do not differ from the tributes which have been paid by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, by my noble friends, and others, to the courage of the R.A.F., and the capacity, in their present state, of the V-bombers to be the vehicle for delivering such a stand-off bomb as Blue Steel. I do not challenge that at all. But what is the real view behind it all of the Royal Air Force authorities? I do not know. I can only divine this: that it is two or three or more years ago—I forget how many years—that they decided that, with the value of this stand-off bomb, they would not, after all, follow the V-bombers, when they became out of date, with supersonic bombers to take their place. Why did they decide that? It was because the whole thing was not going to be of any consequence after a few years.
I think that must be taken very carefully into account when you are assessing the Government's policy in this matter. Personally, whatever views may be held in various sections of all Parties (and people who take the line they do about our holding the deterrent bomb hold views which are very sincere and very real) I myself should like to have the deterrent bomb held as long as possible. I have never varied from my view upon that. That is, as I say, a personal view. I am not speaking for this, that or any other section of my Party. On these very grave matters we have to be honest and say what our individual 606 views are upon them. But when you come to look at the other forces, the land forces, the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said (I agree in reply to a question; he did not say it in his speech, so I am not attacking him in any way about it) that if we wanted to know when was the lowest state of strength of the British Army, it was at the beginning of his service in 1946 or 1947—about that period. If we go purely upon numbers, I think he would have very great difficulty in proving his case upon that.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, if the noble Viscount would allow me to interrupt, may I say that it is really a question of the circumstances at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who has read with great care the book I wrote—a good book—said that I had settled with the then Minister of Defence for a certain figure of 300,000, or whatever it was. I did not settle; it was the Chiefs of Staff. I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff. But you must understand that in those days it was considered by the Labour Government that war was imminent. That was the fact, because we had to have all this out with the Chiefs of Staff, and there was a moment when I, in my official position, had to say to the Prime Minister: "If war is imminent, we cannot make it; we must carry out some form of mobilisation which will enable us to do what you want." Now, to-day, war is not imminent, and the situation is quite different; therefore the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, would not stand up.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, of course the position is quite different. We were in a state of demobilisation. In the years which followed, our total releases from all three Forces were over 800,000 men. Yet when I look at the figures—and I have looked them up very carefully in the White Paper—I find nothing to support that statement. There must have been a great deal of dislocation of services employed in transportation of troops and resettlement; that I would admit. Let me take 1948, which covers the year 1947–48. Our manpower ended up with 534,000 men available to the Army. There, again, I say that that 607 included men from some of the new call-ups under the National Service Act. In 1949 there were 416,000 men for the Army; in 1950, 376,000; and in 1951, 356,000. They were all for the Army. I am not accepting the general assessment of the noble and gallant Field Marshal in this; I take the facts as they appear in the printed Reports to Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I want to say only that the year 1948 was very serious. Then, as the years went on, in 1949, 1950 and 1951 it got less serious, so naturally the Forces were run down and our commitments were not so great. That is all.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I have a tremendous admiration for the noble and gallant Field Marshal as a leader of men and as a general in the field. No one could have a more genuine admiration for his service in that way than I. But some of his publicity claims certainly astonish me. I have read his Memoirs in the places that really affect me, and I must say I find them very difficult to understand. I can remember my experience at the Paris Peace Conference while the noble Viscount was still in Germany, and I can remember our talks within the Labour Government, Clem Attlee, Ernest Bevin and myself, as to what was the situation. We were discussing that before the noble Viscount joined us as Secretary of State for War—
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I beg the noble Viscount's pardon—before he joined us as Chief of the Imperial General Staff. We were then already discussing the necessities which might arise before very long and which at that time we could assess only by the political atmosphere at what was called a Peace Conference to settle what were to be the treaties with ex-enemy countries. Those of us who were discussing the matter in an inner sense—not going along to the full Cabinet at that time—decided that we were bound to have National Service. From that moment on we were determined to get 608 it, and get it we did. We had some considerable difficulties, but I am not ashamed of any part which I may have had in that matter. We never had less than eighteen months' service. I am not very enamoured when the noble and gallant Field Marshal talks about a strike, or with the revelations he mentions in his Memoirs (I will not trouble to read them all out) when we were discussing the actual terms of the 1947 Act, and when he called a meeting of the military members of the Army Council and got them, so far as I could see, to pledge themselves that they would all resign if they did not get what they wanted. What is that but planning a strike?
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, may I reply to that? It was considered by the Government of the day that National Service must come down to one year.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
In 1948. The Secretary of State for War was Mr. Shinwell, for whom I had very great respect and liking. It was my duty to go along to his room in the War Office and to say that, if National Service came down to one year, they could get another C.I.G.S. I can tell the noble Viscount that I was succeeded by the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and he had to say exactly the same thing: that he would have created a record by going to the railways, coming to the C.I.G.S., and going back to the railways if they did not have eighteen months' service.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, he knows full well that he was never in danger of getting twelve months' service, in practice. The most fatal thing which could have happened at that time would have been for National Service to have been carried only upon Opposition votes making up part of the majority. You would have split the country from top to bottom in every constituency and in every home. But we could get a vote on twelve months straight away. I put into that Act all that was necessary; that if the requirement meant eighteen months, I could get it in time with a Statutory Order. We never had twelve months' 609 service; it was always a minimum of eighteen months. At some time, when the noble Viscount thinks over all the events, he may write another biography which is a little fairer than that one.
The situation now is that we are struggling at enormous cost to get Regular forces which would give by next year, 1963, 166,000 men; or perhaps, with the remnant National Service men, just over 180,000. Does anyone say that we can properly fulfil our commitments on that basis? I am quite sure that, with all the extra work to be done, and with all the modern equipment and everything else in training, maintenance, and transportation, and all the rest of it, we should have the greatest possible difficulty in doing it.
I am surprised at the unqualified approval given by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, because he does have great experience. And I would pay this tribute to him: that in that disastrous period from 1931 to 1939, his was the one Department I can put my finger on and say that here was somebody who was really thinking of reducing what was a great possible danger. We should not have had the supply of planes, the demand for which we were suddenly faced with in May, 1940, in order to do the job, if it had not been for the thinking, and the gradual emergence into production of planes, of the Department which he supervised. So I pay that tribute to him of what I think of his work as a Service Minister. But with all the measures he had to take, and after his experience in different theatres of war, about which I had often consulted him when he was home from his outposts, knowing the facts of war, never did I dream that he would be prepared to say "Yes" to everything in this White Paper.
The noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, thinks that as long as there is a nuclear weapon in the world, you can be quite confident that there will be no war. But he makes a strange contrast to that when he speaks about the commitments we must still meet overseas. With all his visits to China, to Russia, to Cuba and to South Africa, I do not think that he has yet learned all the diplomatic wisdom in international affairs that he will require to sort these things out.
610 When we come to deal with areas which are covered by the Government's commitments and SEATO and CENTO, there is no guarantee at all that we shall be able to sit back and say, "So long as there is a nuclear weapon in the world, there is going to be no war." Afterwards the noble and gallant Viscount came out with the suggestion that when we look for permanent bases we should think of Australia. The First Lord and I have had a chat once or twice about the same thing, rather ahead of the noble and gallant Viscount, but perhaps he has been thinking about this at the same time as the First Lord and I. May I give just a hint about our trying to get the safe bases which are required for our wider commitments and wanting to choose Australia? You should remember this if you shove Australia out of the trade she is getting with us now by becoming committed under a majority decision of the European Economic Community. It is something worth thinking about anyway.
We have heard very little this afternoon about the whole question of the future and what our weapons are going to be. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will forgive me if I say that my noble friend was near the mark when he said that the noble Lord did not set himself out to make a general exposition of the White Paper this afternoon, but was introducing it by answering criticisms which he thought would be raised. The noble Lord and I together had listened for long periods to the debate in another place.
May I say to the noble Lord now what I said to him before in private? If he wants to be answered at any time by the Leader of the Opposition, he should speak more slowly. He has a good and beautiful voice and he reads well the excellent speech he has prepared; but try to write it down while he is speaking, so that you may be able to answer it, and you have an awful job. But maybe it is the noble Lord's last line of defence—he knows that you cannot get it down to answer it. What the noble Lord missed out is the future of the nuclear position. We heard nothing from him in detail about that this afternoon. What is the recent view of the United States of America about the value of our deterrent? How long can it last? What 611 takes its place? What will be the cost of maintaining it? What will be the cost of replacing it at the end of the period? Can we afford it?
The Government know full well that the main reason why we are so behind in our defence provision is that they went back upon their duty in 1950 and 1951, on the basis of their appeal to the country for power. They said, "Set the people free". Free from what? Free from all the controls which are necessary if we are to have a National Service Army, if we are to have the weapons, in a country generally recovering from the most damaging war that we have ever suffered. At the end of more than ten years of Tory financial control, these people, the great business organisations who are the only people who are supposed to know how to run the country's finances, are in constant trouble. They are in balance of payments trouble in the middle of trying to budget for our defence abroad, and have had to run and borrow £700 million from the International Monetary Fund, which they are paying off bit by bit, while the whole country is suffering from a bank rate which has been up to 7 per cent. and after all these many months has got down only to 5½ per cent., throwing enormous costs upon all the commitments of all classes of citizen—upon mortgages, building society payments, insurance and all the rest. This has resulted in a constant pressure upon them for alterations in people's remuneration, whether they are ordinary industrial working-class people or anybody else who is employed.
It is because of this foolishness in your financial and economic policy that you are not able soundly and justly to prepare a properly estimated and organised and efficient defence of our country. When we think of the general proposals which the Government take on in the White Paper, not only for the defence of our country but also for the defence of those who depend on us, and any country within the free world which may have attacks made upon it, and think also of the completely proved incapacity of the Government to provide for the financial future, this White Paper gives no confidence to the citizens for the defence of our country.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount opposite for being here in time to begin his speech because, if he had not been, I am afraid that I should not have been here in time to begin mine. I have never previously known such a large number of unexpected cancellations, a thing one often vainly hopes for and then, when it actually happens, it catches one "on the hop".
I am afraid that I must begin by pleading guilty to the grave offence of not being a Member of the Cabinet. The only excuse I can think of is that quite a large number of your Lordships are in a similar condition of sin. There are only four Members of your Lordships' House who are in a state of grace in this matter—four just men, which is exactly the same as the number of righteous persons who were found in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not surprising that they are kept pretty busy and occasionally have to ask unmeritorious people like me to come and do things instead.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I must point out, however, as was said before, that this is a very important debate. We could not have a more important one except perhaps a general Foreign Affairs debate. And we have a Motion of censure down on the Order Paper. That censure is of the Government, of the Executive—really, of the Cabinet. There has been a pretty well-used rule that when there is a Motion of censure upon the Government the person who replies is a member of the Cabinet. I know that you have difficulties, and I am sorry about them; but at least you might have told us that you were going to do it.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I do not think that has anything to do with me. But I was grateful to the noble Viscount—I entirely agree as to the importance of this Motion—and I thought perhaps this might have been the reason for letting me off so lightly. I felt that his speech was not so much a vote of censure on the Government as a vote of censure on the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, or, at least, on certain of his opinions and activities.
613 The main general criticism against the Government which has been advanced by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and others of your Lordships who have spoken, is much the same (although I think, if I may be allowed to say so, it was much more effectively and moderately expressed) as the criticisms put forward a fortnight ago in the other place—namely, that we have wasted our money on defence by trying unsuccessfully to distribute it between two things, one being the nuclear deterrent, which it is said we have produced on only an inconsiderable and derisory scale, so that it does not add to that which is held by the United States; while, at the same time, it is said that we have failed to produce conventional forces which are able to fulfil their function and our obligations to the world in general and to Western Europe in particular.
I think it would probably be for your Lordships' convenience if, before endeavouring to meet that general criticism, I try to reply to a few of the more particular points and questions which various speakers have raised in the course of the discussion. In a debate of this length it is never possible to reply to anything like every question that is raised, but I will, as I always try to do, communicate with those of your Lordships who have raised matters to which there is not time to give a verbal reply now. The noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, raised a number of points, in a speech which I think greatly interested and delighted the House, not only because of his great authority but also because of the manner in which he delivered it. I think he is the first Field Marshal whom I have ever heard ask the question, "Have we advanced in military thinking?". I was glad to hear a Field Marshal ask that question? He asks, "Is is necessary to employ one civilian for every soldier?"—that is, 400,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen; a total of 400,000 civilians and 400,000 fighting personnel.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I must make this short interpolation. I have heard the question asked many times in lectures at the Imperial Defence College
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The noble Viscount has the advantage of me. He did not say who asked the question, but I am glad to hear that he has heard it asked.
The noble and gallant Field Marshal thought it would be a good thing that fighting soldiers should have more housework to do; and he pointed out that, in any case, out of 21 years they spend 7 years in bed, 3 asleep in the afternoons, 2 cleaning equipment, 2 outside the orderly room, 2 doing fatigues and 2 on leave, leaving only 3 years out of the 21. I think we ought perhaps to allow them another two years for eating; and if perhaps we allow them half a year for having drinks, that leaves only six months. If you are going to make them do household work as well, it seems to me that they would have no training at all; and as the question of conscription has been raised, too, if they had to spend a lot of their time training two-year conscripts they would never have time available to get any training themselves. I appreciate the noble and gallant Viscount's point, that we ought not to have too many civilians and specialists, but it is a great advantage, as he himself pointed out, to be able to develop in modern times a very highly skilled and well-trained Army—although we all realise that they do nod, and ought not to have to, spend too much of their time on actual military exercises.
Then the noble and gallant Viscount raised the very important question of whether we should have larger regiments in order that we might have greater flexibility and greater interchangeability of officers, getting out, as he called it, of the tight regimental system. I feel some slight embarrassment in replying to the noble and gallant Viscount on this, because my own affinities and associations are almost entirely tribal. I often feel that our influence in Africa would not be so low as the noble and gallant Viscount thought it was if we had not done so much to discourage tribalism in that part of the world. I happen to think of tribalism as a rather good form of government, and I do not like to do anything against it.
I am sure the noble and gallant Viscount will remember that at the Battle of El Alamein he gave the most honoured place in the forefront of the 615 attack to the 51st Division, and that their performance compared quite well with that of the more civilised co-belligerents who were fighting with them. I think we all appreciate the noble and gallant Viscount's point about this. I would only add that we really ought to be careful, at the same time, not to discourage feelings of local pride, especially, if I may say so, in the Scottish Highlands, which have such a long tradition of military service.
It may be that we can find a way of achieving the objectives which the noble and gallant Viscount put forward without doing any damage to this local pride, which, of course, as your Lordships know, was considerably hurt in some ways by the amalgamations two or three years ago, reducing the total number of regiments of the line by half, down to, I think, a total of 49. As I believe the noble and gallant Viscount knows, the War Office have now appointed a Departmental Committee to consider this very important and rather ticklish question.
The noble and gallant Field Marshal also spoke of the necessity of a greater and better deployment of our Forces all over the world. I will not comment upon his advocacy of a base in Australia, but I should like to say in regard to the base at Singapore that the Government have reached a very satisfactory agreement with the Malayan Government on arrangements for the continued use of the British defence facilities in Singapore when the Federation of Malasia is formed. That is, of course, additional to the facilities that we have in Malaya itself under our Defence Agreement with the Malayan Government. We believe that those arrangements will enable us to maintain adequate forces to meet all our commitments.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, asked about the Chieftain tank, which I thought I would try to answer now, because the Army did go very carefully into these questions of bridge classification before deciding to adopt this tank. Considering its performance and its fire-power, it is not a heavy tank. It combines much more devastating fire-power than that of the Conqueror heavy tank, with the weight and mobility of a medium tank of the Centurion class.
616 The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked about the heavy-lift aircraft, of which he said rightly that, at the moment, we have not enough. I agreed with much of what he said on that point, but orders have been given for ten Belfasts and five VC-10s, both of which types can carry heavy loads over very long ranges. The Belfasts are due to be delivered in two years from now, in 1964, and the VC-10s will be delivered a year later. These new types will supplement the medium-range Argosies, and I think they should meet satisfactorily the strategic freight needs of Transport Command.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, could the noble Earl say when the orders were placed for the Belfast aircraft?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I can only say when I expect them to be delivered. I do not know how long the orders have been placed.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
Has not the Belfast gone back on what we were told a year ago? It is coming into service in 1964. I thought we were told it was to come into service in 1963. But perhaps I am wrong.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think the expectation was always 1964. The TC-10s were always expected not to be ready until a year later, and I am not sure that that date is quite a firm one yet. But the Belfasts are expected in 1964.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who delivered the main exposition of his Party's criticism against this White Paper, asked several particular questions, which I thought I would try to separate from the main theme of the discussion. First of all, the noble Lord asked about Army manpower and reserves. He wanted to know what would happen when we had to reinforce our Forces in B.A.O.R. in the event of an emergency, and where they were to come from—how we were going to meet our commitments with an Army of 165,000 to 170,000 men, when we were already finding difficulty in doing so with an Army of 200,000 men. The answer lies partly in redeployment, by which we plan to concentrate our forces, relying on air 617 transport to move the troops where they are wanted, and partly on the fact that, man for man, we believe that an all-Regular Army will be more efficient than the mixed Regular and conscript Forces which we have had in recent years, in which training and other overheads have been disproportionately high.
We do not deny that there is a present shortage of manpower in the peace-time strength of B.A.O.R.—only 51,500 instead of 55,000—especially in the administrative section of the Services. But the position will improve with the build-up of the Regular Army. Meanwhile we are confident that in an emergency it will prove possible to provide substantial reinforcements from this country in a matter of a few days. Of course, I cannot discuss the plans in general; it would not be in the public interest to do so. But I can assure your Lordships that there are prearranged plans, which are known to the Supreme Commander of NATO, for bringing large numbers of men to the Continent very quickly. These include not only 3 Division, but also members of the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve. Your Lordships will probably have noticed that some of these movements are to be practised in exercises later this year.
Then the noble Lord asked about the V-Bombers, their dispersal and vulnerability, which is a question that has always been before the public and Parliament in these discussions. Bomber Command has extensive dispersal facilities in this country, and possibly on occasion elsewhere, and can be maintained in a very high state of readiness. As the Secretary of State for Air said in another place, the main threat to-day would be from manned aircraft, and we should get reasonable warning. But as the ballistic missile threat grows, so does our Ballistic Missile Early Warning System—B.M.E.W.S. The chain of stations will be complete next year with Fylingdales, and we should be able to get warning from the stations in Greenland and Alaska. The minimum warning, when the chain is complete, will be about four minutes, and the average reaction time in Bomber Command would be half that. We are advised that our power to retaliate could not be wiped out by surprise attack. The V-Bombers would have time, even against missiles, to get off the ground 618 and out of danger. I do not think the noble Lord's fears that the V-Bombers are obsolescent are really justified. They have a better performance, in terms of speed and altitude, than most bombers of other countries.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that they were a superb force, superbly equipped—which indeed they are. All the evidence shows that enough of our own bombers would get through to inflict destruction which would be so great that Russia would not risk a war—would not take the risk in order to achieve a quick occupation of Europe. I am talking now about the present moment. But within the next year or two the increase in stand-off capacity will grow, first with Blue Steel, and then, a year or two later, with Skybolt. We are confident that our means of delivery are fully keeping pace with Russian methods of defence. Of course, the real point is about the credibility of the deterrent.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, might I interrupt the noble Earl on this point to ask why any money at all is being spent on civil defence?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think that is a slightly different point which I will come to in a few seconds, if your Lordships will allow me to go on. The real matter is credibility, which I should like to say a word or two about in a moment.
As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has interrupted me, let me take the opportunity of dealing with the two matters which he raised, one of which was also raised by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield. Both of them happen to be questions on which your Lordships will be having a fuller discussion within the next week or two. On disarmament, my noble friend the Foreign Secretary will be giving your Lordships, no doubt next week, in our debate on Foreign Affairs, a full statement on the present position. Up to to-day, there have not been yet any signs of movement by the Russians.
What we are trying to do is to find some method of verification, particularly on the question of nuclear tests, which will be reliable but which will not be unacceptable to the Russians. The difficulty has always been that they will not allow verification because they think 619 it means spying. We are doing our best to see whether we can find some method that will not excite Russian suspicions to a degree which is unacceptable to them. Whether we shall succeed or not I do not know, but we must have some verification; and, of course, the Russians know that perfectly well, especially after what happened last September. No Government in its senses could possibly make an agreement, without verification, which would command the confidence of the world; and if the Russians are sincere in their protestations that they want a nuclear test agreement it is obvious to them, I think, that they must agree to some kind of verification which will give people confidence that the test ban or disarmament is being observed.
As for disarmament, the Americans made a proposal—which I am sure my noble friend will develop next week—for a progressive reduction both of nuclear strength and of conventional strength on the lines of the plans which have already been made both by the Commonwealth Conference of nearly a year ago and by the United Nations Assembly last September; and we will certainly spare no effort to try to push that at the conference. I would reiterate again that it all depends on Russian willingness to accept some kind of inspection, or at least verification, which will be satisfactory and which will command the confidence of the world. Without that there can be neither any disarmament nor, indeed, any belief in the sincerity of the Russian protestations that they want to have a disarmament agreement.
As for civil defence, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will have seen from the White Paper that it is fully recognised that we cannot foresee the circumstances in which a nuclear attack might take place, and any scheme of dispersal which might be worked out with the local authorities must be an optional one which can or cannot be applied in the light of the circumstances if and when the disaster were to occur. But as your Lordships, I understand, will be having a whole day on civil defence in the next week or two I will not pursue the subject any further now.
§ LORD KENNET
Before the noble Earl leaves the subject may I ask him 620 to enlighten me on one point? A moment ago he said that the Government were confident that the deterrent effect of our V-bomber force was such that the Russians would never find it a thinkable eventuality to attack this country.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
If I may come on to that point now, I was going to say something about it. But perhaps the noble Lord would like to make his point more clearly.
§ LORD KENNET
I was going to ask whether if this is the belief, is not money spent on civil defence wasted?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
If I may say so, that is an extraordinarily unreasonable question. It is so devoid of sense that I find it difficult to answer. I must say that, however confident you are that your measures to prevent disaster are likely to be successful, that is not a reason against taking precautions and working out a plan of action to mitigate the disaster if it did occur. That cannot make disaster more likely to happen. I really have very little patience with this kind of question, which we have from many people all over the country; not only from the noble Lord, but from a good many representatives of local authorities who need a little training in the art of logic and common sense.
The two more general questions which we have discussed are the British deterrent, which I have very largely covered already, and manpower, which we have already partly covered. On the deterrent, as my noble friend earlier tried to make plain to your Lordships, we believe that the British independent deterrent is a valuable addition to that which is already possessed by America, and that our influence—it is not a question of prestige, but of our ability to do good—in helping to promote the cause of peace in other ways is advanced by our possession of this independent deterrent, as I think was very ably and forcibly argued by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton.
I should just like to mention, in passing, that I think this is the first debate in your Lordships' House in which I have taken part for a very long time in which the Opposition have all opposed the Government and the Government has been supported by its supporters. It is a 621 quite unusual thing to happen in your Lordships' House. I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, for his support on this and other matters and also to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who, I thought, put extremely well the case for an independent British deterrent.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
That is a novel explanation, because we do not retreat in your Lordships' House; we just go on and get mowed down again and again in the Lobby.
I do not think, therefore, that we should ignore the value of our contribution in providing a deterrent to nuclear war by having nuclear weapons ourselves, and I think that it adds to the deterrent that not only the means of delivery but the nature of the weapon should be as varied as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this point mentioned the possibility that Russia might let off, I think he said, ten or twenty 500-megaton bombs which might put practically all the cities and centres of population of the world out of action with one salvo. If that is the case, surely it is all the more necessary that our power of retaliation should be as widely dispersed and as varied as possible, so that they will not be able to knock all means of retaliation out at once, and if they know they cannot do that they are not very likely to start a war.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, can the noble Earl say in what way means for the delivery of our deterrent are varied?—because this is my own concern. I personally support an independent nuclear deterrent, but, as I see it, we are now relying entirely upon the V-bomber force. That it is vulnerable on the ground, the noble Earl has admited. We shall have a four-minute warning, not just to put our aircraft up in the air, but to analyse and assess what is on the radar screen. Therefore four minutes becomes a very short period. What worries me is how credible is our deterrent to-day.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My answer to that would be, my Lords, that the 622 more dispersed our bombers are, the more credible the deterrent is: because they cannot all be knocked out at once in four minutes, or any length of time. As the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, very well pointed out, the bombers on the ground may be vulnerable, but they are not so vulnerable as a fixed launching site. And that is what I was thinking of when I said that it was an addition to the value of the deterrent that means of delivery by this country and America should be as diverse and varied as possible.
Then with regard to manpower, the suggestion has been made by some of your Lordships opposite that not only are our Forces assigned to NATO in Europe inadequate but we are failing to meet our commitments and do our share in Europe, and it is perhaps not uninteresting to your Lordships that those criticisms should come from noble Lords who opposed the Army Reserve Act which was designed for the very purpose of maintaining during this temporary period of difficulty our ability to fulfil our commitments in Europe.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Earl must be fair. We opposed that Bill not because we did not want the Government to have the Forces but because of the method by which they were getting them.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Very well, they opposed the method but they did not oppose the principle; I do not know. But, in any event, it seemed a little odd to me that anybody who opposed that Bill should at the same time attack the Government for having too few troops ready to take action in Germany; and I would suggest to your Lordships that anyone who criticises our efforts, whether it is here or in NATO or whether it is our Allies who are not satisfied with our contribution, should be fair and remember what it is.
Eighty-five per cent. of the operational and Reserve Fleets are committed to NATO and so also are 50 per cent. of all front line aircraft including the whole of our Fighter Command. On the mainland of Europe we have now 51,500 whose full strength should be 55,000, plus all the auxiliaries, the non-combatant British Servicemen and the German's for whom we are paying; we 623 are paying for over 100,000 men in Germany altogether, and extra units are being sent to strengthen the British Army of the Rhine. They include the Thunderbird Regiment which has lately gone there, and two light anti-aircraft regiments, and there is the reserve division which is being held ready in the United Kingdom.
In modern conditions troops can be flown into Germany within a very short period indeed to bring the number up to war-time strength, and the deployment of British Forces not long ago in Kuwait was, I think, a convincing example of what can be done in that way. We have left our Allies in no doubt that if the situation demands it we shall immediately proclaim a state of emergency and the call-up of all Reserves to reinforce our troops on the spot, and we are going to test our plans for doing so in the exercise next September. Practically the whole of the Territorial Army will test out their mobilisation procedure in that exercise and 2,000 of them will actually fly out to Germany. That, I think, will afford a useful practical demonstation of our ability to intervene powerfully and quickly in support of our Allies, and I do not see how anybody can really claim that what we are doing represents an
§ abandonment of our responsibilities to NATO in Europe.
§ In fact, except for the admitted temporary shortage of the peace-time strength amounting to 3,500 men in B.A.O.R., I have heard nothing at all in this debate which in my judgment can really sustain a vote of censure. I would invite your Lordships to reject the Amendment and in doing so to re-affirm your belief that Britain is making a contribution which is as well-balanced and effective as any that could be made, by a country in the geographical and economic circumstances of our own country, to the defence of the Free World.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I regard the reply as wholly inadequate to the case. In reply to what the noble and gallant Field Marshal said earlier about not voting against any Defence Vote, we are not voting against the Estimates of the Army, Navy and Air Force; we are voting against the general policy of the Government leading us to this position, and we shall go on with the vote.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 24; Not-Contents 71.625
|Airedale, L.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Longford, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Taylor, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Geddes of Epsom, L.||Ogmore, L.||Williams, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rea, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Shackleton, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Allerton, L.||Davidson, V.||Mancroft, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Denham, L.||Mar and Kellie, E.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Devonshire, D.||Margesson, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Dudley, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Dundee, E.||Mills, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Ferrier, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Boston, L.||Forster of Haraby, L.||Newall, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Furness, V.||Norrie, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hampton, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hastings, L.||Perth, E.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Hawke, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Coleraine, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Colyton, L.||Jellicoe, E.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Saltoun, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Sinclair, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Long, V.||Somers, L.|
|Croft, L.||Lothian, M.||Spens, L.|
|Strang, L.||Tedder, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Stuart of Findhorn, V.||Teviot, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Swansea, L.||Teynham, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Swinton, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
On Question, Resolution agreed to.