§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, we have had an interesting debate up to now, and I have to tell your Lordships that my noble friends on these Benches and I myself propose to support the Amendment: in fact, the First Lord went out of his way, it seemed to me, to make sure that we did support the Amendment, and also that the Labour Opposition pressed it to a Division. He derided his opponents, without offering any constructive policy of his own. It appeared to me that what we had this afternoon was not a description of the Defence policy of the Government, but the first shots in the General Election.
The Government's policy is extremely vague and confused. but there are two 798 matters which are reasonably specific. The first is that the Service Ministries are to become united under the Ministry of Defence. We do not know whether this is a real tiger or a paper tiger; but if it is a real tiger and it has teeth, then in principle we are prepared to support it, subject, of course, to the fact, as the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out, that the details are such as we can also support. We are not giving a blank cheque or a blank meal or a real meal to a proper tiger.
We do not—at least, I do not (I cannot speak on this point for my noble friends, because I have not asked them)—support the idea of submerging once more the Ministry of Aviation, at all events so far as aircraft are concerned. In the past when civil aviation has been put under a Service Ministry, as I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will recollect, the effect on civil aviation has been disastrous. I feel that the new Minister of Defence, whoever he may be in the new set-up, will have quite enough to do in the future without having also to be responsible for the very vexed and important problems of civil aviation.
The other matter which is reasonably clear is that the Government propose to maintain the British independent nuclear deterrent—so-called. In our view, it is not British and not independent, and it is a very doubtful deterrent. The noble Lord rather slid over the fact that some of his colleagues and some of his Party do not agree with him. There are some important people in the Party, such as Mr. Aubrey Jones, a former Minister, and others, who do not agree. These are tremendous problems—I am not going to say they are light ones. We have to decide, and people have a perfect right to their opinion on these matters. But it is a fact that many people who have considerable experience in this field, independent of the Government and of any Party, have come to a conclusion against the independent nuclear deterrent for both political and military reasons.
The noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, quoted the speech made by the Prime Minister recently. I presume he was referring to the speech made at Church House.
§ LORD OGMORE
Well, I will refer to the speech made at Church House—the better the place, the better the deed! The Prime Minister said that the British independent nuclear deterrent was a "guarantee against blackmail", which I thought was a very odd expression to use about our Allies. Secondly, he went on to add, plaintively, like Mrs. Micawber, that he would never desert—
THE EARL OF HOME
I think it is as well to get this clear. No doubt the position the Prime Minister had in mind was that if we had to conduct a military operation in some part of the world the Communist enemy might say: You cease to conduct that operation, or else.…" So it would be the Communist nation who would be blackmailing, and not an Ally.
§ LORD OGMORE
The Foreign Secretary has misunderstood me. I did not think the Prime Minister meant that we were going to be blackmailed by one of the NATO Allies. I meant that it was a reflection on the Allies to think that they would not come to our support.
§ LORD OGMORE
It seems to me to be typical of the cloud cuckoo-land in which the Government are living. Can one imagine any attempt by a Communist Power to threaten to submerge us, or defeat us, in a nuclear war, and in no circumstances the United States coming to our aid? I cannot believe it. To me, the great point of the Western Alliance is that in these circumstances we go to each other's aid. Otherwise, what is the point of having a Western Alliance?
Secondly, the Prime Minister said that he would never desert the British nuclear deterrent. We do not believe in the credibility of the British independent deterrent. So long as there have to be 800 these frightful weapons, we believe that it is much better for the Soviet Union and the United States, but no one else, to have the weapon. We should hope, through general disarmament, to reach a state in which no one would have these weapons. But so long as they are in the world, we believe that it is possible to restrict their use only if their possession is confined to the two great Powers which have them. I want to make that perfectly clear. That is our belief. We believe that while these two great Powers, and no one else, have them there is the possibility that they will never be used. As I said in a previous debate, we are terrified that other countries will get them, and about a proliferation of these weapons. Can we imagine Egypt, Israel and China having them; or some of the Middle Eastern States? We do not believe that we can possibly limit the use of these weapons if they get into too many hands.
So far as the British independent deterrent is concerned, I suppose it was just credible when we had the V-bombers and Skybolt. The attitude of the United States was: "We, the United States, have the inter-continental ballistic missile and Polaris. We do not need Skybolt. If you want Sky-bolt you can go on with it, provided that you pay for it."There has been much criticism of the United States over this attitude, but in my view it is a reasonable one. I do not think we can expect them to go on paying for the development of Skybolt if they do not need it. We decided to go in for Polaris, and the Prime Minister, attended by the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Royal Zoological Society and the Minister of Defence, went to the Bahamas. They there agreed that the decision should be taken to abandon Skybolt and to take Polaris in its stead.
The United Kingdom, as we have heard to-day, is to construct these submarines and the nuclear warheads. The United States is to provide, on payment, Polaris missiles and to study the feasibility of making certain support facilities available. Furthermore, these submarines when they are available, with their warheads and missiles, will form part of a multilateral Polaris force.
§ LORD OGMORE
The Foreign Secretary says "multi-national". The only place where I have seen a description of the difference between the two is in the Daily Mail. That is my only authority. The Daily Mail said that the difference between a multi-national and a multilateral force is that the multinational force is one to which nations contribute contingents, and a multilateral force is one where the nations simply provide individuals who are mixed up in the force and who become one force without any national label on them. I believe that that is right. If I am wrong, I shall blame the Daily Mail, because I have not heard anyone else describe it. If that is so, there is a considerable vagueness over the developments after the Bahamas Agreement was entered into. Because now, as the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has said, we are told that this multilateral force is to consist, in part, at least, of surface vessels armed with the Polaris missile in addition to, or perhaps in substitution for, the Polaris submarines.
We are also told that there is great dispute or great difference of opinion in NATO among the various NATO Powers, as to whether they want this force at all, or are prepared to join it. My own view is that this suggestion of the multilateral Polaris force is a political question, and not a military one. Its only value, if there is any value at all, will be political. But I think that it will have very little value, and that it is, in fact, a sop to the Germans, in order that they should feel they have some say over the control of the nuclear weapons in NATO. It is also an attempt—which I think will fail—to placate France and to get them to join in the NATO force as well. So it is a political force; and we must not mislead ourselves by thinking that it will have any great military value. I am talking, of course, about these nuclear forces in NATO, and not about the conventional forces.
The difficulty would still remain of how the fifteen nations in NATO are to have any political control over this force. The Prime Minister once said that so far as NATO political control over nuclear weapons was concerned, it was "one finger on the trigger and fifteen thumbs on the safety catch". That situation still remains, and as at present advised 802 I do not say it is impossible to work out a system. The NATO Parliamentarians are giving some thought to it. But at the moment the only credible deterrent is the American President, with the political power over the deterrent, and the Supreme Commander in Europe, with the military power over it. It is he who would actually order the pressing of the button, on the instructions from the American President; and up to now there has been no substitute for that system. We must recognise that.
The same position, as I see it, will apply in the case of the Polaris submarines. How will they be activated? How will a decision be taken to loose off the terrible instruments of war which they carry? By whom will that order be given? These are the questions we must ask ourselves as Parliamentarians because these are political questions and not military questions. I shall be interested to hear what the Foreign Secretary has to say at the end.
So far as the Liberal policy is concerned we have more or less been challanged on that position. Unlike the Labour Party, according to the First Lord, we do have a policy. His accusation against the Labour Party was that they do not have a policy; his accusation against us was that we have a policy but that it is enormously expensive. I believe neither of these contentions to be correct. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has to-day given the Labour Party's policy; and so far as the Liberal Party's policy is concerned, it is not enormously expensive. In fact, it would be less expensive than the present policy of the Government. The only difference is that it will be much more effective.
Liberal Party policy, as the noble Lord has indicated, is an increase in the conventional forces and an abandonment of the so-called independent British nuclear deterrent. We estimate that we need 420,000 men; that is to say, the Royal Navy, 110,000; the Army 200,000; the Royal Air Force 110,000. This is not a vast increase at all; the First Lord said an enormous, stupendous increase, or words to that effect. It is not so. It is, in fact, only 33,100 more than in the 1962 Estimates, and less than that in the forces we propose to maintain this year, for the forces will not in numbers be very greatly increased. There 803 will be great savings on the reduction in the numbers of garrisons and bases. Also we should no longer have to maintain this vast and increasingly expensive nuclear deterrent, the cost of which, as the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said, no one knows; it cannot be computed.
So far as recruiting is concerned—and the noble Lord challenged us about recruiting—the Government say that recruiting is going so well that they are going to cut out the Gurkhas. They are negotiating with Nepal to cut down, or very substantially to reduce, the number of Gurkhas. So there will not be much difficulty about getting the extra men we require. You cannot have it both ways, Either recruiting is so good that we shall get the men, or it is so bad that you cannot get the men, so why cut out the Gurkhas?
We believe in maintaining our collective security arrangements with NATO, SEATO and the other collective security organisations. We should reduce the number of bases and garrisons. The bases would be reduced to three: the United Kingdom, Aden and Singapore, with limited facilities at Gibraltar and Malta. The garrisons would number six: the United Kingdom, Aden, Singapore, Malta, Gibraltar and Hong Kong. We believe in the greatest possible integration of Services, where possible in combined operations and with commanders responsible for all three Services. We would try to make administrative, supply, communications, medical and other services common to all three arms so far as possible, and we would encourage research and development.
So far as these overseas bases are concerned, we would regard them as the framework for a system of air-transportable strategic reserves and joint services task forces, built around commando carriers and aircraft for transport and offensive support for ground forces in limited operations. This is the modern way. I heard General Norstad last November in Paris describing the necessity, even in NATO, for this type of force and this type of operation to be a common one. He instanced the last difficulties in Berlin over the Wall. Men who were on duty in Nebraska had been air-lifted 804 in civilian clothing and were actually in Germany twelve hours later. It just shows the fluid nature of operations these days. It is not necessary to hold large masses of men overseas on the ground so long as one has a limited number of bases where supplies are ready for them and in which they can be equipped when flown in, not only by military transport but by civilian transport as well. There are very few places on the globe now which are more than twelve hours distant one from another.
We aim at universal disarmament, to be preceded by measures of arms control, and the ending of nuclear tests. In conclusion, my Lords, may I say that it is essential to look at the defence needs of Britain and the Free World, of which we are part, in the light of the requirements of the second half of the twentieth century? This we are convinced the Liberal policy would do. This we are equally convinced the Government's policy does not do; and it is for this reason that we support the Amendment.
§ 4.25 p.m.
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord who has just sat down has said that the Liberal Party will vote for this Amendment. I am going to do my best to try to make him change his mind, even if I cannot change the mind of the Liberal Party. The noble Lord says that we have no independent deterrent. I entirely disagree, and I hope to deal with this point a little later on.
In the first place, I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government of the presentation of the Statement on Defence. Anything that saves paper and reduces the amount of reading matter in these bureaucratic days is a good idea. I know it has been suggested in some quarters that the Statement gives a very incomplete picture of defence policy. This may be true in some respects, but we must not forget that a White Paper on the Nassau Agreement has already been published and this already covers a great deal of ground. There is no doubt that the defence policy is still in a state of flux, although I would say that the main lines are perhaps now becoming apparent. I suggest that the question 805 arises as to why it is necessary to publish a White Paper on Defence merely because it has become the custom to do so at the same time that the Service Estimates are presented. Surely it would be far better to wait until the problem has been clarified before embarking on a further Defence Statement which, in the present circumstances, must be incomplete and a very difficult thing to do.
I should, for a few minutes, like to deal with the proposal for the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. It appears to me to be the virtual abolition of the three historic Offices of State, by which I mean, of course, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for War, and the Secretary for Air. I understand that Her Majesty's Government have not yet taken a clear-cut view of what this proposed reorganisation is actually to be and, in fact, would welcome ideas on the whole question from this House. I hope this is true and that we shall have a White Paper setting out the complete plan in due course.
I certainly support in principle the general idea which should have the effect of integrating the three Service Departments on the high level. I only hope it does not foreshadow a vast new Defence Ministry, superimposed on the present Service Establishments and day by day growing progressively larger in accordance with the well-known Parkinson's Law. It is, of course, true that the three Services must in the future work much more closely together than in the past, and perhaps a much closer organisation is needed at the top, but I hope the Minister who is going to reply for Her Majesty's Government will say what are the exact reasons for this reorganisation. Perhaps he might explain a little more fully.
I understand that each Service is to have a Minister and a Chief of Staff responsible to the Minister of Defence. I gather that we cannot be told what kind of Minister is envisaged—not at present, at any rate. I hope that the time-honoured Board of Admiralty will remain as such under their title of Lords of the Admiralty, and that the Minister who is to be responsible to the Minister of Defence will be the First Lord. I am delighted to hear that the three Chiefs of Staff will retain their separate access 806 to the Prime Minister. It may well be that the post of Chief of the Defence Staff will now no longer be required. We have not been told about that. I hope that all the answers to these questions will be dealt with, if not to-day, later on in a White Paper.
I should, however, like to put forward a word of warning in view of the integration of officers above the rank of brigadier, and of course equivalent ranks in the other Services, and I suppose the eventual formation of a sort of Combined General Staff. I think it has been generally acknowledged that one of the reasons for the failure of the German arms in the late war was over-centralisation in the High Command which had the effect of delaying operations, and I hope we shall avoid this pitfall. No doubt the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, will correct me if I am wrong. I feel sure your Lordships will want to know a great deal more about the setup and the proposed organisation of this all-powerful Ministry of Defence group.
I would now turn for a few minutes to the Polaris question. I am certainly one of those who heartily support the Nassau Agreement. In fact, in every Defence debate for the last five years I have asked Her Majesty's Government to consider the acquisition of Polaris submarines. As I see it, we shall be provided for a period with an indestructible power of retaliation, an essential weapon in our armoury. This period will stretch from the date when the first Polaris submarine is completed and equipped until the date when the Polaris submarine can be detected and destroyed. I would add that during this period we cannot be subject to nuclear blackmail.
I am glad the First Lord has raised the question of detection. It has been argued that this detection might become possible in the not-far-distant future. I believe this to be extremely unlikely, and scientific thought, I think, supports this view. I should like to emphasise what has been said on this matter by the First Lord to-day. Any of your Lordships who are aware of the difficulties of even locating a small vessel at sea on the surface, in spite of all the modern radar and other apparatus we have, will realise how far off the detection of a high-speed nuclear submarine operating several hundreds of feet below the surface really is. I have little doubt that the speed and range of 807 the nuclear submarine will make her a very difficult vessel to destroy in the foreseeable future. Also it must not be forgotten that any improved detection equipment that may be evolved would also be carried by the Polaris submarine itself, which of course would improve its own defence system.
There is one other point I would mention. It has been suggested in some quarters that with Polaris we can never be independent of America, because some of the servicing must be done in the United States. I can assure your Lordships categorically that this is not the case and that there is no doubt whatever that the whole of the servicing can and will be done in this country.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to know whether the noble Lord was informed by the Government that that is the position.
My Lords. I have not been informed by Her Majesty's Government, but no doubt Her Majesty's Government will be able to deal with the point later.
My Lords, we have heard a good deal about the so-called Skybolt fiasco. I think it may prove in many ways a blessing in disguise. The fact is that almost certainly we should have had to turn to Polaris as soon as the V-bomber force was phased out of service. What in fact has happened is that as Skybolt is no longer available the acquisition of Polaris has been advanced a few years. I believe it to be essential that we should maintain an independent deterrent. I know noble Lords opposite do not believe that nuclear blackmail is likely, but I think it could very well happen, in spite of what the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has said. Even President Kennedy himself visualised such a posi- 808 tion for this country, and, when referring to the Nassau Agreement, said:If the British were threatened with a bombardment of their island they might feel that they wanted to have the capacity to reply.My Lords, we cannot gamble with defence, and who knows what kind of Administration there may be in the United States ten years ahead, or even less?
I am a little concerned, however, about one aspect of Polaris. I think it has been touched on slightly by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am anxious to get this right, and I understand the basis upon which the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, is making the argument. But does not what President Kennedy is said to have said about our position apply equally to the position of France and of other countries in the Alliance? I thought we were all out to try to stop the spread or the proliferation of these weapons.
My Lords, I hope to deal with the point of spread a little later on.
I suggest that the provision of Polaris does not mean the access of additional strength to the Royal Navy. I would say rather the reverse, because it will mean employing the highest quality of officers and men on Polaris, and the work and cost of maintenance will place an immense burden on Royal Navy resources which even at present are overstrained. I maintain that the great burden involved with this weapon, which I would say would be used only in the event of the complete breakdown of our foreign policy and probably after the destruction of our country, must not be allowed to reduce the financial resources of the Navy and prevent its performing its traditional functions. The conventional forces available to the Navy to-day are already too small, and there are strong grounds for increasing them. I maintain we must not allow the Navy to be depleted because of Polaris. I hope the noble Earl when he replies will deal with that point. The present Navy is a balanced force built round the offensive capacity of the aircraft carriers. If this offensive capacity were removed, as it would be if the present carriers were not replaced, then 809 the plan on which the Navy of to-day has been rebuilt in the last few years would be completely destroyed.
I would certainly support the creation of a NATO nuclear force by the provision of aircraft for delivery of the weapon and Polaris submarines. On the other hand, I cannot say that I favour a recent United States proposal that NATO should have a surface fleet of cargo-type vessels mounted with Polaris missiles. Our share of the cost would run into many millions of pounds, and surely it would be far better for NATO to become a nuclear power with the aid of our V-bomber force and the Polaris submarines already offered to France by the United States. The creation of a NATO nuclear force might well ease the difficult situation arising over the demand of West Germany for nuclear weapons.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may ask whether, as he has always been one of the foremost exponents of the idea that the decision to use the nuclear weapon should be in the hands of the President of the United States, he will now explain why he is shifting to the NATO nuclear force, and who is going to make the decision?
My Lords, I will certainly explain that. I have turned over to NATO because the President of the United States has made it quite clear in recent months that he feels he must shift a certain amount of the cost of the nuclear development of Polaris to other countries; that is why I am in favour now of NATO's having its own nuclear force. The question of who is going to press the button must be decided by a great deal of discussion yet, and cannot be decided in your Lordships' House to-day.
One of the main charges in the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, is really the complaint that Her Majesty's Government's defence policy has broken down. He said that there had been mismanagement, misjudgment and waste. I certainly disagree. I would say that the new weapons coming forward have a great bearing on Defence policy; and a change from time to time is of course inevitable. The fact is that some promising projects have turned out to be not so good and effective as was first 810 envisaged. That difficulty is nothing new for any Government, and it is not always possible to select the right project. I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, would be the first to agree with that.
The Minister in another place, and I think the First Lord to-day, mentioned various weapons which have now reached the production stage, and there is no doubt that these tested weapons, in trials and so on, will be of great benefit to the Armed Forces. Of course, there has been some failure in weapon production, but I think I am right in saying that in almost every case the work has not been wasted. Quite often the work is the foundation of our present capability in the production of ballistic missiles, and a big example is Blue Streak. In spite of the fuss the noble Earl made, this is true. I hope that the Minister of Defence will make great efforts to speed up the delivery of new artillery and ballistic weapons to the British Army of the Rhine who are really in need of increased fire power, and also that an early decision will be taken about the laying down of new aircraft carriers.
I have heard rumours that the Socialist Party, if and when they come to power, would repudiate the Nassau Agreement. I trust that this is mere idle rumour. It would, of course, be out of keeping with a responsible Government. The Ministry of Defence has had no fewer than eleven Ministers in the seventeen years since it was founded, and I would say that each one has tried to justify his existence by some change or other. I trust that at long last we may be going to have some continuity in Defence, and a workable reorganisation of the three Service Departments on a sound and efficient basis.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, as I read the Defence White Paper and the subsequent discussion in another place, I could not help reflecting that the most important part of the White Paper was what was not there: it was, indeed, contained in the speech made by the Minister of Defence last week in another place. The Government's plan for bringing the higher organisation of defence under central control is, I think, basically sound. Its origins can be sought in the Report of the Esher Commission in 1904, which resulted in the setting up of the Imperial General Staff and the creation 811 of the Imperial Defence Committee, which was the nucleus of a strong Ministry of Defence, the necessity for which was recognised in the White Paper for 1958.
I suppose that there will be a good deal of opposition to a plan which means, in effect, the complete abolition of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry. All this reorganisation carries for me a certain faint reminiscence, for when I was a War Office Minister during the first Administration of my noble friend Lord Attlee I was charged by him with the duty of "chairing" a Committee—at that time called a secret committee, but it has long since ceased to be secret—for considering how best there could be effected the integration of certain of the Services. That Committee reported in due course, and I am told, though I cannot vouch for it from any personal evidence, that it is known generally as the "Nathanisation" of the Forces. At all events, I think it is a pretty compliment. I might almost say that what Mr. Thorneycroft stated in another place the other day is a much longer step in the direction of the "Nathanisation" of the Forces.
The position seems to be—and it is right—that the responsibility of the Chiefs of Staff is left substantially untouched; that each Chief of Staff will be responsible, as now, for advising as to the Service for which he is responsible; that the Chiefs of Staff will continue to meet as a Committee, and that those who hold a minority opinion will have the right of access, as now, to the Prime Minister and to the Defence Committee. So that, on the whole, one may say that the best features of the Chiefs of Staff system are maintained.
There is, however, a case to be made for the re-examination of the position and status of the Chief of the Defence Staff—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, referred to that point. There has of recent years been an observable tendency for the Chief of the Defence Staff to become a Supreme Commander with considerably more powers than seems to be either necessary or desirable. The business of co-ordinating and presenting the views of the Chiefs of Staff could quite effectively be carried out by some sort of secretariat. In our own experience, administrative and poli- 812 tical, at the centre of the State we have a wide experience of that. I have only to mention the names of Lord Hankey and Lord Ismay. I think there is a great deal to be said for restoring the position in which the three Chiefs of Staff sit as a Committee, without a chairman from the Ministry of Defence. There should be a Hankey or an Ismay whose responsibility it should be to present and co-ordinate the views of the Committee. Such an arrangement worked well in the past; and it would avoid the necessity of having a super chief.
There is nothing, except the inevitable jealousy between the Services, to prevent the organisational neatness of command which would be involved in the unification of the forces. But for my part I should deplore that unification. I think it would mean neatness of organisation without any sufficient advantage in actual operation. Nevertheless, there are many functions of the Services which could usefully be unified. Certain medical functions are already worked in common by one Service for the others: buildings and works, and other services, can no doubt be integrated and operated as a single whole.
The position of the Service Ministers would have to be given detailed consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, suggested that the historic titles should be preserved. That may be; I express no opinion. But it is clear from the statement made by the Minister of Defence—and I think it also stands to common sense—that in this organisation now contemplated, whatever their title may be, their actual position would have to be that of Ministers of State subordinate to the Defence Minister. But the effectiveness of this reorganisation would be achieved only if, in addition to bringing the political heads of the Services under the control of the Minister of Defence, the Government also bring financial control of the spending Services equally effectively under a central control. Generally speaking, the proposals outlined by the Government for the centralisation of defence policy look like a step in the right direction. The question is how quickly the Minister of Defence can put them into effect against whatever residual opposition remains in the Service Ministries, the Ministry of Aviation, and the Treasury; and, more important, what 813 sort of Defence policies the Government propose to put into effect now that they have a new streamlined organisation at their hand.
I do not propose to say much about the nuclear deterrent, beyond stating my support for what has been said by the noble Earl, the Leader of the Labour Party in this House this afternoon. It is quite certain, to my mind, that the strength and unity of the Alliance can only be harmed by the insistence of any of its members on their right to develop and maintain an independent national nuclear striking force.
On a number of occasions in which I have taken part in these debates—and they extend over a great period of years—I have drawn your Lordships' attention to the necessity of an increase in conventional forces. The records will show that that has been a consistent suggestion on my part. One of the ways in which the resources of the country might better be deployed than in the development of strategic nuclear weapons is in the establishment of strong well-trained and well-equipped conventional forces—a good deal better equipped, a good deal stronger, and a good deal better deployed than they are now.
The present position is that none of the three Services is at the moment, or seems likely to be in the near future, strong enough or well enough equipped to fulfil the tasks which it is called upon to carry out. I have little experience of the Navy, mostly gained from my acquaintance with the noble Lord opposite, who rules over it; but I venture to say, in a general way, that the Navy will almost certainly have to forgo some of its plans for producing a properly balanced Fleet in order to provide and man a submarine ballistic missile system. It seems unlikely that the Government will be able to afford, in addition to these expensive submarines, the aircraft carriers, escort vessels and hunter-killer submarines which the Navy needs to carry out its functions in limited war. It is very unlikely that it can have both, and I believe that the advantage to the country and to its defence will lie in letting the balance be in favour of the more conventional weapons of the Navy.
As to the Army, although the Minister of Defence has said that it will be allowed 814 to recruit up to 180,000 men by April, 1964, it is still not strong enough, or well-balanced enough, to carry out the commitments which it has at present, and is likely to have in the future, all over the world. I stood at this Box last year very critical of the recruiting campaign of the Army. I rather scoffed at it; and I challenged the Secretary of State for War as to whether he would be able, at the rate at which things were then progressing, to achieve the 163,000 total which was at that time the target. I confess frankly that I was wrong. The methods which had not seemed to me likely to achieve their purpose have, in fact, done so. They may have been helped by the economic circumstances of the times; but, be that as it may, they have achieved their purposes and the target was attained.
Nevertheless, as I have pointed out previously, that target was not a ceiling, but a floor. Whilst the number now authorised is 180,000 the present Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Hull (who, I understand, is likely soon to succeed the present incumbent of the Office as Chief of the Defence Ministry), was Chairman of a Committee which declared as long ago as 1956 that the ideal strength of the Army was something over 200,000. Since that date the tasks of the Army have not been substantially reduced; rather, they have been increased. Yet it now plans to do the same job with several thousand fewer men.
In spite of the promises of new equipment which are contained in the Memorandum of the Army Estimates of this year, the fact remains that the Army is still in many instances badly equipped. One has heard recently about bad morale in the Army of the Rhine. I have not yet had the opportunity (though I hope to have it) of making a visit there personally, but I have made close inquiries. I think that, while boredom is the greatest enemy of the troops in stations such as Germany, nevertheless it looks as if the criticisms of the morale of the Army of the Rhine have been somewhat exaggerated and that, on the whole, it is not too bad—indeed, quite good. I have said that the Army is in many instances badly equipped. This applies particularly to the British Army of the Rhine; and that itself is a factor which is depressing to morale—to be 815 short of numbers and of equipment. They are still badly in need of modern tanks, armoured personnel carriers, medium artillery, and wireless sets. I noticed with satisfaction that the First Lord stated in his opening speech that attention was being given to these grave deficiencies. I rejoice to hear it.
The forces required by the Allies call for at least four divisions of British troops. That involves a contribution of about 20,000 more than we provide at the moment. I invite the attention of Her Majesty's Government to that serious requirement. There are signs that the Government's policy, as I suggested two or three years ago when speaking in this House, is moving more into line with that of President Kennedy and with the strategic doctrines which have been put forward by our American Allies. It may be that the establishment of a strong Ministry of Defence will help to put some of these policies into effect.
But, my Lords, it must be remembered that organisational changes achieve very little in themselves. A strong Ministry is not much good without a strong Minister; and to have a strong Minister you must look to a strong Government. I do not point the moral—I leave that to other noble Lords. While the immediate task is to get the organisation of defence policy and planning on a sound basis, the real need at the moment is for strong political direction; and, particularly the integration of defence policy with foreign policy. Here is the need to relate both of these policies to the eventual aim, which we all share, of universal disarmament. I, for my part, having heard the speech of the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, for whose assiduity I have great regard, shall, of course, support the noble Earl on these Benches in going into the Lobby for the Amendment.
§ 5.1 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, I should like to congratulate the Government on the form of the Defence White Paper, including as it does within a single cover the estimates for the three Services. This at least shows, I feel, that the idea of unity of purpose between the three Services is spreading. However, 816 I do not think that I can congratulate the Government on their Introduction to the Statement on Defence, compressed as it is into four short paragraphs. I know that the argument is that there has been no change since the last full, five-year Statement in 1962. But surely the decision taken at Bermuda is in itself a change at least worthy of mention in this foreword, in spite of the fact that it has had its own White Paper to itself. However, that is no great tragedy and I, for one, support the Government in their White Paper.
Frankly, my Lords, I do not think that the Government fully appreciate what is at stake, in spite of their, to my mind, wise decision to continue with an independent deterrent—a decision which I applaud, though I must say that I deplore the necessity for it. Unless the United Kingdom possess the means of mounting a credible nuclear threat, then this country cannot resist any unacceptable political pressures. From this it is obvious that our deterrent must be both credible and independent.
When I was at school I was taught that words should mean what the dictionary says; that they should be used in that context and should not mean anything else. It seems to me that, when the Government are talking about their present independent deterrent, they are misusing words; or at any rate misusing the word "deterrent". Polaris is not an independent deterrent, since we are dependent on the United States Government for its provision and development. Even when we start making it ourselves, we shall not be making all of it. It seems to me an obvious fact that, unless the Government have within their sole control the development, the production, the operational maintenance and the means of launching our nuclear deterrent our deterrent ceases to be independent. I do not mean this remark to be a slur of any sort on a very friendly country. I myself am half-American. But as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has said, Governments do change and with them their policies; and even the President of the United States has hinted as much himself. I know that any such change is an outside chance, but surely in this matter we cannot take even a 1 per cent. chance.
817 The Government having gone as far as they have in cancelling Skybolt and adopting Polaris, I am not for a moment going to suggest that the Government should not go along with this decision or should cancel the agreement. But I am going to suggest that, if the nuclear deterrent of this country is going to remain credible and genuinely independent from the end of the 1960s—say, from 1968 onwards, if you like—then parallel with Polaris the Government must initiate design studies of a truly independent deterrent. As your Lordships will hear in a minute, I am really thinking of an air-launched missile. This design study, which if started at once would take approximately two years, would cost £1 million—not more—and would at least keep us in the hunt if we find that we have to continue in later years having an independent deterrent of our own. My Lords, I cannot really believe that it is beyond the bounds of possibility for our own scientists, about which we heard so much the other day from my noble friend the Leader of the House, to produce such a weapon relatively cheaply. As a mark-time step these studies should be authorised, and I think should be authorised at once.
I cannot agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Teynharn, in that I consider that the concept of the submarine policy is, to say the least, not a particularly good one. It seems to me that it is all right for America, which will have 40 or more submarines to disperse around the world. In an emergency a sufficient quantity of these submarines should be in position and undetected. But as we are going to have only a small handful, and in fact of that small handful, as we all know, only a percentage is operational at any one time, this brings us down to three or, at the most, four. If these are to be dispersed round the world, I doubt very much whether—not now, admittedly, but towards the end of the 1960s—they will be a really genuine, credible deterrent.
But what is the alternative? Surely, my Lords, our Bomber Command, which is already of proven effectiveness; and I am not necessarily talking about the present V—bombers. I know the argument here is that the type of missile which a V—bomber force fires is not sufficiently sophisticated. That is true at the moment. But surely that is exactly what we have 818 to set out to do: to produce a weapon which, by the end of the 1960s, will be sophisticated enough to deal with the defence weapons which Russia will have produced by that time. That surely applies to any such weapon, whether it is launched from under the sea or from the air. Incidentally, to my mind, a deterrent, to be effective, does not have to have the so-called "over-kill" capabilities possessed by both the Americans and the Russians. So long as a deterrent is adequate to deter a foreign Power from using its nuclear force for fear of the consequence, then, to my mind, it fulfils its purpose.
Compared with the submarine, the air-launch weapon has a number of specific advantages. First, it can be launched from a large number of mobile carriers instead of a relatively few, very expensive, slow-moving platforms—namely, sub-marines. Secondly, the air-launcher need not penetrate enemy territory—an advance missile can be launched effectively from above the British Isles, or from many other locations around the perimeter of Russia. Thirdly, air-launchers can operate from bases throughout the world—existing civil airports are fully satisfactory. Fourthly, an air-launched deterrent can be supported by a large number of effective decoys and other counter measures. Fifthly, existing bombers and presumably, in the future, the supersonic transport aircraft could be used as launchers. Sixthly, we already possess in this country the basic techniques and the experience required to produce effective long-range air-launch missiles. Seventh, the use of Bomber Command has the added advantage that it is fully flexible, in that it can be used equally for strategic and for tactical purposes in support of limited wars, whereas the submarine cannot.
It is a great pity that NATO is not sufficiently sure of itself to be able (shall we say?) to develop a NATO nuclear force at this moment. It may be that that day will come; it may be that we shall not need an independent deterrent at some future date: but until we see a definite time for that, we must prepare for the future.
I will now turn for a moment, if I may, to the announcement by the Minister of Defence, repeated to-day by the First Lord of the Admiralty, about the proposed integration of the Service 819 Ministries. I agree with my noble friend Lord Teynham and the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, about the position of the Chief of the Defence Staff. If the integrated system is put into force and the Chiefs of Staff will literally have their offices across the corridor from the Minister of Defence, then there seems to me no longer any necessity for there to be a chairman separate from the three Chiefs of Staff themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, did in fact suggest, I believe, a supremo. Before the present system, each Chief of Staff took it in turn to be chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Surely there is no necessity for any other system if this integration goes through.
With the Chief of the Defence Staff, who stays in his post for between two and three years, the general policy, surely, must go in the direction in which his mind works in the main, and it will do so for two or three years. When his successor comes, it will go in whatever direction his particular mind works. I must quickly say that I do not mean any disrespect at all to the present Chief of the Defence Staff, or to the original one, Sir William Dickson, who have done, as a certain programme says, "a grand job"; but I do feel that that will be a post which is bound to become redundant, and I am glad to see, if I may put it this way, that my Army and Navy colleagues agree with me. There is no reason why the Defence Minister should not have his own staff officer (again as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, says) of the type, if one can find him nowadays, of Lord Ismay.
If I may turn to it for a moment before I finish, there was an announcement made earlier that the three works departments of the three Services should be amalgamated under the authority of the Minister of Public Building and Works. I can quite appreciate the logic of this if it is merely a question of the buildings themselves; but if it is to include all that the Air Ministry Works Directorate, for instance, has under its responsibility, then I cannot see that this is a step in the right direction. One of the responsibilities, for instance, is the power for aerodrome lighting—that is, runway lighting—ground radio and radar installations. I must apologise to your Lordships for bringing this matter 820 in here, but it does seem to me that there could be a danger to the operational efficiency of the Air Force unless this is properly worked out.
Of course, my Lords, the real answer to all this is disarmament. Faltering steps and very hard work have gone into the conferences to obtain disarmament. We look as if we are making progress little by little. One day no doubt we shall reach that happy state, but until we do that I hope that the Government will really look once again at this word "independent", if they feel the need for an independent deterrent. With this proviso, I should like to say that I personally will go into the Lobby to agree with the White Paper.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, speaking in support of his Motion, said that the previous Statements on Defence, the White Papers that we usually have, have had a similar pattern. On that, I would agree with him. We on this side—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, would agree—have complained repeatedly of platitudes and merely good intentions, with very little hard fact of achievement in the field of defence. The Government have set down a Motion for us to approve the Statement on Defence, which appears to consist of a Foreword and Appendices. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, a supplementary question the other day as to what we were being asked to approve, and was told that it was the continuing policy of Her Majesty's Government. The Government have now been in power twelve years. Our task, I would suggest, is to consider not merely that policy, but the extent to which they have implemented it. If any hard words are said, I think it should be made clear that they are directed at the political heads of our Forces, and not at the officers and men who, throughout the years, have given loyal service and have, on many occasions, brought relief to persons to whom tragedy has come.
The one factor which I should have thought would be included in this White Paper is the statement that was made by the Minister of Defence, and which has been repeated here this afternoon, about the new Defence Ministry. If your Lordships would look carefully 821 at the 1962 White Paper you will see it contained certain indications that, whilst the Government were very willing for Service co-operation, they were opposed to any form of tight control by the Ministry of Defence. My Lords, there is this change, and we on this side of the House welcome it in principle. Certainly we shall wish to know a good deal more of the fact.
We are particularly anxious to see that the Ministry of Defence will have a tighter control on expenditure; to see that we are getting value for our money; and, above all, that our Services will receive the weapons to which they are entitled. No doubt the Government will have to set up a buying department within the Ministry of Defence, perhaps another Ministry of Supply. It was the Government a few years ago who destroyed the Ministry of Supply. They made it possible for the individual Forces to purchase their own equipment—true, within a budget; but they were given a far greater say in what they required. It was the Government who destroyed the Ministry of Supply, and no doubt in 1963 and 1964 they will have to re-create another similar Department.
How consistent are the Government? I would ask them what stress they now put on "independence" and "0interdependence". I noted that the noble Lord. Lord Carrington, spoke mainly in terms of interdependence; although he said that the Government retained the right particularly in the case of Polaris, for its use in a national emergency. But I would suspect that the Government speak in terms of "interdependence" when they discuss matters with the United States and our NATO Allies. In their own mind the word "independence" is necessary only in order to satisfy the Conservative Defence Committee. I do not believe that Government can contemplate any circumstances in which they would have to use nuclear weapons on their own without calling in the support of the United States and our other NATO Allies. I should therefore hope that the Government would cease stressing this word "independence" because it is undoubtedly aggravating the position in NATO among those countries who would prefer to feel that there was a real collective security, a collective alliance, and that all nations were bound to it.
822 I would go one stage further on this question of interdependence and alliance. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington—and here I apologise to him and would ask the forgiveness of the House for perhaps being out of order—attacked Mr. Brown and my Party. He shakes his head, but I regarded it as an attack, and I am sure my friends did. This was when he said that the Labour Party were advocating the withdrawal of British Forces East of Suez—to bring them home, to forget our commitments and leave them to the United States. The words of Mr. Brown, which I read before and will not read again, made it clear that our own commitment as one nation is rapidly diminishing. We are more and more likely, if we are called upon to support any friends in the East, to do so within an alliance—SEATO, for instance—although I would readily agree that we might be in a position in Malaysia, as opposed to Indonesia, of having to support Malaysia if there was any difficulty with Indonesia. But this is about the only territory I can see in the Far East in which we are likely to be involved on our own.
I wish now to come to the implementation of the Government policy. The Government decided to go ahead with Blue Streak. Blue Streak was to be the weapon to give us independent nuclear capability. In 1958, doubts as to the viability of this weapon were being raised. It was not that the weapon would not fire or deliver its war-head; but because it was so vulnerable it was clearly a first-strike weapon. Of course, we have always said we would never countenance the use of nuclear weapons as first-strike, but that they would be retaliatory. In fact, that is what the deterrent is.
In 1958, these doubts were there. In 1960 those doubts were expressed in this House, but we went on. However, the Government, wisely I think, decided not to proceed. The cost of Blue Streak was £84 million. I would not criticise the Government for the failure of that particular weapon, but there are other weapons that go with that rather dismal story. There is, for example, Blue Water, to which I will return later. At that stage the Government had a choice; they had a choice of Skybolt, an air-to-surface missile, which was still very much in the design stage. There was doubt in the United 823 States as to whether Skybolt was practical, and, if practical, whether it would be taken on by the Strategic Air Command of America. On the other side there was the Polaris submarine—true, with only A.1 missiles—already at sea. Therefore, the Government at that stage had the choice of two United States' weapons. They backed the wrong horse. They chose Skybolt.
Here, I would echo the words of my noble Leader that it was not only a question of expense and loss involved; the time element also is important, because in these years since the decision to go for Skybolt and not Polaris the deterrent gap has increased. I do not know why the Government went for Skybolt. I presume they went in order to keep the R.A.F. as the deterrent force. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke to-day in great support of the Polaris submarine. I think I can remember him speaking in very different terms. In 1960, he spoke with great caution, in fact he gave me the impression that he, and the Navy, were not very happy about becoming the deterrent force. They would have preferred to keep the Navy a balanced conventional force. However, the Government have gone ahead: they are going to Polaris.
The Tory Party, I think, were quite unforgivable in their mass anti-American hysteria in December. The Americans, when they "scratched" Skybolt, did not do it to spite the British. This was a cold, calculated decision made in the interests of their own defence. As Mr. Kennedy said, "Why should we spend millions of dollars to hang Skybolt to our B.52's when we have billions of dollars invested in Polaris?". And, as he also said, "How many times do you have to hit the target?" The Americans, by offering Polaris to the British Government, gave the lie, I believe, to the anti-American hysteria that prevailed in December. I think their offer to Her Majesty's Government of the provision of Polaris, and the terms under which they have made the offer, are certainly in line with the other great offers they have made to this country and to Europe—Marshall aid, and the rest. I can understand the American feeling that we should pay something towards these weapons. Already their burden in providing defence for Europe is very heavy.
824 I would ask the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary if he can give us a definition of the word "assign". I understand that it is a very strong word in legal terms. We have assigned our V-bombers to NATO and we shall assign the Polaris submarines to it. I understand that "assign" means placing them under command and effective control for training and other purposes, and that it will be impossible to withdraw them without the approval of the Council of Ministers. We have assigned our conventional forces to NATO, and if we wish to reduce their number we must do so with the approval of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, I ask the noble Earl to make quite clear that, if we do assign these V-bombers and submarines to NATO, the Government will be able, as they say, to withdraw them immediately without the approval of the Council of Ministers.
I should like to say a word about conventional forces. I am not going to play "the numbers game" with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, this evening, but he will remember the figures I gave him last year. We were obligated to provide 55,000 men, and last year the number was 49,000, though the Government have said that we shall attain the 55,000 this year. I think it right to say that if we had 55,000, we should be up to 60 to 65 per cent. of war establishment. It requires seven brigades to fight an effective battle. In the NATO debate on the deployment of our forces, I pointed out how vulnerable our forces are. I would ask the Government whether they seriously believe in forward strategy, because as these forces are now deployed, with the Germans to the South of us, having to move behind our lines of communication to reach the North, it would be impossible for our forces to move forward and fight a battle. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who has fought many battles, will see the difficulty of a division in fighting when forces are crossing its lines of communication.
In regard to equipment, there is no heavy gun in B.A.O.R. to-day. They rely on 25-pounders, now obsolete in comparison with the artillery which the Soviet Union has. They may get the Abbot gun in 1964–65, but I understand that no firm contract has been placed for the final gun. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke earlier about the 825 Chieftain tank. I suggest that he should look at the White Paper for 1962, and he will see that it was clearly stated that the Chieftain was on order. We believed that a contract had been placed and that the tank would come into service in the foreseeable future. But this afternoon the noble Lord tells us that it is only doing its trials and that only if its trials are satisfactory will a production order be given. I think that the 1962 White Paper was grossly misleading. It happens on numerous occasions in the Estimates that equipment is mentioned as coming forward, but it takes years before it is received by the Forces.
In regard to the TSR.2, I remember being corrected by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, about this aircraft. Unfortunately, I was at the time rather new in your Lordships' House, and I had not the courage to contradict him; but I am pleased to see that I was right and the noble Viscount wrong. Through all the White Papers until this one, the TSR.2 was a tactical, strike, reconnaissance aircraft for Army support. Now we have a wonderful aircraft that is tactical and strategic. I suggest that the Government are playing with words. Polaris A.1 and Polaris A.2, with radius ranges of 1,000 and 1,500 miles, are strategic weapons. No doubt in that case TSR.2 can become a strategic aircraft, but I doubt whether it can in the way that we understand strategic—that is, having the ability to hit into the heart of the Soviet Union, if necessary. I doubt whether the TSR.2 could perform that task. I believe that its range is 2,000 miles, so that if it made such a strategic flight, for its pilots there would be no return. I wish that the Government would be honest with us. This aircraft is what it was when it was originally conceived—a tactical, strike, Army support aircraft.
The cost of the Services for 1956 to 1958 was £1,425 million. I suggest that at the present rate, with the expenditure for Polaris, the maintenance of V-bombers, the TSR.2, the new freighter, the DC.10 and all the other types of equipment that are being promised, the figure for 1964 will be £2,000 million. This is a figure that the country will no doubt bear. The Foreign Secretary has repeatedly said in your Lordships' House, with great truth, that our foreign policy and defence policy depend upon a sound economy. My noble 826 Leader drew the attention of the House to our stagnant production, to the growing unemployment and to our adverse balance of payments. Now the pound sterling is under attack. This is not a very sound future on which we can base defence and foreign policies. The Government appear to me to be "the fallen stars". They remind me of the caption of the advertisement for that film:I lost money—I lost men—I lost fame.The Government have lost men in unemployment; money in the £18,000 million spent on defence for little result; fame?—well, if fame is honour, what of all the broken promises which they made at three General Elections? Fallen stars cannot attract the mariner, and I suggest that they are no good to the country.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I apologise sincerely to your Lordships for not being present during a great part of the debate to-day. After Christmas I went to South Africa to escape from this unspeakable climate in January and February, and have only just returned, and I am very busy both to-day and to-morrow. I would apologise to the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, for leaving the House just when he was beginning to speak. No discourtesy was intended on my part, and I hope that he will take it in that way.
I do not want to become involved in the fighting of battles, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, invited me to do—I know something about that, but I do not want to be committed. I wish to speak only of the move towards a unified Ministry of Defence, in which move I support the Government wholeheartedly. I would say that the move has come very late; and it will be much too late unless courage and decision are now shown and there is determination to move towards the goal that has been outlined, without compromise, all down the line. Why do I say that? With your Lordships' permission, I should like to explain.
In 1948, when I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff, I wrote a paper, dated March 16, in which I advocated a move towards a unified defence policy. My colleagues on the Chiefs of Staff Committee did not agree; the then Minister of Defence did not agree, and 827 the then Prime Minister, in 1948, turned it down. In October, 1955, some seven years later, in a lecture at the Royal United Service Institution, I advocated a plan for the unification of the Armed Forces which was in all respects that which has now been adopted. I sent a copy of the lecture to the then Minister of Defence, but no action was taken. Those were the days, of course, when we had four Ministers of Defence within the space of two years. In July, 1960, I wrote personally to the present Prime Minister advocating the same idea. He was unreceptive. In December last, 1962, I wrote again to the present Prime Minister in the same terms, and at last, in 1963, the plan has been adopted.
The point, I think, is this. What could have been our defence situation to-day if that decision had been taken in 1948, in 1955 or 1960? We could have had to-day the defence towards which we are now slowly groping, and hundreds of millions of pounds, if not thousands of millions of pounds, would have been saved. However, better late than never! But there are rocks ahead. Let me tell your Lordships why I say that. It is an inherent characteristic of every organisation to resist change and to attempt survival. That results, of course, from the growth of vested interest. But in the future, as political, economic and technical changes accelerate, no large military organisation which is not closely integrated and gripped tightly at the top can adapt itself successfully to the required speed of modern life. And unless that is done, the adaptability of the organisation, as a whole, or the lack of it, will tend continuously to promote individual Service interests over those of the nation. Therefore, my view would be that this prickly nettle must be very firmly grasped. If compromise in the implementation of the policy is allowed to creep in, nothing will have been achieved: indeed, we shall be much worse off than we are now. And who can say to-day that our defence position is satisfactory?
A major task of the Minister of Defence will be to sweep away the cobwebs from the Service Ministries. In the Statement on Defence, 1963, the organisation is given only in the barest outline and I should like to fill in some 828 of the details as I see them. The Minister of Defence must have absolute power of decision and action within the limits of Government policy, and he must be responsible for sea, land and air forces. There should be an Under-Secretary in each Service Ministry; or, if that is too bitter a pill to swallow, let him be a Minister of State. They will direct the organisation and administration of their respective Services, in accordance with the definite instructions of the Minister of Defence.
The Chief of Defence Staff is the sole professional adviser to the Prime Minister, and he would issue orders to the three Service Chiefs on defence matters in accordance with the policy of the Government; and he must have power of decision in all cases of disagreement between the three Services. The Chief of Staff of each Fighting Service should be the sole professional adviser to his Under-Secretary or Minister of State. That involves abolishing the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council and the Air Council—in fact, doing away with the committee system of management, which is totally unsuitable in the Fighting Services in modern times—and replacing those bodies with an effective Defence Board in the Ministry of Defence.
Control of the money will be a vital factor. It is true that to-day allocation of the money between the three Services is made by the Minister of Defence, but he does not have the accounting of the money in the Ministry, and experience shows (I know this very well) that unless the Minister has financial control right down to a comparatively low level, he cannot ensure that the spirit of his policies is being loyally implemented. The whole question of financial control of a business of the size of the three Services, and their supporting civilian staff, is immensely complex, and the exact machinery for this will need to be carefully worked out. I do not think we shall get the defence we need until we put the Minister of Defence, the three Service Ministries, the military side of the Ministry of Aviation and the scientists all in one building.
There is one point that gives me cause for alarm. I read in the OFFICIAL REPORT of March 5 (column 334) that the three Service Chiefs will be the chief advisers to the Prime Minister. In my view, that 829 is totally and absolutely wrong. The Service chiefs must be junior in rank and in status to the Chief of the Defence Staff. If they disagree violently with his decisions, as they may, they can appeal to the Minister of Defence, but no further. They must not be allowed to lobby the Prime Minister under the new organisation. I read in the same issue of the OFFICIAL REPORT (col. 331) that the policy of the Government is firmly based on the deterrent. With that, I would agree wholeheartedly. But the cost of a British-operated independent nuclear deterrent will be prodigious. We cannot have that and also large so-called conventional forces, with a commitment of 55,000 soldiers of the Regular Army in Germany. We cannot have both. If—and I would emphasise the word "if"—we try to have both, the home front will suffer, which will be disastrous, because we shall be trying to do too much.
One last point—because some of our speeches are rather long in this House. I would urge the Government to move towards their declared objective with determination and singleness of purpose. In the past fifteen years there has been considerable infirmity of purpose in defence matters. There is always a tendency in this country to dwell on the greatness of the past; and that is extremely good for the young people of our nation: they have much to be proud of in our past history, and much to look forward to in the future. But it is no use dwelling on the greatness of the past unless we are prepared to learn from past mistakes. Do not let us fall into that error. The various staffs in the new Ministry of Defence must be truly joint. If the three Services merely move into the same building, the only difference will be that they will glare at one another across the corridors instead of glaring at each other across the street, as they do at present.
§ 5.54 p.m.
My Lords, may I say at once that I am entirely in favour of the proposed new relationship between the Ministry of Defence and the three Service Ministries, so far as we know them. Having said that, I have two matters which I wish to put briefly to your Lordships this afternoon. I am not sure that, speaking in the strictest sense, they are altogether and entirely within the terms of the Motion, but I hope and 830 believe they are near enough to it to meet with your Lordships' approval. One concerns all three Services, and the other is peculiar to the Navy.
First of all, the Middle East Area, which is of course of concern to all the Services. A few years ago I referred at some length, in a speech I made in your Lordships' House, to the absolute necessity of Middle East oil to our economy and to the mobility of the fighting Services. Since then, nuclear power has, of course, made strides and developed considerably. Nevertheless, it is perfectly clear that for a long time to come Middle East oil will be of the highest importance to us. In war time, and in times of strained relations, the surest way of getting that oil from its source back to this country will be by sea. When I say, "by sea", I mean by the broad oceans, and not by the narrow waters of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.
I have often felt that, from the defence aspect, we have tended perhaps to neglect the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea area, through which this vital flow of oil must pass on its way to this country and to our Allies. It is true, of course, that from the naval angle this area is remote from Russian bases, and it can be argued, therefore, that it is unlikely to come under heavy or sustained naval attack. The same cannot be said for the Army or the Air Force, for only Persia and Iraq separate the sources of oil from nearby Soviet territory, and there are other disturbing influences in this part of the world.
I am particularly glad, therefore, to see that in several paragraphs of the Memoranda on the three Service Estimates, the importance of the Middle East oil supply area is recognised, though admittedly rather indirectly. The end of paragraph 5 of the Navy Memorandum says:In the entire sea area east of Suez across the Indian Ocean the Royal Navy plays the leading role in safeguarding the trade and commerce of the free world.In paragraph 19 we are told that in 1963–64 there will be two aircraft carriers and one Commando ship East of Suez at all times. That, to me, is a very important statement, for it makes our position in this part of the world very much more secure than it was 831 before. The Army Memorandum, in paragraph 5, says:Throughout the year units"—that is, in the Arabian Peninsula—have been maintained at a high standard of preparedness…".I hope that there have been sufficient units there, or that there are sufficient available to be moved there at short notice. In the Air Memorandum, we are told that our Middle East air forces continue to be maintained at a high state of readiness and that the air defence of the area has been strengthened by the extension of radar cover and the addition of a Hunter squadron. This, to me, is all very good news, and I only wish to say now that I hope that the great importance of the effective defence of this vital area will continue to be fully recognised and borne in mind.
The other point I wish to mention to your Lordships this afternoon is our much-discussed Polaris force, which is naturally of more concern to the Navy than to the other Services, though there is a side effect which directly concerns the Royal Air Force. According to Press reports, it is evident that President Kennedy has been suggesting that, in order to speed up the provision of an effective Polaris force, these weapons should be put into merchant ships instead of submarines. There are, of course, great advantages in adopting this proposal. Not only will there be the speeding up of the programme, but there will be, I understand, a substantial reduction in cost. But there seems to me to be an absolutely overriding argument against it—namely, the added vulnerability of putting these weapons into merchant ships. I find it impossible to believe that we could in peace time conceal from a potential enemy which merchant ships we were fitting out to take these weapons, and in times of war or strained relations, when these merchant ships would be at sea, they would be infinitely easier to locate and destroy than would submerged submarines.
No doubt the detection of submerged submarines has made great advances in the last few years, but I, for one, simply do not believe that a possible enemy would have any appreciable prospect of 832 locating, say, three of our Polaris submarines dived in deep water, perhaps 200 or 300 miles off the enemy coast—a coastline which may extend for 1,000 or 2,000 miles. I am not suggesting that merchant ships carrying these weapons would not stand some chance of success; of course they would. But their chances, compared to submarines, would be slight, and the chances of the submarines would be very great indeed. One day an antidote to Polaris may be found—the same, of course, can be said of any new weapon—but that day has not arrived, so let us in our submarine Polaris programme not waver for one moment but go ahead with it and press on with it to its conclusion.
My Lords, in this connection, may I repeat a view that has been expressed already this afternoon: that the cost be kept entirely separate from the other Service Estimates'? The decision to build Polaris submarines has not in any way altered or reduced the responsibilities or requirements of the conventional forces of the Royal Navy, and if we start subtracting from our existing Navy Estimates in order to build the Polaris force we shall very soon find ourselves in serious trouble. I hope that this is one of the many problems that will be ironed out by the new Ministry of Defence.
§ 6.1 p.m.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, I want to restrict myself to the points in the Memoranda dealing with the integration of the Service Ministries. At one time I thought I was going to be in a minority of one, when on looking at my notes I saw: "Integration must be real unification", for I was going to amplify that point. Since then I have found in the noble and gallant Field Marshal an ally of such power that I feel slightly worried at speaking so soon after him lest it might seem that I was merely sycophantically repeating the points which he put forward. But I had thought this out, and I do feel very strongly indeed that the unification must be complete into the Ministry of Defence with all the implications that that must inevitably imply. With regard to the suggestion of a Chief of the Defence Staff, I do not agree with the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, that you were bound to get at each change of the appointment a different attitude of mind, because I should have thought 833 that you would get that even more if there were a roster of the three Service Chiefs of Staff. I think there should be an active and functioning Chief of the Defence Staff.
Although it is easy to say that this integration must be carried out, there are a great many details about it which will need careful watching. In some ways it will be perfectly possible within the Ministries. I know from my own experience as a deputy director in the Adjutant General's Department that it would have been a great deal easier, after the periodic meetings between my colleagues in the Admiralty and the Air Ministry and myself, if our plans and proposals that were put forward had gone straight up to one head and been considered and, as we all hoped, implemented, rather than, as happened at that time, going outwards and then eventually coming together and working themselves out.
There are, I think, going to be serious difficulties which will arise when this unification comes to be put into practice. The first difficulty is how to have a streamlined organisation with inevitably fewer staff officers serving in it and, at the same time, keep the promotion structure, that is, the pyramid, tapering sufficiently gradually at the top to give reasonable prospects of promotion. That, I should like to stress to my noble friend the First Lord, will need very careful watching indeed, and it is a point I have heard from comparatively senior officers who are in favour of this integration but who see danger not only to their prospects but also to the future prospects of junior officers and officers coming into the Services.
This, of course, will be even more serious if there is anything in the suggestion I have read that staff officers in the Ministry of Defence should in future serve there for long periods and not the normal term of a three-year appointment. That would, of course, have the most serious repercussions on their careers, and also on the contacts and confidence between the actual men in the Services and the staff work going on inside the Ministry. There will also, of course, be a problem for the civil servants, who will, presumably, have a reduced number of appointments in this combined Ministry. Not a serious problem, but one which I think might arise, is that, 834 if the unification is carried down to the rank of major-general, there will be times when a major-general, or someone of equivalent rank in the other Services, coming out of the Ministry where he has been integrated to command a division, will have to be de-integrated, because I do not see that you can have any formation of the equivalent size of a division commanded by any senior officer who has not originally been brought up in his Service. It is a complication and it will have to be worked out, and I think will probably work itself out with experience.
I think that this project has been handled extremely well by the Government. I believe it first came completely into the open in 1957 or 1958. During the intervening years there has been time for it to be accepted by the people who will be affected, and it has generally been accepted as a practical proposition. I think that this is typical of the attitude of the Government towards the defence policy as a whole over the years. And for these reasons, although I am only touching on this very small part of the enormous problem of defence, I have no hesitation at all in rejecting the terms of the Opposition Amendment.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I must confess that I awaited publication of this year's White Paper on Defence with more than usual interest, tinged with some anxiety, because since last July we have had a new Minister of Defence—I think the tenth in ten years. I suppose that politics are different from business, but I should not view with any enthusiasm, whether as a shareholder, executive or director, any business which changed its chairman or managing director once every year.
I am sure that all the right honourable gentlemen concerned are able and conscientious, though I know none of them personally. But, of course, I can never forget the White Paper of 1957, Cmnd. 124, which made the infamous statement thatThe role of naval forces in total war is somewhat uncertainWith this in mind I feared some drastic alteration to our basic maritime strategy so well set out in last year's paper, Cmnd. 1639. The last paragraph of the same Paper, paragraph 51, said this:A long-term plan is essential if the best use is to be made of manpower and resources. 835 No settled weapons policy is possible in a short-term scale. This White Paper, however, does not attempt to set out the detail of strategy and weapons systems over the period. This will be done each year in the individual Service Memoranda.Hence I do not feel at all critical of the form in which this year's White Paper has been presented, though I do not admire the colour of the jacket, which is not even jungle green.
Nevertheless, I think we must examine Cmnd. 1639, which we are debating today, in the light of the basic maritime strategy set out in last year's Paper. Paragraph 26 of Cmnd. 1639 is, I think, fundamental to our defence strategy. I ventured to draw your Lordships' attention to it last year, and I venture to do so again. It reads in part as follows: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.I will not weary your Lordships by quoting the whole paragraph, which to my mind is of such fundamental importance, but I must quote the last two sentences. These are:The great assets of seaborne power are its mobility and flexibility, which enable it to be re-deployed and concentrated wherever our policies require. A continuing need will be for effective and up to date anti-submarine forces and equipment.All this, my Lords, is as true to-day as the day it was written; and much of it has been true throughout the centuries.
Our potential enemies, great and small, are becoming increasingly aware of the importance to them of being able to interfere with the freedom of movement by sea of ourselves and our Allies. The evidence lies in the build-up of their naval force, not only by Russia herself but also by her satellites, who provide her with oversea bases for maritime operations. Another sign that our potential enemies realise the importance of our sea communications to the Free World is the constant and not altogether unsuccessful attempts to penetrate our naval secrets by espionage. Russia's submarine force is formidable, 400 or so. She has given submarines to some of her satellites—even, I believe, Indonesia. Her aircraft have recently been reported as making many long-range reconnaissance flights over the oceans, while her 836 so-called fishing fleets fish in very strange waters. All these signs point to the fact that she is planning and preparing, if it should be necessary, or if she thinks it right, to make a major assault on our sea communications. In certain circumstances when she is ready Russia might well decide that her best chance of imposing her will on the Western World would be to start a world-wide conventional war on the oceans. This, I think, could nullify the Allied deterrent as a second strike weapon. There would be, from Russia's point of view, less danger of escalation.
However that may be, I should like briefly to examine the Service Memoranda in this year's White Paper to see how well equipped we are to deal with these potential enemy attacks on our sea communications, whether by submarine or by air or by ship. So far as antisubmarine measures are concerned, noble Lords in all parts of the House have constantly pointed out how woefully short we are of the necessary numbers. NATO admirals, both British and of the United States, have also pointed this out. Two years ago, I think it was, I ventured to suggest in the Naval debate in this House that we required a number of simpler ships to make up numbers instead of putting all our eggs in one basket in the shape of a few very expensive, very complex, ships. It is P. fact that operational research in the last war proved that the addition of even one warship to each convoy's escort made a substantial saving of shipping certain.
For this reason I welcome the statement in this year's Report on the Navy, page 15, which says:To play its part the Royal Navy must keep a careful balance both between quantity and quality generally, and between the capabilities of its various arms. We must keep pace with all the latest technological advances, and lead the way with some…"—and this is the important part—but without making each ship so expensive that the numbers we can afford are inadequate.This I believe to be a very important statement. I welcome it, and I hope that we shall soon see the first fruits in the shape of simpler ships being laid down.
Now, my Lords, I will for a moment pass to that Cinderella, Coastal Command. The Report on the Royal Air 837 Force does not give us a great deal of comfort, because in paragraphs 33 and 34 at page 70 we find just these words:Modernisation oz the Shackleton and its anti-submarine equipment continues.It is true that on page 15 the Royal Air Force Memorandum says:For the longer-tern studies are also in progress of the characteristics required in a replacement of the Shackleton.My Lords, good though the Shackle-ton proved in service, I feel that the time has come to consider with some urgency the replacement of this handful of ageing aircraft. Coastal Command, in particular, and the Royal Air Force in general, have an absolutely vital part to play in the protection of our sea communications. They will have to deal not only with submarines but with aircraft and possibly surface ships as well.
Once again in this House I must say that I do not feel entirely happy that the Ministry of Defence or the Air Ministry—perhaps both—fully appreciate Air Force responsibilities in the matter of protecting our sea communications. I should like to refer once again to operational research. In the last war it was shown that one long-range aircraft—actually a Liberator, Mark I—operating from Iceland to protect our convoys, could in its flying lifetime save at least half a dozen merchant ships. At the time it was difficult to get this fact believed. But eventually it was, and the necessary aircraft were provided, with decisive results in the Battle of the Atlantic. I hope that by next year that Cinderella, Coastal Command, will have found a Prince Charming, whether it be in the Ministry of Defence or the Air Ministry—perhaps both.
Still in pursuit of our maritime strategy, I wish to refer to the question of bases—the diminishing base factor which I have so frequently mentioned in your Lordships' House. The Report on the Navy makes clear what the Admiralty are doing to provide a Fleet Train or "Afloat support", as they now prefer to call it. Whether enough has been done I do not propose to discuss to-day—there will be other opportunities. In the Report on the Royal Air Force the diminishing base factor is acknowledged in paragraph 21, which says: 838The aircraft must so far as possible be independent of elaborate airfield or other costly and vulnerable supporting facilities.Of course I fully agree with that statement. But, even more than vulnerability and cost, it seems to me to be a question of where our aircraft can find overseas operating bases. It seems to me to be becoming increasingly difficult, and likely to become even more difficult. We have heard, I think in this House, of the so-called chain of island bases. Perhaps it is not possible for the noble Earl who is to reply to give us much information about that, for obvious reasons.
Now a word on flight refueling, V.T.O.L. and S.T.O.L. techniques are valuable in this connection, and we already have much experience of the former. But I wonder whether we could be told when we can expect V.T.O.L. and S.T.O.L. aircraft to come into service. Is it possible to make any estimate at the present time? The new aircraft carriers, when they come along, must in my view be regarded mainly as floating aerodromes, to be used by all military aircraft whatever colour uniform is worn by the pilots. It is not only the mobility of the Air Force which is at stake; the mobility of the Army is also at stake because of its reliance on Transport Command. This, in fact, seems to me the most intransigent part of all the problems raised by the diminishing base factor.
Before I leave the question of bases, I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have approached Her Majesty's Government in Australia with a view to developing Perth, in Western Australia, as a main base for all our forces East of Suez. I do not ask this question because the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein raised the same point last year, but because I happen to know, through personal contacts in America, that over two years ago our American friends were extremely interested in Perth as a possible base. Whether they are still interested I do not know.
I am most conscious of the fact that our Army, too, has a tremendous part to play in our maritime strategy. I personally regret that our treaty obligations oblige us to keep such a large force in support of a Continental strategy. I should like to see at least one of the B.A.O.R. divisions brought back into our 839 strategic reserve. I have already mentioned the handicap to the Army's mobility imposed by the lack, or possible lack, of suitable landing places for Transport Command. We have given up trooping by sea, and we must have at least two good troopships with practically nothing to do, unless they are employed on these valuable cruises for schools.
We already have a small floating strategic reserve in the shape of two, possibly three, Royal Marine Commandos afloat in "Bulwark" and "Albion". I suggest that part of our Army strategic reserve might also serve afloat. One or two battalions could go to sea on a rota basis, using these troopships for the purpose. that would be good for training, good for morale and good for recruiting. After all, there is nothing novel in this suggestion. The United States have 2,000 Marines or more permanently afloat in the Mediterranean. They have an equal number at least permanently afloat in the Pacific. They are relieved from time to time by other detachments. We cannot compete with our American Allies, whose Marine Corps has some 17,000 officers and 173,000 men, complete with infantry, guns, tanks and aircraft. I do not suggest that we should build our Marines up at the expense of the Army. None the less, I believe that it is worth while considering keeping part of our Army's strategic reserve afloat.
I must leave this, to me, enthralling subject of maritime strategy, and refer briefly to the statement of my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence in another place on the future top organisation of the Ministry of Defence and the Service Ministries. I am in full agreement that the time has come—possibly it is overdue—to reorganise and streamline the top structure. Therefore I shall examine the definite and detailed proposals, when they are laid before Parliament, objectively and with an open mind. In saying this, I admit to feeling sad at the prospect of the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council and the Air Council disappearing. To whom, I reflect, in these new circumstances would my noble and gallant friend Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope have sent his famous signal couched in gracious, old-fashioned language? He signalled to the Secretary of the Admiralty: 840Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian Battle Fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the Fortress of Malta.It would not be so useful, so romantic, if he just made that signal to the Minister of Defence. None the less, I think that even Samuel Pepys, the founder of our Civil Service and certainly of our Admiralty organisation, would agree that the time has come to do something. Let us hope that we have a modern Samuel Pepys in the Ministry of Defence.
Finally, my Lords, I must say that I wholeheartedly support the Government's policy on the deterrent. I sincerely believe that it is essential for us to have our own deterrent. The fact that we have it will ensure that we are treated with proper respect by our Allies, as well as by our potential enemies. As I see it, the object of the deterrent is to prevent war and not to wage it. If we ever had to use it, it would be only as a second strike, a retaliatory action: in other words, our diplomacy in the critical period immediately preceding such a calamitous event would have failed. Without our own deterrent it would mean that the diplomacy of the State Department in Washington had failed; and I feel pretty certain that, without our own deterrent, little heed would be paid to our advice and counsels as the situation developed. I am not sufficiently confident in the continuing wisdom of the State Department, whatever one's view may be to-day, to put the safety, the honour and the welfare of this country absolutely in their hands—or, indeed, in anybody's hands, but our own. When the time comes to-morrow I will support my noble and gallant friend the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Division Lobby.
§ 6.30 p.m.
LORD SAYE AND SELE
My Lords, you will have noticed that the Statement on Defence 1963 refers to four Services. On three of those your Lordships speak from history and from experience. Home Defence is the fourth Service, although, of course, it is the base on which all stands. A future war would be so different from former wars that it could rest only on the imagination and not on history. I have read this Statement with the greatest interest. My working life has been spent among soldiers, and the ideas and equipment shown in this book would have seemed to us in the old days 841 a Utopian dream. But for the last twelve years I have been connected with Civil Defence at the county level, and in this context I read the Statement with deep depression, for, with the exception of what is called a "Note" on one page, and one paragraph about the Army exercise "Fallex", I can find no reference whatsoever to Civil Defence. There is no analysis of active strength this year and last; no table of division into headquarters, wardens or women's services; no stirring pictures: just a list of eight or more Government Departments which all have a finger in the pie—just a one page "Note", and nothing more.
I would remind your Lordships that in the Report on Defence for 1961 the Government stated that Civil Defence plans are an integral part of our defence preparations; while in 1962 they said that over the next five to ten years—which, of course, covers this year—Civil Defence will play an important part in maintaining the preparedness of the whole nation for any emergency. The whole nation includes the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and all their shore bases and establishments.
My Lords, in your own homes, in your businesses, in your counties, in your cities have you any confidence that you are prepared in the way of Civil Defence? I have not myself, and I have some experience of Civil Defence in a county. One crumb of comfort, and one crumb only, I find in the foreword on page 5, where the three Services are urged to collaborate with the civil authorities from top to bottom of our defence forces and organisation. Frankly, so far Civil Defence exists only in small bits, and cannot be expected to play a complete part. The Royal Observer Corps, which is referred to in the "Note" may, indeed, be complete at the end of this year, but they are part of home defence, and not the Civil Defence as that is understood by the public.
At this time, when the Services are drawing nearer together under a Ministry of Defence, it seems odd that home defence is not included, and that Civil Defence must still wade through eight or more Government Departments. I am aware, of course, that there have been consultations; but with eight Ministers to consult, I should like to see some co-ordinating power mentioned 842 who may deal direct with the Defence Minister. It may be that that is already done, but there is nothing to show it in this Statement on Defence. The only alternative would be, I suppose, a sedative; but to get through eight Ministries must be fairly difficult.
Changes in Civil Defence organisation have been made and they have been welcome, but the annual bounty is looked upon as a mere joke, as indeed it is. The new training and bounty scheme has not produced any improvement in recruiting in my county, while the corps authority has lost many volunteers who, for age or other reasons, are not accepting new obligations and are not enticed by a possible bounty of £10 to £15 less tax. It is most unfortunate, as well as unfair, that a Civil Defence bounty dependent on active training obligations should be taxed, while the Territorial Army bounty is untaxed—and I say nothing about that; they deserve it.
In regard to building, I have said that the Observer Corps are nearly complete, but Civil Defence building has scarcely started. One group control centre has just been finished in my county, nicely dug underground, and there is no other protected building whatsoever. The wardens section, the most important of all, grinds to a halt and will die, unless the Government can think of something better than the Home Secretary's appearance on television for five minutes in September. Hard as he may try, it is a very difficult job. If, for instance, the Defence Minister would come and open our new group headquarters, and if a good public relations affair could be made of it, I think it would show that the Government regard Civil Defence as a serious subject.
As I read through the Statement on Defence, I find that there are paragraphs on recruiting for the other three Services. There are careers officers, display vans, school liaison officers, cadet corps, and training colleges; but the fourth and basic arm of defence has little mention. Youth is, after all, the time to learn, and if the Government are sincere in this business they must cause the youth of the country to be taught the possibilities and organisation of Civil Defence. If you teach them at sixteen, their strength and knowledge may be available for perhaps thirty years. If you wait for them to learn as volunteers 843 at forty—which, I suppose, is about the average age of a volunteer for Civil Defence—their active strength is soon lost and the old will have to save the young. Under those conditions many of us from a practical, though not from a humanitarian, point of view may be scarcely worth saving.
I know that Civil Defence is part of the training in most Army units, and I should be glad to know if that is also the case in the Royal Navy and Air Force, and in their training colleges and cadet units. Both have large shore establishments which need protection and are not exempt from fall-out. If the Government are sincere they must also seem to be so; but as things are now, even an accidental discharge of fall-out would find the public without protection. Civil Defence, my Lords, needs a nationwide network. Education of youth is the key. An obligation to serve is the answer.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, this first day's debate on the Motion moved by my noble friend is now coming to a close, and so the time has come to see the point which we have now reached. Before I say a word on this, may I tell my noble friend Lord Carrington that unfortunately I shall be prevented from being here to-morrow, and I am very sorry that, for that reason, I shall not be in the Lobby with him. Otherwise I would certainly have been there.
Since my noble friend Lord Carrington sat down, we have technically not been debating the Motion itself, but the Amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. But in fact, apart from the noble Earl, and to a lesser extent the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I do not think that many noble Lords have been discussing the Amendment either. As I see it, two main themes have been running through this debate. One is that centring on the deterrent, and the other is that centring on the announcement made after the appearance of the White Paper for the reorganisation of the Defence Department. To a rather lesser extent—mainly from the noble Lord, Lord Nathan—there was the question of manpower in the Army. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, also referred to that aspect.
That leaves me with only one comment on the Defence White Paper itself; and 844 that is to echo the question, and I think the doubts, of my noble friend Lord Ampthill, as to whether green is the right inter-Service colour, and whether it was chosen by accident or design. There, my Lords, I will leave the Defence Paper itself. Because, of course, this White Paper, or Green Paper, is not so much a substantive Paper in its own right as a statement, partly by implication, that Her Majesty's Government adhere to the policy which they laid down in the 1962 White Paper and which was intended to continue for several years; and I am quite sure it is doing that. Therefore, I do not think that one can possibly fault this year's Defence Statement by saying that it does not either fully repeat or completely contradict the 1962 policy. It does neither.
When we come to some of the other points that have been mentioned to-day, I think perhaps it is just as well to recall that on the Order Paper for "No Day Named" there are three Motions down in the name of noble Lords opposite—the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about personnel and equipment; the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, about central organisation of defence; and the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, to call attention to the state of Civil Defence, in which no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, will take a full part. May I express the hope that through the usual channels time will be found for all those Motions and the further hope that the Motion in the name of Lord Alexander of Hillsborough will be called after we have had the White Paper? I think that that is really necessary for taking the discussion on the integration of the defence services very much further.
To come back to the question of the deterrent, I felt that a certain amount of confusion arose—certainly in my mind; and perhaps also in the minds of others—as to exactly what we were talking about. Were we talking about a policy of having no deterrent at all, in all circumstances; or about a policy where we carried out research and development in our own right on certain nuclear weapons, but undertook, except in a state of grave emergency, not to make use of them except in an inter-Allied context? Or were we talking about a complete "go it alone" policy, 845 which certainly, as I understand it, is not one which will enter the minds of Her Majesty's Government at any time?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I rather think that is implied by the words I mentioned from the Nassau White Paper: that if this country is in a position of danger then it has the right to use the deterrent on its own initiative.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I am quite certain that the noble Earl did imply that; and on that point, if not on any other, I would agree with him: because I feel that it is no good having these theoretical discussions about nuclear weapons unless they are related to the possibility—political, service or battlefield possibility—of the policy being implemented. Quite a number of policies that one has seen advocated—not necessarily in this House or in another place, but elsewhere—seem to me to bear no relation whatever to any possibility of implementing them in any political situation that I can conceive; or, for that matter, in any strategic or battlefield situation which could be conceived.
Therefore, for my own part (and I am speaking for no one else on these Benches), I feel that the right course is to continue to develop our nuclear weapons, to continue to plan to use them in an inter-Allied context, and to reserve the right to use them on other occasions when the occasion demands, and if it does. To come out of nuclear development at this moment, when it is by no means certain that the French or the Germans will not both come in, would seem to me to be the height of folly and to be the negation of realism. These considerations are even more academic when we recall, as we always should, that in no circumstances is this country likely to be the aggressor.
Of course the course of nuclear development has not run smooth. Of course not everything—Skybolt, for example—has turned out as everyone would expect, whether one sits on these Benches or on the Benches opposite. Of course, as in all these things, a certain amount of money will not have come to fruition. But that is always the case. I do not think that anybody who has had any connection in practice with the develop- 846 ment of these weapons, could ever suppose that one could account to the taxpayer for every penny in a satisfactory way, in the same way as if one set out to produce a washing machine or something of that sort. The Government have given an undertaking. I am not quite sure whether my noble friend repeated it here, but the figures were given by the Minister of Defence in another place, when he said that we should strive in our defence policy to keep the cost within 7 per cent. (I think it was) of the gross national product; I imagine that that will be carried out. What has happened in these last few months, I think, is that we have got away from some of the uncertainties in the past. Some of these discussions, such as those on Skybolt and Polaris, have acted as a catalyst. The doubts existing then have been cleared up; and some of these doubts have brought into prominence the conflict, which was bound to arise some time or other, between Bomber Command and the Navy. That conflict, one should, I think, recall, is a conflict not only here in Britain, but even more so in places like Washington and the Pentagon. So, my Lords, we are behind a lot of those things, and so much the better.
To look at the matter for a moment in another way, I would say that none of the circumstances attending our failure to obtain membership of the European Economic Community has really made any difference in the defence work. On the contrary, I would say the opposite. I would say that those happenings have simply drawn attention to the vital need, and the urgent need, to strengthen NATO, the Atlantic Union, as much as possible. If we have not been able to strengthen it by the economic means for which some people, including myself, had hoped, that is all the more reason why we should strengthen our NATO arrangements with our Allies in every possible way.
Now perhaps I may leave what was said in regard to the Navy and the Admiralty, because that subject has been dealt with very fully by naval noble Lords, such as my noble friends Lord Teynham, Lord Ampthill and Lord Ashbourne, and come for a moment to the Army. I think that that part of the Statement dealing with the Army indicates what a great advance has been 847 made in the general efficiency of the Army itself, in its capacity to transport quickly, in the quality of its equipment and in many other things. There has also been a great step forward in recruiting the Regular manpower which is required. I was in considerable agreement with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in that he said (I think I am right) that the present figures quoted in the Army section of the Defence White Paper certainly did not represent what was really required. To my mind, they represent a milestone which has been reached in the campaign for Regular recruiting, but they certainly give no justification whatever for thinking that we should stop at any figure under 200,000.
Unfortunately, those parts of the Statement dealing with the Army give no idea of the state of readiness required; nor do they give any indication, even to those people who have been professional soldiers and who read between the lines, of what is required for the order of battle, so one can only guess. However, we must never be satisfied until the number of Regular recruits has reached a point which really makes the whole of the units and formations in our Army of battle ready for war. As I have said before in this House, we must never rest content with the idea that we can do nothing else except go in for Regular recruiting until we have reached that point and can be told so in this House.
There is, I think, a somewhat serious blemish in that part of the Statement dealing with the Army in the very scant treatment it gives to Reserve Forces. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War has talked only about the Ever-Readies, who are the regimental pets of the War Office at the present time. No mention is made at all of the other Reserve Forces in contradistinction to the statements made in the Admiralty and Air Ministry sections of the Statement. I believe, now that certain defence matters are becoming clearer, the time has come to say that there shall be serious rethinking on what is required of the Reserve Forces—what we really want to do with them when the time comes and when we can look at the whole subject of home defence, as I think my noble friend Lord Saye and Sele indicated, as one subject and not as one of 848 two separate wars, one by the War Office and one by the Home Office. I am tempted to follow my noble friend Lord Saye and Sele, whose devotion to the cause of Civil Defence is well known in his own county, but I am going to resist that temptation in the hope that the Motion set down by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, will be called later on.
So I come very shortly, and very shortly indeed, to the question of the intergration of the Forces. I say "very shortly" because the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has made a most striking speech on that matter. If I can say so without impertinence, I agreed with every word of it, and also with every word of what was said behind us by my noble friend Lord Stratheden and Campbell. We shall have to wait now for the White Paper, and there are few things which can be said profitably at this hour of the night. Therefore I would say only two things: first, that the rock on which this ship will founder, if it is allowed to strike it, is nothing to do with the personalities of the Chiefs of Staff, or anything of that sort. There are two rocks: one is the question of financial control, and the other is the question of the control over the design and development of weapons. I will leave that subject now because the hour is late, in the hope of taking part in the debate on the Motion set down by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hills-borough. I simply add that I hope that people outside this House, all the people in clubs and places of that sort, will keep quiet and not spend their time calling "stinking fish" until they see what is in the White Paper. They can then make up their minds.
I do not think that the opposition to these proposals, if opposition there will be, will come from the serving officers of any Service. I think it is much more likely to come, if it does come, from the retired officers. But, my Lords, this is the proposal which, whatever anybody may say, has really been inevitable since the Statement on Defence published in 1947. Once that Statement was out, the stars in their courses were set for this development, and I echo what has been said by other noble Lords: that the announcement made by my right honourable friend in another place has not come one moment too soon.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, as I listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, speaking in his usual serious, dispassionate way, my mind went back to the first debate I ever answered in this House as an Under-Minister, in 1946. I was then Under-Secretary of State for War, and the noble Viscount was raising the question of recruiting. While on the subject of recruiting, may I say that that is a matter for which the Government must be given some credit at this moment, when, so far as I am concerned, no other credit is available to them. But I do remember that in those days the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, was always very anxious to be constructive, although a principal Opposition spokesman, and to-day I shall be concerned with a number of difficult points and shall be discussing them mainly from a non-controversial point of view. I should not, however, like it to be thought that I rest in any way behind my noble Leader and other speakers in the most severe condemnation of the Government's record, which, in the matter of defence, I can only describe as ghastly. I am afraid I did not catch the noble Earl's remark.
THE EARL OF HOME
The noble Earl means "in no way" behind them. It sounded as if it might have a double; meaning.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I see. If the Government have got to fall back on that sort of quibble, they are up against it. I hope they will think of something better as time passes.
My Lords, there is one question to which I hope the noble Earl, when he has overcome his laughter at his own joke, will give very serious attention. This question was implicit in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, but in case it was not brought out explicitly, may I present it respectfully to the noble Earl, Lord Home, for his answer to-morrow? It arises also from something which was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and perhaps it could be formulated in this way: how can the Government seriously envisage circumstances requiring a megaton response by Britain which would not automatically and inevitably require that response from the United States and, indeed, from 850 NATO as a whole? I think that question was contained in the speech of my noble Leader, but there seems some slight doubt, in view of what has been said, and I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Home, will be good enough to address himself to it to-morrrow.
My Lords, I do not intend to deal with the question of the independent nuclear deterrent. Perhaps the fairest comment on the Government's case was something which appeared in The Times last Saturday, when they quoted Mr. Macmillan. Mr. Macmillan had apparently accused the Labour and Liberal Parties of wishing to abandon the independent nuclear deterrent—this shield, this guarantee against blackmail, this defence, which once abandoned has gone from our hands irrevocably …The Times went on:The few who have followed the sophisticated intricacies of the nuclear debate will recognise that for the tendentious claim it is.The Times made that comment on the general case of the Government, and I will underline it to-day.
I should like to deal in a non-partisan spirit—at the invitation, I believe, of the Government—with this question of integration; and if I should do so it is not because my claims to do so are comparable with those of certain other people, but because I have been an Undersecretary at the War Office and, for a short time, First Lord of the Admiralty and also a Minister of other kinds outside the Cabinet. I have therefore moved in this rather subtle sphere of the various levels of status which can be possessed by Ministers who are not in the Cabinet. The Government intend to retain separate Services but to abolish separate Service Departments, combining them within the Ministry of Defence. There will be here, as elsewhere, general sympathy on the Opposition Benches for this. It is a further trend towards integration.
If I am raising difficulties, it is not because the Government are moving in the wrong direction. It is to point out what seem to be some of the problems and what, in my view, is the right answer. No solution of this problem can be free of defects. Nobody is going to produce some entirely successful solution—neither our present rulers nor some other Government. Whatever scheme emerges will, in fact, be open to obvious difficulties. 851 The trouble about defence is that it is a subject which is too unified to be split up between separate Departments, but too large and too far-reaching for any one Minister to accept full responsibility for it.
In that respect it is not unique. Already the Treasury has proved too much for one Minister, and we now have two. In the Foreign Office—with respect, for we could not have a more capable Foreign Minister than the present one—there is also another Minister alongside him. This problem is not confined to the sphere of defence. I would submit that it is physically impossible for one man, one Minister of Defence, to discharge adequately, on the one hand, the responsibility for strategic planning and, on the other hand, the responsibility for day-to-day administration. I am glad to see that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who has so much experience, agrees with me so far.
To take one aspect of the problem, I quote from what was said by the Minister elsewhere—and the same words were used by the First Lord to-day:Each Service Branch of the Ministry of Defence will have a Minister and it will have a Chief of Staff, both responsible to the Minister of Defence.That was the language that was used. What should be the status of this Minister? The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, seemed on the whole to prefer the idea of making this Minister an Under-Secretary. I can remember very well the relationship of an Under-Secretary of War to the C.I.G.S. I was in fact the Under-Secretary when the noble Viscount was C.I.G.S.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, that is too bitter a pill to swallow. He could be a Minister of State.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
The noble Viscount clearly preferred the Under-Secretary situation. Normally, of course, the noble Viscount treated the Minister's Under-Secretary as his superior. He took me to Camberwell on one occasion, where there were some high-ranking, serving staff officers, and pointing to me, the only civilian there, he said:There are the politicians. They are our masters.There was loud and prolonged laughter.And it is up to us to lead them up the garden path".852 Well, that was his attitude to the Under-Secretary in those days. I also recall, when I arrived at the War Office, making some inquiries as to how I made any sort of contact with the Generals and Field Marshals. The Permanent Under-Secretary said that I was to ask them to come to my room except in the case of the C.I.G.S. In that case I should ask to go to his room. That was judicious advice to a young Under-Minister regarding a great war hero; but perhaps other Under-Secretaries might have been bolder. I do not feel that this Under-Secretary idea has much in it if we look to the gentleman concerned to supply leadership.
If we take the Minister of State relationship, on paper that is a tidy answer. It sounds all right. Whatever one calls these Ministers, I do hope, with the associations that have been built up round that title, that they will not be called Minister of State. He will not be a master in his own house. No one can point to any Minister of State in a great Department and say he is looked on as the boss, even in the limited field. He is looked on only as the deputy for the Minister, as one to acknowledge for the Minister; but not as any sort of independent force. I am aware that this might seem an argument against my own case, but I must not conceal anything from the House, in case the House discovers it later. One finds that certain Ministers of State are now described in Whitaker's Almanack as being of Cabinet rank. To my surprise, they actually appear above the Minister of Pensions and the Postmaster General, for example. I must accept the fact to-day that they are described as of Cabinet rank, but, nevertheless, I submit to the House that Ministers of State are not regarded as an independent force in the same way as the Postmaster General or the Minister of Pensions.
They are regarded as creatures, high-listed creatures, of the top Minister. Therefore I do not myself feel that they would be in a position to be masters in their house or to carry the allegiance of, for example, the Chiefs of Staff. They would not be able to give proper leadership to the Services themselves, when they go on tour and otherwise. In particular (and this, to my mind, is most important), they will not be accepted by either House of Parliament 853 as being responsible for administration. In other words, Parliament will look inevitably to the Minister of Defence not only in strategic matters, but also in administrative matters. I hope, therefore, that these gentlemen will not be called Ministers of State.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? I should have thought that under the organisation, which has only been outlined, that was the intention. It was surely intended that the Minister of Defence should have all the power and that the other people would do what they are told.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Viscount will not be offended, I am sure, if I describe him as the greatest master of simplification in the universe. Of course, that is the undoubtedly simple way of coping with the problem. But I am pointing out one or two of the great difficulties about it. If everything is pinned on to the Minister of Defence then this Minister, who is supposed to be engaged in high-level and far-reaching strategic thinking, will be bogged down in the maze of administrative detail. It must be so, because he may be called to account for it at any moment. I think that follows inevitably. Therefore, while not in the least trying to be dogmatic, I suggest that we must make sure that, whatever the ultimate arrangement, the Service Ministers will be able to take a large part of the administrative load off the Minister of Defence in face of Parliament. Otherwise, I am afraid, this policy, with all its excellent aims, will defeat itself.
There is another difficulty. It can be argued against the Government's proposal that the Minister of Defence will be too much of a dictator. If we had one Minister for eleven years, that might happen; but as we tend to have nine during such a period, it does not seem quite so likely. I do not think that the danger will lie primarily in that direction; I believe that the opposite is more likely to occur. These Ministers of Defence seem to come and go, for whatever reason, and therefore they are not in a position to lay long-term lines. But if we go too far in a certain direction, the Service Ministers will lose all power of initiative and 854 leadership, and so all political and civilian control will be removed from the Fighting Services. I cannot believe that great soldiers such as the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Montgomery of Alamein and Lord Robertson of Oak-ridge, and others, would wish for that result. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, who is going to speak on some of these aspects to-morrow, how he hopes to secure an effective civilian and political control over the Services unless we make sure that the status of these Service Ministers is adequately safeguarded. Again, I do not want to be too dogmatic; but in my opinion we must make sure that we do not jump too quickly.
I am not going to detain your Lordships for more than another minute, but there is one other aspect on which I would touch, because, unless I am mistaken, it has not been sufficiently attended to. I find sometimes that in high official circles there is a good deal of respect, proper respect, for the Government's White Paper of October, 1946, for which my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough had so much responsibility. One of the main features of that White Paper, which I consulted recently, is the emphasis on the position of the Prime Minister as Chairman of the Defence Committee. I wonder whether in recent times that conception has been carried out as was intended. I am not trying to make a Party point. This might not occur under any Government. It might well be that many of the difficulties with which we have undoubtedly been confronted in defence could have been eased if that original conception of the Defence Committee, containing leading Ministers of different kinds—the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, had been in a position to take longer and more coherent views and played a stronger part altogether. In that way, we should have obviated the particular difficulty of the rapid disappearance of these Ministers, who have come and gone.
I would ask the Government, when they compose the White Paper, to consider whether anything could be said about this aspect of the matter. Are the Government satisfied that the Defence Committee has a strong enough 855 secretariat? Has it, indeed, a strong secretariat at all? I do not pretend to be behind the scenes, but if the Defence Committee is going to be a reality and is going to harmonise the particular needs of defence with the whole requirements of our national life, I respectfully submit that it should be given a secretariat which is a great deal stronger than the one which I imagine has operated hitherto. I place that thought before the noble Earl, though I do not necessarily expect an answer to-morrow.
Having spoken in this very non-partisan way, as I think will be agreed, I must not leave the House under the impression that I feel there is good deal to be said on both sides of this argument. When I think of the Government's defence record, I am reminded of a story of a visit paid by the novelist, Henry James, to the literary critic, Edmund Gosse. Apparently, Gosse, though a great man was also a frugal host. As Henry James was leaving, Gosse turned to him and said, "I hope that you have enjoyed the party?". To which James replied, "A remarkable study in economy, my dear Gosse—economy of expense and economy of result." I can certainly apply part of that story to the Government: the result has undoubtedly been very economical. The expense, of course, has been fantastic. It is a tremendous story of the waste of £18,000 million poured down—I will not say the drain; but, anyway, poured away in pursuit of national defence. Frankly, we regard it as a story of remarkable failure. Therefore, I shall have no difficulty in voting for the Amendment to-morrow.
856 I wonder whether, even in a Defence debate, it would be possible for the noble Earl to say something about foreign policy from this point of view. We tried, in vain, to get a stronger trend than seemed possible to him at the time for an International Police Force. I certainly do not disguise my own opinion, and that of all my colleagues, here and elsewhere, that ultimately national defence cannot be regarded in isolation from disarmament, from an International Police Force, and, ultimately, from a World Government. That is how we see it, and I know that nothing can deflect us. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to go at least some way in that direction when he winds up the debate to-morrow evening.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until to-morrow.—(The Earl of Swinton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly, until to-morrow.