§ Debate resumed.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, after this interlude, during which the House has shown, if I may say so, a very proper concern for justice to a Commonwealth citizen, may I be allowed to bring your Lordships back to a consideration of defence? I should like to make a brief reference to the noble Earl's speech. My only disappointment—only a shade of disappointment—was that the noble Earl 876 did not develop his overall criticism about new situations requiring new measures. I was glad the noble Earl raised the question of the TSR.2, because that is one of the most important issues before the House. The Government claim that this bomber, which will have a strategic instead of a tactical rôle, will fill the gap between the end of the V-bomber force and the beginning of the Polaris submarine missile force. We do not want any information which would be detrimental if disclosed to other countries, but we want to know whether it can got to Russia and back. A deterrent is not credible unless the people against whom it may be used believe it can be effective. That is the simple question, which has not been answered in another place, that we should like the Government to answer.
About the rest of the noble Earl's speech, I would say only this. The noble Earl has had as long an administrative experience as any Member of your Lordships' House, and I am quite certain that the Government will take his advice very seriously, particularly the advice he was giving about the central control of defence. I am sure the Government will do that, and I would support the noble Earl's claim for careful consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he opened this debate yesterday, said that he would like to know what is the defence policy of the Labour Party, and, presumably, how it differs from the policy of the Government. If I may say so without any disrespect, I thought the noble Lord was slightly vague about the policy of the Opposition. My noble friends who spoke yesterday after the noble Lord, did, I hope, do something to enlighten him on this subject. The noble Lord shakes his head. I was only going to say that I was going to add my efforts to theirs, and that I hope, if they were not successful, I shall be more successful than they were.
The answer to this question is obviously important from the point of view of the House, as we are going to have a Division later on on this subject of defence policy, and I think it is also important from the point of view of the country. After all, a General Election is not very far distant. We do not know how far distant it is, but nobody imagines that it is very far off. The 877 electorate will then have to choose between Parties with very different ideas about national defence. In order to make this choice in a reasonable way, they must know what the Parties stand for and what arguments they use to support their case. I think Parliament will have performed a useful function in the current discussions on defence in both Houses if it helps the public to understand the policies between which they will have to choose. In this case I think we must stick as closely as possible to policy, and avoid entanglements in the technical details of the Services or in executive machinery.
The proposed unified control of the three Services, to which the Minister of Defence devoted most of his speech, and which several noble Lords have discussed at considerable length both to-day and yesterday, is of course a most important adjustment of executive machinery, but no more than that. My Party has for a long time been in favour of central control of the three Services. There is no difference between the Parties about the principle of central control. We regret that it has come so late, and that it has taken the Government twelve years to see the light. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said yesterday that he had been advocating this since 1948, and that hundreds of millions of pounds had been wasted by the long delay.
Whether this particular scheme, the scheme put forward by the Government, will work, and whether it will put an end to inter-Service rivalries, as we all hope, is quite impossible to judge at this stage. We cannot tell—to use the admirable expression of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who is not here at the moment but who was here yesterday—whether it will be a real tiger or a paper tiger. We must wait for the White Paper, promised by the Minister and mentioned again yesterday, before we can judge. It was certainly rather curious, I thought, that the Minister did not delay the announcement of his scheme in Parliament until he was able to show how he proposes to implement it. Usually a statement of this importance and a White Paper go together. But I do not want myself to be sidetracked into talking about executive machinery, however important, instead 878 of about the policy it is intended to serve.
We challenge the fundamental concepts on which the Government's defence policy is based. That is because, in our view, these concepts are wrong, they have wasted enormous sums of public money, and have failed to give the country the armed force it requires to support its diplomacy and to deter aggression. The three basic mistakes of policy, from which all the faults of organisation of defence have stemmed, are these: first of all, an out-of-date conception of overseas defence, particularly in regard to our obligations towards the Colonies and Commonwealth; secondly, the decision to have a national nuclear deterrent which the country cannot afford; thirdly, the lack of balance between the nuclear and conventional elements in our Armed Forces, which of course is a consequence of the decision about the nuclear deterrent. I should like, if I may, to say a few words about each of these three mistakes.
The Government's idea of overseas defence is a hangover from pre-war years and earlier. They seem to have failed to grasp the fact that the British Empire has faded out in the last fifteen years, and that a free Commonwealth with very different ideas about foreign policy and defence has taken its place. The rapid political changes that have transformed our Dependencies into independent countries have not been accompanied by corresponding changes in the organisation and deployment of our Forces overseas. Here and there, as in Suez and Cyprus, we have yielded to force. Here and there we have by agreement moved an outpost from one place to another. But the broad pattern of Imperial defence is still frozen in a pre-war posture.
Instead of using the mobility of air transport to concentrate men and equipment, they are still scattered and dispersed. Instead of deploying our Forces overseas to meet in that connection the requirements of our great post-war Alliances—NATO, CENTO and SEATO—With which we are linked with other countries in the defence of the Free World, we are still wasting money and manpower in defending this non-existent Empire, and a Commonwealth that does not for the most part seek our protection. My Lords, 879 these perhaps sound rather sweeping or exaggerated statements, and I shall try to support them by a piece of specific evidence.
I should like to illustrate the general statement I have just made from last year's Defence White Paper The Next Five Years. The absence of any Defence White Paper this year confirms it as the current authority on Government policy. The noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, used this White Paper as his text when he opened his speech yesterday, so I think that is a fair assumption. In paragraph 18 of the White Paper, headed "Africa", we read as follows:During the 'sixties, therefore, our military requirements in East and Central Africa will have to be re-examined in the light of a continuing need to support the civil power.I ask the Government: What civil Power in East Africa wants continuing support for the next four years, or even the continuing presence of British troops? They are certainly not wanted by the independent countries—Uganda, Tanganyika. Kenya, as we have heard only this week, will have elections, followed by self-government, in May, and both the African Parties are pledged to dispense with the Mackinnon Road base, on which we have already spent millions of pounds, after Kenya has reached independence. This is one example of the Government's failure to take into account the pace of political change.
They have failed equally to take full advantage of technical change. The postwar development of air transport has surely made static garrisons unnecessary and out of date. Incidentally, of course, these static garrisons are always placed in Colonies where we have never had any trouble and, therefore, where they are least likely to be troubled about internal security—colonies such as Malta, Gibraltar and Hong Kong. Your Lordships will remember—the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, referred to it—that, in December, troops were sent from Singapore to deal with the emergency in Brunei. Surely they could be moved equally easily, if required, to Hong Kong, and this would enable us to dispense with another garrison. I have done the journey myself by air, both from Singapore to North Borneo and from Singapore to Hong Kong, and I know that many other noble Lords have, too. I know that both are easy and not unduly long journeys.
880 If I may weary your Lordships with another personal experience, I would tell you that in September of last year I saw the new American strategic reserve base at Tampa, in Florida. I say "new" because it was completed only just over a year ago. From this reserve base they were able to move, by air, eight divisions to any part of the world: to support their Army in Europe, or to support their troops in South East Asia. I do not expect us to be as up to date in air transport as the United States of America, but I firmly believe that we should have moved further in the same direction by now.
I suggest that the Government should start an immediate inquiry into our bases and garrisons overseas. A Royal Commission would take far too long. This is a very urgent matter and should be settled quickly. I should like to see a very small team—a sort of Ismay-Jacobs team, such as inquired into the running of the Defence Departments—with no more than three or four men, but men with independent minds and with a knowledge and an understanding of politics as well as of strategy. I am sure that such an inquiry would result in recommendations which would bring about a substantial saving in money and manpower.
I now pass on to the second and third of the main differences between us and the Government. I wish to say something about our opposition to the national nuclear deterrent, and about the much higher priority we give to first-class conventional forces. These two matters are so closely connected that I will deal with them together. The case for and against the independent deterrent has been argued at great length, and I will not traverse the same ground over again. Of course, I am sure that none of us could dismiss out of hand the arguments that are used in favour of the deterrent, such as the risk of nuclear blackmail (although I myself think that risk is much more theoretical than real), or the added influence that it might give us in international negotiations. The decision is one which must be taken on balance of advantage, as must almost every decision in politics. I believe that when the arguments on both sides are carefully examined, carefully scrutinised and carefully weighed, the balance of advantage is so heavily against the national nuclear deterrent 881 that the country will come round to our way of thinking.
The case against the deterrent can be summarised in two simple propositions: first, it increases the risk of the worst form of warfare, nuclear warfare; and, secondly, the cost would be so great that we should starve our Armed Services of conventional arms and equipment. Let us take for a moment the first of these two propositions. How are we increasing the risk of nuclear war? I think we are doing it in two ways. First, we are doing it in this way: so long as we cannot carry out a holding operation on the Continent of Europe, which is the task now assigned to the NATO forces there, if trouble starts over Berlin or anywhere else in Eastern Europe, without using nuclear shells or bombs, we shall find ourselves escalating (to use the technical jargon) almost immediately to the most powerful thermonuclear explosives; and at the moment the British Army of the Rhine still relies on these tactical nuclear weapons.
The Secretary of State for War said this quite frankly and openly—indeed, it was right that he should do so—last week in another place, and perhaps I may quote his words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 673 (No. 69), col. 160]:It may well be that with the newest thoughts of the United States Government and indeed of N.A.T.O. superior officers we should try to avoid as far as possible using tactical nuclear weapons.In the long run we can avoid the use of these tactical nuclear weapons only if our Army in Europe, the Rhine Army, is as well equipped with conventional weapons and as well organised and as near a war establishment as are the American Forces at the present time. I am glad to hear that the Government are proposing to give some better artillery to the Rhine Army, and to increase the number of men in it; but, in spite of these improvements, and even after they have been made (and it will take a good deal of time before the new equipment is actually in use), our Forces in Europe will continue to be far below the standard of equipment and efficiency required by the NATO Commanders. Surely we are wasting money on this private nuclear Army instead of using it, as we should do, to give our divisions in Germany the equipment they need to perform their task in limited warfare.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl one question? I do not want to interrupt him, but it is for clarification. He is talking about the American and the British troops being armed with tactical nuclear weapons, and he is suggesting, I think, that the Opposition Party does not favour that. I must remind him that, of course, the Russian troops opposite are armed with these weapons.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am very glad the noble Earl made that intervention, because it makes it quite clear that I could not have expressed myself as plainly as I desired to do. I do not for a moment say that our troops should be deprived of tactical nuclear weapons. That would be suicidal, absolutely suicidal. What I was saying was that the need to use these weapons could be diminished only if our troops were equipped with the most up-to-date conventional arms. They have not got these arms at the moment, whereas the Americans have. That was my point. That, my Lords, is how we are increasing the risk of nuclear war.
Now my second proposition, that we cannot afford the cost of a national deterrent if we are to have really up-to-date and well-equipped conventional Forces. Of course, we do not know how much this national nuclear deterrent is going to cost. That is one of the things which the Government have never been able to tell us—not even a rough estimate—but we can safely assume that it will be a steeply mounting cost, and that, unless defence is to take more than the 7 per cent. of our gross national product which it does at the moment, we can meet it only by depriving our conventional forces of up-to-date equipment. As long ago as 1958, five years ago, the present Minister of Defence, when, of course, he was out of office, after he had resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was saying that we were gravely weakening ourselves by trying to do more than we could manage with our resources. But at that time we were spending much less on nuclear development than we are planning to spend now. Mr. Thorneycroft did not at that time (he obviously was not able to do it) foresee the Nassau Agreement about Polaris missiles, or our proposed participation in a NATO nuclear force. Of course, he has changed his mind since then.
883 But the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has not changed his mind. He has been consistent over a very long period of time, and if the Government will not listen to us perhaps they will listen to him. With your Lordships' permission (because his speech may not be fresh in all of our minds) I should like to quote one passage from what he said yesterday. This is the quotation [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 247 (No. 54) col. 829]: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".The noble and gallant Viscount, of course, wanted the nuclear deterrent, not the conventional forces. That was his choice, and on that we part company with him. But he does agree with us—and this is the whole kernel of the case we are making against the Government—that it is impossible to have both, and that the Government must choose one or the other.
I wish the Government would recognise that there are only two countries in the world that can afford the research, experiment and manufacture required for constant progress in the field of nuclear missiles. If they would do that, they would then accept a proper division of labour between the Western Allies: the United State supplying the nuclear strength while the rest of us contribute conventional arms and trained men. This does not mean that the non-nuclear countries are not entitled to a fair say in the use of nuclear weapons, or that the United States wishes to deny its Allies a share in nuclear policy. President Kennedy is anxious to associate other members of NATO more closely with this policy for the control of the deterrent. This is the essence of his proposal for a NATO nuclear force.
I should like, as the noble Earl is here and knows so much about this matter, to say something about this force, and perhaps invite his reply to some questions. May I say that I wish the Government would help us to get away from the multi-hyphenated polysyllables in which the NATO force is now spoken about? Who knows what "multilateral", "multinational" and "multi-manned" really 884 mean? If we could get away from this smokescreen of jargon it would be helpful to all of us, on both sides of the House. However, we welcome President Kennedy's desire to associate his European partners more closely with nuclear policy, though we are bound to feel doubts about the wisdom of a NATO nuclear force separated from, and independent of, the nuclear forces of the United States.
My Lords, there are four main drawbacks to this which should be very carefully considered. First, the military value of a NATO nuclear force will be negligible. It will add only a very small fraction to the nuclear capacity of the United States. On this point I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. He knows a great deal about it, because he is Chairman of the Political Committee of the NATO Parliamentarians. Indeed, I should think he knows the subject as well as any noble Lord in this House. His view was that the military value was negligible, and that the real value of the NATO nuclear force was political and psychological. But so far as the military value of the force is concerned, it would be even less if we had surface ships instead of submarines to carry the missiles, because surface ships are more easily detectable than submarines. I should like to repeat the question put by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton: Why, if surface ships are really as effective as submarines—and everyone knows that they are cheaper—were they not thought of before? Why did the Government not think of them at the time of Nassau, instead of deciding on these extremely expensive Polaris nuclear submarines?
The second drawback about the NATO nuclear force is its cost. The cost will be an immensely heavy burden, particularly for the smaller NATO countries which might have to cut their conventional forces. They have a very limited defence budget, and this is an important consideration. I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Home, can say anything about the cost. It may be possible at this stage, and it would certainly be helpful if he could. There has been a great deal of talk about this in the papers and perhaps he could tell us something about the cost of these 25 surface ships which are capable of launching nuclear missiles. We have all read in the Press estimates of a 885 total cost of about £1,800 million over ten years. Is this estimate anything like correct? What contribution are the Government likely to have to make; what proportion are they likely to have to bear? If it is only one-third of this amount, the cost will be as much as the total Navy Estimates for the coming year—about £600 million. Surely this would be a colossal expenditure to undertake on top of the Polaris missiles which we are to have as a result of the Nassau Agreement.
The third drawback to a NATO nuclear force is the danger of a loss of credibility. There must be one finger on the trigger or button, if the potential enemy is to believe in immediate retaliation after a first strike. Will it be possible for the ten European members of NATO to agree to delegate this appalling responsibility to one person? Will that not be extremely difficult? But, if that cannot be done, will not this NATO nuclear force lose its credibility? The fourth and final drawback is that this NATO force is bound to increase the Russian fears of the Western Alliance and make it harder for us to secure agreement about disarmament or the banning of nuclear tests. That has been shown already in the course of negotiations. These are the main drawbacks and difficulties about the nuclear force.
On the other side, there is a solid political and psychological advantage in relation to our European partners. A NATO nuclear force could give the European countries in NATO a real share in shaping nuclear policy and deciding possibly the circumstances in which these weapons should be used in the targeting and deployment of strategic missiles. If the result of setting up such a force were to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons in Europe the political gain would be very considerable. No one wants Germany to join the "nuclear club"—which of course she cannot do without breaking her obligations—or to do a nuclear deal with France. It is good to find that the German Government have welcomed the proposal for a NATO Polaris force with mixed crews.
Other political considerations at the present time are that a NATO nuclear force would make it much harder for France to break up the alliance (as she wishes to do under the present policy of her Government) and would draw the United States and 886 Europe into a better and closer partnership. It will be a considerable time before we can judge from the reactions of European NATO countries whether the obvious disadvantages of the NATO nuclear force would be outweighed by its political advantages. I cannot help thinking that it would be far better if the United States could still find some means of associating her NATO partners more closely with the planning and policy of the main Western deterrent (which remains the strike force of the United States Air Force) rather than offering, as she now does, a larger say in the dangerous, expensive and militarily ineffective auxiliary to their own strategic striking force.
If, however, we were obliged to choose between a NATO nuclear force composed of elements from different countries and a NATO nuclear force manned by mixed crews on the ships which carry these missiles, then we should certainly prefer the latter of the two alternatives. Our contribution to a multi-national force (and I must go back to the use of the one word), which we could pull out of the Alliance whenever we wanted it, would surely be a sham because we might want to pull it out just when it was needed. Can the noble Earl say whether we should have to obtain the consent of the NATO Council to remove the V-bomber force from NATO Cornmand?—because that is the meaning of having an independent deterrent which is merely assigned to NATO. If the meaning is different, I shall be relieved, because it will have more significance for NATO. But if that is the meaning it cannot be regarded as an effective weapon in the armoury of the Alliance.
May I just summarise in one sentence what I have said? We oppose the defence policy of the Government because it stems from three fallacious assumptions: their conception of overseas defence is completely out-of-date; they are hynotised by the national nuclear deterrent, and for that reason they have failed to redress the balance of our Armed Forces in favour of conventional arms and equipment.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
My Lords, I was surprised when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, told us that we should not vote against this Paper. After all, we 887 have had several years of the rule of the Party opposite, we have had several Ministers of Defence, and we have spent a great deal of money, and therefore I think that it is quite natural that we should not have the same trust in people who change so often as we ought to have in the Government of the country. Therefore I do not think we are at all wrong to vote for the Amendment, and I certainly will do so.
In regard to the amalgamation of the three Services under the Minister of Defence, I presume that when we get the White Paper we shall be able to understand more of what that means. There is, however, one point that comes out clearly. We do not want to have eleven Ministers of Defence in eleven years. The Minister of Defence must be a man we can trust and one who has the capacity for the enormous amount of work and responsibility which is going to be thrown upon him. I think that this will be a difficult matter, and it seems to have been a difficulty for the present Government.
The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said that he had been advocating this amalgamation year in and year out, but it was not so much a question of having the three Services in one building as of getting the right mentality at the top. Amalgamation can be a dangerous thing. We might not get an improvement. We might get the worst out of the senior staff. Instead of new ideas, we might get a bedding down of the old ideas, and I do not want to see that.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, dealt with the question of whether we should have a separate bomb ourselves. It is easy for the Opposition to say that they are against an independent deterrent on financial grounds, but I do not take quite the same line. The Opposition may oppose this, but let us think of it from the Government's point of view. I do not think that, as an Opposition, we have enough knowledge to say whether we should oppose the independent nuclear deterrent; in fact, I believe we must have it. I do not think we could face the country at this moment if we suddenly said, "We are not independent, because it would cost too much money". We know that it will cost money, but I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Gos- 888 ford, that leaving the deterrent to America and the Russians does not give enough security for us. I know that Presidents come and Presidents go. I know that the Americans change very quickly. They are either rather slow or too quick at making up their minds. If we know what we need, then I think we ought to have the independent nuclear weapon.
Now we have the Polaris. I do not know whether any of your Lordships know exactly what it is, how it will be used and in what circumstances, whether it will be independent or whether it is really going to be of such good value. I have not the information, nor do I think anyone else has it, because we have not yet worked on it and tried it out. But it will not be efficient if we have not full control over it; of that I am certain.
The plans for the Navy in the White Paper are rather disturbing. Anyone can tell, by being on the Solent for three months a year, what an appalling amount of extravagance, waste and mismanagement there has been at the Admiralty. One can see the number of ships coming out and passing their tests, and before they ever get sailors on board they are "mothballed". That has been going on for two years, as is well known in the Solent area. I cannot make out how the system of producing ships and then putting them straight into "mothballs" can be the proper policy. I hope that the Minister of Defence, when he is installed, will go into this question carefully, because this independent method has certainly been very costly to us.
There are still a great many places in the world where we may be called upon to send the Army. I cannot agree that to keep an Army of 55,000 men in Germany is the right use of the Army. It was sent there, after we had defeated Germany, to keep the peace and to see that the Germans did not rise again, but the motive for its being there has altered altogether. It is now to keep back the Russians. I do not believe that this Army is good enough, either in its arms or in its morale. The question of morale in Germany to-day is not an easy one. Our troops are not popular with the Germans at all. The men themselves do not know what their real use is going to be. I hope that we shall be told to-day that we shall bring this Army 889 back home, re-equip it and form our conventional forces over here strong enough to be able to send them out where they may be needed, rather than have them pocketed in Germany. I believe that they are not very good and cannot be readily made serviceable unless we bring them home and really set about building up the conventional force which we should have here.
On the question of the air, I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, said, although I do not agree with his figure of just £1 million. I cannot think where that figure came from, and I believe it will turn out to be more than that. We have to think much more on air questions than appears in the White Paper. If the Polaris comes, the emphasis will be on the Admiralty, and so long as we have that there will be more and more difficulties in getting the modern idea. I do not agree with many things that happened in the last war, when the Admiralty mentality was so much in evidence that we in the Air Force had the greatest difficulty in getting them to see that without the air they could not, and did not, exist. The difficulty with the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" was that the admiral would not believe he could be sunk from the air. It is difficult to get new ideas, but I hope that this White Paper will produce something, at least, in advance of what we have had for eleven years, because we are wasting all the money we are now spending and getting no protection for our people. We all know that it may cost a lot of money; but let there be no waste, and then perhaps we shall get things more cheaply than they now seem to be.
I do not think we can do without the independent deterrent, because of the mentality abroad, which may change at any moment, and in this country we must have our own strength which we can afford to build up. I hope that disarmament will come, but it will never come through weakness. You will never get it that way. It is only, again, by the success of the plan in this White Paper that we shall get the possibility of disarmament.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, as the noble Lord was kind enough to refer to my speech, may I say that my figure of £1 million came from a very sound source? It might well, as modern 890 phraseology has it, escalate to £2 million, the way these things work out. But we must bear in mind that I was talking about basic research, and that would be largely for wages only, and not for hardware.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
My Lords, I am going to talk this afternoon only about the Government's organisational proposals. I must start by apologising to your Lordships in advance for the fact that I shall take a little longer than usual, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me this afternoon on the understanding that I do not make a habit of it. It is probably just as well that my late master the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein is not in his place at the moment to call me to order.
On the day last week when the Government made known these proposals I happened to walk down Whitehall, and I looked up, by chance, at His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, as he stands there scowling at the War Office that he hated so much in life, and I could not help recalling the classic remarks that he made when he left the post of Commander-in-Chief after holding it for 29 years.Gentlemen",he said,they say I am opposed to change. I am not opposed to change. But change must come at the right time, and the right time, gentlemen, is when you cannot help it.His Royal Highness went on to imply that the amount of change should be the inescapable minimum. I believe His Royal Highness would be well satisfied that the Government's proposals, as they are known to us, correspond with his precepts.
The big step which the Government propose is that there should be one unified Department of Defence, presided over by the Minister of Defence and responsible for advising the Government on Defence policy, instead of four Departments, as at present. This step I believe to be long overdue. The Times newspaper a few weeks ago warned us all of the obvious dangers of an all-powerful Minister of Defence. I wondered what dangers the writer of that 891 article had in mind. Perhaps he feared a military coup d'état in this country. I have never seen any hope of that myself. Butt the more obvious danger was well put by the Minister of Defence, speaking in another place, when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 673 (No. 69), col. 39]:… it is easy on paper to draw up a system which theoretically would give the Minister of Defence power over every aspect of defence … but in doing so one might so easily overload him.Do you not think, my Lords, that the way to tackle that problem is not to divide one job into two, in the way that has been, maybe rightly, but rather uncomfortably, done in the Treasury, but by endeavouring to insulate this Minister of Defence, as far as possible (he cannot be entirely so insulated), from the hurly-burly of Party politics and Question Time? His work seems to me to be rather analogous to that of the Foreign Secretary. Higher Defence policy, it seems to me, does not often, and perhaps not generally, make a very good battleground for the play of Party politics. Maybe your Lordships who have sat through this debate will be the more ready to accept that statement. At any rate, I think it is generally true that higher Defence policy is not a matter of Party politics.
I have mentioned the Foreign Secretary. The present arrangement, as we know, is that the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary sits in this House and is represented by a senior Minister of status in another place. Whatever noble Lords may think of that arrangement in principle, I believe that the majority would agree that our foreign affairs under this system appear to be well handled and that there is a notable absence of complaint that Parliament is not well served. If it were possible to make a similar arrangement with the Minister of Defence, the problem that one has referred to would be the easier to solve. I leave it at that.
In any case, the Minister of Defence must be represented by a man of stature in the other place, wherever he sits; and I feel bound to say that, in my humble opinion, that representative should not be one of the Service Ministers. We in this House have the pleasure of having a man who personally has such great talent and charm that the affairs of the 892 Ministry of Defence are always extremely well presented to us, but I hope he will not mind my saying that, in principle, I feel, it is not an advisable arrangement.
As regards the Ministers of the Service Departments, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, made some very wise remarks on this last evening, and I have been pondering over them ever since. It is, of course, essential to give great care to the matter of the status and, indeed, the titles of these Ministers. At the back of our minds I think it is essential to remember—and I quote the words of the Minister of Defence [col. 43]—that… the Service Ministers will be subordinate to the Minister of Defence.Secondly, the Minister said [col. 41]:We are anxious to devise a system in which future Ministers of Defence can concentrate on the main issues of policy and intervene if they wish from choice but not from necessity in fields of administration within their Department.It is not easy to fulfil those requirements. As I say, I am sure that it is necessary to take care that the status of these Service Ministers is high and that their title is well chosen. Their titles should show that they are the persons who are responsible for the administration of these Services for all matters that exclusively concern their Service; they should show that they are the proper persons to whom questions on that matter should be addressed.
I am not an expert in Parliamentary affairs, and I certainly do not know the fine distinctions between the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, or just a plain Minister. In my ignorance, I had rather hoped that it might be possible to go back to the time-honoured title of "Secretary"—associated, of course, with the name of the particular Service to which the Minister belonged. I say that only as a suggestion, but it was a title which was held good enough, I believe, in the days of Samuel Pepys.
Before leaving the Ministerial level, may I say that I heartily endorse the views expressed by a number of noble Lords, including, recently and to-day, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that the research and development functions of the Ministry of Aviation should be taken over entirely by the Ministry of Defence, who as regards the civil part would do that work on an agency basis for other Ministries. As regards the remaining 893 functions of the Ministry of Aviation, I personally hope that Sir Frank Lee will consider the advisability of transferring most of them back to the place from where they came (and, it seems to me, logically belong), namely, the Ministry of Transport. It would at least give us a Minister who has a chance of looking at transport as a whole.
While I am on the subject of research, I should like to say something else about it. I suggest to your Lordships that it is generally accepted in business that this costly affair of research has to be tightly controlled from the centre and generally centrally conducted. Subordinate organisations, of course, do their materials testing and such other research as the centre may approve, but in general it is regarded as a central service. The Fighting Services pretty well make their own arrangements, and there is a Defence Research Policy Committee to co-ordinate them. But in business practice coordination is not to-day considered to be sufficient. I believe there is a good deal of dissatisfaction with the results that come from the Services at this time, and I do not think it is altogether surprising.
I think we can all welcome the new view of strategy in this modern age which comes out of the various statements made by the Government. Modern inventions have annihilated distance, and in doing so they have blurred the sharp distinctions that formerly came between the Services. There is no such thing to-day as naval strategy by itself; nor land strategy, nor air strategy. What we need, and all that we need, is a single strategy attuned to the tasks which we have made up our minds to undertake. Such a strategy should co-ordinate our resources by sea, land and air, but what it should not be is a mosaic of three strategies stuck together, with a bit of papering over the cracks. I repeat that that is not my dictum. That comes out of Government Papers and Government pronouncements. The White Paper of 1962 itself said that: "we seek to devise a strategy".
I now feel that I must make a diversion from my main argument and refer to the Government's statement thatwe should not look to amalgamation of the Services as a solution. Fighting efficiency depends in the last resort upon the pride a man takes in his ship, his regiment or his squadron.894 I am not advocating amalgamation of the Services, but I do not understand that statement. It was repeated to us yesterday, with emphasis, by the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, but I still do not understand it. Who in their senses would interfere with ships' complements, regiments or squadrons, in the name of integration? I served throughout the war in an integrated defence force. It had an Army, an Air Force and a small naval component. The headquarters and all the administration was fully integrated. It was certainly very economical, and its performance in the field needs no advertisement by me. Regimental tradition was very high, and there were some magnificent units. It was not integration which destroyed the Transvaal Scottish and other fine units of that sort. Curiously enough, it was tradition. It was a reversion to an old tradition and old bitternesses.
No one should underestimate the importance of morale, and I hope I do not do so. I am as proud of my corps as any of your Lordships could be of the regiments or corps in which you served. No one would deny that tradition, ceremonial and uniforms contribute to morale. But they are not a substitute for good organisation, and they are not a justification for resisting progress. As I have said, nobody would wish to interfere with uniforms, traditions or even organisation at ship, regimental or squadron level. But when we come to the top these questions can arise. Their importance should be recognised but should not, I submit, be exaggerated. The Government have decided that the defence staffsshall still belong to their own Service and wear their own uniforms.What uniforms they wear, frankly, from my point of view does not interest me very much. What I am concerned to see is an end to these unseemly inter-Service jealousies which so often cloud reason and which, incidentally, cause our letterboxes to be filled up with propaganda.
I should now like to get back to my main argument. The last thing I said was that we require one strategy. How is strategy made? By staffs? Certainly not, my Lords; we know it is not made by staffs. The inspiration and the basic conception must come from the top. 895 The Government proposals recognise that to work out a unified strategy we need an inter-Service staff. But what I submit they do not recognise is that to do any good that staff must work under a Chief of Staff and not under a committee. Things have changed since the day when we had three strategies put together. In those days a committee, maybe, was the right thing. We are now to have one strategy and we need one man as head of the staff to work it out. They must be his staff and he must be their chief. Under the present arrangement I do not think this will be seriously contradicted. Under present arrangements, which are apparently not to be changed, the Chief of the Defence Staff has almost no staff of his own except a rather large personal staff. He carries great responsibility, but he is given no authority. As to the Defence staffs, the one thing which is made clear in the very involved definition of their position given in paragraph 19 of Command Paper 476, of 1958, is that they are each individually responsible to their own head of Service.
Of course, the three Services must continue to have their professional heads. Whether Chief of Staff is the right name or not might be debated, but I will not dwell on the point now. I can well understand that these officers should have access to the Minister of Defence, and I will go rather further than the noble and gallant Field Marshal and the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and say that I personally would have no objection to their having direct access to the Prime Minister, but only on those matters which are of exclusive concern to their own Service, and that means administrative matters. Like the noble and gallant Field Marshal and the noble Earl, I very much question the system which in practice provides the Government with four separate advisers on a single strategy. I am sorry that many of my good friends in the Services have, as I understand it, welcomed and even encouraged this solution. I feel that they forget something. I feel that they forget that in the past there have been Ministers—no names, no pack drill—who have taken a particular delight in providing themselves with a variety of professional advice, and that this has been very detrimental to the proper influence of professional opinion.
896 I followed with very great interest what has been said about the future of the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council and Air Council. One is bound to feel sorry if these organisations, with their very fine records and splendid-sounding titles, have to disappear. If the Government, however, feel that they have no place in a unified Ministry of Defence, I would feel it difficult to argue to the contrary. That there may be a good case for something in the nature of a management committee for each Service one can well see.
Talking of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry, the question of the size of their staffs is a perennial subject for carping. I note that the Admiralty at this very moment are under fire from a Select Committee. Indeed, the figures do seem large. The total strength of our defence forces, in round figures, is about 400,000 and the size of these staffs lies, I believe, between 20,000 and 30,000. The British Railways Board covers about 500,000 men with a headquarters staff of about 500. I would not for one moment pretend that those two cases are strictly analogous, but the comparison is perhaps a little intriguing. In suggesting, as I do, that the size of these staffs is excessive, I am not implying any criticism of the men who are at the head of the Services to-day. They have already made big reductions. It is the system which creates the need for these big staffs. The many artificial divisions still kept alive between our Fighting Services lead to triplication of effort all over the place, and it is very much to be hoped that the opportunity will now be seized to rationalise them. Incidentally, overseas headquarters reflect much the same picture, in spite of the creation of so-called unified headquarters.
I venture to express the view that the system by which the three Fighting Services each maintain their own separate administrative set-ups is extravagant. I am aware, of course, of what has been said about this matter in the 1962 White Paper, Command 1639, and I know that the three Services "take in each other's washing" to some extent in these days; but that is only scratching at the problem. Each of them still maintains its own corps of doctors, nurses, dentists, chaplains, paymasters, schoolmasters and much else, each having its own command hierarchy and own headquarters, and 897 I feel that this demands rationalisation under modern conditions. There are various ways of tackling it. One of the Fighting Services may serve the other two on an agency basis, or one corps could be established under the Ministry of Defence to carry out a particular function for all three. And it is not only administrative services, strictly speaking, which require attention there are services like movement control and contracts, and one could name others. We have been promised integration in telecommunications and one only hopes that it is proceeding apace.
I believe, however, that nothing would so surely make for economy as an efficient financial control based upon the Ministry of Defence and designed to cover all three Fighting Services. In another place a spokesman—I believe, an Opposition spokesman—used words to the effect that, unless there is central control over every aspect of defence, the proposals which the Government are talking about will come to nothing; and I was very pleased to note that the Minister of Defence, when winding up the debate, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 67:3 (No. 70), col. 334]:Certainly, if we are to control defence we have to control the finance of defence …I should like to preface my conclusions with two remarks: first, by referring to the tributes that were paid in another place to the men who to-day are in leading positions in the three Fighting Services. I believe that those tributes are richly deserved and, as regards my own Service, I feel confident in saying that these are vintage years. Therefore, I feel a little impertinent when, as this afternoon, I say things which are not quite in accord with some of their views. I can only hope that they will not resent my expressing views based upon such experience as I, and my father before me, have had of the relationship between administration and Government. My other remark is that I am afraid your Lordships will feel that I have been saying to you almost exactly the same things that were said yesterday, far better, by the noble and gallant Field Marshal. I can assure your Lordships that my conclusions were arrived at independently. I can only add, with all modesty, that perhaps great minds think alike.
898 My conclusions, summed up, are these. The Government, by deciding to create a unified Department of Defence under a Minister of Defence, and subordinating the Service Ministers to him, have taken the key decision. Everything else will fall into its place in due course. The Government have taken two further decisions and on these I have had something to say. First, the Government have decided that the four Chiefs of Staff are to have direct access to the Minister of Defence and to the Prime Minister on strategy. This arrangement, I believe, will work so long as no strain is put upon it, and thanks to the personality of the men concerned. But I submit that an organisation which requires an explanation by St. Athanasius is too difficult for ordinary mortals to operate. While it lasts, I would suggest that the Chief of the Defence Staff should be given higher rank than the other three Service Chiefs of Staff—just to give the poor fellow a chance.
Secondly, the Government have decided that the staff of the Ministry of Defence should be organised on a basis of Service representatives instead of being a unified staff composed of the best men available regardless of their Service of origin. Again I do not think that this arrangement will last, but I can see that it can be regarded as a reasonable first step in the right direction, if the Government when they fill out their plans, were to make it quite clear that their intention is to create a corporate staff having a sense of corporate responsibility; that they are not merely aiming at a geographical move of a lot of committee members into a British version of the Pentagon—a horrible comparison to anybody who knows the Pentagon.
As regards the matters which the Government have left for settlement in their full proposals, I urge, first, that there should be one Defence Vote and one accounting officer in the Ministry of Defence, and that financial control under him should be worked on a functional basis throughout the whole Department. Secondly, a lot more steam should be applied to the rationalisation of administrative and support services, common services to be organised as such and parochial objections to be over-ruled. Thirdly, I urge that all research and development for the Ministry of Defence 899 should be put under the Ministry of Defence and under the Chief of the Defence staff, though this, of course, would not preclude farming out to individual Services work for which they were particularly qualified.
Finally, I say this, that all big changes have to be made with a certain degree of gradualness if chaos is to be avoided. I warmly welcome the Government's proposals as they stand. My only reservation is that I regard them as Phase 1.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the Defence White Paper which we are called upon to approve or disapprove has been described, I think with much justice, as a "Defence blank paper". It has also been pointed out that if you set the Defence budget for this year against the number of words in the policy statement governing it, you get a price of £9 million a word for the Defence White Paper; and, speaking as a professional writer, I can only say it is a pretty good rate for whoever gets it. It is startling that this White Paper should say nothing at all, but I think it says nothing at all because the Government have not got a Defence policy. I do not say this simply by way of paradox but in simple statement of fact; this Government do not have a Defence policy for the very simple reason that they could not have one in this day and age. Defence is something which belongs to a past age, but in this age we should more accurately talk of security. I will come back to this point later on.
First, I want to talk for a moment about the past chapter of our so-called national defence, or, more accurately, of our national security or deterrence which is now drawing to its close. This may perhaps be a useful thing to do, because things move so fast in this age that you can really understand what this or that weapon is good for or not good for only after you have had it some time. The answer usually is that it is not good for anything and you had better get rid of it. Let us take the Thor missiles for example, the medium-range strategic rockets which were deployed in England and manned by the R.A.F. but had an American lock on the warheads, which we could have fired only with American consent, and which are going to be 900 taken out this year. I want to ask the Government, first of all, how much this operation cost: what was the total cost to the taxpayer of the Thor bases from their beginning to their end this year? Let us then set against that sum, whatever it may be, the good these things did us.
Next, I want to ask the Government when the whole system became operational? What was the actual number of months, from the beginning to the end, that they could have been fired? The Jupiters in Turkey, which had the same rocket system, became operational last year only a month or two before the Cuba crisis. They are now being dismantled. What good did the Thors do us? We agreed to have them because when the Russians developed the first I.C.B.M.'s they could hit America with rockets for the first time, with rockets against which there was and is no defence. The Americans had no I.C.B.M.'s at that time to deter the Russian I.C.B.M.'s and so they cast about for something else to deter them with, and came up with the shorter-range rockets. They had to be put somewhere, and we were closer to Russia and were acquiescent, so we gat them. Italy and Turkey got their rather similar rockets at the same time.
But these were totally vulnerable rockets. They stuck up there in the East Midlands, unprotected on that level plain. If they had any effect on the thoughts of Russian military planners it was that here was something which threatened them horribly—they are megaton rockets—and which was completely vulnerable to their attack. Therefore, their first effect was to create an incentive to hit this country before we could hit them. Of course, if they had been invulnerable. hardened, sunk in the ground, or mobile, they would not have had this effect. If the Russians could not have destroyed them by a first strike, the Thors would theoretically have simply had the effect of making the Russians watch their P's and Q's for fear of retaliation for anything they might do which we did not like. But, being vulnerable, they must have had the opposite effect. They must have made them nervous every time a crisis came, and made the Russians think, "Is it my duty to destroy these things in England before they can destroy my society?". And since the Thors were part of an 901 integrated Western deterrent, part of a system very much larger than the Russian system, they must also have thought, "Is it my duty to destroy these vulnerable rockets before they can destroy the rockets with which I can destroy them?". An invulnerable threat is a deterrent to attack, but a vulnerable threat is a positive invitation to attack.
My point is that at the time, perhaps, all these things did not strike us very clearly. They were new to us and we were new to the horrible game of deterrent rocketmanship. Would we agree to have Thors now? I can hardly believe it. If, knowing what we now know about those soft, slow-reacting missiles, we would not now agree to have them, though we did then, how happy can we be about the weapons we do now agree or seek to have? How about the assignment of the V-bombers to NATO; how about our Polaris submarine force? We do not see the bugs in these ideas now, but shall we not in the future, when we have them? How long can we go on buying this and that in the hope that this time we have got something safe, especially when the crucial decisions to buy this or that are taken in a matter of a very few days and weeks, as they were between the Rambouillet meeting between the Prime Minister and President de Gaulle, when the Prime Minister is believed to have turned to the idea of a European deterrent force, and the Nassau meeting between the Prime Minister and President Kennedy, when, as we know, he turned to continuation of a British independent deterrent with American help? I hope that when the Foreign Secretary replies he may be able to give us not only the total cost of the Thors and the length of their operational life, but also some account of the Government estimate of the advantages and disadvantages of ever having had them at all.
I turn now to a question on which I have often sought to have some information and explanation—namely, our nuclear Armed Fleet carriers. I want to know the truth of this matter at last, because we are not dealing with frills here, with non-essentials about which one may properly accept the Government's declaration that they would rather not say, that it is not in the public interest. On the contrary, we are dealing with the likelihood, or unlikelihood, of a war breaking out which will be civilisation's 902 last. And if Parliament exists for any reason at all, it surely exists to discuss this sort of thing.
It is believed fairly widely that at the time of the Kuwait operation, when we sent Fleet carriers into the Persian Gulf, as the House will remember, in support of the seaborne troops who were to deter a threatened Iraqui attack on Kuwait, if there had then been a fight probably nuclear weapons would have been used. If we had put tanks ashore, if we had had to, the Iraquis would have attacked them with Russian-built Migs. But our carrier-borne aircraft were not fast enough to catch the Migs. Therefore, if the tanks were to be able to fight, the Migs had to be prevented from taking off from their airfields. Moreover, we lacked anti-tank weapons with which to hold up the attack of Iraqui tanks. Therefore, we should have had to attack their tanks with our carrier-borne aircraft, but once again the Migs could outfly them and would have been able to put them out of the battle. Therefore, once again the Migs had to be prevented from taking off from their airfields, and the most effective way to do that would have been to put these airfields out of action with nuclear bombs dropped by carrier-borne aircraft.
If this is true, it would have been a perfectly catastrophic situation. These would have been the first nuclear weapons used in anger since Nagasaki, and they would have been used against the conventionally armed forces of an Arab country. It may be that the Russians would have made a political point, whatever the military requirements, of effecting a nuclear attack on our Fleet or on the troops we had ashore. I would have expected that to happen. If it had, it might or might not have led up to a general nuclear war between East and West. I think myself that the Russians would have made such an attack, probably only at sea, and that the Americans would have been forced by world opinion, and probably by their own domestic opinion as well, to make common cause with the Russians and against us in the United Nations, as they did over Suez, and that it would not have escalated to a general war. But that is only speculation.
What is perfectly certain, and must be evident to anybody who has ever gone outside the gilded ghetto of Embassies 903 and oil company offices and talked to an Asian or an African in the street, is that if we had used nuclear weapons this country would immediately have lost every shred of respect or liking or influence throughout the world; and also that the West as a whole would have lost the cold war—lost it, once and for all, which means that Communism would have won it. That action—and I hope we shall hear whether that was the action planned or whether it was not—would have lost us the very things for whose defence we arm ourselves, whether with nuclear weapons or with any other. Assuming it is true that this was the intention, we cannot just leave it at that and blame the Government, including noble and civilised Lords opposite, for being short-sighted. No. They will have got into that position—
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, I think I must ask the noble Lord not to assume that anything he is saying is true.
§ LORD KENNET
I think I may claim the permission of the House and continue to assume it for the moment, in the absence of a denial. The Government would have got into that position because we have not got carrier-borne aircraft fast enough to catch the Migs. There are two ways out of that one. One is to get carrier-borne aircraft fast enough to catch Migs. That is an attractive course; it appeals to our warlike ingenuity and to our ingrained values. But another course would be not to use the carriers in that way. We want the oil and the Arabs want our money. Many West European countries, and others too, get Arab oil without this great structure of military might, let alone without threatening nuclear war to get it. Wherever a nuclear-armed carrier goes—this applies to the Americans' as much as to ours—it creates a risk of nuclear war. It creates an incentive to a conventionally armed country which is our adversary, to invite the Russians to bring in nuclear weapons to redress the balance.
904 Yesterday the First Lord made some heavy political Party weather about the supposed intention of the Labour Party to reduce our military commitments in the Middle and Far East. But I would say this. If he himself cannot maintain forces there which are capable even of staving off an attack from Iraq without starting a nuclear war, then I think that noble Lords on this side of the House have some grounds for resenting what he said at that time. The situation with these nuclear-armed carriers roaring all over the place and threatening Armageddon is parallel to the long familiar scandal of the Rhine Army, which is so poorly armed and so badly situated that it would have to use nuclear weapons on the second or third day if the Russians launched a major conventional attack. I think it is scandalous that our soldiers should be forced to think in this manner—because forced they are. It is their job to stop an attack, and that is the only way they can do it. If you give them enough conventional arms, they can do it without. If you do not, that is what they have to do: they have to vapourise the German civilians whom they are there to protect, and to bring on the probable thermo-nuclear exchange which will interrupt civilisation in this country, in the United States, in the Soviet Union and in the rest of Western Europe as well.
Only a week or two ago the Foreign Secretary said, in a speech which was read for him at Wilton Park, as it was reported by The Times the following day, that economic strength was the foundation of security, and that we did not want to defend our society in such a way that we destroyed it. I think the thought in his mind was the economic burden of increasing conventional arms. He believed therefore, the armoury of the enemy being what it was, that we must be ready to use nuclear weapons in the event of a major assault. It is seldom so clearly put. In the Foreign Secretary's mind it appears that destruction of society is a phrase applying to high taxation, not to nuclear war.
Meanwhile, the Americans, on their side, are becoming more and more sure that there is what they call a "firebreak" between conventional and nuclear weapons, and that once you cross it, that is the end. Mr. McNamara was 905 extremely eloquent about this in the document with which he presented this year's American military budget to the House of Representatives. Can we not move, and move fast, to get into a position where we can meet like with like, and hold a conventional attack, which threatens territory but not civilisation, with a conventional defence instead of with the nuclear so-called defence which threatens civilisation at once? Why must we condemn ourselves to burn the house down if our neighbour hits us on the nose?
I should like now to turn briefly to the complicated matter of the NATO deterrent force, and I speak of the multilateral force at this point, the mixed-man force. This is of course going on day by day, and it might be difficult for the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary to tell us anything about it. I hope that he will tell us what he can, because to judge from recent newspaper accounts of what is happening, it appears that the only really favourable answer that the Americans have had to this in Europe comes from West Germany. The new German Defence Minister, Herr Von Hassel, has said that Germany would meet one-third of the cost if the United States met one-third, leaving one-third uncovered. The most: recent Press reports—I do not know whether they are accurate—suggest that the British Government are thinking in terms of meeting only 5 per cent. of the cost.
I have previously spoken to your Lordships with some heat against the idea of this force, but I think the situation wants watching if you get what is, in effect, an American-German force—especially if you bear in mind what Herr von Hassel said at the same time: that he wanted this to go in two periods—a first period where there was an American veto, where the thing was controlled by unanimous vote of the control organ; and a second period where there would no longer be an American veto and the thing would be controlled by a majority vote. I know that the Italian Government thinks along rather the same lines. It appears to me that once the American veto is out of the way, there is very little obstacle to General de Gaulle's coming in on it. That is to say, you will get three buttons in Europe: the American button, the British button, and the West European button under majority control. This is not good for the stability of 906 the world, or for the prospects of arms control.
Now it is nice to be able to say something in praise of the Government. The proposed reorganisation of the Defence set-up in this country is good. It is late, and it does not go far enough. But better late than never, and any move to ensure that single and enforceable decisions on overall policy can be taken is a good move. Of course, it is still a problem to make the right decisions; but it is better to do the wrong thing because you cannot see what the right one is than to let everything go in total confusion because you cannot take any decision at all. It is better like that, because when a wiser man comes along later and wants to do the right thing, he will be able to. I think we on this side of the House want to see much more of this unification of the defence structure. We want to see a single accounting officer; we want to see the Ministry of Aviation firmly subordinated in the relevant sectors; and we want to see the Board of Admiralty and the Army and Air Councils securely re-anchored in the dignity of an advisory capacity, if that.
For myself—and here I do not speak for my noble friends—I should also like to see the nomenclature brought into line with the realities of the mid-twentieth century. The words "Ministry of Defence", "Defence White Paper", "Defence Debate", "Civil Defence", and so on, describe the truth to just the same extent that the word "Beefeater" does. Against the ballistic missile, which is the largest threat now against us, there is no defence. There is not only no good defence; there is no defence whatever. To speak of defence in that context is like speaking of swordsmanship against a blizzard. Against the form of threat which is perhaps most likely to come next, the low-level nuclear-powered rocket, which the Americans call "Slam", there will be no defence at all. There is precious little defence against the low-level bombing plane. To continue to say "Ministry of Defence", "Defence Debate", and so on is a lie. It is an inadvertent lie. Nobody sits down and says: "Ah, let us deceive the people. Let us make them falsely believe that they are safe ". It is not like that; it is a laziness of mind. It is like rolling over in bed when the alarm clock of 907 technology sounds, and drawing the blanket of tradition up round our ears. It is possible to lie by inertia, as well as by intent.
Let us wake up to what is happening around us. Let us bring language into line with reality, since that is the only way good policy can be found. Let us speak of a Ministry of National Security, let us have Security debates, and let us call that good-hearted service, not Civil Defence, but War-time Rescue. Then we shall be able to see that, although there may indeed be defence against some smaller forms of attack, there is only the threat of retaliation to deter the larger; and that the elimination of both by general disarmament is the only hopeful and intelligent policy for national security. If we are unlucky, and if this admirable and lovable race of ours does indeed go down in fire and in disease, and if by amazing chance the record of our debate survives and there is someone to read it, that reader will say: "They were facing the wrong way when it happened".
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, the House will be relieved to know that I propose to confine my remarks to certain naval aspects of Defence. In a number of the Statements Explanatory of the Navy Estimates in recent years, there appears the heading "The Rôle of the Navy". It may seem strange, considering the past history of our country, and particularly the course of the war at sea in the last two wars, that the rôle of Navy should have to be restated, or that it should differ from what it has been held to be for centuries past. That, as I understand it, is to ensure that the trade of our country should be able to pass at all times freely across the oceans of the world upon its lawful occasions.
Looking back over the Explanatory Statements of past years, I find that while many subsidiary rôles have been assigned to the Navy, there has been no concise statement reaffirming that what was laid down in 1955–56 Statement is still held to be the true rôle of the Navy—although in some of the succeeding Statements oblique references are made to it. What gives cause for concern is the growing emphasis placed on the minor rôles, to the exclusion of what I hold is the one 908 main and vital role of the Navy. It is therefore a relief to find that the First Lord's Statement this year shows a return, though a somewhat cautious one, to the Navy's traditional rôle. For that many of us are grateful to him, even though, I may add, reference to it is relegated to the fourth and fifth paragraphs of his Statement.
The opening paragraph of this Report tells of the new responsibility the Government have placed on the Navy—that is, of creating and operating a force of Polaris-equipped nuclear submarines. I suggest it is probable that these weapons will never be used, other than possibly in circumstances arising from the severing of our lines of communication across the sea, with the result that we should have to choose between two alternatives: starvation or surrender. If surrender was unthinkable, it is probable that these Polaris missiles would be used, on the ground that death resulting from retaliatory attack by nuclear missiles might be quicker and less painful than death from starvation.
Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Statement deal with the importance of the Navy's contribution in combined operations with other Services. With that no one would disagree, always provided that it is given its proper place. To return to paragraph 4, we are there told thatthe oceans of the world must always be kept free for the passage of our merchant shipping.We are also told that the Soviet Union are aware that the life of industrial and trading societies depends on theunmolested movement of shipping on the high seas … as is witnessed by the rapid and continuing growth of their maritime activities …Then in the closing sentence of that paragraph we are informed that:It has always been, and will continue to be, a primary rôle of the Royal Navy to safeguard our own merchant fleet and to contribute to worldwide trade by deterring and frustrating interference with the peaceful movement of merchant shipping.In the next paragraph we are reminded that no one nation any longer attempts to provide for its own security. Nevertheless our historic position as seafaring traders—and perhaps your Lordships would note particularly the words that follow—… dependent for survival on bringing in raw materials and a … food supply, 909 results in our retaining considerable responsibilities at sea.I feel that these last two or three words are, perhaps, a considerable understatement of the real position.
My Lords, is the Navy to-day capable of fulfilling these roles? It is a fact, apparently beyond dispute, that the Soviet Union possesses some 400 submarines, and that at least 200 of these—some with nuclear propulsion—are capable of operating for long periods in the outer seas. In the light of past experience, are the forces at the disposal of the Admiralty sufficient to keep open the trade routes across the North Atlantic in the event of the Russians' deploying their submarines in that area? Or, again, could the forces of NATO in these circumstances guarantee the passage of shipping to and from this country in sufficient volume to maintain life? If the answers to these questions are in the negative, it seems to me that the Navy, so far as the defence of this country is concerned, no longer serves its purpose; and that our defence rests solely on the deterrent effect of having available to us nuclear missiles. I hope that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary, when he comes to reply, will be able to assure us that, in view of the advance in methods of submarine detection and in the weapons necessary for their destruction, the lessons of the last war no longer hold completely good, and that accordingly the forces available to us, either alone or in conjunction with our allies, are sufficient to ensure that trade routes will be kept open. Such assurances from my noble friend would go far to relieve the apprehensions and anxieties of many of our fellow countrymen.
There is, however, one other essential to our sure defence and survival; that is, the existence under the British flag of sufficient merchant ships to meet our requirements of food and raw materials. To-day, as the result of unfair competition and the heavy burden of taxation, the proportion of British to world tonnage is shrinking. Less and less of the world trade is being carried in British bottoms. Action to remedy that serious position is urgently called for. That applies also to our shipyards—again, my Lords, not in the interests of any one section of the community, but as something necessary to our defence and survival.
910 When one reads of the tens of millions of pounds that are devoted to purposes which are no doubt desirable—for example, the suggested expenditure of some £200 million to provide us with a "Telstar" of our own—but which are not available to us, one is tempted to wonder whether we have lost touch with reality. The reality in these days, when Powers with ideologies different from our own are constantly seeking to extend their spheres of influence, is, as I see it, that those who wish to survive must never relax or weaken in purpose; and that, no matter how great the burden may be, they must constantly grow and look to their own defence.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, it was, I think, about a fortnight or three weeks ago when many people in this country were astonished to be told that one of our latest cruisers was to be put into "mothballs". Since that episode a further announcement has been made that a sister ship of the same class is also going to be put into "mothballs". I am told that the "Tiger"—
§ EARL HOWE
The First Lord, I am glad to see, shakes his head. But then the Press went on to deal with the whole matter, and it was stated that 16 more ships were to be scrapped or otherwise dealt with, including 6 "Battle" class destroyers. I would remind your Lordships that at the beginning of the last war we received some very valuable assistance from America, in the shape of rather elderly destroyers which they were able to dispose of. So these "Battle" class destroyers, which are perhaps some of the finest destroyers the Navy has ever had, might be extremely useful if trouble should ever come again—though one hopes that it will not.
But that is not all. About 5 or 6 submarines, it was stated, were to be scrapped, as well as a certain number of minesweeping craft and the like. I do not know what is the policy of the Admiralty in this matter, but I hope that, when the noble Earl comes to reply to this debate, he will tell us exactly what is the policy of the Admiralty with regard to the strength of the Fleet. For the 911 strength of the Fleet gives one cause for anxiety.
The White Paper tells us that a new aircraft carrier is to be laid down for the Fleet. What sort of aircraft carrier is it? What sort of size is it? Will it relieve the "Victorious"? Will it be bigger than the "Victorious", or what will it be? We want to know. We have three other aircraft carriers—the "Magnificent", the "Leviathan" and the "Hermes". I cannot find any reference at all to them in the White Paper, and yet I think everybody knows that the aircraft carrier strength of the Royal Navy probably ought to be increased. Then we come to cruisers. I am glad to hear that the "Tiger" is safe for the moment, but we are not told anything about the "Lion". Then we come to ships like the "Swiftsure", the "Ceylon", the "Newfoundland", the "Superb", the "Bermuda" and the "Kenya". What is happening to these? I should be very grateful if the First Lord could give us some idea.
Apparently the difficulty, so far as the Government are concerned, is the question of manning. Why has manning suddenly come so much to the front in the Royal Navy? Has it been going downhill all the time? And can we hope for better things in the future? I thought until recently that the Navy's manning situation was fairly satisfactory, and certainly that it did not cause great anxiety. Obviously it cannot be all that good, otherwise we should not have been told that the "Blake" had had to be put into "mothballs" because it was not possible to get the men to man her. I hope that, if possible, we can be given a little more information about the strength of the Navy.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, there have been so many interesting speeches on many subjects that it is a little difficult, in a winding-up speech in support of the Opposition Amendment, to do more than concentrate on the main themes. But I should like to refer to the rather interesting remarks of the noble Earl who has just spoken. It is a question that I think has occurred to us all: why the Navy should, so unexpectedly, find these manning difficulties. We had always understood that such was the pull and the power of the 912 Royal Navy, and its influence as part of the British heritage, that it would never have difficulty in getting manpower. I should like to refer also to the particular point the noble Earl mentioned about the new aircraft carrier. I understood that in another place the Minister of Defence, arguing in favour of the Polaris submarine, said that we should now probably not have to face the cost of another new carrier, and that this was being equated with the cost of Polaris. If he wishes it, I will give the First Lord the reference on that point.
A general point that I should like to make at the beginning is that it is interesting to find that, however much criticism we may make—and criticism has come from both sides of the House, as it did in another place—there has been no criticism at all of the morale and efficiency of the Armed Services so far as it is within the capacity of the human element. I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, referred to this point and made it clear that we have great confidence so far as this aspect is concerned. That goes without question; and any criticisms we may make certainly do not refer to the personnel in our armed forces. Nor do I believe that the Government will think that those of us who are criticising wish in any way to deprecate our national qualities, or, indeed, I would go so far as to say, the patriotism of the Government. The fact that we think they are misguided and stupid on occasions does not mean that we think they are not patriotic, and I hope noble Lords will give the same credit to the Opposition.
My noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough spoke in this debate with his usual vigour; and I should like to refer to one or two of the able, and indeed brilliant, speeches, particularly that of my noble friend Lord Kennet. The amount of research that he contrives to do makes those of us who have to compile our speeches rather rapidly admire his capacity to absorb a great deal of information. I should like to begin by referring once again to the Defence White Paper. It really is an extraordinary document. It is not good enough for the First Lord to attempt to write it off, and to say that there has been no change from last year. The truth of the matter is, I think, that the Government were so exhausted by the 913 rapidity of the change going on around them that they were unable to decide in clear and simple terms what their policy would be.
Confronted by this difficulty of not knowing what to say, they discussed it among themselves., and no doubt one of the wiser Members of the Government (perhaps the First Secretary of State, or somebody of that experience) said, "If you don't know what you are going to say, don't say it"; and so the Government did not say it. But to suggest that in fact there has been no change in defence policy since last year is a little too much to swallow. We have had the major proposal in regard to defence organisation; we have had a major development in regard to the deterrent—the abandonment of Skybolt; and there have, of course, been profound developments in different parts of the world. The strategic situation in Asia, the Chinese onslaught on India, and so on, all raise issues of very great importance which do, I submit, bear on the sort of policy that we should follow in regard to defence.
I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was a little less fair than he usually is. We on this side certainly regard him very highly, not only for his competence but for his fairness, but I really do not think he was fair in his reference to a speech in another place by Mr. George Brown. He attached to it the meaning that the Labour Party, if they were in office, would wish to cut down our forces in the Far East or the Middle East, or in what you might call the Indian Ocean area, whereas this was not an inference that could be drawn. I do not want to make any more of this point, because I want to refer in particular to the very special problems that exist in that area. I want to refer to the question that it is in that area that I believe this country has a special responsibility, and that this responsibility which we have to discharge may be less effectively discharged because of the Government's obsession with nuclear policy.
There were one or two points in the noble Lord's speech which I should like to mention now in the hope that the Foreign Secretary, who may be a very admirable Foreign Secretary but who is clearly not briefed on military detail, may be able to answer some of them.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Only because I hope the noble Earl is so busy in the national interest, on the broader sweep of foreign affairs; and I would not necessarily expect him to know about the radio sets used by the British Army of the Rhine. But I will ask a question now because the First Lord made the statement yesterday [col. 773] thata new comprehensive communications system … will eventually replace the equipment which has recently come into service.The "new comprehensive communications system" is presumably the Hobart system. I am told that this is only at the design-study stage. But I should have liked to know what is "the equipment which has recently come into service", which is going to be replaced by this new system, because I have been unable to find out from anyone that any significant system of equipment has recently come into service with the British Army of the Rhine.
The First Lord was pressed by my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough as to when some of the new equipment would be coming into service. My noble friend in fact interrupted the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he was talking about guns and equipment, and asked (col. 773):When do you expect delivery?Rather testily, Lord Carrington replied:Perhaps the noble Earl will wait a moment until I have finished what I have to say".Then, his answer was:All these new items of equipment will come in on a continuing basis.My Lords, what does that mean? It certainly does not answer my noble friend's question; and it is precisely the fact that the Government are apt to be so evasive (I admit that they have a rather difficult task to justify themselves. and evasiveness is understandable) that causes us anxiety.
One statement which the First Lord made was another example of "double thinking". He said that the decision to award an order for the new transport aircraft (I think it is what was known as operational requirement 391) to Short's of Belfast, would provide welcome work for them. Of course, the Government 915 have in fact decided, no doubt for good reasons, not to give it to Short's of Belfast. Although some work is going to be sub-contracted to them, this decision not to do it has been received with great despondency in Northern Ireland, particularly among the several hundred technicians and draughtsmen who are their top design people and who are now likely to be laid off.
One final point in the speech of the noble Lord, the First Lord, came when he said that the Belfast meets our current needs. He would have been more accurate to say he hoped it would meet our future needs, because we are still awaiting the Belfast and, so far as I know, its arrival is still at that magic date the mid-sixties—no doubt, on a continuing basis. I do not think, therefore, that the First Lord was up to his usual form.
There are many other detailed questions I should like to ask, but I would refer to the main subject which we have been debating and on which so many noble Lords have made such interesting suggestions: the question of the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. This is a matter in which it is quite clear there is general agreement on broad lines among most, and I would hope nearly all, Members of this House. There is some slight dispute as to the credit for originating this proposal. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, pointed out the fact that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, had advocated it and advocated it again, and that this showed that their minds, or all great minds, think alike. All great minds in this House think alike on this matter, although the Government mind works slower than that of the rest.
This proposal has been obvious for many years and has been advocated very forcefully by the noble Viscount and indeed, in a humbler way, by many noble Lords, including myself. We are glad to see that it has at last come to pass or, at least, is likely to do. It is a little surprising that the Government have flung it to us and said "Now boys, debate it!" We should have liked to know a little more about their proposals. We know there is the possibility of appointing Under-Secretaries or Parliamentary Secretaries, and this is what 916 the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, would prefer. I must say that I think it would be a little scaring, and the experience of my noble friend Lord Longford would suggest that an Under-Secretary might be at a disadvantage if there were many Chiefs of Staff of the precise quality and calibre of the noble and gallant Viscount. As one noble Lord said in defence of the expression "Ministers of State"—and I cannot claim the credit for this—there is happiness in the phrase:When we cry for succour, Angels and Ministers of State defend us.This would seem to be an argument for that point.
Whether a Minister of State outranks the Postmaster General or the Minister of Pensions, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, suggests, I am not sure. I suspect that they appear in the list above those Ministers because the list is in alphabetical order. There may not therefore be quite the significance he attached to it. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, alarmed me a little. I really do not want to take defence right out of politics, and I do not think the Government would want it. It is clear that under our democratic system there must be free discussion, and discussion in Parliament, on all subjects.
Though the Foreign Secretary may be all the happier for being in this House and for not being subjected to the day-to-day questioning in another place, the fact that our foreign policy is successful is much more an expression of his competence than of his freedom from political pressure. I think this question of defence must come under scrutiny and there will be differences between the different Parties. In the process of education and discussion we hope we shall arrive at the best policy. I think we are agreed that a greater deal of unification in the defence services is necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, had also advocated this policy and he did say that the phrase "Nathanisation" was applied to it. This is a powerful but, I think, slightly sinister word. But the important points that came out in this discussion of the Ministry of Defence related much more to the type of control at the top. There is, of course, still an argument for a much greater degree of 917 actual unification of the Services. I do not necessarily mean the medical or the chaplains' services. I do not think much of the argument that has been advanced that a man's loyalty to his regiment or unit will in some way prevent that unification. Indeed, it rather strengthens it. It suggests, so far as the Army is concerned, a basic esprit de corps relates to the unit. It is obviously different with the Navy, where there is a much deeper Service loyalty. But the arguments used against that unification have not been entirely convincing.
I would certainly not press for very much further advance until the new system of defence is worked out. It is quite clear in the field of Operations, Planning and Intelligence that it is long overdue. Those of your Lordships with experience in these fields during the war—particularly in Intelligence—will know of the quite serious consequences of the splitting up among the three Services of what ought to have been much more closely unified functions. The Joint Intelligence Bureau was set up after the war, but that covered only certain limited fields. I certainly welcome this development.
We still have not had an answer to the question of accounting, and here again I thought the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was not entirely happy. He said that so far he had dealt with the decisions which were taken about central organisation and formulating defence policy financial control. I could not find out that he said anything about financial control, and we are yet to have an answer as to whether there is to be one accounting officer for the Services. It is clear that your Lordships attach considerable importance to it. I do not want to argue further regarding the positions of the Chiefs of Staff, although I want to echo the views expressed by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. There is a great deal to be said for amalgamation. But I am not sure it really puts the matter right, and I am not sure it would have prevented—unless the matter were carried very much further than it appears to have been thought out—errors that were made.
Both my noble friend Lord Longford and my noble friend, Lord Nathan, emphasised the importance of relating our defence administration to the Defence Committee. It is here, rather than in the Ministry of Defence, that the power 918 must rest. This is how I understand it was intended to work in the past, and how it developed when my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough was Minister of Defence. It was here that national policy was supposed to be worked out.
One of our many criticisms is that defence policy has been too much divorced from national policy, and particularly from foreign policy. It is of the utmost importance that our defence organisation and policy, and our armaments, should be related to the Foreign Secretary and to his organisation, the Foreign Office, for the achievement of the aims of British foreign policy. This seems to have been the line of argument which men like Sir Ian Jacob has advocated in the past. As it is, during these years the development of defence policy in this field has for some reason been stunted. It has taken the Government a great many years to arrive at a decision which it would have been to the great national benefit to take earlier. It is because of this that we are in so much difficulty to-day over the nuclear deterrent.
I expect that many of your Lordships are getting a little tired about the discussion on nuclear weapons. Yet I think it necessary that we should continue it, because we must all agree that this matter is of the most profound importance to this country. We find the discussion difficult because of the use of terms. In 1960, the Government talked about an "independent deterrent"; in 1961, about an "independent contribution"; in 1962 about a "contribution". To-day we are back to the "independent deterrent". It was, of course, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who described the independent deterrent assomething that you in law and in fact control and own but cannot use in practice.The expressions used about NATO have been confusing. At one moment we heard about the "NATO shield" and "nuclear sword", but they now seem to have transferred their roles and become the "nuclear shield" and the "NATO sword".
We can agree, I think, on the history of the deterrent. We accept that it was the Government of my noble friend Lord Attlee which was responsible for having the atom bomb and developing the idea of an independent British deterrent. Up 919 till a few years ago, except for those who had strong moral objections to the use of these weapons, there was a large measure of agreement throughout the country that it was right that we should have them. Then came the collapse of the Blue Streak. I remember saying at that time that if the Blue Streak did go out, we must face the consequence (and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said as much) that the end of our independent deterrent was in sight.
I do not want to rub the Government's nose too heavily in the Skybolt mess, but the fact remains that everybody seems to have warned them that Skybolt might not arrive. Your Lordships will have seen the letters in The Times from our own Service representatives in Washington, who said they had repeatedly warned that we might not get Skybolt. Yet only last May, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, when pressed on the matter, said:I believe these doubts !to be quite without foundation.It is this lack of frankness on the part of the Government that concerns us. We pointed out that Canada, when the Bow-mark was cancelled, lost not only a defence but also an industry. The same thing has happened to this country.
We are agreed that there is no moral argument in favour of a position in which we give up the deterrent and rest under the protection of the American deterrent. We fully accept that. In this fine balance of judgment, I believe that it is in the national interest to have a deterrent. We would accuse the Government of going on desperately pursuing a policy which people, including their own supporters (this was quite obvious from the debate in the House of Commons), increasingly believe means paying too high a price. This was apparent even in the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who said he would wholeheartedly agree that the Government's policy was firmly based on the deterrent. He continued [col. 829]:But the cost of a British-operated independent nuclear deterrent will be prodigious. We cannot have that, and also large so-called conventional forces,…I should be interested to know exactly what the noble Viscount means—because 920 this is of great importance to us. I assume his position is that Western defence must continue to rest on the Western deterrent, which means mainly the American deterrent, but that we ought probably to give up the pursuit of the independent nuclear deterrent.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Lord has misunderstood me on that issue. I agree exactly with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton; that we cannot allow France to be the only nation in Europe to have an independent deterrent.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Viscount said that we cannot have them both. So perhaps the noble Viscount would be in favour of our giving up our conventional forces. It seems to me that, unless the OFFICIAL REPORT has misreported the noble and gallant Viscount on this point, this is the only way his remarks can be interpreted.
There has been some discussion about the need for a nuclear deterrent in order to prevent nuclear blackmail, but conventional blackmail can be just as serious. Indeed, I should think that, in practical terms, the Foreign Secretary must be much more concerned with the threat of conventional campaigns in different parts of the world than with the fear of a nuclear attack.
The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in his interesting speech, made reference to the operations in Borneo. This is a country which consists mostly of mountain and jungle, in which the great majority of aborigines, Dyaks and others, have no wish to do other than retain, so far as they can, the British connection; and that, for them, probably means Malaysia. Probably some of them regret that they have to move from their old colonial state. In the recent rebellion, which was brought about mainly by some Muslim people called the Kadayan, we had great support from the native peoples. No doubt the combination of action on the part of the Army and very rapid deployment of defence was effectively supported by the local people. The danger in these areas, if an independent Malaysia comes into existence, is that we may be confronted with a campaign there. I would submit that it is the risk of blackmail by conventional forces that is probably the 921 more serious risk, whether it be in Aden or anywhere in the East, where we have such special responsibilities. Of course, Cuba was a victory for conventional forces.
If the choice is between these two, and it is not a matter of weighing what is in the national and Western interests, we, and the critics of the Government in this matter, have come to the conclusion that the further pursuit by means of the Polaris submarine is not in the national interest. We have no idea yet what it is going to cost. The estimates that have been given have come from the newspapers and others. The Government may say that these estimates are exaggerated; but they have not so far given their own estimates. I very much doubt whether at the Nassau Agreement they thought that one out, because it was all settled over a weekend. We should like to know what the cost will be and what effect it will have on the conventional forces that we must have. It is absurd for the Government to argue that the money saved from the deterrent cannot be usefully used elsewhere. The argument raised in regard to the Liberals in this matter does not apply to the position we are taking up. We are seeking greater efficiency; we are not necessarily seeking any overall reduction in defence expenditure. But this £100 million or so a year would surely have contributed greatly to the efficiency of our conventional Forces.
There is, I suggest, a further danger in building up an élite nuclear force, and it is one that the Royal Air Force has experienced. The concentration on Bomber Command, with its enormous efficiency, has been to some extent at the cost of the efficiency of other Commands; and this is particularly true of Transport Command. I wonder what will be the effect on the Royal Navy of building up this Polaris submarine fleet. As the years have passed, those of us who have been rather critical of naval power have gradually begun to appreciate again its significance in a world where war is possible, but where we hope that ultimate nuclear war will be avoided. Does it mean, when we build up these new forces, that the Navy Estimates will rise considerably? Where are they going to find the men? What ships will have to go into "mothballs"? Shall we be able, in the state short of nuclear war, which in 922 the past I thought was unlikely, to provide the necessary defence?
There is a further argument—that is, that to seek an independent deterrent with limited resources, as my noble friend Lord Kennet argued, is particularly dangerous. The American deterrent is less dangerous because of the wide choice of option. They have more than one weapon which they can use. But we are to put all our eggs into this particular basket. I know that the TSR.2 is a possible support of this, and is another option. I would argue that there is a real danger in our attempting to keep up with the enormous expenditure of the Soviet Union and America. It is not, in terms, a moral question, but they are together spending something like £12,000 million a year on research alone. Any system may be outmoded, and we may well find that our particular weapon will be of no value.
I accept what the First Lord said, that it is at the moment a very invulnerable weapon. But it may not be. Supposing the Russian missile development, or antimissile development, were to increase in the way they are suggesting, it might be difficult to put into a Polaris missile the complicated measures necessary to counter the anti-missile missiles. I would suggest that our nuclear deterrent is of value only as part of the Western deterrent. It is of value only if it is not independent. And if it is of value only as part of the Western deterrent, then I suggest that it has little significance in a situation in which the West is well over-subscribed in regard to nuclear weapons.
I appreciate that this argument (and there are other technical arguments that I will not go into) will continue for quite a long time. We are paying a price for this. We do not want to make too much of the arguments against efficiency in equipment of our conventional forces. We know that our troops on the Rhine are at a lower level of manning than we should like. We know also that the Americans reckon that they can fight a conventional war in Europe, whereas we say that we cannot; and the reason we cannot is because Mr. Sandys, when he was Minister of Defence, cut down on our artillery as part of the savings by which he "sold" his nuclear policy to the country—and we must remember that the nuclear policy was "sold" as an economy to this country.
923 My Lords, there is only one further point that I would mention. I hope that the Government will resist the proposals for this new multi- whatever it is, surface Polaris Fleet. I believe that they have reservations on it, and it may help them if the Opposition make their position clear in regard to this matter. We believe that it will not add usefully to the nuclear capacity of the West. There will be great vulnerability, especially against multi-megaton high-level bursts. It is purely a political device in order to give satisfaction to European nations without impairing their nuclear virginity. We lost our nuclear virginity a long time ago under the Labour Government. But I would not advocate this further development for no purpose other than as a political gimmick.
The real difficulty in this situation is failure in planning, and we hope that the revised and reorganised Ministry of Defence will lead us in a more sensible direction. I should like to congratulate the present Minister of Defence on finally taking the plunge, but I would still say that the Government have all this time been searching for the substance and only finding the shadow. They do not deceive the Russians; they do not deceive even this country: but they do deceive themselves. When Skybolt was cancelled the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, assured us that it was scrapped only after we had settled that we would get Polaris. That is a rather thin argument now. In 1967 will the Government (except that they are unlikely to be there) say that they have scrapped Polaris only because there is some new weapon? Government consistency in this matter is only in the regularity with which they abandon their failures; they do not abandon one failure until they have started a new one. With their ludicrous record in this matter, it is not surprising that there are many people who feel deep concern regarding our national Defence policy, and this justifies the Opposition in moving their Amendment.
§ 6.29 p.m.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, your Lordships' House always finds a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, very agreeable, and tonight he has summed up the Defence debate of two days in a way that must be acceptable to both 924 sides of the House. He made one assumption which was a little unwarranted—namely, that I did not know the details of military organisation. On the one question that he put to me I can pass the test, because the Army of the Rhine has been re-equipped with a new communications system steadily over the past three or four years, known as the Hobart system, which is being examined to see whether it is the best possible system for the future. The announcement was made to show that the Government have this important matter very much in mind.
If there is one subject which should take precedence in Parliament it is the security of the nation, and therefore it is right that it should be given the close and most expert study in both Houses. This two days' debate which has taken place in your Lordships' House has ranged over high strategy, military organisation, weaponry and the requirements of the Services. I thought at one time that it might have been complicated by the Opposition Amendment about a vote which amounts to a Vote of Censure. Of course the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, led off with a salvo. His ammunition was part live and part blank, and I am bound to say that, except for a perfunctory sentence or two at the end of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the Opposition Amendment has been tacitly ignored by every speaker in the debate—and that is quite right. But I must examine (because, after all, this is a Vote of Censure on a very important matter) the charges which the Opposition have made, to see whether, in fact, they do stand up to scrutiny.
The main charge is that the Government have no defence policy, to which, according to the good practice of the law, they have an alternative plea, that even if we have a policy, it has collapsed. Every speech which has been made from either side of the House, from the Conservative, Socialist or Liberal Benches, has proved that the Government have a most definite defence policy to which the Opposition object. I have not to go far outside your Lordships' recollection (indeed, all the speeches have dealt with these matters) to remind you that in the Government's view Britain should retain the right to use its own deterrent. That may be wrong, but it is a policy.
The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said that it is not the 925 Opposition's function to propose a policy; and that is quite right. But I must remind him that the time is approaching when he and his Party will have to answer some pretty pointed questions. One of the questions is going to be (if I might borrow Mr. Harold Wilson's language) whether the Socialist Party propose that we should sit in the antechambers while Russia and America decide everything that is to be decided about nuclear policy in the world. Is the Socialist Prime Minister of the future really going to get up and say to the country that he will relinquish all control for all time of a British deterrent? That is the question—or one of the questions—which I give notice to the noble Earl he will have to answer. I cannot tell him when, but it will be fairly soon.
Then, again, in the Government view Britain's defence needs can best be met by all-voluntary, all-Regular forces. Again, that may be wrong, but it is a policy; and a policy, if I might remind the noble Earl, not unkindly, that is not in collapse. It is within the recollection of the House that day after day, month after month, the noble Earl used to get up at that Box with the most dire prophesies of gloom, telling my noble friend Lord Carrington that he would never get the forces by voluntary methods. Really, Job was skittish compared to the noble Earl!
THE EARL OF HOME
The noble Earl is wrong. We are getting them fast. I understand from the Socialist and Liberal Benches that they are going to add greatly to the number of our conventional forces. I am not going to be so tactless as to ask how many, although the Liberal Party hate "stuck out their necks". But they will be asked how they are going to get them, and, if they do not, what they are going to do about it. I will not use the word "conscription" to-day—it would be almost indecent. But when that word is mentioned, the noble Lord, like the beaver in The Hunting of the Snark, finds himself unaccountably shy. The Labour Party will be asked, and they will have to say how they are going to get these extra men. 926 The noble Earl asked rhetorically, at the end of his attractive bombardment yesterday afternoon: "What have the Government got to show for their defence policy?". I might answer, "Peace".
Summing up a debate of this kind, one inevitably has to be selective and try to draw together the main themes which have been taken by the various speakers, and the main features of the policy which have come under review. I judge that there is widespread approval, in principle at any rate, for the recently announced reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence and the Service Departments. I think that in principle that is approved in all parts of the House. The House is familiar also with the machinery which exists for deciding the higher policy, bringing together the international considerations, the political considerations, the financial considerations and the military matters, which is the Defence Committee of the Cabinet presided over, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said, by the Prime Minister. There have been adjustments over the years from time to time—some Ministers added, some taken away. But, by and large, that system serves all Governments, of all Parties, pretty well.
I would respond to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, yesterday, when he said that he would ask us to consider that there should be proper official and professional advice given to the Ministerial Committee and available at all times. That is certainly one of the matters which will be considered between now and the time when the White Paper is issued in July. It has for some time been clear (and, of course, this was the Government reason for the reorganisation and the reason which has affected the judgment of your Lordships on this matter) that modern military operations demand increased co-operation and integration. I think the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, used the expression, "There is no such thing now as separate strategies for the Navy, Army and Air Force." If that is true, and if there is to be an increased co-operation and integration, then clearly it must begin at the top. Therefore, I think it is right and sensible that there should be one Minister of Defence controlling defence policy; that the central policy staffs consisting of the essential corps of the Admiralty, Army and Air Force should be under one roof; 927 that the Minister should have a Chief of Staff responsible to him, and that in fact there should be one Department of Defence and not four.
A number of your Lordships have said what a pity it is that this was not done earlier. I daresay we are all guilty in that respect. The noble and gallant Field Marshal said that he put forward this proposal in 1948 when the Opposition were in power, and that he has put it forward at intervals since. Better late than never! And it is being done now. I think that is to the national advantage, although I note what he said—and this was elaborated by my noble friend Lord Swinton: that there are rocks of compromise on which this could still founder unless, when the White Paper comes out, the policy of integration is seen to be carried out. The problem is the problem on which your Lordships with experience of these matters have, one after another, put your finger: that we want to centralise the policy of defence without putting an undue burden on the Minister who takes over the job. Again, I think most speakers have endorsed the view that this centralisation should not be carried to a point where the identity of the three Fighting Services is blurred. By retaining their identity you gain in efficiency, but without losing morale.
There are a number of important matters which have been raised and which still remain finally to be solved. There is the rank of the Ministers. They must retain the respect of their Services and of Parliament. These are considerations that must be borne in mind. There is how the finance of the Ministry of Defence is to be organised. There is the future of the Ministry of Aviation; and there are other matters which have been raised, including the access of the Chiefs of Staff to the Prime Minister and in what circumstances that might be proper. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, yesterday suggested that it was surprising that we had not been able really to give more detail at this stage. There are sometimes advantages in hearing Parliament before final decisions are taken, and I think that if ever there was a case for that it has been justified in the last two days, because the most valuable suggestions have come from both sides of the House on these matters. At 928 any rate, in this matter of the organisation of Defence, I must draw the attention of the noble Earl to the fact that the Government have a policy and I think that the larger part of the House is satisfied that it is right.
I come now to the three aspects of Defence policy which nearly every speaker has found worthy of his attention. They are the nuclear arm, both in respect of the independent use by the United Kingdom of the nuclear weapon and how the nuclear weapon should be organised in NATO—and questions were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd and others—the world and European rôles of Britain's forces; and the balance (and this is a most important question) between the nuclear and the conventional forces and what we can afford out of the national resources.
My Lords, the question as to whether or not we should possess and control an independent deterrent was very fairly stated by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. There are many arguments for and against this—I would not deny that for one moment. It has been argued—and I am not sure whether it was by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, or by a previous speaker from the Opposition Front Bench—that no country less wealthy than the United States or the Soviet Union can afford to have a nuclear deterrent. I really think that is clearly not so. The Defence bill of our country runs at about 7 per cent. of our gross national product, and the nuclear factor, including research and development, is 10 per cent. of that. So I think that there may be good arguments against the nuclear deterrent, but that we cannot afford it is not really one of them. If we have not the will to defend our country with the most modern weapons, then we ought not to claim to be a great Power; and we should earn the wealth to do this if it is essential.
The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, yesterday made some play with the Defence figures. He said that they stood at a certain level in 1948 or 1947 when his Government were in power and that the figures and cost of Defence had vastly swollen. That is so—of course it is, because the hardware is very much more expensive—but 929 the point surely is this: that the percentage of the grass national product is roughly the same now as it was then; and that, I think, is the measurement that one should use. Then, again, in thinking of arguments for or against the deterrent there is the rather glib statement—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the Foreign Secretary before he leaves the point of cost? What the Opposition and others have been pressing for is what the cost will be in 1968. There is no immediate proposal, even from the Opposition, to dispense with our existing deterrent forces. It is for what their estimated future cost will be that we are pressing.
THE EARL OF HOME
I do not think I can give the estimate of future cost on the Polaris at this moment, although we shall try to do so when we are in a position to state it. But our intention is, and this has been stated, that the Defence budget should remain at about 7 per cent. of the gross national product of the nation. As I have said, if we are really claiming to be a first-class Power we ought probably to be ready to pay even a bit more than that. The United States pay 10 per cont. of their gross national product. But that is a matter of opinion. I will give the cost to the House as soon as I am able to do so.
I will come back to cost of weapons in a moment. There is another rather glib statement which is sometimes given against having our deterrent, and this is that the United Kingdom deterrent will not deter. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was very nearly guilty yesterday of making this statement. It is very easy to state, but one answers it by saying that we cannot publicly announce the measure by which we judge the damage we could inflict on an enemy. I think that anybody who knows the power of the weapons in the V-bomber force now and in the Polaris weapon to come realises that they could inflict on an enemy damage which it would hardly be possible for him to contemplate.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I think the argument has not really been fairly put by the Foreign Secretary. The argument is that it does not add to, or is a very doubtful addition to, the deterrent force of the West, because already that 930 deterrent force is tremendous in view of the weapons owned by America.
THE EARL OF HOME
That is true—that the deterrent force owned by America is very large. But the British deterrent plays a very important part, which I cannot entirely give to the House, in the strike programme in case we were attacked, and I can assure the House that the British deterrent plays a significant part in the overall picture. To suggest that by itself it is not an effective deterrent is, I think, an argument that cannot really be sustained, because its strike power is enormous and terrible.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I just put a point to which it does not seem to me the noble Earl is likely to approach on this line? That is, will he answer the point put by myself and another noble Lord: what are the circumstances in which he conceives it is important for the Government to have an independent choice as to whether they use the independent deterrent which is not likely at once to invite a general nuclear war that the whole world fears? Would it be another Kuwait or another Suez sort of circumstance, in which you take your own decision to do this? Let us have an answer. What circumstances do you conceive in which you would need this independent "thumb upon the button" to start a nuclear war.
THE EARL OF HOME
The noble Earl has almost taken the words out of my mouth, because this was the next question to which I was coming. As he interrupted I was about to say a word about the cost of weaponry, because he made great play with this yesterday. This matter of cost is not very easy for any Government, but I will do my best to show the House what the difficulties are. The noble Earl, for instance, said yesterday that Blue Streak cost the Government of Britain about £200 million to £300 million. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that it cost something like £84 million. I do not want to cause trouble between the Front Bench of the Labour Party, but in fact the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was right. But there is quite a difference between £200 to £300 million and £84 million. The monies spent on these weapons are not spent because the Government are 931 vacillating or have no decision. They want to equip the Forces with the best possible weapons available.
The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, spoke as if his Government did not suffer from these difficulties in the old days. I agree that the figures in which they were dealing were not as great at that time, and perhaps you had to look only five years ahead when you were planning an enterprise; now you have to look ten years ahead. My Parliamentary memory is getting longer. I remember the Brabazon airliner and the Princess flying boat. These difficulties are common to all Governments and all countries, particularly those with nuclear weapons. It is a problem common to Britain, the United States and Russia, because you cannot tell until you put the weapon on the testing ground whether or not it is going to be better than another weapon, and by the time you have done that, of course, the greater part of the research and development expenditure is behind you.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked me about the Thor missiles. He thought we had had a very bad bargain out of the Thor missiles, and he wanted to know just when they were installed and what they had cost. It was in 1958 that the project started. The total cost to the United Kingdom up to the present time is estimated at about £27 million. Of this, £10 million is capital cost and £17 million running cost. But nobody in those days, not even the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who is very well informed in these matters, could foresee the immense speed with which other weapons would be developed. He says, have we got value out of the Thor missile? I think it is extremely difficult to say. All we can say is that, with this deterrent in our possession, there has been no war with the Soviet Union, and that must be the test; the deterrent has deterred.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, so far as I know, they became operational in 1958. That was the information I had.
If I may return to it for a moment, I was dealing with the question of the British deterrent and its power. I heard the case made that we should discard 932 the nuclear deterrent for more conventional forces, and the noble Earl at that point asked me, what are the circumstances in which an independent British nuclear deterrent might be used and what are the Government's real reasons for insisting on retaining it? However many conventional forces you had, they would be paralysed if their base was stricken by blackmail. I do not intend to say to the noble Earl that, in this part of the world, or that part of the world, there is a situation in which a crisis might lead to Russia's attempting to blackmail the United Kingdom and saying, "If you make a move over there we will strike at the United Kingdom". It is conceivable that such circumstances could arise, but I am not basing my justification of our retention of the independent use of the British deterrent on that argument alone.
It is assumed that the United States would always, in all circumstances, cover Great Britain with her strategic deterrent. I profoundly hope that is true. But it is a large assumption, and Governments cannot take risks with the national security. One must remember this, and I do beg the Opposition to remember this—I hinted at it just now when I was asked a question: if Great Britain is to scrap her deterrent we shall be out of business for good and never regain the lost ground; so a decision to abandon the independent use of the British deterrent, once taken, is irrevocable. That we must realise. Therefore the main reason that I want to give to the noble Earl, in all sincerity, why I say that Britain should retain the independent use of her deterrent is that no one can say, neither he nor I nor anybody else can say, what the pattern of armaments is likely to be in ten or twenty years from now.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, said yesterday that it would be intolerable if a lot of other countries got nuclear weapons or delivery systems. I think he probably feels that. We all want to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We are going into the Test Ban Conference to try to get the tests stopped. We are in the Disarmament Conference to try to achieve disarmament. But we may not achieve these things. And who can tell what the pattern of armaments is going to be, which nations are going to have nuclear weapons, or indeed 933 nuclear delivery systems? We may have to tolerate other nations with these things, and of course we know the French intend to have them.
Therefore, when I look at the world and see the changes of the past and try to look at the future and see how the pattern of armaments may change, and, indeed, the politics of the nations of the world as now arranged may change out of all recognition in the next ten years—it is in those circumstances that I say I want to see the British Government of the day retain sufficient control over the nuclear weapons, so that should the British Government of the day decide, either in relation to its bomber force now or later in relation to its Polaris force, that they should be withdrawn from the NATO Alliance because of a national requirement of supreme national importance, that should be done without question.
Therefore, I think I would answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in this way. Assignment to NATO means, in the context of the forces which we put into NATO now, that we assign them to NATO and that we do not take them out of NATO unless we notify the NATO Council. So far as the nuclear weapons are concerned, the V-bombers have of course a conventional as well as nuclear rôle, and the Polaris submarine a nuclear rôle only. What we have to do is to work out with our Allies in NATO appropriate terms of assignment, and in both cases the terms of assignment will preserve the British Government's right to use them should the British Government so decide.
There has been in this context of weaponry a good deal of discussion of various weapons. There has been a lot of talk about the Skybolt decision. I must say I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. Once the Americans had decided this weapon was no use, it was no use the British Government going on with it. Indeed, on the Polaris submarine, I think on its merits alone it is the best weapon. Because there are two things you ought to look for if you are thinking in terms of nuclear defence: one is that you must have a weapon which is a second-strike weapon, and the other is that that weapon should be as nearly as possible indestructible. And 934 I believe that the Polaris submarine fulfils both those requirements.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, can the noble Earl tell the House why it was that in 1960, when they had the choice of Skybolt or Polaris, the Government went for Skybolt, particularly as they now believe Polaris to be the right weapon?
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, that is again one of those difficulties when you have to foresee what is going to be the best. At the stage at which Skybolt was at that time, it looked as though it would be the best weapon, the winner, and it would fit into our V-bomber force, which looked then as though it was going to have a long life. In fact Polaris, after further trials in another year or two, overtook Skybolt and proved the better weapon of the two. I do not think that in those circumstances any Government could be blamed for changing their mind and taking the better weapon.
I leave that section for the moment, coming on, just before I finish, to the other great question which concerns the deterrent—namely, its organisation in NATO. The noble Lords, Lord Ogmore, Lord Listowel, Lord Shackleton and others asked me whether I could do something to disentangle and clarify the language which is used when we talk about multi-national forces, multilateral forces—mixed-manned forces—and the like, in relation to the NATO Alliance. Well, I will try. The multi-national force is a force for which the country concerned assigns national contingents to NATO with the right to withdraw those contingents if it so desires. The multilateral, is a mixed-manned force, a force into which a nation would put money or a part of a crew, or whatever they might put into a ship or submarine, whichever it is most likely to be, which they would not be able to withdraw. I think that is the simplest distinction.
But the motives for either the multinational force or the multilateral force are, as Lord Ogmore said, largely political—and not in any derogatory sense of the word "political", as I am sure he did not intend to convey. It is in no derogatory sense, because the motives are political though most respectable. There are really two. One is to give a greater share in the NATO Alliance to the 935 non-nuclear members of the Alliance; a share in the formulation of nuclear policy, in the command structure and in the control, and by that means to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those motives are good, and thereby enable the non-nuclear powers in NATO—who, after all, are much concerned with the results of the decisions of the nuclear Powers—to have a much greater say in that formulation of policy, and therefore to be content without incurring the extra responsibility of owning nuclear weapons or the extra cost of producing them; and, of course, everybody has much in mind Germany in this context.
These two conceptions, the multinational and the multilateral or mixed-manned are not antagonistic. The multinational force can be organised now quite quickly. A number of nations, including our own, with our V-bomber force, can put in nuclear components, and that can be organised within the NATO Council fairly soon. So far as the multilateral mixed-manned force is concerned, this must be studied to see if it is militarily practical. That is the first thing that must be done. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and to the Opposition, this force has a military purpose. It is not just thought up for the sake of thinking up something which would please the NATO Alliance. At the end of the 'sixties or in the early 'seventies SACEUR will find that the nuclear strike which he has now with the bomber force is running out of date, so some missiles have to be provided to NATO in order to cover the targets which are now covered by SACEUR'S tactical and strategic bomber force.
There is no decision (and I do not know that anybody is now in a position to decide) whether, if such a force came into being, it should be a submarine force, or a surface vessel force, or whether, in fact, it might be both. The arguments against the surface ship, as opposed to the submarine, were put most strongly yesterday by Lord Ashbourne, and by a o number of other noble Lords. But serious studies have been done on this matter, and I do not know that they are yet conclusive. These weapons have a wide range; they can operate in many oceans. The seas are big; the problems in shadowing and destruction formidable. The Polaris 936 submarine is more expensive and, we can say, I think, for all practical purposes, indestructible. The surface ship can do the job, but may be more vulnerable; but, of course, it is possible to have more of them, and they can spread over many and wide seas. I think this is a matter on which there must be much more expert study and much more advice before any Government is in a position to decide whether or not this is practicable.
The second group of questions which arises directly from what Lord Ogmore and others have said is, if you have a multi-national force or a multilateral force, if you spread the political control in NATO between more countries, whether you can do that without destroying the credibility of the deterrent. That is a question with which the NATO Parliamentarians are quite familiar, and so are all of us. I do not know that anybody can be dogmatic about this, but there are two considerations in particular that I think are worthy of thought.
NATO does not contemplate aggression: therefore the order to fire in NATO would be a response to clear aggression by Russia. In those circumstances, of course, the decision to fire is, to some extent, simplified. Then again, we are apt, I think, to look at these matters through our own eyes and forget to look through the eyes of a potential enemy. I wonder whether it would be safe for the Russians to judge that because the deterrent was managed by a group of nations in NATO, its use would not be prompt, and therefore to conclude that it was incredible. I think it would be a most dangerous and a rash decision if any Government thought that way. I promise not to detain the House much longer. So far we have shown, I think, that, so far as military organisation is concerned, the Government have a policy; so far as the British nuclear deterrent is concerned, the Government have a policy. And in the context of NATO we are giving the lead in that Alliance with a new policy of the multinational force and are willing to consider and support, if it is practicable, the multilateral force.
I turn, finally, to the third complex of questions. It is difficult to pull everything together in a winding-up speech of any decent length. The third complex of questions is whether Britain can 937 retain a world influence and presence; whether within the wealth we earn, and within the resources of manpower at our disposal we can continue to undertake and fulfil our Colonial obligations, our NATO commitments, our independent nuclear deterrent programme, and a presence and influence East of Suez. I was interested in Lord Listowel's point: Why do we keep these forces in our Colonial Territories? So far in the quite recent past we have had operations to undertake in Aden, Thailand, Kuwait, Brunei, British Guiana, Cyprus, Kenya and Buraimi. We are not through the difficulties in our Colonial Empire. We can only make the best assessment we can as to the balance that we can achieve within our resources between the nuclear and the conventional.
In most of the conflicts we can visualise in the world—I am not talking now about Europe—we shall be in the company of powerful friends, and we believe that with forces of 400,000, with a British Army total with a ceiling at 180,000, plus, if I may tell my noble friend and the House, 10,000 Gurkhas (the Minister of War has been able to announce that in the House of Commons this afternoon; we have arranged a programme; my noble friend Lord Slim has seen the Nepalese, and I am glad to say this programme is acceptable to the King of Nepal, so there would be an Army of 180,000, and, over and above that—I want to make this clear—10,000 Gurkhas) we feel that we can fulfil the rôles which are likely to be asked of us.
THE EARL OF HOME
The 1948 ceiling of Gurkhas was 10,000. When we had great difficulty in recruiting we moved it up, and it has been somewhere near 15,000. This will be a reduction over three years from 5,000 to 10,000, achieved by slowing down recruiting to some extent.
I listened very carefully to the noble and gallant Field Marshal and to other speakers in the debate who stressed the danger of over-stretching our economy. I hope your Lordships will recollect that on a number of occasions I myself have pled with Parliament and the country to give the Government the economic resources with which they could conduct 938 a foreign policy worthy of the country, because if you over-stretch yourself economically and financially you are in a worse position than you were before.
I hope that noble Lords and the NATO Council, indeed all of us, will remember that forces deployed to guard against Communist expansion in other parts of the would serve the general interests of the West as much as those stationed in Germany. I think that that is recognised, and I do not think there is any desire by any of our Allies to force upon this country a choice between our two rôles: our world rôle, and our European rôle.
The Opposition and the Liberal Party want many more conventional forces, and I think in Germany. To some extent I can appreciate this argument very well. The argument is that if you have conventional forces in considerable numbers in Germany then you provide yourself with a number of options. I agree with that; I think it is wise policy. But it is possible, I think, subject to what the expert military people say, to carry this argument rather too far; because you could tempt an aggressor to believe that he could start a conventional war, that he could keep it conventional and that he could win it conventionally. You would then tend to invite what everybody is intent to avoid and that is war; and I cannot overstress the fact that it is war which we are trying to stop—not only nuclear war. We must stop war and deter war. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, or anybody may say, it is quite unrealistic to think, when the Russians are armed with tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, that you can fight a conventional war in Europe for any length of time. It is absolutely bound to escalate. Therefore, what we have to do is to have a deterrent which will deter war. I would respond to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and say that, of course, the answer is balanced disarmament, leading, as I said the other day, in the second stage to the setting up of an international police force.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves the question of conventional and nuclear forces, may I have the House's patience for a moment? Will he give us an answer on the question which I raised on Kuwait? I assert that the British force could not have defended Kuwait against an Iraqi attack 939 without the use of nuclear weapons, and that it was the intention of the Government so to defend it, if necessary.
THE EARL OF HOME
I told the noble Lord he has no right at all to make that assumption. There is no foundation for such an assumption. I hope he will put it out of his mind. I admire his mind, but he sometimes gets some very queer things into it.
It was not by my choice that we had a Vote of Censure on a Defence debate, because we want to contrive a Defence policy which the nation supports and all Parties support—and I hope we can do so. But if we consider the Socialist claim to replace us—and this is what they are saying on the Benches opposite—if this is a Vote of Censure which says, in effect, that the Socialist Party would give the nation a better defence policy than the Conservatives—well, I have a Parliamentary memory which is getting inconveniently long from the point of view of noble Lords opposite. I sat in another place in the 'thirties, and I will tell them how the whole of my time was employed for eight years. I watched them voting against the Service Estimates on almost every occasion. On what grounds? On two grounds, very largely: that we, the Conservative Party, would not agree to abolish the private manufacture of arms, and that the national defence was an immoral thing because all defence must be collective. What fools and idiots we should have been if the Conservative Party had accepted the Socialist Party's recommendations in those years! Where should we have been in 1939?
Then, again, in recent years we have seen their Party split down the middle on the issue of the British nuclear deterrent. Only Mr. Gaitskell was able to paper over the cracks. I do not know what their position is. Some of them stand upright for the nuclear deterrent and Britain's right to use it. Others are so wobbly at the knees that the very next moment I expect to see them sitting in Trafalgar Square with Lord Russell and his friends. To-day they criticise us, and it may be that the force of circumstances, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said, may force them, if they come into office, to adopt the Government's policies as we have them now. But, my Lords, if these policies are going to be adopted, do 940 not let the Party of noble Lords opposite run them. We have our policies, and I ask you to confirm by your vote to-night that you want to see us run them, because we would run them better.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am very much obliged to all the Members of your Lordships' House who have supported us in our Amendment of censure. I think that the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary has done his level best to put the best possible case he can. He has been greatly assisted by so much time having been given to the proposed extension of integration of the Armed Services, which was brought in by the Minister of Defence as a smokescreen to prevent all the slack-nesses and errors of the Government from being really debated. I must say to the Foreign Secretary, before we go to Division, that if he wants to challenge us about the 'thirties our best witness in our box the whole time will be Sir Winston Churchill, who throughout was criticising the same kind of putting things off and not preparing. I supported in the House right through from 1935 to 1939 proper arms being provided for collective security, and prophesied over the Czechoslovakian business that the policy of the Government was leading us into war unprepared, and that when the war came we should find ourselves standing alone. That came true in 1940. I put my support of proper defence for this country against that of those opposite any time you like.
But the real reason why I want to say a word of two before we come to the vote is this. We really have not dealt with the economy position at all. I said at the beginning that the great strength for security in defence is to have a sound economy; that to use the 7 per cent. of productive power as a sort of yardstick for what we can spend is completely misleading. First of all, take the national Budget. It is now £6,320 million a year up to date, and the cost of defence this year is £1,838 million. If the argument of the Foreign Secretary is correct, and the Government can afford at all times 7 per cent. of the overall production of the country, including armament production, then in relation to the national Budget they could afford a 941 great deal more than they are spending on social services. They really cannot have it both ways. I think that the case has not been proved against the Amendment which has been put down. There is no time further to debate it, and I