§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Tweedsmuir—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ LORD SHACKLETON rose to move, as an Amendment, to add to the proposed Address "but regrets that Her Majesty's Government, through lack of a sound and consistent defence policy, is failing to make proper provision to enable this country to meet its national and international commitments, now and in the future." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment to the humble Address in the name of my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough.
§ Before I turn to the more polemical part of my speech, I would say that it is no idle courtesy on my part, or on the part of any member of the Opposition, when we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who was a most able and competent First Lord of the Admiralty. He was accustomed, when First Lord, to dealing with many subjects—contracts of employment, shops 212 and offices, and so on—and he is obviously well trained for a post which I am sure he will occupy with great distinction. We certainly do not consider (and this is not said offensively of his predecessor) that we have lost by this particular appointment.
§ I should like also to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. This is a peculiarly appropriate appointment. The noble Earl has certainly acquired the respect of the Opposition. We disagreed with him most forcefully on London Government, but he did not lose our respect by his handling of that Bill: it was only unfortunate that he was associated with such a disgraceful measure. I know that he will bring great energy and intelligence, of both of which he has a great deal, to bear on the problems that now confront him.
§ None of this can obscure the fact that the two noble Lords who are speaking for the Government in this debate to-day are in some degree responsible for, and, in any case, are in the position of having to defend, a Government whose record in the field of Defence has been one of the most abysmal parts of a not very good overall record. Inevitably in the course of this debate we shall have to discuss again the issue of the independent nuclear deterrent, and although we are well aware that many wider questions—matters philosophic and of international relations—hang on this issue, none the less, this is basically a military weapon, and we would criticise the Government's policy in hanging on desperately to a no longer independent nuclear deterrent, though they wish to call it such, for we are paying a heavy price in the Defence field.
§ Certainly this issue is a great deal more complicated and less simple than the Prime Minister chooses to think it is. One has only to look at the interesting discussions, particularly in the Sunday newspapers of last week-end and the Economist, to see that in taking it as a simple Election issue, which is clearly what the Prime Minister is intending to make it, he is grossly over-simplifying the problem and in some part destroying the truth, and he is doing no service to this country. Although I shall confine my remarks mainly to the military standpoint, we cannot ignore these fundamental issues, because it is the 213 lack of a really clear correlation between Defence policy and national foreign policy and a proper appreciation of what are our responsibilities to ourselves, our Commonwealth and our Allies, that has led to this constant changing and chopping in Defence policy.
§ We are aware that the Government have already published, and are shortly going to proceed with, a Bill to reorganise the central organisation of Defence. I do not propose to go into that question now, because we have already debated it at some length. One would hope that this would lead to some improvement, although we have some fairly serious criticisms of the actual proposals.
§ But nothing can expunge the record of the past or its consequences for the future. I should like to remind your Lordships of some of the changes that have taken place over the last few years. It may be painful, and it may, indeed, be repetitive, to refer to them, but it is well that we should have them in mind, because they are very much the burden of our criticisms. We know that at the time of the Sandys régime as Secretary of State for Defence—the one Secretary of State for Defence who was actually trying to be a Secretary of State for Defence, but unfortunately his trial was rather disastrous—the country then went over almost wholly to a nuclear strategy. There were to be no more bombers. The Royal Navy had no rôle except in a period of so-called broken-backed, post-nuclear exchange warfare. The Army alone had a rôle which was broadly similar to what it has to-day, except that it was never expected, apparently, to be engaged in anything other than the most minor brush fire operations. It is, of course, the Army that has suffered the most. It is the division between these two points of view, of trying to produce effective forces for conventional warfare and our determination to remain, in the words of the Prime Minister, "a first class military Power", that has led to our difficulties.
It was the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who said in our Defence debate last March [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 247, 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. If … we try to have both, the home front will suffer, which will be disastrous, because we should be trying to do too much.
Unfortunately, when we pressed the noble and gallant Viscount as to which of the two he was prepared to choose he did not tell us; and he did not tell us his solution. But perhaps he will do so later in the debate to-day. It is this which is bedevilling much of our policy, and it is really no good thinking in terms of the sort of mystical national prestige of which the former Foreign Secretary, now the Prime Minister, is so keen to talk about, of being a first-class military Power. Clearly we have got to take the hardest and the coldest look at what is best in our national interest.
§ I should like to look first of all at this argument in favour of the deterrent from a national standpoint, the argument that it takes us to the conference table with a special privilege. In saying this we have to bear in mind that the whole pattern of strategy has changed to-day. We are no longer in the days of purely massive retaliation. Strategy has become much more sophisticated, and American re-thinking has very largely changed the strategy of the West. The Government made claims, claims which I can only regard as slightly indecent, as to the contribution of this country towards the Test Ban Treaty. I think it was the then Prime Minister who said words to the effect that he was very glad we were able to persuade the Americans to come along too. It is worth noting that the original proposal for a Test Ban Treaty, so far as this country is concerned, came from the Opposition, and this was strongly opposed by the Conservative Government of the time. But we are glad that they saw wisdom on this. The fact that this Test Ban Treaty was signed was simply because Russia and America were prepared to sign it. I think it is difficult to argue—and I say this quite sincerely—that the existence of our own nuclear deterrent added significantly to the signing of that particular Treaty.
§ It is sometimes argued—and I want to deal with this point because the French argument is used—that the reason why France was not there was 215 that she had not at that moment got a test ban. But in fact France, Czechoslovakia, Canada and Poland were all at the original discussions in Geneva. It was only because these discussions related, in the final stages, to a Test Ban Treaty that it was apparent as far back as 1956 that France would not be there. Guy Mollet's Republican Front Government made clear that they would not be interested in any test ban treaty unless such talks covered the actual reduction of existing stocks.
§ The French position is a different one from ours. The French have an acute problem of national morale. I personally have the highest regard for the French and French qualities—although these qualities have not led necessarily to effective government, at least until General de Gaulle appeared on the scene—but we have not been confronted with their problems. We have not been confronted with a decline in national morale; we have not been confronted with subversion in our Armed Forces; and whether or not the force de frappe or, as some people in France call it, the force de farce, is a reality, it is an important factor in French national morale. I would repeat, and I am sure all noble Lords would agree, that we do not have the same compelling reasons in terms of national morale. All Parties are agreed on the need for defence. We are all united in the Western Alliance, and all Parties support NATO. We need have no argument on that point.
§ I do not wish to dwell much longer on the deterrent. We are agreed again that there is not a moral argument in this. It is perfectly true that the Labour Party and the Labour Government started the British independent nuclear deterrent, and that the Conservatives rightly continued it. But the death of Blue Streak virtually meant the end of the truly independent deterrent; and it is no good going on playing with words in the way the Government have done, changing it from "independent" to "independent contribution" and finally back to "independent deterrent". The disappearance of Skybolt has finished this. We now find ourselves, under the Nassau Agreement, as an overnight decision, committed to buying several Polaris submarines which we know will not 216 add significantly to the strength of the Western deterrent, other than in the most marginal way. If in fact we could afford this, and if it were possible to have all the other defence weapons we need, and if we ignore certain compelling international reasons (which I will not go into), then there would be a powerful military argument, although perhaps of a limited kind, for continuing it.
§ The Government are so obsessed with this that they are in danger of ruining the prospects of one of the best tactical weapons, one that might be an ideal weapon for limited warfare, because they choose to call the TSR 2 a nuclear bomber. I know the noble Lord will say that they have avoided doing this, but time and again we have been told, and it has been used as an argument, that this is the great strength of the TSR 2. I would say straight away that I regard this aircraft as one of the most sophisticated and remarkable weapon systems that any country has been able to find for the conventional rôle. Unfortunately, though for reasons that are obvious, information about this aircraft has not been released in sufficient detail, but if it does fulfil its purpose it would undoubtedly be very useful.
§ Through the fault of the air marshals, and of the Government, this, too, has become a political issue. It is a prodigiously expensive aircraft—I do not know whether we could be given another figure, a final figure. Is the final cost for, say, 100 aircraft going to be £400 million or £500 million? I am not sure how far the figures for research and development are secret. But even at £5 million an aircraft it is going to be a very expensive weapon for limited operations. Is it the intention of the Government to use it in South-East Asia when it becomes available in the next two, three or four years? Is there any basis for the rumours which are going around—and not only among the Oppositon—that it may well be cancelled? Is there any talk at all of this in Government circles? If the TSR 2 is cancelled, it will leave the R.A.F. without any means of giving real assistance to the military in warfare.
§ I do not want to dwell too long on the TSR 2, but I must say that I greatly regret that the Minister of Aviation chose to attribute the reasons for the Australian refusal to order the TSR 2 to doubts expressed by the Labour Party in this country. 217 This seems to me to be one of the most shocking pieces of political electioneering I have heard. We know that the Prime Minister advised us at all times to speak and think in terms of the future General Election, but if the Minister of Aviation really believes this, then all I can say is that he must have been misled by some rather tougher negotiators than he was accustomed to dealing with.
§ The real reason why we did not sell this aircraft to Australia was that the Government failed, as they have failed in other duties, to give the support to our exporters until it was too late. I know something about what went on in these negotiations. They failed to think of the export potential, and the result is that an important source of export has been lost to this country; and it is a loss that is important in terms of Commonwealth understanding and relations. All I will say is that I hope that the TSR 2 will fly. I hope that it will achieve these remarkable qualities that are claimed for it. If it does not, there will be nothing else available to match the modern equipment, the Mig 19's and 21's, which are to be found not only in Russia but in countries—certainly the Mig 19's—like Indonesia. One of our difficulties has been that the Government's Defence Estimates have been so wildly out of proportion to reality. May I ask what was the original estimate for the TSR 2 as compared with the Government's present estimate? We are quite prepared to give the Government a bit of a margin, even on their present estimate, but we hope that it will bear some relation.
§ What is the consequence of overspending in these directions? The consequence is, as we have seen reported so often by The Times correspondent, by Members of Parliament and by my noble friends who have been particularly to Germany, that the equipment side of the British Army of the Rhine is still inadequate for the rôle that it will be expected to play under the new forward strategy. So that there is no misunderstanding, either in Germany or in this House, let us state quite clearly that we are well aware that the British Army of the Rhine has very high morale and that the troops and officers are first-class. Indeed, I am told that morale is higher than it was. But the fact remains that 218 their medium and field artillery is still of last-war vintage. The Abbott gun is, in theory, coming along but we have not seen it yet. They are still equipped with Corporals and Honest John missiles. Why was Blue Water cancelled? Was it too expensive, or, again, was it a choice between the nuclear deterrent and equipping the Army with the weapons it needed?
§ It is very difficult to arrive at these total figures. We find massive figures for long-term capital expenditure: £400 million on Polaris submarines; £400 million to £500 million on the TSR 2. We know that something like 10 to 15 per cent. of our annual national budget on Defence is going to sustaining the existing deterrent. What is going to be the total cost? What is going to be the cost of the new units which are coming into the Air Force but which have not yet arrived and, at the moment, look like being delayed for lack of funds? What is going to be the cost of the ASW 681? What is going to be the cost of the Olympus engines? Will the Olympus engines which are to go into the TSR 2 be the same as will go into the Concorde? And if we were to cancel the TSR 2, what would happen to the price of the Concorde? At some time costs must come out right.
There is another item to which I would refer and which I also think is really disgraceful—I refer to the signals position in the British Army. When will it have standard transistorised equipment? We know that taxis have it, and we are hoping that the British Army will have it. I ask when this is coming in because in the last Defence debate I asked this question, though I said that I did not expect that the Foreign Secretary, immersed in foreign affairs, would necessarily be able to answer me. He said that I had no reason to suppose that he did not know the answer, and he then gave this remarkable reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 247, col. 924]:
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 available system for the future.
What that means I do not know, but it suggests that the Army was being re-equipped with it. We should like to
know from a Minister who is more familiar with this subject, what the true position is.
Most of my attack relates to Army equipment. In the White Paper there was again a very remarkable statement which, had we been able to have the debate on the Motion which had stood on the Order Paper for a long time, we could have covered. This statement says:
Now the new army will be provided with greatly increased striking power.
I like the use of the word "now", which implies that the Army is being equipped now. But how many Saracen regiments are there in the Army? What about the Trojan and the other armoured personnel carriers? What about essential air defence against low-flying aircraft? Is the Lightning intended for this rôle? Has the Army got low-level anti-aircraft missiles?—because the only one I knew about was cancelled. What work is being done at the moment on automatic reconnaissance units (Recce Drone, and so on) all of which are essential for the Army either in Germany or in other parts of the world.
§ We wonder whether these bits of equipment (because I can think of no other explanation) have been sacrified to the cost of the nuclear deterrent. What the Government face, and can no longer avoid, is the crucial choice between nuclear and conventional forces. If they wish to go on pretending to nuclear independence, the cost will be such that our conventional efficiency will possibly decline further. The Prime Minister, again in the debate last March, mentioned that we spent 7 or 8 per cent. of the gross national product on Defence, and he mentioned that America spent 10 per cent. Are the Government hoping to achieve all the necessary re-equipping without a further great increase in spending? We know that an Election is coming along and that this is the time of year for promises of this sort. But it was Mr. Thorneycroft, when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1958, who actually at that time forecast the possibility of our no longer being able to remain an independent nuclear Power.
§ My Lords, the most pressing need today is that the Army, with its limited 220 manpower, should be made as mobile and transportable as possible. One day we know that it will get the Belfast, undoubtedly the most expensive aircraft in the world. I do not know what the total cost of each Belfast will be; I do not doubt that it will be an effective aircraft when it appears; but I remember that three or four years ago the noble and gallant Field Marshall Lord Harding of Petherton was demanding transport aircraft more urgently than we were getting them. This is the case where the Army is suffering; and even now only ten aircraft are being ordered.
§ Again, in the recent debate the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, interestingly asked what would be the effect on the Royal Navy and its efficiency of the obligation to man, equip and service the Polaris submarines. This is going to make the most tremendous demands on the Royal Navy, and it seems that it must follow that the ordinary conventional units of the Royal Navy, which have already suffered grievous loss (we know the tragedy of H.M.S. "Blake" and other vessels), will have to be cut back. Or are the Government contemplating a very large expansion in the Royal Navy? I do not doubt that these are going to be splendid technological achievements but are they, in fact, going to be technological white elephants? And shall we, in the end, be able to get the particular Polaris missiles that we want? They have already been changed and there are further rumours that the ones we are now hoping to order will be phased out by the Americans.
§ One thing that is quite clear is that this particular weapon is not independent. Indeed, we do not know how accurate it is. It is very doubtful whether it is a counter-force weapon. It is certainly a counter-city weapon. Surely the Americans, with their 30,000 megaton-worth of delivery, can deal with this. Or do we not rely on the Americans as Allies? We have had a lot of discussion on this matter and I should like to return to it in my final remarks. I would only say on this particular subject that we are suffering in other forms of equipment. Are the antisubmarine efforts being conducted with the same energy and drive? What about the anti-submarine replacement for the Shackleton, which we have asked about 221 on numerous occasions and which still does not appear to be in sight? Our duty, as reliable Allies, is not merely to take a position at the conference table but to fulfil our responsibilities and obligations in the world. And we alone of the Western nations, apart from the United States, have still got worldwide responsibilities of a kind that we cannot possibly shed.
§ I turn particularly to the problem of South-East Asia. Here is an area where we are responsible for keeping the peace, and the Americans look to us to maintain security there. It is also an area where the people have a particular bond and a particular affection for this country. There can, I think, be no possibility of our failing them. At the present moment we have a quarter or a half of the British Army's strategic reserve locked up in Borneo, and there it is likely to remain, faced with a possible aggressor with an Army larger than the whole of the British armed forces and equipped certainly with modern fighters. We all hope that Indonesia will see sense and that the threats that have come from there will die away again. But this is a commitment we must fulfil. It is rather curious that last March, when it first arose as a threat, the Government at that time—I believe it was on March 14—announced that they were going to reduce the number of Gurkhas from 13,600 to 10,000, and now we see in the papers that they are about to change their minds again and to recruit back up to 15,000. So far as I know, no official announcement has been made of this. Can we have an announcement? And what is the reason for this sudden change of policy on manpower? Is it because the Government miscalculated the military and strategic situation, or was it, as we suspect, that they were wildly over-optimistic on the recruiting situation?
§ I would now return to the recruiting position. We know that 1962 was a very good year, and towards the end of it the Government "upped" their target—their targets have always changed according to what they thought they were going to get—to 180,000. We are scheduled to get 180,000 in the Army by March, 1964—I think that is the date. Unfortunately, recent figures show a rather sad decline. I hope that a net improvement is still going on, although we have not got up- 222 to-date figures of wastage, and I believe that in some months there has been a net loss. The distinguished correspondent of The Times said he thought we had 175,000 men. According to such calculations and advice as I have been able to get, I make it around 173,000. I apologise to the Leader of the House for playing what he would undoubtedly call "the numbers game", but this is fundamental to our defence; it is fundamental to the strength not only of our forces in South-East Asia but of the British Army of the Rhine. What were the October recruiting figures? Do the Government anticipate that recruiting will pick up and we shall be able to achieve the target we want? How many troops have we in the British Army of the Rhine? Have we reached the 55,000, or are the Government once again going to have to face the possibility of a reorganisation of the line regiments, about which the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has been so eloquent in the past in regard to the tribal system?
§ How are the Government going to get the men if the recruiting figures fail? It is no good suggesting, as has been suggested, that the Opposition are seeking to advocate conscription. It was the Government who abolished conscription, not the Opposition. What has happened to the "Ever-readies"? The Leader of the House was very eloquent on the subject of the "Ever-readies" when the Bill passed through the House. We queried certain of the difficulties, and indeed expressed doubts as to whether it would come off, but we hoped it would. I think we expected to get 15,000 "Ever-readies". How many are there?
§ South-East Asia and the British Army of the Rhine are not the only areas. We have had to put battalions in the Caribbean and we have one in Swaziland. Everybody seems to have forgotten that only a few months ago we were deeply concerned about an invasion of India. This is where the hard judgment has got to come. If, in fact, we are unable to meet our obligations, because we either cannot afford to hire Gurkhas, or cannot provide the right aircraft and equipment, which is more important in the world to-day: that we should abandon our commitments or fail to meet them by trying to do too much? It is on this long-term costing of defence that the Government are so weak.223
§ There are many other points on equipment that I should have liked to deal with, but I do not think there is any lack of other examples. There is no lack of evidence of the need to improve enormously the mobility of the British Army. There is clearly no lack of need to ensure that the Royal Navy is able to fulfil its traditional rôles, whether it be with a task force of the more sophisticated kind like Commando carriers, whether it be anti-submarine: but whether the Polaris submarine or the diversion of the carrier into the nuclear deterrent rôle is in the national or Western Alliance interest is very doubtful. As the Economist said, like his predecessor the new Prime Minister seems inclined wilfully to blur the difference between Britain's keeping a nuclear equipment as a modest agreed contribution to an interdependent Allied army and pretending that this is equipment that can be an independent deterrent to Russia; if he is arguing that we should get to the peace table to be there as of right because we are a nuclear Power, this is an absurd and dangerous concept and indeed an unpatriotic concept. The Conservative Party expect the electorate to respond to the theme of greatness, and this is doing a grave disservice to this country.
In our last debate on Defence we were criticised by those opposite and by the Prime Minister for being critical of the Government's Defence policy. Indeed, it was said it was not their wish that Party politics should be brought into this. In case any member of the Government should be inclined to attack us on this occasion, I would point out that it was the Prime Minister at the very beginning of this new Session who chose to make Defence a political issue. Apparently he was somewhat disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition had not paid much attention to it in his opening speech on the humble Address, but this did not deter the Prime Minister. In a series of remarks quoted in Hansard of November 12 he made statements of a Party political character that we certainly never heard from the former Prime Minister. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 684 (No. 1), col. 50]:
I intend in due course to put this question of Britain's independent deterrent to the electors.
These, I think, are some of the most lamentable passages I have read from a Prime Minister.
§ We know that this question of the nuclear deterrent and nuclear weapons and defence is an immensely complicated one. We have repeated time and again that when they came to power the Labour Party would not immediately proceed to scrap the weapons that were there; and it is intolerable to suggest—certainly noble Lords opposite have not suggested this—that we had any intention of doing so. But I do not believe that Kinross has been an ennobling experience, in more ways than one. Foreign policy and Defence, we would hope, even though we may exchange hard words at times, ought to be argued out, on the whole, as much as possible out of the Party political frame; and although some exchange is necessary, on the whole we do not expect, and are not accustomed to, this from Prime Ministers of either Party.
The Prime Minister put an even more astonishing question. He asked whether the Leader of the Opposition would go round questioning the good faith of Britain's greatest Ally. In 1962 the Minister of Defence said that if we did not have the independent deterrent we should be entirely dependent on the Americans in our foreign policy; and it is worth remembering that we may want to make a stand in some part of the world where our Allies would not support us. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself, speaking last March in this House, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 247, col. 932]:
It is assumed that the United States would always, in all circumstances, cover Great Britain with her strategic deterrent.
He went on to say:
I profoundly hope that is true. But it is a large assumption, and Governments cannot take risks …".
I think that particular point, perhaps in the excitement of a return to another place, had an unfortunate effect on the Prime Minister.
We are not questioning—I am sure that nobody in the House would wish to question—the reliability of our United States Allies. We have, however, to
decide what in fact is our particular duty in the world to-day. If we are to be attacked on this question of the nuclear deterrent, and whether it is in fact possible to administer a nuclear deterrent on the same scale as the Government propose and also to meet our conventional obligations, then I can only say that doubts exist not only in the Opposition but also in the Government Party. I should like to quote from a speech made a few years ago by a most distinguished member of the Government Party. Speaking of the independent nuclear deterrent, he said:
I do not deride the men, nor do I invite anyone else to deride them, who urged large expenditure in all these fields. It is not a mean thing to wish to be independent in nuclear power of both the East and the West, although it may be that in the West in future no one really will be independent in nuclear power. It is not a mean thing to attempt that, or to attempt to have the great conventional forces to match our world-wide responsibilities. It is not a mean thing to advocate and seek to sustain a Welfare State. … Those are not unworthy aims. But let no politician of any Party be under any illusions as to what all this has meant"—
this was said in 1958—
It has meant that over twelve years we have slithered from one crisis to another. Sometimes it has been a balance of payments crisis and sometimes it has been an exchange crisis.
This was said by Mr. Thorneycroft in his resignation speech. He is to-day the Minister of Defence. He went on to say:
That is not a picture of the nation we would wish to see. It is a picture of a nation in full retreat from its responsibilities. That is not a path to greatness; it is the road to ruin.
§ My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Moved as an Amendment, to add at the end of the proposed Address ("but regret that Her Majesty's Government through lack of a sound and consistent defence policy is failing to make proper provision to enable this country to meet its national and international commitments, now and in the future.")—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD GRANTCHESTER
My Lords, I should like to explain that my absence, in case it should have been noticed, during the first few days of this debate, was due to the fact that I had to attend 226 to some meetings of Western European Union at The Hague. I should like to support the congratulations offered by the previous speaker to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as the Leader of the House, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. I shall not follow him into the question of the independence of our nuclear deterrent. I feel whenever "independence" is mentioned, whoever uses that word, it must be understood to-day to mean "comparative independence". I should prefer for the moment to leave it at that, for I believe there are developments and changes coming which may put this question in a quite different light. It is some of these matters that I shall try to touch upon in the course of my remarks this afternoon.
I hope I shall be forgiven for mixing some political considerations with the defence problem. I have no intention of becoming involved in the highly technical field of tactics or strategy, or even of weapons. When even the Defence Ministers of France and the Federal Republic of Germany cannot reach agreement upon the comparative merits of two different designs, it is difficult for a layman to express an opinion; but so far as financial and employment considerations impinge upon the construction of weapons I wonder whether, in cases where decisions can be made on the standardisation of any weapon, production could not be arranged more often by agreement under licence so as to ensure a fair distribution of contracts over the countries of the Alliance without prejudicing uniformity of equipment.
It would be quite unrealistic to believe that we can speak of Defence, even of the defence of Europe, solely in terms of the conceptions which existed when the North Atlantic Treaty was signed. We can agree that NATO has filled a gap. For this, the peoples of Western Europe owe a debt of gratitude to the Alliance, and particularly to the United States and Great Britain who, with their deterrents, stood guard when there could be little or no contribution to Defence from continental Europe. But that phase has passed. Not only have the material conditions in Europe changed vastly, but the thinking has changed. This is particularly true of continental Europe. If I may, I will 227 take one sentence from a report on European security which we were discussing last week at The Hague at the meeting to which I have already referred. The sentence is as follows:On each side, a single country controls all or almost all the nuclear resources, which places its allies in the difficult situation of protected countries.I hope I may be forgiven if I appear to generalise too much from this. In any country there are people who think very differently from others. All one can hope to do is to try to understand what those in or directly behind the Government of the day think and mean; to understand those who currently have the power of decision and direct their country's policy.
With this qualification, I think it is not too much to say that in the continental countries of Western Europe there is a widespread feeling that remaining so obviously "protected countries" is not compatible with their independence. Rightly or wrongly, the Governments in those countries are coming more and more to feel themselves in a position which they dislike and resent. This is true, I believe, in all the countries of Western Europe, but, of course, it is true in varying degrees. The French are the most outspoken and many Frenchmen say outright that they consider the continuance of such a position intolerable. The Germans will take any opportunity offered of gaining knowledge and experience which might prove useful, and quietly rely upon their increasing power, both military and economic, to bring as a natural consequence increased inffuence in world affairs, as the Federal German Foreign Minister recently aptly put it.
The smaller continental countries in Western Europe naturally tend to favour a widely based Defence community, feeling that the bigger the Alliance the greater the importance of the small part they can play and the less the likelihood of pressure from any one great neighbour. So in any controversy within the Alliance they hope for a compromise which they have no real chance of influencing. In political terms they favour a federal type of association which gives a small Power the maximum influence upon common decisions. Further, many Frenchmen believe that 228 there are agreements or understandings between the United States and the U.S.S.R. to maintain their near monopoly in the nuclear field. They do not believe that the European area of NATO can be defended without nuclear weapons. European troops can be equipped, at present, with American nuclear weapons only under the strict control of American political authority. They see the signing of the Test Ban Treaty as the latest move in a plan to crystallise the existing status quo.
Thus, so far as the defence of Europe is concerned, we are back where we were when the NATO Treaty was signed—that is to say, reliance on the United States and Great Britain, but with France becoming more and more unco-operative, refusing to accept what they look upon as the hegemony of the United States in peace-time preparedness and pursuing the same policy (or so they maintain) as did the Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, in his Government after the end of the war. At that time we all remember that the United States sought to retain upon American soil the knowledge to which many of different nationalities had contributed and which might have matured in this country had it not been for an accident of geography, as I think the present Prime Minister put it some days ago.
My Lords, I have tried very briefly to present an objective picture of what I find is the general feeling in continental Europe. It is an unhappy picture from the point of view of common defensive planning. Yet there is, I believe, some satisfaction to be derived from the fact that it is because Europe feels more secure that its Governments can take the risk of indulging in philosophical polemics on political evolution. While this lasts, however, I doubt whether in NATO on the military plane much can be done about it except to exercise patience. Of course, I shall listen with great interest to suggestions which, I am sure, will be made this afternoon, but I must say I feel that some of the ingenious suggestions which have been coming across the Atlantic, however well meant, have added to the arguments and disagreements rather than diminished them.
This applies, in my view, to the proposal to create a small multi-national contingent which politically satisfies no 229 one and militarily seems unimportant. That the United States directly sought the support of the Federal Republic of Germany in this matter was, I feel, unfortunate. This may involve the limitations imposed under the Treaty of Brussels—limitations which appear to most of us desirable in the interests of the Federal Republic itself, whose first concern must be the conclusion of a peace treaty resolving the German problem with such safeguards and assurances for the future as may be agreed. We should be careful to avoid any action which could delay or prejudice the completion of such a Treaty.
To return, for a few moments, to what I called philosophical polemics, surely the worst fate which could befall us in Europe (other than annihilation) would be a lapse into intellectual stagnation. The move towards integration in a Defence community (which was the original concept of a mixed-manned force) ten years ago was unfortunately presented. It provoked a revival of nationalism; yet nothing is quite the same as formerly. A French nationalist to-day will react against "integration" but will accept "co-ordination" in the Alliance. Sooner or later, if there is to be a Europe with a personality (this may be a philosophical nicety to a pragmatist, but this is the way Europe is forging its thoughts) Europe will have a European Defence Ministry. If we accept this idea—even if we accept it as an idea-to-be—NATO will inevitably move towards a new concept and direction. I would suggest that it need be no worse for that. It would still be within the concept of partnership, as this word is understood at any rate on this side of the Atlantic.
What has really disturbed the infrastructure, if I may so call it, of the Alliance, is the political eruption which is manifesting itself in Europe. If we can forget our anxieties—and as they are shared by nearly all mankind perhaps we may be forgiven for shedding them, if not forgetting them—to enjoy an interlude, it may not turn out to be an unprofitable exercise. Many in Europe believe that the benefit of abundance is almost inextricably linked with investigation into the perils of nuclear development. There is a feeling that they must be explored together, and 230 while so much is hidden in secrecy, in security secrecy, there will continue to be speculation on this point. The announcement of the publication of a book by Professor Raymond Ayon on Initiation Into Atomic Strategy will, I am sure, open up new, interesting discussions, and may help to clear the minds of people, not only in France but in the United States, on the differences of outlook that are disturbing the minds of people in both countries.
The more complex life becomes, the more complicated human relationships become. It is ideas which change the world and which cause wars if suppressed. We must be prepared to participate in the evolution of ideas in Europe. We made two attempts to move closer together in Europe: the first one based on a European Defence Community; the second based on economic foundations. Both these attempts failed because of failure to reach agreement with the French Government of the day. So I should like to end my remarks with this conclusion: that agreement with France is a first necessity. In fact, no real sense can be made of the defence of continental Europe without the co-operation of France, and any political advance, if we are to exercise influence, is dependent upon agreement between us and the French.
Basically, my Lords, I do not believe that our ideas on what is practicable or desirable are very different from those of the French. An expanded Council of Western European Ministers might well constitute the nucleus of a European Ministry of Defence. But I do not believe Western European Union is a satisfactory European political forum—at any rate, in the long run. Europe as an entity with influence cannot come into being unless European countries are willing to recognise a loyalty to the Europe they wish to build. I would plead that, without formal commitments, without a constitution, without weighted voting, those nations who believe in the necessity for the voice of Europe to be heard should agree to meet together regularly and frequently to discuss all their problems.
The only suitable forum for this, in my view, is the Council of Ministers of the Community, expanded by invitations to Great Britain, Denmark and Norway 231 (the countries who sought full membership of the Community) to send Ministers to join in discussions on all matters that affect Europe—which really means, of course, all their problems—on the simple basis that they will recognise a loyalty to the Europe they would be representing and building. In this forum all these members would be heard. Unanimous agreement might not always be possible, but gradually we should build up confidence, treating each other with complete frankness. We should begin to realise that we were there to help each other. My Lords, such a spirit is necessary to make sense of the defence of Europe, and of our common responsibilities to the rest of the world. More formal agreements could come later when this experiment in co-operation had been tried and proved.
The story of the conferences held during the war is attracting a good deal of attention in France to-day, notably because of a book by Arthur Conte called Yalta, or Europe Sold. At Yalta, if the record is correct, the writer says that Churchill alone fought—and he fought "like a tiger"—to preserve the rights and influence of France in postwar Europe. The book records his statements that we had no intention of agreeing to restrict French influence, as both Stalin and Roosevelt thought proper. French co-operation, he maintained, was essential to Europe. I suggest that in a new approach to France, Her Majesty's Government start there. I feel sure, from my own contacts, that if Her Majesty's Government made a new approach in this spirit, it could open up an era of co-operation in Europe. The problems with which we have to deal are immensely difficult, and it is a sine qua non that we should deal with them in agreement with France, if we are to hope for success in Europe.
I hope the Opposition will not divide the House on this Motion, and I believe in saying this that I am supporting the spirit of what my noble friend, Lord Ogmore, said last Thursday.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the two speeches which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. The 232 noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, moved the Amendment, as usual, with great vigour and great clarity. I think your Lordships will agree with me that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, has made a most thoughtful speech and no doubt it will repay reading to-morrow. But I hope that he will not consider me discourteous if I do not follow him down the paths that he has gone. I felt that perhaps the most welcome part of his speech was his assurance that the Liberal Party will not go into the Lobby with the Labour Party later on this evening. But, my Lords, I will try to follow some of the matters that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has spoken about.
The Amendment suggests that Her Majesty's Government,through lack of a sound and consistent defence policy is failing to make proper provision to enable this country to meet its national and international commitments.My Lords, I reject this absolutely, and I do not believe that a sound case for it has been made out by the noble Lord opposite. I think that the first thing we should ask ourselves when discussing the question of defence is: what is the criterion of success of any defence policy? It is obvious that defence is an instrument of foreign policy. I think it is also obvious that there can be no effective foreign policy except one which is based on a sound national economy. Your Lordships will remember the emphasis placed upon this point by the Prime Minister when he used to sit on these Benches. Any British Government, therefore, is faced with a series of interlocking decisions in formulating its defence policy.
The first is to determine what are the vital interests that must be defended. The second is to determine what proportion of the gross national product can be allocated to defence. There can, and should, of course, be some flexibility in the precise figure in a country possessing the population and industrial strength of ours. But I am sure the whole House will agree that any defence policy which placed excessive strains on the national economy would be self-defeating. The third is to determine how the resources available should best be applied to secure the required objectives; and in all this we naturally have to bear in mind what our friends and Allies are doing.
233 My Lords, what are the purposes of the Government's foreign policy in so far as it affects defence? The first, of course—and it is paramount—is to prevent war. The second—and hereafter I name them in no particular order of priority—is to protect British interests. The third is to assist our friends and Allies in the Commonwealth and outside should trouble arise. The fourth is to play our part in the containment of Communism all over the world. These are sizeable aims and they entail heavy commitments for us. There are some, I know, who feel that the transformation of Empire into Commonwealth has meant a large decline in our obligations. It is true that in some fields and areas we have been relieved of our defence burdens, but this is by no means true in all cases—and in some cases, indeed, they have increased, or may do so.
One has only to look round the world to realise the extent of our responsibilities. There are the area of the Persian Gulf, and the base at Aden on which its defence depends; our obligations to Malaysia, which were discussed at great length earlier in the debate on the Address; the threatening policy of the Indonesian Government and the military problem that it has posed us; and our interests in the Caribbean and the protection of British territory there, about which a Question was asked by my noble friend Lord Colyton last week. These are but a few examples. Our interests range far and wide all over the world and it would be impossible for anyone to say with any certainty just where or how the next emergency might arise. Nor must we forget our commitments in Europe, the security of which is vital to our national survival.
My Lords, the full list is a formidable one, and it would be impossible for us, single-handed, to achieve all the aims and honour all the commitments that I have set out. In point of fact, we have seldom been able to "go it alone" as a country. Apart from a comparatively short period of history, the age of Pax Britannica, when the Royal Navy ensured the peace of the world, we have always protected our interests by a series of alliances with those whose interests coincided with ours. And your Lordships will recollect that this is exactly the policy which both Conservative and Labour Governments have 234 followed since the war. There have been NATO, SEATO, CENTO, and so on. Even so, in making our proper contribution to these alliances, and in maintaining our readiness to protect our interests in those fields in which our responsibilities are primarily national, we are still undertaking heavy burdens. As your Lordships know, we devote between 7 and 8 per cent. of our gross national product to defence—a figure which compares very favourably with the figures of other friendly countries. I do not think that there are many in this country who would say that we could afford to use a very much higher proportion of our gross national product on defence.
So I think that the real questions which should be answered to-day in this debate are these. First, are there any commitments which we are at present undertaking which could be scrapped? Second, are we spending the money in our Defence budget wisely, and getting value for money? With regard to the first question, I do not believe there are any commitments which we can abandon. Both the Far East and Middle East are areas of potential trouble. There are others as well, and we have our NATO obligations in Europe. It is perfectly true that the emphasis is likely to shift from time to time from one part of the world to another, though not, I suggest, unless and until circumstances alter radically to the extent of releasing us completely from any of our existing commitments. It is to take care of these often unforeseeable shifts of emphasis that our strategic reserve exists.
In these circumstances, I feel that noble Lords opposite should address themselves first to this question: What commitments or objectives would they wish to see cut? I remember that in the debates on Defence at the beginning of this year in another place both Mr. Brown and Mr. Paget suggested that it was possible—and, indeed, desirable—to reduce our forces East of Suez. Mr. Paget, in fact, in a speech of which I have the reference, if noble Lords are interested, poured scorn on the suggestion that a base in Singapore was practicable. My Lords, I wonder whether those two speakers have had second thoughts in the six months which have elapsed since they made those speeches. 235 Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, if he ever held those views—which I very much doubt—expressed exactly the contrary opinion this afternoon.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, we had this argument last year. I wonder whether the noble Lord would now quote that which he failed to quote on that occasion—namely, what Mr. Brown said and when he said it.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I am not, of course, allowed to do that; but if the noble Lord will look at Mr. Paget's speech, in column 1586—
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I am just coming to Mr. Brown. The noble Lord must not be quite so impatient. Perhaps he will look at Mr. Paget's speech during the debate in another place on Thursday, March 14, in column 1586, and also at the debate in another place on Tuesday, March 5, in column 325, I think. When he reads those, he will see that I have not misinterpreted what either Mr. Brown or Mr. Paget said.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
May I just finish? The last thing I want to do is to misinterpret them. Why should I want to misinterpret them? I think it is very important that we should get straight what the policy of the Opposition is. If I have it wrong, then, of course, I am prepared to withdraw and apologise. I have no wish whatever to misinterpret Opposition speakers; but perhaps noble Lords will look at these references and see whether I have, in fact, misinterpreted them.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I gather that the noble Lord the Leader of the House does not propose to quote what Mr. Brown said because that would not be in order; but as this was a speech in another place during the last Session of Parliament, he is perfectly entitled to quote it.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Yes; and for the satisfaction of my noble friend Lord Shackleton I think it would be helpful.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I did not realise that I was entitled to quote it. I must accept that, and I will, with great pleasure, quote it. Mr. Brown said this: [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 673, col. 324–5]:I do not believe that to be the right definition of our defence requirements at all. I think it wrong because the national defence of these islands seems not to be an issue capable of being divorced from our association and commitments to NATO. It is within NATO that we provide for the national defence of these islands. If we try to provide that national defence first, and carry out our commitments to NATO with what is left, we shall not be fulfilling the first task. The third matter, the wider world rôle, is rapidly diminishing.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
If that does not mean the interpretation I have put upon it, I will happily withdraw.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
What does it mean, my Lords, if it does not mean that? The second quotation I should like to give, from Mr. Paget, is this (col. 1586 of the same volume):Turning to Singapore, I do not know the point of maintaining a base in which we depend upon an organised communist labour force in the docks. Possibly there is a case for maintaining sonic troops in Australia, but, as in Hong Kong, I believe that we shall come to realise that this is a part of the world in which, if we cannot maintain our position by diplomatic means, it is not worth trying to maintain it by force.Now, my Lords, if I may go on from that—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I say one thing on this aspect? I do not agree, nor do my noble friends, with Mr. Paget—I make that perfectly clear. But I do not think the noble Lord is entitled to put the interpretation that he did on what Mr. Brown said. There was no suggestion of falling down on our commitments. He merely hazarded a hope that our responsibilities might diminish—but clearly they will not do so under this Government.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
With respect, my Lords, he did not say that: he said that our responsibilities were diminished. This is where I part company with Mr. Brown. I do not think that we ought to spend more time on this. I do not in any way wish to misinterpret what has been said. But I think that noble Lords 237 should answer these questions that I have been addressing them. I do not imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, believes this; but then, as so often in defence matters, there seems to be a difference of opinion in the Labour Party. Do not both Mr. Paget and Mr. Brown and the noble Lords opposite feel that a military presence in South-East Asia and the Middle East acts as a deterrent and is itself a contribution to world peace? I shall be interested to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, says when he comes to wind up.
There is one thing that noble Lords opposite would say when I ask them what commitments they would cut; they would say they would abandon, after the V-bombers run out, the nuclear deterrent. My Lords, earlier in the debate on the Address I referred briefly to the question of the deterrent. I should like to examine it in more detail now. It would be tempting to devote this part of my speech to asking noble Lords opposite to clarify and reconcile what different Labour Party spokesmen have said at different times, and sometimes simultaneously. But the analysts of Labour Party pronouncements have had a field day lately and I think it would be more profitable if I were to speak about the basic issues involved and the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
Britain possesses a nuclear deterrent today, following on the Anglo-American creation of the atom bomb in the last world war. Until recent times it was common ground between the Conservative and the Labour Parties that this deterrent should be maintained in being. We have the warheads, the delivery systems, and a great complex of industrial and scientific capital, communications and personnel. As the Soviet Union has developed its own nuclear power, what has come to be required, above all, is a second strike nuclear capability which could penetrate increasingly sophisticated defences. This is a vastly more complicated and expensive effort, as your Lordships know, and the day will come when the V-bomber force, even with stand-off bombs, will no longer be an effective means of delivery. As military technology develops it would be very hard for us to keep up with making all the latest requirements ourselves—and I have already referred to the vital importance of a sound economy at home.
238 It seems to me that Her Majesty's Government have to choose between three courses. We could scrap the deterrent; or allow the capability we now have to become obsolete, and when that happened we should cease to all intents and purposes to be a nuclear Power. Or we could do in the nuclear field what many countries, including our own, do on the conventional side; that is to say, we could buy some of the newest things from somewhere else. But if we were to take the third course we should preserve and augment the industrial capital, communications and personnel; we should make the aircraft and submarines and, of course, we should go on producing the essential component of all nuclear weapons systems—namely, our own warheads.
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have decided against allowing the British nuclear capability to lapse and in favour of keeping it in being, buying some of the delivery systems as necessary. I should say, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, did, that there is absolutely no reason to suppose that the United States Government will not fulfil their undertaking to supply these; and I do not believe that any noble Lord will make such a suggestion. The Polaris missile, though it is being improved all the time, is a tried and proven weapons system. Once we get it we shall have full control over it in the only circumstances in which it is ever likely to be used: that is, when supreme national interests are at stake. Let me say here that the point of a deterrent is not that it should be used but that it should not be used. It is intended to prevent circumstances arising in which it might be used.
When we explain this aspect of our policy, the decision to retain our nuclear power, we are accused—sometimes, not to-day—of using arguments which non-nuclear Powers could use to justify acquiring a nuclear capability. But surely, my Lords, this is rather a muddled accusation. The reasons why you do not give up a thing you have are not necessarily the reasons for acquiring it if you have not got it; nor does it follow that if you give it up others will necessarily follow suit. The point at issue is whether, having acquired a nuclear capability in the past, 239 we could expect to have the same influence as we have at present if we got rid of it unilaterally or allowed it to lapse. Should we, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has put it, have the same place at the peace table? I do not think there can be any doubt about that answer.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, would the noble Lord the Leader of the House kindly answer this question? I understand that the Government themselves are very much against any policy which increases the danger of a proliferation of nuclear weapons, and that France, on the other hand, are just the other way about. Bearing in mind the very reduced facilities that the Government have with regard to their being a nuclear Power, why do they pursue this policy in the light of their general idea that one should try to prevent proliferation?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, because the British have had the nuclear deterrent for a great number of years. I do not believe that our abandonment of a nuclear deterrent will make one whit of difference to those who intend to have it. There are other reasons why Her Majesty's Government intend to maintain the deterrent in being. Here I come to the question of what part our nuclear capability should play in the defence of the Free World.
There seems to be a great deal of confusion in some minds about the definition of "an independent deterrent". I think the basic position is quite simple. Our nuclear deterrent is independent in the sense that it cannot be used without the consent of Her Majesty's Government and would come into operation on a decision of Her Majesty's Government. If noble Lords opposite do not like to describe this as independent then they should think of a different definition. But this does not mean that we contemplate using it independently of the Western Alliance in hostilities in which the Alliance is engaged. The British deterrent is dovetailed with Western deterrent power as a whole. We believe most firmly that the only valid guarantee for the security of the West is nuclear interdependence on an Atlantic-wide basis. It is for this reason that we have assigned the British V- 240 bomber force to NATO and have undertaken to do the same with the Polaris submarines when we have them.
It is because the nuclear defence of the West is interdependent and indivisible that we think it is vital that there should be power, on this side of the Atlantic as well as the other, to respond to aggression with nuclear weapons if necessary. For the whole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter; and if all nuclear power were in American hands alone, then it is not inconceivable that the Soviet Union—perhaps in some situation of crisis which we cannot predict—might see advantage in a limited aggression in Europe and be tempted to believe that the United States would not risk incurring devastation in their cities in defence of a peripheral interest. I am sure they would be wrong. But by their miscalculation they would have launched the world upon nuclear catastrophe and the deterrent would have failed to deter.
We are therefore continuing to work for a deterrent responsive to the needs of the Alliance as a whole, which a potential enemy could never be certain would not be called into operation by any aggression against any part of NATO territory. There are other circumstances in which the existence of our deterrent could be useful—and when I say this I do not mean that it should be used. As I have said, the point of a deterrent is that it should not be used. Let me explain why. We are the only Power in the world with obligations to the three main defensive groups, NATO, CENTO and SEATO. We also have the other overseas defence obligations which I outlined earlier. And we provide protection for territories which depend on us in various parts of the world and help underpin the defences of those Commonwealth countries who wish us to do so.
We certainly do not contemplate using nuclear weapons as a modern version of the 19th century gunboat. But we are determined never to be in a position where we can be threatened by nuclear blackmail into failing to live up to these obligations. It is our vital interest that any nuclear Power which might contemplate threatening us with nuclear weapons in order to make us betray these obligations should know that we possess indestructible power capable of 241 hitting back and wreaking unacceptable damage. This we most certainly have the power to do. This, then is the Government's policy.
What is the policy of noble Lords opposite? As I understand it, they intend to retain the V-bombers during the rest of their useful life and have not yet made up their minds about Polaris. Why keep the V-bombers, if their cost is not worth while? Why not save the money straight away? Why retain them in order to have a bargaining counter, if you apparently do not believe that they are worth having? And have not the electorate the right to know now what the Labour Party would do about the Polaris submarines?
It is clear from what I have said earlier that the purpose of evolving a NATO deterrent responsive to the needs of the Alliance as a whole is a major interest which we share with our fellow members. I think that this point is in some danger of being forgotten in the arguments about the multi-national force. Her Majesty's Government are fully aware, of course, of the technical arguments which have been levelled against this force as a contribution to the defensive strength of the West. And we know that it could be very costly. These are some of the difficulties in the ideas which have so far been discussed. But the proposal exists. It would be unrealistic to pretend that it did not. It has its roots in the vital relationships within the Alliance and our Allies, too, are well aware of the difficulties. Nevertheless, they have decided to study the idea more closely. So we have agreed, without any commitment about subsequent decisions, to take part with our Allies in an objective examination of the project in all its aspects and possible variations.
Earlier on, I suggested that there were two main questions which we should ask ourselves. The first was whether we could cut any commitments, and the second, whether we are getting value for money. Unavoidably, 58 per cent. of the total defence budget is spent on pay and such items as works and buildings, fuel and food, and so on. The remainder is available for maintaining weapons in service and re-equipping the Forces with the most modern and up-to-date weapons, including both research and 242 production of them. Another problem which has greatly increased since the war is that the cost of equipment has risen very steeply indeed. As weapons become ever more sophisticated, ever more complicated, their cost has tended to soar. Everybody can think of examples of this. For example, before the war, a submarine cost £350,000. To-day a conventional submarine costs about £3 million and a nuclear submarine nearly £20 million. During the war a Crusader tank cost about £9,000; a Chieftain tank will cost about £90,000. And there are many other examples. The Halifax bomber cost £38,000; the Vulcan costs about £1 million. Even allowing for a factor of three in the change in the value of money, these increases are of a very high order indeed. The result has been—and this applies to other major Powers as well as to ourselves—a tendency to concentrate on the production of fewer units of equipment of greater effectiveness.
We must be certain that the weapons we have are the best that can be devised, since we can have relatively few of them. I am not going into all the equipment of the three Services. My noble friend the First Lord will be winding up and will answer some of the questions which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, put to me, but I feel that I ought to say something at this stage about the TSR 2, about which there has been a great deal of argument. I was very glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, had to say about the TSR 2, and I only wish that he could convince some of his friends in his Party that they would be better not to go around running down the TSR 2 all the time and to take a rather more objective view of it.
As I understand them, the criticisms made about the TSR 2—not by the noble Lord—are as follows. It is too sophisticated; it will cost £20 million an aircraft to produce; we should have waited for an American aircraft; the Australians have not bought it, so it must be no good; the Conservatives will cancel it; it could not be used in the Far East; and we have added to its cost by building in an unneeded nuclear capacity.
My Lords, if there is real substance to these arguments, the sooner the TSR 2 is cancelled the better. But there is not. 243 Of course it is sophisticated. It needs to be. Otherwise we should go on making Canberras. Sophistication is necessary if we are to have the capability to penetrate the air defence and radar environments of our potential enemies. There is need for deep penetration for strike or reconnaissance; a capacity to fly low at high speed over long distances. And all this necessarily leads to an aircraft of great complexity. Certainly any aircraft of this performance costs a great deal of money. But the cost will certainly not be £1,000 million or £20 million an aircraft. As for buying the American TFX, the fact is that the United States started work on it only two years after we had begun work on the TSR 2.
I do not intend to enter into the controversy as to why the Australians did or did not buy this aircraft. This seems to me to be their business, and certainly we wish them well with the aircraft of their choice.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that it is our business? We had great hopes that we should be able to supply this aircraft to the Australian Government. Can the Minister say what were the terms we offered?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I cannot say that. But what I can say is that of course we are disappointed that we did not sell the aircraft to the Australians. We were very keen to do so, and it would have been a very good thing from the point of view of the manufacturers. But it seems to me that the decision on what aircraft should be bought is entirely a matter for the Australian Government and not one for Her Majesty's Government at all.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, does that mean that the Government gave no assistance at all to the people who were working on the intended production of this aircraft? The noble Lord says that it is not the Government's business.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
With respect, my Lords, I did not say that. What I said was that the decision finally reached by the Australian Government was their business and not ours. Of course, we would rather they had chosen our aircraft, and of course we did what we 244 could both to help the manufacturer and to persuade the Australian Government to buy it. But they are a sovereign Government and it seems to me that they can take what decision they please.
As to cancellation, the Government have no intention whatever of doing so. That sort of accusation, the purpose of which is quite unclear to me, is likely to damage the reputation of the aircraft and make it less likely to attract sales abroad. As to the Far East, about which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked me, the TSR 2 was designed for operation in that area and will have the long range which would be required in that theatre. Finally, no additional capability has been built into the aircraft for the purpose of carrying nuclear weapons. It so happens that this is a versatile aircraft which will be capable of being used in both conventional and nuclear rôles. Nobody can pretend that these are not difficult issues. But I do not see the purpose of the Opposition—nor, indeed, I think does the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—seeking to destroy the reputation of this aircraft before it has flown. I know that the R.A.F. are confident that the TSR 2 is a weapons system which will be of great value for many years to come.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord has answered a great many points that have not been made in this House. I wonder whether he could give a reply to some of the points that have been made. I thank him for his statement about the Far East rôle. But what we really want to know something about is the cost of the TSR 2.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, it is not customary to give the cost of research developments—I have checked this—but I would draw the attention of the noble Lord to the statement made by the Minister of Defence in Dundee yesterday, when he said that Mr. Healey's suggestion that it would cost £20 million, was exaggerating by about ten.
Another aircraft which has been in the news is the Hawker P 1154 Vertical Take-off supersonic strike fighter. As your Lordships will know, we had hoped that it would be possible to produce a combined replacement for the Hawker Hunter of the Royal Air Force and for the Sea Vixen of the Royal Navy. Such 245 a solution would offer useful economies, both in production and in operation. This project has run into difficulties because of the different operational requirements of the two Services. I should like to emphasise that these difficulties are technical. They do not derive from any rivalries between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as some people would have it. We are still examining this project, and in view of the complexity of the subject the examination may take some time to complete. There is thus inevitably some uncertainty about the future of the project, but I should like to make it clear that no decision has been taken, notwithstanding suggestions which have appeared to the contrary. I am afaid that I have taken rather a long time, and, if I may, I will leave the question of manpower to my noble friend the First Lord, who will deal with this in some detail when he winds up the debate.
My Lords, the Opposition have put down this Motion of Censure on the Government's Defence policy. We on this side of the House are, I think, entitled to ask them what their policy would be. What exactly is their policy about the deterrent? Will they continue with Polaris? What commitments do they intend to cut? Is it the official policy of the Labour Party gradually to down-grade our obligations in the Far East and the Middle East? They talk of increases in conventional forces. How would they finance this?—since even if they abandoned our deterrent the amount of money made available is only one-tenth of the total Defence budget. And when they talk of large increases in conventional forces, how would they recruit more men when they themselves are attacking us for shortfalls in the present size of the Army? Would not an increase in the total numbers of the Forces inevitably mean the reintroduction of conscription? All these are questions to which we on this side are entitled to an answer.
I started off my speech by asking how one judged whether a defence policy was effective. I suggest that the answer is that it can be judged by its success or failure. Have we honoured our obligations and commitments? Have we kept the peace? Have we stood by our friends and Allies? In the twelve years 246 of successive Conservative Governments we have succeeded in every one of these objectives, and I do not doubt that when the people of this country are called upon to choose between our policy and the policy of the Opposition, so far as they know it, they will resoundingly declare their confidence in the policy of the Government.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he tell us whether he is satisfied that we have honoured our obligation to NATO and our promise to maintain 55,000 troops in Germany?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I was expecting an answer from the Leader of the House to the questions put so carefully by my noble friend about recruiting, the size of the Forces in B.A.O.R. and the like.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I think perhaps the noble Earl did not hear what I said. I wish no discourtesy to the House, but I did speak for rather a long time, and as there are two Government speakers, and one is my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, we divided the subjects up between us, and I thought it would be convenient if he discussed the matter of manpower.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House has dealt so effectively with the attack made upon the Government that it is really unnecessary for me to intervene at any great length, but I wish to speak, if only to show that my noble friend has the whole of his followers with him. Frankly, I am surprised that the Opposition have selected the Government's Defence policy as the subject of a vote of censure, such as this Amendment is. I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who always speaks so ably and agreeably, could find a more fertile field for his imaginative invective. Having read the speech of Mr. Brown in another place, and having heard last Thursday the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, I am the more surprised, because nothing could be more noticeable in those two speeches than the 247 discrepancy between them. I will return to that in a moment.
I should have thought that the Government's Defence policy was sound. I believe it to be sound in the machinery of Defence; that is, in the new comprehensive Ministry which we shall be debating when we get the Bill. I believe it to be sound in its concept and application of policy, both to meet our needs and duties towards our Allies and also to meet emergencies and responsibilities where we have to rely most upon ourselves, in the Middle East and the Far East. For all these needs and responsibilities it seems to me that efficiency and readiness are more important than numbers. This, I think, is true of all the Services: that personnel should be well-equipped, highly-trained and practised to work together. That certainly is true of Europe, where, I am glad to say, the danger seems less than it was. It is equally true of the Middle East and the Far East, where trouble is much more likely. The policy of having combined Forces on the ground in the area, and in these commando brigades (as I think they are called) on aircraft carriers, with the ability to reinforce rapidly by air, which is the policy and practice being carried out by the Government, seems to me not only to be right in theory, but to have been proved in practice to be thoroughly sound policy.
I may add that I think the Government showed foresight—they are accused of never having had foresight—in providing staging posts for reinforcement by air on islands which are under our control. They also showed wisdom in retaining the Gurkhas—and I am glad that the number is not going to be reduced. I am saying nothing new in this, because I advocated it in the Defence debate. I do not think I had to convince the Government, but I am glad to see that they take the same sensible view that I took. The Gurkhas have proved to be admirable in Malaysia.
On the equipment of the Forces, I should like to add a word or two about the two aircraft to which my noble friend the Leader of the House referred. I should like to criticise some of the things Lord Shackleton said; but I would welcome, as an old associate in connection with the air, the generous 248 but very true things which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about the TSR 2. I only know what I have been able to read about it, but I believe it to be an admirable example of the right kind of equipment for combined operations. Apart altogether from its individual value to the Air Force for what I may call pure air operations—and I believe its range, capacity and versatility to be considerable—I think it has tremendous value for combined operations. Indeed, it would appear to me to fill the essential dual rôle in combined operations and meeting the Army's needs.
The Army has always looked to the R.A.F. to do two things: first of all, reconnaissance, and reconnaissance often a very long way behind the enemy lines; and, secondly, to bomb enemy targets, again often very far beyond the enemy lines and far inside enemy territory. Both those rôles were indispensable in the desert and in Europe. Nobody realises that better than the noble and gallant Field Marshal. May I say to him, as an old Air Minister from the days when co-operation was not as good in combined operations as it is to-day, that no one ever used an Air Force better than he did in the admirable partnership he had with his Air Commander-in-Chief? It was something to delight the heart of a man who many years ago had a rather uphill battle in fighting the cause of co-operation against self-sufficiency. Those rôles were vitally necessary in the last war, and, whatever else may become obsolete and out of date, so long as there are conventional forces at all, so long will those dual rôles be required. It seems to me that the TSR 2 is admirably suited for both.
I agree that there has been a great deal of unfortunate criticism of this aircraft because of the Australian episode. So far as I know, there has been no criticism in Australia of the technical or operational efficiency of the aircraft, and the Leader of the House is probably in a position to confirm that. As I understand it, the only reason why the Australian Government bought this American aircraft, which is not yet proved, was that they had an extraordinarily favourable financial offer. The terms have been published by the Australian Government, and they are what one might almost call fantastically—I was going to say "generous" but it is not necessarily because of 249 generosity; because on cost of production the extent to which you can write off your development and experimental costs depends entirely on the number of aircraft you sell. The Americans, having an enormous home market for this aircraft, were able to offer—I dare say there were other reasons actuating them as well—aircraft to the Australians at an extraordinarily low price. That, I believe, is the only reason why it was bought. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here, and that is an extension of co-operation between the British aircraft industry and aircraft manufacturers in Europe to get a larger production on lines which are already being developed in at least one instance.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not think the noble Earl has given all the facts. First of all, the American aircraft, which I agree is unproved, had certain operational features, including variable geometry which we should have liked. I understand there was not all that difference between the offers. In both cases, the R. and D. costs were written off, as they usaully are. I do not want to get into an argument as to how far the Government are to blame. I personally think they could have done more, but the trouble was that we did not get our bargaining right, and our final offer was too late. There were certain other technical arguments, but it is all complicated. I think it is a good idea that the noble Earl has pressed it, and although we should not expect the Government to answer it to-day, I think there is an object lesson in this.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, of course the noble Lord may be better informed about the internal workings of the Government than I am, or perhaps we are both equally uninformed. At any rate, I have put what I believe to be the position. I do not know whether the Government could have done more, but certainly it was an extraordinarily liberal offer which was made by the Americans, and it is for the Government to say whether they did not do all that they could. At any rate, I am extremely relieved to have confirmed again to-day what the Minister of Aviation has already said: that there is no question of cancelling the TSR 2. I dare say the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able to give us, 250 so far as he can with propriety, any further progress report upon this subject.
Just one word about the vertical take off aircraft, P 1154. We do not quite know what is happening with regard to that. Like the TSR 2, it appears exactly to meet the needs of the R.A.F. and the Army. It has one enormous advantage: it needs no runways and if it is used on board ship it needs no arrester gear. The fact that it can operate from the smallest strip in a jungle seems to me to make it a most admirable weapon for the Far East and the Middle East. We have been great pioneers in the aircraft industry in vertical take off. I believe that if this aircraft is proceeded with, as I hope it will be, it will be likely to have a very good export market. To cancel it would certainly be a serious blow to British aviation and British aviation development and reputation, and, I think, also a considerable loss to our export trade.
A good deal of play has been made about recruiting. I do not know what the exact figures are, but it may be that in recent months the target has not been reached. When you get a very prosperous country, and employment in most areas very good indeed, recruiting is almost bound to go down. In one sense that is the penalty of the success of the Government's economic policy. Suggestions have been thrown out—I am not quite sure where the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, stood upon this matter in his tentative observations—that we might return to conscription. Certainly we should need to if we were to go for the great increase in conventional forces which the Socialist Opposition was advocating in the last Session of Parliament, supported, I think, by the Liberals—supported by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, who appears to take his views entirely from General de Gaulle, but whether he speaks for the Liberal Party I am not quite sure. Certainly, so far as I could follow it, the essay which Lord Grantchester read to us to-day might have been written in the Quai D'Orsay. For all I know perhaps it was; but I must not penetrate into the arcana of the Liberal Party. But I believe that it would be very wrong; and it would be quite unnecessary to introduce conscription. With the complex weapons and the combined training of 251 to-day, one of the few things we all agree upon is that what we need is a long-service Army with a minimum of six or seven years, in the first instance, with the Colours. It would be quite hopeless to go back to a form of conscription which had a maximum of two years. If we were to have conscription, it would be necessary, to make any use of the men we had called up and trained, to keep them with the Colours for three years or considerably longer.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, would the noble Earl permit me to interrupt? Without wishing to appear to be advocating conscription, I would ask him if he does not agree that we are, I believe, the only country in Europe that does not depend on national service? The United States has limited national service, and they can produce the men to deal with all these difficult forms of equipment.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I have no doubt that we are the only nation without national service. But again I think that one of the things we ought to know, as this discussion develops, is: is the noble Lord advocating going back to conscription? I am perfectly clear: I am against going back to conscription whatever other countries may do. I do not believe it is possible to train people—certainly not in combined operations—as quickly as all that, and I believe that we must keep the men much longer with the Colours if we are to get the efficiency and the sort of Army that we want for our purposes, with the mobile reserves which can be sent all over the world in any kind of operation. At any rate, that would be my view. In addition to that we should be putting into training units trained men who are greatly needed in their operational units. I believe that the best thing is to have good conditions in the Services (which I believe we have to-day) and to give a very good training for after-Service life.
The most important and the most controversial issue over defence, is, of course, the deterrent; the importance of the deterrent and our having our own deterrent. The fact that we are contributing it to the NATO Alliance while at the same time retaining the decision how and when to use it independently and the right to use it in a grave national 252 emergency, seems to me to make perfectly plain what an independent deterrent is. I am wholeheartedly with the Government in their decision. I am only surprised that the Labour Party have changed their attitude on this. As I see it, all the arguments which led the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and Mr. Bevin, when they were responsible, to decide to make our own atom bomb apply just as much and with equal force to-day. Noble Lords will observe that when they took that decision it was at a time when the Americans had the bomb and the Russians had not, and yet at that time they took, and rightly took, and we supported them, the decision to make it. It is quite impossible, as the Leader of the House said, to divorce the military and the political aspects. The Labour Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary took their decisions on combined grounds.
On the political side, let me make it perfectly clear that it is not a question of prestige as has been said, it is a question of the power to influence foreign policy. That has been said before but it is just as well to go on saying it because this will be an issue and must be an issue on which we, at any rate, are perfectly clear in what we mean and what we say. Without our own deterrent we should certainly not have a right to intervene in some of the most important issues. If we had not had our own deterrent we should have had no right to be at Moscow. Indeed, why would we have been there? It was only because we were a nuclear Power that we were there; and if we had not been at Moscow I do not know whether we should have ever had the Treaty which has brought such new hope to the world. My Lords, I am also sure that most of our NATO Allies in Europe want us to have this deterrent both for its military value, which is considerable, and for the influence it gives us in foreign affairs, where they look to us and trust us. Do not let us denigrate our own country. Great Britain is still great; great in strength and certainly great in experience, in wisdom and in leadership.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I hope it has not been suggested by such an old friend in joint defence of this country that the Labour Party is to be sort of brought 253 on charge as denigrating their own country. I protest at all this kind of thing which is being raised from time to time by other people, although I am not charging the noble Earl with it. But those of us who were chosen to lead in important posts in a great war not led into by Labour but led into by Conservative Governments and improperly prepared, and who, in the great stress of economic pressure upon us between 1945 and 1951, handed over to the Tories a really powerful defence organisation protest against this constant repetition of denigrating our own country. I will not have it.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I do not know whether the noble Earl will have it or not. We certainly have a great deal of rodomontade from the noble Earl and he really must contain himself and listen when other people on another side of the House speak. I am not in the habit of saying what I am not prepared to justify; and I am coming to what was said by the gentleman who speaks for his Party for defence about our incapacity to do this nuclear business. That is what I call denigrating the country. It is all right if the noble Earl likes to call it something else. The noble Earl is so content because he was First Lord of the Admiralty in the War, and I am very glad he was. But, after all, he did not win the war all by himself. We all took our parts in a modest way in both Wars.
I should like now to develop this just a little bit. At any rate, we are told to abandon the deterrent. I will not bother about heckling the noble Earl as to whether he is going to get rid of the weapons at once or whether he is going to wait. Incidently, if he does not believe in having the deterrent what is the good of keeping the weapons? I should have thought that if he was out on the economy stunt, he must get rid of weapons and make a clean sweep of the whole thing. But does anybody really believe that it is in our interests or in the interests of Europe that France should be the only nuclear Power in Western Europe? Does anybody suppose that if we were to drop this deterrent General de Gaulle and Mao Tse-tung would immediately follow suit? I notice that Mr. Brown has told us that he has addressed General de Gaulle on this sub 254 ject—I do not know whether directly or secondhand—and, like George Robey, the old comedian, has told him to desist. I do not know that that had any very great effect upon General de Gaulle. I have not seen any yet. If noble Lords believe that by our dropping the deterrent the French and the Chinese (who are trying to develop it and will in the long run develop something) will drop it, they will believe anything.
Now let me come in conclusion to the discrepancies between Mr. Brown, the speaker on Defence, I understand, for the Socialist Party, and our old friend Lord Henderson. Mr. Brown said (I summarise) that it is futile for any European country to try to be a nuclear Power; they have not got the money; they have not got the resources; they have not got the scientists. Incidentally, our scientists, at any rate, are second to none in the world. But he said it is futile; they cannot do it; we cannot do it, and the French will find they cannot do it; and no country without the resources of either Russia or the United States can do it. That is one point of view. I do not agree with it. But just contrast that with what Lord Henderson said to us here only last Thursday. One of his arguments in favour of our scrapping the nuclear bomb was to prevent every other country in the world from proliferating and producing it. He said that if we do not scrap it all those countries, or a large number of countries, will start making their own bombs. Both those cannot be right; you cannot ride both those horses in the same race, and the Labour Party had better make up their mind which horse they are going to ride.
This question of the nuclear deterrent has been argued almost entirely on Europe. It is not confined to Europe. Indeed, I am happy to think that the danger in Europe is much less than, or certainly less than, it was. But if the danger in Europe has lessened, the danger in the Far East has increased. If Russia has abandoned the use of force as an essential element in the Communist campaign, China certainly has not abandoned it. Indeed, it is this difference—the Chinese insisting on maintaining that force is an essential element in the Communist armoury in the cold war as well as the hot—that has led to the split between China and Russia. 255 China believes in the use of force and China is doing its best to develop an atomic weapon, and sooner or later it will get one. I do not know whether it will be a very good one, but, at any rate, in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king. If nobody had an atomic weapon or nuclear weapon against whatever the Chinese have, then the Chinese would be supreme.
We have this weapon as a deterrent. Does anybody suppose that the Chinese are developing, or trying to develop, an atomic bomb simply as a deterrent? It is entirely inconsistent with Chinese theory and indeed with Chinese practice. Malaysia, with which the Labour Party, I am glad to say, support our alliance, Australia, all the independent countries of Eastern Europe, are increasingly under the Chinese menace, and Indonesia, with a vast population, appears to be becoming a Chinese satellite, and a pretty aggressive satellite at that. How can we hope to discharge our duty and our obligation to defend Malaysia and Australia and to play our part in the defence of the other free countries of the Far East if we, in that most vulnerable area, were to deprive ourselves of this most important weapon?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Earl is pursuing his argument very far. Is he really suggesting that Polaris submarines—he will have heard of Polaris submarines, which are the latest version of the Government deterrent—are going to be a factor in dealing with the situation in South East Asia?
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
No, I do not. The noble Lord is fond of interrupting. But it seems to me that the TSR 2 might be an extraordinarily effective vehicle to have as a deterrent in South East Asia. It is not quite as easy as all that. The noble Lord will not get away with that kind of cross examination. The youngest tyro at the Bar would do better than that. What I suggest to him, if I may respectfully make a suggestion, is that the Labour Party—it will not be the first time they have thought again; it will not be the first time they have eaten their words in matters of Defence, not at all an unwholesome diet, as Sir Winston Churchill once said—would be very well 256 advised to think again; and meanwhile, while they are thinking again, or even if they do not think again, those who believe in and cling to peace based upon security will support the Defence policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 4.57 p.m.
My Lords, in the gracious Speech of Her Majesty mention was made of the proposed central organisation for Defence. I am certainly one of those who support this proposal in the hope that this integration at the top will have the effect of reducing expenditure in administration, and I hope it will make cheaper the supply of weapons. I would suggest that integration of weapons is likely to be a much more difficult problem. We are already aware of the difficulties over the vertical take-off fighters for the R.A.F. and the Royal Navy. Also we have the example of the new TSR 2 and the Buccaneer of the Navy, both of which are designed, I would say, to carry out somewhat similar functions. The letters TSR 2 mean a tactical strike aircraft. Its strategical performance is something rather new to us.
The cost of the Buccaneer is, I believe, one-tenth of the cost of the TSR 2, but the Air Force maintain that the TSR 2 is the only possible design for them. I fully appreciate the statement already made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about this aircraft, but I hope Her Majesty's Government will be able to enlarge on this matter a little later to-day. The amount of money involved in producing the TSR 2 is very laree indeed. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has mentioned its power of penetration into Russia, but I think it is true to say that it is very limited at subsonic speed at low level, and that is a point we have to remember. I think there is great danger if attempts are made to design what might be called an integrated weapon for the two Services, and perhaps even the three Services. We may get a weapon which is not really suitable for either; that might well happen.
I want to turn to something rather different. A few weeks ago I was able to visit a good deal of the front line of NATO, both in Scandinavia and elsewhere, as a Parliamentary delegate to 257 NATO. I found the front line with Russia in the far North in Norway particularly interesting but none the less, I would say, very disquieting. I do not believe aggression will ever start in Central Europe, but I think it may well start one day in the northern Scandinavian area. At the present time it would be quite possible for the Russians to infiltrate into those many northern fiords with little initial resistance and establish their much needed submarine bases free of ice. It is true that the new mobile air lift force which is now being established by NATO will go a long way to provide supporting strength quickly, but the danger is that aggression in this area could become a fait accompli in a short time, and it would take a major war to turn them out. I suggest that in this area there is one important matter which requires early attention—namely, the stockpiling of heavy equipment, otherwise supporting forces will be of little avail. I understand the reason for this deficiency in stockpiling is not lack of organisation but lack of money, and I hope that Her Majesty's representative on the Council of NATO will look into this matter as soon as possible. The strength of a chain is its weakest link, and the present link in the north of Scandinavia is very weak indeed.
The Minister of Defence not long ago said that the transfer of the nuclear deterrent from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy in Polaris would not jeopardise the Navy's chances of getting conventional weapons. This point has been touched on slightly by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, this evening. I must say that I still feel rather sceptical about this, more especially as the TSR 2 will no doubt continue to carry the deterrent when it comes into service, at great additional cost. I should like further assurance on this point, especially as to whether the aircraft carrier programme will be continued. The Party opposite have more or less said that the independent British nuclear deterrent is no more than a visible symbol—that it was neither British nor independent. I entirely disagree with this reasoning. We must, and shall have to, keep control of Polaris and TSR 2 in a great national emergency. To scrap the deterrent would, I am sure, greatly impair the independence of this country in foreign policy; and I entirely support Her 258 Majesty's Government in their determination to keep the deterrent and also subscribe it to our Allies in a NATO nuclear force.
I am not at all clear even now about the policy of the Party opposite. Is their policy to remove nuclear weapons from the front line troops in Germany and perhaps cancel the Polaris agreement? Also, would they tie our existing nuclear forces to NATO without the right to withdraw under any circumstances? I understood from what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was saying, that their policy is really one of wait and see. I may have got that wrong, but that is what I understood. We have heard a great deal about the proposed multilateral fleet of ships. I cannot help feeling that they would be a great waste of money and of little military value. In addition to the initial cost of the ships themselves, they would have to be fully protected at sea by air and submarine cover which would greatly increase the expense involved. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will firmly resist any pressure that may be put upon them to enter the multilateral club.
On the other hand, I am in complete agreement with noble Lords opposite that we should endeavour to develop within NATO a unified strategic planning system. Some of your Lordships may be aware that steps have already been taken in this direction by the establishment of a multilateral committee at the American Strategic Air Force base at Omaha in Nebraska. The Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, maintains that Her Majesty's Government have not made proper provision to meet our national commitments. I entirely disagree with that, especially as regards the Navy, as he and I know. Surely the noble Earl will agree that during the tenure of office of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, vast developments have occurred to bring the Navy up to date as a strong and fine fighting force. This is not a debate on the Navy and I do not propose to enter into detail. I would just mention that we have the new type Commando vessel, the new assault craft, the guided missile destroyers, the nuclear-powered attack submarine and, last but not least, the nuclear-powered Polaris submarine which is now in production. I consider that this Amendment is almost 259 an affront to the Royal Navy, which is now a small but modern, up-to-date fighting force, and well capable of carrying out its commitments, although perhaps stretched to its limits. I shall have no hesitation in voting against this Amendment.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, we have had a stimulating and certainly entertaining debate. I am glad that this is so, because I believe that Parliament is the place in which we should discuss defence matters, and not on the election platform of either Party. It is quite obvious to anyone who has seen the Services, and has gone to Paris, that when making decisions one has to take into account matters of great security. I will refer later on to the position in South-East Asia. It would be utterly wrong of me to-day to speak in any detail of the deployment of our forces, the number of troops that are available and their equipment. But if we are to discuss defence and the independent nuclear deterrent, we have to look at the whole broad field of defence.
First of all, I wish to ask the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, whether he can give us some further information about a speech which was made at Callander, in Perthshire, by the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister. He said on October 29:I think we will be able quite shortly to begin with the physical process of reduction of armaments and use the expenditure for other more peaceful purposes.In the context of defence as we know it to-day, and in view of the speeches that have been made, in particular, by Mr. Thorneycroft, it is quite obvious that if this country is to maintain its independent nuclear deterrent and provide an adequate conventional force to meet its overseas commitments, there can be no question of reduction in costs. But here is a statement made by the Prime Minister, when fighting an election in Kinross, and I should like the noble Earl to say now whether the Government foresee an early stage when there can be a reduction in arms expenditure. I would remind the noble Earl that in 1956, I think, Mr. Macmillan promised a reduction of £700 million in defence expenditure. That 260 was never possible. Year by year we have seen a continual rise in expenditure, and I believe that Mr. Thorneycroft, who should know, has stated that shortly we should be reaching the £2,000 million a year cost for defence. So I would hope that the noble Earl will give us a reply as to whether this was an election gimmick or whether it is policy. The Prime Minister has said that the country is entitled to know Government policy. He is the spokesman of the Government, and therefore I think we are entitled to an explanation of this particular offer.
Noble Lords opposite have spoken at considerable length about the independent deterrent. This is to become the issue at the next General Election. Every noble Lord opposite, particularly the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, made repeated reference to the word "keeping"—"keeping" the deterrent. They said in terms that an independent deterrent weapon, whether it be a warhead or a delivery system, remains modern and credible as the years progress. We ourselves have seen weapons coming in and weapons going out because of the advance of the enemy in finding a counter-measure. We have seen weapons undertaken by Her Majesty's Government—Blue Streak, for example—which were never brought into service because during the time of production and development they became obsolete and ceased to be credible for the defence of this country.
We on this side of the House take great pride in the history and the record of our Government after the war. We certainly decided to go ahead with the atomic bomb, and we were right to do it. But I would remind the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that we went ahead with the atomic weapon before NATO was created. We went ahead with it before any regional or world-wide defence organisation was set up, and before the United States had clearly committed herself to the defence of Europe. We went ahead with it because we recognised that the atomic weapon would give us greater security for our forces. I would also remind the Government, and noble Lords opposite—and the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in particular—that when we went ahead and produced the atomic weapon we were providing very much 261 superior conventional forces, Army, Navy and Air Force, than we have today in relation to the dangers that presented themselves to this country.
But times change; weapons change. We are no longer standing in isolation. We are members of a defence organisation in Europe, in the Middle East and in the Far East. The dangers are different; the weapons and the forces that oppose us are different. It is true that in Europe we have been able to preserve peace because of the deterrent power of the West. It is recognised that the deterrent power of the United States is sufficient to destroy Russia two or three times over. Our particular contribution is perhaps some 2 to 3 per cent.—formidable in destructive power, but only a very small percentage in comparison with the overall might of the Western deterrent forces. If the Government say that we need to keep an independent deterrent to protect us in case the United States withdraws from Europe, my answer is that I wonder whether the Government can say whether the force we now have, in which second-strike retaliation would be needed, would be strong enough to provide a nuclear deterrent umbrella for Europe. I do not believe there is any military specialist who could say that that particular deterrent would be credible, in view of the geographical position of this country and the particular weight of the equipment of the Soviet Union.
The Government's main case in recent weeks has been that we need to retain the independent deterrent because it gives us a right to a place at the peace table. They cite the case of the nuclear Test Ban Treaty which was signed in Moscow. There is no evidence to show that we should not have been at that table even if we had given up the nuclear weapon. I believe that the case being made by the Prime Minister is a most dangerous philosophy. If it is said that we need to have the nuclear weapon in order to be at the peace table, surely this is a direct incitement to every country in Europe in some way or other to obtain nuclear weapons. It may well divert countries which should be producing more conventional weapons and providing troops in Europe to put their effort into producing nuclear weapons. 262 I should have thought that it was the policy of noble Lords opposite, as well as of those who sit on this side of the House, to endeavour to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, not only in Europe but in the rest of the world. But the philosophy now being expressed by the Prime Minister, and by noble Lords opposite, seems to be a direct incitement that unless one has nuclear weapons one has no right to be at the peace table when the conference is held.
I would remind the House of the words of the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Butler, who talked in most disparaging terms of our Allies and our friends in the Commonwealth. He posed the question that either one had to possess nuclear weapons or one became a camp follower in world affairs. I would remind your Lordships that a camp follower in olden days was somebody of dubious honour. I do no suggest that that is what Mr. Butler meant, but certainly he meant to imply that any nation which did not have nuclear weapons was a second-class Power. And if we follow that with what the Prime Minister has said, it indicates that because they are second-class they therefore have no right at the peace table.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with his knowledge, will agree that if we are to look for nuclear disarmament we shall have to take into account conventional disarmament: one cannot disarm nuclear-wise without bringing about a reduction in conventional forces. Therefore it is obvious that Germany, which already has the biggest conventional force in Western Europe, would have to have a seat at the table. This is a dangerous philosophy, and I hope that if the Government are going to make a case for an independent deterrent they will base it on military grounds, and not on what we call the status symbol.
We take the view that, with the change in times and with the change in weapons, we should take another look at our defence. We take the view (and I think the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, also takes this view) that we cannot have adequate conventional forces at the same time as an independent deterrent. I should like to make it clear that it is not enough to rely on the weapons 263 one now possesses if one is going to claim to be an independent deterrent Power; it is necessary to go on and on producing new weapons or purchasing such weapons from overseas. The cost is formidable, and I agree 100 per cent. with the noble and gallant Viscount that, with costs at the level they are to-day, it is not possible to pursue indefinitely the independent deterrent and at the same time have adequate conventional forces.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked us to make quite clear where the Labour Party stand on this question of defence. First of all, we reject the status symbol. We intend to retain the control—and I deliberately use the word "control"—of the V-bombers and the new equipment, Blue Steel, assigned to NATO for targeting and operations. This means that we still retain the control over the use of those aircraft in other areas of the world. In regard to TSR 2 and Polaris, these two pieces of equipment—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree—are in an identical position to the P 1154. Both of them are instruments, vehicles, which are being produced and developed. In the case of TSR 2, it is not yet flying. I believe that if all goes well it may be a remarkable aircraft, a tremendous tribute to the aircraft industry, but this aircraft is still in its very early stages. In the case of the Polaris (the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will correct me if I am wrong), we originally set out to buy the A3 Polaris missile. I understand that this particular missile has not the range that we require, and that we are buying another mark.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
No: we set out to buy A3 and we are buying it. It is being developed and has not yet come into service with the United States Navy; but they are going ahead with it.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am glad to have that correction, because it has been reported in the Press that the A3 failed in its distance and that we were to have A4. But this is still a development weapon.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
With great respect, although it is perfectly legitimate to argue that the TSR 2 is still under development I do not think it is possible to argue that in the case of 264 Polaris. Although there is development of the missile, the Polaris submarine with its weapons has been in service for a number of years. It is a well-tried and proven weapon system.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
But this particular Polaris is of longer range, and is, I understand, a considerable departure from the original missiles, which I agree are in service. But both these weapons are still under-developed. The attitude of my Party is this. We reserve the identical rights that Her Majesty's Government now have to review those pieces of equipment when we take office; to decide whether they should be brought into service. I think I can make it quite clear—and I speak with no more authority than any other of my colleagues on this Bench—that if these weapons meet up to the requirements of the Services at that time, if they meet up to what they have been designed to perform, there is no question that we shall not bring these pieces of equipment into service.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I did not say that we could not afford it. I was asked specifically what we should do with these two pieces of equipment. This is what I have said. In regard to cost, it is true that it is a formidable problem. We take the view that while these equipments are in fact being produced, and are in a very advanced state—I suppose the greater amount of the money for development has already been spent—we are not committing ourselves to that further. But what we say is that we cannot see our way, within the budget that will be available for defence, to continuing into the missile field any independent nuclear deterrent.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree that we have moved away from land aircraft; we have moved away from missiles on the ground, such as Thor and Blue Streak. We have now reached the stage when missiles have either to be under the ground—which we cannot undertake in this country—or under the sea, which we have now accepted. But it is true, is it not, that the Soviet and the United States are working on the placing of nuclear weapons in outer space?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
If I understood the noble Lord correctly, I thought he said, in the opening passages of his speech, that he agreed with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that we could not afford to have both the nuclear deterrent and conventional forces. If I understand him at all, what he is saying now is that if the Polaris submarine and the TSR 2 work, the Labour Party will continue with them. I do not quite understand how these two arguments add up.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Lord is not so naïve as not to understand. We have already spent considerable sums of money both on the TSR 2 and on the development of the Polaris submarine. It would be absolute madness, surely, having spent this money, to reject these particular weapons out of hand if they meet up with the requirements.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
We already have the design work in being, and I understand that the keel of one of the submarines has been laid. No doubt by the time there is a change of Government, there will be a good deal more development in regard to the Polaris submarine. However, I have tried to make our position clear in regard to TSR 2 and Polaris. But we take the view that in the future we cannot maintain the conventional forces which we so urgently require and, at the same time, proceed in the missile race.
My Lords, I should like to say one thing in regard to the Far East; and I think one has to be very careful how figures are deployed. We are facing in the Far East—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has recently been out there—a very serious position. I cannot but feel, after having talked to some of our Service officers, that they are perhaps rather underestimating the power of the Indonesians. It is all very nice to be able to write them off, but they have considerable modern equipment and they would be operating in a terrain which would be more conducive to them than to ourselves. The front in Borneo is about 1,000 miles. I should have thought that the troops we have 266 out there—who I believe represent about half of our strategic reserve—might be quite adequate in the present conditions, but there is considerable talk in the Far East that Sukarno intends to put on the pressure next year. I hope that the Government can indicate their ability to provide further troops for this area, because I believe—and here we talk of the deterrent—that what really counts is what we have out there and not what can be put into the pipeline.
I am sure that if we could present a firm front, with adequate forces to meet any challenge, this would be likely to deter Dr. Sukarno from any particular operation. But it seems to me, when one looks at that very long line of communication, that we come back to the old story in regard to Transport Command, which we have heard many times from all quarters of this House. Our Fleet is very inadequate. It is true that we expect the VC 10 in about a year's time. We look forward to the Belfast. But, my Lords, I wonder whether the Government can give us any indication of how they are likely to be able to sustain a build-up in the Far East, with their Transport Command availability.
Recently I was in Germany, and I saw our forces there. To me the biggest indictment of the Government must lie in B.A.O.R. I certainly agree with my noble friend Lord Shackleton about the tremendous morale of the British officers and soldiers in Germany, who are serving in very difficult circumstances. We are committed to 55,000 men. I believe Mr. Thorneycroft has said that we have in the region of 51,000. My Lords, if we say that what counts is what is in the field at any one time, it is obvious that the strength of the British Army is nowhere near 51,000. It must surely be in the region of 47,000 or 48,000, when you take into account leave and the many courses which our soldiers undertake.
I wonder how many battalions in B.A.O.R. to-day—and perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, could tell us this—consist of two companies. I wonder whether the noble Earl can tell us the state of readiness of our armoured regiments. One particular regiment I visited had 20 per cent. of its armoured vehicles off the road because there were insufficient trained soldiers to man them. 267 The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, was himself recently in Germany seeing his regiment, and I have no doubt he will be able to say what was the position in his own regiment. If it was like any of the other infantry battalions, it was desperately short of men. That is all due to the fact that we have had this considerable run-down in the Army because of the abolition of National Service. I think there is an undoubted case that a Regular Army is efficient, but I believe that the Government were utterly wrong to abolish National Service when they did, because there was no political pressure on them to do so and they abolished National Service before getting anywhere within their mark of a Regular Army sufficient in numbers to meet the conventional requirements.
My Lords, we should like to hear from the noble Earl on the subject of recruitment. The figures for September of this year are quite disastrous. Can the noble Earl say whether this is of a temporary nature, whether it is a result of the rather bad Press which the Army has received during 1963, or whether there is some other basic reason for it? Because—and this is my last point in criticising Her Majesty's Government—what must concern us is not only the recruitment, but how we are going to retain in our Forces those men who have signed on for six years. These men, particularly those in Germany, or most of them, a very large percentage of whom are married, are serving in very difficult circumstances. Certainly the married accommodation for those who are fortunate enough to have it is absolutely first-class, but it is a fact that 5,600 families of B.A.O.R. are without family accommodation. I saw some of the accommodation in which these soldiers were living. It was really appalling. What worries me is that, if the feeling that I found among those soldiers and families in that position—a thoroughly dispirited feeling—were to go through the whole of the Army, we should be in a very grave position in five or six years' time regarding the maintenance of our strength.
We could say a great deal about equipment, but perhaps we can come to that when my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough replies. I 268 would say that to-day B.A.O.R. has no basic shortages—they existed two years ago—but still a great deal of their equipment is obsolete. My noble friend Lord Shackleton spoke about radio. This is a very difficult position for battalions in the field. The tanks are getting old. They are looking forward to receiving the Chieftain. Can the noble Earl say when the Chieftain will become available? As I see it, if we are to meet our commitments, our acknowledged commitments, to NATO, which we have solemly undertaken to do, we need to make a greater conscious effort to provide not only the men and the services for them but the weapons with which they might have to fight.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK
My Lords, on rising to address your Lordships for the first time, I hope I need make no apology for having taken nine years so to do, for I am convinced that time spent in quietly listening to your Lordships' debates is most certainly not wasted. I, too, can claim the distinction, together with the Prime Minister and Mr. Harold Wilson, of being "the fourteenth," but I must confess to a slight embarrassment when I discovered that the last member of my family to address your Lordships' House was my great-great-grandfather—and this was over sixty years ago.
I have always been impressed by the courtesy, tolerance and friendliness that exudes from all corners of your Lordships' House. It is something that is probably unique in the world, and it leaves a lasting impression on all newcomers. Being very conscious this afternoon of my lack of experience in partaking in your Lordships' debates, I take comfort in the knowledge that I shall be received with understanding. My Lords, if I tend to confine my remarks to a level much lower than that of grand strategy and with more emphasis on the Army than on the other two Services, this is because it is here that my personal knowledge is greatest. I will endeavour, as befits one making a maiden speech, to be both brief and non-controversial.
I believe that we are to-day faced with two fundamental problems: one is a shortage of manpower, and the other is delays in the delivery of weapons and 269 equipment. Most of our difficulties stem from these two root causes—and I would suggest that they are not something for which the blame can, or should, be laid at the feet of Her Majesty's Government: they are something that would have happened whatever Government were in power. I wish to concentrate, if I may, on these two points alone.
Now why are we not getting sufficient men? First, I believe that the whole country—and this includes all levels of society—are at the moment out of sympathy with the Services. I have the impression that schoolmasters throughout Britain do very little to encourage their pupils to enter the Armed Forces of the Crown. I was talking the other day to the headmaster of a well-known State school, and I asked him how many of his boys had entered one the Services during the past twelve months. His reply was immediate: "Not one, for science, industry and commerce have so much more to offer them."
Secondly, if one believes the statisticians, we are, as a nation, maturing younger than we used to. We are tending to marry younger than before, and this, in itself, adds to the appalling problem of housing. I know of young men in the North of England and in Scotland who, because they have had their names down on their council's housing list for a year or may be two years, prefer to "stay put" during conditions of considerable unemployment rather than join up and thus lose their place on the housing list. The answer, of course, is more married quarters, and fast. I know this is easy to say and not so easily done, but it brings me to one point on building which I would ask Her Majesty's Government to consider carefully. I myself abhor the present policy of always accepting the lowest tender submitted by contractors. I am convinced that this is a policy which is both short-sighted and uneconomical. It leads to endless delays, frustrations and even thoroughly bad workmanship. Next, I feel strongly, also, that something must be done to improve what I believe is called hostel accommodation, some of which is truly indescribable and in which wives and children of servicemen who are suddenly posted to the 270 ends of the earth frequently find themselves.
My Lords, next I come to the question of pay. While there have been considerable improvements over the past twelve years I still believe that scales are lagging behind. I spoke to the commanding officer of an infantry battalion the night before last. He is a married man with children. He lives in officers' married quarters and is responsible for about 500 men and an enormous amount of highly valuable equipment. He is expected to entertain officially and yet his net annual salary—and I emphasise "net"—is under £2,000 a year—and all this after twenty years' service in his profession. At the other end of the ladder, the pay of the private soldier does not, in my view, compare favourably with that of, say, a postman. I would like to stress that the average man is not impressed by the argument that he is able to obtain a lot of extra benefits in other ways; he is interested in only what he receives over the pay table.
I should like all allowances again to be tax free as they used to be. All ranks receive, I think I am right in saying, three free railway warrants a year for leave. Why, in this day and age, should they not also be allowed an air warrant if they wish it? This would particularly help men who come from homes at the opposite end of the country from where they are stationed. I believe that if something really positive were done now to tackle these problems to win the support of schools, to produce still more homes and improve still further the rates of pay and conditions, then we should begin to see a much more contented and satisfied outlook, particularly from within the Army. Nothing succeeds like success; and men would begin to encourage their friends to come and join them, rather than the reverse which is what is happening at the moment.
I should like for a moment to switch to weapons and equipment. Reference was made in The Times recently to a young infantry officer in Germany who had said that the newest piece of equipment in his unit was the fruit machine in the sergeants' mess. This, of course, should not be taken too literally; but it does, as The Times correspondent said, reflect a basic truth. To say that modern weapons and equipment are on the way is simply 271 not enough. When equipment is not forthcoming, then to be told "Sorry, old boy. Production difficulties," is intolerable. I know there are enormous difficulties. Let us take, for instance, the NATO organisation. Here we have a whole history of failure to subordinate the national interest to the security of the Alliance. The word "interdependence" is, I fear, a myth, for every attempt to achieve joint production of weapons and equipment has come unstuck on the grounds of national economic policies. I believe, for instance, that there are still fourteen different types of small arms ammunition used in the Alliance to-day. This is not the Government's fault; but it illustrates all too clearly the enormous difficulties in getting a truly co-ordinated defence policy.
In conclusion, my Lords, may I return for a moment to the question of manpower? I would, with respect, remind noble Lords opposite that the Government stated clearly six years ago that:If voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service.I understand—and hope I am correct—that this is still the Government's policy, and it would be interesting to hear how the Opposition would tackle the shortage of manpower problem. As I must be non-controversial, I will resist the temptation of becoming embroiled with noble Lords opposite on the question of the independent nuclear deterrent. If we can succeed in showing the country that a career in the Services is both attractive and really worth while we shall have gone a long way to solve the problem of recruiting. There is much to be done, but I cannot accept that Her Majesty's Government have failed to make provision for this country to meet her commitments.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I would congratulate the noble Lord who has just made his first speech in this House. It is always interesting to me—and I hope to all noble Lords—to hear a soldier speak. When that soldier is a Scot from the tribal areas, then I hope we may hear him again.
I would say that the Amendment which stands in the name of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition fills me 272 with amazement. He accuses Her Majesty's Government offailing to make proper provision to enable this country to meet its national and international commitments, now and in the future.The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, described what he called the abysmal record of the Government on defence. I would suggest that this is an unfair attack. It is necessary to put the record straight; and that I propose to do. I would ask the noble Earl in whose name this Amendment stands to go back in his mind to what happened in 1948 when he was the Minister of Defence and I, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. On July 29 of that year the Chiefs of Staff sent a minute to the Prime Minister through the then Minister of Defence, and they statedthat the state of the defence services of Britain to-day gives cause for grave concern.That is what they said. The minute—and this was rather unusual—was unanimous; it was signed by all three members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. And, curiously enough, all those three members were in your Lordships' House this afternoon at certain moments.
When that minute reached the Ministry of Defence there was, of course, quite a row. Knowing what the repercussions were likely to be, I then prepared a paper on the general world situation and I circulated that paper in Whitehall. Copies were sent to the Prime Minister, to the Foreign Secretary, and to the Minister of Defence. The only person who acknowledged it was Sir Stafford Cripps. In that paper I proved that our defence services had been allowed to get into a parlous state. That was in July. Nothing was done during August, except to argue the toss in Whitehall. In September, as nothing had been done, I again advanced to the attack. This time the other two Chiefs of Staff, not wanting to be left out of the hunt, chipped in; and we submitted a paper dated September 21, proving that the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force were utterly unfit to carry out the tasks which would be imposed on them in war.
We pointed out that there were certain adverse factors common to all the Services: lack of regular recruits particularly in the Army and Air Force; the adverse effect of the short length of 273 National Service through the National Service Act, 1947; the pay and conditions of servicemen did not provide enough to meet the cost of living at the time and that reacted adversely on morale; and a complete lack of balance and little or no reserves of fighting equipment. In that paper we ended up by saying in no uncertain voice that the state of the Forces gave the "gravest cause for alarm". That is what we say. Twice within a period of two months the Labour Government were informed by the Chiefs of Staff that the state of the Armed Forces, first, "gives cause for grave concern"—that was in July—and, secondly, "gives the gravest cause for alarm"—that was in September. I do not think that anything like that has ever happened to a Conservative Government—not to my knowledge. How, then, can the noble Earl, who was Minister of Defence at the time and therefore directly responsible, attack the defence record of the Government and move this Censure Motion?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I have done so, and I do not break the rule laid down for the Cabinet by which we were not allowed to bring away Papers. I have not a copy of one of these Papers about which the noble and gallant Field Marshal is talking, not a single one. I am amazed at the noble and gallant Viscount doing that this afternoon, but I am not altogether surprised, because he has done it in his book. As a matter of fact, a force running into hundreds of thousands was built as a reserve force under the Act of 1947. We had all the equipment that the Labour Government could then afford, and the noble and gallant Viscount had huge reserves of all supplies from which to draw.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I have nothing to add to what I have just said. It is true, as the noble Earl said, that it is published in the book. Nothing that I have said is not contained in that book—a very good book: I wrote it myself. I merely ask: How can the noble Earl move this Amendment against the background of that record? It absolutely beats the band.
Let us pass on to other matters of very great concern to-day—first of all, to NATO defence policy. Your Lordships 274 will understand that not only are discussions which take place in NATO interesting, they are important. I would suggest that the defence planners must look not only at forces, but also at the intention of a potential enemy. It does not require a brilliant strategist to recognise that the threat to-day is not concentrated within the European peninsula. Very few people to-day imagine that the Russians will make an all-out assault on Europe. There are many reasons for this. Not least among them would be the existence of the Western deterrent.
But when we look farther afield, the situation looks more threatening. If any one of us was in the Ministry of Defence to-day, he would do well to be more concerned with the development of operations East of Suez than with a statistical exercise about whether we should maintain 55,000 men on the plains of Northern Germany. In other words, we should be concentrating on those areas of responsibility which lie between South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf. Curiously enough, this appears to be the very area to which the Labour Party pay least attention. I say this because of a speech by Mr. George Brown, whose name has been quoted quite a lot to-day. It is reported in Hansard on March 5. The Labour Party theme has been that we should strengthen our defence forces in Europe at all costs. To do this, they would drain our resources away from the Far East and sacrifice the deterrent. I must say that such a policy makes no military sense whatever, whatever may be its political attractions; and on these I do not presume to judge.
I suggest that the Labour Party have a duty to expose clearly their policy on defence and the reasons which underlie it. And the public have a duty to study and judge that policy, because upon it our future may depend. At the moment—and I deliberately say, "at the moment"—it appears as though the Labour Party intend to withdraw forces and resources from the areas of danger in order to put them in the areas least threatened. I do know something about battles. These are the ways to lose battles, not to win them. Continuing on this theme, I would offer certain conclusions to your Lordships.
The first is that the centre of turbulence in the cold war has shifted to East of Suez: Germany is no longer the 275 danger spot. The second is that to-day we are over-insured in the one area where there is least danger, because of the nuclear strength of the West, which is so deployed that it cannot be knocked out by a surprise attack. We can afford to reduce our Army strength in Germany. We clearly need to deploy more men East of Suez. My third point is this: in so far as Britain is concerned, we cannot keep 55,000 soldiers in Germany, at a cost of £80 million a year, upsetting our balance of payments, and also deploy sufficient strength East of Suez to meet the growing commitments in the East—we cannot do both—without some form of National Service. If we insist on doing both, then some form of National Service will be necessary. Therefore (my fourth point) the Government must either accept a reduction in the British Army of the Rhine or—this is very important—or admit that the concept of an all-regular Army is not appropriate to the needs of the day, because such an Army is not big enough, nor can it be built up sufficiently quickly to the strength required.
My Lords, I said, "some form of National Service". What form of National Service, or whether we have it at all, is entirely a matter for the Government of the day. It used to be said quite frequently that National Service men upset the Regulars in a unit, always saying, "Roll on my get-out day." That is utterly untrue. The two mixed very well indeed, and I believe it would be a great mistake if we denigrated the National Service men. They were absolutely first-class. They provided nearly all the specialists in a unit; they provided practically all the n.c.os., up to corporal, and they provided first-class junior officers. And look how well they fought in Malaya, in Korea and against the Mau Mau! We could not have done without them. The decision as to whether we have National Service in future is a matter for the Government. But in closing I should like to say one thing: that if it is decided to have National Service, it may even result in the Beatles having to get their hair cut.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD SUFFIELD
My Lords, I trust that I shall be forgiven if I leave the 276 wider aspects of defence to those better qualified than myself and if I confine my remarks to certain matters concerning the Army. I hope to suggest where some money could be saved and put to more proper use. The system of financial control within the Army is the cause of some dissatisfaction. As your Lordships are aware, money is allotted on an annual basis, whereas if it were allotted on a two or three-yearly basis it could achieve better results. This applies particularly to repairing an old, worn-out building. At present, such a building is the subject of extensive repairs over many years, which ultimately proves more expensive than if sufficient funds had been available in the first place to rebuild it. Furthermore, the balance of unspent money in one year cannot be carried forward and added to the next year's allotment. This, in turn, encourages a rather wasteful approach by commands and districts. Towards the end of the financial year there is a mad rush to spend any balance of funds for fear of having the next year's allotment reduced. I submit that this is defeating the exercise of sound financial control.
In addition, the method by which control is exercised by the Command Secretary's Branch within the Army is somewhat inflexible and tends to stifle the initiative of commanding officers wishing to improve the efficiency or living conditions of their units. A commanding officer is considered responsible enough to control the lives of 700 men, but where public money is involved he appears to be considered rather irresponsible. I will not weary your Lordships with details of the paper work, returns, authorities, and applications through the normal channels which can at times be anything but normal, except to say that they impose a heavy administrative burden on commanding officers and, which is more, require staff to deal with them. I believe that certain progressive civilian firms have discovered that to employ a large staff for the sole purpose of checking up on other employees is both unproductive and uneconomic; and I feel that a smaller Army, designed to be mobile and highly trained, could benefit from the same treatment.
277 I come now to the subject of equipment, and I would mention first transport, in which there has been a tremendous improvement in recent years and a move towards simplicity and ruggedness, with fewer manufacturers involved. This is what the Army wants. It is also less expensive. One classic example of over-design in the past was the Champ, which is now being replaced by the Land Rover. In this vehicle they tried to put everything, including a snorkel tube to allow it to drive under water; I think the driver was intended to hold his breath. The Americans have succeeded in keeping basically the same design of transport as used in the last war; and the Russians, I believe, endeavour to design military vehicles with a civilian counterpart. I do not know how closely we consult civilian manufacturers with this aim in view. The Land Rover, of course, is already in this category. This would seem to have the advantages of a saving in cost and time of production, and also provides a civilian second-hand market for ex-Army vehicles.
In the design and production of new vehicles and equipment there is a stage known as "user trials", when the equipment is sent to various parts of the world to be tried out by units. This is, of course, necessary, but it is also a lengthy and costly process. Some faults become immediately apparent when the equipment is placed in the hands of unskilled users. Would it not be possible to short-circuit some part of these trials by allowing soldiers to test them in England at the research stations as a preliminary stage.
My Lords, I have suggested some means of saving. May I now be permitted to say where more expenditure is urgently needed? There is a need to provide more ammunition for training soldiers in the more specialised weapons, because without it those weapons lose their value. I will mention only two unsophisticated infan try anti-tank weapons which have been in existence for over eight years. One is the Energa grenade, which is fired from a rifle, and the other is the 3.5 rocket launcher. Both of these are platoon weapons. Everyone in the platoon should be able to fire these weapons with reasonable accuracy in case those chosen to do so become casualties. But, in fact, there is insuffi 278 cient training ammunition to allow this to happen, and some men have never fired the rocket launcher. There is also a great shortage of blank ammunition for automatic weapons, and other forms known as pyrotechnics—illuminated flares, et cetera. These are essential to provide realism on training exercises. Without realism in training we shall lose interest, and without interest we shall lose soldiers; and that is something we can never afford.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
My Lords, I should like to start by offering my sincere compliments to the noble Lord, Lord Suffield, who has just made such an excellent maiden speech. As I listened to him, I felt that in many ways it was a model of what a maiden speech should be: for it was brief, clear, and very much to the point, perhaps reflecting those qualities of discipline and efficiency we associate with the fine Regiment of Guards to which he has belonged. I hope that we shall have the privilege of hearing him often again.
I should like to add to that a thought that will have been in the minds of many of your Lordships, which is that it is good in our debates to hear the words of wisdom which come from men who have occupied, are occupying, or hope to occupy, great positions of authority in the country, controlling the policy of the country on defence. It is excellent to hear the words of experience from great commanders who have led our troops in battle, and perhaps there is even some use in hearing the views of somewhat lesser lights in the military hierarchy. But the texture of our debate will be incomplete if we do not have also the views of young men who have been recently in contact with the thing on the ground, with the units and with the men; and our debate, I am sure, on this occasion is much the richer for the two maiden speeches that we have heard.
I am going to speak on only two points. The first is to pick up and heartily and warmly support something that was said by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein—I am not referring to the first part of his speech, but to words which came nearer the end, when he spoke about National Service. I have always held that the discontinuance of National 279 Service was a mistake, if not the greatest mistake that we have made in defence matters since the war. In that connection I was interested, and a little surprised, by a remark made this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Of course, as one gets older one's memory plays one tricks, but it was my impression that at the time when the Conservative Party did away with National Service the Opposition were showing every sign that they would have been prepared to do the same thing if they had been in power. But I may be wrong about that. Anyway, I believe that it was a mistake, and an unnecessary mistake, to end National Service.
It was done for two reasons, to the best of my belief. The first was that it was held to be unpopular and politically untenable. During the years when I was, for example, going round talking to British railwaymen I was constantly impressed by the way in which one of the first things they wanted to talk to me about was the time they had spent in the Forces. I am not referring only to men who had served in the wars, but also to men who had done their National Service. No doubt when they were serving they joined the ranks of those who shouted "Roll on demob!", or whatever is was, and did their bit of moaning. But the fact is that when it was finished, those who had served in good units—which was the majority—knew that they had enjoyed it and that they were the better for it. They are proud and glad to talk about it to-day. I do not believe that National Service was anything like so unpopular as it was held to be, or anything like so hot a potato as it was feared to be.
I also think that there is little doubt that it is extremely good for the youth of the nation. Many of us are concerned about the youth of the nation. I see quite a bit of it in the boys' clubs, and as a matter of fact I do not find much wrong with it. But there is certainly truth in what was said by his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh last week to the London Federation of Boys' Clubs: that there is a great danger of boredom among the young. National Service offers to the young man a challenge, a chance of a change and adventure which is excellent for him and which I believe he welcomes. I am I hope 280 sensible enough to know that there is no chance at all that either political Party will propose the readoption of National Service at this juncture. My saying that to-day it is not such a "hot potato" is not going to encourage them to burn their mouths with it. But maybe it is a good thing to say it; and, perhaps, when the dust of the hustings has settled, your Lordships and others in Government will think back on the wise words spoken on this subject this afternoon by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, words which I very warmly support.
The only other thing I wish to say is something which I fear may not make me any more popular than I am with either Party; but I feel constrained to say it. We have been told by the members of the Conservative Party that it is intended to make the independent deterrent an issue at the General Election; and we have been told by spokesmen for the Labour Party that they welcome that this should be an issue at the General Election. I am going, with deference, to plead that these decisions, if that is what they are, should be reconsidered or, shall I say, toned down. I urge that this is not a suitable issue to put to the people, for the reason that it is a very complicated issue. All kinds of factors come into it: highly scientific and technical factors, questions of military strategy, political factors, financial factors, and many others. If it is put to the electorate, what are they going to make of it? It will certainly be put to them, as it must be, in greatly over-simplified form.
I do not mind confessing that I myself, who am not entirely ignorant of these matters, and have indeed studied them carefully and thought about it a lot, do not really know my own mind about it. I am not ashamed of that, because part of the information which I should need in order to reach a wise decision is not available to me; it is secret and confidential information. I do not know what the electorate will make of this question if it is put to them. Would it not be better that whatever Government are in power after the Election is over should decide this matter—it is part of their responsibility to do so—carrying the Opposition along with them, if possible? For, my Lords, I feel that it is a question which is not suitable, if I may put it rather 281 bluntly, as a political football. I hope that my remarks have not caused too much offence. After all, I suppose that Cross-Benchers serve the House if occasionally, with all deference, they put their points of view, even if those views are not acceptable to either side.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I listened with great sympathy and interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, has just said. I think that we on this side of the House would probably agree in the hope that the Government will not insist on making the issue of the independent deterrent too much of an Election football. If they do, of course we shall do our best to kick it back. But the danger in such a situation is that either Party may be forced, in the heat of the battle, to take up positions which are binding upon it, and which will later turn out not to have been in the interests of the country as a whole. I listened with less sympathy to the noble Lord's remarks about conscription. There are arguments for and against, but I do not think that the boredom of young people is a valid argument for conscription. We should not increase the size of the Army, and we should not incur very large bills for the taxpayer, simply to keep young men amused. It is more serious than that.
I should like to take up one further point raised in debate by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, about the Chinese programme for their independent nuclear weapons. He said that the Chinese are an extremely fierce, blood-thirsty people who want war, unlike the Russians, and that they are not developing their atom bomb as a deterrent but as a weapon of aggression for use in South-East Asia. I think that the noble Earl, and I fear that many other Members of your Lordships' House, may have been misled by Russian propaganda. The Chinese are pouring out copious statements at the moment directly challenging the Russians and saying, "We are no more in favour of war than you are. We are just as much against it". In point of fact, if you read Mao Tse-tung's statements carefully you will see that he is most insistent on the right of Communist Powers to conduct wars of colonial 282 liberation, as they call them, but he nowhere insists on the merits of a direct military confrontation between Communism and the heartland of capitalism, by which I mean Western Europe and the United States.
Will the Chinese A-bomb be a deterrent? Well, the American fleet has been steaming up and down the Straits of Formosa for twelve years now with nuclear weapons. American artillery capable of firing nuclear shells has been for seven or eight years on the islands of Quemoy and Matsu, two miles from China. If a country in that position seeks to get its own nuclear weapons, is this deterrence or is it aggression? I think the question is a simple one.
I should like to turn to general questions of Alliance policy in NATO because, as has often been remarked in this debate, defence and foreign policy are now the same thing and are interconnected, so I make no further excuse for speaking as much about foreign affairs as about defence. The past year in NATO has been a year of the utmost confusion, and I think that any rational discussion of defence policies, even at Election time, will do well to concentrate a little more on the record of the Government in handling NATO affairs over the past year.
Let us look at what one might call some milestones of chaos during the last year. It started with the meeting between Mr. Macmillan and General de Gaulle at Rambouillet. So far as we have been able to find out, and so far as the public knows, they discussed what was to be done about their independent national nuclear programmes. Should they both go ahead? Should they join their programmes together? Was some sort of NATO force possible? An impression has arisen in Europe that General de Gaulle thought that Mr. Macmillan had told him what he would do, and that this would be to enter into some form of co-operation on the nuclear weapons programmes of the two countries. The second milestone: the Nassau meeting. And the former Prime Minister goes and talks alone to the President of the United States without taking de Gaulle with him, and agrees, as we all remember, on the Nassau Statement with its various elements. No concrete plans came out of that meeting for a NATO 283 force, for co-ordination of the production of nuclear weapons among the NATO nations. Nothing was arranged to make room for France, to take care of the French effort in a NATO framework. All that appears to have happened is one more episode in this insensate forging ahead of a national "this" and a national "that".
Mr. Macmillan came out of it clutching high his bought rocket which was to continue the British national independent deterrent, with the immediate result, within a few weeks, of the third milestone of disarray where General de Gaulle brutally, and apparently without cause, excludes Britain from the Common Market. Or was it really without cause? I think by now that the economic situation has clarified and the political situation has had time to be talked about since that Press conference of General de Gaulle of January 29. It is clear that what went wrong was something in the defence field; and that something was the discrepancy betwen what the British Government appeared to have agreed at Rambouillet and what it manifestly did agree and arrange at Nassau a few weeks later. On these points one can only await a Government statement, but the record looks bad.
What sort of co-ordination and coherence is there really in NATO in the fields where the British Government could do something? Let us take, for instance, the question of the procurement of weapons. We have two glaring examples in the past year. First of all, three nations, including this, built a tank which was to be the NATO tank. Total chaos ensued. It appears that there is going to be no NATO tank; if there is, it is certainly not going to be ours. Why was this? Was it because the British tank was less good than the French or German? Probably not. It was probably because the crass error was made of permitting three separate nations to build national tanks. Of course, once you have production tooled up enough even to build a prototype, and you have national prestige engaged, everybody is going to stick to his own. What ought to have been done was to have an international competition for the design of the tank; the winning design should have been chosen on paper, and the tanks should then have been produced in all 284 three countries, or more, one part in each country, and it could have been screwed together in the centre.
Take the history of the TSR 2, which has so often been mentioned in debate this afternoon. The Australians did not buy it, and did buy the corresponding American plane the TFX, very regrettably. Was it because the TFX was better? Probably not. It may have been because they obtained better credit, as has been mentioned. But the crass error in this case was to permit the competitive development of two similar planes in the United States and in this country. Why was it done? Why cannot this Government take the lead with the relevant other Governments in simply not permitting this; in simply insisting on the competition being at the paper stage, and on no competitive production being entered into at all? What sort of an Alliance have we if such a simple question as that—because it is simple in terms of economics and industry—cannot be arranged between the member Governments? There is any amount of concrete political and military danger arising now because of balance-of-payments difficulties within NATO. Is it really necessary for the level of American troops in Europe and for the locality of American supply lines leading into Germany to be dependent on whose currency happens to be strongest here and whose happens to be weak? Can we judge Governments competent, which includes our own, who are incapable of the economic foresight required to make military and political decisions on military and political grounds without becoming the slaves of the movements of different currencies against each other? The techniques exist to control currencies.
How much consultation is there within NATO on disarmament and arms control policy? Did the British Government, the Government of the only West European country in the Moscow Test Ban talks—a position of which the Government is intensely proud, however we got there—take the initiative in informing our West European Allies of what was going on? How is it that one hears complaints in Germany at the moment levelled specifically against Britain for not having told them what the negotiations were doing; for not warning them what the content of the Treaty would 285 be; and for giving rise to an unpleasant little diplomatic and political flurry after the signature, when it appeared for a moment that West Germany might even refuse to sign? Could that not have been avoided by ordinary political foresight and competence on the part of the British Government?
What lead, for instance, is the British Government taking as a European nuclear Power in helping to work out a common NATO doctrine for the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the Continent of Europe? We read in the Press of many nations about the recent exercises of the French army in the Jura, where they were using hypothetical tactical nuclear weapons of the type they are going to develop, a national French tactical nuclear weapon. The military experts and correspondents of the world were horrified at the lavish use made of these; they were thrown around as though they were twopenny squibs. More experienced nations (which includes ours) know better. But what is the doctrine about the use of tactical nuclear weapons by the French Army in Germany, where they already have them'? They are American-controlled, but they possess small nuclear weapons in Germany now.
Is there a NATO doctrine? If we are right in thinking they are not using them sensibly, have we helped to try to get the French to use these things sensibly? One would very much doubt it; otherwise, they would not have carried out that exercise at home as they did. The Government are planning, they say, to fight the Election, so far as the defence field is concerned, on the question of British national control of the strategic nuclear weapon. But their record in looking after the Alliance—on which our safety depends, not only in times of supreme national crisis, which seldom arise, but every day—their record in the day-to-day business of the Alliance, seems to me deplorable over the last year, if not longer back.
I want to turn for a moment to something that is not a Party matter. I am tempted to say that this is something that happened so recently that the Government have not yet had time to react wrongly. Let us hope that everybody reacts rightly throughout 286 Europe. I refer to Mr. McNamara's speech to the Economic Club of New York yesterday. This speech changes the nature of the world as we understand it. It is a great landmark in the development of political and strategic affairs in this decade. Mr. McNamara said that the Soviet conventional superiority on the ground in Europe no longer exists. He said that NATO is superior in conventional forces on the ground in Europe. He said that NATO is stronger on the central front, compared with the forces directly facing it there, and that NATO is stronger in Germany compared with the Eastern forces facing it in East Germany. He said that NATO had a superior capacity in tactical air strike. In other words, he ran through all the possible fields in which we had thought we were inferior. He said that we were wrong and that we were superior.
My Lords, that is the third gap to disappear. Originally there was supposed to be a bomber gap. The Americans thought the Russians were building a large number of strategic bombers, and so they raced to outbuild them and ended up with a superiority. Then there was the missile gap, where the very same thing happened: again the Americans ended up with great superiority. Ever since 1945 we have been living with the conventional gap, but at some time in recent years or months—we do not yet know when and perhaps we never shall; and it does not matter—the conventional gap, too, has gone by the board. All the gaps are now the other way round, in favour of the West. We are stronger in the nuclear field and in the conventional field. We are, therefore, stronger than them.
Ever since the war the voices of tradition and caution in the West have been saying that we must negotiate from strength. They have said that the cold war is a temporary inconvenience; that we must get ahead of the Russians, and that when we have done that we can negotiate the end of it. Now we have done so, and the existence of the present degree of political détente, coupled with the new discovery or the new fact that we are stronger than them all across the board in military terms, gives perhaps a greater hope than ever before of a meaningful settlement of the two great 287 questions of Berlin and Germany and disarmament.
Particularly it changes the situation with regard to disarmament, since the Soviet disarmament plans have always said, "Let us first get rid of the nuclear weapons either entirely or very nearly all," and the West has always said, "We cannot do that, and the fact that you propose it shows you are insincere because you are conventionally superior to us. You have the soldiers on the ground who would be able to over-run us if we creamed the nuclear weapon off the top". That is no longer the case. If nuclear weapons were to be abolished first we should be superior without them, just as we are now with them. A very great obstacle to a disarmament settlement has now been removed, and I hope that even the present Government, in the few months of life which probably remain to them, will seize the new situation with both hands and will drive forward, together with the Americans and those of Continental Europe who know less about such things than we do, and try to get a real settlement at last.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, I must first apologise to the House that I may not be able to remain until the end of the debate; but I am due to meet a foreign delegation. I also regret that at a time when major defence issues are being discussed my speech should deal with relatively small administrative matters. Before coming to these, however, I should like to make one point on the issue of the new aircraft for the Navy. If the situation is as reported in one of our daily newspapers, I am sure that there are very cogent reasons why none of the British planes meet the Navy's requirements. However, I believe that the problem must be approached from a rather different angle. No country can ever afford to spend all the money that its armed forces would like in order to achieve the highest degree of efficiency. I suggest that the Navy should reexamine its tactical doctrines and see how British planes could be used and what degree of lessened efficiency would result. Could the answer possibly be that aircraft carriers are now so vulnerable that at the very best they are only just a viable weapon?
288 Turning to administrative matters, I recently visited the Far East forces, on the invitation of the Air Force. What struck me most on the administrative side was the danger of increasing staff commitments, both in implementing the Unified Staff policy and in the amalgamation of the Army, Navy and Air Force works services under the control of the Ministry of Works. I entirely agree with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that a Unified Command and Joint Headquarters are, or should be, inevitable; but this must be done with common sense. Taking the opposite extremes, we can, on the one hand, set up a headquarters with the three Services fully represented at every level. Unless such a headquarters can take over many of the day-to-day functions of the present Service headquarters, there will be a gross waste of manpower and decision-making will be slowed down. At the opposite extreme is a Headquarters in which staff officers are supposed to have an equal knowledge of the problems and characteristics of all three Services. This is manifestly impossible, at any rate at the lower levels. The correct solution, I am sure, lies somewhere between the two extremes; and we must find it by experiment.
If there is to be a joint enterprise, people must get to know each other personally and to understand each other's problems. All staff officers of the Joint Headquarters should therefore share the same messes, and the married quarters should be in the same area. I do not suggest that this principle should apply universally, but it ought to be extended to all cases where officers of any two of the Services are engaged on similar work. I understand—it may be wrongly—that when the new Joint Headquarters was set un in Germany, at Munchen Gladbach, in 1954, the idea of joint messes and interchangeable married quarters was firmly turned down by one of the Service chiefs because he wished to preserve the traditions of his own Service. If there are such traditions in the Services, they and the officers who support them ought to be changed.
There is a further problem which must be faced; and it is not peculiar to the Services, or even to Ministries, but is 289 endemic in all large organisations. We must find a way of preventing unnecessary increase in the size of staffs. I am particularly concerned with what will happen now that the Army, Navy and the Air Force Works Services are under the Ministry of Works. In theory, the grouping together of a number of units under a centralised control ought to produce economies and improved efficiency if they can share some administrative functions. This does not happen because the superior Headquarters nearly always expands and duplicates the functions of the Headquarters under its command.
In the case of the Works Services, I believe that the Ministry of Works should only co-ordinate the activities of the three Services' works organisations and that the size of the Headquarters should be no more than is absolutely necessary to do this. Unless active measures are taken now to prevent this happening, I am quite certain that this type of Headquarters will go on increasing and will follow Dr. Parkinson's Law in a big way. Nothing remains static, and there are bound to be encroachments on the policy I have advocated, even if it is agreed.
I should like to consider this problem in its broadest aspect. It applies to headquarters, be they Ministry, Service or those of any other non-profit-making undertaking. In the past there have been two methods of approach. First there may be an attempt to preserve the status quo by making it difficult to increase the establishment without an adequate justification. This method works to some degree, but many increases can be justified when they are considered in isolation, and no headquarters ever has all the staff it could use if perfection and not cost were to be the criterion. Secondly, a team may be sent to visit the headquarters and to make recommendations for reducing its size. This is, of coarse, an attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has escaped. It produces marginal savings, but never gets to the root of the problem because of the high-level vested interests which are always there.
My Lords, I believe that we should try to develop an entirely new technique for tackling this problem. First, the essen 290 tial functions of the Headquarters ought to be defined; then its needs of staff could be determined quite independently of the actual organisation to be used. This would, in effect, be a scientific assessment and could be based on data which could be accumulated from a large number of different types of organisation. For example, I believe that the Navy is to-day far more economical in staff than the Army. This is possibly explained because career prospects in the Navy do not depend on staff appointments. From a purely scientific point of view it might also be possible to make a first analysis on an even more theoretical basis, by considering the Headquarters as a logic unit with scientific inputs and outputs and a memory function, each requiring a certain number of staff of varying grades in order to fulfil the function. Once the size and gradings, or possibly the total cost of the staff required, had been fixed by such methods, considerable latitude could be allowed in deciding on the actual organisation and structure of the Headquarters: in other words, it could be fitted to whatever service was concerned or to the needs of the particular Ministry. Any failure to operate with an agreed minimum of staff would automatically provide an investigating committee with the authority necessary to carry out its task.
I think it is quite clear that overlarge staffs are caused not because the staffs are not fully employed but because much of the work they are doing is unnecessary in terms of the proper functions of a Headquarters. In this context, I think we should also consider whether the present degree of financial control on minor matters in the Services is justified. The control to-day is far greater than in most of the Ministry establishments and has led to quite large increases in the number of Service personnel required at the various administrative levels. The necessity to answer a large number of small queries produced by the financiers has led, in fact, to a large increase in the staffs. I understand that whenever the size of the financial staffs is questioned, figures of the savings they have produced are used in justification. Such calculations are unrealistic and do not take into account the debit side of the balance sheet. Never, for example, are 291 included the instances where procrastination and petty economies have led to paying a far greater price for the finished result than would otherwise have been necessary. This is a far more common thing than we are often prepared to admit.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, as one who has been concerned for so many years with Army debates in this House, may I add my most hearty congratulations to the two noble friends of mine who have made their maiden speeches but are no longer in the Chamber? As we are talking about spokesmen for the Army, I do not think I can go on without saying how sad we are on these Benches, like noble Lords opposite, that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, is no longer among us.
This debate to-day has really set out to serve two purposes. The first purpose has been the general discussion on defence affairs which always forms part of the debate on the Address. The second has been a discussion on the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, censuring the Government for their alleged shortcomings. At this time of night I am not going to say much about the first part of the debate. The contribution from the Liberal Benches fell into that category, and so did the contribution by my two noble friends who made their maiden speeches and my noble friend Lord Hanworth who has just sat down. The only point I think I should like to stress is one which was made by two or three of them—namely, the outmoded control of expenditure by the Treasury in regard to the Forces. Soon we shall be debating the Bill for establishing the Secretary of State for Defence. This has already been introduced in another place, and I for one certainly greatly hope that that new set-up will herald the dawn of a new and more sensible day in the financial control of Service affairs. Let me leave it at that, and let me come now to the Amendment.
I think I shall be right in saying that the arguments put forward by noble Lords opposite centred on two things: the state of the Rhine Army and its manpower and equipment, and those prob 292 lems connected with what has been called the independent nuclear deterrent. If I could take the Rhine Army problem first, I fancy that a good many of the Opposition criticisms of shortage of equipment, and so forth, are in practice cancelled out by their demand that expenditure should be kept within bounds. Of course, the problem of keeping equipment up to date, whether nuclear or otherwise, is a continuing one. At no time can one afford not to make one's annual contribution to design, research and production. At any time there is always something on the drawing-board, something undergoing experiment, which the troops, the sailors or the airmen are anxious to have. We talk about those things and tend not to talk about so much of what they have already got—if only for the reason that once a piece of equipment is in use and in production it has already become obsolescent. So that I do not feel very much convinced by that set of arguments.
I should like to say a word about National Service, which is a point that has been raised by several noble Lords. Here I find myself in a difficulty because two noble Lords whose opinions I much respect have spoken one way, and one noble friend, whose opinions I equally respect, has spoken the other. I must range myself in support of the views of my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and my noble friend Lord Robertson of Oakridae. I think that the position in which the Government find themselves has not altered since the statement made by them in the 1957 White Paper. My noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick mentioned it just now, and reminded us that the Government were committed to facing the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap if recruiting fell down. So while I do not think that at this moment we have come to the end of our tether over voluntary service, and while I do not think it would be very much good going back to the reasons why compulsory service was discarded (I could do it at some length, but I am watching the clock), none the less I believe that it is right to remind noble Lords that that sentence in the 1957 White Paper still stands, and that no one in or out of Parliament must flinch from making those words good if it becomes really necessary. That is all I have to say at present about National Service.
293 I now come to this tangled problem of the independent nuclear deterrent. I only wish that I could agree with the noble Lord, Lord Roberston of Oak-ridge, that we could avoid discussing this at Election time; I wish I could think that it was possible. But I do not think we can avoid it because at the moment, as I see it, for better or worse, the question of an independent nuclear deterrent is one of the major differences in policy between the two Parties—or, if it is not, it is being made to appear so. Therefore, it would be unrealistic not to discuss it at Election time, even though, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, said, anybody who discusses these problems on the hustings has one hand tied behind his back because of the demands of security, which everybody irrespective of Party ought to be bound to respect.
I have been listening very carefully not so much to what has been said about the shortcomings of the Government, but to what has been said about the alternative proposals which noble Lords opposite would have us believe they would have adopted had they had the responsibility and the task of being in the Government's shoes at that time. I myself believe (apart from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, which I shall come to in a moment) that we are led into the greatest confusion—I know other people do not always agree with me on this—by carrying on in this day and age drawing a distinction between nuclear and conventional forces. Every year the application of nuclear power becomes more flexible, and, whereas in the early days nuclear power could be employed on only what one might call strategic means, it is now getting more and more mixed up with the ordinary operations on the battlefield, with the Army battle, the corps battle, and various things of that sort. Therefore, any attempt to draw an imaginary line between nuclear and conventional warfare and therefore between nuclear and conventional equipment, is leading those who take that view up the garden path.
In fact, as I see it, so long as we attempt to be a Power unlike Iceland and possess armed forces which we wish to play their part in any contingency which may await us, we have to go on constantly experimenting, designing and 294 producing in order to keep our Armed Forces properly equipped and in the front line. We should do that as a continuing thing, quite irrespective of whether at certain moments we borrow or buy a piece of equipment from the Americans or anybody else, in order to make it possible for us to fulfil our national and NATO commitments in whatever may be the best way.
The two things seem to me to be completely different, and the fact that it is wiser on certain occasions to buy equipment from the Americans—and I have not heard that contested from the opposite side—is no argument whatever in regard to whether or not we should keep our nuclear production and nuclear experiments going quite irrespective of what the French or anybody else do. If the argument the other way was taken literally, then does any noble Lord think we should be ready to close down our experimental work and sack all our scientists, bearing in mind that every experiment in a war material sooner or later produces its boons and benefits for the civil world? So if anybody wants to take that view—and there have been expressions of view fairly near it on the other side—then I will not agree with them.
I should now like to come to the very interesting speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Even if he is not here, perhaps I could say one word about it. It struck me that he felt very much that affairs in NATO might have gone very much better, and there I would not disagree with him. But I would disagree with him if he thinks that because in NATO things have not always gone right, therefore it was always the British Government's fault; that, whether it was the British Government's fault or not, we should therefore apparently abandon any advantage in weapons of war which we may have at this or that particular time; and that because there were reasons, of which we were not in control, why General de Gaulle and the French should not become a nuclear Power, we should cease to become a nuclear power at that point. Would that really have made any contribution to the problem of nuclear disarmament, comparable to the contribution made by the part which the former Prime Minister played in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?
My Lords, one could go on for a long 295 time, but the hour is late and other noble Lords have to speak. I have attempted for a few minutes to try to see exactly what alternative course will be proposed by noble Lords opposite if they dislike the Government's performance, which they are perfectly entitled to do. But as I have not been successful, I shall have to join noble friends in front of me in voting against the Amendment.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, we have had a considerable debate this afternoon. I should like to open by supporting the welcome my side has already given to the appearance of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in his new position, placed in charge of the reply to this censure Motion on the state of the Armed Forces. I well remember his very notable father giving me a welcome in a naval dining club in 1929, and the things he then said to me which had to be done. I note with extraordinary interest what a tremendous change has taken place in the strategic situation in the world at large since then, and, wherever he is tonight, looking down upon his son, I wonder what he is hoping his son will say, because there is a very different situation.
Then I should like to thank very much the noble Viscount who has just sat down and who always speaks so quietly and with such good sense, even when we do not agree with him, for the great tribute he paid to our late colleague on this side, Lord Nathan. We do not usually join in special tributes of this kind until we come to the local subject matter in which the noble Lords were most interested. But I should like to support the noble Viscount, and to say how gravely we miss Lord Nathan to-day in all the matters, especially those appertaining to the Army and the Territorial Army, with which he was so deeply concerned.
My Lords, we have had an extraordinarily interesting presentation of our case in support of this Motion by my noble friend Lord Shackleton. I have not yet heard from any quarter any adequate answer to the speech he made with such good sense, with reasonably good humour, and with a logic which has apparently failed to impress the Conservative minds opposite up to the present time. Certainly, the questions with which 296 he dealt are matters which will brook no abstention, in view of the Prime Minister's announcement that he intends to make Defence, and especially the independent nuclear weapon, a matter of politics for the Election. I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, make a general appeal—which I take it he intended to apply to both sides of the House—that if at all possible we should not engage in political and electoral discussions of the kind that come up at Election times on a matter such as this. But, of course, we have not been the initiators of this intention at the next Election—the initiator is the Prime Minister—any more than we have been the initiators of any attempt to deal in the Election with the question of the reintroduction of conscription. Both of those suggestions have come from the Conservative side of the political forces in the country, who are now asked by the Prime Minister to put the Election first and foremost in everything they think about or do to-day. We have to face the matter, therefore, in that sense.
However, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that he made a reasonable speech this afternoon. We did not expect anything else from him. But so far we have had no real answers to half the matters which were put to the House by my noble friend who introduced this Motion to-day. I am eagerly looking forward to hearing from the noble Earl who is to reply the answers to the questions that were put. So I shall not go all over those matters again, especially the questions which were put about equipment, about the strength of the Regular forces, about what chance there is of being able to maintain the strength of the present voluntary Regular forces, and about the actual average strength that we can rely upon in the various theatres in which we have to keep troops at the present time.
I note with interest the apparently overwhelming support that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, gives to the ideas which have been raised again by General Eisenhower in the last day or two, about whether or not it is necessary at the present time to keep occupational forces in West Germany. Apparently the people in the Allied countries who are in charge of foreign affairs—those who 297 have official knowledge of the present situation—and who are bound together in the NATO agreement, have brought forward no such suggestion themselves. We have also had the recent warnings from the Prime Minister himself as to what dangers are still to be expected so long as the Communist Powers maintain the element of force in support of their particular political doctrine. I must say that I am astonished at the advice of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that the whole of B.A.O.R. should be taken out of Germany. I seem to have a recollection that he has actually mentioned that before, but that does not make his reiteration of it to-day any more acceptable to us at the present time.
As to what the situation will be in the very strange strategic circumstances of to-day, which are not yet fully worked out, I am not sure. But looking back over the last twelve years of the Conservative Government's reign, and seeing all the changes that they have made—all the items that they have been interested in, with inquiry, research and production, and which they have finally given up after having spent an enormous sum out of the general funds in almost each case—it does not seem to be quite reasonable to turn to us and say, "Will you say now what you will do in these particular circumstances, if you are returned after the Election?" To start with, we have not all the facts which the Government have. In addition, it is not yet possible to weigh up exactly what would be the consequences if the Government in due course sought to carry out their intentions which were set out in the White Paper after the Bahamas Conference. There they strongly put their point of view with regard to the independent nuclear weapon. They say that they will put their force into the NATO Alliance at any time that it is wanted, and will share it with them unless the Government consider that there is a supreme situation arising which makes them feel they have to use this independent weapon.
I must say that, if that is the sort of future we have to look to in respect of the maintenance of an independent weapon, I am really shocked at the idea that the country should be asked to approve it by a deliberate submission 298 to them as an electorate, when it probably means that if any Conservative Government were so foolish as to use this weapon as the first strike, the first intervener, in any theatre which they occupied at the time, the homes of our beloved country here would be smashed almost at once by a Communist answer. Is that not so? Why, then, did you have to put this into the Bahamas Agreement—this sudden, hurriedly-obtained Bahamas Agreement—at the last moment, after you had lost, in the discussions with America, any possibility of gaining the stand-off weapon, Sky-bolt? Why did you put it in? It was simply because you wanted to keep this name of an independent nuclear weapon. I hope that the noble Earl will obtain a copy of the Bahamas Agreement and will be able to sustain his Party's view if he reads out to the House in his reply paragraph 9 of the White Paper; and we shall see whether I am misrepresenting the case to the House to-night. Because to my mind it is really unanswerable that this was a wrong agreement to make.
When you come to think of the ideas that have been expressed by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, on what should be the position regarding the use of our troops, I am again astounded. Having listened to him as what I might call the roving, unofficial statesman, with his visits to Moscow, his interviews with leading Communists, his visits to China, his visit to Cuba, his visit to South Africa, where he apparently—
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Well, you have written articles about it. At any rate, looking back on some of the articles I have seen in the noble Viscount's publications after his visits there, his praise of Mao Tse-tung, his praise of Moscow and the references he has made to Cuba, I must say that he must be very near to qualifying for entry into any fellow travellers' club. So, having listened to him to-night 299 talking about these very grave and important questions, I must say that I belittle his judgment as a statesman, or adviser of statesmen, compared with what we do know for certain—and that is that, in the field, he was a most gallant and successful leader. I would not pay much attention to him on these matters, after what he has essayed to publish.
Now I want to say that I am concerned about the distinction that has been drawn between members of my own Party and those of other Parties, especially when we hear this denigration of our own country. I did not have time enough in that short interruption, perhaps, to make my position quite clear. During the whole of my lifetime I know of no single conflict in which a capitalist Government have been engaged when they have been ready with the force required to implement the foreign policy they were pursuing—never! And I challenge anybody to deny it. I watched it in the South African War; I watched it in the late 'nineties with regard to what had to be mopped up after nearly twenty years in the Sudan; I watched it in the First Great War. There was only one part of the British Forces which was really ready, and that was the Navy, with the speed-up on the McKenna Plan brought about by Winston Churchill. The Navy was pretty well ready; but the Army, in relation to the great tasks that were set before it on the Kaiser attack, was wholly unready. If it had not been for the Liberal introduction of the Territorial Plan of Lord Haldane, I do not know how we could have held on for the first twelve months at all.
Then, if we come on to the last war, the war of 1939–45, what a disaster that was! And who led us into disaster? It is no use pointing back towards a few Members of the Opposition in 1939, and saying, "You would not do this and you would not do that". You had a majority of nearly 200 in support of the Conservative Government, and it could not face up to the situation. We were led into war: and I shall not forget having had to say, during the Munich debate of 1938 in the House of Commons, that the road that had been set before us during the two-day debate was to lead straight into war—and unprepared; and that we had forgotten that 300 we had never won a major war on a world basis with the British Forces, except with Allies, and powerful Allies at that. That is what I told the House of Commons. It is all in print. And I said, "When you have done that, you will in all probability find yourselves alone". That happened, too.
To look at the present situation, we have had the charge made by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, that in 1947–48 we had not got Forces in a proper condition. That is the charge made. In fact, there has never been a time immediately after a great war when the Forces have been so well managed. To start with, we had a completely orderly plan of demobilisation. It had never worked so before. It was not the product of a Tory mind; it was the product of Ernest Bevin's mind when he was Minister of Labour in Mr. Churchill's Cabinet, and was heartily welcomed by Mr. Churchill. What is more, the whole basis of the management of the Forces then had to be related to the general economic situation, in which we were struggling to get away from post-war bankruptcy. The noble and gallant Viscount forgot that to-night when he was thinking of the situation then.
Yet we came to a decision which had never before been taken in peace time, and which has never before been so attacked as to-night, by the noble and gallant Viscount. Let me say to him that when we made our decision in 1947 in favour of National Service for the situation as it was then, it was Mr. Churchill who said to me behind the Speaker's Chair, "I have got to congratulate you on your courage. In our Party position we could not have done it." To-day everybody knows that, holding the position down then, in 1947–48, when Europe had nothing in the Free World outside what we had retained, and when the United States of America was demobilising hand over fist, if we had not adopted National Service at that time then Russia's influence could have marched through the whole of Europe without their being required to fire a shot. They would have been able to win by pure political blackmail.
That was the situation. That was the view that Mr. Bevin reported to the Cabinet and to our Prime Minister. That 301 was what led us to take the unprecedented step of seeking to have the basis here for organising a defensive effort in NATO. We signed the Treaty of Dunkirk in February, 1947, without which you would never have had NATO established. And it was partly under the administration of the noble and gallant Viscount that I was able after that, after the Treaty of Dunkirk, to collect the voices in Europe to get a stocktaking of all the military equipment and men available; and the story was a shocking one. What was left? The only body with anything real at all was this country; and so we spread the net and got military representatives from Washington and one from Ottawa to come and consider the stocktaking with us. And the result was NATO.
Let us face the facts. How dare the Opposition talk to my Party as if we were the ones who were denigrating our country! You are living to-day upon the peace established through the world organisation—or for this part of the world, at any rate—of NATO. It was not your idea; it was a Labour idea, carried to America and to Ottawa and getting their support; and thank God for their support! You have a condition of affairs to-day that cannot match with the efforts the Labour Party made to put things on a sound footing. That is the fact. How dare you talk to us like that! I say to noble Lords opposite, as Sir Winston Churchill used to say of the Germans: "Who do they think we are?" We love our country—and we love the people of our country. We want to see them kept safe; and when it is necessary to defend freedom and liberty we want to encourage them to do it.
But the Government are not going to do it on the basis of what has apparently been the first shots in an electoral campaign by our old friend Sir Alec—I had better say the former Lord Home, to get me out of my pronunciation difficulties. You are not going to do it that way. You must come to a different situation altogether. If you want to keep unity; if you want to be able gradually to put in the sort of controls you repudiated in 1950 and 1951—call them an incomes policy, call them this, call them that—you must treat the working class differently from the way in which you are treating them now, 302 and not begin to make an attack on their leaders as if they were denigrators of their country, for it is a falsehood and completely untrue. We have randered our service to this nation as we best think. Everybody is entitled to his own political opinion and I am not disputing that; but at least we can carry our political differences on a decent ground and at a decent level, and without publishing secret documents like those which the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, satisfied himself with appraising tonight, having already published them in a book. Let us keep to the rules and fight a straight fight. I believe then we might get down to a better consideration of defence.
My Lords, I believe that we are entitled as a Labour Party, if we come into office, to have made no pledge to Sir Alec in answer to the question he puts before us. We have not the information he has. This Government has taken no other step at all but to review its policy whenever it liked according to facts which have never been revealed to us. So they spend the money and have no answers to give to the public as to what this money represents. I know this: at the present moment you have not more than 173,000 men in the Regular Army and the prospects are decreasing. And I know that in an emergency you have not 173,000 men to put into operation, by the time you have taken away the recruits who are under training and the men training them, and also the men who are enjoying their usual leave—a maximum of six weeks a year. You are not going to have 173,000 trained men available on that basis. Yet you have given the promise in the White Paper of 1957. And if you are not able to get the forces required to cover your commitments you will not hesitate to bring in such measures of compulsion as you require. Why did not the Prime Minister tell the public that that was his position? Why did he not? Why did he not get views upon it beforehand from the country? Why turn to us to get him out of his difficulties? We are not the Party that abolished conscription. There is the Party that abolished conscription.
So my Lords I find nothing in the answers so far that have been given to 303 set my mind at rest about the present situation and conditions of the Forces, and I am sure that this applies also to my colleagues. I think we have been absolutely entitled to put down this Amendment to the Loyal Address in reply to the Queen's Speech and to indicate our horror at the extent to which this country has been committed to £1,838 million, which we would not begrudge for adequate forces properly trained and without the waste that has gone on, down the sink, in trying to do something else since 1957. It has been a complete waste of enormous sums of money. This is going to be in addition to the social plan involving great capital expenditure for the Government in the next four or five years; and the Minister of Defence says he fully expects that the figure may have to go up to £2,000 million next year. How do you expect the country to look at that unless you can show far greater justification for it than you have yet done? Bring us evidence of real keenness for the security, the freedom and the liberty of your people by such adequate defence as is required. On the same basis we pleaded again and again in 1937, 1938 and 1939, that we would vote then—not knowing exactly what the state was—any money you required, provided you moved on a basis of collective security.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Oh, oh!
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
That is so. I defy any contradiction that can come. Laughing does not help a bit. That is an actual fact.
I can find little evidence in what the Government have said on their behalf to-night, I can find no evidence in any publication they have made, that they are ready to stand up to the kind of dangers that they talk about in the plans they have made for the Forces. We have little faith in what they have done; and they have to make grave alterations before they can bring anything like satisfaction to the electorate.
§ 7.29 p.m.
THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I am grateful for the kind words which the noble Earl the Leader of 304 the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, have said about me personally, and more especially when I remember the deep and continued devotion of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition to the Service which I now have the honour to serve. I suppose it was inevitable, this being an Election year, for the Opposition to seek to make this occasion one of censure on the Government. That being so, I grant that the speakers for the Opposition have gone through the motions with a good grace. Despite this unnecessary Amendment, I feel that we have had a useful and reasonably objective debate. It is true that the debate has been the vehicle for an Amendment which amounts to a Vote of Censure—and let us have no doubt about that—but it has also been a vehicle for two maiden speeches by my noble friends. And if I have to choose between the two vehicles I would, if I may say so, without being impolite to the Opposition, choose the very roadworthy vehicle of my two noble friends. I hope that their speeches—and I am sure that in saying this I echo the feelings of everybody in the House—will be the prelude to many more.
We have also had, as was to be expected, thoughtful and constructive speeches from the Benches behind me, including a scintillating performance from the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and a typically debonair one from the noble and gallant Field Marshal who, I am glad to see, successfully notched his three score and sixteen years the other day. By and large, it is also fair to say that we have had characteristically thoughtful speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton, Lord Shepherd and Lord Kennet. Though there was a great deal of meat in what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, had to say, if I do not bite on it, it is merely because I think that I shall be chewing far too long for your Lordships' benefit this evening. Given that they were speaking to an Amendment of censure, I thought that noble Lords opposite were, for the most part, very moderate indeed.
Since the noble Earl opposite referred to my father, I wonder whether I could reminisce for a few seconds. Some days ago, I found myself taking the 305 parade at Dartmouth. It was a beautiful morning and the cadets and the sub-lieutenants marched past very well indeed. I could not help reflecting, as I looked over the waters of the Dart, that in 1872—some 91 years ago—a young midshipman called John Rushworth Jellicoe was doing his training on that river in the old H.M.S. "Britannia". The thought was in my mind because, before going on parade, the Captain of Dartmouth had shown me the entries opposite Midshipman J. R. Jellicoe in the 1872 Punishment Book. I was surprised by how long the list was: gross disobedience to orders; for entering and staying in a farmhouse for twenty minutes; bringing sweets on board; four days No. 4 punishment for skylarking in his hammock. I do not think that I can accuse noble Lords of skylarking in their Parliamentary hammocks all this afternoon, though from time to time I think they have done so. Of course, I am in no position to consign them to four days No. 4—whatever that may be—but I hope that if they persist in their intention of dividing the House this evening—and I trust they will not—your Lordships will deal out "six of the best" to them in the Lobbies.
In winding up this debate on the Government's behalf, I am faced with two difficulties. In the first place, it has ranged very wide indeed, and if I were to follow all the avenues which your Lordships explored I should be intolerably long. For once I will resist that temptation. But, of course, I shall not be able to cover, except in the most cursory way, many of the interesting and detailed administrative points put forward this evening by my noble friends, Lord Napier and Ettrick and Lord Suffield, in the wide-ranging speech of my noble friend Lord Hanworth and by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, in that part of his carefully considered remarks which touched on the administration of the Armed Forces.
My second difficulty is greater. It is in following my noble Leader, Lord Carrington. He is a difficult man to follow, as I am finding to my cost in my new job. My noble friend is held in very great respect and affection by the Royal Navy. But he is also difficult to follow in this debate, since he has already answered, far more ably than I can, the 306 case, even before they deployed it, which some noble Lords have attempted to deploy against the Government. I should like to confine my remarks, therefore, so far as possible, to three main topics: to manpower, which has exercised your Lordships at least to some extent this evening; to questions of materiel, which we have also explored at some length, and also, in conclusion, to the question of the deterrent, on which, I should like to say a few words of my own.
A number of noble Lords have asked me fairly searching questions on manpower, and they were right to do so, because this is to a large extent the heart of the matter. In addition to the noble Jeremiahs and Cassandras on the Benches opposite, we have had the benefit of interesting speeches from the noble and gallant Field Marshal and from the noble and gallant General on the Cross Benches, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, who has told me that he has had to leave your Lordships' House as he had another engagement.
Let me say this by way of preface. More than six years have now passed since it was decided that we should end conscription, and the last group of National Servicemen ended their full-time service early this year. I would grant, without hesitation, that in the immediate post-war years we could not possibly have done without these National Servicemen; and far be it from me to denigrate their efforts. I agree with all that my noble and gallant friend had to say on that score. But I also agree with my noble friend Lord Swinton—and most of those who have served in the Armed Forces will agree—that all-Regular, professional, highly trained forces in peace time have many advantages. I will not go over the reasons for that: they were given fully by my noble friend Lord Swinton. But there is also the fact of morale. Let us remember that to-day the men and women in our Armed Forces are there as a result of deliberate and voluntary decision, and I think that this is a very important gain.
For the reasons given by my noble friend, I believe that we were right to end conscription. For the same reasons, I believe that we should be wrong to reintroduce it. But both these beliefs, 307 of course, are subject to the essential proviso that we can attract to the Armed Forces officers and men in the right numbers and of the right quality. Some of the Government's critics have questioned our ability to do so. Are they justified in this? I would claim that they are not, and I should like, briefly, since it is late, to review the position Service by Service.
First, the R.A.F. Some 30 months ago, when I spoke on the Air Estimates, the R.A.F. was worried about pilot shortage. Now the recruiting targets for air-crew officers are being achieved and the wastage in flying training has been greatly reduced. Again, the R.A.F. is getting all the recruits it needs for ground trades. Although your Lordships may have noticed that R.A.F. intakes this year have been below those for 1962, this is solely because of lower requirements, arising out of the disbandment of the Thor squadrons and the more efficient use of manpower. Finally, although there are still some shortages in certain branches—for example, in the medical branch—the recruitment of officers to the ground branches has been going reasonably well. Thus, there is no serious overall problem with the R.A.F.
The same, broadly, applies to the Royal Navy. Officer recruitment is rising quite sharply—in fact, surprisingly sharply—and we are now getting most of the officers we want, although there are some shortages in certain categories, such as pilots, both fixed-wing and helicopter. In the last financial year we obtained more rating recruits than we had expected, and this year we expect to reach our target of 7,000. Let me enter here two caveats. For the first time since the war, the strength of the Navy is rising rather than falling. This is a very distinct change. But we cannot therefore rest on our laurels—or our oars. We shall need larger entries in future and more highly trained specialists to man the increasingly sophisticated ships of to-morrow. Already the Navy has some shortages in some technical and specialised categories. We are devoting a great deal of attention to means of overcoming these shortages, in particular, to keeping re-engagement at a high level.
308 The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred in a slightly different context to the importance of re-engagement. I could not agree more with what he said on this question. For the first half of 1963, 56 per cent. of men completing a twelve-year engagement re-engaged. This is a reasonably good figure. But it is important that we should try to improve upon it, because the experienced ratings of long service are quite indispensable in the Navy, as in other Services.
Here, I should like to dwell for a moment on the improvement of married quarters. I feel that this, the home for the Service family, and re-engagement are intimately linked in all the Services. My noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick, in his maiden speech, referred to this matter and to the quality of housing, which again is important. A number of noble Lords have referred to the shortage of housing for the Army in Germany. The position is as follows. A large programme of married quarters, as your Lordships know, is in hand. More than 3,000 married quarters have recently been built; we plan to provide another 4,500 next year and to complete the programme by 1966. Meanwhile, there is a plan, of which doubtless the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, knows, for providing mobile houses. This situation is being gripped.
Finally, if I may go on to Army recruiting, I have quite deliberately left my old Service to the last, since it is the one whose recruiting problems are much the most serious. The Army needs 20,000 officers and 160,000 other ranks. At the present time, it is close to its target for officers, but still needs about 8,000 other ranks. As with the other Services, there are shortages of officers in certain specialised arms, like the R.A.M.C., the R.A.D.C. and the Royal Army Education Corps, although measures taken to make a career in these Corps more attractive are bearing fruit and the deficiencies should be overcome by 1965. The position with regard to other ranks is, frankly, far less satisfactory; but the September figures, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred with such despair, have shown an improvement, albeit a modest one, and the October figures are continuing this improved trend.
The September figures were an improvement on the August figures. The percentage by which the September figures fell below September, 1962, was much less than that by which the August figures fell below August, 1962. The trend is improving, and that improvement has continued in the October figures, the full details of which we have not yet got. Although we still have to reach our target, the fact remains that the Army strength is now 95 per cent. of its full establishment of 180,000. That establishment, in its turn, is some 15,000 higher than the figure provisionally adopted when the end of conscription was planned in 1957.
That is the broad manpower position in the forces, as I see it, and I have tried to state it as objectively as I can. On the whole, we are doing, with exceptions, reasonably well, and far better, I think, than the great majority of people—certainly the great majority of our critics—would have thought possible five or six years ago. Compared with the distance which we have come, the distance that we still have to travel to hit our targets is very small indeed. I am sure that on any objective assessment our volunteer recruitment policy can now he seen to be a success, although we must never forget that to enjoy the luxury of being without conscription demands constant effort from everybody concerned with recruitment. I can assure your Lordships that those efforts will be maintained and if necessary intensified, and we will certainly look carefully at the number of imaginative suggestions which have been made in your Lordships' House to-day. Of course, there are difficulties. I hope that I have not attempted to hide them or gloss over them. With the R.A.F. and the Navy these difficulties are limited and localised.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Earl on the question of the Army. He has given us a good deal of information, but I asked certain specific questions. I do not know whether he is going to 310 answer them. Perhaps I may repeat them. As I understand it, having done a quick calculation on the figures, we have now attained a figure of around 171,000 or slightly more—and I had guessed 172,000. This does not bring us even half way from the 165,000 to the 180,000. I wanted to ask whether the March, 1964, target of 180,000 is now too much to hope for. The noble Earl was good enough to give the October figures—or rather, he said that the trend continued. The September figures gave us a net increase. Could the noble Earl also tell us what is the strength of the Army in Germany, and particularly the position of "Ever-readies"? And why is there a change of policy with regard to the Gurkhas?
I was coming to the last two of the questions the noble Lord has asked. So far as the present figures are concerned, I think they are nearer 172,000 than 171,000. Last month there was a net increase in the Army figure of 800, which is quite significant. But whether or not we shall attain the figures of a particular target by a particular time, I think I should be foolish to try to prophesy.
As I said, I have not attempted to gloss over the difficulties; but, so far as the Navy and the R.A.F. are concerned, I think they are limited and localised. Even with the Army, where the shoe undoubtedly pinches most, the shortfall is only 5 per cent. Faced with that shortfall (the seriousness of which I do not wish to underestimate, because Ave know what it means in particular units in particular places), certain noble and gallant Lords have advocated a return to conscription, or some form of conscription, as a possibility. They are entitled to their view, and, as they speak with great experience, we should not lightly dismiss their advice. But, my Lords, I suggest that at this stage the noble and gallant Lords are really advocating a hammer with which to crack a nut. Faced, as we are, with this marginal shortfall, serious though it is, would it be sensible to abandon the ideal of all-Regular, all-professional, Armed Forces and revert, against all our peace-time traditions, to conscription in one form or another? On this issue—greatly daring, since I have stood in my day in statu pupillari 311 to both noble and gallant Lords—I must differ from their advice, however honestly given.
But, my Lords, what is the honest advice of the Opposition? We have heard their complaints on this. But what is their solution? We have still to learn what that solution is. As for the specific questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I forget his precise question about the Gurkhas, and if I do not answer it fully I hope he will interrupt me again. Your Lordships will recall that it was announced last March that we were to reduce the number of Gurkhas in the British Army from just under 15,000 to 10,000. This reduction was to be spaced over a number of years; it was intended that the run-down should begin in 1964. I can confirm what my noble friend Lord Swinton has mentioned—namely, that we have decided to postpone this rundown. My noble friend welcomed this announcement, but I thought that it received no more than a grudging welcome from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
As for the British Army on the Rhine, we have undertaken to bring the strength of B.A.O.R. up to its peace-time establishment of 55,000 men as soon as possible, and we are making steady progress towards that target. The date by which we can make up this deficiency, which is now fairly small (it is about 3,000; the strength is one side or other of 52,000) must depend both on recruitment and on our defence requirements in other parts of the world. Here I must express my complete agreement with what was said by the noble and gallant Field Marshal. It would be very foolish of us to denude a theatre where the need is at present most stringent—the whole theatre East of Suez—in order to reinforce a theatre, Europe, where the need is admittedly great, but not nearly so great.
Having said that, however, I should like to make two qualifications. The first is that it is our intention to remedy this shortfall—we admit that it is a serious shortfall, although it is quite small in number—as soon as possible. The second is that we have, of course, made provision to more than double the peacetime strength of B.A.O.R. within a few days in an emergency which calls for mobilisation.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, will the noble Earl permit me to interject that, if this is so, would it not be possible to change the W.E.U. target, which we are falling short of, because if we break our obligations under the W.E.U. Treaties as we are doing by not having 55,000 men in Germany, and if the French do, as they are doing by not declaring the level of their nuclear stocks, then it is an invitation to West Germany to break those treaties, too, and to seek national control of nuclear weapons which is forbidden?
I do not think I follow the full logic of the noble Lord's argument, because what I was saying is that we have every intention of getting up to this target.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I say that that is a completely opposite view to the view expressed by the noble and gallant Field Marshal? He wanted to move towards extracting people from B.A.O.R., and not leaving them there.
I was not aware that the noble and gallant Field Marshal was speaking for the Government. I am in that position. What I was agreeing with was that the priority at this moment is the area East of Suez.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
In that case, surely my noble friend who has just put his question is entitled to ask whether taking men out of B.A.O.R. for the other theatre is breaking a contract in a most important defensive agreement for a very wide area in which we are all involved. If you break your contract, you are likely to lead to the breaking of the contract as a whole.
My Lords, I do not want to chop logic with the noble Earl over this, but we are not taking people out of the European theatre. In fact, we are building it up, and it is our intention to build it up to the full 55,000.
Noble Lords also focused a good deal of attention—and I was not surprised to hear attention focused in that way—on the equipment of the British Army of the Rhine. I should like to say this by way of preface. I think the Army has, 313 to a considerable extent, unlike the other two Services, two separate equipment problems. First, it has to meet its commitments as part of the NATO Force in Europe, where the threat is posed by a potential enemy with a very sophisticated weapons system. Secondly, it has to be equally prepared for and able to take part in a limited war—a bush war or brush war, I never know which it is—in other parts of the globe.
The problem of equipment in B.A.O.R. is certainly that which poses the most serious burden on our Army resources. I do not deny that for one second. There has been a great deal of criticism at various times of B.A.O.R.'s equipment. I remember it very well when I was speaking on the Army Estimates almost three years ago. I think that here a vital consideration must always be in the forefront of our minds if we are trying to look at this objectively. The consideration is this. Nowadays it takes anything from six to ten years to bring complicated equipment into service. This means that by the time it is issued to the Army its replacement is already under active consideration for development. That is said by way of preface.
What is the equipment position?— I do not guarantee to cover all the items about which I was asked. Broadly speaking, it is this. But first let me remind your Lordships of one thing. I remember three years ago, in speaking to this very point, the equipments which attracted most criticism—and I think quite justifiably—were the vehicles of the British Army of the Rhine. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, knows, B.A.O.R. has now received a complete refit of vehicles and, as a result, we have heard no more about that particular deficiency. Again, the W.T. position in B.A.O.R. was severely criticised. It has been criticised again by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, this evening. A very full range of new wireless equipment is at present being brought into B.A.O.R. In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, it is quite true that the only item of that equipment which is fully transistorised is the infantryman pack, and that will be with B.A.O.R. by the end of 1964.
314 Now, tanks, another point about which I was asked. At the moment B.A.O.R. is equipped with the Centurion tank, a very fine tank, but getting a little long in the track. It has been modernised lately and eight out of ten B.A.O.R. regiments are equipped with the re-armoured and up-gunned version of the Centurion tank. The Chieftain, about which I was asked, will be starting to come in in two years' time. With regard to the Abbott, the new infantry 105 millimetre gun which is to replace the old 25-pounder, familiar to many of us, all the artillery regiments of B.A.O.R. are to be re-equipped by 1966, starting of course much earlier. Then there is the Saracen, the two-wheeled armoured personnel carrier about which I was asked. A number of battalions are equipped with that, but it is a wheeled vehicle. It is to be replaced by a much more mobile tracked personnel carrier, the first battalion to be re-equipped by May 1964, and the whole within two years. That is the programme, and I have no doubt that it will be achieved. Finally, to satisfy the noble Lord's interest about the Drones, as I think they are called, I gather that the position there is that we are sharing the development of this curiously named reconnaissance vehicle with the Canadians, but I am not able to quote a date when it is likely to be in service.
I was asked about other forms of equipment, and not only that of B.A.O.R. I was asked about numbers of aircraft and about particular types of aircraft. I do not think I am in a position to add anything to what my noble friend the Leader of the House has said about the TSR 2, about which he spoke very fully and convincingly, and about the P.1154. But I should like to deal with one point which my noble friend Lord Teynham asked me, and that was whether we really needed the TSR 2, and could we not have got by with the Buccaneer. The Buccaneer is an extremely fine aircraft, which will certainly have a very long and useful Service life. But it is a quite different type of animal from the TSR 2. It was designed expressly for carrier operations, and it is considerably smaller. As a result, its performance in the rôles for which the R.A.F. have a requirement is far more limited.
315 Again, I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, whether so far as the Navy was concerned the introduction of the British Polaris fleet meant that we were giving or would be giving a lower priority in the Navy to anti-submarine warfare. I think that I can give him a categorical answer to his question: No; it does not mean a lower priority. To reinforce that "No", I would remind the noble Lord that since the Defence White Paper appeared two of the "Leander" type anti-submarine frigates, "Leander" and "Dido", have come into commission; that five out of seven of the new type-81 Tribals are in commission; that the eighth and ninth "O" Class submarines, whose rôle is primarily anti-submarine, are in commission, and the tenth has been accepted for service; and, finally, that the "Dreadnought", the nuclear submarine, whose rôle, of course, is again primarily anti-submarine (and I had the pleasure of visiting her yesterday in the Clyde) is in commission; that the second "Valiant" is about to be launched and the third is on the way. There is no slackening whatsoever in our antisubmarine effort and it is right that there should be no such slackening.
So far as Lord Shackleton's favourite aircraft, the Shackleton, is concerned (and I was not surprised when he referred to it), the position is that a complete modernisation is being given to the existing 90 Mark II and III Shackletons. It is not just a face-lift; it means new armament, new-type detection apparatus and new, or possibly supplementary, power plants. In addition to that, the question of a Shackleton replacement is under study. Finally, in answer to my noble friend Lord Teynham, I can give him, too, an assurance that there is no question of abandoning the aircraft carrier programme; and I was very glad, if I may say so, to hear what my noble friend had to say on the Navy as a whole.
I have dealt, admittedly cursorily, but it is rather late, with equipment, and I should like to turn back for a moment to Britain's deterrent force. I think this only right, since this matter has figured so prominently in our debate this afternoon. I feel that whenever this matter has been discussed recently, both inside 316 and outside Parliament, one essential fact has sometimes tended to be obscured: that our deterrent forces are essentially our contribution to the deterrent forces of the West as a whole. Indeed, that has always been the case. Anyone who knows anything about these matters—anyone who has visited Strategic Air Command at Omaha and knows about the joint targeting arrangements—knows this. Nassau, of course, marked a significant step forward in placing our V-bombers and, later, our Polaris force under SACEUR. This fact, the fact that our deterrent forces are part and parcel—an integrated part—of the Western Alliance, marks, I think, the essential difference between them and the embryonic Gaullist force de frappe.
I understand the point of view of those who oppose the British deterrent because it is linked with this concept of interdependence. Indeed, I often feel that many of those who do oppose our deterrent are really opposed to the Western deterrent as such. The basically pacifist or neutralist position is a perfectly respectable and understandable one; but it is not, as I understand it, the position of most noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for example, and, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, are not opposed to the British deterrent, or have not been in the past, when embodied in the V-bomber force. But the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, appears to be opposed to it, or to have doubts about it, when it is embodied in a British Polaris force. This seems to me, frankly, to be a rather curious position, and I believe that its logic could be sustained only if it could be shown that the Polaris system was inaccurate and vulnerable, and that the British contribution by way of a British Polaris force was likely to be too insignificant, too expensive or too unpunctual.
I do not think that any of these arguments can be sustained. The Polaris system is an accurate system—far more accurate, for example, than Mr. Gordon Walker appears to imagine. It is as invulnerable (this applies both to the site, the submarine, and to the missile) as any that is operable at present. The British force alone, too, carries a very considerable nuclear punch, certainly 317 no less than the V-bomber force. It is our intention that it should be fully operational before the 1970s, and its expense will be well below the hallowed figure of 10 per cent. All in all, I find it hard to understand why those who believe in interdependence, and who have supported within that concept a British contribution to the Western deterrent, should now change their stance, as it were in midstream.
I grant that noble Lords opposite may argue that they are not opposed to this concept which embodies interdependence. What they may be really questioning, as I understand it, is our belief that the Polaris deterrent will be an independent deterrent and that in the last resort we should reserve the right to operate it independently. But, if this is the real reason for their opposition, let us be quite clear—and I think it is advisable that your Lordships should be clear—where we stand. The British Polaris force will be equipped with submarines of British design. They will be powered by British nuclear reactors and armed with British nuclear warheads. The missile system, it is true, will be American. Here I should like to touch for a second on a misconception which came into our earlier discussion, although it may not be necessary to say much, in view of what my noble friend Lord Carrington said. We propose to equip it with the A3 missile. This is the very latest version which is not yet in service in the United States, although it is in production there; but, of course, as with all weapons, we plan development, and replacement in due course; and should a better equipment come up, then our ability to receive that is quite clearly covered by Articles 3 and 4 of the Polaris Sales Agreement.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the noble Earl said that the Polaris force would be not less than the hitting power of the V-bombers. If we have three submarines, each with sixteen A3 missiles, that gives, I think, 42 to 45 megatons. Is it really the case that the V-bombers can drop less than 42 to 45 megatons?
My Lords, I do not think I should go too deeply into this matter, but I was not speaking without having checked my facts very carefully in this particular respect, and 318 I ask the noble Lord to believe that I had done my "homework" before I used the particular phrase I used.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, would the noble Earl agree that that is one of the difficulties in raising this particular issue on an Election platform?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sure we do not doubt the noble Earl's words, but we do understand it was a difference, and that the V-bomber force had a potential 300-to-400-megaton delivery capacity. I do not know whether the noble Earl would prefer entirely to reserve his position, but I cannot for the life of me see how the Polaris submarine can have the same megaton delivery. I support my noble friend on that.
I should prefer not to go too deeply into that, and if the noble Lord would prefer me to use the phrase that I am "reserving my position" I am quite prepared to do that. But I have no doubt as to my position on this point.
It is quite clear, as I said, that the missile system, as such, is American; but once the submarines are operational there is nothing, either in the Nassau Agreement or in the facts of the situation, which would lead one to suppose that these submarines would not be subject to the full control of Her Majesty's Government, exercised, if need be, independently. The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition asked me to read paragraph 9 of the Nassau Agreement. I think the sentence he had in mind was this:The Prime Minister may declare that except where Her Majesty's Government may decide that supreme national interests are at stake these British forces will be used for the purposes of the international defence of the Western Alliance in all circumstances.I see nothing wrong with that sentence.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will follow and answer the supplementary point I put. Do the Government consider they will face such circumstances in which they will use an independent strike as a first strike, and do they anticipate any result of that but 319 a holocaust of counter nuclear attack upon our country?
I really feel the noble Earl could pot have been listening to what my noble friend Lord Carrington said in his introductory speech. The point is not to use it. It has failed if it has to be used. The point is deterrence.
I think it is a perfectly fair question and I should like to put to those who ask it the following questions. We do not doubt ourselves—we have never doubted—that the United States will honour its obligations to us and our other NATO allies. That is not doubted. My noble friend Lord Carrington made that absolutely clear. But can you be quite certain—and this is the rub—that the Soviet leaders will always in all circumstances believe this too? They have miscalculated before. They miscalculated only a year ago over Cuba. Are you quite certain that they will believe that the United States, in the last resort and in all circumstances, many of which we cannot foresee at the present time, would be prepared to put Chicago, Illinois, or Birmingham, Alabama, at nuclear hazard because Birmingham, England, was threatened? I am merely saying that this might well be a Soviet miscalculation. I am casting no doubts whatever upon the willingness of our American allies to honour their obligations to us and Europe.
Given all the uncertainties of the world situation, are you prepared here and now to opt out—and probably that would mean for all time—when others in Europe are not opting out? Are you absolutely certain, if you do so, that this country will retain its present influence in world affairs? Can you really be so certain of this, when the logic of your own leaders' arguments in another place is that possession of nuclear weapons lends us weight in nuclear negotiations with the United States? Those are the questions I suggest which really require answer, and they have not been answered, at least to my satisfaction, by noble Lords opposite this evening.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, of course I shall read the last two or three hundred words from the noble Earl very carefully when it is in print, and I do not want to be unfair in any judgment. I must say, just as we have been trying to build up for decades in this country a real adhesion to the use of collective security in every respect, this taking of a single, independent line that is in paragraph 9 of the Bahamas Agreement is dangerous, and I am quite sure if it is put in that way to the electorate the Government will gain nothing from it
I am not wishing to make an electoral issue but merely stating the arguments behind paragraph 9, which are not new. This all applied with the V-bomber force just as much as with the Polaris submarine force.
Although I have not answered all the points put to me this afternoon—some of them covered matters of relative detail—I am in some danger of breaking my promise of not being unreasonably long. The Opposition claim that our defence policies are unsound. I would claim, on the contrary, that they have been proved sound in the hardest of all schools, the school of experience. The proof of the pudding is that we are at peace to-day. Where, since the war, we have been faced with actual, or threatened, or limited, or bush, war, our Armed Forces have shown their ability more than once to act promptly and efficiently. This is proof of a sound policy, soundly conceived. The Opposition have also claimed that our policy is inconsistent. I would merely reply that my noble Leader has fully documented this afternoon its essential consistency.
I suppose, since they argue that our policy is both unsound and inconsistent, the Opposition would claim that their policy is both sound and consistent. Let me briefly, in conclusion, examine those implied claims. One cannot expect an Opposition to produce a detailed alternative defence policy, particularly when they have been out of office, and have deserved to be, for a long time. But we can reasonably expect them—and I am sure the noble Earl would agree with me here—in addition to criticising this 'plane or that 'plane, this piece of equipment or that piece of equipment, to sketch at least 321 the outlines of an alternative policy. But you cannot do that if you duck the main issues, and ducking the main issues is precisely what the Opposition do and what they have done to-day.
Here, at least, they have been consistent. They have failed to tell us when discussing the overall impact of our defence policy on the national economy whether they would or would not devote a larger share of the national income to defence. They have failed to tell us, when discussing manpower, whether, like us, they will continue to opt for professional, highly trained all-Regular armed forces. They have failed to tell us whether they propose to cut our defence commitments abroad, and if so where. Maybe this does not apply to noble Lords opposite, but it certainly does to some of their leaders in another place.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
We are attacking your record in this matter and the present condition of the Forces, and all this other is eyewash.
And, while very free with their criticism of our policy on the deterrent, they have failed to produce a consistent and coherent policy of their own.
I should not be so bold as to claim that the defence policy of the Opposition is at all times and at all points unsound. It shifts so rapidly that it is just conceivable that at some given moment some part of it may be valid. Nor would I deny the charms of their defence policy, at least to Socialists. It is all things to all Socialists. It is one thing to Silverman, another to Paget, another to Shackleton, another to Wigg. At least it has the merits of extreme flexibility. But what I do deny is that a
§ policy which shifts from Party Conference to Party Conference can be both sound and consistent.
§ Your Lordships know that our cousins across the Atlantic have of late become addicts to playing war games on computers. Since the Labour Party have apparently just discovered science and electronics and automation, such games may have certain charms for them. But let them beware of asking any computer, even a Socialist one, at any time whether the Labour Party's Defence policy has been both sound and consistent. I feel it is quite inevitable that, after a painful struggle, all that the poor computer could offer would be a mournful croak. But it is not necessary for us who are not "whizz kids" to rely upon computers. Given the vagaries, given the oscillations of the Labour Party on Defence, I think it has required real nerve on the Opposition's part this afternoon to move an Amendment in these terms. If noble Lords opposite are ill-advised enough to press this Amendment, I trust your Lordships will reject it, and reject it decisively.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I have been appealed to by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge and others, not to proceed with this Amendment, but after the speech I have just heard I will be only too determined to proceed with it. The open insult to the Labour Party in the recent remarks about science and education, after what we have struggled for 70 years to get out of Tory Governments, is just about the last word.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 71.323
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Listowel, E.||Silkin, L.|
|Champion, L.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Summerskill, B.|
|Henderson, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Henley, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Walston, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Derwent, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Devonshire, D.||Merrivale, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Milverton, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Molson, L.|
|Alport, L.||Dundee, E.||Montgomery of Alamein, V|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Effingham, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Amory, V.||Ferrers, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Fortescue, E.||Newton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Baillieu, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Balerno, L.||Grantchester, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Grenfell, L.||Savile, L.|
|Blakenham, V.||Hailes, L.||Soulbury, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Hanworth, V.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Hastings, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Horsbrugh, B.||Suffield, L.|
|Carew, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Coleraine, L,||Jessel, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Long, V.||Waleran, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Lothian, M.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|De La Warr, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Denham, L.||Margesson, V.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.