§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH rose to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after "House" and insert "has no confidence that the policy set out in the Statement on Defence 1964 provides effectively for the defence of our country and its overseas obligations." The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move, on behalf of the Labour Opposition, the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper, in which we express the view that the present provision for Defence is not sufficient for the security of our country and for meeting our overseas obligations.
§ I was rather astonished to hear the noble Earl, when he opened his speech this afternon, say that he thought our Defence debates were usually conducted with an air of artificiality. I must say that I cannot remember a Defence debate in this House which has been marked by such a state of thinking. I have always given the House credit for being concerned with matters of Defence and I think that this applies to all sides of the House. We have put down our Amendment because we feel that the House and the nation should give sufficient attention to this matter and understand what is being spent and what is 738 being provided to meet the needs of our national defence and overseas commitments and yet have available a proper Strategic Reserve.
§ I have some experience of this branch of Parliamentary and Government duties and I am not able to agree that the case that the noble Earl tried to make out has been made. I also regret that, early in his speech, he should have made what apparently were supposed to be quotations from speeches of my Party Leader in another place and Mr. Denis Healey and was unable to match them up to questions put to him by noble Lords in respect of these quotations. I think that is a great pity.
§ I am also bound to express disappointment at the manner in which the Leader of the Conservative Party at the present time has made a definite decision that the question of the nuclear deterrent, on which he sets such store, must be made an issue at the General Election. I think that that is a fundamental mistake on his part and that when we have finished stating our case to the country the Conservative Party will find that it will react against them very seriously. We heard from the present Prime Minister, just a few weeks before he left this House, that our Defence policy is all right, so long as we are spending one-seventh of the national output on Defence
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
That was a slip of the tongue, my Lords; I intended to say 7 per cent. of our overall production. To-day we are faced with a budget for Defence of around £2,000 million. I measure this not merely against the output of the country as a whole, but against what the Government think is the maximum they can extort from the nation for their annual Budget. When we take the history of the Budgets of this Government, we find that they took over a Budget of £4,190 million in 1951 and that the Budget for this year, adding the Supplementary Estimates for 1963–64, will reach £7,000 million. If we take the percentage for Defence alone in that Budget, we find it is a very different percentage for Defence from the pre-war Budgets, not only those between the First and the Second Great Wars but also those before the First War. It looks as if there has been a complete change 739 in the outlook of Governments on what is a proper percentage.
It is being gradually instilled into us that no capitalist Government in my lifetime has ever provided a sufficient percentage to meet the situation at the outbreak of war. From Khartoum onwards, we cannot find one. Of course, with the extraordinary change in the value of currency, we find we have to spend a good deal more than formerly, in financial figures. But when we say that we are going to spend two-sevenths of the national Budget on Defence, and at the same time say that we cannot afford to give a shilling or two extra to nurses when they ask for it, it does not really make sense unless we can show an overwhelming case for that method of expenditure. Moreover, I think it is fairly clear that, whilst we have this enormous Defence budget of £2,000 million, we are not getting value for money in respect of the amount of security which is effected for our own country, or to provide us with adequate forces to deal with our overseas commitments. I want, if I can, to try to demonstrate that this afternoon.
Of course things are changing rapidly in the world. The overseas commitments that we had are rapidly changing. We have seen a different state of affairs arising within the Commonwealth itself from what it was even twenty years ago. Incidentally, I might also point out to the noble Earl (and we hope his tour of duty as the Admiralty will be successful, because of his famous naval father) that when he expressed confidence that the Navy can now get to the proper place in the proper time, and will always be there, there is a great deal of change in the matter of where our bases are from what it was 25 years ago. In regard to your equipment in ships, therefore, you have to take great care to measure where you proceed from, and what requirements you have for permanent overseas bases which would enable them to proceed in time for every one of your overseas commitments—although, of course, in some respects a place can be properly provided for temporarily by action by air instead of by sea—a state of release by air instead of by sea. These are all very different states of affairs from those for which many of us used to try to administer in Defence.
740 But when we analyse the detail of Defence expenditure, we find an extraordinary thing. How has it grown? It grew rapidly in 1950 for two reasons, one of which I candidly confess was as a result of part of my policy and my Government's policy: that in the state of the world we needed National Service, and we were bound to have the expense of National Service. This included the great achievement of setting up a permanent military reserve. Although it was mounting from that point of view, it mounted still more at the time because of the experience we were drawn into with regard to the United Nations' support of the American and British intervention at the start of Korea. America and Britain were acting, as they usually have to, as leaders in the defence of the cause for which the United Nations stands.
Now we have roughly £500 million additional to our Defence budget since 1951; but we have not got the forces that we had in 1951—not by a very long chalk. We were maintaining then personnel of between 800,000 and 900,000, in addition to the fact that we always had a Strategic Reserve. We were able to maintain our duties overseas then at once, because we had the reserves to send, in spite of the fact that we were still fighting our way back from all the dangers and destructions that had come to our country during the war. These are the facts.
If you want to look at the present position, which is how we judge the strength of our Defence, you have to come back to the Defence White Paper of 1957, which adopted a different basis altogether. First, it was to abolish National Service and to rely, in the main, upon the nuclear deterrent for security. The saving to be effected on National Service was £100 million in the following year, and it was expected by the then Minister of Defence, Mr. Duncan Sandys, to be a progressive saving. But it did not even save it in the first year. Now we have forces which have been placed at one or two different levels this afternoon. It looks as if the Government have placed at one time the maximum personnel required for the three Services to be 375,000—far less than half what we had in 1950. You have still to meet the 741 same overseas commitments, as well as to meet your proper obligations.
We have had an examination of the figures of recruiting this afternoon by the noble Earl, and he has given us certain figures. Almost the first thing he mentioned was the position with regard to the B.A.O.R. forces. I think it is true to say that our B.A.O.R. forces, even put at a figure of 55,000, are nothing like the size of the commitment that we entered into originally. I quite agree that probably right through the period we have never been able fully to live up for any length of time (I am speaking from memory as to the figure) to the four divisions that we undertook to keep there. But now here we are under a fairly fixed promise to maintain 55,000 men. Are they there? We did not get an indication this afternoon: it looked as if there might be as few as 52,000. That, I think, must be based upon the question as to whether our battalions over there, and other branches of the Army and Air Force Services, are dependent on whether each unit is up to strength. So far as I can see from the answers given in another place, it is admitted that in the Army, on the average, we are nearly 100 men per battalion short of strength. I should like to know, first of all, whether the strength of our forces over there is counted by battalions en masse, or whether it is counted by the actual number of soldiers in the ranks of the forces over there.
Recruiting has been very much advertised. There was some satisfaction, I think, two years ago because it was thought that the advertisement campaign had led to an improvement in recruiting. I do not know whether or not the recruiting advertisements have been continued, and whether they are being maintained in a sufficiently attractive form. But certainly I think one of the real reasons for the little boost of 1962 and early 1963 was the fact that so much unemployment crept in, and some enlistment was perhaps the alternative to living entirely upon the dole. At any rate it is quite certain to me that recently, if trouble had arisen in just one more place, you would have been in difficulty. Cyprus came on top of trouble in Aden, Malaysia, Zanzibar, Tanganyika and Uganda. How many 742 more calls you might have had at that time I do not know; but I know that the Army could not supply them all. It was perhaps just as well that the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty remembered that there were four out of five activities going on where help in making up the strength was given by the Royal Marine Commandos. It is right that there was this help; I think it should be there as part of the general defence of the country for meeting our commitments. But it shows how fundamental it is to get a proper recruitment of Army personnel, and also to see that other things are ready, in connection with their mobilisation, for the scene of action to which they have to proceed.
Then I hope the noble Lord the Leader of the House, when he replies to-night, will be able to tell us whether he has any firmer ground for hoping that we shall have the right numbers of personnel in our Forces. He might also tell me (because as I have been too busy I have not had the time to look it up to-day as I had intended to do so), whether the total strength of the Royal Marines is included in the 88,000 on the Admiralty Roll, and whether, in view of the fairly satisfactory recruitment we seem to have had, their numbers have increased or diminished.
I should also like to have some assessment of how far the growing efficiency, which I believe to be the case, of the Commando type of aircraft carrier for taking adequate numbers of personnel to a scene of action has turned out to be satisfactory. From what I have heard, it has been very satisfactory indeed and I hope it will continue to be so, and will even improve. Then the question should be asked whether there is any prospect of building still more of these light aircraft carriers for this purpose.
I look at some of the other things which the First Lord of the Admiralty has mentioned to-night, and I must say I feel very disappointed by some of them. Let us take the question of the Royal Air Force. May I ask the Government whether or not they are satisfied, in regard to both the Royal Air Force and the Army, about the numbers and qualifications of the technical members of the ranks of those two forces? If I recollect 743 aright, within the last twelve months it has been said that the Army was short of nearly 10,000 trained technicians. This is at this time of day, when we are suffering so much in many areas from the failure of the industrial system of our country to absorb large numbers of persons leaving school, so that my noble friend Lord Lawson told me only the other day that in the County of Durham there were 1,300 young persons attending what they called the dole schools. Those are people who go back to school because they have not been able to get a job on leaving school. There ought to be some special effort made by the Government so that these people can get some training in technical courses arranged for boys who have left school and who could be trained for technical work in the Services. I think that should be looked into.
I am very disappointed with regard to the equipment of the Services. I shall leave my noble friend Lord Shepherd, and I hope the others who speak, to go into more detail about this, but when I was making my own notes for the points I intended to cover this afternoon I felt very concerned at the way in which matters were going with regard to supplies to our country of things which were required for the Fighting Services.
In the first place, we have to look at the nuclear deterrent. In the White Paper of 1957 the nuclear deterrent was to be the Blue Streak. That failed after a huge expenditure on it. It was not the fault of Parliament that it failed; it is the responsibility of the Government. Then we were led to build our hopes upon Skybolt, and that did not materialise, so it was seemingly only an afterthought that at Nassau we got an agreement under which we were to get, not British nuclear submarines but American nuclear submarines, to start with, carrying the Polaris missile, and perhaps hulls to be built later, but with American engines and American machinery. Demonstrate to me how far I am wrong, by all means, when the noble Lord comes to answer, but certainly there is this tendency all the way through.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, if the noble Earl will allow me to inter- 744 rupt, I do not think that statement ought to go on the Record without being corrected. The Polaris submarines are to be built in Britain; the reactors are to be British, and the only things that will be American are the missiles.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
The reactors are to be of British design—when? Have we a British naval reactor designed?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
It has just been put back for months because of faulty material that was reported some two years ago. So far as I can tell, we have not the faintest chance of getting that for some years to come, and I do not know yet that it will be possible to prove that this particular type of reactor will be able to stand up to the requirements of a Polaris-delivering submarine. That has yet to be proved. That was an extraordinary answer for the noble Lord to give.
Let us take aircraft. We heard this afternoon that we were going to have the P1154, which was going to be a joint aircraft provision to suit both the Services—the Navy and the Air Force—and, although it was said that there was not the slightest quarrel between the two Services about it, it just could not be arranged. I take it that the P1154 is still to come along. The Phantom is now to be provided in place of the Sea Vixen, instead of having a utility machine between the two Services. That is an American machine, and I daresay the later supplies of them will be built as aeroplanes here. There may be some alteration in design or in the engine, but it does not cheer me a bit to know that we have to go to the United States of America to get the aeroplane itself.
We heard about helicopters this afternoon. Nothing would have been indicated to your Lordships' House if I had not cross-examined the noble Earl, but it was quite clear that what I had heard outside was true, and that the helicopters will come from America, although we may copy them later, making up the numbers we want by working on them in this country. When I think of the hundreds of millions of pounds we have poured out in the last twelve years, and 745 see how little we have got as a result, in actual supplies to the Forces, I just wonder what sort of control the Government have exercised over their research departments. It really is an amazing position.
One of the special things which apparently is to be pursued by the Conservative Party at the General Election is that we in the Labour Party are all the time following entirely the wrong idea with regard to Defence, and on this occasion in regard to the nuclear deterrent. I am not ashamed of the record of the Labour movement as a whole on Defence in this country. We were very often—large numbers of us, at any rate—standing behind Winston Churchill from 1935 to 1939 in all his futile efforts to get a move on with regard to the rearmament of the country in those days. Nevertheless, we went into battle very ill-provided for. We have seen in war after war how the working classes of this country respond to their country's needs when they find they are called upon. We want to see that the defence which is provided to-day is the right one for them.
If your Lordships want to look at it first of all from the point of view of interdependence, then I would draw your attention to the fact that the NATO organisation you talk so much about to-day was founded upon the initiation of a Labour Government—not from the United States, but from this country alone, first through the Treaty of Dunkirk, which I signed myself, with Ernest Bevin, then the Brussels Treaty, then the general agreement we made in 1949 with the United States. Do not let us forget that. If the Conservative Party want to make Defence a challenge at the General Election I, for one, shall be quite prepared to meet them on the hustings. The attempt they are making now to discredit us will be overborne by telling the true facts of the situation.
When it comes to the question of maintenance of the defence of the Free World, the growth of NATO and how it was built up, I could tell the House of visits to Denmark, Norway and other countries in order to swell the ranks of the Western Free World in the organisation—efforts in which we were successful. When the Government talk to us now, as they do, they seem to think they 746 have only to put the word "Socialist" into the mouth of our late Leader of this House, the present Prime Minister, and everybody must recoil in horror and fear at the danger of a Socialist Government coming in. Yet in fact we have done great service to our country, and will do it again.
When you come to the question of the nuclear deterrent, what is the case of the Prime Minister on this? It seems to change from time to time. In his early days of support for the nuclear deterrent it was almost as if it were the only possible way that he, or his Foreign Secretary, could be present at the top table in the nuclear world. I have never heard such nonsense as that in my life. What does he mean when he talks of the pledge—in words that at any rate always seem to us to have been used before—that it was the aim of this country, with the United States, to try to prevent proliferacy in the producing of nuclear weapons widely throughout the world? The kind of speeches that the Prime Minister has been making in the support of their view about the nuclear deterrent is just the thing that justifies de Gaulle going on with his proposals, and will lead to an adoption of the same thing in other parts of the world as well. I am just amazed that the Prime Minister, after the speeches he used to make here as Foreign Secretary, has given way to such a justification, first of all, for adhering fixedly to the nuclear deterrent.
Then there is this question that it must be independent. I have to concede this from what the noble Earl said again this afternoon—and I have heard it before—that both the Polaris and other forces were to be done collectively with NATO. We heard not a word to-day about whether you have settled yet the question of the mixed-manned force. Perhaps we can hear a word about it from the noble Lord the Leader of the House when he comes to answer to-night; because certainly, so far as I can see, there is no agreement yet inside the Cabinet upon that question.
It comes down to the point now, as Mr. Wilson said the other day in the other House of Parliament, that you pick up the official magazine issued by the Conservative Party Headquarters, and find 747 that on January 11 they proudly displayed—after saying a few days before that of course Defence ought not to be a Party question—a great argument for the nuclear deterrent, and said that, "We have adopted this because it is supported by the Chiefs of Staff." What sort of position is that, from the point of view of those of us who have also been experienced in Government? People remaining in office as Chiefs of Staff must of necessity support their Government loyally. But it is not the practice of the Government, nor should it be the practice of the Conservative Party who support the Government, to quote the Chiefs of Staff as if they and not the Government were responsible for a thing of that kind. This sort of campaign that has grown up to me politically stinks, and I think it has got to be faced as to what the intention is.
What are the other reasons given by the Prime Minister for bringing it along? One of the most dangerous things he has said has been that we must have an independent control because we could not always be sure that we should get the help we wanted on this point: in other words, that some action of the United States, or some other of our Allies, would be such that we should have to act with nuclear weapons on our own. There was not a bit of explanation, so far as I could find from the noble Earl who put the case this afternoon, as to whether that kind of thing is relying upon first strike or second strike. Perhaps the noble Lord who will answer to-night will tell us. Perhaps they will let us know what independent control means. Do you wait until you have been hit by this thing, or do you go off in support of your policy? We should like to know. This is the kind of thing that has made people think and think again.
I agree entirely with my Leader in another place that however far it has been necessary for us to be equipped with the knowledge of how to construct nuclear power, when it comes to the question of matching what should be done in the Alliances—if you are going to have a Defence of the Free West under an Alliance—then you should maintain the Alliance at all points until it is broken up. I hope that that is understood. I cannot accept for one moment either of those two main points made by the Prime Minister as to the reason for the main- 748 tenance of this independent nuclear deterrent. Let us think. Supposing you make the first launch, and that you have done it without reference to the Alliance you are in for the defence of the Free West, what will be the answer to this country? You must know full well that unless you have done it in agreement with the other Allies—not an independent decision, but a launch agreed and carried out by the Allies—you would have nothing but total disaster. The speeches of the Prime Minister on this matter are inviting a policy to be developed in other countries which would be completely disastrous for the people of this country. I think that has to be looked at very carefully.
As to the actual steps that a Labour Government would take, if elected, they have been explained again and again. I must not quote, but if you want further and deeper explanations your Lordships can read for yourselves the House of Commons Hansard of January 16, in a very important Defence debate which took place weeks before the issue of the Defence Paper. A proper note of the points made could have been taken, and proper explanations put into this actual Defence Paper. But it was not done. Although I have a number of other matters I wanted to raise, I will not because of the time, but I say that we have a quite clear policy about this.
Instead of proposing to set fire to the V-bombers, we have said consistently that we will not interfere with the V-bombers so long as they can be kept in service. I do not think for one moment that some of the plans and schemes which have been made, to alter them here and there, so that they can fly low and escape air attack and return, because they would be below and out of reach of certain radar influences, would be possible with these old and ageing V-bombers. I should not like to have the responsibility of sending pilots and their crews on such a journey as that with a V-bomber. That is my own view about it. There can be no question, therefore, of our doing away with the V-bomber force at present.
In regard to the other question which was hurled across the House the other day, Mr. Wilson has made it perfectly clear—however clever they were in throwing it at the time they did and when other questions had not been 749 answered from the other side when they were asked—that, from the point of view of our membership of NATO, if the NATO Alliance want their base for the despatch of missiles by submarines at Holy Loch continued, we should have to agree, and would agree, and would support the NATO decisions. But do let us get away from this constant misrepresentation of what Labour has said, and what it is saying to-day. Most of it is twisted and turned about, as it was from wherever the noble Earl obtained his information on the two points he raised this afternoon. Do not let that be repeated. If we are going to fight on Defence, let us have a clear fight. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("has no confidence that the policy set out in the Statement of Defence 1964 provides effectively for the defence of our country and its overseas obligations.")—(Earl Alexander of Hillsborough.)
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, before dealing with the main points of Lord Jellicoe's speech, I should like to pay a tribute from noble Lords on these Benches to all ranks of the three Services for their discipline, devotion and patience.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, told us to-day about the progress of the amphibious Forces, and we on these Benches are very pleased to hear of this progress, because, in fact, for years past, we have urged upon the Government from these Benches the desirability of fast, mobile forces being available at all times. I agree with the noble Earl, too, that it is desirable to have a manpower debate as a separate issue from the one to-day, and we should welcome such a debate at some time in the near future.
In the early part of his speech the noble Earl spoke for a considerable time—and I do not blame him for it—on the so-called British independent nuclear deterrent, but although I listened very carefully I could not find that the noble Earl really answered the main points against the retention of the deterrent. He put up a rather facile point for it, but did not answer any of the weighty objections against it. To my mind, this 750 argument about the retention of a British independent nuclear deterrent ceased to be a serious argument when the Government, rightly or wrongly, and I believe rightly, abandoned Blue Streak. Up to that time it was possible to talk of a "British independent nuclear deterrent". In my view, since then it is not. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in an intervention described quite accurately what the situation is so far as the Polaris missile is concerned, and on his description alone I would say that it is no longer British or independent.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made an important statement to-day which has never been made before. He said that the Government would be prepared to abandon the British independent nuclear deterrent in certain circumstances. This is a highly important statement. It is true that the circumstances appear to be that we would abandon it when we could trust our Allies; but, even so, the Government are obviously moving some way from their original position. I think the public and the Press ought to take notice of the statement made to-day by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe.
The question, so far as we are concerned, is, could Britain ever use or threaten to use the independent deterrent independently of NATO or against Allied wishes? In our opinion, they could not. It is quite impossible, as the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said, to imagine Britain independently using the deterrent against the wishes of its Allies. The White Paper, in paragraph 7, in giving some sort of defence for their view, talked about the temptation of a potential enemy, which one presumes is Soviet Russia; and their reason for retaining the independent nuclear deterrent is that otherwise a potential enemymight be tempted—if not now, then perhaps at some time in the future—to attack in the mistaken belief that the United States would not act unless America herself were attacked.Why should the Soviet Union or anybody else be tempted to believe anything of the kind? There are very clever and highly educated people in the Soviet Union; they can read; and Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty starts in this way:The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or 751 North America shall be considered an attack against them all.What is clearer than that? There is no question of America abandoning us or anybody else. She is under the most solemn obligation, as are all the fifteen countries in NATO, to go to the aid of any one of them who is attacked. So I think paragraph 7 of the White Paper and the whole case of the Government on that score is knocked out.
In my view, national security, in the sense that the Defence White Paper uses the term, is out-dated. We must have collective security. In fact, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, paid a great deal of lip service to collective security today. Are we taking sufficient steps in this direction? The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, defined the various spheres of interdependence. Let us examine three of the most important of them: first of all NATO. We are all agreed that, in theory, there is need to sustain NATO. But political, economic and military pressures have been acting against the unity of NATO, and paragraph 14 gives, in my view, a highly optimistic view of British efforts in this direction. One of the great difficulties, of course, about the NATO situation is the joint control of the nuclear deterrent, both the worldwide ones in the hands of the United States and those in the hands of NATO itself, of the Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe.
At its meeting in November last year, the Political Committee of NATO Parliamentarians' Conference, in considering this whole question, seriously recommended that there should be developed within NATO, under the NATO Council, a unified strategic planning system aimed at the development of a full strategic consensus among the members of the Alliance in order to establish an effective basis for discussion regarding the use of both nuclear and non-nuclear forces. They also suggested there should be an elevation of the NATO Council into a high-level Allied forum for unified strategic planning, and that such a revised NATO Council should engage in world-wide strategic planning in the broadest sense, political as well as military. I am glad to see that in paragraph 10 of the White Paper there has been some development in this sphere and that, as noble Lords will see, there 752have been the appointment of Allied officers to a Joint Strategic Targetting and Planning Section at Omaha in the United States, the formation of the NATO Nuclear Committee and the appointment of a Nuclear Deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.All these, I believe, are highly desirable signposts to the future. They carry out what we in the Political Committee last November had urged upon the NATO Powers; as chairman of the Committee I am grateful to the NATO Powers for going part of the way to meet us, and I hope that will continue.
As the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, pointed out, nothing was said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to-day about the mixed-manned force. I have never been against the mixed-manned force to the extent that some have, and I personally am very pleased that the Governments have decided to look into the question and to make an experiment in mixed-manning. I think it is the right thing to do. In paragraph 11 the experiment is mentioned. I quite agree that the mixed-manned submarine was not really a starter. I think to go to sea in a mixed-manned submarine would daunt Nelson. But I see nothing which is not feasible in a mixed-manned surface vessel, and the fact is that in the merchant marine a very large number of vessels are mixed-manned in this sense. They go to sea perfectly happily and safely with a crew made up of all sorts of nationalities.
I would suggest to those very much against the mixed-manned force—in the Political Committee last year most of the Labour and Conservative representatives of this House and another place were against the mixed-manned force, although the Committee as a whole was not against it—that there is this problem of Germany, and this is one way in which, at all events, Germany can have some share in these weapons. Anyone who feels this is not the right way is, I think, under an obligation to say what he would do with the very real problem of giving Germany a share in the future of these weapons.
The noble Earl did not say anything about the Northern Arctic, the northern "skullcap". I have been very much impressed recently in reading an article by, I believe, a Norwegian, Admiral Elis Biorklund, in the March issue of the 753 Contemporary Review, which is in the Library. He describes at some length this northern "skullcap", which is the shortest route between the United States and the Soviet Union for air and submarine, and he warns us of the danger of neglecting this area in defence. Apparently there are not nearly the defensive weapons, particularly naval ships and the like, here that there are in the Mediterranean, and he feels that maybe we are neglecting this particular area. I should like the noble Earl the First Lord to have a look at this article; I think he will find it interesting and stimulating.
I feel, having been to NATO Parliamentarians' Conferences—which always have strong representation from Members of your Lordships' House—for a good many years, seven or eight years, that NATO now needs fresh inspiration; there is too much machine and not enough heart and mind, and not enough imagination. This is not the fault of the officials, who do their job very ably; it is really the fault of the Ministers.
§ LORD OGMORE
More harness than horse, and not enough whip and carrot, if I am not mixing my metaphors; anyway, not enough thought about it, not enough imagination. I think it is quite time the Ministers had a look at the Declaration of Paris, which was made in Paris in January, 1962. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, knows a great deal about that. He was a great sympathiser before he became First Lord of the Admiralty, and I hope we still have his sympathies. In fact he was a member of the delegation to the Parliamentarians' Conference.
I hope the noble Lord will not mind my interrupting. I almost interrupted when he said I was paying lip-service to collective defence. I do not think when he reads what I said he will find that that is so. I would assure him that my feelings towards NATO remain as they were.
§ LORD OGMORE
If the noble Earl takes that personally, I entirely withdraw it so far as he is concerned. I always regard him as a very civilised and cultured man, if I may say so. The last thing I would regard him as doing would 754 be paying lip-service. What I meant was he in his official capacity; the Government were not really carrying it out. They are carrying it out to some extent, but not as much as I should like.
The second really important interdependence—I do not know whether the noble Earl mentioned this, but if he did not, I am sure he had it in mind—is our contribution to the United Nations. Here of course we have done a fine job or, rather, our troops have done a tine job in Cyprus, which is the most recent place in our minds. I feel it is absolutely essential to build up a permanent force. Your Lordships will remember that we had a debate in this House on February 20, 1963, on my Motion on the question of a permanent United Nations Force. I think everything various noble Lords who took part in that debate said has come true already with regard to Cyprus. If we had had a force of the kind envisaged we should not have been in the difficulties we have been in; nor would the United Nations—this scratch force, hurriedly gathered together at the last moment from nations who have had no experience whatever of the part of the world to which they are sent, will not do. One has to have a permanent force.
I am glad the Government have taken the matter up so far as the appointment of staff is concerned, according to the Answer of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to me on March 12. I am very pleased indeed the Government have taken up with the Secretary-General, if not the full force, at all events the staff side of it and staff planning. I think that is most important.
I should like, as we are talking about armaments, to press for disarmament. I believe we must press for this at all times. We must ease tension and lessen the enormous burden on the world of these vast armaments. The recent foreword by Mr. Khrushchev to an Italian translation of his speeches, including proposals for a non-aggression pact between the NATO Powers and the Warsaw Treaty Powers, is, I think, deserving of being taken up see what are the chances of success. We must never forget that it might be possible to obtain real disarmament. Here again 755 I feel our own Ministers have been speaking with rather different voices. In Geneva Mr. Butler called for a nuclear bonfire and the freezing of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, whereas in the House of Commons on February 26 Mr. Thorneycroft said there is no proposal whatever that the United Kingdom should in any circumstances forgo the Polaris submarine. I believe Mr. Butler was instancing circumstances in which we would forgo the Polaris submarine; and I cannot, subject to correction, reconcile those two speeches.
Here I am subject to correction by the right reverend Prelate who will follow me. In Paragraph 12 of the White Paper on the Government's Defence policy there is a rather curious sentence:Our nuclear contribution is vital as an insurance for the future—indeed, as an assurance that we shall have a future.I should have thought the Almighty would have been the Authority to decide whether we are going to have a future, not the British Government or the Soviet Government or the United States Government or even NATO: it is a matter for God. However, on these matters I claim no authority, and if I am wrong no doubt the right reverend Prelates will correct me; I am prepared to be corrected.
The third interdependence—the last one I want to talk about—is the Commonwealth itself, the need for Commonwealth assistance, of which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, spoke. In Commonwealth defence the Government have, quite rightly and properly, played a part. I would pay them a tribute for the part they have played in Commonwealth Defence. I think the speed with which they acted, and with which the troops acted, is deserving of our gratitude, both in East Africa, as was mentioned in paragraph 18 of the White Paper, and in Malaysia, which was mentioned in paragraph 16. I am afraid that a good many more of these situations may crop up, and I hope and believe that if they do Her Majesty's Government will deal as promptly with the question as they have done in the past.
However, there is an area of tension not mentioned in the White Paper, which I think might crop up and in 756 regard to which we might be called upon for forces in the near future—I refer to the Somali border with Kenya. I think that undoubtedly, as Mr. Sandys said in his statement, although it does not appear in the White Paper, this is a matter which we should be prepared to undertake and underwrite, if necessary. Why this has not come into the White Paper, I do not know. Possibly it was written some time ago and has only just been printed. That is an important obligation which we might have to discharge.
Finally, a word on the Territorial Army. I would not by any means go all the way with Colonel Wigg, who has been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to-day. But I do go this far with him: I consider that the Territorial Army deserves much better treatment than it has had for years past and has at this moment. I must protest that in this rather voluminous and extensive Statement on Defence—it is true that part of it is taken up by pictures, but there is a good deal here—there is only one short paragraph devoted to the future of the Territorial Army. There is one other short paragraph which talks about its past; but there is only one which deals with its future as such. I consider that that is rather ominous.
This paragraph is ominous, too, because it says that from 1965 more "teeth" arms and administrative units will be provided for the Territorial Army. What is the situation now, in 1964? Why have we to wait until 1965 before the Territorial Army is brought up to the strength in weapons and armaments that it should have? I think this is quite scandalous, and I hope that, quite apart from Party, noble Lords on the Back Benches opposite will support me in this. For many years past we have had debates on the Armed Forces which have not been Party matters, and all of us in this House have supported the Territorial Army. I think this is a confession in the White Paper which should not have to be made. It is high time that the Territorial Army was fully equipped with the weapons it needs, to train with and to operate at any rate on a peacetime scale. It should also be equipped with the administrative units and services that it needs. That is all I have to say to-day. Once more I should 757 like to confirm that we on these Benches have every confidence in the three Services, and we shall do everything in our power to support them.
§ 4.44 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I recognise that this is a subject of such technical and professional quality that a contribution from this Bench might almost seem out of place; I certainly make it with diffidence and, I hope, with brevity. But you do not need to be an expert to realise the intricacies of modern Defence policies, or to acknowledge, as the noble Lord opposite has just done, our own gratitude and pride for those men in our Forces who at the present time are preserving the peace in so many places throughout the world. Equally, all reasonable people, to whom the noble Earl referred at the beginning, would echo the statement of basic policy as it is set out here; that the keystone of it is the prevention of war.
Speaking in terms of those destructive powers which are now at our disposal, he reminded us that the threat of nuclear war still lies heavily upon the conscience of the civilised world. So it is quite right that in a Statement on Defence it should be made clear at the beginning thatNuclear weapons are so devastating that unless we prevent them from being used, we shall not be able to secure the homeland or carry out our obligations to those who rely upon us.Having all agreed to that, I think we ought also to recognise that this danger is one with which we may become too familiar. The deterrent has deterred. It has, as this particular paragraph reminds us, been at least part of the reason why we have had peace, if an uneasy peace, for 19 years. But it has not stopped us as a world from living on the edge of a volcano; and any civilisation that continues there, in that position, without seeking every possible means of putting it right, is not worthy of the name of civilisation.
I think there is something a little too complacent in this reference to the preservation of peace. The nuclear deterrent has acted as a deterrent in this postwar period; but it has done so at a great cost—at an increasing expense and an increasing size; and the danger of 758 its possession extending to other countries than those at present possessing it certainly has not been reduced. The nuclear stalemate, therefore, is not a static position, and it is not in itself a contribution to peace.
I do not want to elaborate on that, nor do I want to go in any detail into the constant concern to which the noble Earl referred earlier, of Christian opinion throughout the world at our present condition. It has been made volubly known to us by those who have made their protest in terms calling for unilateral renunciation. The bulk of the Christian world does not go with them in this, but it goes with them in the same concern; and there is hardly any gathering of representatives of the Churches throughout the world—and there have been two in my mind, one in Odessa and one in the United States within the last six months—which does not echo just this same thing: that it is our duty to press upon Governments the constant need to go on looking for, if you like, holes in this wall of the stalemate, so that we can begin to bring about a better situation. The Test Ban Treaty has certainly raised our hopes, and has left us asking what the next step should be.
It is just for this reason that I presume to refer to two particular points, partly already made familiar to your Lordships in this debate, that come out of the Statement on Defence. The first is in paragraph 12, in regard to which the noble Lord who has just spoken has reminded us of the theological issue. It is true—and I would echo his own words—that it is the Almighty who has an assurance of our future; but I think I would go on to remind him that what kind of future that is, is left to decisions which are within our own control, and so He has ruled it. Therefore, whether it is the more distant future which the noble Lord has in mind or the nearer future, what I should like to ask is: in the relationship between the insurance that nuclear weapons give us and the present security which we derive from our conventional forces, does this statement, for instance, of our present disposition of Forces represent a step forward from the position in which this country might be forced to resort to nuclear weapons first?
759 Some years ago, at least, it was quite definitely stated as a matter of Government policy that the nuclear umbrella (if I may refer to it like that) was accepted as necessary. It might be because of a deficiency in conventional arms. It might be, of course, because the nuclear weapons we have, particularly the V-bombers, are far less effective as a second strike than as a first strike. But, however that might be, I can only say that while anything which might lead to general nuclear warfare would be intolerable in any circumstances, it would seem far more intolerable that we should be in a position where we might have to launch it first. It seems clear that one limited way in which tension could be relaxed and the dangers reduced would be for nations to get away from the need or the readiness to strike first with nuclear arms; and we would ask, from our own Assemblies, of any Government of our own, whether their policy is being shaped to this end.
The second question has already been closely canvassed by the noble Earl and noble Lords opposite who have spoken to it. Our main objective, as paragraph 5 has stated, is true disarmament and all the steps within this to control and reduce nuclear weapons until they can be eliminated as a potential threat to us. Our own Government over many years have, through channels of diplomacy, been working to this end, and they have been responsible, as we recognise, for the initiative and for the continuance of negotiations very often in moments of complete breakdown. I would speak for the Churches here when I say that we must be behind any Government policy that presses on continually for a solution to this problem and makes clear to us, as a nation, what costs it might bring to us.
But in this long process, to an increasing number of us this notion of the independence of our own British deterrent does not seem to fit into the picture; and I cannot but repeat, in a sense, my perplexity as it has been voiced on the other side of the House. It seems to us certainly not enough for Christian assemblies to pass motions condemning nuclear war. We do not want to do that. We want to be informed, we want to be realistic; and it is for that reason we find it so difficult to understand, in this context of the independent nuclear deterrent, how far 760 it is genuinely independent, or at least how far it could possibly remain so when V-bombers give place to the Polaris, seeing that independence must really connote all the processes from production to delivery.
It is also questionable to us how far, even supposing it is independent, or so long as it is, there could be circumstances in which this country could contemplate making use of it independently of our Allies. To have recourse to nuclear arms could not be an isolated act in an isolated part of the world. It would be, or could be, the prelude to a holocaust to ourselves and all other people. Is there any part of the world where British interests and loyalties could justify something that might involve the rest of the globe without at least the concurrence of our Allies? Or, if we come nearer home—and I imagine it is nearer home that we have in mind—are there any realistic circumstances in which the defence of this country itself could require independent action in the nuclear field which did not, and would not, involve sooner or later our own Allies? We have grave doubts—and I think we voice those of many of the public generally—whether this whole notion of independence is not being over-stressed.
These doubts are reinforced by another question which has already been touched upon: whether, by clinging to the idea of an independent deterrent, we are not losing the chance of making our own constructive steps to control and disarmament. It is not a satisfactory answer to claim on the ground of past history that nuclear possession is always a passport to power or prestige or influence around the conference table. We recognise the importance of the part played there by Her Majesty's Government in many negotiations. But it is questionable, where the same situation exists to-day, whether the development within the NATO countries or in the Disarmament Conference itself is not making this kind of passport less and less effective. What is more, this attitude seems to be a direct incitement to seek the same means and to adopt the same attitude. Few nations may take it up, but if nuclear possession is publicly being labelled by us as an entitlement to a particular sphere of 761 influence it is impossible for us to escape the charge that we are indirectly encouraging that very proliferation of weapons which we are seeking to avoid.
We all want our country to exercise its moral influence upon the situation—the kind of influence which we believe it ought to exert. I hope that we could see this influence used in different ways more consistent with the modern international scene and the crying human need—indeed, by declaring our own readiness at least to share control of what we have with our Allies. I speak here, like the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, with great interest and some hope for what the noble Earl said earlier—that the statement in this White Paper about the retention of our own deterrent is not so hard and fast as it sounds. Certainly, if I may quote the plea passed not only by the British Council of Churches but by an overwhelming majority of the Church Assembly last month (in which both laity and clergy were present), it is that we believe thatBritain should express her willingness to forgo the claim to independent nuclear action if thereby more effective machinery can be established for shared control of the deterrent in any part of the world and so the proliferation of national nuclear forces can be halted".We have said "if thereby". We have not gone as far as pleading for immediate unilateral renunciation. We claim that there is here the possibility of some fresh initiative which we think would lie in our own declared readiness not to cling to something which, by its surrender, might contribute to the elimination of this danger elsewhere.
We are aware that all this is to raise many other issues: relationships between NATO itself, distinctions between the general control or direction of policy, the actual power of final decision, the pressing of the button, and so on. These are complex questions, but cannot be insuperable if we have a will to them. What seems to us desperately important is that in a world where false ideas of national power or prestige are prolonging the threat to human peace, this country should take a step to show her readiness to curtail or renounce some of her own independence at just that point where people are most sensitive.
There will be throughout the country, as there are in this House and between 762 the Parties themselves, wide differences of opinion on this issue. It is surely very dangerous on this particular issue to adopt attitudes that are too hard and fast. In the intricacy of our own situation there is a need for fluidity in policy and a readiness to adjust or even to compromise it, if thereby any step forward can be gained which will relieve the tension elsewhere. Possibly, it seems disastrous that certain ideas like the independent deterrent should become so established in people's minds; they have become almost clichés, a kind of nailing of the national flag to the mast.
The Churches themselves would make a very special plea that this kind of issue does not become aggravated by the pressure of Party politics in an Election year. The electorate can be misled: they can be encouraged to fasten on to phrases or ideas emotionally and quite unrealistically. This would be equally true of those who cry, "Ban the Bomb", as of those who cry, "Retain the independent deterrent".
Under the pressure of all this, we are all aware that Parties, or certain sections, certainly, of people, may be forced into positions from which they cannot easily withdraw, even if circumstances later demand it. There will no doubt be differences between the Parties which have not yet been expressed, but many of us have a suspicion that their differences on this issue are not as wide as many public pronouncements suggest. That may be true of many political issues, of course, but on issues of national policy in the region of war we think the matter is too grave to be handled in this kind of way. Nuclear war and all that may affect the possibility of it is not a Party concern, nor a national concern; it is a concern of the whole world: and we hope that in the coming debates before the country this issue will be lifted up as far as possible above the dusty arena of the General Election.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, last week in your Lordships' House a number of noble Lords from the "tribal areas" had quite a field day, and earlier this afternoon I reminded your Lordships that to-day is St. Patrick's Day. As we are discussing Defence, it may not be 763 out of place in your Lordships' House to remind you that, during Hitler's war, Ireland—and I speak of the island, without reference to current political boundaries—provided the Armed Forces with six field-marshals. I would name them in alphabetical order: Alanbrooke, Alexander, Auchinleck, Dill, Gort, and, if I may be allowed to add it at the end of the list, Montgomery. I doubt whether the "tribal areas" can equal that record.
My Lords, I should like to try to lift this debate out of the realm of controversy and deal in my speech with only two matters: first, the Central Organisation for Defence; and, secondly, the problem as to whether the Armed Forces of our nation can continue to support British foreign policy adequately in a disturbed world without some form of National Service—and I would emphasise very strongly the word "adequately". The Central Organisation for Defence has been given a general welcome (and your Lordships will note that I say "general" welcome) by all political Parties in your Lordships' House and, so far as the Armed Forces are concerned, it has been agreed on a Cabinet level. I suggest that we must now do all we can to make this new organisation work and be a success. All inter-Service bickering should now cease. Since I have advocated this particular organisation for so many years, I should like to explain certain matters, which are not mentioned in the Statement on Defence, 1964.
The first thing to be clear on is what are the assets that have been gained. First, policy and the overall control of operations are now centralised under the Secretary of State and the Chief of the Defence Staff. It may be that the Services think they have something to fear. I would say that the Services have nothing to fear. The management remains in the hands of each separate Service, although the Secretary of State will have the right to intervene if he wishes to do so. He is the captain of the inter-Service team. Next, the staff structure in the new Ministry of Defence will ensure that operational problems are dealt with promptly, on an inter-Service basis from the earliest beginnings, and this will be a tremendous improvement. It will be greatly helped 764 by the integration of signals and of all intelligence, which matters are already very well advanced.
On the administrative side, the appointment of a Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel and Logistics) and a Deputy Under-Secretary (Administration) will ensure that a big push is given to the question of integration and for increased interdependence on all administrative and logistic matters. We are also better off—far better off—in the complicated and vastly expensive business of the formulation of weapons requirements, research and development, and production, because there is an inter-Service staff under the chairmanship of the Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Operational Requirements). Also, high-grade scientists and Service officers in the Defence Research Committee and the Weapons Defence Committee are both under the chairmanship of that outstandingly experienced Chief Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defence.
Lastly, on that point, my Lords, it must be the hope that the Central Organisation for Defence will result in a reduction of manpower at the top. It looks as if this will not be the case to begin with. That may he understandable, and I think we have to accept it. But if, after, say, one year, the manpower at the top is greater than the present Ministries added together, then I suggest to your Lordships that some explanation will surely have to be demanded by Parliament in no uncertain voice.
There are some rocks ahead. The new Defence Organisation will cause a big upheaval, and I have the feeling that there will be scenes of intense military confusion in Whitehall as we approach April 1 next. But we must not be dismayed if that should happen: it is bound to take time for this organisation to settle down. We must let it evolve gradually, learning as we go along and not being afraid to make changes when it is seen that they are necessary. In fact, my Lords, I would say do not let us be too critical at present. Give the new organisation all the help we can, and do not let us demand to be given exact details as to how this or that will be handled—because it is too early yet to say. We must all push at the back of the scrum and give it a good start.
765 I heard a great deal of criticism from senior serving officers of all three Services when the scheme for a unified Ministry of Defence was launched. But I regard it as a most encouraging sign that this opposition appears not only to have disappeared but to have been transformed into a positive enthusiasm—certainly among all the more enlightened senior officers. For myself, I am enthusiastic about it; and I am confident that it will greatly increase inter-Service harmony and efficiency. But I would sound a note of warning: that no amount of reorganisation can ever replace the need for decisions by the Minister on major matters of policy. That, I am sure, is very true.
My Lords, I should like to deal with certain matters in a little more detail and, being a soldier, I will take the Army as an example, though the same problems will arise, in principle, for the Navy and the Air Force. The Army can be confident that its domestic affairs will be handled, much as they have been in the past, by the Army Board of the Defence Council. The Army Board has replaced the Army Council, but has exactly the same membership. There is the difference that the Secretary of State for Defence can attend and take the chair if he wishes, but it will be more usual for the Minister of Defence (Army) to take the chair.
Officers are always very anxious about their promotion, and this matter of promotions will be handled, as appropriate, by the Chief of the General Staff (who was formerly the C.I.G.S.), direct with the Military Secretary Branch of the Secretary of State for Defence. Promotion to Major-General, or to two-star rank or above, with an inter-Service flavour, must first be cleared with the Chief of Defence Staff, as is the case to-day. The normal Army promotion boards now in the War Office will continue. I am delighted that a senior and experienced general officer, General Moore, has been appointed as the First Defence Services Secretary to be the direct contact between the Services and the Palace, between the Secretary of State and the Queen. He should be the servant of the Chief of the Defence Staff and the three Chiefs of Staff in helping to produce the essential long-range forecast of senior appointments, many of which are now entirely inter-Service.
766 Staff training in all three Services will need to be very carefully studied, bearing in mind the requirements of technical and inter-Service staffs and so on. I believe that it is enormously important that all officers should believe in the new organisation and have confidence that it will in no wise jeopardise their careers as soldiers, sailors or airmen. For this reason, the career structure of officers must be handled by the Army and not by the Ministry of Defence. Their careers begin at Sandhurst; and I suggest to your Lordships that the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst is neither a true military academy nor a university. We try to make it both. In certain arms an officer on leaving the Army has no commercial value. In the United States of America and in Canada the cadet remains for four years at his military academy and gets a degree which is accepted in civil life. I would suggest to your Lordships that we might examine that procedure.
Some years ago it was agreed that an officer could have guaranteed employment in the Army up to the age of 55; that is to say, if a major was passed over for command of his regiment he could stop on in the Army until he was 55. I think that was a great mistake. Once passed over for promotion, an officer loses interest and enthusiasm. That is why I think the whole career structure of the officer in each Service needs very thorough investigation so as to give confidence and attract the right type of boy. I think the starting point should he the difference between the pre-war, happy-go-lucky, financially independent, "huntin, shootin' and fishin'" officer of the 1920's and the early 1930's and the ambitious, hard-up with nothing save his pay, highly trained officer of the 1960's.
You see, my Lords, the times have changed greatly, but the system very little. A major factor is the tremendous increase in staffs—single Service, inter-Service, technical and Allied. These make great demands on the time available and lead to much unsettlement in the lives of individuals and units. The Army to-day has over 800 officers seconded overseas with our Allies and in the Commonwealth countries. The overall shortage of officers in the Army is some 2,000; and the staffs continue to grow in size. Because I was one of 767 them, I know very well the enormous staffs maintained at all NATO headquarters in Europe, at least half of whom do not do a full day's work. Their time is mostly spent in reading papers. Nobody can read intelligently more than half the papers turned out; and the other half is not worth reading. Perhaps under the new organisation the problem of staff will have to be reviewed on a Ministry of Defence basis.
I suggest to your Lordships that undue criticism of the Defence effort of Britain can do immense harm to the prestige of our country overseas and to the morale of the Fighting Services. Do not let us forget that the spirit of the warrior is the greatest single factor making for success when it comes to fighting. Our country has to-day, roughly (I stress roughly) the following numbers of soldiers deployed overseas: Cyprus, 7,000; Aden, 6,000; East Africa, 5,000; Malaysia, 6,000; and the Navy and Air Force have played their full part in this deployment. We have 3,000 British troops in Hong Kong, not counting the Gurkhas. We have troops deployed in Swaziland and British Guiana. My view is that unrest in countries for which we are responsible has been handled in a way which is beyond all praise. I believe that the Ministry of Defence and the three Service Ministries deserve our gratitude and our thanks. They, and the Armed Forces, have never been less open to criticism, and such criticism as is made in Parliament is, I presume, for Party political purposes.
Now I should like to take a look into the future. I think that that is important. In the past, there has been a tendency for each Service Ministry to decide on the shape and size of its own Service and, perhaps sub-consciously, to try to bend its role to build up its importance and to build up its share of the Budget. I feel sure that in the new organisation there will he genuine inter-Service thinking, which will truly and consciously place the interests of the country before the sectional interests of the Service. That is what I hope. The result will be that the Chief of Defence Staff, on behalf of the Chiefs of Staff, will be able to advise the Secretary of State for Defence on a truly national programme for the rôle, shape and size of the Armed Forces. That will enable 768 the Secretary of State, after Cabinet approval, to issue orders accordingly to the Ministers of Defence of each Service.
In your Lordships' House on November 19 last I gave it as my opinion that the concept of an all-Regular Army is not appropriate to the needs of the 1960's, nor of this troubled world as we peer into the 1970's. The reason I gave was that it is not big enough; nor can it be built up quickly enough. I said that some form of National Service was indicates. I was very careful not to say exactly what form it might take, because that would need the most careful investigation, in consultation with industry, the trade unions, the headmasters of schools and everybody else interested in the youth of our country. For instance, the age of call-up and the length of service would be factors of great importance.
Your Lordships would be quite entitled to say to me, "If we turn over to some form of National Service, what sort of Army do you envisage?" And I should like to try to answer that question. I should like to see, for the future into which we are moving, an Army with a Regular content and a National Service content. I should like to see the Regular content somewhere about the figure of 100,000—highly paid, good pension, terminal grant free of tax, high educational standards, difficult to get into; in fact, an Army which would attract the best type of lad in our country, and even he would find the competition for entry very intense; an Army in which the minimum engagement would be for, say, nine years. I should like to see a National Service content also of somewhere about 100,000—two years' service, half the pay of the Regular, good terminal grant, a guaranteed job on leaving in that his employer must take him back if of good character, and pay as a Regular if he should take on later for nine years or longer.
Naturally, such a proposal would need very careful investigation. I would say that it would take two years before such a National Service Act could be put on the Statute Book, maybe longer. And I would hope that Parliamentary investigation of the proposal would he by an all-Party Committee. The matter is too serious for it to be made a Party political issue. The great advantage of 769 National Service is that you can play tunes on it. By that I mean that if the world is peaceful and commitments are few, the call-up can be small. But if troubles seem to be looming ahead and commitments begin to grow, or look as if they are going to grow, the call-up can be larger.
I do not suppose that any of your Lordships will disagree with me when I say that the rôle of the Armed Forces is to support British foreign policy. With the type of Army I suggest for the future, we could tackle any problems that might arise. At present, our resources get very stretched because of the German commitment. If it is British foreign policy to keep over 50,000 troops in Germany (I say, "if") and, also, if it is British foreign policy to deploy soldiers from Hong Kong across the world to British Guiana—if it is British foreign policy to do both those things, then I believe that it cannot be done properly and adequately without some form of National Service. And I prefer to use the words "National Service": I do not like the word "conscription".
Lastly, one hears it said on all sides that it would be political suicide for any Party to advocate a return to National Service, certainly before the General Election and, indeed, at any time. I am not so sure. It may well be political suicide for a Party to decline to face the issue and to decline to bring home to the youth of Britain their responsibilities to make a contribution to the safety and to the honour of their country.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I think that the House will be grateful for the speech made this afternoon by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester. It was a powerful and well-argued speech. Its greatest significance, if I may say so, was in showing that the problem of nuclear weapons is not one confined to the two political Parties. This is not an Election "gimmick"; this is a problem that has exercised the minds of every intelligent man and woman of this country for the last two years. It is therefore with deep regret that we find that this important and vital issue is being used on a Party platform, when it is quite impossible to argue a sophisticated case in the proper manner.
770 The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who always speaks with so much charm and humour, has again delivered himself, I think, of a good deal that we would sympathise with, and particularly when dealing with the new Defence set-up in Whitehall. I heard him some two years ago speaking of the "tribal areas". I must admit that on that occasion I took exception, because I thought he was referring merely to Scotland. I cannot see how he can exclude Ireland from the "tribal areas", because my reading of history is that Ireland has created far more trouble to the seat of Parliament than either Scotland or Wales.
This is an Election year, and the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister said in the early days: "Everything we say, everything we do, every posture we strike should have the General Election in mind." There will be many issues at the General Election—housing, economics, schools, hospitals and the cost of living. None of these issues are issues upon which the Government appear to want to fight the Election. They have selected Defence. As I said earlier, this is a subject which it is hard to discuss in public; it is hard to discuss with facts. Any discussion that is worth while depends upon facts. Those of us who have had anything to do with the Services, and have had the privilege of visiting Service establishments, meeting senior Service officers and even meeting Ministers, all realise the considerable difficulty we have in deciding what information we shall give, not only in your Lordships' House, hut on the platform. The noble Earl nods his head in agreement.
It was only a few weeks ago that the Government said that the V-bomber had attained a new rôle and that it would have a low-strike capability. That may well be. But we cannot ask, and we should not expect a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, this evening, what will be the speed of that aircraft; what will be its performance so far as height it concerned; what its life would be as a low-strike aircraft, and particularly for information as to the training of the pilots. These are important factors of information, but we are not able to ask these questions because the answers must be secret. In the case of Cyprus, not one of us would wish to ask the Government: 771 "What is the strength of that battalion?" and name it.
We could not, in the case of Malaysia, ask what is the strength of a particular squadron of armoured cars. We could not do the same thing in the case of East Africa, or the B.A.O.R. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, well knows from a year or so ago that when I came back from Germany I quoted some of these figures, and I was very careful to take only those units which I knew were not in the front line. But you cannot discuss Defence rationally and properly unless you have facts. That is one of the reasons, I believe, why the Government have taken this particular issue to discuss: because it is the one vital issue of the country on which facts cannot appear. I think this is a bad service to our country.
I am particularly concerned, as I am sure the noble and gallant Viscount who spoke last is, in regard to Malaysia. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has seen the words of Dr. Soekarno in to-day's Times. Here he has deliberately stated that the confrontation will be increased. Anyone who knows that district (I see the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Birmingham here, and he knows the area and knows the jungle) will know the terrible difficulties our Forces must have in carrying out any form of operation. There we have a 1,000 miles front, and we have 6,000 to 7,000 troops in the area. If this confrontation is increased, these troops will not be sufficient. I should like to ask the Government where reinforcements will come from. Yesterday, as reported on this morning's radio, the Prime Minister challeged the Opposition in regard to conscription. We are not the Government. It was not we who abolished National Service; it was not we who sent these battalions under strength: it was the Government. Surely it is the Government that we should ask: "What are you going to do about it during the months that you retain power?" I hope we shall have an answer to that question this evening.
I should like to ask the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, whether he can give us some indication of what the Government propose to do in regard to increasing recruiting figures. Having 772 recently visited the Servicemen, and spoken to them, both in Germany and in the Far East, I do not believe that it is a question of pay; I think it is largely a question of the conditions under which our soldiers are asked to serve. When you are trying to recruit the right type of man, the intelligent man, you have to recognise that in this society he wishes to be married, and, therefore, you have to take into careful consideration the accommodation that you provide for your Service personnel.
I recognise that in Germany we are providing accommodation for our soldiers of all ranks superior to what they are likely to have in this country, and I would give a special commendation to the Government for that. But there are in the Service two Services, if you like to put it this way: those who are privileged to live under those conditions and in that accommodation, and those who are not. There are units who have come from Hong Kong and Singapore and who perhaps for many years have not been based in the United Kingdom; they have come from the Far East and gone to Germany with their families, and there is insufficient accommodation. I saw some of the accommodation in which these soldiers were living. My heart broke when I saw children who were unable to be provided with the normal British food, because the accommodation in which the Service people were living precluded them from cooking, and therefore the only opportunity they had for a meal was to go into a German hotel. Quite apart from the expense, there is a considerable difference between the diet of a British child and that of a German child. I hope that the Government will look into this matter carefully.
I realise that there are difficulties in dealing with this matter quickly, but I believe many of them could be overcome if we could give far more flexibility and resources—and I would stress the word "resources"—to the voluntary units who are to-day looking after our Service personnel. By and large, these voluntary bodies are there to look after the soldier in the barracks. I do not suppose they have the resources—certainly they had not in September—even if they have the authority, to look after Service families in Germany and also in the Far East. 773 I would therefore hope that the Government would give support and flexibility to these families and the welfare organisations.
May I also say in passing—and I will not develop this theme—that I believe there is some considerable difficulty being experienced by our British Servicemen in regard to hire-purchase agreements. Perhaps the noble Lord will look into this and we might discuss it later. I believe it is becoming quite a serious matter.
I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he replies, because the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was quite silent on the matter, whether he will deal with H.M.S. "Blake". The noble Lord will remember that H.M.S. "Blake", which was built at considerable cost, was put into "mothballs" because there was a shortage of skilled staff. It was a very modern cruiser. We believe that H.M.S. "Blake" was taken out of service in order to provide a nucleus of our skilled men for killer submarines. Can the noble Lord say with any assurance that the Navy are likely to obtain the skilled men required for the new fleet of Polaris submarines without in any way preventing the growth of the killer submarine fleets and without having to take out of service such ships as H.M.S. "Blake"? I ask this because I heard a rumour some time ago that possibly H.M.S. "Tiger" was to be taken out of service.
In regard to transport aircraft, when one looks at the line of communication to the Far East from this country one wonders whether there is not some point in the comment by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, some two years ago about building a base in Australia. I would not go quite so far as he did, just making this the main base and withdrawing from the East into Australia, but I think there is a strong case for stockpiling in Australia. When we look at this long, stretched line of communication and at the aircraft which are available to us we see that that line of communication could well be broken and our Services would be placed in extreme difficulty.
When the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, replies would he say when we may expect the VC.10? I understood that this aircraft was shortly to go into the Royal Air Force Transport Command, but I 774 think I saw a note in the House of Commons that we might not now expect it until 1966–67. If that is the case, we should be very grateful to be told why.
This debate, obviously, must be deep on the question of the nuclear deterrent. A good number of years ago I certainly took the line—and I do not mind admitting that I have had to change my view—that there was a case for this country to have the nuclear deterrent, but like the Government of the day I did not visualise it as an independent nuclear deterrent. It was only after Nassau that it became an independent nuclear deterrent. Prior to that it was always a contribution to Western Defence. It was part and parcel with the United States of America a deterrent to any attack by the Soviet Union. When I first supported the deterrent I did not anticipate that it would ever be regarded as an independent weapon. I often wonder why there has been this sudden change in the attitude of the Government towards the independent deterrent. Is it the fact that the Government themselves are becoming so conscious of their dependence on overseas equipment?
My Lords, if we were to go through the list of equipment in all our Services, particularly of the last two or three years, and also of equipment which is now coming into service, we should immediately be struck by the very large percentage of foreign-developed weapons. May I remind your Lordships of the Belgian rifle; the American tactical nuclear weapons, Sergeant and Corporal; also of the fact that the Canberra is equipped with an American nuclear device; German bridge-building equipment; French helicopters which are now in service, and in spite of our helicopter industry we go to the United States of America for our new equipment. There is the Australian anti-tank missile; the Italian pack-howitzer; the 105 tank guns from the United States of America and Sweden; and now we are buying the Phantom fighter.
When I was in the NATO Parliamentary Conference I always advocated that countries within the Alliance should try to purchase each other's equipment, that we should try to stabilise and get continuity of equipment, but this appears to me to be a one-way traffic.
775 We are supplying very little. In fact, it would be interesting to know from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he replies what equipment we are providing on a major scale that we are able to sell. My memory goes back to Australia. What has Australia bought? For fighters they bought the Mistaire; for a strike aircraft, not the TSR 2 but the TFX. New Zealand have bought, not our transport aircraft—and, heaven knows! we have built sufficient—but the American Hercules. These countries within our own Commonwealth are not able to support our various industries. Why is it, when we have poured these millions of pounds into research, that we do not seem to be able to produce the equipment which satisfies them? I am sure the House is entitled to a reply.
I feel my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition dealt adequately with the question of the independent deterrent, but may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, this. If the Prime Minister says that we need to have the nuclear weapon—the deterrent—to give us the right to sit at the top table, which top table does he mean? Does he mean some special group within NATO, or does he mean some new committee which will be set up to effect world disarmament? The noble Lord must come out straight this evening. Is the possession of a nuclear weapon the sole credential for any country to sit at a table to discuss design? It is a very serious issue if the Government believe, as I think they do, that it is the sole credential. How then can we say to Germany that she should not make an alliance with the French to produce the Paris-Bonn nuclear force? If that were to happen the possibilities of war in Europe would be manifold.
We have paid great tribute to our soldiers in Cyprus. I wonder whether the Government have learned anything from Cyprus? Surely, there are two lessons. First, when a problem like the Cyprus or the East Africa problem arises, speed of action is necessary, it is vital; and I grant that the Government did well in reacting to the Cyprus problem at Christmas. The other factor—and it is quite clear now to the Government—is that when we are called upon to undertake a police action, it should not be undertaken by one nation. 776 It becomes too involved on one side or the other. The Government themselves have had to admit this. Therefore, as we know, reluctantly they have agreed to the United Nations' force. I would suggest that, in response to our friends in Sweden, in response to Mr. Lester Pearson in Canada, and in response to a number of other countries, we should take this opportunity of building as quickly as possible a United Nations' police force.
My Lords, we have a special part to play. As my right honourable friend Harold Wilson said, we have a common structure within our forces, equal, if not superior, to that of any other country in the world. This, perhaps, should be our greatest contribution to a police force. I would hope that we should do something more than merely make protestations. I believe that, having regard to the lessons we have learned in Cyprus, and the lessons we might have learned if there had been hostilities in East Africa, we should now go to the United Nations and really work, and for once show our belief in that Assembly.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
My Lords, I am extremely sorry that I have to start by apologising for the fact that I cannot remain in the House until the close of this debate. It is a thing I very much dislike doing, but I made an engagement some months ago. Indeed, if I could tell your Lordships what it is, I think you would appreciate the reason why I must keep it.
In my speech I propose to take the advice of the noble Earl who opened this debate. He said he hoped that in this debate we should not talk all the time about the nuclear deterrent, but would endeavour to redress the balance of the debate. I am not going to talk about the nuclear deterrent. I said last November that it was a subject which I did not feel I sufficiently understood to be able to make up my mind about. I also said that I did not think I had access to all the information necessary to form a reasoned judgment on it. I am still of that opinion, and I am still in that position. I also said then that I did not think it was a suitable subject to put before the electorate, and I am still of that opinion. In that connection, I feel that the remarks made on behalf 777 of the Churches by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester must carry a lot of weight, inside and outside this House, even though a remark on the subject by a Cross-Bencher like myself is probably regarded as unimportant.
The one subject I propose to talk about is manpower for the Army. We talked about that in this House last November; we talked about it again in February, when we had the Reserve Forces Bill before us. It has recently been discussed in another place repeatedly and, incidentally, heatedly. It is discussed frequently in the Press. Everybody knows that the Army is short of men. Everybody knows that recruiting is very disappointing. The White Paper itself says that the build-up of the Army was delayed, which I think is a fairly euphemistic expression. Since everybody knows these things, and so much has been said about it, I fancy that Ministers came down to the House this afternoon hoping that we should not go boring on about it. But I am afraid that that is what we have to do until we are told and assured that some action is being taken to put the position right.
What should we do? The noble and gallant Viscount has told us that we should adopt a form of National Service. I do not disagree with him indeed, I happen to think that National Service is good for the country anyway. But there are certain things that one must admit about National Service. So far as I know, I think it is fair to say that the Generals in the War Office are not pressing for it at this moment, for reasons which I understand. But they perhaps do not take sufficiently into account the wider long-term factors about which the noble and gallant Viscount spoke just now. Secondly, one has to recognise that National Service cannot affect the situation for about two years. But the decisive point about National Service, I think, is that it is quite unrealistic to imagine that any political Party will announce its intention of reintroducing National Service with the General Election around the corner. It is unrealistic because I believe that leaders of both political Parties have long since persuaded themselves, against the weight of the evidence, that National Service 778 is extremely unpopular and political dynamite.
The Minister of Defence said recently in another place:If I had to choose between being 8,000–5 per cent.—short on the total Army requirement, as I am, on the one hand, and having conscription on the other, I would choose what I have.I am quite sure that he would choose what he has at the present time. But saying that does not solve the problem: it does not alter the fact that there is a big shortfall in manpower, and it does not show how it is to be corrected. Moreover, it is my submission that the problem is much more serious than the Government, if I may say so with respect, would have us think. What is this figure that is being spoken of as the total Army requirement? I believe it is a figure of 180,000. But is that the total Army requirement? Where does that figure come from? I would remind your Lordships that it was in 1957 that the new Defence policy was adopted, a policy that would rely, in the main, on the "big loud bang"; and as regards conventional forces it was stipulated that what we should need was sufficient to meet our requirements to our Allies, with a reserve available to put out the occasional bush fire.
When that policy was announced, a figure of 165,000 was given as the target for the Army. Not even then, my Lords, was it seriously argued, so far as I know, that 165,000 represented the calculated requirements against the probable commitment. To the best of my belief, 165,000 was the figure to which the Government thought they might recruit without having to resort to National Service. That figure of 165,000 soon proved to be too low, and it was raised, first to 175,000 and again, in 1959, to 180,000. Since then, I suggest, two fresh things have happened. The first is that it has become apparent to many people—certainly it seems so to me—that it will not be possible to recruit up to 180,000 for any reasonable period without some form of National Service, provided that we are going to continue to have full employment in the country. The reason why recruiting went up in 1962 was that for a while we ceased to have full employment. That is a new factor which has come into the picture. Another one, I suggest, is that since 1957 we have come 779 to realise that the process of liquidating an Empire involves us, and is likely to involve us, in a great many commitments that we had not brought into account then.
The plain truth, my Lords, in my view, is that the figure of 180,000 is too large measured against the possibilities of voluntary recruitment, and too small as a figure representing our proper requirements. I believe that a new appraisal is needed, and that in the new Defence structure that is being set up a very good opportunity exists for making that new appraisal. I thought that in what he said the noble and gallant Viscount was proposing something very similar. A new appraisal is needed, and the Government must then say what number of men we actually need and how we are to get them. Meanwhile, if I may make a suggestion to both political Parties, it is that it would be wise at this time not to talk too much as if National Service were an obscenity which in no circumstances would they impose upon the country. Because, assuming that both Parties fancy their chances in the next Election, I think they should avoid it in case there are some red faces not so very far in the future.
But National Service cannot, for the reason I have given, be introduced at this time, and therefore every possible expedient should be tried to mitigate the situation. I have the noble Earl's words when he opened this debate. He spoke of… all the initiative, imagination and determination that we can muster";and he invited us to make any suggestions which we thought we had to mitigate the position. Therefore, I will be bold enough to take him up on that.
I know, of course, that the War Office are doing all they can to stimulate recruiting—they know their business far better than I know it, and I would not attempt to teach them. Nevertheless, I think it is fair to assume that the War Office could do more if they had more money. The first thing, therefore, that I would suggest is that the Government should make it plain to the War Office that any reasonable proposal which will really stimulate recruiting in the immediate future will be backed un by them and that finance will be found for 780 it. As I say, the War Office know far better than I do what they can do, but I think that, given more money, they could have a "crash" programme on married quarters—and I entirely agree with the remarks made on that point by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd.
They could also do more than they have done, I feel, to assure the potential recruit that the Army really will be a fine career for him; that soldiers will not all be treated alike in this respect, but that men will be given opportunities commensurate with their talents, technical skills and abilities; also, that at the end of their Colour service everything possible will be done not only to give them a job, but to give them a good job. In that connection, I must confess to an interest as Chairman of the Regular Forces Employment Association. But I certainly believe that more could be done in this direction and that more publicity could be given to what is being done.
There are some other things which I think, with respect, the Government might do to ease and mitigate the situation. I do not understand why the Government will not authorise the use at this time of the Emergency Reserves. As The Times put it:If ever there was a time when the Army was short of men it is surely now.I think that most of the men in these reserves would be glad to be used, and I believe they could be used to great advantage. Another thing that I should like to see the Government do is to make an announcement about the future of the Gurkhas. The situation about the future of the Gurkha contingent, so far as I know it, is somewhat vague, and I should have thought that any idea of running the contingent down at this time would be unwise and should be dismissed.
I am going to be bold enough to suggest something else to the Government. I do not like saying this, but I believe it should be said. The Government must see to it that our troops are not put through further experiences of the type that they have been through in Cyprus during the past weeks. I am not criticising what the Government have done in Cyprus: I think it is an awful problem, to which probably there is no good solution. And I am not, 781 of course, detracting one iota from the praise that has been given to our troops for the manner in which they have conducted themselves, which is past all words good. But I am saying that pictures in the newspapers of a British soldier, sitting in a British armoured car, being held at the point of a pistol by a Greek Cypriot irregular, and stories in the newspapers about our soldiers being "frisked" at a Greek Cypriot road block, whatever they may be, are not stimulants to recruiting. I will go further and say that I hope the Government will not allow our troops to be committed to operations in Cyprus under the United Nations unless they are given perfectly good, clear, honourable terms of reference.
Finally, my Lords, we must remember that manpower does not include only other ranks; it also includes officers. The question of officer shortage was mentioned by the noble and gallant Field Marshal. I need not repeat the figures he gave, but I agree with him that it is a problem of quantity and quality. Particularly as regards quality, I should like to make a suggestion. I need not turn to the reference, but the White Paper admits that last year there was a big fall in university entry. We need the university entry. Incidentally, I am not saying this as an aspersion against Sandhurst, for some time ago I arrived, quite independently, at the same conclusion about Sandhurst as that voiced tonight by the noble and gallant Field Marshal. But I repeat, and I think that it will be generally agreed, that we need the university entry. In these competitive days if you want a slice of the good cake, if you want to put your spoon into the cream jug, you have to be competitive; you have to go out and get what you want. I read recently with some pleasure that the Army have been authorised to offer ten university scholarships a year. I wonder if the Minister who is replying to this debate would care to tell the House—I shall read Hansard with great care to see what he says—how that figure of ten scholarships a year compares with what other large organisations in civil life, including, for example, the National Coal Board, are doing.
Another aspect of officer recruitment is that mention is made in the White 782 Paper of short-service commissions, and a statement is made that they are again falling, followed by a statement that the Government propose to take some action about it. I shall be very interested if the Minister cares to give us some information as to what action the Government contemplate, because it is my belief that fresh thinking on that subject has been needed for some time. We ought to get far more, especially from the ranks, of short-service commissions, and I believe that in this respect, if not in others, the Army might take a lesson from the Royal Air Force, who seem to be rather more clever at it than the Army has been.
Those, my Lords, are my suggestions, and I shall quite understand if the Minister, in replying, says that none of them is any good. But what I hope is that the Government will from now on treat this matter rather differently from the way in which they have treated it so far. In other words, that they will refrain from playing down this problem. For example, I think the noble Earl committed himself to the statement that, as regards the Army, the situation on manpower was only fair. I believe that it is just bad, Gamma-minus, and that it should be treated as such. After all, what is the position? Our Strategic Reserve, so-called, is constantly committed, with very few exceptions, overseas. Our units, especially the Foot Guards and infantry, are woefully under establishment, in spite of the fact that they are working to very low establishments specially authorised to avoid breaking up units, and our commitment to our Allies remains unfulfilled. We have got away with it so far, and the White Paper claims, and is justified in claiming, that all demands have been met. But in spite of that, the situation is inherently dangerous; and it is not dignified and not fair on officers and men. I hope that the Government will make it plain that they regard it in that way, and that they intend in the near future to put it right.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion which stands in the name of my noble and gallant friend Lord Jellicoe, the First (and also, I fear, the last) Lord of the Admiralty. Although the noble Earl is my friend (at
783 least I hope he is), and although I had the honour to serve under his father in the Grand Fleet, I would not support his Motion unless I were convinced that Command Paper 2270 showed quite clearly that the Government are pursuing the right course in their policy for the defence of this country. As most of your Lordships will be aware, I am a fervent advocate of a maritime strategy for this country and, in fact, for the whole Alliance of the Free World. In my view, this Statement on Defence shows beyond doubt that this is the view taken by the Government, and that within our resources they are taking the necessary steps to provide the ships and the aircraft, the weapons and the men required to pursue such a strategy.
There are one or two matters in the White Paper on which I should like briefly to comment, but before passing on to that I should like to say how much I agreed with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, from the Benches opposite, about the need for considering a base in Perth, Western Australia. The noble and gallant Field Marshal has mentioned it. I myself mentioned it eighteen months or two years ago in this House, and I happen to know from American naval friends that such an idea has been in their minds for quite a long time.
The other thing which has transpired in the course of this debate to which I should like briefly to refer is this question of National Service. I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, and the noble and gallant Field Marshal, and I want only to make one comment. When I wore my industrial hat I found that, when young men came to us to work in all sorts of capacities, two years in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force had done them a lot of good; and when National Service ceased our difficulties in industry were increased, because, quite honestly, the Services had done some of the training for us and had made them better men. On that point, when the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, was speaking, I was reminded that among the papers I found when I cleared up my father's desk after his death, now many years ago, was a whole sheaf of papers in which he was supporting Lord Roberts in his 784 campaign for National Service in about 1909.
I welcome the statement in paragraph 28 about fissile material. It has seemed to me for a long time past that we and our American Allies must be reaching the point of saturation in the stocks of this explosive. After all, to put it crudely, we only want to blow Russia up once. At any rate this welcome decision should release finance and other resources for more pressing needs. Nevertheless, I fully support the Government policy on the independent British deterrent which is clearly set out in paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 of the Paper. I do so, as I have said before in this House, because I am not prepared to entrust the honour, welfare and safety of this country into the hands of any other nation, however reliable they may be, or appear to be, as Allies.
This brings me to the mixed-manned force. I must at once say that I do not like this political gimmick. I do not believe that a vessel of the merchant-ship type—or, for that matter, any surface vessel—is a suitable firing platform for the Polaris weapon. These surface ships can be easily sought out and destroyed; and when they were rolling and pitching in a heavy sea, I do not know how they would succeed in putting their missiles on target. The submarine or submersible is, of course, an ideal vehicle for the Polaris weapon. If the weather is very bad, the submarine can dive and go down deep where it is comparatively quiet. I know from my own experience in World War I that if the weather in the shallow waters of the North Sea was very rough we went deep to have a quiet time and give the crew a rest. The Merchant Navy has, of course, had much experience with crews of mixed nationality, but in naval ships under naval discipline matters are not quite so straightforward. These 25 ships would be a naval force, and the first query which arises in my mind is what flag would they wear. NATO has no flag, so far as I know; and they could not fly the United Nations flag. I think that under International Law a warship must fly some flag; and undoubtedly they would be warships.
There are other minor problems which arise in the manning of these ships. As all your Lordships will know, 785 United States naval ships are dry. British bluejackets do not take kindly to coffee, iced water and iced tea; nor, I suspect, do German or Dutch sailors. In the very unlikely event of President de Gaulle allowing the French to join in this party, the French matelots would undoubtedly demand their daily ration of wine. We have been through all this before—I have—in the Mediterranean in World War II, when we had British naval liaison parties in ships of every nationality. It so happened that most of them came back to me with their complaints about the food and the drink, or lack of it. I have also had some experience of integrated staffs, staffs of mixed nationalities; and food and drink were always a problem. Just after the last war a staff mate of mine wrote a most amusing article for Punch under the heading "The Integrated Break-fast". The integrated breakfast, I should explain, is fried eggs and bacon, with a dollop of apricot jam on top. It is not nice. I had to eat it, but the British sailors did not like the integrated breakfast. But, speaking seriously, I hope that the Government will be successful in persuading our Allies that this particular plan is not very sound. I cannot believe that it is seriously supported by the United States Navy or by naval opinion in the United States, any more than it is supported, so far as I am able to find out, by any of our own naval people. I suspect that this plan emanates from the State Department at Washington, aided and abetted by our own Foreign Office; and I must say, quite frankly, that I regard it as a military nonsense.
To turn to aircraft carriers, I welcome the decision to design and build a new aircraft carrier. I realise that size and design must depend largely on what type of aircraft will be available to operate from it. It seems to me that the principal function of our aircraft carriers in the future will be in support of our land forces in operations rather similar to those going on now and, even more important, in an anti-submarine rôle—that is, the protection of our vital sea routes and lines of communication.
In considering the design of this new aircraft carrier, I do not think we should think in terms of air strikes such as Taranto, or of the enormous and 786 terrific air strikes of the United States—Japanese war in the Pacific. The potential enemy's fleet is mainly submarines, with possibly a few surface raiders. For myself, I think that the day of the really big aircraft carrier is out. I notice in the papers that tenders for the building of this new aircraft carrier are not going to be called for until the Spring of 1966, so there is plenty of time carefully to consider her design. I must say that I would prefer two small ones rather than one large one.
In any future war our convoys will be bigger and faster than any of those we saw in the last two wars. As the bleating goat tied to a tree attracts the tiger, so will the convoys attract the enemy submarines and aircraft. It seems to me that our convoys will require not only surface escorts but carrier-borne air cover in addition to what air cover can be given by shore-based aircraft.
This brings me to Coastal Command. Are we really satisfied that the rebuilt Shackletons are adequate for the important duties they will have to perform? Coastal Command is given only three short paragraphs in the Statement, and nothing is said about new aircraft for that vital force. Last time I spoke on this I expressed the hope that Coastal Command would not remain the Cinderella of the Air Force. I must say that paragraph 187 of the White Paper we are debating does not entirely relieve my anxiety on that score. Again, the convoys will require escort by hunter-killer submarines. "Dreadnought", "Valiant" and another one to be built will be invaluable for this purpose. I suppose that the Oberon class, though not so effective, could be used for this escort duty. But now that no more are to be built, I hope we can be told that further hunter-killer, nuclear-propelled submarines of the "Dreadnought", "Valiant" class are going to follow. I read in the Press that—
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt my noble friend in this respect? I can give him that assurance straight away.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I read in the Press that the 7,000 ton Polaris armed submarines of the "Resolution" class are to carry as well as their Polaris 787 weapons, six 21 inch torpedo tubes. Apart from their deterrent duties, it seems to me that these important vessels could at any rate in the outer oceans, perform without any alteration duties in an escort, hunter-killer rôle.
Although it is not referred to in the Statement, I particularly welcome the decision recently announced to make certain alterations to the "Tiger", "Blake" and "Lion", whereby they can carry four helicopters by removing the after 6-inch guns. This will certainly increase their versatility and usefulness in the sort of naval operations one can envisage over the next decade. One newspaper report said that this was going to be cheap conversion, but I have seen other reports that each one is going to cost about £1 million. I do not call it cheap, but I think it is a good plan to do it.
Finally, I come to paragraph 67. The entry to Dartmouth is still below what is needed. I wonder what the explanation is. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, can give us a clue when he replies. I wonder whether the boys who are able to take the necessary "A" levels do not find the Navy a worthwhile career; and, if so, why not? At any rate, I think that this is an important question. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who suggested that we might have a separate debate on questions of the training, education and manpower generally of the Services. If such a debate were arranged, I personally should be most interested.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a most distinguished French Admiral, now retired. During the last war he served under both Cunninghams and Sir Bertram Ramsay. He holds the D.S.O. among other British decorations. I told this old friend that we were to have our Defence debate to-day, and discussed with him some of the naval problems which surround the allied navies. I also asked him, "What shall I say in the debate?" As I left his house he called out, "Don't forget, speak about the Navy, John." I have spoken about the Navy, because, like my French friend, I believe that the allied navies, supported by air power, are the kernel of the nut in the maritime strategy that we must pursue.
788 None the less, I am most anxious that all three Services should continue, and improve on, the close co-operation which recent events have shown already exists to a marked degree. Under the guidance and direction of the Secretary of State for Defence and the new unified Ministry, I feel that this co-operation will rapidly improve at every level and in every function. Although the powers-that-be have chosen to ignore my suggestion that April 1 is not the most happy choice of a launch date, I wish the new Ministry much success in the testing times ahead of them, and hope they will just write me off as a superstitious old sailor.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, my contribution is so small that I am sure you will be pleased to hear that it is also short. However, I make no apology for speaking, because what I have to say is, I think, directly contributive both to recruitment and to continuity of service. I have noticed that no one to-day has mentioned one of the strongest points of all in relation to recruitment—namely, the influence of the woman. I say this because I feel that modern situations require modern amenities, and the boy, or young man, who is considering joining the Army, the Navy or the Air Force will always be influenced by his mother, sometimes even by his grandmother; and the man who is considering remaining long-term in the Services will, again, always be influenced by his wife. For this reason, I feel that it is important to look to the welfare services that are supplied to the Army, to a lesser extent to the Air Force, and to a very much lesser extent to the Navy, by voluntary organisations.
I speak on behalf of a vast number of welfare workers whose aim is to serve the type of man whom we have been discussing this afternoon. In this connotation I speak in regard to other ranks and not to the question of the recruitment of officers. Again and again welfare workers are restricted in the work they can do, and in the amount of help they can give, because of a series of difficulties which are constantly obtruding themselves and preventing the work from being carried through to the full.
789 In my position as Chairman of the W.V.S., which interest I declare, I am responsible to-day for nearly 200 women serving overseas, as far afield as Hong Kong, Brunei, Gan, and wherever serving men are. From them I have learned enough to feel that I really know what I am talking about. I have visited these women in different installations; I see them as they come home. I feel that the contribution they can make to the welfare of the men, to the easing of difficulties and the elimination of problems is of paramount importance. This is constantly being recognised both by commanding officers and by the relevant Ministries themselves. But the ever-present difficulty for all voluntary workers carrying out this type of job is that their preventive work in the field of welfare has no variable by which it can be measured; and, in spite of the fact that the graphs of both drunkenness and V.D. go down sharply where this welfare work is done, there is no way in which one can evaluate what is achieved by these services.
If it were possible for all of us who work in this field to have some means by which transport could be made available to full-time, recognised and accredited workers on a definite basis, in which checks of every sort and kind were imposed; if they could have such transport, commensurate with what is at present available to members of the Services or to the dependants of certain Servicemen; and if arrangements could be made in regard to lodging and board, many more welfare workers could be put into the field and much more work could be done, with most revealing consequences. Welfare is always a boring subject and is put at the bottom of the tray, be it the in-tray or the out-tray. Therefore, I beg your Lordships to examine this side of the work, something which may seem trivial when one is discussing as big a problem as your Lordships are discussing to-day. Nevertheless, it has a very definite bearing, on the question both of recruitment and of continuous service. I should not dare to speak in this debate were it not that ultimately so much comes from good welfare wisely done on a continuous basis. I am convinced that the support of the welfare services has meant in the past, and ca n mean in the future, better recruitment and more continuity of service. I hope that your Lordships observe that, although the contribution 790 is small, the time taken to make it has been short.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, that seems a very modest plea indeed, that there should be more transport for welfare workers; and, although I know nothing about it, I should like to join my voice to that of Lady Swanborough to that effect.
Yesterday at Question Time I asked the Government for some news of the Working Group which is going into the multilateral force; and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, replied that the technical sub-group of the Working Group, which was examining its military feasibility and desirability, had reported to the Working Group itself. It has been reported in the Press that the gist of that report was that the proposal was feasible militarily. I should now like to ask the noble Lord whether, when he answers the debate, he can give us any news about the probable time when we may expect the report from the Working Group itself, and also to whom we may expect that report to be made.
This is quite a fundamental point. It is not a mere bureaucratic detail. Will it be made to the NATO Council as such, or will it be made from the Working Group to the individual Governments? In the former case, if it is made to the NATO Council, what will be the position of the Governments of Norway, Denmark and France (who will have nothing whatever to do with the M.L.F. and have always declared so); and will those Powers which are considering joining it have to have their decisions and deliberations subject to the advice of those Powers which are opposed to the whole thing? On the other hand, if it is to be made direct to the individual Governments, does this mean that we are faced with something which, whatever it is, is not a NATO force but a private arrangement between certain Powers who also happen to be members of NATO, something which has been fixed up as between the individual Powers, not in accordance with the overall umbrella treaty which governs our defence in the West, not in accordance with the overall agreed NATO strategy which governs what would actually happen in a war—something, in short, which would be on a par with the 791 Franco-German Treaty, for instance, or any local, smaller arrangement which co-exists with the overall arrangement of NATO? In the latter case, how is one to dovetail the thing in with NATO?
I should like now to address myself for a few moments to the British Polaris submarine force, a subject which the First Lord brought up in his opening speech to-day. I do not think it should be necessary for me to state yet again what our position is in this matter. I am afraid the noble Earl got it a bit wrong, but he gracefully accepted correction on it. Let me go a little further into the future, because I believe that there is a certain amount of Party strife about the rather immediate aspects of this question, and that if one looks further ahead the two Parties are not so far apart on what ought to be done on the major issue affecting the defence of this country in the 1970's and 1980's.
The charge is sometimes made by the Conservative Party that the Labour Party is in a state of graduated unilateralism. This was a phrase invented by Mr. Julian Critchley in another place, and it is a good phrase. He said: "You are unilateralists; you are not going to burn the bombers tomorrow, but you are going to let them die off. You are not going to strive to keep alive the British independent deterrent, and this makes you graduated unilateralists. This would be what would happen if, supposing the Labour Party came to power, it turned those submarines into hunter-killers, not missile-bearing submarines at all." I would contend that the Conservative Party and the Government are also graduated unilateralists, only a little more graduated.
Let us look at the matter in economic terms. In the last Defence debate in the House of Commons, the Minister of Defence, speaking of the proportion of the Defence budget which went on the heavy nuclear weapon, spoke as follows [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 690 (No. 61), col. 459]:The best estimates I can make are that in 1964–65 the proportion"—of nuclear to total—will be 8.4 per cent.; in 1965–66 it will be 7.6 per cent.; in the late 1960's about 8 per cent"—792 that is when we start paying for the submarines and the Polaris missiles—and in the 1970's it will sink to less than 5 per cent. because by then the capital expenditure on the submarines will have been completed, as the capital expenditure on our V-bombers has been completed already. We shall simply be reduced to running costs.I draw attention to this. In the 1970's the expenditure will be less than 5 per cent. of the Defence budget.
Everybody knows that no weapons system has ever been devised which lasts for ever. Not only do ships and missiles wear out, but also the defence catches up. The game of deterrent technology will go on, although submarines are not going to be invulnerable for ever. There is going to have to be another system after that. Already, the Americans are designing the fourth generation of Polaris missiles which are going to be some inches wider than the ones we are getting. It will therefore mean chopping the submarines in half, as the First Lord said, and putting in a new middle section to take these larger missiles if we buy them.
After the submarines themselves, there is going to be something else. What it can be we do not yet know: the Americans, no doubt, are working on it in secret; the Russians, no doubt, are working on it in secret; and, no doubt, it will be expensive. If we are to buy that from the United States, we are not going to keep the proportion of nuclear to conventional at 5 per cent. or below. Where are the plans for buying the next generation of nuclear weapons system after the Polaris submarines? Obviously, from these figures, they are not there at all.
The situation therefore is that the Labour Party would like, if it thinks it safe to do so, not to have the next generation, the Polaris-bearing submarines. It has no plans, in any case, for getting anything after that; and it appears that the Government, too, have no plans for getting anything after that. We are all graduated unilateralists these days; and, so far as I can see, it would be a good thing if this were brought out more into the open. This country cannot stay in the nuclear arms race for ever, and it is a pity to have a great deal of tension and heat generated about precisely the length of time we should stay in.
To turn to another point on this, as a matter of fact one cannot really say that 793 we are in the nuclear arms race any longer: we are not in the business. The Minister of Defence, speaking in the country on March 3, said, I think—he used an emotive phrase—that if we allow ourselves to be beaten into giving up our weapons, or something like that, and if we do not get the Polaris submarines, we shall be out of the independent deterrent business for ever. He spoke of skilled teams being dispersed. This is not really the right picture because we are not in the independent deterrent business now. We are buying these missiles from the United States. We cannot make them—at least, we can make them but we have decided it is too expensive to make them ourselves.
Let us look for a moment at the question of dispersing the skilled teams. If those submarines are not built and equipped with the American missiles, what will be the difference? The skilled teams building the submarines will, very probably, not be dispersed, because a Labour Government, I think, are quite likely to go right on building the submarines to use them for a hunter-killer rôle. The skilled teams building the reactors which are going to drive those submarines will not be dispersed either, because the hunter-killer submarines need to be powered just the same as missile-bearing ones. The skilled teams which used to build missile circuitry, which is the most skilled job in the weapons game at the moment anywhere in the world, were dispersed by the Government several years ago, when they gave up the Blue Streak programme. We have not got skilled teams in that business any more.
The skilled teams which might have been making the navigation system for the submarines, the inertial navigation for the ships themselves, have never been called together by the Government, because we are buying American navigations systems to put in those submarines. The skilled teams which were making fissile material to put in the warheads of the rockets have been dispersed by the Government because, according to this year's White Paper, we are no longer making fissile material for weapons. So far as I can see, the only skilled team which will be dispersed by a Labour decision not to arm those submarines with American missiles is the skilled team which actually screws 794 the existing British made fissile material on to the top of the bought American rocket. This is a small skilled team, and it is not a very skilled job. It also seems to me extremely unlikely that they will be able to do it without American help, since the rocket is American built. I believe the charge does not lie at all. We are not in the business of building everything for ourselves. We could get back in now, if we took the economic decision to do so, and we could get back in in ten, twenty or fifty years' time, if we took the economic decision to do so. At the moment, there is no capital of technology or skill to be lost by not buying those missiles.
I should like to revert for a moment to this question of accounting—the percentage of our Defence budget which goes on nuclear weapons. The First Lord laid emphasis once again on the familiar point that the British independent deterrent costs less than 10 per cent. of our Defence budget, and we had the Minister of Defence in the House of Commons saying that that percentage is going to go down. Our nuclear arm—the Prime Minister's phrase—costs less than 10 per cent. Ten per cent. of our Defence budget is about £200 million. The R.A.F. costs £500 million, almost precisely, per year. My Lords, £200 million looks about right, does it not? The V-bombers might well account for two-fifths of the cost of the whole Royal Air Force.
Let us look a bit further. The Army costs £485 million. The Army of the Rhine is nearly one-third of the whole British Army, so let us assume that it costs about £150 million. But the Army of the Rhine is part of "our nuclear arm", because in any war that anybody can imagine, and in every war that anybody has planned—major war in Germany—that Army is going to have to fight with nuclear weapons within two or four days. This is part of "our nuclear arm". I therefore think it is arguable that we should count the entire cost of Rhine Army in with the percentage which we show goes on nuclear weapons.
The Navy costs £435 million a year. Its capital units, its biggest units, its most expensive and powerful units by far, are the aircraft carriers. These are, in effect, nuclear weapon systems. They are 795 capable of carrying nuclear-armed bombers, and do so. We should count the cost of those carriers—not 100 per cent. of the cost of the carriers but, I think, a good half of it—in the percentage which goes on our nuclear weapons. I think that if the Government wanted to give a true picture of what proportion of our Defence budget goes on actually enabling our fighting men to fight a nuclear war, and preparing them to do so, we should not find it was 10 per cent. at all, but we might find it was something much more like 30 or 40 per cent. I hope that when these matters are discussed as we go on in time these questions will be more frankly dealt with, and that the Government will give to the people of the world a truer picture which is that all our forces are nuclearised; that, with certain small exceptions, the whole lot are dual-purpose forces which can fight conventional or nuclear; that in a big war they would fight nuclear. And the expression "our nuclear arm" or "the deterrent", as a small, 10 per cent. thing, should be bell, book and candled out of common use because it gives a completely misleading picture.
§ 6.48 p.m.
My Lords, like the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, welcome the new Ministry of Defence and the very close co-operation that it envisages between the Services. In the early days of my life as a soldier each Service worked in its own compartment and knew little, and I am afraid cared less, about the problems and duties of the other Services. To-day we have a very different picture, and the co-operation between all Services is remarkable.
I feel I must say a few words about the deterrent and the question of our independent deterrent. If we cast our minds hack to the First World War and the lasting horrors of gas warfare, we may ask ourselves why this weapon was not used on the Continent in the Second World War. And the obvious answer must be that the Germans knew full well that this weapon would boomerang on them and that the potential of the Allies would he far more destructive than their own. I think this makes a strong point for the deterrent.
But what of the independent deterrent with all the arguments for and 796 against its retention? There is a very telling argument in favour of retention that I think has not been extensively used. Since the Norman Conquest this Island has not been invaded; and this has been due to our ability at all times, and in some cases alone, to fight back and prove to all that we are masters of our own destiny and depend on no-one for our defence. Our nation rises to greatness when we have our backs to the wall and are fighting for our very existence.
We remember with pride the Battle of Britain. But this is the point I wish to make: we also remember the boost to the morale of our great civilian population when the one-way bombing ceased and our bombers went out from these shores to hit back at our enemies. I do not believe that the people of this nation will ever forgive any Government that denudes them of the power to retaliate should the disaster of war overtake us again. Are we going to stand by and see France, whom we have helped to liberate in two world wars, become an independent deterrent Power while we crouch under the shield of America? I trust no foreign country with the safety of Britain.
My Lords, may I now turn to the the Army, which is the Service to which I have the honour to belong. We well remember the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, saying on the Committee stage of the Bill which to me will always be remembered as the "Admiralty Board Bill": "We are all becoming so terribly dull." My Lords, could we not go madly gay and upgrade the Army to the rank of the Royal Army? It has certainly done us royally in the last year. I believe that this would be of great assistance to recruiting. We are all snobs in our own way; and I think this might be a great thing for recruiting in this country. The subject of recruiting must be very much in our minds at this time because of the rôle so many of our troops are undertaking at this moment. There is probably no more difficult rôle than one in action with the aid of civilian power, that is being undertaken in so many parts of the Commonwealth. It means sudden disruption of family life of those of our men who are married, an uncomfortable, dangerous and nerve-racking rôlefor an unlimited period.
797 I should like to know whether these men get overseas pay and allowances for the period of their service in the many lands to which emergency has taken them. The rates of pay have been substantially increased in the last few years; but if we are to get the recruits we need in the future we must keep constantly under review the terms of service and rates of pay commensurate with those in civilian life. In the more stable circumstances prevailing in Germany and in this country the main consideration continues to be married quarters, children's education and social amenities. It does not appear that there is a great deal of fraternisation with the civilian population in Germany, and this makes it all the more important that social facilities are provided, which are out of the question otherwise, due to the language difficulties.
There is another point that I want to put before your Lordships to-night and which I do not wish to put forward in any Party spirit, but with great sincerity. It appears that Mr. Wilson, in his talk with the President of the United States, suggested that in doing away with the independent deterrent there would be money which could be used to strengthen our conventional forces for a "bush fire" service under the United Nations, a rôle for which, I believe he stated, we were ideally suited. We have seen how dangerously stretched our forces have been in the last year. Would this rôle be shared by America and by other United Nations countries; or does it imply that we are willing to rush about all over the world putting out bush fires at the beck and call of the United Nations?
Of course, the President of the United States was reported to be pleased with this, because public opinion in America is no more wedded to the idea of that rôle for its Services than public opinion in this country would accept it, without very definite safeguards for our Services. There can he no doubt that if we undertook this rôle we should have to withdraw our forces from Germany, strain our Strategic Reserve or go back to National Service.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, is it not quite true that we are all very grateful to Canada for coming in and relieving us 798 from a very difficult situation now; and also for the promise of help from Sweden, Finland and the others? Why should it be called a great hardship for Britain to do this?
My Lords, we should be able to do this if we were quite certain that other people would come in. One must agree that the response over Cyprus had been a long time coming.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
It might have been quicker if we had asked the United Nations to come in earlier.
My Lords, may I turn for a moment to the Arabian Peninsula and ask my noble friend about the progress on the township of Little Aden? I saw it two years ago. The work was starting there; and I am interested to know whether it has been possible to occupy any part of this cantonment and how much work has been done on catering for a larger number of troops than was envisaged when the project was planned. The White Paper seems to be rather vague on this subject.
Finally, my Lords, may I pay my humble tribute to the Royal Air Force Transport Command for the brilliant way they have met heavy demands? The efficiency and degree of safety with which they have managed to move troops in a series of emergencies must be admired by all. I trust that the trouble in the Commonwealth will soon be over and that the men of our Services will at an early date be restored to their families.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, the events of the past weeks and months have made it abundantly clear to all that we are still living in an age where it requires power to keep peace. On Friday week, Good Friday, remembering the behaviour of Pontius Pilate, we must bear in mind that a very grave guilt lies on the shoulders of those who, having responsibility, authority and power vested in them, shrink from using it effectively. A generation ago—when we stood in the same relation to the First World War as we now stand in relation to the Second World War—out of a false 799 sense of the value of collective security, out of a mistaken impression that we were setting an example which others would follow, we allowed our power and our authority in the world to fall; and we were instrumental in tempting dictators to engage in aggression which we should have succeeded in deterring.
More recently India, out of a very natural and proper wish to get on with the development of her country, neglected her defences and tempted an aggression by China upon her. By contrast, in Cuba we have seen the effect of frustrating the aggressive design of Russia in that island when a country takes firm, resolute and determined action, and has nuclear power to back it. At best, this is not a state of affairs that we should welcome, and as one of the two Lords Temporal in Holy Orders in your Lordships' House I should be the first to say that this is a state of affairs which should be superseded as soon as possible. But the fact remains that this is the way things are at present. They need not go on like this, and if we can possibly discover a method of refining the way in which our power is deployed and planned, it should be investigated.
I believe that the British manned nuclear-powered Polaris-armed submarines are a great refinement on the V-bomber nuclear deterrent, and very much to be welcomed on this account. We ought to do everything we can to encourage those engaged in and responsible for the Polaris project to get on with it with the greatest possible despatch. At some risk of engaging more closely than would be prudent the noble and gallant Field Marshal on my right, I would say, as a sailor, that although one may have proper doubts about the mixed-manned Polaris-armed surface force, I do not think that it is all "poppycock" and I think that the Navy certainly ought to have a good "bash" at the trials which are about to he undertaken by the United States Navy. I heard the other day that the ship they have selected is the U.S.S. "Biddle". I think your Lordships will agree with me that it appears that the Admiralty are entering into the spirit of the game when I say that among the steps they have so far taken about this trial is the appointment of an officer by the name of Lieutenant Biddle.
800 I wonder if I can ask, when the season comes around to autumn, and we may expect to have invitations from either the Minister of Defence or the Admiralty to visit units of the Fleet, whether it might be possible for visits to this ship to be included among the invitations. It is to visit European ports, and it would be very nice and very proper if such a visit could be arranged, because decisions about this have to be taken on political as well as on naval grounds. Another reason for wanting to go and see this ship is that those who went could come back and take up the point made in this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Instead of talking about life on the lower deck, they could talk about maritime ecology.
Turning for a moment from nuclear weapons to the rest, I should like to say how much I welcome the suggestion in the Statement on Defence not to refer to these forces as "conventional". One could hardly find pictures in that Statement of less conventional activity by Forces less conventionally armed and engaged. And I think that we should all wish to pay the greatest tribute to their skill, patience, resource and long-suffering in all the things they have been doing in the past weeks on our behalf. Apropos of that, I feel that there is rather more than was understood in the suggestion, made in another place last week, that there is a case, if more of these operations go on, for reviewing the criteria on which we advise Her Majesty to make honours and awards. The measure of success in these recent operations is surely to be judged by the speed with which order is restored; and the less fighting that takes place, the better. These are very different criteria for the award of medals and similar distinctions from those we have used in the past; and unless this point is looked into, I am not sure that very distinguished service will not go unrewarded. If we are to continue to place troops in the sort of position we saw Corporal Harding, of the Life Guards, in last week, it is essential that we and they should be able to feel that the quality of their operations is matched by thinking and decisions of the same quality in Whitehall.
One would have to be very naïve not to suspect, when we see rickshaws 801 being burned in Zanzibar, cars and lorries overturned in Pnom Penh, mutinies going on in East Africa, communal riots in Cyprus, and at the same time a new direct airline being opened between Moscow and Nicosia, that there is some sort of relation between some of these events. It is impossible to have the high regard for British Intelligence, which I am sure we all have, without wondering sometimes whether the response to Intelligence indications is as swift and sure as it can be. It is impossible not to wonder whether all the plans prepared (and I am sure that the quality of all this work will be immeasurably improved when the Central Organisation of Defence is set up) are not too closely applied to the operations which obviously we must plan for as the result of our Treaty obligations but fail to take sufficient account of the actual realities of the situation. Of course, we cannot expect the Government to answer on these points, all of which are covered by the Official Secrets Act, but I think that the condition and situation of our troops at the moment require high efficiency in planning and intelligence, and direction from the Admiralty. For this reason, the Central Organisation of Defence is greatly to be welcomed.
When this concept was first mooted, in the White Paper in 1958, it was for reasons of economy and efficiency, and to promote team work between the Services. I think that on the ground of economy the prospects so far are a little disappointing. The Act for the transfer of functions indicates, in its Explanatory Memorandum, that the cost of the move alone is going to be £3.3 million. There is a recurring cost of £1 million, and just a hope of economies in the future. I may be misreading this, in which case I shall be glad to be corrected, but I think that Parliament has the obligation to insist that, after the first year, we shall see reductions both in manpower and money in the Central Organisation of Defence in the interests of efficiency and economy and of the troops themselves.
As to team work, I understand that during the war, when the present right honourable Member for Woodford was Minister of Defence, in order to improve the team work in the Ministry of Defence he had installed a wardroom, mess and 802 bar for the use of staffs. I know of no more basic and elementary way of securing teamwork between staff officers, and I am a little disappointed, if my facts are correct, to hear that this practice is not being carried over into the new building. It is a small point, but, in my view, an important one if teamwork is to be taken seriously.
These are small suggestions and criticisms, but in general and broader terms I personally should like wholeheartedly to support the Defence policy of the Government as it now stands. It is only right, of course, that we should seek to share to the maximum extent possible our present Defence burden with our Commonwealth partners, our partners in our Alliances, and particularly with the United Nations. But we have to face the fact that, over a week after we have asked for their help and presence in Cyprus, argument is still going on about their pay, their composition and their terms of reference. Much as we should like this United Nations peacekeeping force to work more effectively than this, and much as we strive to bring it about, it has not yet happened.
It is only right that we should seek to reduce the burden of our Defence But the Government deserve, not our criticism, but our congratulation for what they have so far managed to achieve in terms of disarmament, and notably the Test Ban Treaty. It is only right that they should seek to economise as much as it is safe to do so in the case of a normal non-nuclear force. But until these economies can be made for good reasons, and until these burdens can be shared with a force which can share them effectively, I believe we have a duty to our own people in this island, to our brothers in the Commonwealth, to our partners in our Alliances, and not least to those other nations who are at present our friends but who might so easily be tempted to make themselves into enemies. We have a duty, for all these reasons, to keep the power that we now have, and, at any rate for the time being, to retain a large measure of its control in our own hands, which, for all practical purposes, is the only place where we can be sure it will be used boldly, firmly, swiftly and decisively to restrain the forces of chaos and to preserve the peace of the world.
§ 7.14 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, you will forgive me if for a few minutes I take your Lordships away from the nuclear battle down to the more mundane close battle of the Territorial Army, which is referred to in paragraphs 140 and 141 of the Defence White Paper. I should like to deal with the latter paragraph first, because that deals with the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, which, as your Lordships know, allows men to be called out prior to Proclamation. I notice a statement there that further steps are to be taken to increase the numbers. This pleases me. But I am somewhat perturbed that the paragraph goes on:It is hoped that employers will give every encouragement to suitable young men to Volunteer.In a small way, I am an employer of men who are in the Territorial Army and who have come forward and asked me if I would agree to their going into the Emergency Reserve. I have done so. But I know how difficult it is for an employer to give that consent.
A man may be called away for a period up to six months. We are encouraged by other Departments of the Government to try to make his abilities more efficient to cut down the manpower and get the best out of the men we have. But if, having done that, the best man has gone on reserve he may well be lost. This naturally makes employers very anxious before giving consent for their men to join. I hope that the Government can give some consideration to this matter in their further thinking. I have wondered whether there is not a call, with the bigger employers, for something on the same basis as is used, I think, with disabled men. Most big firms have to take on up to 5 per cent. of these. Larger firms might be asked to allow up to 5 per cent. of their manpower (if the men wanted to go) to be eligible for the Volunteer Reserve, but above that proportion of 5 per cent. the firm could say "No". I feel that some scheme on this basis should be considered.
I should now like to turn to paragraph 140, which deals with the Territorial Army, and its possible use in Germany from 1965 onwards. There is one slight concern in this—the fact that it has been 804 mentioned that reinforcements may be supplied either as individuals or as small sub-units. Small sub-units are certainly feasible, but individuals may be somewhat difficult to manage. Quite frankly, I think that everybody is worried about this point. I understand that in the case of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve it is possible for a man to volunteer to go to the Royal Navy and serve for a period. I wonder whether something of this sort could not be brought in in connection with the Territorial Army and the Regular Army, so that from time to time a man could volunteer (he would still remain in the Territorial Army) to do service with the Regulars and then come out. It would be for a limited period, of course, but it would get away from the business of selecting people. That again might be worth looking into.
The last point I want to bring up is the question of taxation of Territorial Army pay. It seems rather anomalous that a man is taxed on the pay he gets, and that in many cases he is nearly paying for the service he is giving. By the time he has taken in various ancillary expenses, such as getting to the drill hall, things for training and possibly buying his food (it is true that he has certain allowances, but these do not cover the expenses), he is then given pay, upon which he is taxed, and he finds that he has very nearly paid to come. One wonders whether something could be done about this. I know that in the Regular Forces it is rather different, because the serving man's main occupation is that of being a soldier, sailor or airman. But if he is a Territorial, his main occupation is something else. He has been called up by the Government to serve his country; he has been promised that he will be paid for his service. He is paid, and the money is then taken away from him. I know that this matter is causing a great deal of concern. One only feels that the Inland Revenue must have been pleased when the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Slim stated that a Territorial was "twice the citizen".
§ 7.19 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, we are coming to the end of a rather long debate, and I think we have to start getting back to the main theme of the 805 argument. Since I last took part in a debate on Defence in your Lordships' House (I regret that I had to miss last year's debate) the Party opposite have certainly made what I might call giant strides, inasmuch as they now agree that the nuclear deterrent is something that is a necessary evil, so long as it is American and not our own. They argue that the British deterrent cannot be independent, because some of it comes from America; and this implied distrust of America, to my mind, does not fit well with their own arguments that they place their total reliance on the American shield. One cannot have it both ways; it is not logical.
I know that the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, argue that by having our own nuclear deterrent we are not trusting America; but, as the noble Earl, Lord, Jellicoe, said, that is entirely untrue. Of course we trust America, but if, as the White Paper says, there were no power in Europe capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on a potential enemy, the enemy might be tempted—if not now, then perhaps at some time in the future—to attack in the mistaken belief that the United States would not act unless America herself were attacked. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, quoted this particular extract and he derided it. I agree with him entirely that the Russians can read and they are well educated, but they are not the only possible opponents, and we have seen mistakes which have been due to the fact that the t's have not been crossed and the i's have not been dotted.
The next argument of the Party opposite against our having a deterrent is that it represents a fraction of only 1 or 2 per cent. of the Western striking power: I think it was the right honourable gentleman Mr. Harold Wilson who said that. Again as the White Paper says:The V-bombers by themselves are, and the Polaris submarines will be, capable of inflicting greater damage than any potential aggressor would consider acceptable.It is not the size of the deterrent, it is the damage which the deterrent can do, which deters and makes it credible. The Americans do not object to our having an independent deterrent or they would not have agreed to provide us 806 with the Polaris submarine. As the White Paper says:The Nassau Agreement recorded the conclusion that the provision of Polaris missiles to the United Kingdom by the United States 'created an opportunity for the development of new and closer arrangements for the organisation and control of strategic Western Defence and that such arrangements in turn could make a major contribution to political cohesion among the nations of the Alliance'.So much for that.
Although I entirely agree that we should have our own nuclear deterrent, I am afraid I am not, as I have said in previous debates, entirely in agreement with the weapon that has been chosen, the Polaris submarine. It seems to me we are locking up money, effort and manpower in a weapon which, although effective as a deterrent, could not be used in any other rôle. It may be of course that by the time Polaris submarines have come along we shall have succeeded in having some form of nuclear disarmament. Here I am with the right reverend Prelate in the wish that this may be so.
If there were no alternative I should not be adducing this argument, but surely we have the alternative in the present V-bombers and in the TSR2 to come. It may well be that the decision was taken by the Government at a time when they did not appreciate the full capabilities of the TSR2. However, it has now been done, and I am with the Government in their general policy, if not with this particular detail of it. There has been much criticism of the TSR2 on other occasions by the Party opposite, and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that the Australian Air Force had bought American aircraft instead of the TSR2. Surely it was the criticism of this aircraft in another place by the Party opposite on occasions which could well have been responsible for the fact that the Australians did not have this aircraft. I think one of the remarks which was made was that, if the Party opposite came into power, this particular aircraft would be wiped out.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
It was said at the time, and that was the time when the Australians were making up their minds whether to buy this aircraft or an American aircraft. It is a great pity because the Australian Air Force and our 807 own Air Force work very well together in the Far East and it would help considerably, both operationally and mechanically, if they could have the same aircraft.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, will he tell us his evidence for suggesting that the Australians did not buy the TSR2 because of certain criticisms? Is he really serious and has he evidence to support this? It shows either incurable frivolity on the part of the Australian Government or a situation which is very serious and ought to be looked at.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I have been credibly informed by a source which certainly should know that this was one of the arguments taken into consideration by the Australian Air Force, and I do not blame them. After all, why should they buy aircraft which, if another Government comes into power this year, would be cancelled? We have to pay enormous sums of money because there will be that smaller number of aircraft coming off the line.
The decision of the Government to go ahead with the TSR.2 is one with which I heartily agree. It is one of the most flexible and versatile aircraft ever devised by any country. It can be used for the nuclear deterrent as well as the conventional rôle, and more's the pity that it has not been chosen for our own nuclear deterrent power. While the Government have been wise over this, I am not quite so happy about their policy on aircraft re-equipment for the Navy. I fully agree that the Government were right in the present circumstances to order the Phantom aircraft, but I fail to understand how we got ourselves into this position in the first place. Our own aircraft industry is as fine as any in the world, and in fact I think it is the most inventive of all. I cannot believe that our industry, had it been given the proper instructions and requirements, could not have produced suitable aircraft for the Navy. It seems to me that in dealing with the operational requirements of the Admiralty, the Air Ministry or even the Ministry of Aviation, there must at one time have been some bad bungling or else they did not look into their crystal ball the right way round.
808 On the subject of buying from the Americans, the Minister of Defence has announced in another place that helicopters will be bought from America for the Army. I have heard a rumour that, although originally it was thought that we should be able to make them under licence here, this is not now certain. I hope sincerely that this rumour is not correct, and perhaps my noble friend will let me know, if not to-day then later, what the form is on this matter.
T heard on the B.B.C. News this morning that it has been decided to close down eventually the bases in Libya. This, of course, is part of a continuing process which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, when he quoted my noble and gallant friend and one time superior officer as saying that we ought to have a base in Australia. This certainly gives one great pointer to this particular argument, but the reason I was going to bring this up was to emphasise the fact that all aircraft for Transport Command in the future must be capable of very, very long distances, because the time may well come when we shall have to do without staging posts.
We have heard a lot about the mixed manned force, and I should just like to say that I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Ampthill. It may well prove that this particular idea will not work out in practice, but if one looks back at how often the experts—and there is a very famous expert behind me who has said this is military nonsense—
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I think that was on another occasion. If one looks back on history one often finds that even the highest of experts have been proved wrong. But at least try it—and I commend the Government for doing so. If it fails, that is one good idea down the drain. If it is successful, it will go a long way towards cohesion in NATO.
May I ask the Government about two small points? Can they produce some form of propaganda, or some means, whereby they can put it across to industrialists that Reservists in general, and "Ever-readies" in particular, should be treated far better by them when they ask to go to their camps? They all 809 have to lose their holidays completely; and I think that even if they have to cut them in half it is something that is entirely wrong.
Finally, a plea which I make on every possible occasion in a Defence debate, and it is this. Can the Government devise some system by which we can have more members of the higher ranks of officers of all three Services coming into this House? As I have said before, we have the equivalents of the C.I.G.S., the C.A.S. or the C.N.S. in the Foreign Office coming here when they have finished their tours of duty there, and I think that is right. Surely we could have more new blood from the Services in exactly the same way. It is only in this way that we can be really up to date. In fact, we have had none since the war. I should like to end by saying that I have every confidence in the Government's White Paper.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this is always a difficult time to start winding up in your Lordships' House. On the last occasion I was the only representative on these Benches, but I am rather better supported now, and I must therefore be rather more careful. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, may recall that he and I had a pleasant debate. I hone that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will be back, because he made a number of rather startling assertions to which it is my intention to reply. In any case, I hope that if he is not here to hear them, the noble Lord the Leader of the House will be able to reply for him.
I would refer briefly at the start to the White Paper, which I think is a rather better job than that for last year. It is a little better written. It is rather purple in places, and it has that unfortunate statement about our assurance for survival in the future depending on the deterrent. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pointed out, this really depends upon God. There are a number of statements, of that kind. We are twice told that it is the tercentenary of the Royal Marines, which is certainly a matter for great congratulation, although it was not necessary for us to be told twice. It would suggest that possibly the single hand that is bringing the Ministry of Defence, their reports and proposals into 810 one field, is not yet at work. Indeed, I would say that the Admiralty section of the Report is much the best written. It is certainly the best propaganda, and I think they carry the first prize in this particular competition. Despite this, it still conceals rather more than it reveals. It would be interesting, if one had the time—and perhaps some noble Lords have—to compare each paragraph in successive years and to see how, year after year, an aircraft becomes a project and a firm order, and comes into service some time in the mid-'sixties or the mid-'seventies. We should have a progress report of this.
I realise that the Government will not have much longer in which to heed my appeal, but, none the less, I would ask this Government, or any other Government, to try to give us information in a rather more intelligible form. If there is any one of your Lordships who is able to understand the precise expenditure on different fields of activity in Defence, then I can only say that he is a superman indeed. It may be that it is possible for noble Lords in the Government, aided by their Civil Service, to come out with these percentages like 10 per cent. or 43 per cent. of Bomber Command, or whatever it may be, but we simply do not know what the basis is. As my noble friend Lord Kennet pointed out, it is possible to suggest that a great part of our Defence expenditure goes on nuclear defence, because a great deal of our defence equipment has a dual rôle. I am not making anything of this point at the moment, beyond pointing out the great difficulty in judging where the money goes, or has gone. Of course, a great deal has gone—£20,000 million in the last twelve years. One of our purposes in this debate is to judge whether this money has been well spent and whether the Government's plans for the future will be satisfactory.
I should like to turn straight away to this question of the size of the Army. We had a very interesting, indeed, a rather sober speech from the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. We know him well enough to know that he would never deliver an unsober speech. None the less, he always comes out with new ideas and new presentations of ideas. I will not say that I agree at this stage with what 811 he said; nevertheless, this problem of manpower is a very acute one. I wish the Government would not go on saying hopefully that they are working towards 180,000. It is this sort of jolly optimism, which fills all their official publications, that makes us rather suspicious of them. So far from working towards it, they are working away from it. If the figures continue at the same rate as they have in this last year and the decline goes on, we shall be having a smaller Army than we have at the moment. We are teetering on the 8,000 shortage at the moment, and it may start going down again.
This, of course, is an acutely serious problem. It would be interesting to hear again from the noble and gallant, Viscount what his proposals would be, other than for National Service—for which there are, of course, powerful arguments—if, in the absence of National Service, we have a further decline. We know that units are under strength, and we know particularly, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd said, that there are units, especially in Cyprus, with a really dangerously low number. I know the names of the units, as does the noble Lord who is about to reply. It is undesirable perhaps to give them, but the figures are extraordinarily bad, especially in the light of the earlier recommendations that in previous operations in Cyprus—admittedly of a rather different kind—it was important not only that the units should be up to peace strength, but above peace strength. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he is not concerned at the effect on the morale of the troops in a situation like this. I make no more of this than to say that unless the situation is improved, we may be faced again with the need for some radical reorganisation of the infantry.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, the noble Lord has asked my opinion. I think the point is this—that there is no answer. If you take a unit like a battalion—which I know about, because I commanded one in peace time—there comes a moment when, by the time you have provided jobs in barracks and the guards, and allowed for leave, you have not enough soldiers to do proper training. The 812 soldier then gets rather fed up. Consider, for instance, a battalion going out to train with two companies. In war time a battalion cannot fight properly and maintain itself long enough without being relieved without four companies. So when the noble Lord asks what is my solution, my answer would be that there is no solution except some form of National Service, and it would require very careful examination as to exactly what form. Will that answer the noble Lord?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Yes, I am very grateful. The fact is that it is, of course, for the Government to answer this particular question at the moment, and it seems to me that either they—and it is "they" at the moment—have to face the noble and gallant Viscount's suggestion or they have to think of some form of reorganisation. I do not believe that this situation ought to continue, and it is one, furthermore, that may get worse rather than better.
This brings me to the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Ailsa, who had a very interesting contribution to make about the Territorial Army. We all pay lip service to the Territorial Army. All Governments pay lip service to the Territorial Army. There are a few devoted people who put in a great deal of time and help to organise it, and we all know that it is not getting the support it needs. I am not an expert on the Territorial Army, but I wonder whether, in thinking about this manpower problem, the application of the "Ever-ready" idea, to which I know the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was devoted at one stage, should not be extended further.
If I understand it correctly, Territorial Army units will not operate as units in a military sense. They may do so in certain peaceful rôles but, as I understand it now, they are increasingly intended as reserves to bring line regiments up to strength. I should like to know whether I am correct in understanding this to be so, because that, I think, was what was said in another place. Indeed, it was said that members of Territorial units could expect perhaps to go abroad, but could not necessarily expect to be posted to the same unit. I had not understood before that this was the position, and I 813 shall be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, can correct me on it.
But if we really have come to this position, then, clearly, we have to think in a rather different way about the Territorial Army. It may well be that there is some application of the "Ever-ready" principle that will enable us, especially with very keen volunteers, to get our units overseas rather better manned, up to strength. It is a very technical question. The fact remains that the "Ever-readies" were originally introduced at the time of the Berlin crisis. We thought it was something of a political gesture. The Americans flew a full armoured division into Europe and the present Government invented the "Ever-readies", which have cost the country some money but, so far as I know, have not had the opportunity to give any definite service.
My Lords, the problem of recruitment is one that we could go on discussing at great length. It has been suggested that there are certain units for which it is particularly easy to gain recruits—it is particularly easy to recruit for the Royal Marines—and that we ought all the time to be reinforcing the success of special corps of that kind which are able to attract people and thereby get some extra strength. But I realise that this will not solve the problem which may be forced on us and which may lead to some more fundamental reorganisation.
We have not had much discussion to-day on the subject of present Russian strategy, and I think it is worth while considering again whether or not we shall find ourselves in the sort of position that we have been in for the last few years. Mr. McNamara, I think it was last autumn, made a statement to the effect that the NATO forces in Central Europe were stronger now than the Warsaw Pact forces. This may or may not be as significant as it sounds. It may well be possible for the Warsaw Pact countries, and I think Russia in particular, to reinforce their Central European and Eastern European forces very considerably; but, nevertheless, there is considerable evidence of a certain change in Russian strategy. There is evidence that no longer, or at any rate to a considerably less extent, do 814 we have to fear the possibility of overwhelming Russian so-called conventional forces. This arises out of publications, in particular one called Military Strategy, brought up-to-date a few months ago in Russia. And when we look at the great concentration of medium-range ballistic missiles, it suggests that Russian policy with regard to Europe in a military sense has changed and that we may be confronted much more with the threat of an overwhelming medium-range ballistic missile attack.
My conclusion from this, for what it is worth, is that this represents rather more of a defensive state in Russian strategy than we have seen in the past, and this might lead us to certain conclusions with regard to our strategy. It could be argued that we could now offer to reduce the size of our forces in Europe. I personally do not think we have yet reached that stage. Indeed, I think there is still strong argument for our trying, as the Government keep on pathetically saying they are doing, to attain this never attainable 55,000. None the less, it is against this background that we need to consider the strategy that we are following.
This brings me to the question of the equipment of our Forces. There is not time now to discuss all the equipment, particularly of the Army. We were told by the noble Earl, the First Lord of the Admiralty, that the Royal Air Force were well equipped. He then went on to mention three aircraft which they do not yet possess and which are research projects. In fact, the only aircraft he mentioned in relation to the Royal Air Force were aircraft which will not appear for a long while.
The first one he mentioned was the TSR 2, which is due in 1967. Here, in passing, I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, that I think we have had enough of this argument that it was Labour Party speeches which were responsible for losing the TSR 2 order in Australia. The noble Earl knows that I personally have a strong interest in this aircraft and that if it comes off it will be a very remarkable weapon in its basic rôle, which, of course, is not as a strategic bomber. It is certainly one which the Army will want. But we have not got it and shall not get it until 1967.
815 The next aircraft in this "well-equipped" Royal Air Force that the First Lord mentioned was the P.1154, and we are not going to get that for quite a number of years. He referred to the HS.681, and here he became rather coy. We asked him when it was going to come into service, and he then coined again this magic phrase:We are now moving on from the mid-'60s. The mid-'60s were for the Belfast. For the HS.681 it is the late-'60s.Of course we know that in fact he means the 1970s, because in another place we were told that it would be six years before it appears. The HS.681, which is part of the present "well-equipped" Royal Air Force, is, of course, essential for the operation of the TSR 2, because both aircraft are going to be capable of very short takeoff, very flexible tactical aircraft; and whereas the TSR 2 can operate, I understand, without the type of logistic support the H.S.681 can give, the two, in the long run, are meant to operate together. But here again the Government have their time scales wrong, because they get the TSR 2 three years before the H.S.681 on which it will depend. I suggest it does not present such a tidy picture. It would help if we could be given a list of these aircraft, both their current names and, if possible, their future names, and certainly their previous names. There was an O.R.541 (or something like that), which now becomes the 681; and another, which was A.W., has now become H.S. It is exceedingly difficult to follow. The noble Lord is dealing constantly in these letters in Government Departments; and for all I know it might just be a letter applying to some new director of something or other. No doubt the Departments know them, but it is rather difficult for the rest of us.
In passing, may I repeat a question I have asked for several years now—and perhaps we can have a more precise answer now than the mid-1960s; that is, when is the Belfast coming? I ask this question year after year, but I never receive an answer. I hope that this time the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is equipped with a definite date. If not, he has time, even now, to find out. The Belfast is, in a way, a tragedy. The 816 Government have ordered only ten. This machine has taken a long time coming. People have been very rude about it. Even I, I am afraid, have called it the most expensive aircraft in the world; and that is certainly true, because the Government have ordered only ten and we need a great many more. I suggest that this is quite fundamental to the sort of problems that confront us in the world to-day, the sort of problems which worry the noble Lord in his present capacity in the Foreign Office, or the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, also concerned with what is happening. I am sure they both want many more Belfasts and, of course, VC10s. I would ask when the Royal Air Force are to get VC10s. I understand—and it was certainly expected by some people in the Ministry of Defence—that the Royal Air Force were going to get VC1Os in a few weeks' time. But now the only possibility of our defence forces flying VC10s is if they fly in B.O.A.C. aircraft, or possibly Kuwait Airline aircraft or some other. It really does present an extraordinary spectacle of lack of clarity in regard to objectives
The whole of the aircraft situation is a depressing one. I should like momentarily to ask further questions on the Phantom. The Phantom, I imagine, will come into service with the Navy some time in the middle-late 1960s—I think that would probably be the right phrase. The R.A.F., of course, will still be struggling along with the poor old Hunter. The Phantom, I hope, is going to be a great success. We should have liked to know (perhaps it would not be right to press too hard on this) how the Spey engine is going to work out. I am told there will be an increased range and reduced performance or reduced cruising speed. Whether this is improvement across the board, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said, I am not quite sure. It is not yet, I gather, entirely suitable. I gather that it has to be strengthened for use on British carriers. I only hope that in this sudden rush which the Ministry of Defence had—they have produced this new aircraft rather late, out of a conjurer's hat, as it were—this particular rabbit is the one they really wanted.
It would be interesting to know why they did not include it in the Defence White Paper. It is always very nice to have something to say to the House of 817 Commons or the House of Lords. Ministers tell us so little on the subject of Defence that it is quite a good idea to save up one or two titbits for an occasion like this. But it is generally believed in the aviation industry that the reason why the Government do not announce decisions on aircraft is simply that they have no money left in the kitty. It was particularly important in this Election year to keep the sum to be charged at £1,999 million, which sounds so much less than £2,000 million, just as 9s. 11d. is a normal charge in a shop, because it sounds so much less than 10s. If it is true that we have not the money to place these orders, and all the time we are spreading our orders further and further, then I hope that the Government will tell us so. It is no good their pretending that we are getting things as fast as we can, and that the only thing holding up these orders is the fact that we are unable to arrive at an operational decision, when, in truth, it is the financial difficulty that is holding up this equipment.
Then I should like to ask about the helicopter. Are Shorts going to have the helicopter order? I have been told so many times it is one helicopter or another. I was told some weeks ago that the Government had virtually decided on the Hiller. Then Hughes came into the picture. The Bell was already there. I gather from what the noble Earl the First Lord said that it is the Bell which is to be ordered, and I wonder whether he could tell us whether there is any definite information on that.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The only reason I conclude that it is to be the Bell is that we understood the Hiller was to be entirely manufactured under licence in this country, whereas the proposition with regard to the Bell was that a certain number were to be bought from abroad.
That is, in fact, incorrect. If it were the Hiller there would still be a further Royal Naval buy direct from the United States.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am very grateful to the noble Earl. He will not 818 blame us for trying to squeeze some facts by a careful textual examination of Government statements. Why have they not decided on this? Surely in the present situation it is a matter of great urgency that the Army gets the helicopter it wants as soon as possible. There may be some good reasons for this, but the Government have not given them. One could go on at great length on the problem of the helicopter.
There is only one other question I would have asked in relation to aircraft—I hesitate to mention the word "deterrent", but I shall have to come to this—and that is the suitability of the V-bombers for the low-level rôle. I do not propose to press very hard on this. We know that high-level bombers were used in the low-level rôle during the war. The situation to-day is different. There have been a number of technical criticisms of this. I am certainly not in a position to judge. But if this is such a good idea, I wonder why it was not thought of before. We know that the Americans are spending up to £1 million per aircraft to convert the B.52. We realise that they have a different wing and different engine arrangement, and it may be that this is not necessary with our V-aircraft. But we should like to know how far trials of this kind have been carried out; and how successful they are. We should also like to know how this affects the range and, in particular, the performance of the missile, which I had understood was intended to be dropped initially, before it fired, from a height of 40,000 feet. Will these particular aircraft have to climb at the crucial moment before they drop their missiles?
This brings me to the discussion of the deterrent. I am sure all noble Lords welcomed the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop or Chichester, in which he emphasised the desirability of not getting too caught up in political arguments on this particular question. Indeed, there was the plea of the Churches that we should try to avoid it at Election time. I know that a Government have no obligation to listen particularly to the advice of the Churches in this matter, and I would not for one moment suggest that necessarily it makes right those of us who are opposed to the course the Government 819 are following. But it was the Government and the Prime Minister, and today the First Lord himself, who charged straight into the battle on the nuclear deterrent.
I agree that it is a great pity—it may be unavoidable; and it is no good, if we are to have a democratic system, not to fight out great issues. But it is equally true that this is a peculiarly unsuitable one for judgment by the electorate. Indeed, it is even rather unsuitable for judgment in this House, if we are to believe the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, whose argument in favour of this deterrent was that during the war the one thing that was essential to morale was for people who had been bombed to think that they could hit back. If he thinks that that is a relevant argument, then, provided he will be here to get that satisfaction—
My Lords, I did not say that it was essential to hit back. I said it raised morale throughout the country that we were able to do so, which is a quite different situation.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Well, I do not think there will be much morale left to be raised when we fire our sixteen or thirty-two missiles alone, which is presumably the thought behind having an independent deterrent, and we can feel that they are British ones. This is part of the difficulty of arguing on this particular problem.
Of course, the arguments against the deterrent are more difficult to sustain. I say this quite seriously. I am not suggesting that noble Lords on the other side are not sophisticated, but it involves more sophisticated argument of the kind that my noble friend Lord Kennet gave, in an extraordinarily brilliant speech both in economic and political terms. We on this side of the House know that most of us strongly supported the British deterrent. We supported it up to the moment of Blue Streak. I am not blaming the Government when I say at this moment that it was they who abolished the independent British deterrent.
I am not trying to make much out of these words, but the present deterrent is not a wholly independent one. Here 820 we get deeper and deeper into the refinements of an argument in which it has been suggested that an independent one is one that is under your control. But, of course, we have taken great care to suggest that for most of the time it would not be under our control, because the Government have rightly suggested that these weapons will be hypothecated to NATO, although they can in fact call them back. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, again used an argument which I believe to be quite misleading. He suggested that our security depended on our deterrent. This argument would suggest that Germany's security depends on Germany's deterrent; and the same applies to Holland and Belgium. It does not. It depends on the strength of the Alliance built up by the whole of the nuclear armament of the West. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, shakes his head. I can only tell him that this is the situation at the moment, and I do not believe that there are many noble Lords in this House who would say otherwise.
I find it difficult to see, too, what the argument in regard to the top table will be. Here, again, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, what particular conferences, what particular tables—this was a matter referred to in Lord Shepherd's speech—we should be enabled to sit at, or should not be enabled to sit at, if, by any chance, we were to give up our so-called independent deterrent. Again, I really find this a weak argument, and again an argument which makes it quite clear that it is essential for Germany, like France, also to have the deterrent. Then there is the regrettable argument that China and France will have it anyway. Little attempt has been made to dissuade France—it may be that nothing could be achieved in doing so—to refrain from developing her deterrent; and, of course, we have no right to attempt to do so.
I say quite seriously that I do not believe that the French deterrent is nearly as credible as our own. They are intending in due course, some time in the late or mid 'sixties, to equip Mystere bombers, which are certainly supersonic bombers, with nuclear weapons. I think they will be exactly as vulnerable, despite their greater speed, as our own V-bombers will be in the late 'sixties. As for their Polaris fleet, 821 the first submarine is not likely to appear before 1970, and their fleet of three will not appear before 1975. I greatly doubt—I say this quite seriously—whether the French independent deterrent may yet materialise. It is the product of the will of one man, and it may well be—the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, shakes his head; but I should have suggested that in other circumstances we may well find that it would be possible to do a deal in this matter and to think in terms of an Alliance force rather than national forces.
What, however, is particularly worrying is the fact that in the debate in another place, at the particular moment when Mr. Butler was seeking to get agreement on a freeze of nuclear weapons, Mr. Thorneycroft, the Minister for Defence, stated categorically that he would not forgo—indeed, I think he used the words "never forgo"—the five Polaris submarines. He said that there is no question and no proposal whatsoever that the United Kingdom should in any circumstances forgo these five Polaris submarines. This was quite a different statement from the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, took a much more reasonable line. He even visualised the possibility that we might be able one day to give up our independent national deterrent. I only hope that he will continue to do the good work for the Government for the short time that is left to him, and that we shall, in fact, see an advance.
Indeed, there were a number of remarks of this kind in the noble Earl's speech with which I would agree, and which I think would be welcomed also from the Liberal Benches. I hope he continues to push them along. Certainly he has brought them a good deal further in their attitude to the United Nations than they were at the time of Suez. We have, of course, the satisfaction of now seeing a British component of a united force in Cyprus. There is no doubt that it is vital that the United Nations should in fact be prepared to share in these responsibilities. There is no doubt that this country is carrying a quite exceptional burden, indeed a disproportionate burden, in keeping the peace throughout the world. We can therefore only be 822 grateful that the United Nations have decided to intervene in Cyprus.
There is another point in regard to the deterrent to which I should like to refer. I should particularly like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, whether he is happy about a situation in which, as a result of the decision to build the fifth Polaris submarine, I am told—and I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whether this is so—important reductions in so-called conventional naval equipment have resulted. Certainly the production of the killer nuclear submarine has been postponed. How many frigates are now off the list as a result of the decision to build the fifth submarine? The point about this argument is that it is all very nice to say we want to rely on our own strength, but we are also reducing our strength in important directions.
There is a serious argument that needs to be thought out not only as to the situation throughout the world at present, but as to the position which we are likely to find in another ten years' time. I hope the new Ministry of Defence will be better at making appreciations of the type of war operations in which we are likely to be engaged. It is obvious that we are all deeply impressed by and extremely proud of the performance of our troops and members of all three Services during the events of the last few months. They have met a number of difficult situations with efficiency and with courage. But we have not been engaged in a full shooting war, even of a limited kind. And if we are confronted by such a war in Indonesia and require not 7,000 or 10,000 men, but 50,000 men there (and, after all, during the previous troubles in Cyprus I believe there were somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 men in the island), where are they to come from? Where is the equipment to take them there?
This is where we complain that the Conservative Government are pursuing not national prestige, but their own prestige for Election purposes. I say this quite seriously, especially when I have listened to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in which he said that Mr. Healey and Mr. Wilson had suggested they would make a bonfire of V-bombers and would chop the Polaris 823 submarines in two. This is simply untrue. I have looked through the relevant copies of Hansard. It is not possible for me to quote what Mr. Healey said, and I think that perhaps there have already been too many references to-day to speeches by Members of another place. But I would quote what Mr. Wilson said in an interview in America. When he was asked about the Polaris submarine, he said this:The position is, of course, that the Election has got to be held this year, and the submarines cannot have made very much progress by that time. We believe there is a need for a very much expanded conventional naval ship-building programme in Britain and we would hope to convert them from their present design to nuclear-powered tracker submarines. I do not know whether that will be technically possible, it rather depends on when the Election is, and how far they have got. If they had got, in a sense, past the point of no return here, we would obviously be prepared to offer them for the Western deterrent within NATO on whatever basis NATO is going to be organised. Exactly as the present Government, and in our view rightly, has handed over the V-bombers to NATO.I hope therefore that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, might feel inclined to withdraw his remarks about Mr. Healey and Mr. Wilson, unless he can produce evidence to support what he said.
My Lords, I think it is important here to say that the point I was making was that, if we did decide now or in the future to opt out of our independent capability, we should in all probability be opting out for all time. I did not say—and I am sure that Hansard will bear me out—that Mr. Healey and Mr. Wilson were suggesting that we should make a bonfire of our V-bombers. I did not say that.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, says that I did. In fact I did not, and I am sure that Hansard will bear me out; but if it does not, well, then I am wrong. I certainly did not intend to say that. I did say, or intimate, that Mr. Healey and Mr. Wilson had suggested that we should chop our Polaris submarines in two. And that was on the basis of the remarks of Mr. Healey in another place, where he had suggested that they could be converted. I had certainly understood from that that this meant the re- 824 moval of their centre section. But if I was wrong about that, I will, of course, unreservedly withdraw what I said in that respect.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I have too high a regard for the noble Earl to believe that he would intentionally mislead the House or take advantage of something like this. There was a moment when he was making his speech when I was afraid that the Prime Minister's own scriptwriter might have been working for him, but that was only for a very short period at the beginning and that was the unhappiest part of his speech. I would urge noble Lords who are inclined to disagree with us not to attribute to the Opposition views which are not held.
Obviously there is more than one view in the Labour Party, as there is in the Conservative Party, but I would certainly suggest that the arguments in regard to the deterrent are of a very difficult kind. They are views which are held, not only by members of the Opposition. A large number of independent commentators—and I do not mean only The Times correspondent, but certainly one Chief of the Air Staff, certainly General Cowley and many others—have gone on record that we ought in our own interests, and in the interests of the Alliance, put more strength into our conventional arms and get away from this pursuit of a nuclear independent dream which is already fading from sight. It is against this background and the waste of money over these years, and the inadequate situation in regard to aircraft and Army equipment, that we have moved this Amendment; and I am only sorry that the Government have not been able so far to answer some of the points we have made in the debate.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, we have had, as usual, an interesting and long debate; we always have an interesting debate when we talk about defence. We have had three rather unusual speakers taking part, the first in the shape of the first noble Lady who has ever taken part in a Defence debate, the noble Baroness Lady Swanborough, who I know has had to leave but whose contribution was a welcome addition to our debates. Then there was the right 825 reverend Prelate; and my noble friend Lord Sandford—although in what capacity he was speaking I am not quite sure; I think probably more as a naval officer than someone in Holy Orders. They were three very welcome new additions to our speakers in these debates.
A large number of points have been raised and questions asked. It is perfectly true that my noble friend the First Lord had answered many of the questions before they were asked, but I shall do my best to answer some more in the course of my remarks. If I do not manage to answer all of them—because I have been asked a phenomenal number of questions—I hope your Lordships will not think I am being discourteous. I will most certainly write to those of your Lordships whom I do not answer personally. I do not want to take up the entire time in answering questions because there are a number of things of my own that I want to say.
This is the last Defence debate we shall have in which five separate Departments are concerned. On April 1 the reorganisation of Defence takes place, and my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein has, if I may say so, expressed most clearly the advantages which we hope will accrue as a result of these changes. One of the major objectives of this reorganisation is to make easier the tighter control of the vast sums of money which we now spend on national defence. To this end, the staffs at present engaged in the four separate Departments in planning and co-ordinating programmes of research, development and production are being regrouped, in both the physical and the organisational sense, so that in the future they will function as a single team working to the same basic plan. By this means we hope to ensure—and I think we shall ensure—an intimate association between the staffs responsible for the detailed planning and execution of programmes and those responsible for oversight of the programme as a whole. If we can achieve this measure of unification—and, as I say, I think we can—the benefits will be important and far-reaching.
My Lords, it is true that on April 1 there will be a temporary increase of 70 in the total unified Ministry of Defence—that is, 70 out of a total of 826 24,000. But we plan, as the Estimates show, to make staff reductions during 1964–65 which will more than wipe out this increase. So I hope that we may be able to avoid next year strictures from my noble and gallant friend behind me. It is also true that, in this eventual overall decrease in headquarters staff, there will be a modest increase in the number of senior posts in the new Ministry. I think that is a small price to pay for the important objectives which we have outlined; and, remembering the very large sums of money involved, I do not think we should be so short-sighted as to begrudge the new organisation its necessary ha'p'orth of tar.
My noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, who I know has also had to leave, and a number of others of your Lordships, talked at some length about manpower. My noble and gallant friend behind me, as I understand it, advocates an Army of about 200,000, half Regulars and half conscripts. As your Lordships know, we aim—and I see nothing wrong in aiming—at an all-Regular Army of 180,000. I do not want to play the "numbers game" which we used to play so much in the last two or three years, but I should like to make this point. It may very well be that, with a two-year period of National Service for half the force, the effective strength of an Army of 200,000 might be less than an Army of 180,000 Regulars—that is, after allowance has been made for the training staff and the continual changeover of individuals going backwards and forwards from their units overseas. The real issue, it seems to me, is whether we should go for a 50 per cent. conscript Army, not because we cannot get Regulars but as a matter of organisation and national policy; and we believe that we should not. My Lords, in this respect I am afraid that I cannot agree with my noble and gallant friend behind me; nor with my noble friend Lord Ampthill.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I never mentioned the word "conscript".I said that it was a nasty word. I said, "National Serviceman".
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, with great respect to my noble and gallant friend, I think that that is a distinction without a difference.
However, I very much agree with many of your Lordships who have spoken about the importance of the recruiting task which faces the Army—because it is the Army with which we are primarily concerned. A great effort is needed to improve the rate of the build-up, and the basic theme for the recruiting effort will be to show the Army as it is to the young men of today. Recruiting is picking up, although it is still not so good as we should like it to he. I think that perhaps one of the most important things that we can rely on, both now and in the future, is the achievements of the Army in the last few weeks. Through the news headlines and on the television it has been possible for the people of this country to see what sort of people are serving in the modern Army, as well as the very important tasks which they have to carry out. I hope your Lordships will agree that the recent pay review has also shown that the Government take care of their responsibility to ensure that the position of Servicemen compares well with positions in civilian life.
The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition asked about the strength of the Royal Marines, and whether or not they were included in the 88,000. Yes, my Lords, they are included; and, of course, they are fully up to strength, as the Royal Marines always are. He also asked me whether we are building any more commando ships. Sooner or later, the two ships we have at present, the "Albion" and the "Bulwark", will have to be replaced, but at the moment there is no question of building any additional ships of this sort.
The noble Earl also gave me notice last night that he was going to ask me a question about the reactor at Dounreay. First, let me say that the Admiralty have never sought to hide the technical difficulties which have been encountered in the development of this land-based prototype. There is no suggestion that this is a reactor intended for installation in submarines: it is a land-based reactor. I am sure the noble Earl will agree that difficulties and setbacks are inevitable when 828 development is being undertaken in a novel field, where much had to be learned as we went along. I do not conceal that this latest setback has been a disappointment, but steps are being taken to rectify the material failure, and we do not think that there will be any delay of any kind in the reactors to be installed in the Polaris submarines. The noble Earl has said that he wants to know how much has been spent to date on the land-based prototype. The answer is approximately £28 million, including work on the buildings. Did the noble Earl wish to say something?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I was going to ask whether it is not a fact, as I have submitted before, that the goodness and quality of material, and mistakes in the welding and piping, were among the matters of which we were given warning in 1960 and 1961 by one of the officers of the venture, who refused to accept the material supplied.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, this failure is much more technical and complicated than that, and I do not think I can go into it any further, except to say that we hope that it will be rectified very shortly.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
May I just ask this? In fact, the actual cost from the very beginning must be much more than the £28½ million devoted purely to the reactor. The whole situation which has grown up there seems to me to be much bigger than that. Perhaps, some time later on I can ask for more details.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I really do not think the noble Earl should challenge me. I told him what the total sum is. Either he is accusing me of misleading the House, or of telling him a lie. The total figure for works, buildings and reactors is £28 million up to date, and that is the figure.
The noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, who I know has had to leave, made, I thought, a very interesting point about the welfare workers. I will, if I may, look into this point and write to her on it, as I will to my noble friend Lord Gosford on his point, that no ex-Service officers have been made Peers since the end of the war, or have been 829 made Life Peers. I think that is an interesting point which we might well look at.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who I know has also had to go, bowled me out yesterday in a supplementary question about the multilateral force. I cannot tell him when the Working Group will report, because I do not know; but the report will be made to the individual Governments who took part. I think that perhaps his interpretation of what would happen in that case if a force were formed is probably right, but a great deal of discussion will be necessary as to how it would be fitted into the NATO scheme.
There has been a great deal of criticism, and strong criticism, of the Government's policy from the noble Lords opposite, and the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has moved an Amendment which is, in effect, a Motion of no confidence in the Government's policy. There has been criticism of our nuclear policy, criticism of our conventional effort and criticism of the various weapons with which the Forces are equipped. I will try to answer these criticisms a little later on, but I want to make one or two general observations about defence and foreign policy.
My Lords, how does one judge whether or not a defence policy is successful? Defence, as I have said on a number of occasions in this House, is only an instrument of foreign policy, and without a sound economy you cannot have a foreign policy. The success of a foreign policy is measured by the outcome, good or bad, of its diplomacy and whether the interests of the country have been advanced and safeguarded. Defence policy should therefore be judged by its success in meeting the demands required by foreign policy. Have the Forces at the disposal of the Government been adequate and adequately trained and equipped for the need? Have they contributed properly in the Alliances to which we belong? Have they been a deterrent to the greedy, the covetous and the wrong-doer; and, above all, have both the foreign and defence policies of the Government been successful in averting a major war? If these be the right criteria of judgment, then the Govern- 830 ment's Defence policy has been immensely successful.
In the twelve years of Conservative Government we have avoided war, although it has been necessary on a number of occasions to make military interventions of one kind or another; and our forces have carried out their task quickly and successfully, and not least in the last few months when British Forces all over the world were engaged in protecting British interests and helping Commonwealth countries out of difficulties. Look around the world to-day. We see 6,000 troops doing a useful job in difficult situations and, I may say, with little thanks from any of those who are principally concerned. I am glad to think that at least some of that burden is to be shared with the members of the United Nations who have consented to be part of the peace-keeping force. Our troops were flown out to Cyprus in R.A.F. aircraft, and in a matter of hours—troops which noble Lords opposite said did not exist were flying out in aircraft which noble Lords opposite said did not exist.
I agree largely with what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said about having a United Nations peace-keeping force; but, as they know, it is easier to say this than to achieve it. For the time being it seems difficult to do this, although we shall continue to do our best. I would point only to what has happened in Cyprus, which gives some suggestion of the difficulties in this respect.
Some six or seven thousand miles further East another large British Army is actively engaged in supporting our Malaysian friends in meeting the challenge of President Soekarno's confrontation policy. The Indonesians have publicly announced their intention to crush and devour Malaysia. We are committed—and willingly committed—to their defence. From the great base at Singapore—a base which only a year ago some members of the Party opposite saw no point in maintaining—we are equipping, supplying and directing these large forces which are patrolling and fighting guerrillas in some of the most difficult terrain in the world. Does the noble Earl want a reference? I will willingly give it.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
No, my Lords, it was not from the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition. This is the difficulty with the Labour Party. One never quite knows who to believe.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
If the noble Earl wants a reference—and there has been some talk about a reference—it was Mr. Paget who said: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.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? May I ask him, as the Leader of the House, was that speech not made in the current Session? We have had an awful lot of quotations from the Commons, and they were all from that side of the House.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, this is in order; because it was in the last Session, I am in order in quoting it. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, does not remember. I quoted it before and he was caught out then.
These troops in Malaysia are well-trained, well-led and well-equipped for their task and, just as those in Cyprus, they are doing a magnificent job. Your Lordships will recall also the efficient and speedy operations in East Africa where, once again, non-existent troops were flown out in non-existent aircraft when the three East African countries asked for help in the uncertain days after the revolution in Zanzibar and the Army mutinies. The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition indicates dissent. Well, he was not in the House. We were told there were no transport aircraft and the Army could not cope with these things. The noble Earl must not say it did not happen; it did. We have heard it in debate after debate in the last three or four years.
British troops are engaged in keeping the peace in British Guiana. British Forces are on patrol in the South Arabian Federation. British troops are in Swaziland, and British troops are going about their normal garrison duties in Hong Kong and elsewhere in British 832 territories. We have some 52,000 men carrying out their normal duties in Germany. In all these cases, and at one and the same time, the British Army, transported by the R.A.F., has met the demands which were made upon it and carried out its tasks resolutely and successfully.
My Lords, what is true of the Army and the R.A.F. is equally true of the Royal Navy. The Commando ship H.M.S. "Albion" and her two helicopter squadrons have carried out over 8,000 operational sorties in support of the operations in Borneo. In the recent operations in East Africa, to which I have referred, H.M.S. "Centaur", as well as providing general backing, was able to complete the airlift ashore of 45 Commando in little over an hour. Nobody, not even the most disgruntled member of the Opposition, not even the noble and most formidable Cassandra, the Leader of the Opposition, can say that these emergencies have not been well managed and that our Forces have not responded as they always have done to the tasks we have asked of them. Of course, we have primarily to thank them, and to congratulate the officers and men in the ships and regiments and aircraft. But the Government can, and should, claim credit too. After all, they would have been blamed if there had been any failure or inadequacy. But the Government plans have succeeded, and the highly mobile forces which we have organised and trained have carried out their rôle all over the world at very short notice. My Lords, we have nothing to be ashamed of in this record, and a very great deal of which we, the Government and people of this country, can be justly proud.
It is often said in your Lordships' House and in another place—and we have often seen the allegation in newspapers and cartoons— that a great deal of money has been wasted on equipment which was either cancelled before it went into production or on equipment which, according to the critics, has not met with the success that was expected of it. My Lords, I understand to some degree this sort of criticism coming from those who are entirely ignorant of Defence matters. On the face of it, to spend money on research and development of a weapon which in the 833 end is cancelled seems both extravagance and mismanagement. But to anybody who has any idea of the complexity of modern warfare and modern weapons, and the rapidly changing strategic and tactical scene, what is incredible is not that these cancellations and failures sometimes occur but that such a high proportion of what we set out to do is successful. I wonder whether those who criticise have ever bothered to investigate what happens in the United States of America or in any other technically advanced country of the Free World. We are dealing with weapons of such extraordinary complication, of such advanced performance, that in all countries there is a proportion of failure. Technological advance is so rapid, change of circumstance so frequent, that in all countries there must sometimes be a change of mind over whether or not the development of a weapon should be continued.
Other countries, too, have had their expensive failures in trying to develop sophisticated equipment. In the United States, for example, the B.70 has encountered very serious difficulties which may preclude altogether its adoption as a bomber; and these difficulties have not yet been overcome, in spite of enormous expenditure. The Navajo bomber had to be cancelled after the expenditure of 680 million dollars; the Rascal missile was cancelled after 448 million dollars had been spent; and numerous other fighter aircraft have gone the same way. The Federal Republic of Germany's attempt to build submarines of non-magnetic steel has ended in at least temporary failure. The programme has gone back three years as a result. The French prototype Balzac V.T.O.L. aircraft crashed, killing the pilot; and the cost of each aircraft has risen from 3 million dollars to 8 million dollars. The Swiss had to cancel their Pilatus P.A.16 fighter and bought Hunters instead.
After all, in 1964 when we talk of developing a new aircraft for the R.A.F. we are to some extent looking into a crystal ball. We have to make up our minds what our requirements will be when the aircraft has been designed, developed and tested and finally come into service, because it will take more than ten years from its conception to 834 its birth. When we talk of the new aircraft carrier, to which my noble friend, the First Lord made reference, we are speaking of a ship which will still be operational between 1990 and 2000 and which will operate aircraft whose specifications are still unknown and whose performance will be far ahead of anything we know at the present time. When we compare our programme with that of the Americans, who are a great deal richer and more powerful industrially than we are, we must remember that they can afford to start two or three projects for the same requirements and subsequently choose the best, cancelling the other two, while we have to put all our money on one development and make that development succeed.
My Lords, I say this, not in excuse for our failures, but in pride for our successes, because I do not think that there has ever been a time in peace time when the three Services have been so well equipped or their equipment so up to date. The new guided-missile destroyers of the Royal Navy, the new "Leander" class frigates, the Buccaneer, the Seacat—all these are ships, aircraft and weapons which are as good as, if not better than, anything that anybody else has got. Of course, what is true of the Royal Navy is true also of the Army and the Royal Air Force, as my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has told your Lordships earlier this afternoon.
Finally, I come to the perennial problem of our nuclear policy and whether or not it should be eventually abandoned, or abandoned now, as both the Labour Party and the Liberal Party would have it. I must say that I find it extraordinary that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, should say that we should not discuss this problem in front of the electorate because it is too sophisticated and complicated for them to understand. I should have thought that this was one of the things that we all ought to understand; because, after all, it is a matter of life and death for all of us.
We have on numerous occasions in your Lordships' House covered the position and argued the merits and demerits of the retention by Britain of nuclear weapons. I confess that I do not feel disposed to go over it all again. Our case is on record and in the next 835 few months it will be the duty of the electors of this country to decide whether or not they wish Britain to remain a nuclear Power, sitting at the conference table (I am just going to come to that point) as we did during the discussion of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, by virtue of our possession of nuclear weapons, contributing our part to the NATO Alliance and yet reserving our own independence in the last resort. They will have to decide whether one can for all time put one's trust in somebody else; whether it is likely that nuclear blackmail could be used on us, were we to have no nuclear weapons of our own; and whether there is a risk of miscalculation on the part of the Russians—and later, perhaps, on the part of the Chinese—on the assumption that the United States might not be prepared, in the last resort, to back her Allies.
My Lords, these are grave matters and I, for one, do not doubt what the answer of the electorate will be. I think that they will find it puzzling that at a time when the French are developing nuclear weapons of their own, as well as when the Chinese are openly admitting that they are developing nuclear weapons, at a time when we have a powerful nuclear force in the V-bombers, and an even more powerful nuclear force building in the shape of Polaris submarines, we should contemplate such a course of action. They will find it astonishing that the Labour Party should propose to give all this away and that we should relegate ourselves to the non-nuclear league, when, for an expenditure of substantially less than 10 per cent., we can remain in it (and I do not agree with the figures and arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, used earlier on).
For what possible object? I do not believe it can be the money. The sum itself, spread over a number of years, is not particularly significant. It cannot be as an example to others, since nobody can seriously imagine that because we have given up our own nuclear weapons this example is likely to be followed by the Chinese or the French. It cannot be because the Labour Party or the Liberal Party disapprove of the use of nuclear weapons, since both Liberal and Labour Parties 836 are quite prepared to shelter behind the nuclear might of the Americans.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite entitled to put his case, but I think that he should put our case fairly. We join in the nuclear protection of the Western Alliance.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, that seems to be a difference without a distinction. For whatever reason it may be, I do not believe that this policy will find favour with the British people.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I say on this, from my own experience—and I have been in Parliament a long time—that we had to find fault with the policy before the war which led us into war under Neville Chamberlain. His Secretary was the present Prime Minister, and I warned him in another place in 1938 that the Government were leading us into a war insufficiently prepared, that we had never won a major war in history without powerful Allies, and that when we got into the war we should be standing alone. That came to be true. I do not think that noble Lords on the other side have any right to lecture us in this matter at all. What they want to do is to work in a good and great Alliance, for the defence of freedom, and all of our efforts should go on under the direction of that Alliance.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I was just coming to that, if the noble Earl will wait. The British were partners with the Americans and pioneers in nuclear warfare. As a result of a decision taken by the Labour Government in 1945–51, we decided to go for our own nuclear weapons. We have spent money and effort in keeping up with technical advances. I cannot believe that it is either sensible or prudent to throw all this away.
We are, as I have reminded your Lordships, on the verge of a General Election. Amongst other important matters, the people of this country will be asked to decide whether they prefer the defence policy of the Opposition to that of the Government. Over the past few years, we in this House have become used to much criticism of Conservative policy, but on very few, if any, occasions that I can remember and 837 certainly not to-day, have we been favoured with an official explanation of what Labour Party policy is. The time has come when they should tell us, since, after all, they are presenting themselves as an alternative Government. What would they do?
We have, I suppose, some idea of what they will do with our strategic nuclear weapons; but what is their policy on manpower, if they intend to increase our conventional forces, as they frequently say? Do they mean to introduce conscription or selective service? If not, how will they man their Army, as they themselves point out that it is difficult to recruit more volunteers than the kind of figure we now achieve? How can they man a force of the size the noble Earl spoke about earlier this afternoon, when he contemplated having a force of 700,000 men, almost twice as many as we have in our Armed Forces to-day?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I said nothing of the kind. I was talking about the period when we had that number, and it is the Government opposite who have supported policies which have put us in the position of to-day. I did not say that our policy at the present time is to have a force of that size.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Then, my Lords, what is the size of force that noble Lords opposite want? Have we too few men at the moment, or is it right?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
You have had twelve years in possession of Government administration, with all the facts at your inner disposal all the time. You will have to wait and see what we have to offer when we are in power. It is all very well to laugh. Noble Lords opposite belong to a Party that put us in this position of abolishing the strength we had. They have spent close on £20,000 million over the twelve years, yet we have not got the men we want now, and do not seem to be able to get them.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I think that the electors of this country will take note of what the noble Earl has just said, and I wonder whether they will think it a very adequate answer.
838 What are noble Lords opposite going to do about bases overseas? Do they really believe in the importance of the retention of Singapore and Aden? Certainly last year both Mr. Paget and Mr. Brown, who are important figures in the Labour Party, placed the emphasis on NATO and spoke of our declining world commitments.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Noble Lords say, "Not again!" But these are very important things. We have a right to know what the policy of the Labour Party is. I wonder whether Mr. Brown and Mr. Paget still hold these views, after the events of the last few months. Perhaps they have changed their minds; it was certainly lucky that the Labour Party was not at that time in a position to implement their policy. We are entitled to know where the Labour Party stand. Do they see Britain as a Power with world-wide commitments, or do they see us only concentrating in Europe? What are their priorities in strategy, manpower and weapons? All we get is contradictions. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, want bases; Mr. Paget does not.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He has several times referred to Mr. Paget. The last time he did so I got up and said—because he asked for the comments of noble Lords—that not only did I not agree with Mr. Paget on this matter, but that his views did not represent Labour Party policy.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
That is all very well; but he happens to be the Shadow War Minister. This is very difficult for some of us to understand. Mr. Wilson, I think, wants a bigger Navy; Mr. Wigg does not want one at all. What is their attitude towards the multilateral force? Our policy is set out in paragraph 11 of the White Paper. Are they, as Mr. Wilson would want to have us believe,completely, utterly and unequivocally opposed now and in all circumstances to any suggestion that Germany, West Germany or East Germany, directly or indirectly, should have a finger on the nuclear trigger"?Is that their policy? If that is so, how do they account for the fact that a few 839 months later, Mr. Gordon Walker said thatthe only way … is for Germany to have an equal part with us in sharing in control of the American weapon, neither of us having the last decision if it should ever come to the firing of the weapon."?My Lords, the truth of the matter is that the Labour Party is split from top to bottom on Defence. A sizeable part of the Parliamentary Party are antinuclear, unilateral disarmers, and, but for Mr. Gaitskell's brave stand, that might be the official policy to-day. So a compromise has to be arranged: "Keep what we have got, but don't get any more"—and we are left in doubt of the rest of their policy for much the same reasons. There are almost as many Defence policies in the Labour Party as there are Labour Members of Parliament. But in an Election year there must be an appearance of unity. In fact, they
§ are in doubt and disarray. And this is the Party which puts down a Motion of no confidence in the Government's Defence policy.
§ Contrast this with the Government policy of maintaining our Alliances, contributing to the Western deterrent, helping to contain Communism throughout the world with our bases and mobile forces, and lastly, but by no means least, protecting our own national interests which are of such strategic and economic importance to us. In a few months' time the electors will judge, and I hope your Lordships will give them a lead to-night in rejecting, and rejecting decisively, the Opposition Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 20; Not-Contents, 50.839
|Addison, V.||Hobson, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Iddesleigh, E.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lawson, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Lindgren, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Champion, L. [Teller.]||Listowel, E.||Taylor, L.|
|Crook, L.||Peddie, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lansdowne, M.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dundee, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Ampthill, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mabane, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Falkland, V.||Mills, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Ferrers, E.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Fortescue, E.||Newton, L.|
|Blakenham, V.||Furness, V.||Ormonde, M.|
|Bossom, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Brecon, L.||Gosford, E.||St. Just, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Greenway, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Grenfell, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hailes, L.||Somers, L.|
|Croft, L.||Hanworth, V.||Spens, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Hastings, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Denham, L.||Hawke, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.|
On Question, Resolution agreed to.