HL Deb 07 April 1965 vol 265 cc76-170

2.55 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON rose to move that this House takes note of theStatement on the Defence Estimates 1965(Cmnd. 2592). The noble Lord said: My Lords, in introducing the debate on the Defence White Paper I should like to make a few remarks about the conduct of the debate. As always, we have a vast field to cover and I cannot hope in my opening speech to deal with many of the important aspects, and I therefore apologise if some undoubtedly important matters are omitted. I would particularly apologise to those naval Peers who I know will have many points which I am afraid I personally shall not have time to anticipate; but I can assure those noble Lords that it is not because I do not appreciate the importance of the subjects which I think, judging by past experience, they may raise and with which I have considerable sympathy. However, other of my noble friends will be speaking from this Bench and they will answer as may points as possible and will also deal with certain specific aspects.

My noble friend, Lord Shepherd, will deal in particular with questions of manpower, recruitment and training, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, knows what an expert on the "numbers game" is my noble friend Lord Shepherd. My noble friend Lord Chalfont, who is Minister for Disarmament, will speak not only about disarmament but also about the Army, of which he has very long experience. I would emphasise that it is very much our view—and I am sure this will be agreed by the House; at least I hope it will be—that disarmament and defence are not mutually incompatible. They are different sides of the same coin—namely, of keeping the peace of the world and of preventing war. Finally, my noble friend Lord Longford, who we must not forget was once First Lord of the Admiralty, will wind up on the second day and dispose of outstanding matters, including any naval questions.

My Lords, first of all I should like to pay a tribute to the staff officers and civil servants in the Ministry of Defence; and both the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will, I am sure, echo this tribute. I can only say that they are as good as I expected them to be—and I expected a good deal. They certainly have had a tremendous lot of work to do in recent weeks. In particular, I think we should take note of the impending departure from the position of Chief of the Defence Staff of a Member of your Lordships' House, Lord Mountbatten of Burma. This astonishing and brilliant officer has rendered services of enormous value to this country, as I am quite sure history will recall. One can only say that we hope he will have further opportunities, as I am sure he will, to continue to put his unique blend of qualities to the service of his fellow countrymen.

I think it is reasonable to assume that noble Lords, at least those who are taking part in this debate, will have read the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1965. Here, for the first time, welded into one Paper—with some difficulty, as I know, since I played some part in this process—is a comprehensive statement of all the main issues involved, ranging from strategy to equipment. I am sure that whatever criticisms your Lordships may have of particular points, you will welcome this as a natural development towards a unified Defence policy arising out of the unification under the Defence Ministry carried through by the previous Administration.

I hope there may be opportunities later in the Session to debate particular aspects of Defence. Your Lordships were, I know, inclined to expect changes in presentation and to get away from the old single Service debates. I am not saying we should not have single Service debates, but it may well be that we might discuss some subjects covering particular aspects. Of course, this is a matter for noble Lords opposite, but we should be very willing to consider this matter with them. We might, for instance, concentrate on the subject of mobility, or have another debate on supply and logistics, or alternatively manpower and Service conditions. There is, too, the civil application of that remarkable collection of scientific and semi-scientific services which come under the aegis of Defence and which we put at the end of the Defence White Paper, such as oceanography, meteorology, survey and others.

Much of what I have to say will, I think, be uncontroversial, but I admit that some of it will be controversial, and I shall do my best to seize the more controversial points and set them out clearly and fully. One of the basic principles of our Defence policy is the pursuit of arms control and disarmament through the United Nations. This is an essential, long-term aim; and, as I have said, my noble friend Lord Chalfont will be saying more about it. Another of our aims—as your Lordships know, it is one to which I personally attach importance, as I know my noble friend Lady Summer-skill and others do—is to strengthen the United Nations and to see it playing an increasing part in the maintenance of security and stability in the world. We shall therefore do whatever we can to help and encourage the United Nations to accept increasing responsibilities for peace-keeping, particularly outside Europe.

As a practical step, subject to our own heavy national commitments, we are, as the House knows, offering to the United Nations, from within existing resources, logistic support for up to six battalions. This would provide air and ground support. I could develop this subject at length, but my noble friend Lord Chalfont will be going into it, and I mention it now only to indicate that the Government in their long-term aims believe very much in the desirability of, and are anxious to make an immediate contribution towards, peace-keeping forces. I am happy to say that our offer has been very well received in the United Nations, and I hope that detailed discussions with the Secretariat will begin shortly.

Another of our basic principles is the preservation of national security through alliances with our friends. Hitherto the United Kingdom has sought to play three majôor roles. The first was to maintain a strategic nuclear force; the second was to contribute to Western European defence through NATO; the third was to help preserve peace elsewhere overseas. We are at present reviewing the balance between these three elements to achieve the best defence posture in cost-effectiveness terms, and I shall say more about this later.

I should like to consider these three rôles in rather more detail. Turning first to the nuclear rôle, one of the major problems facing the NATO Alliance has for a long time been that of nuclear sharing. Our non-nuclear Allies want-and it is an understandable wish-to have a greater share in the control of the nuclear weapons available to the West. We want to satisfy them, but at the same time to prevent the dissemination of nuclear weapons in national hands; to preserve the credibility of the Western—and I stress Western—deterrent and to prevent all avoidable strain upon our own resources. We are also aware that in the present day and age, taking into account the capabilities of the United States and the Soviet Union, British nuclear forces alone cannot constitute an adequate deterrent against a major aggression by a major Power. This is the problem in its simplest terms.

Bearing all this in mind, we put to our Allies proposals which we genuinely believe to be constructive. They were for the formation of an Atlantic Nuclear Force in which the strategic nuclear weapons of the Alliance would be subject to collective authority. We offered to assign, unequivocally and without a withdrawal clause, the majority of our V-bombers and the four Polaris submarines. This is a massive contribution, and I have already explained this at some length on a previous occasion. These proposals have been the subject of negotiations within the Alliance over the past few months. A significant step forward was made with the agreement by the Germans, as a result of the Prime Minister's recent talks with the German Chancellor, that we should now move to multilateral discussions—and this has nothing to do with the multilateral force—in Paris, and we hope these discussions will be broadly based as to both membership and subject matter. The United Kingdom in this field, therefore, has backed its words with actions, actions which we believe accord with both the needs of the Alliance and the realities of defence in the world. The rest is now up to our Allies, in particular to our non-nuclear Allies.

Secondly, our contribution to Western European defence, represented by our land and air forces in Germany, imposes a heavy burden on our economy, and particularly, of course, on our balance of payments. These forces, like all major forces in Germany, are deployed in accordance with the strategic concept of a prolonged battle following a nuclear exchange. This concept, in our view, now requires to be brought up to date, to put it mildly. We feel that the role of these forces should be to deter aggression and prevent it escalating into major war. Ideas such as these are being discussed in NATO, and we have given full support to this exercise.

Our peace-keeping r÷le outside Europe ranges also very widely. For example, we help with the United Nations task in Cyprus; we have colonial responsibilities, for instance, in British Guiana; we have obligations under bilateral treaties, for instance in Libya; we contribute to alliances such as CENTO and SEATO. In addition, we perform such tasks as providing training teams for newly independent Commonwealth countries such as Kenya; we maintain forces, ranging from a considerable garrison in Hong Kong down to a few men in the Falkland Islands. The general aim of all such forces is to keep the peace, and in vast areas of the world no other country than Britain carries out such responsibilities.

At the same time, we must be ready to help our friends throughout the world. The emergence of many new independent countries in Africa has coincided with unrest, and we have been able to meet requests from new Commonwealth countries to help preserve internal law and order. Under difficult political and operational conditions we are also helping to maintain stability in Aden and South Arabia against the day, which we hope will not be long delayed, when the people of that region can attain independence. We are helping Malaysia not only to deal with small-scale fighting but to deter the Indonesians from the folly of open invasion. Our sea, air and land forces in the Far East are, in fact, to-day at their strongest since World War II.

One must not forget that the future in the Far East has changed its character. This change occurred with the explosion of the Chinese nuclear device. This has made it more difficult than ever to forecast the trend of events, and it has certainly made more acute the long-term anxieties of some of our friends and Allies East of Suez. It is too early to anticipate the course which we and our Allies may take, but we may well be required to help in providing a degree of reassurance for non-nuclear Powers, and this is all part and parcel of the limitation of the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In tackling these many and varied tasks, let me state categorically that the defence forces of this country are seriously stretched at the moment. The responsibilities they are having to meet to-day impose a great strain, and at the same time the cost of meeting these commitments is already so high—it went up a great deal this year, and it has gone up in the Estimates for next year—that we could not contemplate the increases in the cost of new equipment that our predecessors left us: or, rather, the distant prospect of some of that new equipment. The estimated cost of these new weapons has gone up far more than the estimated increase in the gross national product, and indeed more than the previous Government themselves had assumed.

I would remind your Lordships that the White Paper on Public Expenditure in 1963 visualised an annual increase of 31 per cent. in Defence expenditure, on the basis that the national rise would be 4 per cent., but in fact the increase in Defence expenditure would have been much larger. This is made clear in the opening paragraphs—indeed, in paragraph 1—of the White Paper. The Government are therefore carrying out a major Defence review in which we are also looking at the commitments. But let me say at once that, however much we may wish it—I should like to stress this—there are at present no easy solutions to this problem by a wholesale cutting of commitments. We ought not to delude ourselves that this is going to be an easy solution, nor can we abandon obligations. If, as a result of this review, we wish to make changes, we shall, of course, have to discuss them with our friends and allies. I could say more on this matter, but I think I have made quite clear what I believe to be the position.

It is also for consideration whether the present allocation of resources in the Defence field is yielding the best results. It is quite clear that important savings can be made, and indeed have already been made, notably in the aircraft programme. This programme has been much in the public eye during the past few mouths. But I would ask noble Lords to consider this against the Government's Defence review as a whole. They may well wonder why the aircraft programme has appeared to be the centre of attraction. The reason why there has been so much concentration on the aircraft programme is that aircraft, and all that goes with them, are a considerable part of our Defence expenditure, aria if the Government are to bring this expenditure under control it is essential to take a grip on the aircraft programme without waiting for the completion of the Defence review later this year.

The Government's objective has been to ensure that the Royal Air Force should be equipped with the aircraft it needs, and at the time it needs them—which certainly was not going to be so until the changes were made—and at a cost that we can afford. We also sought to see that final and irrevocable decisions, particularly on numbers of aircraft, were not taken until the Defence review was completed. We have had a considerable measure of success in introducing this desirable flexibility. I should like, however, to make clear to your Lordships, and indeed to the Royal Air Force, that it is the Government's intention to see that the Service is equipped with the types of aircraft, in the number required, for it to carry out the tasks that are to be placed upon it in the years that lie ahead. It would be intolerable to expect it to carry out such tasks unless it were so equipped.

I should make it clear that it is our intention to scrutinise every facet of Defence expenditure in all three Services —I stress "all three Services"—with the utmost care in the course of our review. Your Lordships will recall that decisions have already been announced to re equip the Royal Air Force with the Phantom and Kestrel aircraft for the close support role, and with the Hercules C130 transport for the tactical transport role, and to purchase a version of the Comet to replace the Shackleton for the maritime reconnaissance task. Work is proceeding on all these aircraft with the object of ensuring their timely and economic introduction into the Service.

Now I should like to deal with the problem of the TSR 2 and the F111A, or the TFX as it was known when it was in the experimental stage. Noble Lords will already be aware that the TSR 2 has been cancelled. This cancellation has been envisaged for quite a long time, but the Government, quite properly, took a considerable time to make up their minds and to ascertain a great deal more information. A great deal of British skill, ingenuity and devotion has gone into the creation of the TSR 2. Its" flight programme has so far justified the hopes of its designers. I have talked with the chief test pilot and others, and I have no doubt of this. Quite clearly, a decision to cancel is a hard one for any Government. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that there is something of a tragedy in this. But the simple fact is that if you have to absorb the whole of the research and development and then make only 100 or so aircraft, the cost is out of all proportion, certainly as compared with the F111, even in the Mark 2 version, where the numbers built are likely to be in four figures.

I have already spoken of the necessity —I stress that it is an absolute necessity, in the interests not only of the economy and welfare of our own people, but indeed of our Defence posture throughout the world—to keep our Defence budget within bounds. The hard fact was that the TSR 2 had to go. I am sure that your Lordships will believe me when I say that I regret it as much as anyone in this House. Equally, however, it is necessary for the Royal Air Force, on the basis of present commitments—I stress, on the basis of present commitments—to have a long-range strike capacity. We should not be holding our position in support of Malaysia, we could not have our troops there, if we did not have available V-bombers and Canberras in a conventional rôle. But we all know that these aircraft will not last for ever; nor is it safe to assume that in any situation we should necessarily be confronted only by unsophisticated weapons.

On the basis of previous commitments, it is my view that we shall need this long-range strike capacity. Indeed, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in another place yesterday, to deprive the Royal Air Force (and that means the other Services, too) of such an aircraft would require such a radical change in our commitments as to imply tremendous changes not only in the Royal Air Force weapons programme, but in the weapons programmes of the whole of our Forces. It is for this reason that we have taken an option on the F111. I think that noble Lords will understand that the kind of operations overseas which the Forces have had to carry out on many occasions during the past few years are not simply a matter of transporting forces, followed by ground activity. A favourable air situation is an essential prerequisite for our operations, and for this we need a mix of aircraft types which must, in my view, include a long range tactical strike reconnaissance aircraft.

Sometimes I think we tend to ignore the importance of the reconnaissance role. The fact is that operations of all kinds, at all levels of activity and by all three Services, depend to a great extent upon information obtained by reconnaissance aircraft. It is essential to watch over the situation as it develops, because otherwise political decision and military action are both severely inhibited, again with an inevitable increase in the risk of escalation of war. The great majority of the kind of operations that have to be undertaken would not be possible if the air situation were unfavourable. For example, attacks against our supply system in a small-range war could most seriously disrupt our operations. If it were possible for our forces to be destroyed on the ground or their movement seriously interfered with we should rapidly find ourselves in considerable difficulty.

The real deterrent to such action is the knowledge that we have the ability I am not now talking primarily about nuclear weapons—to strike successfully, how ever one does it, at a potential attacker's main bases, his ground forces, his lines of communications and airfields. Our manifest ability to conduct counter-air operations is the most effective means of preserving the situation in this way. It we are to continue with tasks and commitments of a kind with which we are all too familiar, we must be able to deal effectively with other air forces which are becoming steadily better equipped and more efficient. And, as we know, there are forces which threaten us to-day in limited war which are in certain respects equipped with even more sophisticated weapons than we have. The prime requirements are for an aircraft with the range to redeploy quickly, the radius of action needed to reconnoitre and strike, the ability to penetrate air defences, and the accuracy of attack needed to make the best use of a substantial weapon load.

It is the possession of aircraft with these characteristics which poses a military deterrent to a conventional operation escalating in scale. A requirement of this nature and an aircraft with these characteristics must, however, be related to the operational tasks (I apologise to your Lordships for digressing to give a short lecture on air power; but I believe that it is right to remind ourselves of these facts) and commitments which we foresee in the 1970's. It will not be possible to define these tasks precisely until the Defence review is completed later this year.

The great advantage of the arrangements made with the United States Government for an option on the F 111A is that it gives us time not only to complete the review, but also to examine the best combination of aircraft of all types, including British aircraft, that we shall need to fulfil our obligations in the 1970's. These aircraft will not all necessarily be operating from land, or be operated by the Royal Air Force. Our own Royal Navy carrier-borne aircraft may well have an important part to play, as they do now. But we shall ensure against the background of the review that our forces have the proper equipment for the tasks laid upon them.

I do not propose to enter into detailed comparisons between the TSR 2 and the F 111, Mark 2. They both have advantages and disadvantages.


My Lords, I apologise for intervening at this stage, but I should be grateful if the noble Lord could tell us whether the option has been taken on the F 111A, Mark 1, or on the F 111A, Mark 2.


The option covers both, but it would be the intention to take initially, if it is decided to exercise the option, a small number of the Mark I, which will be essential and desirable for training purposes; and thereafter it is likely that if we again decide to exercise the option it would be for the Mark 2. I want to stress this point. The balance of advantage and disadvantage between the TSR 2 and the F 111A, Mark 2 (which is the Mark 1 aircraft with a different avionics fit; it is essentially the same aircraft but with a more sophisticated radar, electronic and avionics equipment) is a fine one. I hope the House will accept what I say on this, because it has been carefully examined; and, although there are certain advantages on one side or the other, it is very difficult to say militarily which is the more desirable. It would depend on a number of operational circumstances.

I have already said, I think, that a long-range strike capacity in this sense is the basis of air power. Here I am talking primarily of conventional weapons. I shall be very surprised, therefore, if, however much we may want to do without them, we do not in practice need an appropriate number of these aircraft. Indeed, it will be necessary to base our planning accordingly without committing ourselves to the future. While it is only common sense to wait for the completion of the Defence review, which will take into account commitments that are a matter of political decision, neither my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence nor I, with my special but not absolute responsibility for the Royal Air Force, could have accepted a position in which the TSR 2 was cancelled without a firm assurance that, if necessary, we should be able to obtain aircraft with a similar capability at prices which we could afford.

It is not possible for me to go into the details of the arrangement which we have entered into with the United States, but I can say to the House (if noble Lords want to ask questions I will do my best to answer them; but I hope they will accept this) that the terms are very favourable. The arrangement gives us an option on the F 111A; the F 111B is the naval version, and whether or not the United States Navy are to have it or not we do not know. The option on the F 111A is first for a small number of aircraft and later for a larger number. We have until the end of the year to decide whether to exercise the first option, and nearly two years in which to decide whether to exercise the second one. We have a firm price for the Mark 1 aircraft, and a very good estimate for the additional cost of the avionics fit which will convert the Mark 1 into the Mark 2 aircraft.

My Lords, this matter has been gone into very thoroughly—indeed, some of us have been dealing almost too much with it in recent weeks in trying to weigh up the factors. But we are satisfied that we have obtained the information we need to make a soundly based decision. The vital point is that we have time to make up our minds against a radical and realistic assessment of the rôle this country must play in keeping the peace of the world. At the same time we can ensure that the R.A.F.'s needs can be met.

I should like now to say a few words about the aircraft industry—


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves this complex of problems surrounding the cancellation of the TSR 2, can he give me information on two points? First, can he confirm the figure which was quoted yesterday, that if the full option were exercised to purchase the TFX it would cost us £357 million? That was the figure quoted in to-day's papers and attributed to Mr. McNamara. Secondly, can he give us any indication of the time-scale for bringing into R.A.F. service the F 111A, Mark 2, if the option is exercised?


My Lords, the figure mentioned by Mr. McNamara is the round figure of 1,000 million dollars translated into a rather precise picture of pounds. It would take me a very long time to explain how the figures are made up. This figure, to the best of our understanding, must include, as indeed do our own costings, the cost of spares and support equipment. I might mention that it is anticipated that if we do make a "buy" of a comparable number of F1lls, as we had equally planned to do in relation to the TSR 2, there will be a total saving, over ten years, of £300 million. But for those noble Lords who wish to indulge in mathematics, I should emphasise that it would be very difficult to do so unless one also had access to the long-term costings, which involve, as noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite will know, the cost of support, spares and other equipment. Perhaps on the spares side I should say that, as part of the arrangement, we have very satisfactory arrangements, if we should need to buy these aircraft, for the supply of spares at figures comparable to those which the United States Air Force will pay.

There was a second question—


My Lords, I asked when the TFX would come into service in the Royal Air Force, if the option was exercised.


I am not absolutely certain whether I am free to give these figures, beyond saying that the Mark 1, if we were to take it up, would probably come in rather sooner than the TSR 2. The remainder would begin to come in a bit later, but would probably be completed earlier because there would be a quicker build-up of supply. In other words, the position is broadly comparable to that with the TSR 2.

I should like to say a few words about the aircraft industry. The fact is that by the end of 1964 this industry had tied up a very large proportion of the country's resources of scarce scientific and technical skill—we have debated all this before—and a very large labour force, in the production of military aircraft which our own Government could not afford to buy, and which foreign Governments, unfortunately, would not buy. Whatever may have happened in the past, we cannot afford in the future to undertake a wide range of highly sophisticated projects by ourselves. But it is the Government's firm intention to retain a lively and viable aircraft and equipment industry, of a size consistent with our resources and needs, both military and civil.

The future size of the industry is one of the matters being considered by the Plowden Committee. It will certainly be smaller, I would think, than in 1964, but the development of the P 1127, of the Maritime Comet, and a hoped-for start—and very promising discussions are going on—on the Anglo-French strike trainer project, will provide sufficient new work, together with civil projects, to maintain a viable industry. I think there is little doubt that much of the future of the British aircraft industry is bound up with Europe, and with France in particular.

Looking to the future—and this is a development which we should all welcome, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—I am confident that the cancellation of the TSR 2 will make effective collaboration with our Allies in Europe a far more practical proposition. For example, preliminary discussions on the development of an advanced project incorporating variable geometry, and the strike trainer, are already under way with the French. A sound base is beginning to emerge for the reorganisation of the industry's resources and capacity, in a manner better calculated to serve Defence and economic interests and to build up co-operation with our Allies. I am sorry that there is not time for me now to go more fully into the question of the future of the aircraft industry, but there may be opportunities later in the debate. But this is a matter of profound importance and no Government can contemplate lightly the worry and distress that decisions of this kind create for those who work in this industry.

I should like now to summarise the aim of the review of Defence policy which we are carrying out. Our aim is to develop an effective strategy and force structure within the limits of what the nation can afford. We are working on three broad lines. The first is to identify any tasks which we can undertake more economically than on the plans which we inherited; the second is to identify areas where very significant reductions in costs can be achieved with only a small decrease in military capacity; and the third is to identify areas where tasks may have to be fundamentally reconsidered if economies are to be achieved. Of course, the field is inevitably wide.

The preliminary work on the review has been done and we are beginning to see, at any rate in outline, the shape and size of the problems that lie ahead of us. There is, again, more which I could say on this subject, but time really does not permit me to do so and, of course, it is not possible to reveal the shape of any conclusions. We need to apply modern techniques in all this, and we are applying them, to arrive at the right answers. Functional costing—and noble Lords will have seen the information that is given in the White Paper on this subject—and cost effectiveness techniques are of very great importance; and by applying them with increasing vigour it is not only possible but absolutely essential to make valid comparisons between one weapon system and another.

I should also mention, of course, the areas of operational analysis, and this is described in paragraph 35 of the Defence White Paper. Good progress is being made with setting up the establishment, which noble Lords will be aware is at Byfleet. Scientists and serving officers will work together in this establishment, and will conduct essential studies of a strategic and tactical nature over the widest possible field of Defence policy.

Another field where economies can be made is by increasing efficiency in the logistic and support services. The Defence White Paper, in paragraphs 191 to 198, lists many of the fields in which work is in hand, and I think there is room for real improvements here. I have a long list of fields which I myself had the opportunity to look at and, whether or not this is such a simple matter as stock keeping, there are very big economies to be made here. I am sure that this will proceed, and we are now moving forward into more complex and more fundamental fields.

As an example of this, I should mention the Committee under Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, with Admiral of the Fleet Sir Caspar John and Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Barnett, which is studying the most efficient and economic organisation for the control and employment of air power in support of national defence policy". Their report, which obviously will have very important implications for the Services, is expected in the summer. I stress again that they are studying organisation for the control and employment of air power in support of national defence policy". My Lords, I should also say that the three Services are themselves showing great initiative in the search for savings. Of course, I mainly know my own field in the Air Force Department, but I have been impressed by the range of studies which is under way. They are of a kind that, certainly, to put it at its lowest, only the best sort of modern firm is doing in its own management. But, of course, they are very necessary and there is scope for an enormous amount to be done. It is a continuing process in an organisation which in business terms is very large indeed—800,000 men, half of whom are civilians. This large organisation, the Defence services, is deployed across the world with a wide variety of tasks, and I am sure that your Lordships would wish me to refer to some, at least, of these tasks.

I should like now to turn to Malaysia. I will not dwell here on how and why British, as well as Australian and New Zealand, forces come to be standing alongside Malaysian forces in helping to defend Malaysia against her larger and more powerful neighbour. But I should at the outset like to emphasise that this is a genuinely Commonwealth effort. We and Australia and New Zealand have responded to Malaysia's request for assistance, and I would illustrate the sort of operations in the jungle, at sea and in the air, which so often involve our men, and for which they are ever on the alert, and in regard to which we tend to become rather jaded when we read about them in the newspapers.

Off the coast of Malaya, three Indonesian sampans, each carrying fifteen Indonesian men, were engaged by the Coastal Minesweepers "Puncheston", "Maryton" and "Invermoriston" just before midnight on March 25. One sampan was captured, another was sunk and five men picked up, while the third sampan escaped. H.M.S. "Maryton" had four men slightly wounded. During the night of March 29-30, off St. Johns Light, South of Singapore, three armed Indonesians were killed and their sampan captured by H.M.S. "Invermoriston". A midshipman R.N. died of wounds received during this engagement. In Eastern Malaysia infiltrations and incidents continue, and our troops and aircraft are constantly coming under fire. The Indonesians have recently been using medium mortars to harass areas in the First Division of Sarawak, and, on March 11, lst/7th Gurkha Rifles ambushed a large party of infiltrators and forced them, after a fierce fight, to withdraw across the border. I say this not to boast, for warlike operations inevitably involve tragedy, but to illustrate in these days of so-called peace the dangers as well as the achievements of our Armed Forces.

We have to be able, not only to deal with small-scale fighting, but to deter the Indonesians from the folly of open invasion; and it is for this reason that our air, sea and land forces in the Far East are to-day at their strongest since World War II, and in a state of constant readiness. For example, between March 12 and March 26 the Far East Fleet, including "Eagle" and "Victorious", were engaged in annual exercises with units of the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Far East Air Forces in the northern approaches to the Malacca Strait.

In the Borneo campaign the Army has looked primarily to the R.A.F. for the transportation of its troops along the Kalimantan border, and for re-supply. It is a continuous, day-to-day task which has grown steadily, until to-day the R.A.F. is supporting thirteen battalions in the field. This occupies the largest helicopter force ever assembled by the R.A.F., backed up by large numbers of short and medium range fixed-wing transport aircraft. Royal Naval helicopters and Army helicopters have made a splendid contribution to the overall effort. The task involves a vast range of equipment and supplies—from the airdrop of a bulldozer to the delivery of personal mail, rations and tooth brushes.

Every month the R.A.F. lifts an average of 3,000 passengers and nearly three-quarters of a million pounds of freight. Contact with the troops in the forward area is frequently made with little or no navigational aids, in the most adverse weather conditions, over mountainous terrain, some of which is unmapped. All this is in addition to the day-and-night alert of fighter aircraft, the constant readiness of the Canberras and V-bombers, and the regular patrols of Shackletons over the sea approaches to Malaya, Singapore and Borneo. The role of the Army is at least as severe—and, indeed, more severe, living right under the strain of possible threat of attack in the mountains of Sarawak.

I should like to turn briefly to the Middle East, because here again is an area in a peaceful world where commitments are having to be carried out, in Arabia, the Persian Gulf and further afield. In this we are dependent on Aden, all the more since our Forces left Kenya. We recognise that the base at Aden depends ultimately on the goodwill of the South Arabian Federation and of the Aden Government, and our present task is not just to maintain the security of the base itself but to assist the Federal Government in dealing with violence, all too often inspired from outside. After a lull in dissident activity, renewed violence broke out in March, both in the Federation and in Aden State. In Aden, a considerable number of rocket and grenade incidents took place and some attacks with explosives on the oil bunkering pipe-line and other targets. British Service casualties here, too, have been recorded: one killed and seven wounded. In the Federation, there have been numerous cases of firing at British and Federal Regular Army camps, and Federal Guard forts, using mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns, and there have been cases of mining of both Service and civilian vehicles.

Dhala State has been particularly disturbed, and a military operation was begun on March 17 to bring under control an area to the east of Dhala itself. On March 20 a company of the Second Battalion of the Coldstream Guards was engaged by dissidents using mortars and machine guns, as a result of which we sustained three other ranks killed and one officer and three other ranks wounded. In view of the tense situation in both the Federation and in Aden State, it has been decided to send the First Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, to Aden in late April for a six-months' emergency tour from Malta (where their families will remain in the meantime) to relieve 37 Field Squadron R.A.F. Regiment. This is a good example of flexibility between the Services, although we cannot but regret the circumstances and the hardships involved.

There is, of course, another side to these operations. Service engineers have done much to help the civil population of the Federation. New roads are being constructed, and irrigation works last year resulted in 8,700 acres being made fertile which would otherwise have remained barren. Before I leave the subject of Service operations, let me stress what I have noticed when talking to members of all three Services—the excellent co-operation at field level, particularly between officers. I remember an Army brigadier stressing how, in an exercise, he would have been unable to move his men during a snowstorm not far from where the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, lives, if it had not been for the very clear understanding of and cooperation with the R.A.F.

I should like to say a few additional words about equipment. The equipment that is coming into service in 1965-66 is described in the White Paper in paragraphs 154 to 156, and I cannot, I fear, go through the whole of it. I would mention that, in the case of the Navy, new construction includes the second nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine, two new assault ships, four more "Leander" Class frigates and a fifth County Class guided-missile destroyer. In the case of the Army, the new Chieftain tank should enter service during the year, initially in training establishments. The tracked armoured personnel carrier will be produced in larger numbers with a multi-fuel engine.

I have already discussed the aircraft programme, or some of it, in my speech. Generally, I should like to emphasise again the problem of re-equipping our forces to suitable standards. We must forecast our military needs as accurately as possible—and we know how difficult this is—ensuring that the sophistication of our weapons is no greater than will be required and that their numbers are related to prospective tasks. But this is not to suggest that there will be any down-grading below what is essentially necessary in the time scale. When orders have been placed for equipment, we must seek to ensure that costs are kept better under control than they have been in the past, that the equipment is delivered on time and that it is reliable when in service. This task is all the more difficult when, as we know, the Services' needs lead them to the frontiers of knowledge. Perhaps at this stage I may be forgiven if I refer to another aspect of the Services' connection with the advancement of science.

Your Lordships will be aware that the Royal Observatory is being transferred from the control of the Ministry of Defence to that of the Science Research Council. This will sever a link with the Navy Department, or the Admiralty, which goes back almost three centuries. The Observatory was first founded in 1675, primarily to assist navigators; and in 1818 administrative control passed to the Board of Admiralty. The Board could claim credit in 1820 for founding the Cape of Good Hope Observatory, the first astronomical and still the main observatory in the Southern hemisphere, from which practically the entire knowledge of the sky South of the Equator has been got, in addition to obtaining a great deal of other valuable information.

With the backing of the Admiralty, in 1884, the then Astronomer Royal, succeeded in getting the Greenwich Meridian adopted internationally as the Prime Meridian. The programme of work of the Royal Greenwich Observatory has been the responsibility of the Astronomer Royal, together with an independent Board of Visitors appointed under Royal Warrant. There has always been a close working arrangement between the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Navy, and this association will continue, but I feel I ought not to let this occasion pass without paying a special tribute to the work of the Observatory and to the work of the Board of Visitors over these years.

I now turn briefly to manpower. My noble friend Lord Shepherd will be dealing with this subject in some detail, and I shall refer to only one or two specific aspects of it. We must not minimise the strain of the present times on the Services, and the difficulties of home/ overseas ratios. Separation is one of the most serious problems facing the Services to-day and it has its effect on recruiting and on the re-engagement of men already in the Forces. The root cause is that, in line with what is happening in the civil population, men are getting married younger. Consequently, to take the R.A.F. as an example, the percentage of married men is higher than ever before—over 80 per cent. of the officers and about 65 per cent. of the airmen. The real solution to these problems is to enable the married Serviceman to be with his family wherever this is possible. Although large numbers of married quarters have been built in recent years, the Services still have far fewer than they need, and we must therefore continue to do all we can to mitigate the problem of separation.

I would pay a particular tribute to the women in the Women's Services. Their contribution is of inestimable value. I recently had the opportunity of inspecting the recruits at a passing-out parade at Spitalgate, and although I must confess that I was saluted more often than I was accustomed to in the R.A.F., I was extremely impressed both by the quality and the obvious happiness of these recruits. I think it ought to be recognised that, as in the war, the Women's Services have an important part to play; they are first-class representatives of our country abroad and they cover a very wide range of essential duties.

I think that the image of the Services over the years has gradually changed. I remember some years ago reading a book by H. G. Wells, The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind, when, in talking about the possibility of attaining to an ideal Socialist society—and I make no political point in this—it said one had to look for the sense of duty and obligation felt by the Armed Services. What I think is not always appreciated is the high personal standards which are achieved. I should like to refer again to my own Service. The Royal Air Force draws its officers from all sections of the community: from university graduates, from its own university cadets, from its Cadet College, from direct entrants from civil life, from its apprentice schools and from its own ranks. Graduates are also coming in in increasing numbers.

Flying modern aircraft and maintaining them is a highly professional job. There is no room to-day in the R.A.F. for "Pilot Officer Prune"—some of your Lordships will remember that particular figure. Indeed, the technical complexities of the task are such that men of a high intellectual and technical capacity are required. I could develop this at great length—I will not take up your Lordships' time on the problems with which they have to cope—but I would remind your Lordships that at the beginning of the war a fighter aircraft had eight machine guns, a relatively simple gun-sight, and were ground-controlled by radar. To-day it has not only airborne radar but airborne computers and flight directors to control the aircraft's flight path and the discharge of guided weapons, not only in clear weather but also in blind conditions. The raising of standards is not confined to the Royal Air Force alone. The Navy and the Army operate in equally complex and increasingly complex environments, and require men of the highest calibre. Such men and women are some of our finest representatives abroad.

When I was in Chile recently (and I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree) I found that the recent visit of the Royal Navy's Special Squadron last autumn had done a great deal for British reputation in South America. These, then, are the kind of men and women that I believe we have in our Services to-day.

I have been Minister of Defence for the Royal Air Force long enough to realise that our Servicemen and women are better than ever, the standards set for admission are high and they are responsible men and women. They do not want war; they are disciplined, but intelligently so. They are not required just to obey but also to understand. Most of them have a high sense of duty and a high sense of morale. They do it under difficult conditions and at great inconvenience, and sometimes at serious risk to life itself. They do it in the interests not only of this country but of maintaining the peace of the world. No one can be a Minister for the Royal Air Force without being proud of them, and I am sure that my Service colleagues in the Army and the Navy feel the same as I do. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1965[Cmnd.2592]—(Lord Shackleton.)

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, this is the first occasion on which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has introduced a Motion on the Defence Esti mates, and I think we should all like to congratulate him on the way he has done it. I do not think that there will be any complaint that he did not cover the ground very fully, except perhaps for little coyness when talking about the deterrent and nuclear matters, to which I shall perhaps come back later. I must say that I think the noble Lords opposite are very lucky that they have the noble Lord as their main spokesman on this occasion, since not only has he spoken with his usual skill and in a very agreeable way, but he happens to be one of the very few members of the Party opposite who can expound the new Defence policy of Her Majesty's Government without going very red in the face indeed.

When I read the report of the debate in another place, I could not help feeling rather sorry for the supporters of the Government, as one after another expressed their disillusionment at what was happening. Even I, who have never been a wholehearted admirer of the Defence policy put forward by Mr.Paget, was rather touched by the bewildered way in which he said that the Government had produced a body of proposals which would have come better from the Conservative Party than from his own side. If any of your Lordships have recently re-read the Labour Party Manifesto I think you will not wonder at the disgruntlement among the Party opposite. I do not want to embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, too muoh, but I do not think he himself ever held many of the views of his honourable friends, and he has spoken to-day, for the most part (leaving aside the bit on the TSR 2), with conviction and good sense. I think we would all join in the tributes he has paid to the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, to the officers and civil servants who work in the Ministry of Defence and, particularly, his last tribute to those men and women in the Services who do such a marvellous job.

But there are one or two aspects of the White Paper about which I must say I am not altogether happy. For example, I think that the first paragraph is thoroughly unworthy. Your Lordships will have noticed a consistent tendency in speeches and statements in Parliament, as well as outside, to blame the Conservative Government for anything disagreeable which the Labour Government find it necessary to do. This was carried so far the other day that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, when answering a question on the shortage of water which he told us was due to low rainfall over the last three years, went out of his way to say that he did not blame the previous Government. It is perfectly true that he was making a pleasant joke, as he frequently does, but the fact that he made the joke seems to suggest that he has noticed and has become rather embarrassed at the frequency of the accusation that everything is the fault of the last Government. The noble Lords opposite are really grown-up now; they have been in office for six months, and I think it is just about time that they stood on their own feet. I will say no more about paragraph 1 except to repeat, as did my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition, that I do not think a Government White Paper is the proper vehicle for Party propaganda.

So, my Lords, I come now to the substance of this debate. I hope your Lordships will not think that I consider either disarmament or our relationship with the United Nations unimportant if I do not speak about them this afternoon. We are all very conscious of the need to press forward in the field of disarmament; although it may well be that the greatest progress can be made by starting at the periphery, rather than with the most controversial issues. All of us wish the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, well in his difficult task. As for the United Nations, perhaps we may have a debate on that at some later stage. My noble friend Lord Thurlow has a Motion down on the Order Paper, on which he proposes to discuss both the weapons and manpower of the Services, which I hope we shall debate later. So this afternoon I shall not say very much about these questions.

The central issue of Defence to-day is, as it always has been, the problem of commitments and the problem of money. If we had no commitments, we should not need much of a Defence force. If we had as much money as we need, we should have no problems about our Defence forces. When a Party which has been in Opposition for thirteen years come into office; and when they are confronted with the realities, the facts and the figures and the practicalities of the situation, and with the heavy responsibilities which any Government must bear, if they are honourable men, as noble Lords opposite are honourable men, then quite possibly they come to different views from those which they expressed when in Opposition. And, sometimes, they have the courage to say so. This, in my view, is what has happened.

I remember saying in our Defence debate last year that, among other important matters, the people of this country would be asked to decide whether they preferred the Defence policy of the Opposition—that is to say, of noble Lords opposite—to that of the Government. Then I went on to suggest, quite mistakenly, that I knew which they would prefer. But the people of this country, in so far as their Defence policy is concerned, are fortunate because they have a Labour Government who have exactly the same Defence policy as the Conservative Party. But, running through the White Paper and the speeches made in another place, there is a strong current of anxiety about the amount of money we have been spending on Defence.

The Secretary of State for Defence said (I am paraphrasing him, and if I get it wrong, I hope that the noble Lord will interrupt me) that the money we spend should remain, in real terms, roughly speaking what it is now. In a Written Answer, he elaborated this a little, and said that in 1969 this would be the equivalent of 5.9 per cent. of the gross national product, as compared with just over 7 per cent. which we are spending this year and which we spent last year and in the few years before. If I may say so, I think that this is quite the wrong way of looking at the problem of Defence. We should not say how much we can afford to spend on Defence, but rather how much we can afford not to spend. Because, after all, Defence policy is only a means of carrying out foreign policy. We do not have an Army, Navy and Air Force because they provide employment, or because we like them. Defence policy is in itself nothing, and our foreign policy consists of a number of aims and commitments which, over the years, we in Britain have either inherited or assumed.

As translated into the Defence field, these commitments and aims can be divided, broadly speaking, into three groups—first, the world-wide commitment in South-East Asia and the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere; secondly, the nuclear commitment—and it is a mistake to assume that the nuclear aspect is purely military; and thirdly, our obligations, treaty and otherwise, to Europe. If noble Lords opposite are going to do what they say, and save money on Defence, there are only two ways of doing it. Either they can save money on the equipment of the Forces or they can cut our commitments. Obviously, it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do the former; and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, reinforced this by what he said this afternoon.

The Government recognise in the White Paper that sophisticated weapons are already in the hands of the relatively under-developed countries and that our Forces could not conceivably be equipped in such a way as to be at a disadvantage—for example, to the Indonesians. At the same time, the Government recognise, in paragraph 6—and I must say that I am glad to see it coming from those who were so critical of the last Administration—that the cost of weapons has risen quite startlingly in recent years. They gave a number of examples, and all of us could give many more. Therefore I do not think that any saving is possible in that way, although I welcome any steps which can be taken to control cost, as outlined in paragraphs 32 and 33, and any further check on the operational requirements of the Services. But, other than that, I doubt very much whether there is much that can be done. Therefore, we are left with commitments.

In paragraph 8 of the White Paper, we are told that we must have a plan fitted to our needs of the foreseeable future and that such a plan requires us to clarify our Defence policy. The Government, we are told, must then work out the implications of these assumptions for the Forces we need. I should have thought, with respect, that this rather portentous statement was, to put it mildly, a glimpse of the obvious. If I may let noble Lords opposite into a secret, all three Ministers of Defence, whom I served as Parliamentary Secretary, and both Ministers of Defence, including my noble friend Lord Watkinson, who were there when I was First Lord of the Admiralty, all set a similar inquiry in motion as soon as they took office. In fact, if they had not done so, they would have been gravely neglecting their duty.

I will go one step further to-day, and tell noble Lords opposite what the result of their own Government's inquiry will be. Ministers will be told that they have a political choice as to which commitment they are to cut or whether they are to cut any at all. If they do not cut our commitments, they will not save money, and if they do cut our commitments, while it is conceivable that they may save money, it does not automatically follow. I hope that my forecast will save noble Lords opposite disappointment, when they discover that the review is going to present them with a series of difficult choices and decisions.

Which, then, of these three commitments is it possible for any Government to cut? In the foreseeable future, I should not have thought it even worth discussing whether or not we could reduce our presence in South-East Asia. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said so this afternoon. In fact, it may well be, as time goes on, and if President Soekarno remains as intransigent and foolhardy as he seems likely to remain, that there may be a need for an increase, rather than a decrease, in the total British forces deployed in that area; and, of course, we have a solemn obligation to the Malaysian people and nation to support them in their difficulty.

Whether or not I am right in believing that we may find a greater commitment here, rather than a smaller one, I am sure that the Government will have to watch very carefully to see whether it is possible to keep in the Far East such a large proportion of the total of our forces without increasing the strain to breaking point. For example, I notice that we are told in the Defence White Paper that the rate of re-engagement in the Royal Navy is falling steadily, and has dropped from 65 per cent. in 1959 to 52 per cent. last year. From my experience, I should guess that it is precisely those categories which are in the greatest demand that are doing worst. And the reason, obviously, is that these skilled men can most easily find employment outside the Service. If there is a disproportionate amount of sea-time, as well as time away from home and time spent abroad, then this tendency will surely intensify.

If I may strike one more warning note, the previous Administration, for reasons which were perfectly sound and right, decided that two of the three fixed-wing carriers should be permanently stationed East of Suez. This policy has been continued by the present Government. I wonder how long such a large part of the Fleet Air Arm can be used in this way. There is no doubt as to its need. The first thing which every Minister of Defence says, if there is a crisis, is: "Where are the aircraft carriers?" But by this deployment we are asking a great deal of the Royal Navy and a great deal of the ships, which are getting old. I hope that the Government will watch this position very carefully. Otherwise, they will find themselves in an exceedingly difficult situation. Of course sea-air power is very expensive, but it is no good so arranging our affairs that we have a little of everything and not enough of anything. If the noble Lord who is going to reply can tell us anything about plans for the new carrier, or about the possibility of further ships, we shall be grateful.

With regard to the Far East, there cannot be—and I know that no member of the Government has suggested it—any question of abandoning that pledge of support to Malaysia, freely and honourably entered into. Equally, at a time when the United States are having great difficulties in South Vietnam, it would be impossible to imagine her chief Ally pulling out of the area or reducing her commitments in the area. Indeed, one wonders what the effect would be on Australia and New Zealand.

With regard to our rather lesser commitments in the Middle East, though there may be more difference of opinion as to the British position in the Persian Gulf, or, rather, to the need for maintaining our forces in or near the Persian Gulf, there can be no question that Aden, which is the centre of these activities, is an essential step and link in our position in Singapore and South-East Asia. It is in these two areas of the world where most of our Defence expenditure is attributable in the worldwide role. As I say, I do not think it is possible to reduce it in either of them.

There is then the nuclear field. If Her Majesty's Government continue with the policy outlined in the Defence White Paper, there is no saving to be made on that. The Polaris submarines are to go forward, and V-bombers to continue to the end of their natural life: and it is interesting to observe, in Annex D. that of the total Defence budget of £2,120 million, only £128 million is attributable to the nuclear field.

So much for the argument of relative expense in the Defence Budget which played such a great part in the pre-Election propaganda of the Labour Party. At any rate, in this respect we are all glad to see the long-delayed repentance of the Labour Party on this issue. And, if I may in passing, I would express the hope that they will not take too seriously the words of Mr. Gordon Walker, who suggested on Monday that the Atlantic Nuclear Force should be revived. I do not know from what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said this afternoon if he knew it was dead; but Mr.Gordon Walker seems to have known that it was dead. I do not think there is much danger of this, as I imagine it would greatly embarrass the Government. The A.N.F. has served its purpose marvellously well of enabling a complete about-turn to be made by noble Lords opposite on nuclear policy and very glad we are to know that they have managed so skilfully to do it.

Lastly, we come to the third commitment, that to Europe. Here there are very different views. My noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein, I remember, felt strongly that there should be a reduction in B.A.O.R. and the R.A.F. in Germany. There are others who think that we should honour our obligations to the full and reinforce the British Army there to its full 55,000 Treaty figure. A year ago the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, was one of those, though I do not know whether he has changed his mind. This is a very difficult issue. There is no doubt that the cost of the British Army of the Rhine is a great burden on our balance of payments. There is, equally, I should have thought. not much doubt that the likelihood of a war in Europe had greatly decreased in the last few years, and in particular since the events in Cuba. On the other hand, we have solemn obligations in W.E.U. and as members of NATO which we cannot, and surely would not wish to, ignore; and the effect of a withdrawal or a partial withdrawal from the European scene might have political effects on our future relations with Europe which could prove more serious than the purely military consequences.

But strategy is changing, and I think I am right in saying that there is to be by 1968 a complete reappraisal of NATO policy: and who knows what might come of that? But in the immediate future there are not, I think, many possibilities for a radical change in our level of forces in Germany, though, by agreement, in the longer term something might conceivably be done. I do not, therefore, see a great deal of scope for saving money on any of these three commitments.

There is, however, one way in which the Government hope to save money, and this was dealt with at some length by the noble Lord, Lord Shackletonnamely, by the cancellation of the TSR 2, announced yesterday. I do not know why the Government chose to make this announcement in the middle of the Budget Speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It could be that they hoped that among all the other bad news that the Chancellor had to offer this grave decision would be obscured and get less publicity. Or perhaps they thought that the cancellation of the TSR 2 would take attention off the large increases in taxation. But a by-product of this manœuvre—and I do not in any way blame the Leader of the House for this—was that your Lordships were deprived yesterday of hearing a Statement on this subject and of asking questions on it. We are, however, fortunate in having this debate to-day, and I know my noble friend Lord St. Oswald will be referring to the matter as no doubt will many others of your Lordships.

My Lords, I do not intend to dwell on this subject. Undeniably, the Government were faced with a number of difficult problems. But there is one aspect of the matter which causes me great concern. Whatever view one may take about expense and the strategy and military aspects of this decision, there can be no doubt that it calls into question the whole future of the British aircraft industry. The British aircraft industry which, like others, must rely in great part upon military orders, is now, I think, almost solely concerned with making a few modified Comet IVs for a Shackleton replacement and some P 1127s. I should have thought this was absolutely inadequate for a proper, modern and advanced industry. And, of course, it is not only the aircraft companies who are going to suffer; it is the many ancillary manufacturers who, because they are concerned in the production of this very sophisticated aircraft, make large technological advances and so keep us in the van of modern development in the industry.

The Prime Minister has very adroitly timed the scrapping of the TSR 2, not only to the Budget but also to his agreement with the French Government that our two aircraft industries should collaborate. I do not know how much further that agreement goes than that which already existed, hut, in any event, I think it is to be greatly welcomed. However, I should not have thought that it would be possible in the time scale which has been brought about by the cancellation of the TSR 2 to do much to remedy the situation created by that cancellation. We really must hear more precisely what the Government's plans are. We are told that they may or may not buy the F 111. We are told that there may or may not be a need for an aircraft of this kind—though I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, went rather further in this respect than did the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday. We are not told how much in all will be saved by this cancellation. We are not told about compensation, or the payment of any who may be redundant. To put it mildly, I should have thought that this was a very unsatisfactory position indeed.


My Lords, I may have misunderstood the noble Lord, but I gave a figure of saving, assuming the full "buy" of aircraft orginally planned, TSR 2 versus TFX. It would be £300 million.


Is that the net saving, after all the cancellations and the compensations?


It may well be more.


I am obliged to the noble Lord. In the course of a rather long speech I am afraid I missed those figures. The only proposal in the White Paper for saving money has been this cancellation of the TSR 2 and the replacement of two other proposed aircraft by American machines, with the consequent uncertainty which must inevitably develop in the Royal Air Force, and unemployment of a large number of men in the aircraft industry; and possibly (who knows?) the decision may be a death-blow to the aircraft industry.

My Lords, I repeat once again that there is no way of saving money on Defence, given properly equipped Forces, except by cutting commitments. I have tried to show that I do not believe there is much scope for this, though there well may be in the future. One does not know how long, either, our Far East commitment or our European commitment will remain unchanged; but until that time arrives, I cannot believe that the Government will run away from their obligations. We spent, when we were in office, about 7 per cent. of the gross national product on Defence. Of course, this is a high figure and a burden on the Exchequer and on the economy. But at that level of Defence expenditure, at the same time we raised the standard of living of the people of this country more in the years of our Administration than in the whole period from 1900 to 1950. If you believe, as I believe, that we are a great nation with world-wide responsibilities, then we have certain duties from which we cannot, and should not, try to escape. Those of us who sit on these Benches feel that these duties must have a very high priority in the amount of money allotted in the Budget. We will make it our business, if it should be necessary, to remind the Government of this, and to take such action as it is possible for us to take to make sure that they do not fail.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, it is fashionable once a year now to receive a Statement from the Secretary of State for Defence in order to let us debate these very important problems. After all, we spend one-third of our Budget on defence, so we ought to sharpen our wits on that account alone, leaving aside our security. This year the Defence Paper gives us a good deal more interesting detail about the strategic directions in which our money is to be spent. I personally find it a good deal more interesting than some of its predecessors. But apart from some remarks about changes in weapons—and if it is any relief to your Lordships, I am going to keep off weapons this afternoon and talk about other things—we do not see in this Statement any change of defence policy. On the contrary, we hear that there is to be a comprehensive Defence review, and that is now taking place. I am sure your Lordships await the outcome of that review with considerable interest.

I propose to deal, if I may, with two subjects not concerned with weapons, but concerned with policies and tasks which I believe the Government should take account of while they are undertaking this review. The first one is our overseas defence tasks and then, coming nearer home, to NATO and the nuclear scene. Instead of defending a long line to the East like we used to, with a powerful Royal Navy and a very fine Indian Army, we now find ourselves living in a defence world which is completely changed, and under two completely new influences. The first is this awful nuclear weapon, which is so powerful that it could destroy us in a night but, on the other hand, has such a splendid deterrent effect that it has in fact kept the peace.

Secondly, another new feature is the string of Western alliances stretching half way across the globe, NATO, CENTO and SEATO. Our British share in these alliances has involved, in my opinion, the complete giving up of our traditional island defence strategy, by which we watched the balance of forces in Europe and held aloof until a war broke out, when we joined in on the appropriate side. Instead of doing that, we now have a very large Army of 55,000 men, with its appropriate Air Force element or support close alongside. NATO, of course, has achieved its objective: the other two alliances are criticised for being weak, but in fact they have been very successful. It is an encouraging reflection, I believe, that not a single warlike shot has been fired across the river Elbe, and I do not think we have lost a square mile of territory in any of these alliance areas, in spite of their relative weakness.

We cannot say the same for what the British forces have been doing in other parts of the world. Instead of saying that we have not fired a shot, it is exactly the opposite. We have never stopped fighting since the Korean war started in 1951. Although your Lordships may say that some of these campaigns were of relative unimportance, relatively small, it would have been very serious indeed if we had lost one. For example, supposing we had lost the campaign against the Communist terrorists in Malaya, which was at one time perfectly possible had it not been for General Templer. All I can say is that Malaya would by now be Communist, or at least under Communist control.

If you consider that we have reduced the size of my Service, the Army, from 450,000 a few years ago to 170,000 today, you will heartily agree with the statement in the Defence White Paper, which says that our military resources are overstretched. In fact, the Army now is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps, and I rather hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, when he is winding up later, will tell us whether, for example, we are getting enough officers and the right kind of officers for the Army at the present time. That is in parenthesis. I often wonder whether we should not have a larger Army when I see that practically every time we send a battalion overseas we have to borrow a company from another regiment. We do not publish that very much, but it has to be published when we send gunners instead of infantry.

Your Lordships will find that if you look at the last few wars about which I have been speaking, they have been fought in the main by lightly armed infantry supported by small armoured scout cars, engineers where necessary, helicopters, both Navy and R.A.F., and front line transport aircraft. I say "front line", because it is no use having those heavy beasts that cannot get off the runway. I remember that in Malaya, where we kept 105 companies on duty in the jungle, we continuously maintained rather more than half of those—sometimes as many as 80 companies—by air. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, refer to 13 battalions being maintained by air at the present time. In my opinion, this is a dilemma which we have not faced up to. It is certainly not faced up to in the Defence Paper, but I believe it will have to be in the Defence review. I personally think that a decision on this matter is long overdue.

Before I leave these commitments in Asia (because that is what I have really been talking about), I should like to remind your Lordships of what would happen supposing we gave up our task in Asia. Supposing we gave up, or we lost, Singapore and Hong Kong. Some people in another place say that these places are not worth fighting for, and that it would be perfectly possible for us to go on living quite happily with the Chinese in control, just as we got over the difficulty of living with the Egyptians after Suez. I do not agree. I think it would be very bad indeed. The East would be cut in half. World trade, of course, would suffer. Commonwealth trade—I looked up a few figures—would be diminished by between 15 and 20 per cent., both imports and exports, which is a pretty large figure. The ship clearances in Hong Kong are 12,000 a year, which is 40 million tons. The ship clearances in Singapore are 39,000 a year, which is 80 million tons. These are large figures by any measurement. But they are not half the story.

Supposing we did lose Singapore and Hong Kong. We should have lost our friends in Malaysia, including many loyal Chinese; the Thais in Thailand would probably be Communist-dominated; Burma would very quickly become a vassal state of China and India, rather more slowly, would come under Chinese influence. On top of that, the Australians and New Zealanders would have had one of their biggest sea routes cut, and would begin to feel very lonely. Those are the things which I believe would happen if for any reason we had to leave that part of the world. These events are to my mind absolutely unthinkable. I do not believe we should allow them to take place.

While many new countries which have become independent in South-East Asia since the war are feeling their feet. I think it is quite right that the Americans and British protect them until they can defend themselves. So I believe that we ought to come to a military decision. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, talked just now about commitments. I think that one of our first commitments is to stay in that part of the world and, if necessary, to switch troops from the British Army of the Rhine. NATO has 27 divisions on the Central European front and, of course, it always wants more. But the immediacy of the threat is less there, as it says in the White Paper, and if a brigade group or a division were withdrawn, to my mind it would not upset the military balance. We ought to do this; but we ought to do so after full consultation with our Allies in NATO. That, I think, has been said by the Government in so many words and I entirely agree.

We have heard a great deal of the word "interdependence". It is printed religiously in the White Paper every year —I think I have read it for the last five years, but it has not meant a thing. Certainly it has not meant anything in the world of weapons contracts. Here is a golden opportunity for us to talk to our NATO friends on this subject of interdependence. Our NATO Allies must at least be interested in resisting aggression in any part of the world and not just in Europe. Here is their opportunity. If they will not take up part of the burden themselves—and no doubt they will find many reasons for not doing so; they may even think we are better at it—they ought to agree to our switch.

My Lords, this brings me to the question of NATO. NATO is suffering from internal strains at the present time, I believe for two main reasons. The first is that the threat has been eased by our potential enemies; and, of course, we welcome that. It means that NATO has achieved its objective over the last ten or twelve years. But the fact remains that easing the threat also loosens the ties between allies who, incidentally, like to discuss everything in public. I often think that the Russians must have a bit of a laugh when they read about the strategic differences between us. They all get published in the Western Press. We look avidly for the same thing in the Warsaw Press, but of course we never read anything about it, because their deliberations are confidential.

The second reason for the internal strains in NATO, I believe, is the way President de Gaulle is behaving. I think NATO had to put up with it when the French Navy was withdrawn from NATO Command in the Mediterranean a few years ago. Again it was quite understandable when the French Army was withdrawn: it had more urgent duties in North Africa. But it has not really been replaced in Germany. It is a weak army in Germany and the greater part of its best troops are kept as a striking force in France. I think we could have swallowed both these moves, but I suggest we should not put up with the one that is going on now, which is the concept for separating European defence from Atlantic defence.

This concept, which I think is de Gaulle's concept, of a Third Force as a balance between the two super Powers is based on a shocking miscalculation. If I may, I will just remind noble Lords of what it is. Of course, as democracies, the European Allies are perfectly capable of voting more money and conscripting more men, and facing the Iron Curtain with sufficient conventional forces. There is no question about European ability to do that. But the theory breaks down completely when we get to the nuclear business.

First of all, with regard to geography, both America and Soviet Russia have large areas where there are only ten inhabitants per square mile and where they can put their missiles, such as the Titans and Atlases, in hardened silos in comparative safety for second strikecounterforce strategy. The only corresponding empty areas in Western Europe are in the Highlands, in North Wales and in parts of Northern Italy; and there, though they are lonely places, they have 30 people per square mile and they are very small areas. So, on geography alone, Europe by itself could not operate a successful counterforce strategy. I think it is also extremely doubtful whether Europe could, in fact, afford or construct every variety of solid-fuel missile and every type of submarine or aircraft required to carry the atomic weapon. When it comes to the last technical factor, the Early Warning System, the most efficient Early Warning Radar System at Fylingdales, in Yorkshire, gives a warning period of four minutes, whereas you have fifteen minutes warning if you live in the United States.

Perhaps these mechanical obstacles could be overcome, but in my opinion that is certainly not true of the last obstacle; that is, the fact that if you have a European deterrent you automatically have committee control of that deterrent, and you have the committee deciding, with the power of veto built in to every owner of an atomic force. This is very much less efficient than control of a nuclear striking force under one man, and it will be a long time before we have a President of Europe capable of making, and empowered to make, life-and-death decisions for every component State of Western Europe. For these reasons I think that the Third Force idea ought to be struck out of our minds completely and, if possible, out of the minds of those who purvey it.

My Lords, the underlying reasons for the Atlantic Alliance, NATO, are that Europe cannot defend itself without American help, certainly without American nuclear help. Conversely, the Americans would be unable to defend their way of life for very long if Western Europe were taken over and occupied by a hostile enemy Power. That fact is sometimes forgotten: it is the other side of the coin, and is the underlying reason for the strength of an Atlantic Alliance. So, if we are entering a period of thinking about reorganising NATO, we ought to be very careful how we set about it. If by any chance the European protagonists of a Third Force had their way, and the Americans had to put up with many more pinpricks of the kind I have described, and were forced back into isolationism, NATO would be wrecked and our Defence would go with it.

Lastly, I come to this business of European nuclear control and the pressure which there has naturally been, now that Europe has come into its own strength industrially, to have a European deterrent, and the natural American wish to agree, if possible, to that scheme. The American proposal for a Multilateral Force, the M.L.F., and the British Government's proposal for the Atlantic Nuclear Force—which people are discussing as to whether it is dead or alive, and which I believe the Government are proposing to follow up after the German elections—suffer from two built-in disadvantages. The first is that if you construct a special European strike force of this kind, between, shall we say, three or four nations, it is not an accretion of strength to NATO. On the contrary, it is a slight diminution. If you were General Lemnitzer, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, you would find that the atomic elements of your force were to be taken away and put under another command yet to be devised. This would not impress the Russians. It would destroy the credibility of the European deterrent and would not be again.

Secondly, however you construct it, however cunningly you devise the control system to suit the democracies, so long as the Americans contribute to the force, it will be impossible to get away from the American veto. That is absolutely fundamental, built-in and not to be removed. Incidentally, any Atlantic Nuclear Force, however constructed, would be only very small compared to the strength of Strategic Air Command in the United States. So that, whatever happened, the power of decision would still reside with the President of the United States. I am happy with this position. It is the one we have survived under for years.

If we pursue this aim of setting up some sort of mixed European force, chiefly perhaps with the idea of stopping proliferation, I agree that if we get like-minded European countries to join, it may conceivably stop proliferation in Europe. But how can it stop proliferation in Asia, where the Chinese already have an elementary bomb—and before long it will be quite a good one? I do not see how an A.N.F. of any kind, with all the paragraphs written into it which have been suggested, can, in fact, stop the risk of proliferation at a future date in Asia. If you were an Indian you would now be facing a very searching problem indeed. The Indians have to face the Chinese bomb. They can do it in two ways: either they can make their own, which will take a long time and cost a great deal, involving the diminution of their economic programmes, or they can make a private agreement to come under the Western nuclear umbrella. Either way, India will have to climb off the fence of neutralism. That is the decision which will face them before very long.

To sum up, my Lords, I believe that at the present time the risks of conflict, and, indeed, even of piecemeal defeat, are much greater outside Europe than inside it. We have not yet given up our friends in Asia, or our responsibilities or our interests. When the friendly countries there, the newly independent countries, are capable of standing on their own feet we can leave them to it. But until then we should defend them, and therefore when we are reviewing our own Defence policy we should design our forces and put them in the place where they are mostly wanted—that is, outside Europe.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, it is my very pleasant task to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, on, I think every noble Lord would agree, a very remarkable maiden speech, delivered, I may say, without notes; and as a politician to a general, may I say that that is a very remarkable feat, too. I think I agree with everything that the noble Lord said. Perhaps I could pay a tribute to him for another reason now, and I do it with very great sincerity. When I was Minister of Defence, it was people like General Bourne, as he then was, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who spoke in the outside world in those terms and did not hesitate to make it plain that we were a world Power, that we had world responsibilities and that we had to have the kind of strategy that would enable us to meet our obligations—for example, to Malaysia.

It was these views, which had great weight, that enabled the Conservative Government of the day to bring in the 1962 Defence White Paper, with its concept of defending our obligations East of Suez, a concept which in those days and probably in these days was under attack and is under attack in many quarters. Therefore, if I may say so now, I was very grateful to the noble Lord then, and I think he performed a great service then as he has done to-day in making such a notable contribution to our debate. We shall listen very eagerly to him when he next chooses to speak to your Lordships.

May I now associate myself with the tributes that have been paid in another place and to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to the Chiefs of Staff and to their colleagues, the serving officers who work in the Ministry of Defence, to the senior civil servants there and particularly the Chief of the Defence Staff, the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten? They have done a very remarkable job, and I think all that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend, Lord Carrington, said was absolutely justified. I would add only this: when you look back as a Minister of Defence, you judge your colleagues by the difficult times you went through, and I remember particularly in the Kuwait operation the notable backing and vigour and teamwork that the Ministry of Defence produced at almost a moment's notice. To them, and particularly to the men who serve in our Armed Forces, I know it would be the wish of every Member of this House. that we should pay tribute.

I am afraid I now have to turn to more disagreeable problems. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is not in his place (I quite understand) but I must say frankly that the only thing with which I agreed in what he said about TSR 2 is that it is a tragedy. In that, he and I are in entire agreement. Where I think we differ is that my view, and I think the view of many, not only in the Conservative Party but in industry as a whole, is that it is a totally unnecessary tragedy. I must say I was very surprised to hear the most effective case that the noble Lord made for the TSR 2. He set forth all the reasons, which many of us have heard from time to time put forward by the Chiefs of Staff, and of the Air Staff in particular, why we needed that type of aircraft.

Therefore I hope he will forgive me if I say I find it very difficult to understand why on earth, having proved this aircraft, having flown it, as he said, with absolute success, having solved the problems of the black boxes and all the highly technical and secret information which it contains, we put the blow torch into it, which presumably is now what is going to be done, destroy the aircraft, destroy the jigs, destroy the immense backing of technical support and brain work that has gone into it, in favour of taking an option on an aircraft which at the moment is only on the drawing board. As I understand it—I know the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—the F 111, Mark 2, is still only on the drawing board. They are not even cutting metal on it.


My Lords, perhaps I may intervene, as the noble Viscount has invited me to do so. I said that the Mark 2 is, in fact, the same as the Mark 1 with different avionics. And, in fact, the TSR 2 avionics were not complete either.


The reason I invited the noble Lord was that I know he has recently been in America and therefore is entirely up to date on these matters. But I do not think he denied what I said: that the Mark 2 with its black boxes, or avionics if you like the technical name, is still a drawing board project. Therefore, I think that something that those of us who have the well being of the Services at heart—and I do not say for a moment that the noble Lord does not—find extremely difficult to decide is why this astonishing decision has been taken. All I can say, trying to think of it as impartially as I can, is that I quite accept that this must have been a very difficult decision to take.

If you look at it from the Defence point of view, what have we done? We have deprived our Forces and the Western Alliance as a whole of the best aircraft in the world at the moment to meet the problems for which it was designed. That is what the Government have done. They say it was a matter of saving cost. Well, I hope that the noble Lord and his colleagues have a fixed price for this aircraft. If it is fixed, it is a most astonishing operation. It will be the first time in recorded history that any project of this kind has ever got a fixed price throughout its cycle of development. Therefore I think it is fair to say that questions of saving must be somewhat illusory at this stage.

Then we are told, "Well, we need to redistribute the resources." That is a fair argument. But again, those of us who have had experience in industry know that this redistribution takes far longer than you think and is far less productive when you have done it; and I believe, as many authorities have noted to-day, that in the process we may well lose quite a number of these young men, either outside the industry to something quite different or, even worse, to other countries and other places. So I do not consider that there is a case made for the redeployment of resources.

As to the aerospace industry, I think it is rather odd for members of the Government, making speeches in New York or in this House, or anywhere else, to claim that in fact they have not done the British aerospace industry any harm. When I ventured to address your Lordships a little while ago on the aircraft industry, I forecast then that the inevitable result of the Government's policies was that we should lose all the aircraft orders in Australia. We have lost them; and I fear that we shall lose other orders around the world—I am talking now about civil orders—as a result of this disastrous mistake which I believe the Government have made. I am sure they will concede to me the right to say what I sincerely believe to be true; and if they can contravert the facts, I am only too happy to give way.


My Lords, I intervene merely to remind the noble Viscount that when we were proceeding with these advanced aircraft we were still unable to sell civilian aircraft to the Australians some years ago.


Well, my Lords, I think the noble Lord has not got it quite right. If he would perhaps allow me to say so, we did sell a large number of Viscounts to ANSET Aircraft and to TAA. Those aircraft are now becoming obsolescent and need to be replaced. Had we got the orders which we might have expected and, I believe, might have got in different circumstances, those Viscounts would have been replaced by the British Aircraft Corporation 111 tail-engined jets. I greatly regret to say that they are being replaced with Boeings. And I continue to say that this has some reference to current Government decisions.

There is another matter that I must raise, on which we have had no information at all, and I think we are entitled to it. I refer to what is the effect of this cancellation on the cost of the BAC 111 aircraft, and, in the long term, on the cost of the Concord project, because both of these projects are, or were, linked with the TSR 2 project, which was carrying, for example, some of the cost of developing the engines, much of the cost of developing jigs and tools, and all the rest.

Well, we have heard perhaps rather a lot about the aircraft industry. I have no direct interest in this industry, but I believe, and always will believe, that it is one of our great export industries. I go back to the only point on which I agree' with the noble Lord opposite, namely, that I think the statement of the Secretary of State for Defence was a tragedy; and the fact that at the moment we cannot put it right is, I think, an even greater tragedy. I think that events will prove the truth of what I and my noble friend Lord Carrington have said and no doubt others will say. The only sad thing about it is that by the time the truth is proved it may be too late to put it right.

I thought I should start with that, because I feel most strongly about it. But it raises in my mind some rather disagreeable fears about the Government's defence policy as a whole. We all know —and it is a perfectly honourable point of view—that there are those in the Labour Party who do not believe that we should be a significant military Power at all. That is a perfectly honourable view, and they have always made it plain. There are others who do not believe that we should be a significant world Power at all. They think it is more comfortable to be a small island off the coast of Europe. Well, it may be more comfortable, but the awkward fact is this: that that small island will support only 25 million people; it will never support its present population.

So it is with that fear in our minds that we turn to examine the present White Paper. I felt I should like to stress that, because I want to go on to say that I think in many ways it is a good White Paper, and at the moment we must of course deal with it as it stands in front of us. But I thought that the reiterated statement by the noble Lord, that all this was subject to further reviews of Defence policy—and, indeed, it is only fair to say that the White Paper itself says this—coupled with the tragedy both of the way in which the aircraft cancel lations have been made and of the way in which they were decided and handled, must make us fear that this White Paper is only a holding operation, and that we have some rather unpleasant and unpalatable things to come.

For what it is worth, from one Member of your Lordships' House there will be a lot of trouble if the concepts set out in the present White Paper are breached. They are founded on the most long-term and detailed studies by the Government's most senior military advisers. The noble Lord who made his maiden speech set out much more clearly than I could the basic thinking behind our three-base strategy—the base in the United Kingdom, the base in the Middle East and the base in the Far East. I should not seek to elaborate to your Lordships his words—I think they stand very well by themselves. I am delighted to say that the present White Paper follows this concept, and supports it; and I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to-day say—he will correct me if I am wrong—that the Government intended to maintain our responsibilities East of Suez. That is what the White Paper says. If that is the view of the Government, then I think in that issue they are fully entitled to the support of the Opposition, and they may need it.

Well, if this is so, if we are not faced with some strategic thinking behind the White Paper that is really seeking to destroy its fundamental basis, then I think there is much common ground between us. Perhaps I should say so in particular, because paragraph after paragraph of the present White Paper seems to me to echo most satisfactorily paragraph after paragraph of the 1962 White Paper. I was even naughty enough to think that they might have been drafted by the same hand; but one must not go into those matters. But common ground there is, and we should recognise it. I think it is of utterly vital importance to our nation that we are seen t honour to the full our obligations to our Malaysian Commonwealth friends, and all that revolves around that.

To do this, one must have the kind of mobile strategy that has been worked out by the Chiefs of Staff; that was tested to some extent in the Kuwait operation; that rests on this unique combination of sea, air and land power, much of it to-day more mobile than it has ever been in our history. The new assault ships, the new concept of the carrier as a mobile base, and the new bigger carrying capacity of Air Transport Command are all to be welcomed in this regard.

But again my noble friend Lord Carrington said what I utterly agree with, and what was common doctrine between us and our advisers when we were both in the Ministry of Defence: that this is all a most expensive proposition, and if we are to continue to undertake these obligations and duties, then I do not see that the Government can find many economies. If they can get by with 7 per cent. of the gross national product spent on Defence I think they will be doing quite well. For, after all, over 50 per cent. of the Budget goes in merely paying, feeding, clothing and maintaining the men in the forces. All we can hope is that this White Paper is a document which, after the fullest examination—and any Government is entitled to re-examine Defence policy when it comes to power—will not be materially altered in the sense of our commitments. If it is not altered in the sense of our commitments, it is unlikely to he altered in the sense of saving large sums of money.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, did not refer to paragraph I of the White Paper. I agree entirely with what my noble friend said about it. It is clearly out of place to justify in the White Paper all the unsubstantiated attacks made on Conservative Defence policy over a number of years. That, no doubt, has gone over the darn like the Atlantic Nuclear Force.


My Lords, does the noble Viscount not agree that our forces are seriously over-stretched and under-equipped? Does he think that they are not over-stretched, and that they are adequately equipped?


Is the noble Lord now seeking to defend paragraph 1 of the White Paper?


I am.


I am surprised, because I thought that the noble Lord took an objective view about Defence. He knows as well as I do that a lot of the sound and fury in another place in the last few years has been pure Party politics. We have both played it, and I am not saying that the guilt lies on one side or the other. The noble Lord asks whether I agree that our forces are seriously stretched. Of course, I agree they are seriously stretched. That is what they are there for. It is the duty of highly professional Regular forces to be seriously stretched. If they are not, it means that you have too many and you cannot afford them. They do a marvellous job under intense pressure. I am only saying that too often on the grounds of Party politics we make their task more difficult, as the present Government are now doing over TSR 2 and other matters. Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord that our forces are seriously stretched. I think that they are capable of meeting their commitments if we can maintain the present levels of Regular recruitment.

As to their equipment, in my view it is second to none in the world, and it is quite impossible to say that that is not so when taken over the generality of the forces. Of course, one can look at projects which have cost more, or which have become late on the way, and as time goes on the present Government will have exactly the same difficulties over this matter as past Governments have had; and, indeed, as the American Government have experienced over their own projects. Any advanced technological project is bound to develop bugs and is bound to escalate in cost—something that I hope the present Government have faced in regard to the F 111.

To sum up I would say just this. It is a pity that we cannot find more common ground in Defence policy. had hoped, when I first read this Defence White Paper, that it was in some sense a contribution to the two main Parties coming at least to some reasonably general agreement on the task which our small island has to fulfil in this dangerous and difficult world. That would have been a great gain, and that is what many people in this country believe that this House and the other place should do in Defence. Now I regret to have to say that the chances of getting agreement diminish as we see a further development of the refinements or the changes in Government Defence policy. This is very sad, and speaking only for myself, I think they are entirely entitled to be supported, and I believe the Conservative Party will support them, if they will seek to fulfil our proper function as an island which, whether we like it or not, still has vast responsibilities round the world.

I will conclude by saying that the greatest discipline Ministers might care to accept is that Ministers change and Governments change, but the problems in Defence do not change. However much the noble Lord and his friends reexamine the problems, they are still the same. They are the problems which my noble friend faced, which I faced, which the Chiefs of Staff have been facing and, indeed, which the Chief of Defence Staff has now been facing for seven or eight years. They have not changed. It is the Government's duty to see that they are faced, and that peace is kept—something which we kept in our time, and which I pray the present Government will keep in their time. But they will not do it "on the cheap".

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, I feel that my first words must be to express some appreciation of the maiden speech which was delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. I feel a little diffident in doing so, as it may be regarded as presumption on my part because I have not the knowledge or the experience which he has of so many spheres in which he delved. But I say with great sincerity that, having been a Member of another place for quite a long time, having heard many maiden speeches there, and having heard some maiden speeches here, I do not remember a maiden speech which, by its quality of statement, of mind, of personality, has impressed more deeply than the speech which Lord Bourne has delivered.



I hope he will accept what I have said as an expression not only from somebody who is opposed to nearly every idea which he uttered, but from somebody who appreciates quality when he listens to it.

I shall be expressing in this House a minority view to-day, but I have been a Member sufficiently long to know that when views are sincerely held and sincerely expressed they are heard with tolerance by the Members of this House. I have listened to this debate with some despair, because it has been dealing with a "Defence" policy. I am quite sure that Her Majesty's Government regard it as a Defence policy. I am quite sure that there is no intention on the part of the Government to commit or to encourage any act of aggression. But one also knows that that is the attitude of mind of nearly every Government in the world regarding its expenditure upon arms and the Armed Forces. They all regard their armed protection as "defence" measures.

The very great danger in the world to-day with the type of weapon which now exists is this—and I am thinking not only of the nuclear weapon, about which I spoke in my maiden speech, but the chemical and biological weapons which are now being developed; indeed, one need go no further than weapons which are now being used in the napalm bomb and the phosphorous bomb. The danger is that in a world which is being armed in that way, with no great Government intending to wage a war of aggression, any imbalance of forces, maybe even accidental events, may bring the world to war in which those weapons will be used. Therefore, as I have listened to-day to all the discussion regarding the techniques of arms, the value of this type of aircraft against that other type of aircraft, your Lordships will understand my depression.

The first point I want to make this afternoon is to say that I do not believe Her Majesty's Government can maintain their present expenditure on the Armed Forces and on defence and at the same time carry out the social programme to which the Government are pledged. The expenditure on Defence now reaches the colossal figure of £2,120 million. That is one-third of the total expenditure of our Government each year. The expenditure has increased by £100 million each year over the last five years. I accept the view that it is the intention of the Government not to increase the cost of Defence, in terms of real money, while they are in office. But I say to them that, unless they reduce substantially the amount of our national expenditure upon arms, we shall inevitably be disappointed in what the Government are able to do in relation to housing, health, education, the social services, technological advance and our aid to other countries. I ask the members of the Government—I am quite certain that they have this in mind —to consider this matter again and again because our present expenditure on Defence may be disastrous to our Socialist aims.

Secondly, I want to ask the Government what has happened to the proposal which was made in the Labour Party Manifesto before the Election—a proposal which was so dear to the late Mr.Gaitskell and the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan, and which indeed was largely responsible for bringing them together after they had had some political estrangement. I refer to the proposal to establish disengaged, or at least nuclear-free, regions in the danger places of the world, and in those parts of the world whose people desire it. There was the Rapacki Plan. Mr. Rapacki has seen the Prime Minister. I hope the reports that he had a discouraging reception are not true. There is the extraordinary fact that all the independent States on the Continent of Africa to-day, with the exception of the Republic of South Africa, are asking that that entire Continent shall be disengaged from the Power bloc conflict, and that it shall be nuclear-free.

There is the surprising fact that the Governments of Brazil, of Bolivia, of Chile, of Ecuador and of Mexico have made the same proposal for Central America and Latin America, in the South. I am a little encouraged by the fact that Senator Mike Mansfield, who is the Democratic Leader in the United States Senate, supported this proposal, but said that it must include Cuba. I believe that it would be an excellent idea if a proposal for a nuclear-free area in Latin America did include Cuba. I heard a whisper, as I was putting forward this idea, that there would be difficulties in respect of China. I recognise those, and I shall be returning to the subject of China before I conclude. But let me say, in passing, that even China has made this proposal, so far as the Pacific is concerned.

I also draw the attention of the Government to the fact that Arthur Caldwell, the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Federal Parliament, the Leader of the Labour Party, has called for a nuclear-free zone in the Southern Hemisphere. I put it to Her Majesty's Government, that when there is so much support for this idea in different parts of the world, it should be an encouragement to our Government to proceed with a policy to which our Labour Party is pledged.

The third point to which I want to refer this afternoon is the emphasis which the Government place on the need to keep armed forces as "peace-keeping forces" East of Suez. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has strongly endorsed that in his speech. When I first read that phrase, "peace-keeping forces", I was apprehensive, because it was so like phrases which have been used in the past to justify Imperialist extensions in the world. I would urge very strongly that, as most of the nations of Asia East of Suez are independent, it is not the duty of any one Government, whether it be the British Government or the American Government, or any other, but the duty of the United Nations to contribute peace-keeping forces.

One recognises that at this moment the United Nations is weak because of its financial difficulties; indeed, its sittings have been postponed. But no one can contemplate that the United Nations will be dispersed. Every one of us who seeks peace in the world must urge policies by which it is going to be strengthened, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government—I am quite sure that they will—will encourage every suggestion that the United Nations should itself develop its peace-keeping forces, so that in the name of the whole world, if aggression takes place or if there is the danger of conflict, it may be able to intervene.

In their policy on home affairs Her Majesty's Government have a great aim and are far-seeing. They understand the scientific revolution through which we are passing. They are planning the whole of their policy on that fact. I ask the Government, when they look at the problems East of Suez, to look to the inevitable future with the same amount of foresight. In Asia it is inevitable that the nations and the peoples will be creating their new Governments, their new federations and their new patterns. We are in Aden and we are in South Arabia, and I think that our Colonial Secretary, when he visited those territories recently, contributed constructively to the idea of democracy and independence. But we shall be blind to the facts, if we do not recognise that the Arab revolution is absolutely inevitable; that it will sweep from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, and that if, facing that Arab revolution, we stand too long for the maintenance of the British presence and the British bases, we shall be swept aside by progressive forces of history.

My Lords, I said that I was going to make one reference to China, which is East of Suez. I would say that I think that, if one wants an explanation of the psychology and the policy of China to-day, one finds it in the beginning of the Russian Revolution. In the beginning of a revolution, emerging from great poverty and primitive conditions, one has the type of Marx-Leninist policy which is expressed in its extreme form in China to-day. When Russia became more stabilised that policy was set aside for the policy of co-existence, and I believe that the explanation of the policy of China is that it is in the early stage of its revolution. But, secondly, it is due to the isolation of China. Russia pursued that policy and had that psychology while she was isolated in the world. When she became no longer isolated, the psychology and policy changed, and I am perfectly confident that if we are to seek a change of policy by China it must be by inviting her to become a member of the United Nations and not excluding her from the counsels of the world.

Next, in the case of the confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia, I want to urge that we ought to be seeking every opportunity of bringing peace in that area. There is no one who will condone what Indonesia has done, either in its infiltration of arms and of men or in its retreat from the United Nations. But when one looks at that area—that great archipelago of Indonesia abutting Malaysia, with Singapore at its foot and with the Philippines towards the NorthEast—one sees that it must in the future become one region of the world. The peoples of that area are almost one in race. There is the vast island of Borneo, with its three little separate States. They are one people across the frontier line. The time will come in history when it will be one great area, and to-day we ought to be thinking of finding some way of bringing about a political settlement. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that Indonesia has itself proposed a three-nation Commission, representing itself, Malaya and the Philippines, with an independent chairman to be appointed by them, and has given an undertaking that it would accept the recommendations of that Commission. I draw attention to the fact that Japan, Thailand and Pakistan have all offered their services in arbitration, and 1 beg Her Majesty's Government not to be so concentrated upon supplying men and arms to that area that they are not seeking to encourage every opportunity towards peace.

The last point I want to make arises from two items which are within Defence expenditure. The first refers to the fact that money is being spent on training South Vietnamese in Malaya to deal with guerrilla fighting, and the second to the presence of an advisory British Commission in Saigon. Again, my emphasis this afternoon is going to be that very actively we should be seeking peace in this area—and the promises are better than they have been. President Johnson has said that he is ready to negotiate a settlement on the basis of a return to the essentials of the 1954 Geneva Agreement. He is making a broadcast speech to the American nation to-night, and I hope that he will expand that. The British Government themselves are now supplementing the visit of Mr.Gordon Walker to South-East Asia by inviting the views of all the Geneva Agreement Powers on the situation. There is a growing belief that the Hanoi Government is ready to negotiate. Russia has taken the initiative to bring about the reassembly of the United Nations Disarmament Committee. Canada has made the proposal to America that the bombing of North Vietnam should be held up in order to give an opportunity for negotiations. And most impressive of all has been the appeal which has been issued by seventeen non-aligned nations.

I do not think we have given sufficient attention to that appeal. It represents the leading Governments of Africa and of Asia, headed by India, and includes many Commonwealth Governments and some European Governments. I do not think Washington can ignore it, because Washington understands the importance of Africa and Asia in the new pattern of the world. That appeal has been sent to the Government of North Vietnam and to the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam. I hope that, as a result of that appeal, both the American Government and the Government of North Vietnam will now indicate clearly the terms on which they are prepared to reach peace. What they have said privately has been published. Now one urges that they should say it publicly, because if they make their statements public they have a basis upon which negotiations can take place.

My last word is in comment on a sentence which the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, used. He said that there were some in another place who did not want Britain to be a great world military Power. My Lords, I acknowledge I am one of them. I want Britain to be a great influence in the world—a great moral influence. I want it to be a great influence because we are building a society here at home in which every boy and girl has the opportunity to grow to to the fulness of human personality; we arc buiding a society in which we believe in personal liberties; we are building a society based upon social justice; and we are building a society which is contributing to the whole world the principles of liberty, and of peace. I would rather belong to a Britain of that kind than to a Britain which had all the armed strength in the world.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, on his speech to-day, and I know that we all hope he will speak to us again on many occasions. I need not, perhaps, say much about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, because I believe it is for the noble Lords on the Bench opposite to deal with most of the points that he has raised. But I think it is fair to say that his comparison of Armed Forces to fire engines as in themselves creating trouble—that the armed forces bring the war, and the fire engines bring the fire—does not really bear very close examination. After all, not only was India nonaligned but she was also not very strongly armed. But that did not save her from being invaded. Take the Borneo territories. Up to the time of the trouble, there was not one single soldier on a thousand-mile frontier extending across a densely wooded area. It was as free as that great frontier between Canada and the United States of America.

I would ask the noble Lord to think of some of the issues which in fact arise in what he calls, and what many of us call, our position East of Suez. I dislike that phrase. It is as if it were some little corner of the world which could be dealt with as a piece. In fact, of course, half the population of the world live there. We do not want to cut ourselves off from them in any sense. We are there because we have an identity of interest with those new nations which are forming. We have an identity interest, as indeed the White Paper states, in peace and stability. If that is not a moral purpose then I do not know what is. We cannot retreat to what might be called a "Fortress Europe" and believe that we can still hold the qualities of personal liberty or spread them through the world as we are doing at the present time, or even, I believe, survive.

The problem in the world to-day is whether we are going to be governed by force or by reason; and if force has continued success then respect for reason will not be increased. It is because of this that I would say, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that our task, which is being fulfilled at the invitation of the people of Malaysia, has a high moral purpose; that we are right to fulfil it, and it would be entirely wrong to leave it unfulfilled. It is a new type of war. It is sometimes called a "conventional" war. I think that is a very misleading term. No war should be called "conventional". This is a war to destroy a nation by undermining it, a war dominated by the fear of escalation which is always in people's minds; a war of harassment; of pinpricks supplemented by propaganda which is uninhibited by any particular regard for the truth. And it is a war which can only be lost and never entirely gained.

I should like to mention three elements —I do not say they are new, but in my view they are of supreme importance in the way we are tackling it. The first is mobility, which has already been referred to; the second is popular support; and the third is intelligence. There is nothing very new about mobility as a military strategy. It was referred to in the White Paper; but it cannot be over emphasised in importance, and I still doubt whether sufficient importance is attached to what it means. We read of a shortage of helicopters. I see that the old "Valletta" is still flying. I have very warm regard for it, but I think that it is time it was put to sleep. I am also glad to see that hovercraft are being tried out. I have always felt that in the great rivers of this area the hovercraft could serve a very special purpose.

I should like to mention something about movement by sea. For some peculiar reason you can move by sea in the kind of secret way that you cannot do by air. I cannot say why this is so, but this seems to be a convention of the Press. Naval units can wait at sea without doing anything, and their presence, to a large extent, does not violate sovereignty as does the presence of land troops. I am very glad that apparently the Government are seriously considering the importance of introducing a further carrier. I hope they will.

My second point is popular support. It may seem obvious, but popular support is not entirely a matter of chance. A very great deal is being done, and can be done; but I still doubt whether the importance of this is adequately understood. It should be fully understood by all countries with which we are associated —and particularly in Malaysia—that we are there for the purposes of peace and stability. Contact with local people is very important.

The third point I would refer to is intelligence. By this I do not mean "cloak and dagger" work, but the whole range of understanding the land where operations are taking place; the need to translate that undertaking into co-operation and action; to ensure propaganda and proper public presentation of these operations. This war is of tremendous political significance, and we are operating in countries where we have not the advantage of political officers, such as we had during the operations in Malaysia. We must go on with these activities. I am sure that we cannot over-emphasise our duty in respect to stability and peace.

Now, my Lords, I should like to put a question or two on the White Paper. First of all, can we be told a little more about how much building of ships is taking place in Naval dockyards? I say that for the reason that one of our best shipbuilders, Samuel White, in the Isle of Wight, is, I believe, in great difficulties. There may be too much building going on in the dockyards. Dockyards are essentially for repair, maintenance and conversion of ships; apart from exceptional circumstances, they should not normally be used for building. May I ask also whether there has been a change in the position of the Ministry of Public Building and Works? At one time the works and services of the Defence Department were to be taken over by them. I understand that that is no longer the case, and that they are now responsible only for the Whitehall Departments and, curiously enough, for furniture. I do not know whether the noble Lord could confirm this; but it appears to be the case.

There is one other point. I think there is continuous evidence from the White Paper of the high quality of training, particularly of officers. I noticed with pleasure that Royal Navy seaman officers are now going to university. This is a new thing. and is of tremendous importance in indicating the very high calibre of the officers in the higher ranks who will be needed in the future.

I am going to say a word or two about the TSR 2. The latest decision was announced as a difficult decision. Of course it was. Of course it was tragic. But Ministers of Defence have had to make many difficult decisions in the past; and the impression I got from some things that were said was that the difficult decisions in the past were greatly underestimated. I want to make one or two further comments on the implications of this decision on the TSR 2. I am a tremendous admirer of the United States, and I say this with regret; but I think it is proper that it should be stated. There is no doubt that the aircraft industry of the United States is one of the biggest export industries of that country and that a tremendous export drive is being made there. It is a little cynical, but one of the reasons why we bought, or may buy, American airplanes is because we have been given special credit facilities. This is one of the oldest commercial practices in the world: you give special credit facilities, put your competitor out of business and then have the market at your disposal.

The second point is this. It may be that the Government's decision would have been inevitable, in the long run; but I believe that it means the end of really advanced aircraft technology in this country. We are still hanging by a thread with the French in the Concord; but I doubt whether we shall in future dare to go to the limits of technological knowledge in our design. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, almost said as much. He said that a range of highly sophisticated aircraft was not going to be possible but that we should have a lively and viable aircraft industry. This is what one might call making pretty aircraft for a pretty country. That is the impression I gained.


My Lords, the noble Earl has not quoted me fairly. I said "alone". I said that we had reached the limit in the production of highly sophisticated aircraft on our own and that the future lay in co-operation. There is no suggestion that we should not continue to produce highly sophisticated aircraft.


My Lords, I accept that, but may I go on to my next point?

The third point is that I believe that, with all our fighters, transport aircraft and strike aircraft being American, there is a real danger of a sense of anti-Americanism growing in this country. I should deplore that, as everyone would, but I do not think this is wholly to be ignored. The point I was making was that we could, of course, do it internationally, if there were any interdependence. But is there interdependence? The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, talked of it; but it is not taking place. That there should be a measure of interdependence among the Western Allies, is, I believe, of far greater importance than, for instance, collective control of atomic power—which I doubt will ever take place. To-day, the Americans recognise that they must share their strength with the Western Powers and that it is much better to concentrate on sharing weapons, which can be made in Europe, instead of what I can only regard as the bogus conception of collective authority in the atomic sphere, where, as my noble friend Lord Bourne said frankly, the veto will forever rest with them. I believe that we are right at the end of advanced technology in aviation, unless we can get a higher measure of independence.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I must start, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, started, by saying what tremendous pleasure it gave me to hear my former colleague, Lord Bourne, make his maiden speech and what a good maiden speech it was. The days of the Berlin Blockade have now faded into the past, but he and I are not likely to forget them. Both of us did a good deal of talking in those days, to an audience far less sympathetic and friendly than your Lordships, I might add.

Previous speakers have taken the House on long flights into the higher strata of strategy and the stratosphere, and I am afraid your Lordships are going to find my intervention very pedestrian. The truth is that there is a particular bee that lives in my bonnet and I want to let it come out and have a short buzz this afternoon, but I can promise your Lordships to make my point quickly and then sit down. I am afraid your Lordships will find it rather small beer—if that is not too tender a subject!

I should like to start by saying that I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that when the Minister winds up this evening he will deal particularly with the question of manpower, because it is on that that I wish to fasten my point. Our forces are certainly very stretched; there is no doubt at all about that. I feel clear that our manpower resources are barely enough, and certainly could not be reduced at the present time. Recruiting, however, has been going a little better. I understand that the Royal Air Force, in particular, have no great problem on this score. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, seem to be having increasing difficulty in filling their smaller demands on our manpower resources. To me this is rather strange, in this traditionally seafaring island. Yet we know that the Merchant Marine also has its difficulties in this respect. The Army has done better this year. I hope that the noble Lord will give us more details and fill in the gaps that are necessarily left in the White Paper in this regard.

Though recruiting has improved, I shall be surprised if the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, tells us that our problems are all behind us and that we have no other difficulties still ahead. I feel fairly confident that we shall not hear him say that. While much has been done, and it is particularly to the credit of the Army authorities that they have improved the situation, by propaganda, by a great improvement in the public image of the Army, is there still nothing else that can be done? Is there no further step that can be taken to help this difficult manpower situation, particularly in the Royal Navy and in the Army?

I am now getting near to my point. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the great importance of the young entry, the boy entry. According to my paper, the Royal Navy has over 4,000 boys in service, and nearly three quarters of the rating recruits, we are told, are young men under 17½. The Army has about 11,600 boys in service, and 25 per cent. of all enlistment during the past year was in this category. So we can see what an important element this is, one that is quite distinct from the ordinary recruitment of adults directly into the services. I am sure that this is well known and well appreciated by those who are responsible for the administration of the Services.

I think it is dangerous for rather old gentlemen like myself, who retired some time ago from the Services, to give too much advice to those who at present are running them. I do not really wish to do that. But I should like to express the hope that they will take another look at their arrangements for recruiting the young entry and see whether there is not something further that could be done to increase the supply from this source.

The Royal Navy, for example—I always speak with great humility in the face of the Senior Service—could they not extend the lower age limit for enlistment into their ordinary junior category? I understand that at the moment there is a gap between school-leaving age and the age of entry into this category. As to the Army, I am full of admiration of the much better arrangements they have made to attract young fellows into the Service, in particular, of the Army Youth Teams, who go about the country getting into touch with young fellows from schools and youth clubs and giving them practical help in boys' clubs and adventure centres. I think that all this is splendid. But I doubt if the limit has been reached; in fact, I feel fairly certain it has not.

In paragraph 117 of the White Paper, for example, we are told that there are many boys anxious to join junior soldier units who have to be refused for lack of vacancies. I understand that not all boys are suitable as apprentices, as bandsmen or as junior leaders even; but surely it is a shame to turn these fellows away. Could the Army not devise some category for them, in which they could get the benefits of boy training and be good recruits for the adult Army afterwards?

On March 3, your Lordships debated the question of youth, and there was, I think,general agreement among all those who took part about the tremendous importance of providing good, healthy, attractive opportunities for young people to develop and display the admirable qualities which we know they really possess and which they only need opportunities to prove. I said at that time that the Fighting Services were already making an important contribution to this, and in this White Paper your Lordships will see clear evidence of the contribution they are making—17,900 young men between the ages of 15 and 17½ are to-day receiving a fine training and further education, which will make them not merely good sailors, soldiers or airmen, but also far better citizens.

I hope I have convinced your Lordships that it is well worth while, from every point of view, that a further look should be taken at this matter. I hope I have succeeded in winning the sympathy of the Government for the idea that there should be a serious discussion between Ministers and their professional adviors about the desirability of a substantial expansion of boy and youth enlistment, education and training, both in the interests in the Fighting Services in keeping up their manpower, and also in the general interests of the community.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I wish I could follow my noble friend Lord Brockway in the remarks which he made to this House. I think no one on this side of the House has anything but regard for his utter integrity and the deep sincerity with which he puts forward his views; but what he puts forward as a policy of hope I can regard only as a policy of despair. It we remain unarmed, surely we are only making ourselves more vulnerable. Holland, Denmark and Norway were the first countries to be overrun in the last war. All the countries in Africa, we were told, are asking to be disengaged. But of whom are they asking? And has the response of China in this matter been sufficient to justify the confidence which he has put forward about the security of all these new countries in Africa?

I hope I may be forgiven if I refer particularly to some of our country's Defence commitments at the present time, and confine my remarks to the principles involved rather than to Defence matters of detail. Weeks ago I had the privilege, together with my noble friend Lord Forbes, of accompanying a Parliamentary delegation from this country to Hungary, the first such delegation to visit that country since 1946. During the course of our ten days' stay we were all deeply moved by the warmth and cordiality of our reception and the enormous work of reconstruction performed by the present Government of that country. But what struck me particularly was often to hear the remark, made quietly and confidentially, after several minutes of earnest conversation, "I ought to tell you that I am not a Communist". The one phrase that we did not hear, though, after meeting many hundreds of Hungarians, was "army of occupation". Yet all the time one was made aware of the presence of some four divisions of alien troops, who for this proud and patriotic people were kept out of sight, but never out of mind.

The thought occurred to me: what a strange contrast this state of affairs presented to that of our own former Colonial possessions. One's mind turned to the Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Malta. Surely, if that is a record of our colonialism, then it is a record of pride and not of reproach: no armies of occupation; no subversion; no intimidation; no compulsory Red Flag or prickly Red Star; no fighting; no bloodshed; and no Belgian Congo. I think that is the answer which we can give to my noble friend Lord Brockway in his plea for total disarmament. Instead, we have orderly transition to independence, with economic aid, freely offered with both hands, and a place of honour in the councils of the Commonwealth. It is well, I think, that these facts should be stressed again and again by our country.

To-day, unfortunately, our commitments are stretched to their uttermost. But they are honourable commitments which we have inherited, and are not of our seeking, just as in 1951 commitments were handed over by us to our successors which we were fated not to fulfil. But the wind of change, my Lords, began to blow long before it was discoverd by Mr.Macmillan. It was already blowing strongly in India, Ceylon and Burma during the period of the Labour Government. It did not cease to blow when the Conservatives came into office, but spread like a hurricane all over Africa. We cannot subscribe to the theory that on every foreign issue our Government must always have a policy diametrically opposed to that of their predecessors. Surely, if the previous Government may occasionally have adopted, or stumbled into (one may choose the phrase according to which side of the House one happens to be aligned with), a policy that is known to be right, let us concede the fact and proceed to uphold it. Integrity in foreign affairs, justice and fair dealing are not always the prerogative of any one Party. Nor does the good name of our country necessarily have to be upheld on Party lines.

We have now received from the Government their White Paper on Gibraltar, which I found fascinating reading. Gibraltar, in some ways, is the Berlin of the Spanish sub-continent. This is not the first time, nor unfortunately is it likely to be the last, that General Franco has turned the heat on to Gibraltar. He has tried to do it regularly to divert Spanish opinion from its own internal troubles. Whenever we hear of student riots in Madrid or of strikes in Catalonia or Castile, be sure that General Franco will turn his gaze towards Gibraltar. There the wind may still blow hot or cold according to the whims of an ageing dictator. But if only we remain steadfast as the Rock itself to our purpose and to the people of Gibraltar, the present storm should eventually blow over, as all previous storms have done in the past. The people of Gibraltar have remained for over 250 years loyal to the Crown, and until the time should come—and I doubt if it ever will—that they themselves desire to be annexed by Spain, it would he an act of unthinkable folly ever to betray them.

The traffic between Gibraltar and Spain must remain a two-way traffic. Yet. in fairness to General Franco, let us admit that the smuggling of tobacco, coffee and other articles subject to duty goes on openly and unashamedly across the Bay of Gibraltar into Spain, as anyone who has travelled during the evening rush hour from Gibraltar to Algeciras could see to his astonishment. The scenes that occur on the ferry boats are quite extraordinary. There are groups of men fastening dozens of packets of cigarettes by elastic bands all the way up their legs from their ankles to their thighs putting packets of cigarettes inside their boots: girding belts of packets of cigarettes round their waists; and elderly Spanish women pouring coffee beans by the pound down their bosoms —I should have said, rather, down the necks of their blouses, but I am afraid I am more of an anatomist than a haute couturier. Perhaps we could do something about this ourselves, and try to set our own house in order. Perhaps the Government of Gibraltar might levy its own taxes on tobacco and coffee, so as to make the smuggling of these cormmodifies less worth while. Then we could make a new effort to restore a friendlier relationship, and establish a frontier between Spain and Gibraltar as free and open as that between Belgium and Holland to-day.

Similarly in the Aden Protectorate we are not upholding the cause of this or that feudal sheikhdom against Arab Republicanism. We are simply acting as the benevolent midwife, the sage femme, in the literal French sense of the word, presiding at the birth of a new independent Arab State; and, whenever the new nation may be born, artificial feeding will have to be resorted to for a while. But any attempt at a forcible induction of labour now can only result in a premature birth, with all the inevitable hazards that follow. At all costs, we must avoid the risks of an abortion, as so nearly happened in the case of Zanzibar. So to-day, in Aden, isolated bomb outrages may still occur in Maala or Crater, but these are merely the incidental mumblings and splutterings, symptoms of a sickness of pregnancy. They must not deflect us from our fixed purpose to see Aden safely through her normal period of gestation. A few more ante-natal examinations may be necessary, and occasional visits by a Minister of State. But our own refinery installations in Little Aden must still remain as a British enclave within the new State, simply to guarantee her economic prosperity.

One day the Arab world may come to realise that a unity based on a common hatred is self-destructive. It can be only a sham unity, for hatred breeds envy, and envy breeds mistrust. That is why, in the Yemen, we have seen the tragic spectacle of Arab flying at the throat of his brother Arab in the sacred cause of Arab unity. That is why we have seen Egyptian soldiers plunged deeper and deeper into an ideological war that is not of their making, and not of their seeking.

Nasser, did he only but realise it, has good cause to be grateful to this country. The Aden Protectorate has not yet been plunged into another Yemen, and with 47,000 hapless Egyptian troops—I believe that is the latest estimate—now remorselessly engaged in implanting Nasserism in the Highlands of Yemen, how many more would be needed to extend it to the Aden Protectorate? They would drain away the very lifeblood of Egypt. And yet these 47,000 troops, fighting hundreds of miles away from their homeland, are the flower of Egyptian manhood, who can to-day so ill be spared from the tasks of rebuilding their own country, of tilling theirs native soil and feeding its rapidly growing population. Despite the smear of colonialism, Egypt has good cause to be grateful to the colonialists. When the time comes—as assuredly it will—for us to stage an honourable withdrawal, the cause of Arab freedom will have good reason to be thankful to this country for its period of trusteeship in Aden.

I believe that Arab statesmanship will one day come to realise that not war but peace with Israel alone can forge the bonds of Arab unity, and that only the healing of the greater hatred can encompass the healing of the lesser hatred of Arab drawn against brother Arab, as we have seen to our sorrow in the Yemen. When that day dawns, the whole Arab world will marvel with astonishment that it did not happen years before. Already the still, small, voice of true Arab statesmanship has been heard in the utterances of President Bourgiba of Tunisia. The day must ultimately dawn in the Middle East when honour, straight-dealing and trust will replace envy, hatred and propaganda. If only President Nasser, like President Bourgiba of Tunisia. could eradicate hatred from his heart, hatred of Israel, hatred of Europeans, hatred of the United States, hatred of all who have served in Egypt in the past, he would truly go down in history as the saviour of his country, and the whole peace-loving world would rush at once to render him aid. Let us hope that true Arab wisdom and statesmanship may ultimately be shown by Nasser himself, and a new era of peace dawn for the whole of the Middle East.

These hopes, indeed, may not be entirely in vain. Implacable foes of centuries and of decades have been able in our own time to make peace with one another: France with Germany, Greece with Turkey, Eire with Ulster and Germany with Israel. So, too, it is possible that one day—perhaps sooner than we think—the Arab peoples may he able to make their peace with Israel. Until that day, the Arab League can never hope to be at peace with itself. The voice of President Bourgiba may be stifled for a while by Arab League propaganda. But the yearning for peace throughout the whole of the Middle East can never be entirely suppressed. The chorus of hatred may blare out daily through the loudspeakers in the refugee camps. But hatred cannot last for ever. One day our own motives will no longer be suspect, and all this futile propaganda will be realised as contributing only to Egypt's impoverishment. Perhaps we, too, as a nation may yet be called upon to play a worthy and honourable part in helping to bring peace to the Middle East.

Of Vietnam I shall not speak on this occasion, as it does not enter into our Defence commitments. But in Malaysia we entered into our agreements with clean hands. When we witnessed there the birth of a new, independent State in the Commonwealth, we never believed that Soekarno would cast envious eyes across the Malacca Straits, and that our Defence forces would be strung out thousands of miles from home. And to-day the difference between the opposing forces in Malaysia is simply this: that our own forces, just as, I believe, are the American forces in Vietnam, are counting the days when they can he withdrawn back home and when the dictators will come to see that their peoples have more to gain by peace than ever they can hope to gain by war. And because a sick dictator whose power is beginning to totter thinks he can wage war with impunity on a new-born neighbouring State, although he has been condemned by impartial UNO opinion, so our troops remain committed in Malaysia. To him, this war is a diversionary operation to distract his people from their economic troubles, their poverty and their misery. Because his people remain poisoned by propaganda, so he has been able to withdraw from UNO and cut them off from their greatest source of aid.

But neither Britain nor Malaysia has made sorties into Indonesian territory, or carried the war to the soil of a bewildered, beleaguered, people, though we could easily have done so. This war continues to be fought on Malaysian soil against the inroads of a treacherous and bitterly illusioned foe. If only we remain steadfast through all the mists of propaganda, I believe that Soekarno's day of reckoning must assuredly come.

Perhaps the unfinished tapestry of our foreign policy may have faded a little, here and there, after thirteen years. Perhaps brighter new colours may have to be woven in through a new angle of approach. But the tapestry as a whole must be completed consistently to a grand design which will stand out in the gallery of history as a work of which we can reasonably feel proud. That is why our present-day commitments must be reviewed, not in isolation, but as part of an ordered whole. In all our obligations overseas we have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to apologise for, nothing which we cannot amply justify. It is said that the night is often darkest just before the dawn. Perhaps that may be true to-day. Through all the seething smog of hatred, propaganda and distrust which to-day may constitute so-called world opinion, I believe our country and our present Government have nothing to fear at the bar of history. Dictators pass and with them passes their lust for power, war and propaganda, but the peoples remain and with them remains their yearning for peace. Our commitments and our defence forces to-day may be strained to their uttermost; but just because they arc all honourable commitments, so we as a Party, as a Government and as a nation shall never betray them in shame and dishonour.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships were most interested to hear the account of the noble Lord's business visit to Hungary, and also his remarks about the Gibraltar White Paper, the smuggling, and so on: but I do not feel that I can follow him in such details this evening. I think I am correct in saying that this White Paper gives for the first time a numerical breakdown of the deployment of our Defence forces around the world, and I think the Minister of Defence is to be congratulated on this innovation. I feel that it makes our debates much more realistic.

I am certainly one of those who consider that a conventional attack from the East in Europe becomes year by year more unlikely. It has been argued in some quarters that we should, therefore, reduce our forces in B.A.O.R. and bring them home to add to the strength of our Strategic Reserve, which would, of course, mean a revision of the Brussels Treaty. I do not dissent from this view entirely, but let us be quite clear that it would not save money, except in so far as it would lead to a substantial improvement in our balance of payments. It would, of course, mean enormous expenses in fitting out new barrack accommodation, housing, and so on, for the returning troops and their dependants.

We cannot afford to continue the dual role of a military Power and universal extinguisher of Asian and African bush fires all at the same time. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister has made this point very strongly to the West German Government, and also, I hope, to de Gaulle. We have a very strong bargaining point over support costs and balance of payments with West Germany, and we must use it ruthlessly.

My Lords, there is a great deal of concern in all quarters of the country, as well as in another place and in your Lordships' House, about the high cost of the Defence budget. I think it is true to say that it is equivalent to £39 per head of the population, and the largest item by far, I believe, is for production, research and development, which is up from £867 million to £939 million. I hope that Her Majesty's Government can give us a little more information covering this quite considerable increase. Defence costs are bound to rise with the year-by-year rise in wages, which, of course, must represent a very large percentage of the bill. The trouble is that the Defence budget is caught up in the inflationary spiral, and I wonder how much the increase in the last twelve months is due to increases in wages and also, probably, to unofficial strikes. At the same time, in order to get a right perspective, it should not be forgotten that the total Defence budget, at £2,120 million, is rather less than the Government's estimate of £2,169 million to be spent on social services, which include education, health and other benefits. Both, of course, are very large figures, and the Defence budget cannot be reduced unless we are prepared to give up some of our commitments abroad.

I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government can this evening give any indication of their policies in this direction. I realise that this is a very difficult question at the present time, but there is no doubt that we have been trying to do too much. We are attempting to keep up a strategic nuclear force, a NATO force and to be a "policeman" outside Europe. Without a change in policy, costs will automatically increase year by year without any parallel strengthening of our forces. I suggest that it would be far better to make sure of meeting our commitments East of Suez than keep our enormous standing army in Europe. So long as the danger of war in Europe is not rated highly, and the costs of our troops in Germany continue to rise, I feel that some reduction in the number of our troops must be made. The fact is that the West German Government, as many of us know, have not made proper contributions towards the establishment and upkeep of our forces in Europe. Germany has ordered very little equipment from this country in the last year or so; most of her orders have gone to the United States.

My Lords, we have not heard so much lately about the proposed Atlantic Nuclear Force. I had hoped that it was going to be allowed to fade away, but the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I think raised it again to say that it was now a possibility. I understand that it is to be controlled by a single authority separate from the NATO Council. What is this separate authority to be? Is there to be a representative from every NATO country on this authority? Is it a fact that all the NATO countries are to have a veto for the use of nuclear forces? I cannot help feeling that we could all be blasted into eternity while one NATO country was debating with another whether to use nuclear force. How unpractical can statesmen become in these days! I would say that even Alice in Wonderland could do better.

I think I am right in saying that this White Paper is only an interim report on the Defence policies and plans of Her Majesty's Government and that a long-term review is already under way. I certainly agree that a complete review, not merely of our Defence spending, hut also of the military assumptions which, of course, must be very closely linked with it, is very necessary. That is a very important point. The issues at stake are too great to be rushed, but decisions must not be delayed too long. I understood from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that this review has already begun. Perhaps the noble Lord could indicate how soon they expect to bring some, if not all, of the answers before Parliament.

I would say that perhaps the primary factor in our Defence policy must be the maintenance of our communications by sea and air. Our bases over the last few years abroad have been slowly diminishing, but we must not forget that all countries now claim sovereignty over their air space, which, of course, prevents our flying over them. All this points to the utmost importance of maintaining our sea communications, which for that reason must become more important every year. If we have fewer bases on which land aircraft can be based, we must rely on the aircraft carrier for the support of our forces. We have heard that a new aircraft carrier is in the designing stage. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he can tell us when the keel is likely to be laid. I very much doubt whether in the years to come one carrier will be anything like sufficient for our needs, and since they take a long time to build I hope that consideration will be given to laying down a further vessel in the very near future.

My Lords, all the indications from the White Paper, and from the debates in another place and in your Lordships' House, are that the Defence policy of Her Majesty's Government is still in a state of flux. I am sure that we all hope that the delay in decisions will not be too long and that they will be brought before Parliament in the near future.

Before closing, I should like to make just a few references to the cancellation of the TSR 2. I think I am right in saying that it was originally intended as a replacement for the Canberra, but as time went on it became a very much more sophisticated plane, at a considerably increased cost. Her Majesty's Government have stated that it might even be possible to reshape our defences in such a way as to dispense altogether with this type of aircraft. I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consider that the Buccaneers whose range, I think, is not far short of that of the Canberras, can, in fact, replace them.


My Lords, would the noble Lord like me to answer those points? First of all let me correct one point, in fairness to the previous Administration. The actual operational requirement of the TSR 2 has not changed at all since it was originally drawn up—and this is also in fairness to the air staff. With regard to the Buccaneer, it will undoubtedly be considered, but of course it lacks many of the essential qualities. It requires a 2,000-yard runway and its range, particularly in the low-low profile, does not compare to that of either the TSR 2 or the TFX.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. The Minister of Defence has made it clear in another place that Her Majesty's Government do not consider a Canberra replacement by a sophisticated aircraft like TSR 2 or the American F 111 is necessary in Europe. I suggest the question is really: is a TSR 2 type of aircraft necessary in the Far East in the 'seventies? If the decision is in the negative, presumably no purchase of the F 111 from America will be made. I was not quite clear whether the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, indicated that a decision had already been made in this direction. I understood him to say a sophisticated aircraft was still necessary in the Middle East. I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government would clarify one or two of these points, perhaps later on this evening.


I would try to clarify that one. I qualified my argument by relating it to commitments, and I expressed the very firm view, my own view and the view of my right honourable friend, that it is very difficult to conceive of circumstances in which an aircraft of this capacity would not be necessary. I think perhaps I strengthened that by saying that, on present information, I cannot see the Buccaneer fulfilling this rôle, and—if this is what the noble Lord was leading on to—I do not mean the production of more carriers. Indeed, carriers would clearly come under the general review of defence expenditure and the future shape of our defence arms. Clearly I cannot anticipate the result of that review, but it may interest the noble Lord to know that we hope it will be complete some time this year, possibly in the summer or autumn.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. He has met quite a number of my points.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to follow my noble friend Lord Robertson of Oakridge in dealing with the question of manpower. The White Paper, I am glad to see, was cautiously optimistic on the subject in general, but with reservations with regard to officers. The shortage of officers (I understand that we are about 1,000 officers short in the Army) is a most grave and serious matter, and one that should engage a great deal of thought and consideration. One of the most hopeful developments of the present day —the scheme was started, I understand, some five years ago—is the short-service commission, which, however, is not proving as popular as was hoped or as it deserves to be. Under the short-service commission scheme a boy with five "O" levels—and that is not a very difficult attainment—can go for an interview, be sent to Mons Barracks for five months and then serve for three years as a commissioned officer. Then at the end of that time he has an opportunity to go before the Commissions Board and take up another eight years' service, and possibly a complete Army career.

I understand that 80 per cent. of the short-service commission officers who apply for the extension succeed. It seems to me a scheme that should appeal very much to the late developer, and to the boy who has not finally made up his mind regarding the career that he wants to follow, and it is surprising that the number of applicants for these commissions is not increasing. There were 207 in 1963 and only 200 in 1964. The difficulty is to persuade the grammar schools, and also the public schools—but particularly the grammar schools—of the value of that scheme.

Very close and, at the same time, higher contacts with education are clearly to be pursued. It is particularly important that officer recruitment from the North of England should be encouraged. At present, unfortunately, the tradition of service as an officer has never properly penetrated the industrial populations of the North. Perhaps we have not yet quite made up our minds what sort of an animal an Army officer is meant to be. There is a wrong image of the officer. I believe that the Labour Party, through their contacts with the industrial population, could do much to improve that situation and to show that in the modern democratic Army a lad from a grammar school has a wonderful opportunity.

There is one further aspect. A boy taking one of these commissions is not committing himself finally to an Army career. He is envisaging the possibility, after that amount of Army experience, of going into industry, and it is necessary to make industry realise the value of Army experience and all that it teaches a man of leadership for an industrial career. When we speak of industry, that again is very largely the concern of the Government. Are the nationalised industries giving these boys their chance, or are we in this age too much impressed by certificates of education and too little impressed by experience and manly qualities that a man in the Army learns?

I was very much interested in the efforts that the Defence Ministry are making to increase recruitment, as described in paragraphs 109 to 140 of the White Paper. I am glad that so much is being tried, with so many varied approaches, in the way of interesting youth in the life of the Services. The Army youth teams alluded to by my noble friend can be very valuable, but I understand that it is most important always to select the right personnel for the youth teams; for an inefficient youth team, which does not know how to "put over" the Army life, can do as much harm as good.

I was a little surprised to see no mention in the White Paper of career masters and headmasters of schools. No doubt they are given all the necessary information. But are the Services themselves doing enough to establish personal contact with the masters in the schools who are in a position to advise their pupils? I do not know whether the commander of any unit invites careers masters and headmasters of local schools to an open day. If it is not done already, I can only say that it would be an experiment well worth trying, and that possibly too some of the master's hospitality might extend to an Army or, in the case of dockyard towns, a Navy week-end.

But we and the Services must also make up our minds what sort of man we can hope to get. Often the late developer, the boy of character who somehow, rather mysteriously, fails to pass examinations, is recognised as a scholastic type. In the Army or the other Services he has a chance to develop and to learn. The work of the Army Education Corps is most valuable. Similar services exist in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, but I am not quite certain that the opportunities that the Services offer for scholastic achievement are fully enough realised.

I see a rather obscure reference in one of the later paragraphs of the White Paper to the fact that opportunities exist to pass the G.C.E. at "O" level. I wonder whether these opportunities are sufficiently widely known, and whether they are, in fact, as widely available as is required. I know the case of a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, home-based, who towards the end of his engagement wanted to acquire another "O" level. He took a correspondence course, and paid for it out of his own purse. In his case it would seem that the opportunity was nonexistent, or was not known to him.

Then, if we can interest a career master in the subject, he will want to know what will happen to the recruit after his period in the Services. I am well aware that the chief preoccupation of the Ministry, and particularly of the Navy, must be to get him to re-engage; but the fact is that re-engagement is not popular to-day. I wonder whether a sufficient attempt is made, not to get the man a job—because anybody can get a good job nowadays: there is no difficulty about getting him a job—but to direct him, or persuade him, to go into a job where the lessons of leadership and a readiness to learn new techniques will be fully used to the advantage of the country. There is, of course, for the ex-Serviceman the classic employment in the police force. I greatly hope to hear that the police are still being largely recruited from the Services.

There are, however, other careers where lessons learned in the Services are of great advantage. There is the Probation Service. Here, of course, a man will need a certain diploma in sociology. But he can get that. He can get it by determination if arrangements are made for him to qualify in the matter of "O" level examinations, and if proper arrangements are made for him to receive the training required on leaving the Service.

Finally, there is education. To-day, the shortage of schoolmasters is becoming alarming. I hope that more ex-Servicemen will be persuaded to take teachers' training courses and qualify as schoolmasters. I would suggest that this is a matter for consideration by a Working Party from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Education and Science.


My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to interrupt him for just a moment, to ask whether he is acquainted with the existence of the Regular Forces' Employment Association, which is established throughout the country and works in with the Ministry of Labour, precisely for the purpose that he has advocated—not only to find a man a job, but to find him the right kind of job?


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for mentioning that matter. That is an admirable agency. But I feel that it needs the support of the Ministry, and that sometimes we tend to aim too low in finding work suitable for the ex-Serviceman. Those are the points which I venture to raise, and I trust that they may receive some degree of consideration from the Ministry of Defence.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all exceedingly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. for putting this Motion on the Order Paper, if only because it has produced the most interesting and useful debate; and certainly I cannot hope to emulate the level of most of the contributions to it. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the tributes he paid to the staff officers and civil servants in the Ministry of Defence, the officers and men of all three Services serving abroad and at home. Finally, I should like to thank him for his tribute to the women's Services, particularly the W.R.N.S., because a number of us on this side of the House are married to "Wren" officers.

I, of course, have studied the Statement on the Defence Estimates (Cmnd. 2592) which we are debating to-day, and, in company with my noble friend Lord Watkinson, I think there is a lot of good in the White Paper. It is like the curate's egg—good in parts. Nevertheless, I thought it worth while, after I had read the present Government's White Paper, to read the Paper presented to Parliament in February, 1962, by the previous Government, a Conservative Government, entitled The Next Five Years, because in my view that was an exceptionally good White Paper on Defence. It also seemed to me that in that earlier White Paper many fundamental truths were stated quite clearly which the passage of time and the change of Government cannot possibly have altered. In fact, many of them have been true for all time.

The first and most important of these is printed in paragraph 26 of the earlier White Paper. It is quite short, and with your Lordships' permission I will read it: The ability to assure free movement by sea at the right time and place remains of fundamental importance to these Islands. Indeed the sea may in certain circumstances be the one open highway to strategic movement free of international political hindrance. This is true to-day, as it always has been throughout our history. Therefore, I hope that in their studies of our Defence policy, to which the Government refer in paragraph 2 of the current White Paper, they and their advisers will place this fact in the forefront of their thinking. Failure to do so will only mean failure to guarantee the nation's security and to contribute towards peace and stability in the world as a whole—the two purposes stated as the Government's aims in paragraph 3 of the White Paper.

I hope that, when the Government have completed their studies and their review, they will be able to produce another White Paper which we shall have an opportunity to debate in this House. I was going to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate whether he could give us any assurance on that point, and also on another point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has already answered. It is whether the report of what I would call the John Committee—that is to say, the Committee consisting of Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, Admiral Sir Caspar John and Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Barnett—will be available in time for their review. I consider that the task set that Committee is probably one of the most important in the whole review.

I have already said that I do not want to go into a lot of detail to-day because it is not a suitable occasion to discuss whether our ships, aircraft, and so on, are sufficient. What I want to refer to is M.L.F. and A.N.F. The M.L.F. has apparently sunk without trace. I hope so. I have never concealed my dislike of it. My noble and gallant friend, who I see has had to leave, once referred to it as a military nonsense. In the retired naval circles in which I move we call it something much ruder which I could not possibly repeat in this House. The A.N.F. is, in my view, a slightly more practical conception, but simply in the terms of the submarines, ships and so forth which it is proposed to allocate to it. Nevertheless, A.N.F. will probably be sunk without trace, too.

Like M.L.F., it suffers from one great defect, and that is: who is going to control the force politically? This problem of political control must be solved, and should be solved before we decide, or can decide, how the force is to be equipped. With this in mind, I searched the White Paper which we are debating to-day, and all I found on the matter was paragraph 14. I will not read the whole of it, but, having stated that they are going to form this force in which strategic nuclear weapons available or to be made available to the Alliance would be subject to collective authority, the Government say: Thus the strategic nuclear power of NATO would he concentrated and controlled under conditions which would both meet the legitimate requirements of the non-nuclear members to play their part and remove any incentive for the dissemination of nuclear weapons. I think that that paragraph poses more questions than it answers. In fact, it answers none. It is rather like a string of platitudes and pious hopes.

What, for instance, would be the composition of this "collective authority"? The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, whose maiden speech I admired so much, got near when he talked about a committee. I think that a committee would be a most unsuitable type of political control. Where would it be situated—London, Washington, Bonn? What one could be certain of is that it would not be situated in Paris. General de Gaulle would have none of it. Finally, this collective authority means very considerable surrenders of sovereignty on the part of all concerned. How far is the United States prepared to go in surrendering her sovereignty? How far do we propose to go? How far will Germany, France, Italy and the Scandinavian countries go if they join this force? Of course, in an ideal world and an ideal situation the force should be controlled and operated by the United Nations as a world force. That would make sense, but in UNO'S present state of development, its immaturity, not to mention the unco-operative attitude of Russia and her Communist friends. I do not think that that is "on"—nor will be for many years to come. We should have some further clue to the Government's thinking on this proposed collective authority.

There are only three other small matters on which I wish to focus attention. The first is nuclear power for the Navy. I referred to this matter on another occasion in this House, and the next day my noble and gallant friend Lord Fraser of North Cape (who was here earlier) said to me, "I liked your speech, but there was too much engineering in it. Please remember that you are a seaman specialist". I may be a seaman specialist, but I still think that nuclear power is of considerable importance to the Navy and that something should be done about it. I think that it has a particular bearing on mobility. I think that a tanker or a store ship should be fitted out with nuclear machinery as soon as possible in order to give the matter a run.

Next in my list of points which I want to ram home as being basic, is this. I am glad to read in paragraph 20 of the current White Paper: It would be politically irresponsible and economically wasteful if our bases were abandoned while they were still needed to promote peace in the areas concerned… That is very true, I could not agree more, but what I have called in this House more than once the "diminishing base factor" is still working. In their review I urge the Government to take a long hard look at Perth in Australia. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and I agreed about that particular place last time we debated defence in this House. I think also the Goverment should take a long hard look at Malta, because I am not at all sure that Malta is not becoming rather important again in view of the instability, or so it seems to me, of our position in Cyprus. In passing, I should like to mention that paragraph 5 of the 1962 White Paper is one of the clearest statements on bases that I have ever read. I would commend it to Her Majesty's Government.

The other matter which disturbs me and many of my friends is the length of time which it takes to fit out new ships and, for that matter, new aircraft and new tanks. I am rather horrified to read in the White Paper that the Chieftain is not out yet. I have referred to this question of ships before in this House, when I reminded your Lordships of the "Dreadnought", the old original battleship which was built in the early part of this century in Portsmouth dockyard, which went to sea on her trials one year and one day from the date she was laid down. At that time this ship was an entirely new conception, and was full of what we call to-day "highly sophisticated equipment". I went round her myself as a little boy. She seemed absolutely wonderful to me, as one of our modern ships would seem to me now though I am an old man. At any rate, we seem to be able to lay these ships down and to get them launched very quickly, but it is the fitting out that takes the time.

I have made such inquiries as I can about this, and I have had all sorts of answers, but the suspicion remains with me that part of the responsibility—in fact probably most of it—lies with the boffins and the witch doctors, who are always thinking up something new to add to the radar or the asdic or whatever it is. Then that has to be fitted and the ship is delayed. Someone in the Ministry of Defence has got to have the guts and the courage, when any innovation comes up, to say, "This is jolly good. I know that it is better than the thing before, but it is not going on this Mark because we shall slow up production; we shall slow up the fitting out of ships. You can put it on the Mark 2." Many of us had to do that during the war. I had to do it myself in connection with sweeping gear for magnetic mines, when I controlled priorities and production.

Now I come to what is almost my last point, and that has to do with this new and favourite cliché or expression, "cost effectiveness". Honestly, I do not understand what it means, and I hope that when the noble Lord replies he will clear my mind. But it is creeping about just like that awful word "automation". After all, when the final crunch comes and you have got the enemy in your sights, whether it be a periscope or a bomb sight or a rifle sight, you do not say to yourself, "This weapon's cost effectiveness is all right." You say to yourself, "Will it hit, and, if it does, will it work?"


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? It is very important that somebody should have been able to answer that question before he finds himself in that position.


I thank the noble Lord. Last, but not least, I should like to remind noble Lords of what was said in paragraph 51 of the earlier White Paper of February, 1962, which read as follows: A long-term plan is essential if the best use is to be made of manpower and resources. I hope that the next White Paper will be just this: a long-term plan written in good, plain English, and let us get rid of woolly phrases and awful clichés.

6.53 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, that we have had an interesting debate. I am not surprised at this because, while we have changed sides in this House, those of use who are taking part seem to remain the same. But I am quite sure that we all miss our late friend, if I may so call him, Albert Alexander, who spoke with great force from the Benches opposite for, I think, nearly nine years. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will remember his last speech. We have the old faces, and, if I may say so, it seems to me that the same old faces remain to the end.

However, we are indebted to a number of new Members, all recent creations, for contributions; and in particular I should mention the notable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. He was complimented by the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, as a late Minister of Defence. Perhaps he would rather like to be complimented from the other end, because when he was out in Malaya commanding the forces against the Communist insurrection, I was serving for a short while as a volunteer special constable. We all got to know him, and the tremendous amount of life and spirit that he gave to the forces in very difficult circumstances. We are very glad to see him in this House.

The noble Lord spoke about commitments, and so did the Leader of the Opposition. This is a very difficult matter. We have great responsibilities and trust placed in us, particularly in the Far East, and I assure both of those noble Lords, and any other Member of your Lordships' House who may have some doubt in this respect, that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to see that these commitments are honourably carried out. But the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, with his knowledge of the Far East, and particularly of Borneo and Sarawak, will recognise that this is, like so many other commitments, a particularly heavy burden, and in particular, that it might be questioned how long this burden can be borne by one nation.

I thought one very significant part of his speech was his remark that where we were part of an alliance no shot had been fired, but that where we were standing alone and responsible we seemed to he getting involved. I did not know whether that was a hint from the noble Lord (but I thought there was probably a good deal of truth in it) that where there is an alliance, and where there are a number of countries carrying out an obligation, this is perhaps a greater deterrent than to have one nation by itself fulfilling a guarantee. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, also asked questions in regard to the recruitment of officers, and if I may I will deal with that matter later.

We had a very restrained speech from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. I thought he rather reflected the view of all speakers in this House, that there was a general acceptance of the Government's White Paper on Defence. The noble Lord seemed to me rather to be suggesting that we had changed our views and that we were now accepting his. I would say to him—and I have spoken on Defence a number of times—that I should have thought that the White Paper we have now issued was very consistent with the general broad principles of my Party when we were in Opposition. There is a significant difference, I suggest, between the policy in this White Paper and the previous one.

It is significant (though I would not develop this in a particular Party sense) that right through this debate this afternoon I do not think we have heard the words "independent nuclear deterrent". We have not had the claim that this is a necessary factor to give this country the right to meet at the top table. I think that this is good, and that we are now moving to a stage when perhaps we can say that in Defence and in Foreign Affairs we can have a general objective and a general agreement on how we can achieve our aim—because I am quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition would agree with me that the aim which we have is shared.


My Lords, I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but, of course, the reason why I did not make a long speech about the nuclear deterrent was precisely the complete turnabout in the policy of the Labour Party on the nuclear deterrent. I did not think it was necessary. The noble Lord says that the Labour Party's policy has been consistent on this. I would advise him to go out after this debate is over, and read the Labour Party's Manifesto.


My Lords, I think I should know the Labour Party's Manifesto as well as, if not better than, the noble Lord, because I have done a great deal of speaking on it. We have never been in any difficulty about this. We have accepted the necessity for nuclear weapons. There has never been any doubt about it. What we disagreed with was the emphasis which the previous Administration placed on the degree of independence.

I shall come to the proposals on the Atlantic Nuclear Force, about which the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, was not happy. But here is an effort by this Government to deal with the problems and the dangers that may arise through the spread of nuclear weapons. This is one of the reasons why we believe this to be a useful contribution. It may not turn out in the end exactly as we are proposing, but it is subject now to discussion with our NATO friends.

My Lords, I think the House will agree that we need to have an adequate force, not only for the defence of this country but to enable us to meet our overseas commitments. But in providing that force (and I am quite sure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree with me here, although he did not quite put it this way) we must count the cost: not only the cost in terms of what we have to pay from taxation, but the cost in terms of the demand on the resources of our country. It is no good having a foreign policy or a Defence policy unless you have a strong economic base to support it; and if you overstrain your economic base to provide an adequate Defence force then, in the end, that adequate Defence force will wither away. We believe that we must take into account the economic situation. We shall shortly have an opportunity to discuss this matter, but the Budget, which is obviously fresh in most people's minds, is an indication of the seriousness with which the Government view the situation.

I spoke of the heavy demand on our resources, Not only is it true that we are spending £300 million of overseas currency to support our forces, but in manpower we have to find about 40,000 young men each year to man them. Further, I am told—and this surprised me—that we need 1½ million men and women out of our labour force to-day to support our Defence commitments. This is, obviously, a major factor when we look at our Defence costs and our Defence contribution. As I mentioned in the Aviation debate, one-fifth of all the qualified scientists and technologists who are engaged in research and development in this country are now engaged on Defence work. This is a very heavy price to pay. Noble Lords here will perhaps remember the speech of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones, when he questioned the "spin-off" (I think that was the phrase) that arises from military development and extends into the civil field. No doubt there is some, but I should not like the House to put this too high.

My Lords, the Government, of whichever Party it is, now has a clear duty to contain Defence expenditure. This is not going to be easy, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton said in his opening speech; but it is a question that must be examined ruthlessly and with determination; and this Government intends to do it. We are undertaking a wide-ranging survey of our defence needs and our commitments. I hope that it will not be too long before much of this research and inquiry will be available to the Government, when consideration will perhaps be given to the question of whether information can be made available to this House other than through the White Paper.

The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, asked whether the John Committee Report would be made available before the inquiry is completed. I understand that this is the Committee that is chaired by Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer.


That is right.


I understand that this will be so. In regard to the undertaking he asked of me, about other inquiries in the publications, I cannot give him any assurance to-night, but I will certainly look at it: because it is the wish of this Government—and we have expressed it on a number of occasions—that we should provide Parliament with the maximum amount of information that security permits. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, was not very keen on cost effectiveness—at least, on the phrase. But this is surely the whole essence of industry and of trade and commerce: finding the best way of getting the goods that you want out of the monies that you plough in. It is clear that, because the forces were until quite recently separate, each had separate buying departments, each had separate inventories and each had separate numbers. Because of this, it was not possible to have a standardised buying system, or even, in one Service, to be able to identify a particular spare part from a catalogue of another Service. There is an inquiry now in progress, headed by the man who was until recently Director General of Equipment in the Royal Air Force, the purpose of which is to co-ordinate and stimulate the codification on a common basis of Service stores. This can well save a great deal of money, time and resources, because it may be possible to find some way of pooling materials and spares for the joint use of the Services.


I quite understand what the Ministry of Defence are trying to do in the matter of stores—that is perfectly straightforward—but I cannot understand exactly what is meant by the expression "cost effectiveness". For instance, I was a shipmate of six 21-inch torpedoes, and I knew how to make them run—at least, I hoped I did—but I never said to myself, "What is their cost effectiveness?", and I do not think that anybody else did.


But the noble Lord was then a serving officer. Later on, he became a taxpayer, when he would have become more interested in cost effectiveness. I am quite sure that the previous Administration, once they had got unification of the Defence forces, would have felt that this was right; and no doubt they would have embarked upon it if they had been returned to office. This is one of the things that stems from a unified force. But we will continue this matter—


I do not want to waste the time of the House, but if someone—perhaps the noble Lord—would write to me, giving a definition of "cost effectiveness", I should be grateful.


I gather from my noble friend that what the noble Lord wants to know is this. It means the weighing up of the cost effectiveness as between one weapon and another in carrying out a particular job. This is something which the Royal Air Force —and no doubt the Navy and the Army as well—do when they are purchasing equipment: they decide whether it is the right type of aircraft to do a particular job. This, in the end, will result in efficiency and a saving of money.

My Lords, as to the Atlantic Nuclear Force, there are some noble Lords opposite who thought it was dead. Certainly it is not dead in the mind of Her Majesty's Government. We believe that this is a very useful contribution towards getting over some of the difficulties and disquiet that exists among countries in NATO. What we seek is a solution that will strengthen, in particular, the unity of the Alliance and take into account the views of the non-nuclear members, so that they can participate in nuclear planning policy and strategy.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who asked whether all the countries in NATO would belong to this Force. Any country in NATO that wishes to take part in the Force will be entitled to take part in the policy-making decisions. Naturally, a country which did not wish to take part in, or make any contribution to, this Force would not be a member, but we should hope that most countries would feel that there was point in joining in this common effort.


My Lords, does the noble Lord mean that any individual nation that was a member of this new Force would have the veto?


I do not think, frankly, that I am in a position to answer that question at this moment. This would be a matter for discussion. We have to find a political decision—not only a military decision, but a political decision, too. Certainly I appreciate the problem of creditability; but we want to see these countries taking part, at a major level, in the policy decisions, and decisions as to strategy, in regard to nuclear weapons.

We have made the offer that we are prepared to put in our V-bomber force (except for those planes that we feel to be necessary for our commitments outside Europe) and, of course, the Polaris fleet. There are clearly formidable problems to be faced. I suppose that if this Atlantic Nuclear Force came into being it would rank in power with the conventional strength of NATO. It would raise considerable political problems on which decisions would have to be taken; therefore, we do not attempt to rush it. We do not expect to find a solution quickly; but so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned we will actively discuss and promote this project with our friends in NATO.

My noble friend Lord Shackleton said that I would deal with the question of manpower and recruitment, and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, mentioned some of the difficulties here. We played a large number of "number games" in 1963; we expressed some doubt; but I am happy to say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that so far as the Army is concerned there has been a very considerable improvement during 1964. In fact, we hope that we shall be able to reach the target of 181,000 officers and men by April, 1966. By the end of January we had a total force of 176,382, of which 19,358 were officers. There cannot be any relaxation in this matter; there is difficulty in getting soldiers to sign on for further lengths of service and difficulties arise in persuading soldiers to continue long service. We must continue to look for new men.

While it is a satisfactory total figure, I suppose it hides a considerable strain within the Army. We find that in the infantry generally we are 6 per cent. short, as opposed to 9 per cent. in 1963 when we were particularly concerned; but some brigades are as much as 16 per cent. below strength. Some of these problems are aggravated by the particular shortage of skilled technicians and tradesmen, and we shall have to make strenuous efforts to bring up this strength. The Royal Army Medical Corps is slightly better but has a 10 per cent. shortage, while the Royal Army Dental Corps is the worst, with a shortage today of 32 per cent.

The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh made particular mention of officers. I think it is here where we are in considerable difficulty. We should recruit about 500 officers a year; at the moment we are achieving only about 250. As I understand it, we have to-day a deficiency in the Army of 1,000 young short-service commissioned officers. This, at the present moment, is offset by a higher proportion of older officers; but it must be taken note of and regarded as a warning for the years to come, for, obviously, these older officers will be leaving. The Government intend to look into this matter to see what can be done. Here again the greatest shortage lies within the technical corps. There is no ground for complacency, even though we are reaching the total figure.

The R.A.F., fortunately, is satisfactory. Though they have to compete with the highest commercial world levels, they have good sources: the Air Training Corps and the University Air Squadrons (which will shortly be expanded into the new universities) and a new scheme for technical apprentices. This is very good indeed. But the Navy, I am afraid, is not doing quite as well. There is a special shortage of skilled ratings and, in particular, of aircrews. The re-engagement figure, which was mentioned across the floor earlier, has declined from 65 per cent. in 1959 to 50 per cent. in 1964. There are a number of factors affecting this, particularly with the Navy and the Army, and one of them is family separation. In regard to the Navy, the complaint was raised at one time in your Lordships' House by some of the ex-naval officers that sailors were no longer going to sea. There is, in fact, a considerable problem about the length of service at sea, and we are finding that this is one of the major reasons why sailors are not signing on.

In regard to married quarters, we hope to make a large drive in this respect. Between 1964 and 1965 and between 1967 and 1968 it is intended to build 5,100 married quarters for the Royal Navy, 8,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the R.A.F. One must not only regard Service life as exciting and satisfying but also take into account the Serviceman's needs for a semi-civilian life, particularly if he is married. Therefore the Services must offer something comparable to civilian life, particularly in regard to education, medical and welfare services, entertainment and sport.

In regard to the Army, there is one other matter which is causing difficulty and which I think I should mention. It is the strength of the central reserve. We have demands upon it from time to time at very short notice. It has been necessary to send battalions overseas at very short notice and there is uncertainty among the families because, while they may be in this country in the central reserve, they never know when the telephone will ring or when there will be a letter in the post sending their man away. We must find some way, not simply of building up the reserve in this country because it is necessary, but some way to increase the morale of soldiers and sailors by ensuring there is a reasonable period of security in which they can live their life as part of a married family in married quarters. This is a matter exercising the Services very considerably.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, asked whether there had been a change in function of the Ministry of Public Building and Works on behalf of the Defence Departments. There has been no change in the functions of the Ministry of Public Building and Works. They continue to be responsible for the provision of all new works and buildings on behalf of the Armed Forces as well as for the provision and supply of barrack furniture for all new Service buildings in the United Kingdom.


That means the Ministry does not undertake dredging on behalf of the Royal Navy or building aerodromes on behalf of the R.A.F. is that so? That was the policy at one time, and I wanted to be clear on the position.


My Lords, I think I should be wrong to answer that offhand, but I will look into the matter.


They dredge.


Thank you. They dredge. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, in an interesting speech, drew attention to the young people and to the need to find a method of introducing them into the Services. I listened to his speech with great attention. There is going to be a considerable change in the relationship of young people to the Services. The school-leaving age will be going up and the age of entrance will be coming clown. These two ages will in fact be brought closer together. In respect of developing this matter one must take into account the possible expense and also some of the feelings of local authorities responsible for the schools. I will look into this matter to see what we can do to help and will write to the noble Lord on it. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, spoke on the question of encouraging Service personnel to take up school teaching. I think there is something in this; but, of course, the noble Earl will agree that at the present moment the Services are doing all they can to retain individuals. Service men are given a good deal of information prior to leaving the Forces about the facilities and jobs available to them. If the noble Lord is interested, I will send him the recent edition of the Services Resettlement Bulletin. We are looking into this matter but, as I say, I do not think that at the moment we can do more than we are doing. We must try to keep all these men in the Services.

I come now to the TSR 2. I think that this was the only matter on which we had any dispute this afternoon. First of all, may I say that the F 111, Marks 1 and 2, is to all intents and purposes an identical aircraft in speed, range and height? The difference will be in what we put in, whether avionics or box. We have been assured that there will not be a marked increase in the price between one aircraft and the other.


My Lords, will the noble Lord not agree that about one-third of the cost of modern military aircraft consists in electronics of one sort or another?


My Lords, I understand that this is not so, but I certainly should not like to get between my noble friend Lord Shackleton and the noble Earl on this matter. I can say to the noble Earl that we have been given, not only a good option and good terms by the United States Government, but also a reasonable indication as to the final price.

In the end, this was a decision on cost. I agree with everything that has been said by noble Lords about the tragedy of seeing an aircraft, in which such tremendous skills have been placed, now being scrapped. But we were faced with this situation. On the original figure for these aircraft we should in the end have been faced with a bill of £750 million. If we had ordered 150 of these aircraft, each would have cost £5 million; 100 would have cost over £6 million each and, if we had taken only 50, they would have cost £7 million to £8 million per aircraft. These are staggering figures. As Lord Shackleton said, at this stage, it is not clear what number of aircraft of this type we shall require. My noble friend believes that it will be necessary to have them, but since, in our view, this aircraft is required not in a European rôle, we must look to the number required for duties East of Suez, and at this stage we are not in a position to say what the number will be. But we have this option on very good terms.

It is a tragedy that this step had to be taken merely on the ground of cost, but when we inherited office we found that the costs were such that to proceed with this would be going beyond reasonable bounds. The noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, said once more that this would be a death blow to the aircraft industry. The Government consider that the aircraft industry still has a viable and important part to play in our economy, but we do not believe that we can have an industry that is based entirely upon developing sophisticated aircraft for one buyer—namely, Her Majesty's Government. If we take the argument of noble Lords opposite, that we should proceed with the TSR 2 in order to keep the aircraft industry alive, it follows that once the TSR 2 is completed, irrespective of what we need, we should again proceed with an even more advanced aircraft. We do not believe that this is possible. Sooner or later some streamlining of the industry will be required. As your Lordships know, the Plowden Committee are looking into this matter and we hope that we shall have their Report in the not too distant future, so that the Government and the industry can get together to see what can be done.


My Lords, I appreciate the point that the noble Lord is making: but supposing the Government put the same energy into getting interdependence of conventional aircraft, instead of trying to form an Atlantic Nuclear Force, would they not offer an opportunity for producing highly sophisticated aircraft of this sort, which is now not to be produced and never will be?


My Lords, to the best of my knowledge, no other country has been interested in the purchase of this aircraft. The noble Lord, Lord Watkinson, drew our attention, I think it was in our last debate, to the decision of the Australian Government to buy the TFX. The TSR 2 is a sophisticated aircraft and this is one of the difficulties: there are so few countries who feel that they have a need for it. In the end, we found that the Government were the only possible buyer for this particular aircraft.


My Lords, what I meant by "interdependence" was that the Americans should buy some of their weapons in Europe.


My Lords, I am sure that we have made efforts to sell this aircraft to the Americans. I agree that we should make stronger efforts to see that there is a pooling of purchases within the Alliance. Efforts have been made in the past, but not very successfully. As the noble Earl will be aware, we are opening negotiations with France for the development of further new aircraft beyond the Concord. If this were to happen and perhaps other European countries were to participate in it, this would automatically open a field for business in this aircraft. I think that what the noble Earl said underlines the problem of the British aircraft industry. They cannot be successful within one nation. They have to find larger markets, and they will find these larger markets only by participating with the aircraft industry of the countries concerned. This is what we are trying to do.

As I said earlier, this is a tragic decision. The suggestion has been made that it will bring considerable unemployment. It is true that 20,000 men may be affected. But if 20,000 men were to lose their jobs through this decision, they have the assurance that their skills are in tremendous demand. I have these figures in front of me. There are now 5 vacancies for every one craftsman and 3¼ vacancies for every skilled engineer in this country. The total number of engineering vacancies to-day is 25,000. My noble friend Lord Brown, who has had a great deal of experience in industry, was telling me the other day that there are many companies so desperately short of skilled men that their entire production is used to supply the home market. They are unable to cope with orders for overseas, and this is denying us a good deal of export business.

I would suggest that, when looking at this matter, noble Lords will look not only at the saving of a considerable sum of money, but also at the making available to industry of a further supply of desperately needed skilled men. There is no reason for these men to have any concern as to their future. The Government are prepared to co-operate in giving them the fullest assistance. Where redundancies are likely, the Ministry of Labour officials will readily move in and proviae all the assistance and information possible. Training schemes are available. There is the Redundancy Act which was introduced by the previous Administration to help persons who have lost their jobs. The whole resources of the Government will be available to these people. As I have said, this is a very dismal and tragic decision, but it had to be made on grounds of cost.

We shall have a second day of this debate to-morrow, and I look forward to hearing what is said. If there is anything I have not replied to, I am sure my noble friend Lord Longford will be ready and anxious to do so to-morrow.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he obtained any information about the naval building programme at the dockyard?


I could not do that. No doubt the ex-First Lord will be able to get the information better than I can.


My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until to-morrow.

Moved, that the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord St. Oswald).

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.