§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
My Lords, at this stage of the debate, particularly after two days, there is not much left to say, and I hope I have the sympathy of your Lordships on appearing after several important issues have been inserted and also seeing myself sink lower and lower in the batting order. But as the most recently retired senior officer in your Lordships' House, I feel that I should like to make one or two remarks on the White Paper. I shall keep these as short as possible, because I have taken the liberty of putting down a Motion, "No Day Named", when I 210 hope we can debate later in the summer some more detailed aspects of the problems confronting the Services. I hope by then that the Defence review will give us a clearer programme of the measures that the Government intend to take to deal with the very difficult problems which face the Armed Services.
In spite of the instructions of my former Commander-in-Chief, the noble and gallant Viscount—and, naturally, all he says I look upon as instructions—that one should not go into details of a Paper of this sort, I cannot say I agree with him, because I think that in your Lordships' House there are usually, on most subjects, noble Lords who have had experience of a good many detailed points. Not having risen to the high rank of Field-Marshal or full General, I did not have much experience of the wide strategic field, but much more of the rather smaller details which are still of very great importance. The first point I should like to make is one on the training facilities of the Army and the Royal Air Force, because we must think of them as working together. Nowadays, this country is much too small for formation training. We need very large areas with suitable terrain to make exercises lively and interesting and without notices at every corner, "Please be careful of the crops" or "Please keep off the grass". It is therefore vital for the efficient training of our Forces that we should continue Creaties with, our friends and allies and try to make new ones, in order that we may have suitable ground for training.
The few experiments on training that have taken place in the old Dominions have been a great success. They are expensive, and so far only one or two units have been able to go to Canada or Australia. But I think there are tremendous possibilities, not only for the efficient training of the Forces, but also for spreading the friendship between the Commonwealth forces and our own, for which these exercises give great opportunity.
I should like to say a word or two about the Territorial Army. We read that the rôle of the Territorial Army will be reconsidered, and that is all we have to go on in the Defence White Paper. There are many distinguished members of the Territorial Army, present and 211 past, in your Lordships' House, and we shall watch with a critical interest any proposed changes. The Territorial Army is the finest reserve Army in the world—it has proved it in two great wars—and for what it can provide at very short notice it is very cheap. There has been a good deal of emphasis, in training the Territorial Army—and I speak as a former Divisional Commander—on Civil Defence. This is an important role, but the Territorial soldier is very conscious that he is a soldier, and he does not want that to assume the major task in his life. It would be of great value if Territorial units, not only individuals, could train in the Rhine Army. The Navy might be able to help in this by ferrying units to the Rhineland in order to train with Regular units.
Now just a short point about the Cadet Force. While I was a Divisional Commander I had more than 50 battalions of these splendid boys serving in my district. I found that the younger ones were mad keen, but as they got older, because the training was rather similar every day and every year, they got bored and left, and did not join the Territorial Army when they were old enough. I believe that we should now find some way of providing the older cadets with more interesting training, possibly by training them with Territorial units, and then bringing them back to instruct in their own units. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman, who has done such a great deal for the Territorial Army, is to speak in this debate and I hope he will not "shoot me down". I know that he does not want the Cadet Force to be part of the Territorial Army, but the older cadets need something more to keep their interest and to encourage them to stay on for their full time and then to join the Territorial Army or, better still, the Regular Army.
Those are the only points on the Defence White Paper that I am going to raise here, and I apologise to the noble Earl the Leader of the House because I gave him notice of other points, but I think they would come better on a Motion later on in the year when we can consider some of the details.
I should, however, like to say just a word or two about the Army, following 212 on what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has just said. We all know that the shape and size of the Army should be dictated entirely by present and possible commitments. Certain assumptions are made and the forces should then be made available and equipped to meet those assumptions. But with our system of voluntary recruitment and our financial limitations, always with us, there is a consequent tendency to try to adapt our commitments to fit our recruitng figures and the budget. In addition to this, ever since the last war our assumptions, under both Labour and Conservative Governments, have nearly always been wrong. We have heard emphasised on all sides of the House that our forces are over-stretched.
An excellent organisation called the Army League, in an admirable study they made six months ago, likened the Army to an M.C.C. team touring Australia with only eleven players. In theory the same eleven should be capable of playing a series of games, including five Test Matches, but without provision for sickness, injury or accident, and without the periodical chance of rest for each player, the results would hardly be satisfactory, no matter how keen, fit and willing the individual members of the team might be. Similarly, in theory, 65 battalions of infantry should be able to meet the Army's operational tasks. But in practice it does so only with the greatest difficulty and by imposing a strain on a large number of units and individuals. I have been an infantryman all my life, and in recent years have seen this very closely. If this situation endures indefinitely it is bound to have a most detrimental effect on recruiting, and then the whole military machine will come to a grinding halt.
The Army League study, with which I agree, comes to the conclusion that another 19,000 or 20,000 men are required, and they are required for four purposes: first, to increase the strength of the battalions employed on peace-keeping duties; secondly, for the enlargement of the mobile reserve by an infantry brigade—it has only two at the moment, although it is a divisional set-up; thirdly, for the provision of a holding and drafting organisation, which we do not possess; and, fourthly, for making up the existing shortfall. They come to the 213 further conclusion that the only way of meeting this figure is by a system of selective National Service. This may be forced on us, but I would prefer, as would many other noble Lords, to see the shortfall met from the Rhine Army.
I should like to suggest that the two best territorial divisions should be earmarked for the Rhine Army in case of emergency; should be trained at home with a full range of up-to-date weapons and equipment; and do their annual training—preferably three weeks' instead of a fortnight's—in the Rhine Army. If noble Lords opposite are interested, I can tell them exactly which two divisions they should choose: the one I served in during the war, and the other I commanded in peace. Somehow the infantry have got to he strengthened. I know the Government are well aware of this, and I hope they will consider it their task of first priority.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down—and I realise he has given a great deal of thought to this question and is able to bring a great deal of past experience to what he has said—may I ask him whether he was advocating a larger Army?
Yes, my Lords, I was. I consider that the Army definitely requires an additional 19,000 to 20,000 men to produce one more brigade for the Rhine Army and for the other purposes I mentioned.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I shall not keep your Lordships long, but I want to deal, fairly briefly, with certain matters of interaction between Defence and economic affairs. But before I come to that I should like to take up a theme that has been running through several of the contributions from the opposite Benches, which centres on a deep sense of distaste for the first paragraph of the Defence White Paper. I agree, in one sense, that it would seem to be a pity to start a document of this sort with what is criticism of the preceding Government, but may I take an industrial analogy?
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that there was too much attempt to blame his Party for what they have done in the past. If you appoint a new chief executive to a business it will certainly be a year and probably far longer before you 214 can hold him responsible for what happens in that business, because what I think is often overlooked is that the success of the enterprise at any given moment of time is the outcome of decisions that have been made two, three, four, five, and maybe sometimes ten, years prior to that moment of time. Indeed, it would be perfectly logical for the Conservative Party at this stage still to go on suggesting that some of the current situation was due to decisions made by the 1945 and 1951 Labour Governments.
If this chief executive whom I am taking as an analogy were to be sufficiently vigorously attacked, say, by the board of directors, he would inevitably have to draw attention to the situation which he inherited on taking office. But, note the point, if he is sufficiently vigorously attacked, then he has to display with what he is dealing. When noble Lords on the opposite side of the House complain of the fact that the situation which has been inherited by the present Government has been fully displayed, I think they must attribute at least some of this situation, some of the need to put the first paragraph in a rather critical fashion, to the fact that this vigorous criticism had been taking place, if not in this House, in another place, very recently.
Might I, on this aspect, add one other note? While the Party of noble Lords opposite seem to resent this calling attention to the situation which the Labour Government have inherited, at the same time, sitting quietly here on the Back Benches, I hear at quite frequent intervals noble Lords on the Government Front Bench paying graceful tributes. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, last night drew attention to the fact that the successful recruiting policy for the Army was due to acts taken by the last Government in 1963. He also mentioned one or two other things in the same fashion.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is not here at the moment. He suggested that if Her Majesty's Government objected to the legacy they had inherited they should reject the legacy. I must say that I have never in my life heard a more ridiculous suggestion. The situation which exists at a given moment of time, when the Government take office, is one with which they have to deal, and one which may take a very long time to alter. It is a function of the total 215 situation. For the noble Lord to brush aside the whole situation by that rather absurd statement was, I think, characteristic of the entire statement he made.
To get on to the "meat" of what I wish to say, this Defence policy is, I believe, a sound one, although it does not go far enough. At the moment we in this country are facing the biggest balance-of-payments crisis that perhaps we have ever faced; and unless every act of Government is oriented to the export situation we shall certainly continue to be in trouble, because it has not been an easy crisis to get out of. The Prime Minister drew attention in another place to this aspect of the Defence policy, but I do not think it has received sufficient emphasis in your Lordships' House during this debate. The fact is that we are spending 6.8 per cent. of our Budget on Defence. That is not a significant figure in itself, except that it is very much larger than any of those nations in Western Europe with whom we are competing in world markets; and to the extent that we are spending more than they are, the industries of this country are burdened more than they are in that competition. I am told that Germany has recently substantially reduced her defence budget. To the extent that they have been able to do this, when our own reduction is such a trivial one, they are in a superior economic position.
There has been a great deal of discussion, not in this House but elsewhere, on the fear of the redundancy that would be created by the cancellation of certain types of aircraft, and I think it time somebody cleared the air on this issue. We have various situations with which we have to deal in industry. We have intra-firm transfers of people. The public do not hear much about this, although in truth these are often very troublesome transfers to bring about. Then we have inter-firm transfers of people. And this is what we are concerned with as a result of the cancellation of these aircraft, to a major extent. We can also run up against a need for inter-region transfer of people, and that indeed is a very serious matter for the people involved, since it involves change of home and so on. Or we might run up against redundancy, the non-availability of any suitable occupation for those who have lost their jobs; indeed, I think we are 216 very near this situation in the case of Northern Ireland. The Government, I understand, have already said that they are taking very special measures to deal with the situation in Short Bros.
The situation which faces us in the rest of the country is one of inter-firm transfer. I sat at a meeting this morning before I came to your Lordships' House. I was told that in the region where this particular factory stands—that is, at Wembley—the Wembley Labour Exchange have 2,000 jobs vacant which they have little hope of filling in the immediate future. That is a situation which obtains in many of the industrial areas in this country. The dismissal of men from aircraft firms is not a tragedy. It is—let us face it—a great bother for these people, and our sympathies must go to them. But, at the same time, people who join firms building bridges or ships or aircraft know in advance that, although the conditions may be attractive, the stability of employment is somewhat less than if they enter the consumer goods industries.
These people, my Lords, are desperately needed in engineering industry, at least, all over the country. I happen to be concerned in the industry which produces components for the motor industry and others. Firms in this industry to-day, to quote them as an example, are bending their efforts to maintain the flow of components to those who build motor vehicles. It is essential that there is no stoppage in this supply, for any failure to maintain the supply results in production line unemployment and dislocation for everybody in the country. In the course of doing this, some of us, on an increasing scale, are having to turn down export orders. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with choosing to keep the focus of a great industry going, but it is a tragedy that this proper course should result in failure to deliver overseas at this moment.
Why is this situation with us? Largely because we are short of labour, and not only skilled labour. So the greater the extent to which the Defence budget can release this intensely valuable type of labour—technologists, scientists, draftsmen, production engineers, craftsmen and the like—the more this becomes of immediate support to our exports in this country; and by supporting exports we make 217 the country stronger; and by making it stronger we in fact support our own Defence policy. That is the first point I make.
The second point is concerned with this subject of development, particularly of aircraft, but it applies to all things. I have heard the statement made (shall I say by politicians, to make it quite clear?) that it is not possible to budget the development of a thing like a new aircraft. This statement makes my flesh creep. It is always possible and necessary to set financial limitations on every form of human endeavour. It is perhaps a pity that this form of endeavour, which is often referred to as research, should not more consistently be described as product development. It focuses attention on what is really going on. If, indeed, one lets loose a lot of scientists, technologists, engineers, and it is fully understood by them that financially the Government will meet any expense which arises which can be justified in technical terms, then one has set a scale for the most monstrous escalation of charges.
Commercially in this country I doubt whether any firms fail to set very tight and proper budgets to their product development activities. If this is not done, then intelligent, imaginative scientists and technicians will go in for what I call insurance policies. Every time an objective is set up, they can always think of three, four or five ways of reaching it; and if you have unlimited financing in order to secure your aims, you may follow all five, and in order to make certain that you do it as well as it can be done, you will purchase a good deal more equipment and build a good many more test rigs than are reasonable to meet that objective in due time. I am worried about the technical people in the Services and their counterparts in industry who can get together, and have got together in the past, to launch our country (and I think they must have a major part of the responsibility) on a series of weapons which in point of fact were too sophisticated, in the sense that, however good they might have been, we have not in fact got them because they were too expensive.
This situation reminds me of the one in which, unfortunately, I have found myself on one or two occasions in the 218 past, in the business which I have managed. I used to have engineers and others coming to me with the strongest possible arguments that we ought to buy certain equipment, that in fact it was impossible to do without it, that it would pay us to spend this money upon it, and so on. I used to look at the matter and point out that our capital budgets were already used up. Finally, in desperation, I would say, "All right, gentlemen; let us spend the money, and then the day will not be far distant when I meet our shareholders and say to them: 'Yes, gentlemen, I know we are bankrupt; but why are you so angry? Look at the magnificent equipment we have got!'".
No doubt this is a rather absurd story, but I am worried about the brilliant people we have in our engineering, aircraft and other industries those who can think up all these enormously sophisticated weapons which would be of such technical and strategic use. Out of them arise a set of ideas and plans which it is difficult for laymen and politicians to set aside and which lead us back into the situation in which we are to-day—a situation which is indeed an extremely dangerous and an humiliating one.
May I end what I have to say by telling a true story which exemplifies the point? One of the motorcar companies were building a new motor car and were introducing an untried design of doorlock. Quite properly, they decided that they would have to test this doorlock on five cars with 50,000 slams every tenth slam being an extremely hard one. The chief engineer of the company was approached by the person responsible, who said: "We have to spend £1,200 on the test rig to carry out this testing", and the chief engineer said, "Except for a few hundred pounds, my budget is already used up. You will have to redesign your test rig and come back later". He forgot all about the matter, but about two months later he suddenly realised that those people had not come back. He sent for them and said: "Good heavens!, what have you done about these door tests?" They said: "It's all right; the testing has been done". He asked "How have you done it?" At first, he received no reply—they refused to tell him—but finally he got it out of them. It was the Easter holiday time, and there were plenty of vigorous young schoolboys 219 about, a number of whom had welcomed the opportunity of earning 10s. per thousand slams.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, is not in his place; nevertheless, I should like to go on record in my welcome to him in this House and my appreciation of his maiden speech yesterday. Those who, like myself, have "carried the can" of Army affairs for too long especially welcome a reinforcement such as Lord Bourne, who has held high rank and high command.
I hope the noble Lord, Lord Brown, will excuse me if I do not follow him much in his interesting speech, beyond saying that of course any manufacturer ought to be able to estimate accurately the cost of any Defence equipment provided that modifications are not introduced by the Service Departments as manufacture goes on. Whether he can estimate accurately the cost of development is quite another matter which I would rather not follow up, because I had in mind to follow my noble friend Lord Thurlow in saying a few more words about those paragraphs of the White Paper which deal with the auxiliary Forces.
Let me say, straight away, to my noble friend that I go along with him all the way in what he said about the Territorial Army and the Cadets. I would add that for something like twenty years the Army Cadet Force Association has been begging the War Office to deal with the problem of the training of the older cadet, with hardly any effect at all. We will go on trying. As to the connection between the Army Cadet Force and the Territorial Army, the stronger it is, obviously, the better. I would make only one reservation, namely, that I do not think that the officering and staffing of the Army Cadet Force should be controlled by the Territorial Army; I think it should be controlled as it is now. My reason for that is that I look upon the three Service organisations as youth movements, and therefore those who run them must steer by the stars that guide youth movements, which are not always the same stars that guide movements for grown-ups. But that is not to counter anything that my 220 noble friend has said; the two things can go together, and let us hope that they do.
The paragraphs in the White Paper beginning at paragraph 129 start by talking about the restrictive and archaic conditions under which the Reserve Forces have to work. I should not have thought that, in practice, a great deal of harm had been done in recent years; but that, I think, is more luck than management. I agree, in principle, that the sooner the legislation regarding the embodying of the call-up of reserves is overhauled properly, the better. The whole thing is a patchwork now, and legislation of this sort ought to be the servant of policy and not its master. It ought to assist and not impede such matters as implementing Government Defence policy and the exercise of the Royal Prerogative at the correct time; and if that is not possible under the existing legislation the sooner it is overhauled the better.
Whether it can be overhauled at the moment, until the operational review, which we have been told is happening, is completed, is, I think, another matter, but it will have to be done sooner or later, because the whole operational background to the present legislation is extremely outdated. It dates from the time when there was nothing in the air except the birds and when it was assumed that the Royal Navy would keep the seas for at least six months to give time for mobilisation, embodiment, training and all the rest of it. That cannot be right now.
We are now promised, as I understand it, that the functions of the Auxiliary Forces are to be included in the comprehensive review which is to take place. The Territorial Army have had to wait for this for a very long time. I do not grudge that, for I personally do not think that it can possibly happen until a great deal more clear thinking has been done about what are the tasks and what should be the equipment and organisation of the Auxiliary Forces at the present time. If there had been any serious attempt to do this earlier it would have resulted in great regrouping; nothing would have happened except a great deal of frustration and annoyance with the unfortunate people in the Territorial Army. So I, for one, have been perfectly 221 prepared to wait until the proper time. If that is coming now, then so much the better.
I want to draw the attention of the House to an article which appeared in The Times newspaper on the day after the White Paper was released to the Press. It was by their Defence Correspondent. It said that the Territorial Army was hard to justify, and that the approach to it was what they called "nostalgically emotional". It went on to say that in the long run the Government might find the opposition to any radical reform so entrenched that only limited changes could be made. So it seems to me that the newspaper concerned was inviting the Government, in the first place, to take a wholly wrong view, and, in the second place, to fail to implement that view for wholly wrong reasons.
I am not at all sure, either, that it was not in some way a side-kick at the predecessor of that defence correspondent, who I think is sitting opposite to me now. In the ordinary way I should be only too pleased to join in any adverse criticism of the Government, but I cannot go along with the sentiments in that article. One of the reasons why I cannot do so is that I have vivid and pleasant recollections of the days of the former Labour Government when the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was Under-Secretary of State for War and I was playing opposite to him on the Front Bench. In those days it seemed to me that he had all the right ideas about the Territorial Army. I have no reason to think that he has changed. And, in any case, I am sure that somewhere above the Government Front Bench the soul of the late Lord Nathan is marching on.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
That suggestion in The Times that there would be entrenched opposition to any sensible reform does very much less than justice to responsible Territorial Army opinion. The opposition to Army reforms, in my experience, comes not so much from those who are serving at the present time, but from the old and bold. My opinion is very much the opposite—namely, that every sensible serving member of the Territorial Army will co-operate fully in 222 any change, however inconvenient it may be, provided that it is possible to convince him, as an ordinary sensible citizen, that the change is necessary. After all, every sensible person who joins the Territorial Army joins it in order that he shall have the opportunity, if the need arises, to serve Her Majesty under arms and in the Army. He does not do it for any other purpose. Therefore, it will not be difficult to convince him, if a change is made in the need for him to serve in this way or that, that he should fall in with that suggestion. At any rate, that is my firm opinion. But, equally, it is no good pulling the Territorial Army about until the Government have settled what they require of them and have made that requirement clear.
At this point, I would say that I very much agreed with my noble Leader when he said that these reviews are not always in themselves productive of any new thinking or any new action. They can be used to mask indecision. In this case I think that no Defence review, in so far as it concerns the auxiliary forces, will be any real good unless it covers the whole field of home defence—not merely that part which is now allocated to the Army but also the part which now belongs to Civil Defence and is administered by the Home Office. I should like to make one or two further points on this subject. The first is the question of the divisional organisation of the Territorial Army. It has been called into question every now and then, and I imagine that, unless it proves possible to adopt the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Thurlow, it will not be likely that any Territorial Army division will serve as such. If it is possible and fits into the scheme of things that they should serve as divisions, so much the better. If not, I do not think that it matters very much, because, after all, the Territorial Army division in peace-time is a grouping and one has to have a grouping of some sort. It is a traditional grouping which is well understood, and very few, if any, Territorial Army units have done more than unit training in peace-time; nor can they in the amount of training time allocated to them.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I reassure the noble Lord that he need not worry too much about the effect that the defence correspondent of The Times 223 has upon the Government? My experience in the past as defence correspondent, in relation to the previous Government, is that the effect is usually very small indeed. May I ask the noble Lord which of the major roles of the Territorial Army he sees as being the crucial one for the future? Is it that of the Civil Defence role in a nuclear war, or the reinforcement of the Regular Army in general war, or the relief of tension in cold war—that is to say, in "fire-fighting" operations?
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for his reassurance on the first point. I was in fact going to try to come to the other points which he raised, so may I do so now? It has been quite clear to me for some time that the need for individual reinforcement of the Regular Army, possibly on the Rhine, by the Territorial Army has grown and is growing. My impression in my own part of the country is that that is fully accepted and that no real difficulty will be found in that. So much the better if the reinforcement can be by sub-units, and so much the better again if the reinforcement can be in the same corps. The damage that has been done in recent years by reinforcing other corps is much greater than some people have realised. The trouble in this regard is not only that of persuading members of the Territorial Army to accept this reinforcement rôle, which I agree is a necessary one, but that of arranging their affairs in such a way that, in these days of full employment, employers can spare people of the right sort to undertake these tasks. That is a major problem, but nothing I can say this afternoon will help to solve it.
Then comes the next point which was made by the noble Lord: What of the rest? Here may I go back to what I said: that I do not think we shall find the answer to this question until the Government reach a conclusion on what the pattern of home Defence should be like. After all, if the Territorial Army has been used to provide reinforcements, possibly eventually as complete units, there still remains the rôle of home defence. We shall never get this rôle of home defence right until the Government of the day scrap the thinking—to my mind the muddled thinking— 224 which started in the 'thirties on the question of home defence. Then Civil Defence was called Air Raid Precautions, and the whole approach to the civilian was designed so that pacifists and people like that could take part in the task of saving their own skins without involving any sort of taint of militarism. The result of that by implication, as between Civil Defence and home defence by military forces, has gone right through the thinking from that day to this. No amount of experience in the days of the Home Guard in the war seems to have made any impact. The link between the two, to my mind, is clearly the threat of armed sabotage and parachutists.
If we start from the standpoint of not being the aggressor, it is necessary to settle first what sort of war we should prepare for. One cannot accept the proposition that war can be divided between the spheres of influence of the Defence Departments and the Home Office. Once the operational thinking about this matter is right, then I believe that the rôle for the Territorial Army, which is after all a local force, will begin to fall into place. I throw that out, not as a suggestion which I am making off the cuff, but as something of which I have had a certain amount of experience and have thought about very hard.
So, my Lords, I hope that this Defence review will produce a really objective view of the needs of Home Defence and therefore, a sensible view of what can be done by those portions of the Territorial Army which, in the event, are not required to go overseas. I believe that they can do a great deal, and for this reason I should like, finally, to remind noble Lords that the Territorial Army is very like Humpty-Dumpty: you can knock it off its wall—and a great many people can produce fairly cheap arguments for doing it. But bear in mind that, if any Government were foolish enough to do that, no one could ever put it back again. If it were lost, we should then say goodbye to that ancient constitutional doctrine which I think is fundamental to the defence of this country: that it is the business of every able-bodied man, when called on by the magistrate—not by the Government, but locally—to go to the defence of his 225 country. If once any ill-considered action on the Territorial Army were to cause that idea to be done away with, it would be a very bad day for the country. It would, of course, immediately involve the future of the pre-Service organisations, training in schools and universities and everything else. But, as I said earlier on, I am quite confident that the Government will do no such thing.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I think it is a well-established tradition in the British Army that the soft, smooth voice of the sergeant-major should occasionally be heard. That gives me an excuse to intrude into this debate, because in the First World War I had the great pleasure of being a company sergeant-major in France, Belgium and Germany. Perhaps there was something unorthodox about that elevation, because I was barely 20 years of age at the time, but I think that stems from the fact that my enlistment was equally unorthodox and came to fruition only through my ability to persuade the medical officer that I was really 19, and not merely 16 years of age, in 1914. Since then I have been living in constant fear that one day a Redcap will clap me on the shoulder and haul me away before a court-martial to answer a charge under that section of the Army Act which is concerned with making false answers on attestation.
I was particularly pleased to hear the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I fear it must have been by some sartorial omission that he was not wearing the same tie as I am, because I am quite sure that he is just as proud of our Regiment as I am myself. My father served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, I served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and my son served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. My father used to tell me that when he was in the Second Battalion in India he served under a certain Captain Montgomery, and I know there was a subaltern bearing that honoured name in my own battalion, though I believe that neither of the two was related to the noble and gallant Viscount. But I have come to the conclusion that a Regiment that can produce three Montgomerys 226 and three generations of Leatherlands must be a pretty good crowd.
Now, my Lords, no more talk about war memoirs. There have been too many of those already. What I want to say is that, quite naturally, I do not intend to follow the noble and gallant Viscount into the realms of higher strategy. It would be impertinent of me so to do. But I was rather interested in the way he put his finger on an essential point, as he has the knack of doing in so many things—on the shortage of our sea power. Our Navy was allowed to run down very dangerously indeed, under the last Government and its Conservative predecessors. It was a decision of political policy that enabled the Navy to run down, and therefore I cannot go all the way with the noble and gallant Viscount—or, if I may so call him, my noble friend—when he tries to belittle the importance of political influence in matters of Defence.
Of course, if we could have a really national Defence policy everybody would be happy. The Conservatives have been telling us all day yesterday, all day today, not only in this place but elsewhere, that their policy is the same as ours; or, alternatively, that ours is the same as theirs. If they really believe that, why do they not come to us and say, "Yes, let us collaborate in a national Defence policy"? The fact is, of course, that the two policies are very much different in very many ways, although there is the underlying fundamental consideration of trying to defend our homes and our possessions and the peace of the world wherever such issues might arise.
One difference between our two respective policies is in the wasteful way that money is poured out on Defence contracts. Our Government have set up an inquiry into these costs, and, as one who was once in charge of a costing system before he degenerated into journalism, I know that a good costing system can turn up many winners. I sincerely hope that that will be the case in connection with this inquiry. We do not want any more examples of Ferranti-type finance in the placing of war contracts, and I should like to know how many similar contracts there are in the munitions and aircraft contracts that are still running. There is a sort of open-ended, no-limit atmosphere about the contract for the 227 research and development of the TSR 2, our cancellation of which, incidentally, was described in the Financial Times this morning as a sad but right decision. I am not going to suggest that the Financial Times is always right. If it were, the plight of many of us might be much different from what it is to-day.
But if the noble and gallant Viscount was helpful, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was. I think he was just the opposite. I am glad that he has at last "come clean"—if I may use a vernacular expression—on the policy of the Liberal Party, which seems to have gone back to the Little Englander policy of forty or fifty years ago. I thought he was rather unfair when, in reply to suggestions that the Government had had to inherit in large measure the policy of its predecessors, he asked: "Why should the Government accept the legacy?" The noble Lord is sufficiently conversant with the "corridors of power" in Whitehall to know that Estimates for the following year are in a fairly advanced stage of preparation by October, and before this Government and its Ministers could have been in office the Estimates were practically in their final stage. Some alterations could be made, of course, and we did make an alteration; we cancelled the TSR 2 contract, which means a saving over the years of £300 million. We cancelled a number of other contracts, too.
This is a disappointing occasion for me in some ways, although it is one for great satisfaction in another, because I had intended to devote my remarks to the Territorial Army and to the need for the Government to give some very serious consideration to that very valuable force, but I seem to have been forestalled by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, whose name is, of course, held in very high esteem where-ever Territorials congregate. It was my intention to talk about this subject because, for the last twenty years, I have been on the Executive of the Territorial Army Association, and its successor, for my county; and I am also a member of the Army Cadet Association, which has been mentioned. I feel that the Territorial Army is a very valuable arm and that we must do all we possibly can 228 not to ruin it or to undermine the morale of its personnel.
There is a grave feeling of disturbance throughout the Territorial Army at this moment, especially among the officer ranks, because they know that a review is going to take place, and they are afraid that it may be conducted as the last review was. That was only a minor one, and it was four years ago, but they were then presented with an accomplished fact after not having been consulted adequately during the preparation of the new schemes. A colonel with whom I was speaking yesterday said to me, "If you can persuade the Government to consult us, who are running the Territorial Army, while they are carrying out this review, we shall be very pleased. Then, even if what they impose upon us under the new scheme is not to our liking, we will accept it and work it because we have been in consultation with the authorities during its preparation".
I sincerely hope that the Government will take into their confidence these people who are doing so much for a very worthy service. They do not object so much to the results of the last review, but they do object very strongly indeed to the way that review was carried out; and they want the Government to give the country the feeling that the Territorial Army really matters. They want it to be given what, in modern terminology, is called a "good image" before the public. They feel that too often, at the moment, the public is not inclined to take the Territorial Army seriously, and that Governments and War Offices are sometimes inclined to adopt a similar attitude.
One result of the last review was some streamlining of the organisation. Many units disappeared—we know that a lot of the "Ack-ack" units disappeared—with the result that the units which remained were left with an exceptionally large territory to cover. I know of units that stretch over two counties and just over the border of a third. I know another unit where the headquarters are ten miles from London, another detachment is 20 miles to the East, another detachment a further 20 miles to the East and another detachment 10 miles still further on. Here we are coming to one of the great difficulties that is associated with the administration 229 of the Territorial Army to-day, and that is the difficulty of getting suitable spare-time officers (as I will call them, not disrespectfully) to command these units. That may be one of the reasons why the White Paper tells us that 80 Regular Army lieutenant-colonels have had to be seconded to Territorial units for command.
The position to-day is that if a lieutenant-colonel is given an area that is 50 or 60 miles long, it is going to take him far more time than he can spare from his business or his professional affairs. What is more, the knowledge that is needed by the commanding officer of a Territorial unit to-day is vastly different from that which was needed (and again I must speak respectfully) by the old Territorial colonel of 50 years ago—the grand old squire whom everybody respected but who did not know a great deal about military affairs and who knew even less about the very technical affairs that are involved in the command of a unit—many kinds of unit—in the Territorial Army to-day.
So I hope that the position of these colonels will be made easier. I do not see quite how it can be done. You cannot cut the area of a unit in two and leave a man with a force which is only 50 per cent. of his strength; but I think that, if you did cut it in two and gave the unit a more concentrated area, then recruiting to that unit would be easier, because men would know that they had not to waste such an enormous amount of time as they have to waste to-day in going to their various centres. I think that the C.O.'s of these units must be young—and, from what I see of them, that seems to be the tendency. But, because they are young, and because they must have technical knowledge as distinct from mere power of command and the power to command respect, as it was in the old days, they are the very men who have their feet one or two rungs up the ladder of their business or professional careers. It is a very difficult matter indeed, to which I hope the Government will give serious consideration.
I am told by many colonels that it is getting more and more difficult to hold bright young officers in the T.A. to-day—and, of course, the same considerations make the recruiting of other ranks difficult as well. It was rather surprising to me to learn that there is not an enor 230 mous amount of wastage in the early years of a man's service but that after a man has done his two years' training and has become qualified there is then a tendency for him to drift away. Another difficulty is one with which I suppose all warriors have been confronted since the days of the Garden of Eden, and that is the question of marriage. Young men of 21 and 22, perhaps enthusiastic Territorials, or enthusiastic would-be Territorials, start courting, and the girl says, "No, you are not to go to the Territorials on Friday night", and so on.
This is a very grave problem, and I do not know how it can be overcome. Nobody has yet discovered how to overcome the differences between men and women—and thank goodness for the differences!—but I wonder whether the reinforcement of the women's element of the Territorial Force might have some influence here. There are 100,000 men in the Territorial Army, but there are only 4,000 women, and by any standard that is a pretty small ration. The women are not mere ornaments in the Territorial Army: the work they are doing is of a very high category indeed. But I would hope that a more vigorous recruiting campaign among them will make the Service even more attractive to them than it has been in the past.
Now we come to what we may call the geographical difficulties. I have in my county two New Towns, of which we are quite proud. The Territorial Association certainly wants to open a centre in one of the towns, and it would not mind thinking of doing the same in the other; but it is told by the War Office, "No, you cannot have a centre until you have the men". The Association turns round and says, "We cannot get the men until we have the centre". This, of course, is an ancient problem that arises in many spheres of public activity. But if a centre were established in a growing, thriving New Town like that, which is likely to have its population nearly doubled in the next twenty years, I am sure that it could become a powerful influence for good in that town. Anyhow, that is another point to which I should like the Government to give some consideration—the question of establishing a T.A. centre as a nucleus of a community, and not waiting until the community has 231 gathered together enough men to justify the establishment of a centre.
Generally speaking, there are almost enough officers coming forward. The same feature shows itself with the Territorial Army as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, mentioned yesterday, when he was talking about the Regular Army. The Territorial Army is stronger in the North than in the South. In the South, it can get the officers but cannot get the men; in the North, it can get the men but not the officers. It seems strange that the men from the North are too busy, too disinterested, to take up service in officer ranks in the Territorial Army. Whether it is because they are so hard-headed and are devoting all their time to earning "brass", I do not know. That may have been the case in the past, but I do not think it necessarily need be so in the future.
There is a passage in the White Paper dealing with the "Ever-Readies". It says that their rôle is to be reconsidered. I do not know whether this means that the "Ever-Readies" are to be abolished, but that may well be the inevitable conclusion to which the Government will come. Because, from my experience of moving amongst these men, I find that they are willing—nay, eager—to take the £150; they are willing to abide by anything that the Territorial Association and their commanders ask them to do; but they are hoping against hope that they will never be called upon and sent abroad—which, of course, is the engagement into which they have entered. They feel that their employers do not like their being committed in this way, and they themselves do not like sudden upheavals in their own domestic life. Whether the "Ever-Readies", with their 7,000 men, are worth while, I do not know. There may be some other way of keeping on a panel readily available for service, a nucleus of men with high technical qualifications in one department or another.
But the major complaint that I find among Territorials to-day is of shortage of equipment. They want to be trained up to Regular Army standards with the very equipment that the Regular Army is having supplied to it. I find that this shortage of equipment is most noticeable in the Royal Corps of Signals. 232 It is not very sensible, and not likely to raise the esteem in which the Territorial Army is held, to take an expert electronic engineer from, say, Plesseys (I use an example from my own county) and put him in a Signals unit where all he will be able to do is walk about with a "walkie-talkie" on his back. When we bear in mind that Signals would be one of the units of the Services with the utmost priority in the event of an attack on this country, it would be wise to train the Signals units of the Territorial Army up to the Regular Army standard.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, referred to the possibility of using the Territorial Army in a Civil Defence rôle. The reaction among the ranks of the T.A. to this is, "We want to be soldiers."
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, just to say that I did not refer to the possibility of the Territorial Army being used in a Civil Defence rôle. I referred to the possibility of the Territorial Army being used in home defence; and that is rather different.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I am sorry. The noble Viscount's voice did not carry sufficiently to reach me. It must be a long time since he was on parade. But I find among all ranks of the Territorial Army a real fear and apprehension that they will probably be drafted into some kind of Civil Defence work. They do not want it; they want to be soldiers. They do not object to undertaking a period of fire-fighting training, after they have done their own military training, but they do not want to become an arm of the Civil Defence Corps. It appears to me that in the event of an attack on this country, half the Regular Army garrisons might be wiped out; and it seems that there would be sufficient work of a soldierly nature for the Territorial Army to do without drafting it over to assist the Civil Defence organisation. I should like to see them continuing as soldiers, and I am sure that we shall get a much better recruiting response if we do this; whereas if they are made into a department of Civil Defence, or an ally or companion of Civil Defence, recruiting will fall away lamentably.
233 As to the virtues which flow from the Territorial Army I need say very few words. In these days, when we hear so much of juvenile delinquency, of thugs and of people putting iron bars on railway lines, I think it is indisputable that by being in the Territorial Army the young man gains something of value not only to himself and his family but to the country as well. Even on the ground that it helps to produce a worthwhile citizen, I should like to see everything done, not only to maintain the Territorial Army in its present state but also to amplify it. I think that most of the people in the Territorial Army are sufficiently sensible to know that they cannot go back to the old kind of Territorial Army that existed thirty or forty years ago. Time has marched on; the conception of strategy has marched on. The Territorial Army knows that it will have to fulfil a different rôle in the future from that which it has fulfilled in the past. All it asks is this: in the changes which the authorities will have to make in the Territorial Army, will they please take the Territorial Army into their confidence and discuss these matters with it and get its reactions? Then, whatever the decision of authority may be, the Territorial Army will loyally accept it.
§ 5.55 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I regret that a replacement for my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has had to be found in winding up this debate for the Opposition and this replacement is no one any better than myself. My noble friend has succumbed to influenza, and rather than project his germs across the Floor of the House at an already shaky Government, he thought it more considerate to remain at home. The first pleasure to which this entitles me is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, on his maiden speech which has already been referred to as "remarkable." As we know, all maiden speeches are "remarkable", but some are more remarkable than others and this was one of them. He gave us a soldier's view of the problems, whether of preventing war or of containing war and blocking aggression. He spoke as a soldier with a wide vision and understanding of the ultimate purposes for which the Armed Forces are engaged and employed. It 234 is clear that he will be a valued contributor to our debates, including those outside the range of to-day's discussion, and we hope that his contributions will be frequent. So far as I am concerned, he said only one slightly controversial thing: he said that all the work was done by the infantry. But the cavalry are so accustomed to hearing this that we have long ceased to take serious umbrage.
My noble Leader congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I am never so happy, as he knows, as when bestowing bouquets upon him. He has earned those bouquets by expounding basically sensible and non-Socialist policies with spirit, and even with consistency, from whichever Dispatch Box he has addressed the House. I should dearly like to believe that the present reversion to grace and good sense by his Party owes a great deal to his persuasive powers within the Government. However the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, may protest, it would have been difficult to foresee, judging by the Labour Party Manifesto, the nature of the Defence debate of yesterday and to-day. I am going to be marginally less charitable than my noble friend who saw this as a true continuation of Tory policies. There have been, as we have seen, one or two grave disruptions of that policy; but at least we can see that what threatened to be a Government of gremlins has turned out to be, at least on matters of defence, no worse than a Government of parrots with a commendable talent for clever mimicry. This is a great and undoubted relief and it behoves us to catalogue small mercies.
Despite the swerve in policy observed by almost everyone except the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, emerging from his ivory tower in Printing House Square, all has been harmony, sweetness and light on the Government Benches to-day and yesterday. This mood survived the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who said he had listened to the debate with despair because it dealt with a Defence policy. He referred back to his own maiden speech in this House on December 23, when he described the nuclear arm as a blasphemy against Creation. I think he was most adequately, eloquently and comprehensively answered a few speeches later by the noble Lord, Lord Segal. But while totally disagreeing 235 with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I listened to him with something more than respect for his sincerity because he expressed his views in much the same terms and vein as one of the most angelic characters ever to serve in Parliament, my own great friend, the late Llewelyn Williams, Member for Abertillery, who died so suddenly and tragically in January depriving some of us of an irreplaceable friend.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, took some comfort from the fact that our nuclear rôle had not been discussed in yesterday's debate. This sensitivity was understandable, but the House was clearly taken aback when he affirmed that his Party had been consistent, in and out of office, regarding nuclear weapons. He said they had never been in any difficulty about this and had always accepted the necessity for such weapons. My noble Leader suggested that he might read the Labour Party Manifesto; but he claimed that he had done so. I might therefore further assist him and suggest that he study the utterances and the actions of the Minister for Technology, who now has the responsibility, I understand, for the development of these weapons.
There has been some discussion during the debate on the Atlantic Nuclear Force. I am bound to say, despite protestations from the Government Bench, that it seems to me to have served its limited purpose, by the look of things, already. It has been the tethered goat, employed as bait for the luring and extinction of the Multilateral Force. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that he did not see it in this way, and I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, also fails to see it in this way. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, claimed, with great but not effortless emphasis, that A.N.F. is not dead in the minds of Her Majesty's Government. If that be so, there must be some relays of dedicated men and women in Transport House maintaining a day and night effort of artificial respiration, loyally assisted in your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
It is right to indulge the Government to the extent of looking carefully at the things they are most pleased about. The Prime Minister, seeking for some demonstrable or describable success, has 236 returned to us from Paris with the Holy Grail of Anglo-French co-operation in aircraft manufacture. He has discovered this possibility in the same startled and acquisitive way as he discovered science two years ago and, with the same touching insouciance, claims full credit for it and seeks to harness it to his obsolete Socialist vehicle. Of such stuff dreams are made, but not political conquests or reputations.
In the aircraft industry and in Whitehall it is too well known to be obscured how much was being done over the past several years to enable the present Prime Minister to claim his quota of badly needed glory. In the summer of 1962, the agreement on ELDO (the European Launcher Development Organisation) was finalised. My right honourable friends Mr. Sandys, Mr. Thorneycroft and Mr. Amery had been working on this for some time back. It was an agreement involving Britain, Australia, France, Germany, Italy and Benelux; an agreement which gave Britain a handsome stake in the technological future, from which the present Government are doing their best to drag us back, as my noble friend Lord Watkinson declared only yesterday.
There was also the Concord project, which is still with us only because Her Majesty's Government, despite their efforts, failed to frustrate it. There was the AJ 168, an air-to-ground missile, designed to be slung beneath the recently slaughtered TSR 2; the Mirage IV, and possibly the Buccaneer, and the late-lamented P 1154, the victim of a previous slaughter some weeks earlier. This agreement between Hawker Siddeley and the French Matra Company, sponsored by the Government, was announced in September of last year. There was also a Rolls Royce-Dornier project for an experimental aircraft to test the Rolls Royce vertical-lift engine for transport aircraft. A tripartite squadron, manned and staffed by Britain, America and Germany, to test and evaluate the P 1127, began work some months ago, agreement having been reached some time before that. There were also in train discussions with our European neighbours on two other projects—a large Anglo-French helicopter for troop-carrying and the Galleon airobus. Perhaps the noble Earl, when he winds up, will be able to say whether the Government have been able 237 to maintain the momentum generated by their predecessors in these important projects.
I do not hesitate to claim that a great deal of the momentum already achieved was due to the vision and energy of my right honourable friend Mr. Julian Amery, a genuinely dynamic Minister, not simply clothed in the required brand-image packaging of the Ministers of to-day. He had, and has, the additional advantage of speaking perfect French and of understanding Continental minds better than most do. By July of last year he and M. Messmer had agreed—and that agreement is recorded—that in principle British and French Service staffs would not finalise requirements, or go out to contract with industry, before first seeing whether the requirement could be a joint one and the project developed jointly between Britain and France. It is hard to see what is the realistic sum of the Prime Minister's recent and highly publicised achievement in Paris, the only camouflage provided to conceal the disheartening, and perhaps the destruction, of a large part of the British aviation industry.
In fact when we scrutinise them it is pretty clear that Mr. Wilson's safaris into the big-game country since he became Prime Minister have been hailed with acclaim by his intimates only because they have not forfeited any of the trophies won by his predecessors; not because they have added so much as a squirrel's tail to the display which already adorned the walls of Government offices when they took over.
Before I leave this subject of how industrially we are to bear ourselves as a world Power in the air, it is worth recalling the achievement in communication satellites. Last summer, Australia and Britain, together with other Western European countries, joined the World Satellite Communications Organisation. Written into the agreement, at the behest of the British and French negotiators, was the right of the European countries to provide, where they could, a fair proportion of the equipment, including launchers and satellites, a proportion roughly equivalent to their investment. The European investment is about 33 per cent., and the countries commercially interested are Britain, France, Holland and Germany. This is also part of the 238 happy inheritance of the present Government.
But undoubtedly it requires a healthy and self-confident aviation and electronics industry in this country to take full advantage of the opportunities opened up. The Government appear to have set themselves the task of undermining the health and upsetting the confidence of these industries. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, did his best yesterday to excuse the cancellation of the TSR 2. He was noticeably not his normal jaunty self—and that is bound to dismay us at any time—but, in sooth, there was precious little to be jaunty about. It seemed to me that in his apologia there was a certain amount of juggling between F 111, Mark 1, and F 111, Mark 2, conceivably in the hope that the quickness of the tongue might deceive the ear. I should like to hope that the noble Earl, when he winds up, will adopt clarity rather than dexterity, and will give some answers in measured tones. I recall one occasion when the noble Earl was somewhat piqued on being told, in my company, by a Hansard reporter, that he was not the fastest speaker in the House—that I was.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? He is speaking so fast that I am finding it very difficult to judge what precedents he wants answered. Does he want my noble friend to repeat the explanation of the difference between the two Marks which I gave to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who appeared to be satisfied, even though he appears to have been felled since?
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I am coming to more precise questions in a moment, but up to now I have been referring to Anglo-French or Anglo-European projects already embarked upon before the present Government came into power.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord does not seem to have given me notice of his questions, which he must realise are quite outside any Department of which I may be in charge.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I thought that they had been passed in a written form to the noble Earl's advisers. This was 239 my intention. I sent them off, and I am very sorry if they did not arrive. I appreciate that it is entirely unfair to put them to the House, but I had supposed that the noble Earl's advisers in the Box had them on a list.
It was said (here I come to the details; and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will correct me if I am wrong) that the only difference between the Mark 1 and Mark 2 was in the equipment they carried, and it was said as if this were little more than a detail. But the fact, as I understand it, is that quite a number of the black boxes which make Mark 2 different from Mark 1 have not yet been invented. This means that the Government are comparing a plane which has made several flights with a plane whose capabilities are still in the minds of the designers. It was said, moreover, that the time-scale for delivery would be more or less the same as that for the TSR 2, the Mark 1 being slightly earlier and the Mark 2 slightly later than the TSR 2. Are the Government quite confident that the Americans are able to catch up to this extent, because nobody has claimed that the Mark 1 is any kind of alternative to the TSR 2? There is another even more significant question. Is it absolutely certain that the Mark 2 will be built? Has the United States Air Force placed a firm order?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord may realise that the British Government have not yet placed a firm order for the Phantoms which were ordered by the previous Administration. The placing of an order comes quite a long way further on.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I should have thought that until the United States Air Force had placed a firm order there was no absolute certainty that this plane would ever be built. The noble Lord can again correct me if I am wrong. But if he is absolutely certain of this, without a firm order from the United States Air Force, then I accept it, because he is "on the inside".
Assuming, as I hope we can be told to assume, that the F 111, Mark II, will be built, are the Government absolutely satisfied that it will meet the specific needs for which the TSR 2 was specifically developed? One important factor 240 is the short take-off-600 yards, I believe. The F 111, Mark I, requires a conventional runway. What about the Mark II? This could be critical, for instance, in the sort of jungle warfare now being waged in Malaya and Vietnam—and in the former case it could become much more serious than it is. I have vivid memories of cutting a 600-yard runway, with the help of local labour, in the jungles of Eastern Siam, behind the Japanese lines in 1945. I doubt whether I could have created a runway long enough to take a conventional and non-short-take-off aircraft; and had I done so, it would quite certainly have been observed by Japanese spotter planes.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I interrupt again? I simply do not know where the noble Lord gets his information from. It is all incorrect. The F 111, either in the Mark I or Mark II fit, has at least as good ground operating characteristics as the TSR 2. One of the advantages of the swing-wing plane is that it has this capability. There is, I assure the noble Lord, no difference between the basic air movement and engine. There may be slight variations between the two Marks. The avionics fit is admittedly important, but it is not a significantly different aeroplane.
LORD ST. OSWALD
That is the sort of assurance that I wanted. I did not know that it had this short take-off capability.
But, my Lords, however good the American plane may be when delivered, nobody has suggested that it will be better than the TSR 2. Therefore, for equal or worse, we shall be dependent on the American aircraft manufacturers. I hope that noble Lords opposite will not think it unduly mischievous or unkind of me to remind them of their favourite line of attack when in Opposition—the danger of depending on America for Polaris components. By the same silly token, we could now, if we wished and were silly enough, refer to the so-called British, so-called Royal, so-called Air Force. This is transparent nonsense; but it is the transparency of Socialist nonsense, and it may do them some good to be reminded of it.
The Government have defended themselves against the charge of destroying the aircraft industry in this country; 241 but the defence as presented yesterday was disingenuous to a fairly large degree. One cannot say that a project, once ordered, cannot be cancelled. Every Government may find the need to cancel, as we did on occasion. But this is far more than the cancellation of one project. When the Labour Government came into power there were four fine major projects in existence and progressing. There were the TSR 2, the P 1154, the HS 681 and the Concord. The Government set out to kill them all. They succeeded in killing three, and were prevented, as I have said, against their wishes, from killing the Concord as well.
Now what is the reward of all this mayhem? They claim to save £500 million over ten years. What are they really saving? Previous Governments have spent £300 million to £400 million a year divided between Services and Corporations. A Government that destroy the aircraft industry will still have to spend something like this figure annually, but they will spend it overseas. The country will also be losing £100 million to £150 million worth of exports every year.
Let the Government be under no delusion: they are killing the industry. In each of the cancelled projects there was an engine design team, an airframe design team and an electronics design team. They will all be dispersed. The industry will be reduced to a kind of garage and repair shop. No wonder our American competitors thought the occasion worth a champagne party on Tuesday evening! What even high-pressure American salesmenship could not hope to achieve has been handed to them by this science-based Government of Great Britain.
The Government claim that they will redeploy 20,000 skilled men into more useful work. Are they so sure? And what sort of work? I have read in the Press that some of the Preston workers will be absorbed by work on the Bond-Minicar three-wheeler, and some in the making of Leyland buses and lorries. Who could regard this as the same advanced high-quality technology as that which is being taken away from them? I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Brown, who treated the whole thing 242 rather breezily, I thought, considers it to be so.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, may I say that I should certainly regard the export of large quantities of motor vehicles by the Leyland Motor Corporation as being at least equally as valuable a contribution to our economy as the manufacture of aircraft for our Armed Forces.
LORD ST. OSWALD
But this is very curious stuff, coming after all we have heard about the science-based Government we were to have, and the enormous technological lead the Labour Government would establish for this country. Making three-wheeled cars does not, to my mind, come into that category.
§ LORD BROWN
Is the noble Lord under the impression that the manufacture of Leyland buses or Bond three-wheelers does not involve the use of science and technology? If, so, he has been badly misled.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Not, I should have thought, to anything like the inventive extent that is involved in aircraft manufacture. I should have thought that that stood to reason. If the noble Lord is happy thinking of his country as one producing buses and three-wheeler cars, then I am not with him. If that is characteristic of his Party they had better say so.
§ LORD BROWN
I would point out to the noble Lord that the German nation has not an advanced modern aircraft industry, but it is a very powerful economic nation. This has not been achieved by employing much too high a proportion of scientists in the development of rather too sophisticated aircraft.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Will the noble Lord's Front Bench agree with him? This is very interesting. If they do, then this is yet another reverse on the Labour Manifesto. I am very interested to hear it; and so will the aviation industry be.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if I interrupt the noble Lord now, it may help to give him a moment to calm down. As a close friend of his, may I ask him to do so, as we are concerned, with one Member of the Front Bench opposite falling behind, that he should still be with us. May I wholly endorse the remarks of my noble friend Lord Brown? It 243 has been the contention of the Government all the way through that there was too great a concentration of the nation's brains—a very high proportion of the mathematicians and other skilled technologists—in an industry which, for all its brilliance, was, unfortunately, in terms of military aircraft, no longer bringing home exports. I would urge the noble Lord to read the speech of my noble friend Lord Brown again. Perhaps he will now return quietly to the attack.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Not at all. I am as quiet as can be, as always. It seems to me that a lot has been revealed: that the Labour Government would just as soon see this country making buses as making aeroplanes. This is what emerges from their policy, and from these recent utterances. Who can say that this will keep Britain in the forefront of industrial and technological progress? The noble Lord cannot say that. What the Labour Party were all too ready, not long ago, to call the brain-drain will become a brain-burst, and all the plumbers of the Ministry of Technology, including the master plumber, will not be able to stop the flood.
There were two observations made yesterday from the Government Front Bench which seemed to me totally illogical, and, sharing them equitably between the two Ministers, I will point to one in column 89, in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and one in column 167, in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Lord Shackleton said:I am confident that the cancellation of the TSR 2 will make effective collaboration with our Allies a far more practical proposition.How in the name of Jehosaphat does going out of business help us to collaborate with our Allies in that very business? Up to Tuesday of this week we were leading the world, and on Tuesday of this week we put up the shutters and went to the shop across the way. We have thrown away the major part of what we had to offer in European co-operation—no amount of debating alchemy can transform that horrid fact. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that if we should proceed with the TSR 2 in order to keep the aircraft industry alive, it followed that once the TSR 2 was completed, irrespective of what we needed, 244 we should again proceed with an even more advanced aircraft. This is, I should have thought, absolute moonshine if this European co-operation has any meaning at all. The planes which this co-operation could produce will be the planes required for the 1970s. What we need to do is to maintain our industry, retain our skilled teams, until the time comes to make our contribution to this excellent plan. What we are doing instead is to cast away, or disband, the very assets we shall most need when it comes to that point. Our share in that co-operation may be a miserable one compared with what we might have claimed.
What are the projects mentioned by the Government so far? A fixed-wing, cheap, supersonic fighter. I am told that this is almost entirely of French design, but there will be some, but not very important or rewarding, work for us. Perhaps the noble Earl can correct this impression. Then there is the swing-wing fighter-trainer, to be ready for the second half of the 1970s. Before the Labour Government came in, we were hoping to add this to the existing programme. But noble Lords opposite really cannot pretend that these will take the place of the three great projects cancelled, two without a qualm, one with valedictory regrets, expressed individually by two noble Lords in yesterday's debate. Both the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, spoke with evident and unquestioned sincerity about the tragedy of the TSR 2 cancellation. This may bring some balm to the industry, but it scarcely accords with the opinions stated, or the reasons implied, in the remarks by the Secretary of State for Defence. On January 10 there was little sympathy in his words when he declared to a Press conference, in reference to the aircraft industry:It is not the duty of the Minister to wet-nurse overgrown and mentally retarded children.I was conscious, however, of an axis between the two Front Benches while the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was expressing his minority viewpoint. He resented or denied the fact that we had any peace-keeping rôle East of Suez, and by his own witness he appeared to be living in 1926. I must tell him that if somebody shipped him somewhere East of Suez to-day, he would find that the best is not 245 like the worst, and one of the important factors which maintain this distinction is British power, directed by one responsible Government or another. Our forces are protecting a great deal more than tin and rubber, which seem to be the only benefits the noble Lord recognises. I must further point out that the Gladwyn plan, as propounded to-day, is not interdependence, as he dubbed it; it would be dependence in its purest form.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I have followed with great interest the desperate efforts of the noble Lord to inject an element of controversy into this, up to now, almost unanimous debate. I appreciate his object, but here I must say that I do not think he has the central message I meant to convey, which is that we cannot go on like this. We cannot spend all this money on armaments. If we continue to spend this proportion on armaments we are going to go "bust", and then nobody is going to benefit by it. If we are going to cut down in some sphere, then I suggest that the district of Aden would provide the best way of cutting down. That is all I suggest. I did not suggest that we should cease to defend Malaysia. I suggested that we should work with the Americans, and I think that is a very good thing to do.
LORD ST. OSWALD
The Americans have their hands very full with the Far East as it is, and they are glad of our help. I will read the noble Lords words very carefully to-morrow. I think this is a watered-down version of the impression that most of the House got. As there has been no other Liberal speaker to-day, and since it is easy to feel protective towards Liberals—except during Elections—perhaps I should read an excerpt from a Liberal Party policy document. The noble Lord, in his intervention, mentioned Aden, so this has a particular pertinence. This section concerns the Middle East, and states:The political instability in the area will make it essential for us to maintain a military presence there, probably throughout the 1960s. Within this framework, we are responsible for military assistance to States in the area with which we have treaties. These include the Arab rulers of the Federation, and the other States in the Aden Protectorate. We also have military responsibility for the defence of Aden Colony. Recent developments in the Yemen have underlined the dangers of our interests here.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I did not realise that Liberal Party policy changed quite so fast as that—almost as fast as the Socialist Party. I think it should certainly go out from this House, on behalf of all Parties, that the work our forces are doing is highly appreciated; and that their task is regarded by Parliament as absolutely essential. The needs and commitments of the Armed Forces are to be re-examined. Both the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, leaned fairly heavily on the coming review—"a major Defence review", as described by Lord Shackleton; and a "wide-ranging survey" as described by Lord Shepherd. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, promised us very kindly that, if possible, information would be made available to the House when it was obtained. But my noble friend Lord Carrington had already told the Government exactly what a review would furnish by the way of advice and discovery, thereby relieving them of the nerve-racking suspense they might otherwise have suffered in the meantime.
My Lords, in ending I should say again that we feel genuinely for the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, while acknowledging the degree of success that his own views have obtained within the Government. They would have "copped it" much worse in this debate had it not been for his influence, and T hope they are duly grateful to him. We feel for him in the matter of the TSR 2, especially since he was once Member of Parliament for one of the Preston constituencies, where he was held in great esteem, and where he must know a good many of those affected now. If ever there was a bird in a gilded cage—a male bird, of course—it is the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Once or twice yesterday he managed to ruffle his plumage in a brave pretence of freedom, but most of the time we were aware 247 that he was tapping his beak in frustration against the imprisoning bars. To summarise the White Paper, let us therefore be as kind to the Government as we are honestly able. They have not done all the things they ought not to have done; they have not left undone all the things they ought to have done; and there is some health in them.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sure we all share the regret of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has been smitten by influenza. I hope that it is some consolation to Lord Jellicoe that he shares his complaint with the Prime Minister, who is making, I am glad to say, a very quick recovery. May the noble Earl make a recovery equally as fast! I believe that even General de Gaulle has acquired a bad cold, so it has been a difficult week for leading men.
If the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, had been with us to-day, there would have been three ex-First Lords against one, which would have been altogether absurd. They are all three nautical types, and the one on this side, I am afraid, is a very mild landlubber. Perhaps two against one was enough. If there was to be any substitute for the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—though admittedly in a somewhat different style—who better than the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald? We were told something by the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson (who has told me that he has to be away, which I fully understand) about earlier reviews. Indeed, they must have been fairly frequent, because I gather that they were undertaken whenever there was a new Minister of Defence. There were nine Ministers of Defence, and I suppose that if the Conservative Government had lasted a little longer they might even have reached the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. I think it was beginning to be his turn.
If I am allowed to reply in the noble Lord's own idiom, I must copy the words of a former Conservative Prime Minister which were addressed to someone who became a Conservative Prime Minister later, and had made a strong personal attack—though I do not resent anything the noble Lord said to-day. He said to this younger statesman:I think I may give him some advice which may be useful to him in the course of what 248 I hope will be a long and distinguished career. It is not on the whole desirable to come down to this House with invective which is both prepared and violent. The House will tolerate, and very rightly tolerate, almost anything within the rules of order which evidently springs from a genuine indignation aroused by the collision of debate. To come down with these prepared phrases is not usually successful. If there is preparation there should be more finish. And if there is so much violence there should be certainly obviously more veracity of feeling.That was what was said by Lord Balfour, as he became, to Sir Winston Churchill, as he became later on; and it was characteristic of Sir Winston Churchill, we are told in the book written by the noble Baroness, Lady Asquith of Yarn-bury, that, so far from resenting the retort, he thoroughly appreciated the effectiveness of the points which were scored against him. So I am sure the noble Lord will not object to my describing his speech in the words used by Mr. Balfour, as he then was, about Mr. Churchill at that time.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I should only like to say that whatever my feelings are towards the noble Lord, they are not violent.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
As I say, the veracity of his feeling was not so obvious as the violence of his language. That was what we were poking a little fun at. But we all enjoyed the noble Lord's speech, and if we did not we all like the noble Lord too much to disclose the fact.
We have listened to a series of very distinguished speakers, initiated by my noble friend Lord Shackleton, who does not need any protection of mine, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and others. It would not be right for me to try to single out the most notable orations which have been given since those opening remarks, but I know that we all admired very greatly the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. And if I am right to pick out one other speaker, it would be the noble Lord, Lord Brown, whose speech I think was described as cavalier in its treatment by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. But surely the noble Lord, Lord Brown, knows much more about industry than Lord St. Oswald or I will ever know at first-hand. The noble Lord opposite failed to realise, I think, that he was listening to an expert 249 on his subject; he certainly did not treat him in this light.
LORD ST. OSWALD
If "breezy" is invective—which is the word I used—in the noble Earl's definition I must be very careful in future what I say.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am sure that nothing I say or do will make the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, careful: that would be a tragedy. And I am not worried about that.
I am sorry that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has had to go, because I was going to say that, while we very much regretted the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, we all welcomed the return in such joyous spirits of the noble and gallant Field Marshal.
We also welcomed the first major speech as a Party politician of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. He is one of the great public servants of our time, and up to now he has been sheltered, living within the cage, gilded or otherwise, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. But now he can enjoy and savour to the full the political life. He can say what he thinks about the Government of the day, and then the Government of the day have the right to say what they think about him. He is in the open and on the same footing as the rest of us who have not performed such great service.
I am bound to say that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, spoke about these matters of commitments of ours in (I must not use the word "breezy", because that has already been treated as a contemptuous expression) an extraordinarily light-hearted and, indeed, light-headed spirit. It may be that there are arguments to be said for cutting this or that commitment, and I certainly should not like to suggest that the result of the whole of this review would be not to cut out any commitments. But the noble Lord seemed to be condemning the Government for not cutting out these commitments overnight, without even this review. I do not know that he even realised that the Government were embarking on a review which might lead a long way in some direction. As I say, Lord Gladwyn is a man of great public achievement but new to Party politics, 250 and when he next speaks in the House he will adopt a much more senatorial approach, and I am looking forward very much to that oration.
But I must not, of course, make use of any knowledge. Some noble Lords failed to inform me—though they are sometimes kind enough to inform others—of points they were going to raise. Some informed me of points they were not going to raise—which was almost more confusing. But that is not to say that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was expounding a point of view to-day whose significance I had fully grasped yesterday when he explained it to me at that time. However, it is at the moment official Liberal Party policy and it must be examined by the Government in that light. But I repeat, I cannot really believe that the Liberal Party, or the noble Lord, on reflection, will argue that these commitments should be cut out without any kind of review. I must stress that point.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I was not suggesting that they should be fully ignored or cut out of the review. Of course there is to be a review. But the general attitude of mind is a rather complacent acceptance of a peacekeeping rôle as such; and that is what I objected to.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am afraid that the noble Lord condemned this White Paper. I understood him to say that if it lay in his power he would vote against it. I was only laying in front of him the fact that, if he is concerned with the commitments, they are coming under this most fundamental review. I cannot understand how he objects to that.
On the whole, I suppose it would be true to say that the House has approved, not officially, but in general terms the White Paper. It has had a good reception. The first paragraph was objected to as unduly polemical. That is a matter we can discuss at any time. But taking the contentions of the White Paper, apart from the preliminary exchange on the first paragraph, I cannot resist the conclusion that the House as a whole is strongly in favour of it. There is the question, of course, of the TSR 2, about which I shall say a few words, but not very many, as it has been gone 251 into so thoroughly, although it is not included in the White Paper. It is significant, therefore, that there should be general approval of this policy.
Before I come to the TSR 2 and one or two other more argumentative issues, may I say a few words about the Army? The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, had given me full notice, so his speech became rather more exciting, if I may use that expression, in the course of delivery, in the sense that, having been given notice of his points, I was able to obtain some comments. But in one respect he went rather a long way—and, of course, nobody in this House, unless it be the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, or the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has had more experience of the Army—when he suggested clearly that there should be a substantial increase in the size of the Regular Army. One of the difficulties of being involved with a review is that one cannot say that any door is absolutely shut; but if any door is considered shut, I think we can regard that one as being closed. So I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope at all to the noble Lord on that point (which was far from being his only point), that an increase in the size of the Regular Army is a suggestion that the Government are likely to adopt at a time when we are striving to reduce Defence expenditure.
As regards the other points of the noble Lord, they will be studied, of course, and some of them undoubtedly he will raise in his own Motion, which I hope will be coming during the summer. We agree with many things that he said; inevitably one would agree with someone who speaks with so much experience of the Army. The need to maintain reserves up to strength is an obvious one. Although this is a matter in which the situation will automatically improve as the Army approaches its manpower ceiling, there will still be a problem of obtaining the right balance between the different arms of the Services, and in our recruiting arrangements we are giving special attention to this point. I must not pursue most of the noble Lord's points—we may return to them again. But I assure him that the question of our strength in the Strategic Reserve is one which he knows his old colleagues in 252 the Army are always studying. But it can be done only by giving up or reducing overseas commitments, with all the difficulties involved in that, or by increasing the size of the Army; and there again I do not want to hold out any hope that that is likely. But I do not want, in advance of the Review, to bang the door on that possibility.
Selective national service has been mentioned. That again is something we arc not likely to see, and I am advised (I do not know whether the noble Lord would agree) that it should be borne in mind that selective service is not a very economical proposition. It would reduce Regular recruitment and require substantial expansion of the training organisation. I do not want to adopt a negative tone to the noble Lord. I am only indicating that, while all these other proposals will be studied, these are some that are not likely to be fulfilled.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has had to leave. He said some kind things about me, and I must say, in return, that when I was Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the War Office I received great help and encouragement from him: and certainly he has done as much for the Territorial Army as any man alive. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, raised one or two of the same points and, like Lord Bridgeman, was anxious to know whether the review will recognise the importance of consultation with the Territorial Army authorities. He can take that as assured: there will be consultation. I must answer one point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. He agreed that the present legislation relating to reserve forces requires amendment. On this we agree with him; but it is, as he says, essential to get clear the precise details of the legislation needed. I am sure we shall come back very often to these Army problems.
I was absent while the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, was speaking yesterday, but I believe that he showed considerable interest in the new aircraft carrier for the Royal Navy. As noble Lords are aware, we are going ahead with the design of a new carrier, but a final decision must await the outcome of the Defence Review. Perhaps I could write to the noble Lord about one or two other points he raised.
253 The cancellation of the TSR 2 was dealt with very thoroughly yesterday and it is to be the subject of a full-dress debate in another place next week, I am told, so I will not detain the House by saying much more now. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, if I may say so, treated the issue as fantastically simple. One gathered that he had no doubts about it at all. I feel that that is rather an elementary point of view. It was a very difficult issue, as I think most people concerned are aware. May I submit this point to the noble Lord—and I know that he will give it its proper weight, for what it is worth.
The Government, in cancelling the TSR 2, could not conceivably be thought to be seeking popularity. Governments are human; they exist (though some people do not see the necessity); and they often do things which, in the light of history, appear to be due to a search for popularity. No one could seriously suggest that this decision was taken for that reason. Obviously considerable interests, not only on one side but on the other, in politics and industry were going to be affronted; there were no obvious friends to be made by this decision. I must ask the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, to treat this as a decision taken after very careful thought and a good deal of discussion. I attended a good many of the talks and the decision seemed to me to be inevitable. It could not be put down to Socialist dogma. Every now and then the noble Lord threw in the word "Socialist", as in the old days some of us threw in the word "Fascist". This particular expression is thrown in as though it strengthens the argument.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
It is possible to use even the nicest word in a very nasty tone of voice. I forget exactly where the noble Lord dragged it in, but at any rate it came in quite often. I would ask him to recognise that this decision could not give effect to some sort of Socialist dogma. If there were any conceivable dogma, I think that it would operate the other way; but this decision could not possibly be an expression of Party dogma. I must ask the 254 noble Lord to believe that it was taken on its merits by a number of people whose interest, if any, lay in an opposite direction. I will not run over the arguments now; they have been deployed elsewhere and in this House, and no doubt will be deployed in another place next week.
If we look at the Defence side of the matter, we took note, I am sure, of the assurance given very carefully by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, yesterday. He said that neither the Secretary of State nor he could have accepted the position in which the TSR 2 was cancelled without a firm assurance that, if necessary, we should be able to obtain a similar aircraft at prices we could afford. That was said deliberately by a Minister held in high esteem in this House, and that is good enough for me. And other Ministers have taken the same view. On the economic side—and I understand the economic slightly better than the technical Defence questions—I can assure the House that to my mind the arguments economically were overwhelming.
I now come to another argument that has been fairly prominent in this debate, not in any unpleasant way but in a friendly way. I think it was first advanced by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, who was certainly in his happiest vein. We are represented as a Party that has appropriated the Tory Defence policy and, at any rate in some respects, jettisoned our own. I do not accept that line of argument for a moment, but I should like to repeat to the House, in case some noble Lords were not present, what was said yesterday evening by my noble friend Lord Segal, which I thought was remarkably cogent. He said:… if the previous Government may occasionally have adopted, or stumbled into … 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 265, (No. 62), col. 138, April 7, 1965.]and a certain amount more to the same effect. It would be quite ridiculous, and rather shameful, if I were to come to the House and say that everything about the preceding policy was wrong. I would 255 not say that for a moment. We did distinguish certain differences, and no doubt we shall go on distinguishing them. I am certainly not saying that to-day our policy is exactly the same as the policy of noble Lords opposite.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, came in for a sharp and rather unspecified criticism from the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. Again it might have been due to the tone of voice, but he implied that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont departed from the line taken by other colleagues. He told us about the Atlantic Nuclear Force. I must ask the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who is in such a ripe good humour that it is difficult to take him seriously, to believe that the A.N.F. is a serious proposition. He indicates by the use of his mobile features that he does not believe this. Well, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, assured us—and it is in fact true—that this is being seriously discussed with our major European Allies, and so I hope that noble Lords, whether or not they like the A.N.F., will realise that we are in fact proceeding with this idea.
May I try to explain why this means rather more to us. whatever the precise form it finally takes, than it appears to mean to noble Lords opposite? I do not know whether we are more pessimistic or more optimistic as a whole than noble Lords of the Party opposite. In one way I think we are more pessimistic than noble Lords on those Benches. Most of us believe, and I certainly, that if nothing is done in the next few years to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to a large number of countries, then the world really does approach a total catastrophe. Therefore, this attempt to stop the dissemination of nuclear weapons, even among friendly countries, is something to which we are dedicated as a major objective.
From listening to speeches of noble Lords opposite, who are just as keen on peace as we are—that goes without saying—on this occasion and in the past, I cannot believe that this idea of stopping, the dissemination of nuclear weapons seems to be a major consideration. I am not sure whether they do not think it matters—whether they think, in other words, that we shall get by somehow or other, even if nuclear weapons are widely 256 spread, or whether they think it is hopeless. But at any rate they did not in their time come forward with any careful scheme, and it has remained for us to bring forward something on the lines of the A.N.F.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not want the House to think that the Party which we represent in this House did not think that the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons was important. Of course it is important. It is vitally important, and we tried for many years to get an agreement on this course. But what I personally find rather difficult to understand is how the A.N.F. really helps this cause at all, because all you are doing is sharing round a lot of nuclear weapons. Supposing you have ten countries in the A.N.F., you have ten fingers on the safety catch; you have got ten fingers on the trigger. No individual will be satisfied if you have really only one weapon, with the sort of proposals which are advanced in the A.N.F., and I greatly doubt, from that point of view, whether the A.N.F. will serve the purpose that the noble Earl the Leader of the House has in mind.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I must withdraw the suggestion that at any rate the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is any less alarmed than we are about the spread of nuclear weapons. I am therefore left saying that the noble Lord and his colleagues are more pessimistic than we are about the possibilities of human nature. But the noble Lord has no alternative scheme. We at least have this proposal, which is being taken seriously by our allies. I should like the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, when he can restrain his merriment, to recognise that this is something which we regard as much more important, in the event, than even the TSR 2. There is really no comparison between the importance of these two areas. I hope and believe that the right decision has been taken over the TSR 2. But here the future and the survival of the world depends on getting a method of controlling nuclear weapons. That is what we have suggested, and it is receiving the careful consideration of our allies.
I should like now, in a final section, to say a few words about the Defence 257 review. The noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, who I appreciate has had to go, warned us that there would be a lot of trouble if the concepts set out in the present White Paper were breached. He said:They are founded on most long-term and detailed studies by the Government's most senior military advisers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 265 (No. 62): col. 120, April 7, 1965.]While I join in the tributes paid to our senior advisers, and, I would hasten to add, to all those who are serving in the Services at home and abroad, I must not place any particular responsibility for this or any other White Paper, or any part of it, on our advisers. I would, however, call attention to what is being said in this White Paper, which has received general approval, apart from, as I say, a polemical passage at the beginning. In paragraph 2 it is pointed out that the present Government are setting in train a series of studies on Defence policy. It then goes on to say:in the light of these studies it will be possible to review our strategy, taking into account not only the economic position, but also new or reaffirmed political objectives which our strategy must be designed to implement.I am sorry if I spoke too sharply to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, because I now realise, perhaps more clearly than I did earlier, that he is not opposed to this way of looking at it. At any rate, I recognise now that he approves of this form of procedure. But, at any rate, the purpose of the studies—I am quoting from the White Paper—will be to try to ascertain the means by which defence expenditure during the next two years may be reduced to roughly the present figure in real terms.The implication is that it will go up slightly in the meantime, but in the course of a few years it will come down roughly to where it is now. That, of course, is an important objective. That is the purpose, and I only hope that it will be achieved. I rather gather from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, and possibly from other noble Lords, that they doubt if this can be achieved in any way which is compatible with our obligations. But at any rate this is the objective as stated, and I think it is right that the House should understand what is involved.
We are reminded how quickly the cost of equipping any particular unit is 258 increasing. For example, it is pointed out that between 1963 and 1968 the capital cost of equipping an armoured regiment in B.A.O.R. will double on the 1964 prices. Other illustrations are given. Of course, as the standard of living of the country rises generally, so the standard of living of members of the Services should rise, too, so it is going to be hard work to keep within the limits that we have set ourselves. But I think there should be no misunderstanding about what we are trying to do. I only hope that we have the good will of the House in approaching the matter in that light.
But of course we are not doing this because we are opposed to the Services. I think that that particular attack is no longer made against my Party. We are doing it because we do not think the country can afford any more. There is nothing absolute about Defence requirements. We have to find out what appears to be necessary, and then how far we can in fact pay the Bill.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Earl is most kind, and he has had a number of interruptions, but he said two things that I thought rather contradictory. He said, first of all, that what the Government were trying to do was to bring the cost of Defence down in real terms to what we are spending now. Later, in another sentence, he went on to say, "This is what we are going to do, because we cannot afford any more". Is he trying to cut down our Defence expenditure, which is a very worthy objective, or does he intend to do it, regardless of whether or not we can honour our commitments?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I think the answer to that is to return to the words of the White Paper, which certainly I am not trying to improve upon. I am not trying to add some gloss of my own. I think the actual phraseology, which is most careful, is the best I can offer. It says:The purpose of these studies will be to try to ascertain the means by which defence expenditure during the next two years may be reduced to roughly the present figure in real terms.To say that that is an absolute promise would be an abuse of language, because no one can foresee the future. The situation may get much worse in the East, 259 though I hope not. All sorts of difficulties may occur in all sorts of ways. But it is a strong undertaking to do everything possible to achieve this target. I do not know whether any other words can bring fresh illumination to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, but the words are there in the White Paper and I am not seeking to improve on them.
Let us see why we are trying to do this. If we had failed to do so it would be a signal failure—and sometimes there are excuses for failure. I feel that in a general way noble Lords would agree that military resources must, on the one hand, match up to commitments as to both our own immediate defence and other obligations; but also that the resources made available for defence must not overstrain the economy. As a general proposition that would be accepted and we have been trying to do too much. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, used that expression yesterday. He has left the House, so I will not attempt to congratulate him now, but we have in fact been trying to do too much. For some years Defence expenditure has been about 7 per cent. of our gross national product. This is higher than in any period in peace time before 1945. It is a higher rate than that of any other major country in the Western Alliance, other than the United States whose income per head is twice ours. This, I am bound to think—and I hope noble Lords will not think that I am making too strong a Party point here—is probably why our rate of economic growth has been slower than that of other countries; it is because our expenditure on Defence has been heavier. It seems to be one of a number of reasons.
It is worth observing that the Defence assumptions which the Government inherited from their predecessors would have increased expenditure in 1965–66 by 9 per cent. over that for 1964–65—that is five per cent. in real terms. At the same time, in this year as compared with last the increase in gross national product has not yet reached a steady growth rate of 4 per cent., which was the objective of the last Government as it is of this one. Indications are—and this is the point which the Government of the day must take seriously into account—that Defence expenditure will go on rising at a faster rate than the most optimistic 260 forecast of the growth of national wealth, and that, I am advised, is without any effective strengthening of our forces. Taking the forces as they are, there would still be a rate of growth in Defence expenditure faster than growth of national wealth. That is the situation which confronts us as a nation.
Further, if we had gone on with the Defence programme we inherited from the previous Administration it would have meant that Defence would have been claiming an increasing share of our national product into the 1970s. This is an important point. If noble Lords criticise us for not going on with their policy—and I do not want them to think that we are going on with their policy in all respects—they must realise that, in our eyes, this is one strong reason for not going on with the policy which they were pursuing: Defence was going to take an ever larger share of the national product. That was something which, in our view, would in the end wreck the country and destroy our power even to help our allies and to serve the causes we were seeking to serve. Therefore, we cannot afford this burden on the economy. Somehow or other we have got to put our economic situation right if in the end we are going to defend ourselves or defend anybody else.
I have spoken in general terms of the national product and so on, but there is the special, grave problem of military expenditure abroad which now amounts to over £300 million, and is a direct charge on the balance of payments. My noble friend Lord Shepherd yesterday spoke about the share of the national effort which is used on the forces. I need not repeat it now, but it is very considerable as your Lordships know well. So we have had to undertake a review—not a review conducted by just one Department; it will no doubt be a review in which a number of Departments will collaborate and in which, in the end, the decisions must be taken by Ministers. Those decisions will not be easy, but they will have to he taken.
I should like at this point to remind the House of a rather historical note, that this struggle between the claims of our national defence and of what we can afford is not a new one. I have been reading, as I mentioned earlier, Lady Asquith of Yanbury's superb life of Sir 261 Winston Churchill. His first great speech in the House of Commons (not the one when he was rebuked by Mr. Balfour) made when he was only 26—and it was a terrific speech—was devoted to military economy. He quoted from his father's letter of resignation to Lord Salisbury, the grandfather of the present Marquess, in 1886. I looked up the letter written in 1886 by Lord Randolph Churchill, and found this key sentence.
The total of 31 million pounds for the two Services"—and, of course, there were only two then—which will in all probability be exceeded, is very greatly in excess of what I can consent to … I must request to be allowed to give up my office and retire from the Government"—which he duly did. Because of that expenditure of £31 million. I have tried to discover from our economic advisers (and in case anybody thinks that too many economic experts have been brought in from the universities, let me say that it is useful to have them to turn to on these matters) what that expenditure would amount to in to-day's terms. I am told that£31 million in 1886 would be equivalent to between £125 million and £150 million to-day. That seems to be a wide estimate—perhaps a difference of opinion between economists. At any rate, that is something like £140 million to-day, whereas our Defence expenditure to-day is more than £2,000 million. Yet Lord Randolph Churchill resigned over £31 million…
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I thought I should be asked that question, and I have equipped myself. I did not ask the noble Lord to "feed" me with that. We are now spending on Defence 7 per cent. of our gross national product, compared with something between 2 and 2½ per cent. in 1886—in other words, the proportion has about trebled. I am certainly not saying that that is the fault of this country: it has been part of the painful "advance" of civilisation in the twentieth century. But that is the kind of recurring dilemma. So, in a sense, it will always be—though the position at the moment is particularly acute. With all the splendid advice which our 262 Government, like their predecessors, obtain, it remains true that in the end very painful decisions have to be reached. No one can complain if, when these decisions are reached, Members of this House and other patriotic citizens scrutinise those decisions remorselessly and, it may be, criticise them harshly. But I am sure that all Members of the House and other patriotic citizens will realise that we are paying quite exceptional attention to these problems at the present time, and will at any rate credit us with complete good faith.
I end on a slightly different thought, although my noble friend Lord Chalfont has already dealt with disarmament better than I can. The one persistent theme in this debate has been the complete incompatibility of modern technology with national defence as we have hitherto known it. At least, that is a theme which I hope is recognised by all, though some noble Lords seemed perhaps to have taken it for granted, or at any rate lost sight of it. It is surely this physical fact of life which is helping to form the functional partnership that is now developing, for example, between this country and France. I am sorry if I have not answered particular points put to me on that subject by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. The answers reached me in large doses just as I was getting up to speak; in other words, the system of transmission was not as perfect as usual. But I should like to acquit him of any semblance of discourtesy. It is this same fact which so powerfully argues the case for some kind of Atlantic Nuclear Force. But I myself believe—and certainly we on these Benches believe; and I expect that this is believed far beyond our own Benches—that this logical movement from old-time national forces will carry us still further forward.
A world which has modern technological knowledge at its disposal needs nothing less than a world peace force, as so many noble Lords around me have said very often, and as my noble friend Lord Beswick was saying again just lately. As practical steps towards that objective, we seek a controlled reduction in national armaments, and also a permanent peace-keeping force at the disposal of the United Nations. It is no accident at all (and I hope I can assert this on behalf of a Government which has 263 received its share of criticism from one or two noble Lords) that our present Government has appointed for the first time a Minister for Disarmament—and no other Government has a Minister for Disarmament—and we have also appointed a Minister at the United Nations. So our deepest convictions are centred in that particular effort.
Our national Forces have served, and are serving us, splendidly, and I repeat the tributes which have been paid to them. I am no expert in these matters, but I think we shall all agree that they are finely trained and we know we can depend on them—and we seem to have plenty of opportunity of depending on them—when the pinch comes. But the only way of making the world really safe is to bring about a World Government, and take these various national steps along lines which will assert the ultimate authority of a world force.
I should like to join in thanks to all who have taken part. I do not think an unkind word has been said in the debate, except possibly by myself to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and, if so, I am glad it was taken in the same spirit as Mr. Balfour's remarks about Mr. Churchill. I hope we shall have many more of these debates, and that when the next debate arises we shall have some interesting results which will help this country and serve the cause of world peace.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.