§ 2.40 p m.
§ LORD SHACKLETONrose to move, That this House approves theStatement on the Defence Estimates 1966.[Cmnd. 2901 and 2902.] The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move this Motion, I am very conscious that this is an exceedingly important debate which is bound to be very far-reaching, and I fear it will not be possible, even though I shall be speaking at some length, for me to cover all the many issues that confront us to-day. Indeed having been living in the midst of the Defence Review practically from the day the present Government came into office, my problem is to identify those principal issues which are of concern to us all and deal with them adequately.
§ I hope, therefore, that the House and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will acquit me of any discourtesy or desire to avoid issues if I leave certain matters to my colleagues who will be speaking later in the debate, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who will deal with the particular issue of Aden with which, in his ministerial capacity, he has been so intimately concerned. I am sure that no one will wish to make the arduous task he has been concerned with more difficult. To-morrow my noble friend Lord Shepherd will open and will deal with a wide range of issues particularly those affecting the Army and the position of the Reserves; I fear therefore that I shall say very little to-day on the subject of the Reserves. Finally, my noble friend Lord Longford will wind up to-morrow night.
§ We have now reached the end of the most intensive review of our defence programme which has ever taken place in peace time, and the results were published in Part I of theStatement on the Defence Estimates, 1966.The Government have sought subsequently by means of Statements and answers to questions to give further information. The reasons for undertaking the Review were, first, that the defence programme which we inherited from the previous Government would have grown from £2,000 million in 1964–65 to £2,400 million, at constant prices, in 1969–70, which in the opinion of the Government was more than we could afford if the economy was to be 950 placed on a sound basis. I should have added that there were some very erratic peaks in the long-term costings which follow throughout all of the ten years' long-term costing period.
§ Secondly, the programme planned was, in some areas, such as that of aircraft production, far removed from reality in its forecasts. Thirdly, the fact that the commitments which this defence programme was intended to meet were a mixture of those relevant to Britain's present-day position in the world and irrelevant hangovers from the past; and, finally, because the tasks which these commitments imposed on our Forces demanded far too much of them and would inevitably result—and indeed are resulting—in conditions of service prejudicial to the happiness of our Servicemen and to voluntary recruitment.
§ It was, I understand, the object of the Conservative Government to hold defence expenditure at about 7 per cent, of the gross national product. This they had achieved in the last few years of their administration by two means. First, there was the 1957 decision to do away with National Service, which meant that by the early 1960s the Regular Armed Forces were about 400,000 strong, compared with almost twice that number a few years before. Secondly, there was the frequent cancellation of projects too light-heartedly entered into and too laxly controlled. Blue Streak, Blue Water and the naval version of the P 1154 are among the outstanding examples of the "Go-Stop" policy which spilled over from the central management of the economy into every aspect of administration. So it came about that we inherited forces which were overstretched in some respects, and dangerously under-equipped and yet were costing the nation about 7 per cent, of the gross national product, a figure considerably higher than that allotted to defence by any of our European trade competitors.
§ Here perhaps I should say that I have been rather surprised to hear recent criticisms from the Opposition about the fact that we have a target for defence expenditure. We have a National Plan and defence has its share of national expenditure. Anyone concerned with any organisation of any kind, whether it is in business or Government, knows that it is necessary to have certain financial 951 targets if one is to avoid bankruptcy. Looking at the White Paper of 1963 this appeared, so far as the public sector is concerned, to have been an embryonic National Plan. If the figures therein were intended to be meaningful, then the forecast for defence expenditure for four years ahead was fulfilling the same purpose as our own target for 1969–70 of £2,000 million at 1964 prices.
§ What this boils down to, therefore, is that there should not be any argument of principle about the need to plan or otherwise, but simply about whether defence should take 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. of national resources. Moreover, there were two other things about the programme. First, it contained within itself the seeds of cost growth on at least four ambitious and, some of them, extravagant projects in the aircraft field. There was the TSR 2, the R.A.F. version of the P 1154 the HS 681 and a maritime aircraft project known as OR 357. My Lords, it left no room for European co-operation. Secondly, it was clear that, because of the over-ambitious requirements which had been laid down for these aircraft, none—apart possibly from the TSR 2—was going to be available for service at the time when they were required. The programme was not only too expensive, and worked out with too little consideration of the commitments which it was supposed to meet, but it was also going to be far too late in time.
§ It is no use having a defence effort larger than the national economy is able to bear, because economic and military strength must go hand in hand; otherwise, the weakness of one will inevitably undermine the strength of the other. Defence expenditure, besides being larger than that of other European countries with resources comparable to our own, was also placing on us a burden of foreign exchange expenditure of the order of £300 million a year, which was proportionately far greater than that carried by the other country most involved in the foreign field, the United States. Internally, the resources spent on research and development and production for the Forces were diverting skilled manpower from critical sectors of the economy, such as engineering, to which we would have to look for an improvement in our balance of payments position.952
§ My Lords, as a result of the Defence Review we have already gone a long way towards reducing the impact of defence expenditure on the economy, and we can now see our way ahead to 1970, by when we expect the proportion of the gross national product taken by defence to have reduced to about 6 per cent., with only a very marginal reduction in our capabilities. At the same time, we can see the way to an appreciable reduction in the burden of foreign exchange expenditure, and the greater part of these reductions will have been brought about by getting better value for money without affecting the fighting capabilities of the Services. In some respects, indeed, bearing in mind the time-scale of the programme which we have inherited, our military capability will be increased in 1970 by the changes which we have brought about.
§ I do not want to make too much play with the fashionable term, "cost-effectiveness" with which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, like myself, is all too familiar. Cost-effectiveness means the systematic examination and comparison of alternative courses of action or weapon systems. It is not itself an "Open Sesame" or a universal panacea. It is a means of clarifying certain areas and producing largely objective information to reduce the amount of intuition and judgment which decision-making demands. I should, however, like to draw attention to two of the Annexes at the back of Part II of theStatement on the Defence Estimates:Annex D, showing the functional costing of the defence programme as a whole, and Annex H, which shows the attribution of costs by geographical areas. By pressing ahead with this functional costing system which the previous Government started—and very valuable it has been to the present Government—we have been able to have at our service in the course of the Defence Review figures presented in far more varied and more meaningful ways than has ever been possible in the past.
§ This also gives me the opportunity to say, in passing, that we are extremely pleased that the Government have been able to make public in this way a great deal more information about defence expenditure than our predecessors ever did. I hope, however, that the natural tendency to concentrate on Part I of the 953 Statement (and I shall, I fear, concentrate mainly on it) on the Defence Estimates will not altogether draw attention away from Part II, which is in itself quite a revolutionary document. There may be further opportunities later on in the year to debate it in more detail. For many years, while on the Benches opposite, we pressed for more information about defence, and we have now taken the first opportunity of providing it, both in the White Paper and since.
§ In summarising the Defence Review, there is a danger of dealing in watertight compartments with equipment and the commitments which that equipment is designed to meet. Although I must, at one stage or another of my speech, be dealing with either equipment or commitments, it should be borne in mind that decisions on the one are incomplete without reference to the other. Since, however, defence is a servant of foreign policy and not its master—this, at least, is a point on which everybody will be agreed —let me set the stage by dealing first with this question of commitments.
§ The Defence Review had to evaluate what sort of military capability made political sense. We decided to reduce our commitments in a number of areas across the world, and so far as I am aware there has been no dissent from those decisions, except in the case of the Middle East, and possibly on the Far Eastern issue. I am conscious that, in addition to the Conservative Amendment, there is a Liberal Amendment which we shall be discussing—an ingenious one—which will enable both the Conservative and Labour Parties to judge how united the Liberals are among themselves on this matter, but I shall leave it to my successors to deal with the Amendment, with its subtle implications, at a later stage.
§ In the Far East, we have said that we will continue to maintain a military presence, but WO will reduce our forces as soon as we can. We plan to retain forces in Malaysia and Singapore, but we recognise that this may not be acceptable for all time. This will be a matter of hard fact, rather than of choice. We have begun discussions with Australia about the possibility of maintaining forces there. Our main hope is that confrontation can be brought to an end and our forces reduced. But, whatever the size 954 of our forces, and wherever they are based in the Far East, I wish no one to doubt that they will make a powerful contribution to the defence of our interests and those of our Commonwealth partners and other peaceful peoples.
§ In the Middle East, we plan to withdraw from Aden after South Arabia becomes independent, and we shall fulfil our obligations in the Persian Gulf area by increasing our forces there. Some time in the future, no doubt, our forces may cease to be required in the Persian Gulf, but until that time comes we must honour our existing obligations. In regard to Aden, let me say categorically that the Government are convinced that they are legally and morally justified in withdrawing from our base in Aden. However, my noble friend Lord Beswick will have more to say later on this subject.
§ In reducing our commitments, as the White Paper shows, reductions will be made in Aden, the High Commission Territories and the Caribbean, and in our tasks in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, and this will lead to a lessening of the undue strain which has been placed on the resources of all three Services. Paragraphs 5 to 8 of Part I of the Defence White Paper give some idea of the strain involved, a strain which, although it is common to all three Services, has hit the Army hardest of all. For example, during 1965, as many as ten infantry battalions from this country were overseas on emergency tours at one time, and we have also had to draw on B.A.O.R. and Malta for this purpose. Indeed, infantry battalions in this country for a three-year tour have seldom stayed longer than twelve months at a time. So much for the success of the previous Government in matching commitments to capacities!
§ In future, not only will there be more units available for emergency tour purposes as we reduce our commitments, but there will be fewer areas in which emergencies will arise and for which we remain responsible. Emergency requirements, of course, will never disappear entirely, and the Army expect emergency tours as part of their job; but we are aiming at a position where infantry units in this country will have a reasonable expectation of completing a tour at home undisturbed, which is certainly not the case to-day. If I may refer to one unit 955 with which I am particularly concerned, the R.A.F. Regiment, the fact is that they rarely spend more than six months in this country before they are called upon to go overseas again.
§ I will not now argue the question whether we should maintain commitments at all and whether we should contribute to the peace-keeping of the world. I appreciate that there are those who would prefer this country to withdraw entirely from these obligations, but I think that the great majority of your Lordships will recognise that we are playing a part of great importance in maintaining the peace of the world, and though we should wish to see the United Nations in a state to organise these particular peace-keeping operations, I am sure that it is our duty, not only to ourselves but also to the rest of the world, that we should play our part, even though it involves some cost.
§ Let me turn to the question of equipment. I am going to concentrate on the two major and most controversial questions, in relation to both the R.A.F. and the Royal Navy—namely, the F 111 and the carrier. At this point, let me make clear that in these controversies the F 111 and the carrier have never themselves been alternatives. But I shall deal with that more fully later. Your Lordships will have noted that paragraph 8 of Section III of Part I of the Defence White Paper states:
The key to the deterrent power of our armed forces is our ability to obtain early warning of an enemy's intentions through reconnaissance and to strike at his offensive forces from a distance in case of need. This rôle has been assigned to the Canberra aircraft since the early 1950s; this aircraft cannot safely continue after 1970.
§ I am afraid that I must go into this question of the Canberra replacement at some length, because there has been so much discussion, some of it inevitably ill-informed because information had not been given, and I think it might be helpful to the House if I set out in some detail the alternatives before us.
§ It is important to be clear about the tasks the aircraft has to perform. We were not—and I would stress this to your Lordships—looking for a strategic nuclear bomber. We were looking for an aircraft which, first, would be able to provide reconnaissance information.956
§ Such information is essential militarily and also politically. Second, we were looking for an aircraft which could act as a conventional deterrent. Thirdly, we were looking for an aircraft which could protect our forces by tactical strike against airfields and military installations. Let me say, in passing, so that no one will think that I am deceiving, that the F 111, like every aircraft flying to-day in this rôle, is capable of having a nuclear capability, but we do not want it for that purpose. Our contribution to world peace and stability demands that we must have reconnaissance facilities and the ability to protect our forces from attack.
§ Another important factor in our choice was the time scale. I have already told your Lordships that the Canberra must be replaced by 1970. We hope that the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft will enter service by the middle 1970s—and I shall have more to say about this aircraft later. There is thus a period following the cancellation of the TSR 2 of about five years in which there would be a gap in our capabilities, and it is this period in particular which we have had to consider. It was vital that the chosen aircraft should enter service on time, because any delay would prejudice also our ability to afford the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. We had also to ensure that the aircraft we selected was not being produced in such small numbers that our purchase—like a purchase of the TSR 2—would be hopelessly uneconomic. There were three possible contenders; the Buccaneer 2, the Spey-Mirage and the F 111.
§ The Buccaneer 2 would have required an improved radar and navigation attack system and other changes. It is basically designed to tackle shipping or coastal targets. It does not, and could not, have the reconnaissance capability that the R.A.F. and the other Armed Forces require. Excellent though the Buccaneer 2 is in its present rôle of maritime strike, it would have required development for the R.A.F.'s purposes, and this could not have been completed until well beyond 1970. Nor could it have met the reconnaissance requirement. Its performance would be such that far more Buccaneers would have been required than F11ls to do any given job. Therefore, although its unit cost 957 would be less than that of the F 111 the total cost of a Buccaneer 2 would have been greater. Moreover, whatever advantages British industry would have derived from the production of Buccaneers for the R.A.F., there would be no new advanced field of technology involved—unlike the task of building the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft.
§ I now turn to the Spey-Mirage. I apologise for going into detail, but I know that many of your Lordships are interested specifically in these aircraft. I would first point out, as your Lordships know, that the Spey-Mirage does not exist. The Mirage in service in France was originally designed as a high-level nuclear aircraft. The Mirage aircraft, let me say straight away, is a very fine aircraft; but to turn it into a low-level aircraft with a conventional rôle would have involved major airframe changes and a comparatively new weapons system and to introduce the Spey would have involved further development. The conventional strike rôle is also much more demanding of radar and navigational attack systems than the nuclear rôle; and hence new radar and new navigational attack systems would have had to have been fitted. A considerable amount of redesign would have been required involving large costs. And even after all that, the aircraft would have been deficient (I hope the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who I know has been interested in this, will accept this from me) in range, and particularly in runway performance, especially in hot countries; and it was the considered view of our experts that it could not possibly have entered service by the required date. The Spey-Mirage would have been economic only if large numbers had been built. Had this been so, again the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft would have been prejudiced. Furthermore, most of the work would have been done in France—apart from the engine; and the French Government, as has been pointed out, have said that they do not wish to buy the Spey-Mirage.
§ Before I leave this subject, I should like to say something on the comparative costs of the TSR 2 and the F 111A, because it was on the subject of cost that the TSR 2 fell by the wayside. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will recall that in the past my noble friend Lord Shep- 958 herd and he frequently got into what we called the "numbers game" when they discussed the strength of the Army. We have never been able to get into the "numbers game" in regard to aircraft and costs, because the previous Government never gave any information at all. We have thought it right to give figures on costs, on the American buy, in particular, and numbers, so that Parliament could judge the basis of our decisions.
§ This is a complicated subject, but it is not as complicated as might be inferred from certain correspondence which has appeared inThe Times.When compared to the arithmetical ability of the two members of the Opposition concerned, Sir Alec Douglas-Home with his box of matches was a positive whizz-kid. The trouble is that those who have ventured into this difficult but not impossible field will always confuse running costs, which include support costs of all kinds, with capital costs. I hope that the House will now accept the figures that I am about to give. The basic cost of the F 111A is £2.1 million. This is also the ceiling price which we have negotiated. There is therefore a definite limit to what we may be called upon to spend. With modifications required to fit the aircraft for its specific R.A.F. tasks, the unit cost will be about £2½ million.
§ The next major cost figure is the programme cost—in other words, the cost of the R.A.F. version, plus running costs over a ten-year period. The programme cost of the F 111 is £280 million. On the same basis, the programme costs for 50 TSR 2s would have been £570 million. This gives a saving of about £300 million. On both sides I have excluded the £165 million for cancellation payments on the TSR 2. In other words, you can either add them to them both, or leave them out. For 110 TSR 2s the programme costs—and again I stress programme costs, which include running costs—would have been more than £900 million, and for 158 TSR 2s more than £1,200 million. Against this financial background, the only economic thing to do, inevitable and sad though it was, was to cancel the TSR 2, the cost of which was still escalating. If any noble Lords wish to study this matter further they should read the remarks of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Civil Appropriation Acounts for 1964, where the full 959 details of the cost of the TSR 2 are set out.
§ Let me now deal with the dollar question. It was, of course, the previous Government who committed this country to extensive purchases of dollar equipment, both Polaris weapons and Phantoms. I must point out that they did not obtain any offset arrangement. The really striking thing about the arrangements that we have been able to enter into in regard to the F 111 is that we should be able to offset the whole of the dollar costs, amounting to £260 million, both by co-operative sales to third parties and by direct purchases by the United States. I do not think that there is yet full appreciation of the magnitude of the opportunities in this field which now lie before us.
§ A major obstacle to selling defence equipment to the United States has been the existence of a number of artificial barriers, in particular, the 50 per cent. rule. Mr. McNamara has now agreed to waive this over a wide range of selected equipments, and it is up to us and to industry, in full competition, to effect the necessary sales. A target has been negotiated, and is part of the agreement we have entered into, and there is provision for discussions on the progress that is being made towards reaching that target. A particularly valuable part of this wide-ranging agreement is the opening for the provision of naval vessels to the United States.
§ The extra dollar cost of the whole aircraft and Polaris programme, assuming that we fulfil our opportunities under the F 111 agreement, is only £165 million over the £410 million to which the previous Government had already committed us, and about which they had never told anyone in detail. The F 111 meets the R.A.F. requirements. Twelve aircraft are already flying, and it is due to to enter squadron service with the United States Air Force in January, 1967. A considerable number have been ordered, and we expect more U.S. orders to follow.
§ There have been development troubles —I will not deny this. But these are not unusual with new aircraft, and present indications are that they have been, and are being, tackled effectively. We shall have all 50 aircraft we have ordered 960 delivered by January, 1970. We think we have a very good buy in the F 111. We have a ceiling unit price; we have performance guarantees. Spares will be made available on the same basis as those for the United States Air Force. The F 111 is a most economic way of meeting our requirements. It makes military sense, and it is also compatible with our long-term programme for the British aircraft industry, and with the effective development of the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft.
§ Let me turn now to other aircraft very briefly. I have concentrated on the F 111 simply because of its importance and because of the amount of controversy it has aroused. There are other new aircraft with important rôles to play. We have ordered 66 C 130s, and they will be entering service next year. This is an extremely versatile and useful transport. I had the opportunity of flying in a C 130 on a fourteen-hour flight over large areas of Arctic Canada and Greenland, and the crew comfort, the shirt-sleeve comfort, which the United States build into their flight decks is very striking. Its performance on the most primitive air strips was impressive. The Government have also ordered the Phantom for the Royal Air Force. We plan to have about 200 shared between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. The Phantom will be employed, together with the P 1127, to fulfil the rôle which had been in mind for the P 1154. It will arrive a great deal earlier than the P 1154.
§ Incidentally, the dollar cost at which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, planned buying Phantoms for the Navy can be revealed now at over £200 million in dollars. The P 1127 is under development for the Royal Air Force, and we are determined to maintain our national stake in this new area of aircraft development. Its V.T.O.L. capability will confer great military advantages. But I would remind your Lordships that there is more to the P 1127 than a vertical take-off capacity. Its short take-off capability, from very short strips indeed, is probably its greatest strength, and its performance is far superior to that of the Hunter.
§ Another aircraft we have ordered (and I hesitate again to mention it) is, of course, the Shackleton replacement. About 38 to 40 will come into the R.A.F. in a few years' time, the culmination, if 961 I may say so, of many years of speeches demanding a Shackleton replacement. Finally, I would repeat the importance that we attach to the new Anglo-French projects—the Jaguar and the variable geometry aircraft. Work on these two aircraft is proceeding. The Jaguar will be needed, both as a trainer and as a strike aircraft; and the V.G. aircraft will be used in the strike rôle, and may be used in other rôles. Let me say that it is ludicrous to suggest, as has been suggested, that the V.G. aircraft does not exist, even on the back of an envelope. A lot of preliminary design work is going on to allow us to agree detailed definition with the French. Its potentialities are well understood, and it will certainly be a formidable and more advanced aircraft than the F 111, which will of course be complementary to it. Considerable numbers of both aircraft will be required.
§ It is no idle phrase—and I think it is very important in relation to Anglo-French co-operation that we should recognise this—to say that these aircraft are the cornerstone of our future military aircraft policy. It is a challenging, flexible, and exciting project. This is in addition to a large number of aircraft, such as the Lightning, Belfast, VC 10, Andover, and many other aircraft, which I shall not take up the time of the House by mentioning but which will be coming into service. We have a coherent and a balanced equipment programme, and the prospects for the Royal Air Force are strong. It has a vital rôle to play in our national defence policy, and it is not immodest to claim that it is now getting the aircraft it requires to fulfil that rôle, at a price infinitely less than that which would have been the case if we had carried through the previous Government's programme.
§ Let me turn now to one of the most difficult decisions which we had to face in the Defence Review in relation to the future programme for the Royal Navy, which was the future carrier programme. May I again stress that in our Defence Review there was at no time any question of our making a choice between the F 111 and the aircraft carrier. We decided that we needed the F 111 for the protection of all three Services. The basic issue with regard to the aircraft carrier was whether we needed to start a new 962 generation of aircraft carriers which would last until about 2000 A.D. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, inferred, when talking about the CVA 01 in a previous debate, that it would be likely to last until 1990 or 2000 A.D. Let me say that there have been for many years more than one view on the value of carriers, and this controversy has gone on in Parliament and in the Defence Department, certainly under the days of the previous Administration.
§ I will not go into the vexed question as to whether carrier-based air power is an extension of sea power over the sea, or merely a different aspect of air power, for however we call it the value of aircraft in maritime operations is fully accepted. The question we have to ask ourselves, and the question the Government had to ask themselves, was what was the most cost-effective way of achieving our ends. It is worth recalling the circumstances, or the scenarios, as we call them to-day, in which air power was exercised during the last war. There was, first, from our point of view, the preeminent importance of the protection of our shipping, our lifeline, from the menace of the U-boat—the wolf packs particularly—and enemy land-based air power, Focke Wulfs or whatever they were, out of range of our own land-based air power; and I stress the words "out of range". Many of your Lordships will recall, and some will have experienced, those critical days of the Battle of the Atlantic. The problem at all times was to provide the essential protection from the U-boat wolf packs which lay in wait for our convoys.
§ Until 1943, the gap in the Atlantic could not be filled by land-based air power alone, and carriers, Mac ships, and other forms of seaborne aircraft, played a crucial and gallant part in those desperate battles. But when the very long-range Liberators came along the situation was eased. There is no question but that to-day land-based aircraft with their enormously increased range over virtually any sea route that we are likely to use, will play a vital part, along with rotary wing aircraft and other naval weapons, in the task of anti-submarine protection. Let me also emphasise (because it is right that we should recognise this) that there were other occasions at Taranto and on the convoy 963 routes to Russia where carriers played an absolutely vital part. Of course, the other areas where carriers were decisive were in the great battles in the Pacific against other carrier air power.
§ Let me now deal with the history of the carrier since the war. As noble Lords know, there has not been a single new carrier built or laid down since 1944, 22 years ago—a point of fundamental importance. As the White Paper made clear, Royal Navy carriers have been, and are, the most important offensive element in the Royal Navy to-day, and they have contributed importantly to its naval presence over a very wide range. Indeed. Royal Navy carriers operated off Korea, as part of the total U.N. air strike force, in circumstances where, let us admit, no maritime threat existed, but on no other occasion since the war, other than at Suez—which is hardly the sort of operation we should wish to repeat—have they provided more than a bonus. I am now giving facts. I do not seek in any way to depreciate the part the carriers have played and the gallantry and efficiency of their air crews.
§ However, Kuwait has frequently been mentioned. But at Kuwait in 1961 the carrier H.M.S. "Victorious" did not, and was not planned to, arrive until nine days after the operation began, and during that period air defence and strike forces were land-based. In East Africa in 1964 a carrier was certainly employed but not in her primary rôle: she mounted the helicopter assault force, and in fact acted as a commando ship. In Zambia the carrier certainly provided a naval presence. But she could not effectively have operated in providing an air defence system in Zambia unless land-based aircraft had already flown in all the necessary equipment, and particularly the radar environment.
§ It is the Commando ship, sometimes called the Commando carrier, which is the type of ship we need to-day. But we are not merely concerned with to-day; we are concerned with the situation in 1970, and indeed in 1975. Land-based air power will have enormously increased its range and, as I mentioned, for close-support anti-submarine operations there will be a large number of helicopters equipped with the latest anti-submarine devices. Our studies showed that the air- 964 craft carrier was an expensive way of providing air power, that it was vulnerable, and that its aircraft were limited by range and weapon load when operating against land targets. There was only one military environment in which a carrier appeared to be essential the landing or withdrawal of troops against sophisticated opposition outside the range of land-based air cover. And, for other reasons, we doubted whether we should have the military capability to sustain such an operation.
§ Moreover, I must point out that the previous Government had made no provision for new carriers. CVA 01 had been announced, but its keel had not been laid.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I know the noble Lord does not want to misrepresent facts. That really is not true. There was a perfectly good plan laid down, which would have meant the carrier being ordered this spring.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not in the least wish to be unfair, but the fact is that the previous Government did not order CVA 01. There were designs. I chose my words very carefully. It is perfectly true that no provision has been made, and indeed no carriers have been laid down in the last twenty years. If the Conservatives believed in carriers, why were they just keeping the CVA 01 option open? Perhaps I may quote from the 1962 White Paper, paragraph 62:Looking further ahead existing aircraft carriers will be coming to the end of their lives, starting with H.M.S. "Victorious" in about 1970. It is difficult to forecast with certainty what our requirements for this type of ship ten to fifteen years ahead will be.This is comparable to the statement in the 1957 Defence White Paper, that the future of the Navy was uncertain, as it was under the previous Government. But let me be fair to the noble Lord and add that they saidAs it takes no less than nine years to plan, build and work up a carrier, the Government have decided to put the necessary design work in hand.Was this indecision because the Conservatives realised when they were in office that CVA 01 was not itself the end of the story? Was it that they were aware that CVA 02 and CVA 03 would have had to follow in the early 1970s and that a replacement aircraft for the Buccaneer 965 would have been needed? Was it because they know that, while the cost of maintaining a three-carrier force over the next ten years would be the staggering sum of £1.400 million, the cost of keeping a similar sized force going for the ten years, up to the year 2000 A.D., would have been even greater?
If we had decided to build CVA 01 we should have found ourselves in the latter part of the 1970s with the three-carrier force of which only one could have been on station, say in the Far East, at the same time with another one available at 15 days steaming—and even that not always available, for there would have been at least two months in each year when there would be only one carrier. This carrier might well have been H.M.S. "Hermes" carrying the strike force of only seven Buccaneers. So, for the whole expenditure of £1,400 million, we should have had readily available to take part in operations a capability not more than that of two F 111s.
I acknowledge that a viable carrier force could make sense, but to be militarily effective—and this is the hard fact—a carrier force would need to be considerably more than three carriers. But the cost, even of a three-carrier force, is far greater than is justified by the military tasks our forces will have to perform and the limitations imposed by the smallness of its numbers. Consequently, we came to the conclusion that we should run down our existing carrier force over a period which would cover the re-equipment of the Royal Air Force with longer range aircraft and the Royal Navy with new ships and new missile systems.
Those who say that the disappearance of the carrier after 1975 is the end of the Royal Navy as a force capable of global operation are doing the Royal Navy a great disservice. The Navy will have a vital rôle to play in the future. Commando carriers and assault ships will be available to assist the Army wherever required. The Polaris submarines will provide our contribution to the nuclear deterrent, as we still hope, in an international force; and a force of nuclear hunter-killer submarines is being built up. The Navy will have converted "Tiger"-class cruisers with anti-submarine helicopters; it will have the new Type 82 destroyer; it will be equipped with a surface-to-surface missile. Indeed its 966 hunter submarine capability will be, if anything, greater and certainly better deployed. This will mean that the Navy will continue to play a key role in our national defence policy.
Moreover, the Fleet Air Arm will not cease to exist when its fixed-wing aircraft eventually phase out. Already about half the total number of Naval aviators are flying rotary-winged aircraft; and the need for modern helicopters, and for the men to fly them and maintain them, will increase as the years go by. And to those dismal prophets, I would say one other word. From time to time the Services are bound to suffer blows. To many people the phasing out of the carrier was no surprise. The Navy, I have no doubt, will take this in its stride. If I may speak for my own Service, the Royal Air Force has taken a few knocks in the past. Even ignoring the lunacy of the 1957 White Paper, the previous Government took away from Bomber Command its strategic nuclear deterrent rôle and on another occasion they decimated Fighter Command. Yet the future prospects of the Royal Air Force look stronger than ever. So I hope the message will go out from this House that we have faith and hope in the future of the Royal Navy.
I well remember in our Defence debate in your Lordships' House two years ago the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, saying that defence policy should be judged by its success in meeting the demands required by a foreign policy. The previous Government's success was rather limited, now that the real figures, not stretched and over-strained, have been shown, but having participated in the most thorough-going and detailed Defence Review I have no doubt that our defence policy will now be tailored to the demands of our foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on that occasion also asked whether the forces at the disposal of the Government would be adequate and adequately trained and equipped for the need. As a result of the Defence Review I have been left in no doubt that, without the new programme which my right honourable friend has instituted, our forces would not have been provided with the equipment they required for their task, or in time. This is the claim we make: that our forces will in future be matched with 967 our commitments in the most cost-effective manner.
If it is claimed that our military forces will be insufficient to meet our commitments, this could have been true had we not taken urgent steps to re-equip and to reduce the almost intolerable burden of stress and strain which the previous Administration put upon our Armed Forces. If the Conservative Party think they could do better, then I think we must ask them to explain how this might be done. We do not know where Mr. Enoch Powell stands. We do not know whether the Commonwealth is a gigantic hoax. Nor do we know how many on the other side of the House or in the Conservative Party wish for a withdrawal East of Suez. Mr. Enoch Powell is rather coy about it himself. I should be interested to know now what the Opposition have to say on certain matters: for instance, in relation to the future of the Territorial Army. It is my impression that the Government's proposals for the Army Volunteer Reserve and the Home Defence Force give better value for money, and consequently meet the defence needs of the country much better, and are therefore generally acceptable to those who take a realistic view of this matter. I hope noble Lords who may still wish to criticise the Government's plans will have regard to the opinions of those who will in fact have to carry them out in the Territorial Army.
My Lords, as one of those tremendously interested in the Territorial Army, I may tell the noble Lord that we have not had the Government's opinions yet, so we cannot judge. We have not yet had any details from the Government.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord may not have had any opinions, but the Government have, because the Government have been in constant conversation with them.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord really must control himself. I do not know whether he has put his name down to speak. I have already said that my noble friend Lord Shepherd will be dealing at length with this subject, and 968 the noble Lord will have plenty of opportunities to interrupt him. He has got more excitable since he got on to the Liberal Benches.
In particular, we should like to know what figures the Conservative Party consider appropriate for defence spending in the 1970s. We reckon that we are agreed that some limit is necessary. Would they propose to order not one carrier, or would there be in fact a new generation of carriers? I think we have shown that one new carrier does not make military sense. We should like to know how many there would be, and how they propose to man them, and, furthermore, how they are going to pay for them and what else in the national Budget will have to go. I hope, whatever else is said in the House to-day, that we shall not be treated to some of the rather anti-American remarks that have been emanating from the Party opposite, but not in this House. If the Opposition have a defence policy, I, for one, should like to know what it is. They may have forgotten their arithmetic, but they have not been out of office so long that they can have forgotten what the issues are, and if they have anything constructive to say let them say it. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House approves theStatement on the Defence Estimates 1966(Cmmd. 2901 and 2902.)—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTONrose to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after "House" and to insert instead: "regrets that theStatement on the Defence Estimates 1966shows that there has been no real attempt to match military resources to political commitments, and fears that the policy announced will lead to a growing gap between our commitments and our ability to meet them ". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper. The House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the way in which he introduced the debate, and for the care which he has taken, though I must say that I thought that towards the end the speech deteriorated a little and got a bit shrill. But I imagine that on April 1, as the noble Lord leaves the Ministry of Defence for the last time, 969 knowing the regard in which the Royal Air Force holds him, there will be some regret at the electorate's decision that there should be an immediate Shackleton replacement.
§ Of course this White Paper is wholly unacceptable to those who sit on these Benches. I shall try to explain why. But first perhaps it is worth pointing out that if an outside observer were to look at the statements on defence policy made by the Labour Party when in Opposition—
§ LORD CARRINGTON
It is rather embarrassing, but you are going to hear it. If an outside observer were to look at the statements on defence policy made by the Labour Party when in Opposition, and compare them with those made now, in Government he—this outside observer—might be rather surprised. Our memories are not so short that we do not recollect the statements of the Prime Minister and other Ministers that a Labour Government would concentrate on our conventional forces; that the nuclear deterrent was wasteful and expensive; that the Nassau Agreement would be re-negotiated; that the Atlantic Nuclear Force was to be negotiated and set up within NATO; that our conventional forces would be greatly strengthened, and, in particular, that they were in favour of a larger Navy.
My Lords, none of these things has happened. We still retain our independent nuclear deterrent; the Government are proceeding with the construction of four Polaris submarines; the Nassau Agreement has not been re-negotiated. Not that I am criticising the Government in this: I am delighted that they have seen the powerful and overwhelming arguments which led Sir Alec Douglas-Home and the Conservative Party to initiate and maintain the nuclear policy which the Labour Party have so carefully and rightly followed. Perhaps we may at a later stage of this debate get a courteous acknowledgement of that from the Leader of the House. After all, they used to be very rude to Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
The A.N.F. has not emerged—not that anybody ever thought it would, as it was so transparently a device to appease the Left Wing of the Labour Party. I must say that I was astonished to hear the 970 Prime Minister refer to it at Question Time the other day, and to see that it is mentioned again in the Labour Party Manifesto. I thought it was to be left to die decently, if unmourned, alongside the other gimmicks which had outlived their usefulness. Our conventional forces have not increased. In fact the reverse has been the case; and certainly the Royal Navy has not grown in strength. I was re-reading the other day a speech made by the Prime Minister at Plymouth in September, 1964. He said:I wish that the world were such that I did not have to say this, but I believe we shall need an expanded naval shipbuilding programme. How are we going to pay for it? Out of the savings made through stopping the wasteful expenditure on the politically inspired nuclear programme.We know they did not do that. There has been no sign of an expanded naval programme; not one single ship has been laid down, or ordered, which was not in the programme left by the Conservative Party.
It was interesting to note in the Prime Minister's speech what importance he attached to the aircraft carrier force. Quite a large part of it was devoted to criticisms that aircraft carriers had not been available when needed, and drawing the conclusion that the number we had were so few that it was taking dangerous risks with our defences. He ended by saying:I believe, and I state this with all the sincerity at my command, that I believe our reappraisal of defence policies, with our emphasis on the rôle of the Navy's regular job, will provide better security, better assurances for the future than the vacillations of Tory defence policy.My Lords, I tremble to contemplate what will happen to the Services when the Prime Minister speaks on defence without all the sincerity at his command. The Army and the Royal Air Force must be keeping their fingers crossed that Aldershot and Bomber Command are not on the Prime Minister's list of speaking engagements.
We have also seen drastic proposals to cut down our reserve forces and the Territorial Army, about which some of my noble friends will, I have no doubt, be speaking, and speaking with greater knowledge. For the same reason as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I cannot deal with everything, and there are other matters I want to talk about. All I 971 will say is this: that I am glad, at any rate, that the pressure which we exerted in this House has to some extent modified the Government's proposals—proposals which could in no sense be said to be in keeping with the promises of increased conventional forces made at the time of the last Election, which ignored home defence and were announced in complete isolation from the results of the Defence Review. Perhaps I should have added to my Amendment that it was a pity that no real attempt had been made to match military resources with political commitments and no attempt whatever to match performance to promises.
As soon as the Government were elected, they announced with a fanfare of trumpets that they intended to hold a comprehensive Defence Review. We are now debating the results of that Review. I have no quarrel with the need to have a Defence Review. Every new Minister and every new Government must necessarily undertake one. But what we do quarrel with are the terms under which that Review was undertaken. The Minister of Defence and the Government announced in advance of the Review that in 1970 we should be spending no more than the equivalent of £2,000 million at 1964 prices—in other words, an arbitrary ceiling, and not a target, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton rather disingenuously suggested in his speech; a ceiling on the amount of money which could be spent on defence. That sum was not related to our commitments or to the arms, the aircraft or the ships which it was necessary to have to discharge those commitments, or to the cost of the weapons. Of course money must be a vital consideration when a Defence Review is undertaken, and I shall have more to say on that later, but it must be wrong, if a genuine Review is intended, to set a ceiling which overrides all the other factors involved—national safety, national commitments and national honour.
I do not imagine that noble Lords opposite will agree with this quotation—I think perhaps it goes too far, but there is some truth in it. It is this:It has been emphasised everywhere that if one is directing one's policies—and this refers to defence policy—according to one's purse, it is almost certain that the policy will be wrong.972 That is an extract, and a fair one, from a speech made by Mr. George Brown in another place in 1962. But that of course was in what one might call his "blue period". Since then he has pretty well boxed the spectrum, if one can do such an unkind thing to a spectrum.
In our Defence debate last April, I suggested to the House that the only way in which it is possible genuinely to save money on defence is by cutting commitments. There is no other way of doing it. I believe this to be indisputably true. The decisions announced in the White Paper do not indicate that the Government are intending to cut commitments. The commitments which disappear are trivial in the extreme in so far as the saving of money is concerned. And if noble Lords opposite should say to me "Aden", I would answer this: that although Aden in a sense is a commitment, perhaps in an even larger sense it is a means whereby we can discharge our commitments in the Middle East, and help to do so in the Far East. I do not think that anybody would deny that, without Aden, it will be more difficult to meet our obligations in the Persian Gulf and in Kuwait, if ever that need should arise. And not long ago, in June 1964, the Prime Minister was saying how vital Aden was to our peacekeeping operations and our communications.
Here I must say that I view with dismay the decision to announce in advance that we do not intend to have a base in Aden from 1968 onwards: first, because I think it is foolish in the extreme to advertise in advance your intention to create a military vacuum. Such an announcement can only tend to encourage those whose interests are opposed to ours.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS AND FOR THE COLONIES (LORD BESWICK)
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me? Would he explain to the House how you can shift 40,000 tons of supplies and stores from Aden without announcing something in advance?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, that is quite a different thing from announcing in the Defence White Paper that you do not intend to have any military presence in Aden in 1968.With 973 what relish must that decision have been received by President Nasser, bogged down, as he was, and is, with 60,000 or more troops in the Yemen! Already he is, as we have seen, claiming that our withdrawal from Aden is a direct result of his Yemen intervention. With what dismay and anger it must have been received by the Sheikhs and Rulers in the Persian Gulf, who rely for their protection on Britain and on Britain's undertaking! And with what astonishment it must have been received by the Government of the South Arabian Federation, to whom an undertaking had been expressly given that, should they wish after independence to retain British protection we would be prepared to defend them—an undertaking of which it seems Mr. Healey was in total ignorance! All these, my Lords, are serious reasons. But I feel bound to say, and to say plainly, that to break an undertaking of this kind is something which no British Government should do, and no British Government should be allowed to get away with. By their decision to withdraw from Aden, it seems to me that they have not only reduced their capabilities but dishonoured their word. I do not, therefore, see that it is possible for the Government to say that they have greatly reduced their commitments.
The second big decision they have taken is not to continue the Fleet Air Arm carriers after the life of the carriers now afloat. This decision is justified in paragraph 4 on Page 10 of the White Paper, which says:Experience and study have shown that only one type of operation exists for which carriers and carrier-borne aircraft would be indispensable: that is the landing, or withdrawal, of troops against sophisticated opposition outside the range of land-based air cover ".Then the White Paper goes on to say that we could not do this alone in the 1970s.
Even if that were true—and I do not believe it is true—the certainty with which the Government assert that we shall not want to do this thing in the 1970s fills me with alarm. Britain, the White Paper says in another place, will not accept an obligation to provide another country with military assistance unless it is prepared to provide us with the facilities that we need. But might 974 it not be in our vital interests to do just that? Might we not want to do it? Might it not be outside the power of the country asking us for our assistance to provide these facilities? In how many countries in South East Asia could we find the necessary facilities in which the F 111s could operate? How many countries have airfields with adequate runways, the necessary air-conditioned workshops for the maintenance of the highly sophisticated equipment of these aircraft? How many countries have the necessary storage space for the fuel and ammunition? Might not the request for help have come too late for such facilities as existed to be still in friendly hands? Those, surely, are a few of the questions which one can bring to mind. Maritime airpower is dependent on none of these things.
A statement such as that in the White Paper must greatly limit our capability of military intervention. One might really ask the Government at this point whether they have seriously considered the implication of those words upon the whole structure of the Royal Navy. If we do not intend to undertake operations of this sort, why do we continue with the commando ships, and why have we just commissioned an assault ship and are carrying on building another one, if the operations for which they were expressly designed are no longer to be undertaken? What are these ships for? Why do we continue with them'? Perhaps the noble Earl the Leader of the House, in his speech to-morrow evening, or the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will give some answer to these puzzling questions.
I served for a good many years, one way and another, in Defence Departments, and if I learned only one thing it was this: it is a grave mistake to predict with too much certainty and assurance what is going to happen in ten years' time, and dogmatically to lay down conditions which must be satisfied before Britain should intervene. Of course one must try to look into the future. Of course one must do one's best to forecast what the world will be like and the sort of operations which are likely to take place. But, in the end—and this is really important—our forces must be organised and equipped in such a way that they are flexible and mobile enough to deal with the unexpected. To say in advance that you 975 will do A, B and C and that in no circumstances will you do D, E and F is, in my view, asking for trouble. I remember that when we were discussing the earlier programme in the days of the Conservative Government we did an exercise on the number of incidents and alarms which had involved the Armed Forces since 1945. In very few of the forty or so incidents had anybody foreseen the likelihood or possibility of British intervention. In most of these cases with which I was associated, the very first question asked by the current Minister of Defence was, "Where are the aircraft carriers?"
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, could the noble Lord give some examples, and could he tell us where the aircraft carriers were?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I could give some examples. The noble Lord will know of the incidents which took place from 1951 to 1965—he mentioned some himself. In all those cases the aircraft carriers were in one way or another of vital importance to the task which we carried out. The Services were always having to meet the unexpected, and in order to ensure that they could continue to do so it was our intention and our purpose that they should be equipped so that they could be both mobile and flexible. There is no doubt that the decision to restrict any British intervention, unless supported by the Americans—which is really what the sentence means—to within the range of a land air base, greatly narrows the areas of the world, much more than the Government have admitted, in which Britain could usefully intervene and reduces the capability of our Armed Forces, except in certain fairly narrow areas.
No doubt anything I say about the carrier force will be looked upon as gravely suspect. But let me say this. When I became First Lord in 1959, I started with no particular prejudice in favour of aircraft carriers, and with no particular bias in favour of the Royal Navy as opposed to any other Service. But the longer I stayed at the Admiralty and the longer I studied the problems which faced us East of Suez, the more convinced I became that, if we were really serious in our stated intentions East of Suez, it would not be possible for us to discharge our commitments without mari- 976 time air power provided by the aircraft carrier. I do not know of anyone in the Royal Navy who would want to keep the Fleet Air Arm just for the sake of having a large and impressive Navy. Nobody wants to go to the admittedly big expense of a carrier force unless it is absolutely necessary. If the Government decided that they had no commitments East of Suez, and that a global war in which it was necessary to maintain our sea communications was out of the question, then there would be no case for an aircraft carrier. But this is not what the Government have decided. On the contrary, they have expressly acknowledged our commitments and declared their intention to remain a military power in South-East Asia.
I have said that I do not believe it possible to discharge these commitments without maritime air power. I am comforted to think that that view is shared not only by the Admiralty Board and its professional Naval officers, but also by all the political heads of the Navy, whether Conservative or Labour. I hope noble Lords opposite will read Mr. Mayhew's speech again, for he sets out very clearly and starkly the fundamental mistake the Government have made. In any intervention which takes place East of Suez it will always be necessary for the Royal Navy initially to convey the Army to the area of action and to maintain it with supplies. On the way there, and when it arrives, it will be necessary for the force to be protected with strike aircraft, fighter aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft. According to the White Paper, all this can be done by the Royal Air Force. I do not for one moment doubt that the Royal Air Force will do their very best, but I just do not believe that it is going to be possible. There is no suggestion in the White Paper that the strength of the Royal Air Force is to be increased. Indeed, the F 111s, so few in number, are going to be supplemented by V-bombers whose capabilities in the early 1970s must begin to be called into question later on by the Anglo-French Swing-wing aircraft.
Is it really practicable to think that, as well as doing the job which it does now, without any additional strength the Royal Air Force can take on the entire work of the Fleet Air Arm—strike, fighter, airborne, early warning and reconnaissance? If this is so, why not get rid 977 of the carriers now? Why go on until the 1970s and spend perhaps £30 million on modernising the "Ark Royal", and a great many millions more on refitting the other carriers to enable them to continue their job? What miracle is going to happen in 1975 which is suddenly going to render the Fleet Air Arm totally unnecessary? The conscious decision was taken after the war that for its strike capability the Royal Navy would rely upon the aircraft and not upon a surface-to-surface weapon. I do not believe it is realistic—and we did studies on this when I was at the Admiralty—to substitute for the striking power of the aircraft a comprehensive range of surface-to-surface missiles. Of course, it would be possible, given the money and the time, but it would entail an enormous amount of fundamental research and development, new ships would almost certainly have to be built, and the cost would be probably as much as a whole fleet of new carriers. In any event, the loss of flexibility would not make it worth while, since aircraft have certain very obvious advantages over the missile.
It follows from this—and the Government have confirmed it—that there is only a proposal to equip the Royal Navy with a small-range surface-to-surface weapon. This small weapon will be the only strike capability which the Royal Navy has under its control, other than the existing guns with their very limited range. Upon this they will have to rely to deal with such possible weapons as the Komar-class Russian ships—small, fast vessels which have a guided missile with a range of some seventeen miles—weapons which have been sold or given to a number of countries, some of them our potential enemies. I do not know how the Royal Navy will deal with this sort of situation, unless it has within its own control weapons which are capable of dealing with threats of that magnitude. Is it really feasible to imagine that in the middle of a limited war operation on land and sea land-based aircraft will be able to deal with the day-to-day, hour by hour, minute by minute requirements of the Fleet? I just do not believe it is possible. The Government, by their decision not to continue with the Fleet Air Arm, have in one blow removed the eyes of the Navy, removed all its teeth and cut off the hands which it uses for self-defence.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord. I hope that he is not saying that it is the end of the Fleet Air Arm. It is merely the fixed-wing element.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I hope the noble Lord will do me the courtesy of paying careful attention to what I am saying.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I beg the noble Lord's pardon; I am so sorry. I was referring to not continuing with the fixed-wing element of the Fleet Air Arm. At the same time this decision has greatly lessened the chances of proper strike and fighter protection being given to the Army in circumstances which, in spite of what the Government say, may well arise in the future. We on these Benches have decided that we would go ahead with the construction of this cancelled aircraft carrier because we believe that in 1966 it is much too early to make these definite statements about what is to happen in 1975. We believe that not to continue now would be taking a risk which is quite unacceptable at this stage.
Already there have been criticisms that what the Conservatives propose will cost too much money. Mr. Callaghan, in a flight of fancy, talked about runaway prices. The prices have not been runaway. In 1956 we were spending 8.1 per cent. of the gross national product on defence; in 1959 we were spending 7.1 per cent.; and in the last two years of Conservative Government we were spending 6.6 and 6.5 per cent. There is nothing runaway there. Indeed, it becomes ill for Mr. Healey to talk about 1s. 6d. on the income tax, when over the years of Conservative Government income tax and other taxes were greatly reduced, whilst in the 500 days of Labour Government and their five Budgets taxation has been greatly increased.
We believe that it is possible to finance our Defence programme at or about the current percentage of the gross national product, and we who sit on this side of the House maintain that it is in our national safety and in our national interests to do so, because our national interests are at stake. We do not see 979 any reason why this expenditure should now present greater difficulty than it did in the past. Of course, all of us want to see greater prosperity at home. That is why all of us, regardless of Party, are in politics. We want to improve the standard of life of the people of this country, but those of us who sit on these Benches do not want to do it at the expense of national safety and our honour and our standing in the world.
My indictment of the Government is this. They have fixed an arbitrary ceiling of defence cost, unrelated to our defence and political commitments. They have not cut our commitments, but they have cut our military capability. They are pretending that we can discharge our obligations with this reduced military strength. This is a false prospectus. It is often said that at Election time the electorate is not interested in anything other than that which most nearly touches its personal welfare. I personally believe that there are very many people in this country who consider that our national safety and our national interests are of paramount importance. To-morrow your Lordships will be given an opportunity of giving them a lead. I hope you will condemn the Government's Defence policy, and condemn it decisively. I beg to move my Amendment.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out all the words after (" House ") and insert (" regrets that theStatement on the Defence Estimates 1966shows that there has been no real attempt to match military resources to political commitments, and fears that the policy announced will lead to a growing gap between our commitments and our ability to meet them ").—(Lord Carrington.)