§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD GLADWYNrose to move, as an Amendment to the Amendment, to leave out "military resources to political commitments" and insert "political commitments to military resources". The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Rea, which you have before you and which I now have the honour formally to move, is intended to represent clearly the broad Liberal attitude towards defence. In moving it, may I first of all apologise most sincerely for missing the first few minutes of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the substance of which, however, was of course communicated to me.
§ It is now nearly a year since I developed in a general way the Liberal 983 defence policy, and as your Lordships may remember it was received with incredulity on the part of the Tories and with some derision on the part of the Government. More recently I asked the Government, after they had at long last published their Defence Review, whether our real choice was not between becoming an effective European, or an increasingly ineffective world, Power. Nor, I suggested, did I see any particular reason why we, alone among the medium-sized Powers, should voluntarily assume any individual peace-keeping mission. Here, again, the Government's attitude was one, frankly, of derision. My policy, said the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, certainly appealed to some people in the House and in the country—he admitted that—but it did not, as he saw it, represent the views of the other two political Parties, nor did he think that it wholly represented the views of my own Party.
§ Well, my Lords, for the other two Parties I obviously cannot speak. Both, with the sole and laudable—though, it is feared, momentary—exception of the Shadow Tory Minister of Defence are, as it seems to us, dangerously off the rails. But the Liberal Party, I can assure the noble Lord—I believe that he again reverted to this at the beginning of his speech—really is united on this issue, and we feel that our policy, if it is properly explained, may make an important appeal to the people of this country. So let me, in the short time at my disposal, once again try to set forth exactly what that policy is.
§ The policy is based on the initial and fundamental assumption that we are no longer a world Power in our own right, and, therefore, are incapable of undertaking any peace-keeping mission of any importance except in close association with, and in fact—let us not disguise the fact—acting as an auxiliary of, the United States of America. Those are the facts.
§ The reason for this, as we see it, is twofold. In the first place, contrary to the instinctive belief of many people in this country, the British Empire really has ceased to exist and can in no political sense—I repeat, in no political sense—be said to have been replaced by the Commonwealth. In the second place, we just 984 do not have the resources to play anything except a secondary rôle. What is the point, my Lords, of contemplating even the continuing expenditure of £2,000 million a year at 1964 prices, which is the policy of the Government, when the important fraction of this sum which represents foreign exchange has to be borrowed from a consortium of international bankers? It is just no good scraping around and producing just, but obviously not quite, enough money to justify some pretensions to a world r ôle and to what the Prime Minister is always referring to as "a place at the Top Table". We must simply recognise that the fundamental assumption of the Government in their Review is wrong, and start again in our estimate of the situation.
§ Now it is often alleged that whether we can afford a world rôle or not is entirely, or very largely, irrelevant. We are, it seems, in honour bound to honour what are always referred to as our "commitments" all over the world. My Lords, this seems to us here to be a fatal word. As normally interpreted, it means, obviously, something that engages you absolutely and from which you cannot possibly escape. But this is simply not so as regards the vast majority of engagements which we at present have to defend any particular State, other than our general obligations under the United Nations, our specific ones under the North Atlantic Treaty and W.E.U., the very much vaguer and less binding ones contained in the SEATO and CENTO Treaties and, of course, our moral obligations to give aid and comfort to any Commonwealth country.
§ Thus (to go into details for a moment), with perhaps the rather doubtful exception, as I understand it, of the Sheikdom of Fujairah, we have no legal obligation to defend the Arab rulers of the Trucial Coast under the Treaty of 1853 if we should find it impossible or undesirable to do so. I am told that, in the case of Qatar, under a Treaty of 1916 we should apparently have to defend the Sheikh from attacks by sea, though possibly, I believe, under the 1935 Treaty we might be expected to give some additional support by air. But as regards Muscat and Oman, we have no obligations of any kind—any more, really, than for Kuwait, although here, it is true, we expressed 985 in 1961 our "readiness" to defend that State if our support was ever requested. But, my Lords, it is very doubtful whether it would ever be requested, because Kuwait is now, happily, a member of the United Nations.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment to say that he would surely agree that Kuwait is absolutely vital to this country?
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I do not know what the noble Lord means by "absolutely vital". I am coming to the point about oil later, if the noble Lord will wait. To go back to my general observations, in Libya, at any rate, our engagements, such as they are, can hardly apply any more in the existing circumstances of the Arab League, and so on; and, of course, we can clear out of our Cyprus base at any moment, if we thought it desirable to do so, without, as I understand it, breaking any Treaty.
As regards Aden, where the Government, as we see it, have as last seen the light (as we recommended, in fact, last April), we have now abandoned our "commitment", whatever that commitment was—it is the subject of dispute between the two Parties, as I understand it; but, I repeat whatever the commitment was, we have in fact now abandoned it—which only shows that if you feel impelled to do something of the kind you find adequate reasons for doing it. Indeed, the Review itself contains the admission, if one reads it, that we must relinquish some of our present commitments. That is what it says. Only in Bahrein have we a definite Middle Eastern obligation, under a Treaty of 1851—renewed, it is true, 100 years later—to protect (I believe these are the words) the Sheikh's domains "in the same way as we would protect our own territories". One would have thought that a Treaty of that age, like our famous Treaty with Portugal, which could not, as we all know, be applied over Goa, might in the last resort be subject to some kind of Statute of Limitations.
My Lords, I suggest that all this emphasis on "commitments" in the whole area of the Middle East is largely double-talk; and so, to a large extent, are the prophecies of the disaster which would befall us and, indeed, the world (still, I 986 think, the official view of the Government) if we gradually, after the evacuation of Aden, reduced and eventually abolished our establishments in Bahrein and in the Gulf. An appalled Lord Chalfont, in the debate last April, said that the adoption of the Liberal policy would—and I quote the noble Lord—" leave whole areas of the world in chaos ". If this is so, then the present Government will be responsible, obviously, for "chaos" in South Arabia. But, my Lords, it really is not so. Leaving the countries concerned to work out their own destinies is much more likely in the end to produce order than chaos. Indeed, the sensible thing for us to do, surely, would be to try here and now to prepare for the situation which would follow on our gradual withdrawal from the Gulf by working towards what the Tory Shadow Minister of Defence has very properly called an Asiatic balance of forces. For instance, the Ruler of Saudi Arabia could very well, as I believe, assume early responsibility for the defence of the Trucial Sheikhdoms, and even of Bahrein. Why not? This might very well reinforce him against any insidious designs on his own territories on the part of the Ruler of Egypt.
The Shah of Persia and the Ruler of Iraq might, I suppose, one day come to blows. It is regrettably possible, although not inevitable. But is this really likely to be prevented by our own small presence in Bahrein? If we are going to act as a sort of permanent deterrent in this whole area, we shall want far more in the way of forces than we can possibly afford; and even then we shall probably only be sitting on the safety valve. If, on the other hand, it is only a "presence" that is necessary, then why not reduce our garrison at Bahrein to a platoon or two? And might it not even be argued that such presence might anyway result merely in an expensive involvement in local hostilities which we might, if we had got out, have avoided? If, regrettably, some local war does break out it seems, on the whole, probable, especially if all the major Powers are firmly opposed to it, that it will probably be settled in much the same way as the recent unfortunate hostilities between India and Pakistan were settled; namely, by some outside pressure or mediation, or possibly by some action on the part of the United Nations. But what will certainly not 987 happen, we believe, is any incursion of the Russians into the North of the area of the Middle East. For that, after all, would almost certainly call into question what has been called the "delicate balance of terror."
As for oil (and I will deal here with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby; though he may or may not agree with me) I think that the local rulers, whoever they are, or whoever they may be, will have to sell the oil to the West or not at all; and if there should, regrettably, be any disturbances, that might conceivably affect the supplies of oil to the West temporarily, well, this could happen whether we are present militarily in the Persian Gulf or not.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I sincerely apologise for again interrupting, but the noble Lord surely realises, in view of what he is saying, that we stopped the threatened invasion of Kuwait by Iraq with the forces we had available at that time in Bahrein. They were not large but they were enough to do the job.
§ LORD GLADWYN
Yes, my Lords, we did; but the situation was totally different then. Kuwait is now a member of the United Nations, and the whole situation has changed. It is unlikely, in these circumstances, that the Ruler would apply to us. I can assure your Lordships that the situation has changed. We could do things then that we are, I believe, unable to do now.
Apart from this, we could continue to play some part if we so desired in the rather murky policies of the Middle East by, for instance, supplying arms to one side or the other. But what is basically wanted, I am sure, is more diplomacy and less gunboat mentality. Our present attitude towards this area is an echo of the past. Let the Government continue in the path they have now happily begun to tread in the Middle East—no doubt, partly as a result of representations from these Benches—and they will soon find it possible to make further great savings and to reduce the mystic figure of £2,000 million per annum which, as Mr. Mayhew rightly said in another place, they have so arbitrarily and so unnecessarily selected.
988 Our only other outstanding commitment, as I believe, is Malaysia. Here we have an obligation to defend the new Federation, which, rightly or wrongly, we insisted on establishing even though it has been partly disrupted by the departure of Singapore. The Liberal Party, in spite of what people have said, in spite of misrepresentations, has never maintained that we should simply repudiate this obligation. Still less is it suggested that we should not continue to play some part of the general defence of South-East Asia in accordance with some plan agreed with the Americans and also with the Australians. But we have to face the fact that it may not, in practice, be possible for us much longer to retain the facilities of the great base in Singapore. If that happens it will be quite impossible to maintain our large army at present stationed in the island and jungles of Borneo.
Here again, I think, the emphasis should be much more on diplomacy and on the way we play our cards, with the object of ending the famous confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia rather than on the deployment of large conventional forces. Much will depend on the issue of the war in Vietnam and the extent to which it is really thought that the Chinese are bent on, or would be successful in pursuing, an aggressive policy. What in principle we ought to contemplate is some early and fairly heavy reduction in our forces in South-East Asia and in all the elaborate machinery necessary to support them at a distance of thousands of miles.
With this background we may perhaps approach the next question which, as we know, caused a split in the Cabinet and the resignation of the First Sea Lord. From what I have said, it should be apparent that the Liberal Party warmly supports the ex-Minister of the Navy in his second (and what I venture to regard, from what he said, as his major) reason for resigning; namely, that much less money ought to be spent East of Suez if, as seems inevitable, we cannot afford to maintain any effective independent presence there. If this is so, and if the new carrier is to be scrapped, may not one legitimately ask what exactly is going to be the purpose of the enormously expensive F 111s? If the Persian Gulf is evacuated—and I maintain, rightly or 989 wrongly, that whatever the Government say now, it fairly shortly will be evacuated —these aeroplanes will presumably operate East of Suez only from Singapore or, I dare say, from some base to be constructed in the North of Australia. For the rest, they will obviously be based in the United Kingdom.
Surely, it would be better if, instead of attempting to despatch them to Australia, in case of need, right round by South Africa, their communications should lie over North Canada and Guam. If this is going to be their rôle, it is not obvious, to me, at any rate, why there should be such insistence on maximum range and the need for a very short take-off. Seeing that there would be very great advantages, from the point of view of our relations with France and of our development of our own aeronautical industry, in so doing there might have been a case—although I recognise the force of what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said to the contrary in his speech—for buying the new Mirages, equipped with British engines. If our basic policy were altered, there might indeed still be a case for so doing. After all, if we do evacuate the Middle East, and if we are taking part in the defence of South-East Asia only in a secondary capacity, we are, by the force of things, primarily a European Power and should, if possible, build up our forces on some European foundation.
The same principles apply to our nuclear forces. If they are not abandoned altogether, our four nuclear submarines, with Polaris missiles, will have to be maintained as a separate and independent British force—and we all know that at one time, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, pointed out, it was loudly proclaimed that this was one of the things the Government would never do—or this force must be merged in some, at the moment rather improbable, NATO multinational or multilateral force; or they could eventually form the nucleus of a European, or some European, contribution to the Western Alliance. I should have thought, I must say, that the last solution would be the best if, in fact, we are going into Europe. But if a real European Political Community is ever formed, it will be for the Europeans collectively to decide what they want to do with the British and, 990 indeed, with the French nuclear potential, or whether they want, collectively, to continue it in any form at all.
What is certain, my Lords, is that our nuclear force could not in practice be employed or threatened anywhere outside the European area—and even there only when, and if, Europe is formed politically—except with the prior consent of the Americans. What is the point therefore of sending aeroplanes with a nuclear capacity, still less nuclear bombs, to the Far East? Exactly whom are these bombers going to threaten, and where? Do we really think that the nations in these confused regions look any more to Britain for comfort and physical support? In any case, should we not accept what seems to be an obvious fact; namely, that if we ever do want to play any world rôle, it can now be only as a part of a United Western Europe? I think I have said enough to indicate the main lines on which we say that the present Government's defence policy is not only dangerous but quite unrealistic.
My Lords, everyone admits that the present Minister of Defence is a very able man, and we must certainly recognise that he has made some very welcome economies, by streamlining procedures, suppressing redundancies and so on, as explained in the Review. But, like so many great personalities of our time with a Marxist background, Mr. Healey carries a Marshal's baton in his knapsack, and I am afraid that he has been unduly impressed by the splendour and efficiency of that enormous "Sacred Cow", The Ministry of Defence. As for the Prime Minister, who not so long ago, you may remember, my Lords, declared that our frontier was on the Himalayas, I really do hope that, at any rate after the Election, he will not try to muscle into the top table all the time, but seek rather more of the company of the younger dons. I am sure that he and the present very able Minister of Defence (if they come into power for a second time, and are successful, as we all hope they will be, in aligning this country with our European neighbours) could very well have a new shot at a modern and efficient streamlined defence policy which would save us the useless expenditure of many hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
991 In conclusion, my Lords, if I am not going on too long, I should like to put in one plea in this connection for a measure of constitutional reform. It does seem to me, with great respect, that it is the height of folly, and the reverse of democracy, that the Defence Review published last month should be adopted after one or two short debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. A document which commits us to an expenditure of no less than £10,000 million is, after all, something in which informed people in this country ought to take a very great interest; and it is indeed sad when we hear that the first effort to consider it in another place had to be postponed because of the overriding necessity of investigating some alleged irregularity by the Minister of Housing and Local Government in the development at Islington of a property known as the Packington Estates, and that the second should be overshadowed by what are I am afraid, essentially electoral considerations.
It has become more and more obvious, I believe, that the suggestion which I ventured to make to your Lordships as long ago as January 15, 1964, namely, that the House of Commons should, if possible, be reduced in numbers and divided up into various commissions—one of which would obviously be devoted to Defence—is the right one. It is strange—it would certainly seem strange to a visitor from Mars— that we should be about the only democracy in which really important matters with which the Government deal should not be the subject of any informed Parliamentary scrutiny. In America the Executive and its officers are subjected to long, searching inquiries by Senate Commissions; and the eventual policy is the product of what really is "a great national debate".
It is, I fear, not the slightest good for our Prime Minister to say that there must be such a debate on defence, as he does, when all he means, apparently, is that there should be an intensive study within the Government machine going on for months or years which is in no way subjected to outside criticism; and then the results are, so to speak, thrown at Parliament simply to "take it or leave it". This is another matter in which the Liberal Party feels itself well in advance of the two existing Parties, and 992 I hope that in this sector, as in that of defence itself, there will, perhaps on a Liberal initiative, be substantial progress after the General Election. I therefore, my Lords, beg to move the official Liberal Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Rea.
§ Amendment to Amendment moved—
§ Leave out (" military resources to political commitments ") and insert (" political commitments to military resources ").—(Lord Gladwyn.)
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, our debate comes roughly half-way between the publication of this year's Defence White Paper and a General Election. Before I get on to the latter, let me address myself for a very few moments to the former, which is what we are supposed to be debating. This year's White Paper seems to me to present a great improvement over any former Defence White Paper ever published in this country, to the extent that it contains many more figures than have ever appeared before. Part II of it is a new departure, and one which I think both Houses of Parliament should warmly welcome. We are, for the first time, beginning to get those elements, the difficulty of obtaining which was so plangently lamented by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. a moment ago. On the other hand, I believe that there is still a long way to go in what one might call the political discussion before getting down to hard figures.
I noticed that Mr. McNamara's annual Defence Statement to Congress this year contained 31 pages headed, "An Assessment of the International Situation as it bears on Military Policy and Postures"—a rather precise and good description; whereas our own White Paper still contained only four pages on Britain's military rôle—a less sophisticated and articulated concept by a long way. May we hope that next year the Government will give as much increase in political analysis as they have already in costing figures and other figures.
Before leaving the White Paper, let me also welcome—it is the kind of thing which is forgotten in the hurly-burly of Parliamentary debate—the appearance in the White Paper, amplified by subsequent announcements, of a system of cross-linking between the Ministry of 993 Defence and the universities; the creation of posts in the universities into which serving officers and civil servants can go for a couple of years, and the creation of a permanent Defence Review section inside the Ministry of Defence, which will be staffed partly by academics on leave of absence from universities. I believe that this is a profoundly beneficial departure.
It is nice to feel for once that the Labour Government is a party of moderation; a kind of half-way stage in British politics between the nostalgia and militarism of the Conservative Right and the Little Englandism and the withdrawal-to-the-white-cliffs-ism of the extreme Liberal Left. How pleasant to be outflanked, and how unfamiliar! Long may it continue, because I believe that in this matter, as in most, the central position is the best one from which to guide the destinies of the country.
My Lords, let me turn now to some objections to the White Paper raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with his customary charm and his customary vivacity, but, I think, with more than his customary sense of nostalgia. It seemed to me that he is to be blamed in not having quoted chapter and verse for the forty occasions when he found that when something blew up Conservative Ministers of Defence asked first, "Where are the carriers?" I was struck by the fact that my noble friend, Lord Shackle-ton, did give chapter and verse for five major "shemozzles" East of Suez, where, he was able to tell us, carriers had not been more than a bonus, and had not been able to carry out any function which could not have been carried out by other elements of military force. I think that the Opposition case on this point suffers from a lack of concrete detail compared with the case put by the Government in this carrier discussion.
I was also struck by the fact that although the Conservative Government—and how right they were!—kept the option of building a carrier open, and although—and how right they were!—they made extensive studies of how a carrier should be built, if it were to be built, yet, one must notice, in thirteen years, in three General Elections and in the time of God knows how many successive Ministers of Defence, in point of fact the decision to build the carrier was not taken. Now 994 along comes a Labour Government who inherit the situation. A decision has to be taken. The Government take a decision not to build a carrier and immediately, wham! Straight into the Election Manifesto: a major attack in both Houses of Parliament: "Why did you not build this carrier?" Emotive language is used: "You are cutting off the teeth, the hands, the eyes, the ears, the nose, and God knows what else, of the Navy." It immediately became—must we really think that it is entirely a matter of the assessment of the true good of this country, or perhaps believe that electoral considerations may come in?— a key issue between the Government and the Opposition.
The key phrase in the Defence White Paper on this carrier issue is that the carriers would be needed only for the landing or withdrawal of troops outside land-based cover against sophisticated opposition. Let me make two points. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked what the assault ships were for. If we do not need carriers to do that, do we need assault ships to do it? We shall hear what they are for from Ministers later in the debate in the most clear and concrete terms available. In the meantime, I should have thought that they are to make it possible to Ian troops inside land-based air cover, or outside, against unsophisticated opposition. This seems to me to be a sufficient reason to keep them going and to build them, as we are doing.
Let me ask another question of the Opposition. Since they do not disagree with the assessment that we need carriers only for this type of operation, and since they maintain that it is wrong to have no more carriers in the 'seventies what is the kind of operation of landing troops outside land-based air cover against sophisticated opposition they envisage? What do they mean? Do they mean going back into Malaysia after we have left it? Do they mean trying to liberate India or Burma from China? Do they mean trying to drive the Egyptian Army out of Royalist Yemen? Let us have one simple case, and then we shall see the true colours under which this policy is sailing. I think it would also be fairer if the Conservative Party were not to talk about one carrier, but about three 995 carriers. I think it is agreed by all that we need three to keep one in the Indian Ocean at all. We should also bear in mind the rather startling fact that the United States have thirteen or fifteen carriers and also find it necessary, even to carry on its present level of military presence in the Pacific Ocean, to build and continue to build large airfields on land. I put this forward as a kind of footnote, to suggest that even the United States find that carriers are by no means enough and regards them as a sort of bonus, though on a vastly greater scale than we do in this country.
I now turn to Aden. This appears to be a nasty little electoral row blowing up. As I understand the story, Mr. Duncan Sandys in 1964 agreed with the request of the Government of the South Arabian Federation to call a Conference in order to arrange for independence in 1968 and for a defence agreement involving the continuation of the British base. It is not clear from the text so far quoted whether this British base was to continue after independence in 1968, but we may assume that it was. I understand that the present Government tried and failed to convene such a conference. The Government of the Federation of South Arabia would not come. The next thing that happened was that the Government of South Arabia changed and the new Government does not want a British base after independence in 1968. I understand from the White Paper that the British Government do not want, and find no purpose for, a military base in Aden after 1968. We are invited by the Tories, then, to accept the situation where we must maintain a base which we do not need, in spite of the hot opposition of the people who happen to live there and do not want it, because of an undertaking by Mr. Duncan Sandys to a Government which fell a year ago.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, is the noble Lord absolutely certain of this? Is he not confusing the Government of Aden with the Government of South Arabia?
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I understand that the conference at which the 996 undertaking was made by Mr. Duncan Sandys contained representatives of both. However, I willingly defer on details to the noble Lord. But I will stick to my point. We want to know if the Conservatives are going to insist on our having a base for which the Government of the day have decided there is no military need, in a country where the people do not want it.
Let me touch on a point made by Mr. Powell in another place yesterday. He seems to be laying the violence in Aden—he said there has been violence every day since this announcement was made—at the door of the present Government and their announcement. If I understood him correctly, and I hope I did not, this would be an unworthy line to take. There has been violence in Aden for two or three years now, mostly committed by people who have said, "Britain, get out and take your base away", and the present violence is coming from those who are saying now, "We are glad you are taking your base away, but please take it away tomorrow, not in 1968". The Conservative pledge to hang on to the base in Aden should fill noble Lords on these Benches with optimism. It seems to be the kind of pledge that could have been made only if you are perfectly certain that you are going to lose an Election, so strange is the policy which lies behind it.
Now, may I touch on the argument of the runaway train? The noble Lord and his colleague in another place yesterday made great play with the fact that the proportion of the G.N.P. had been decreasing or remaining steady over recent years. So it has. If I understand my noble friend's case aright, it is not that the proportion of the G.N.P. has been going up; it is that when they came into office, they found a situation where it appeared certain that, without cuts, the proportion of the G.N.P. would go up between now and 1970. With modern weapon systems with a lead-time of ten years, we simple cannot say that we shall keep it down. We have to make cuts now, if we want to avoid a rising expense pattern in four, five or ten years' time. For this reason I think that it would be quite wrong for the Party Opposite to take refuge in the phrase, "some remote year". We have to look very carefully at precisely which remote year, and if 997 we find that things in the present plan do involve an unacceptable increase, then they have to be cut now. The fact that the proportion of the G.N.P. has not yet gone up in no way contradicts this point.
The Conservative defence policy appears to be at this moment: more submarines than the present Government are committed to buying; regret at the cancellation of the TSR 2, though they are not going so far as to say it should be started up again—I think that would be impossible; three carriers—£1,400 million; more Navy, more Territorial Army, more reserves. It seems to me that one cannot advance all these claims simultaneously (at the moment, they amount to more than the plans which the present Government found when they came in) without giving some indication of what part of the Budget the money is going to be lopped off or, if not, in what form of taxation it is to be levied.
A complaint of the Conservative Party against the present Government is that their new defence policy binds us hand and foot to the United States. Again, this is emotive language. We may regard our alliance as close and beneficial or as one in which we are bound hand and foot. If we are indeed bound hand and foot, would it not he right to say that these bonds began to be tightened sharply at the time of the Nassau Agreement, through the history of the Skybolt and Polaris since then? We have indeed been in a close alliance with the United States, which we do not regret. But if anything was being bound hand and foot, that was. The Nassau Agreement and the handling of policy in the weeks succeeding it were clearly the cause of the breakdown in our negotiations to enter the Common Market. It is striking that the Minister who was most involved in those negotiations and in carrying them so far forward and who nearly reached success, should have found it possible to remain in the Government after all hope had been torpedoed by the other side of the Conservative Government of that time.
I think that the Opposition want us to be able to "go it alone" in the world, the same as they did when they were in office. I think that what lies behind the complaints against the White Paper is the wish to be able to take bigger and 998 more frequent military steps on our own, without any ally, in the Indian Ocean, and who knows where else. It seems to me that this policy contradicts two things. One is the statement made by the present spokesman on defence affairs in the Conservative Party at Brighton, not so long ago, when he appeared to wish to get out of Asia and the Indian Ocean and leave security in those parts to local balances. The other is that there is a technological arms race; that reconnaissance is going to be increasingly carried out by satellites, and we have not got any; and that it is going to be a world containing anti-ballistic missile systems, which will fundamentally change the balance of forces throughout the world. This is not the sort of world in which any nation, except super-Powers, can keep the capacity to "go it alone" anywhere around the place.
It is for this reason that I welcome especially the three limitations, which I believe are the most fundamental thing in our White Paper, placed henceforth on British defence policy; namely, that we shall not again engage in military operations without allies; that we shall not again maintain military bases in any part of the world where their presence is unwelcome to the indigenous population; and that we shall not again undertake to give military aid to countries which do not give us facilities to do so in time. For all these reasons, I hope that to-morrow night, when the House comes to vote—and I regret that I shall not be able to be here—it will reject both of the Amendments and pass the Motion as originally tabled.
§ 4.52 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with what my noble Leader has said this afternoon on the major aspects of the Defence Review. T suppose that the Army has come off fairly lightly, though since the Government have done nothing about strengthening the conventional forces, it is hard to see how our troops will cease to be over-stretched for a long time to come. Much of the White Paper which deals with specific Army problems is, I am glad to see, a continuation of some admirable plans and ideas started by the previous Government.
I intend this afternoon to speak mainly about the Reserve Forces, but before 999 doing so, I should like to ask one question on a paragraph in the White Paper. Paragraph 21 of Part I of theStatement on the Defence Estimatesreports that:We shall make substantial economies in our contingents in Cyprus and Malta ".As regards Malta, Article 6 of the Malta Agreement says:The Government of the United Kingdom will consult the Government of Malta when major changes in the British Forces in Malta which might have significant effects on the defence or economy of Malta are contemplated.If the Government are considering cutting down our forces in Malta, I would remind them that the rundown of the forces there, mainly the Navy, is still going on, and the island is still trying to absorb the manpower that is being thrown up from this and will have to continue to do so for some time to come. Though many steps have been taken by the Malta Government to bring in light industries and to increase the tourist attractions, the Maltese economy has not yet recovered sufficiently to absorb a further blow. So I hope that the Government will appreciate the need for the longest possible phasing out of any further reductions there. I would mention that in the last five years a large amount of money has been spent on modernising the British barracks and accommodation in the island, and it would be a great pity if that were wasted as well.
There is no mention of the Royal Malta Artillery in the White Paper. Can we take it that there will continue to be a place for them in the British Army, as in the past? These units have given long and faithful service, and I should like to be assured—and I know they would—that the careers and prospects of officers and men will continue.
As regards the Reserve Forces, I do not want to appear ungrateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, particularly after the nice reference he made to me, in the last debate we had on this subject, on the part I had played in the past; but in their dealings with the Territorial Army I would liken the Government to a doctor who tells a patient who is feeling a bit run down that he has only a year to live, with the obvious effect on the patient's morale, and on his next 1000 visit, says with a beaming smile to the patient, "I have wonderful news for you. You are not going to die. But to keep you alive we are going to perform a small operation: we are going to cut off both your arms and your legs. After that you will be able to carry on your valuable work for the country with energy and enthusiasm." I am not saying that the patient does not require a thorough overhaul. But the doctor's pronouncement has had a terribly bad effect on his morale, and though I was greatly relieved at the doctor's second opinion, I wonder whether the patient will recover. I think he needs a little more of what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, kindly called the Thurlow Plan. In order to help his recovery I should like to make one or two suggestions—suitable medicines that could be prescribed.
The success of the Forces in attracting volunteers will entirely depend on a worthwhile rôle which is understood by the public. The proposed one of giving support to the police in the event of nuclear attack is insufficient. It must also include rôles which are understood by potential volunteers to be real military ones: to support the Regular Army; to repel invasion; anti-parachutist and anti-sabotage operations; and to be a basis for expansion of the national Army in an unforeseen emergency. I know that the Minister of State for the Army said in the House of Commons that the Defence Forces will also be used to engage enemy forces if they are in this country, but he has not stressed this, and he has left the impression throughout the country that the contemplated Territorial force is to be a kind of combination of a rather indifferent Home Guard and a second-rate second line of the police force.
I know that the Government want their scheme to be a success, but they have not got it over to the Territorial Army. I have spoken to a lot of Territorials since our last debate, and I am convinced that this is the case. After the initial enthusiasm of volunteers from the present Territorial Army has subsided, it is doubtful whether either the Army Volunteer Reserve or the Home Defence Force battalions will attract the recruits they need unless they are mutually supported. The closest possible affiliation consistent 1001 with the different rôles of the two forces that are planned—the Army Volunteer Reserve and the Territorial Force—must be established.
It has already been announced that they may probably share drillhalls, and this is a good thing. But I believe that we should go further than this. I believe that there should be a unit of both A.V.R. and the new Territorial Force under the same commanding officer. I cannot see how enough volunteers will be found for the A.V.R. unless it has a second tier from which to draw—the second tier that my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein told us about in a Defence debate when we discussed this subject before. I believe that a combined unit would achieve this. It does not matter whether the uniforms are different, or if the A.V.R. have a better uniform than the Territorial Force. It does not matter if the equipment is different. It will encourage men in the Territorial Force to aspire to join the A.V.R., and that is the first priority needed to keep up strength.
Of course, there will be men in the A.V.R. who after a little while cannot undertake the commitments of that force. You do not want to lose them, and they are more likely to join the Territorial Force if it is part of their own unit, than if they have to go off and join a strange unit. Later, they may be able to take up their commitments in the A.V.R. again. I am sure that the Government have not appreciated this fact sufficiently. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, cannot speak to-day, as he and his Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association have been entrusted by the Government with the difficult task of working out the details of the scheme within the financial limitations put upon them. But if he were here, I know he would say that this close link between the two Forces is essential for the success of the scheme.
There is an unfortunate feeling among thinking Territorials that the Government are against any military force, and will not mind if the Defence Force is a failure. I do not myself believe this to be true, but whether it is true or not, the Defence Force must be seen to be an effective military force, or it will fail. I believe that the right answer may cost a little 1002 more than the £3 million, but if you try to do this sort of thing on the cheap you will not get enough men for either the A.V.R. or the Territorial Force.
Another suggestion I have concerns the Yeomanry. Under the present scheme, I think that only the equivalent of one Yeomanry regiment is to be retained, at least in its traditional rôle. I need not declare a personal or sentimental interest, since, naturally, as a Regular infantry officer I have never served in the Yeomanry. But as Assistant Military Secretary in Palestine in 1940, I saw a great deal of numerous Yeomanry regiments who came out with the First Cavalry Division. What struck me about them was that they have three great qualities developed to a high degree. They have a very high standard of leadership among their officers; they have a highly developed sympathy in the relationship between the officers and the troopers, and they have remarkable versatility. This last, I remember, was demonstrated at one moment when, because of shortages of specialists and personnel, squadrons of the same regiment took on such diverse duties as horse cavalry, searchlights, coastal guns and conversion to armour, all within the same regiment at the same time.
Many Members of your Lordships' House have served in the Yeomanry, and will know that these regiments were always ready to do anything. On one occasion it was my duty to ask for volunteers for the first parachute force ever set up in 1941. I received the names of one or two officers from all the battalions and regiments, but I received from the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry the nominal roll of officers. I queried this, but was told by the adjutant that the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry always volunteered for every job they were asked to volunteer for. The list was headed by the commanding officer, the late Lord Yarborough, who was then aged 52. Surely, some more characteristic rôle for the Yeomanry can be found within the Territorial Force or the A.V.R., for they have given such great proof of their value in the past. I am glad that I am being followed by my old friend Lord Barnard, who is commanding officer of a Yeomanry Regiment, and who is making his maiden speech to-day.
1003 I would once again put in a plea for the Territorial W.R.A.C. There are bound to be numerous clerical jobs, such as those of storemen, cooks and stewards in the A.V.R., as well as in the Territorial Force, which they could do, and this would leave the men to concentrate on their training for their specialised rôle. They could be integrated into units under the unit commander. Would the Government look at this suggestion? I am sure that it is a practical and an economic proposition that the already trained and disciplined W.R.A.C. Territorials should undertake the routine administrative duties in both forces.
My last point concerns the cadets. I am very nervous that the Army Cadet Forces will be seriously affected by the reorganisation of the Territorial Army. I hope that the Government will give careful attention to this problem and, when the plan for the reorganisation is completed, will study the effect in each part of the country on the A.C.F. units and make provisions and, if necessary, alterations accordingly. The noble Lord. Lord Robertson of Oakridge, who cannot be in his place this afternoon, is very keen on this. As he cannot be here, he asked me to express his concern on this problem.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD BARNARD
My Lords, may I crave the indulgence of your Lordships on my first address to your Lordships' House? I must declare my interest, to the extent that I am a serving Territorial soldier, and I command a regiment in the Yeomanry, the Royal Armoured Corps. I appreciate the announcements made last February that a Home Defence Force was to be formed, because clearly we knew at that time that the large majority of the Yeomanry regiments were to go, together with a good deal of the Royal Artillery and the Infantry. This saving hand from extinction was something for which most of us were grateful.
The Home Defence Force should also be able to give some sort of opening to people in rural areas who wish to serve but, because of the way in which the A.V.R. is organised, or may be organised, on large towns, would not have such an opportunity. Incidentally, I hope that it will not be long before what I am 1004 now calling the Home Defence Force is given a name of some greater permanence. I believe that most people would like it to be associated with the word "Territorial". In spite of the fairly long time which has passed during the various negotiations about the Reserve Army, I must to some extent contradict the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, upon the question of morale. I find in the North-East, from where I come, that the hard core of the Territorial Army has pretty good morale, and has stood up to an awful lot rather well.
As a commanding officer I perhaps should not over stress too many details of problems which present themselves in the Home Defence Force but I should like to mention some of the more obvious difficulties which this new rôle may present. Certainly the primary need seems to be, as the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, has said, that it should be worth while, and also that this Force should be part of the Army. I believe it is agreed that the various units in this Force will in most cases, and where possible, be identified separately, being of the same name and with most of the same people and the same badges and traditions as they have now as units in the Territorial Army. I am sure that this must be so. A link should be kept with the Regular Army. Already close ties exist between the Regular and Territorial Armies which are valuable to both; and if, at first, it is difficult to tie up those links, let us hope that they will not be severed, so that at a later stage it will be possible to strengthen them. I am sure the Yeomanry units would hate to lose their connection with the Royal Armoured Corps. Certainly volunteers will want to train as soldiers, whatever else they may be asked to do; and though the level of training in this respect may not at first be high, at least a basis will be laid from which a fully trained soldier could be produced in a short time.
However, I am sure that it would be a good policy to allow volunteers to go on Army courses, as they do now, because with the amount of training time which would be available, so far as we know, I cannot see that people can be trained up to N.C.O. standard without going away and doing training elsewhere. It seems inevitable, because of the amount 1005 of money available, that we are going to be very short of equipment and permanent staff, but perhaps I might make one point here. I should like to ask that consideration he given to the administration, and particularly whether it is thought that volunteer quartermasters and quartermaster sergeants are enough. I cannot think that such a system will work adequately, when one knows the vast amount of work already done by these people on the permanent staff. The whole pattern of civilian employment being as it is, with volunteers sometimes able to spare more time and sometimes less, it seems to me that it would make it appallingly hard for them to do the detailed work, of which I have given an example, just when it was wanted.
My Lords, I think I have said quite enough. I have found it extremely difficult to speak on this occasion, perhaps partly because of my restrictions through being a serving soldier and partly because, at the same time, I have some passion about my subject.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, one of the agreeable consequences of being moved up in the list of speakers is that I have the privilege of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Barnard, on his maiden speech. I am sure the whole House will be in agreement with me when I say we much enjoyed his contribution, and personally I was impressed by the way he refused to be rushed into any unnecessary criticism of this side of the House because he preferred to stick to the facts. I only wish that, drawing also upon his experience in the Royal Air Force, he had been able to comment as well on the recent changes which have taken place in the re-equipment of the Service in which he and I had the privilege of serving.
My Lords, this debate has covered a wide area. Already many points have been raised, but I propose to confine myself to dealing with one subject, and one subject only. It is a subject with which in recent weeks I have been somewhat intimately connected. I refer to Aden. Much has been said about Aden, and not all of it, I am afraid, has been calculated to help the work out there. Therefore, I thought it would be to the advantage of the House, and possibly outside, if I set down for the record the facts of and the 1006 background to the recent decision which has been taken about our base there.
As many will know, the facilities in Aden over the years have been built up for a variety of purposes. Some of those purposes have gone, others have changed or are changing, and the equipment which we now have at our disposal, and especially the long-range transport aircraft which are coming along, have changed completely the environment in which at one time it was advisable to have our facilities in that part of the Middle East. If we accept the limitations which are set out in the Defence Review when deciding our commitments outside Europe, there can be no question that the decision to terminate our base in Aden is correct. The limitations were that our tasks outside Europe should not impose an unacceptable strain on our over-stretched forces; should not bear too heavily on our domestic economy or on our reserves of foreign exchange; and, finally, there must be no attempt to maintain defence facilities in an independent country against its wishes.
So far as I know, no one has controverted these conditions. But, not for the first time, an Opposition has accepted a proposition in general and attacked its application in particular. In this case we have the challenge to the decisions taken on Aden. Moreover, it is suggested that in some way we are going back on undertakings previously given and are indeed breaking obligations solemnly entered into on behalf of this country by previous Administrations. This is a serious charge and it must be considered carefully. Earlier in the day the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was content to refer, rather vaguely I thought, to "undertakings". But those who have made this charge elsewhere have pointed to the Treaties of Friendship and Protection of 1959 and 1963 which we have with the Federation of South Arabia, and in another place Mr. Duncan Sandys, a former Colonial Secretary, has called attention to the undertakings which he gave in 1964 and which were recorded in the White Paper published in July, 1964.
In regard to the Treaties, it is true that there was no provision for unilateral abrogation, but the whole content of those Treaties renders them inappropriate once the Federation achieves independence. We are advised that they are 1007 inconsistent with independence and will inevitably be terminated as part of the process leading to independence. That is the legal advice we are given. Speaking as a layman, I cannot really see how anyone can seriously maintain that an obligation to protect a dependent territory can be construed as an undertaking to defend an independent nation.
More weight, however, has been given to the undertaking said to have been entered into at the Constitutional Conference of 1964. I should like to read to your Lordships the relevant paragraph, paragraph 38, of the White Paper which reported that Conference. It states:The delegates asked that Britain should agree to independence for the Federation while continuing thereafter to assist in its defence. They requested that as soon as practicable the British Government should convene a Conference for the purposes of fixing a date for independence not later than 1968, and of concluding a Defence Agreement under which Britain would retain her military base in Aden for the defence of the Federation and the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities. The Secretary of State announced the agreement of the British Government to this request.It will be seen that the request to which the Secretary of State announced his agreement was that as soon as practicable the British Government should convene a conference for two purposes, one of which, I agree, was for the negotiation of a defence agreement.
To claim, as some appear to do, that this paragraph has the binding force of a solemn treaty is surely to allow prejudice to cloud reason completely, and I am amazed that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, should stand at that Box this afternoon and allow himself to talk about dishonourable conduct, if he is basing himself upon that paragraph. There was the promise to call a conference. It is not for me to say what was in the mind of the then Colonial Secretary when he emphasised that a conference to discuss defence would be necessary, but it is clear, from the whole tenor of his remarks at the time, that he had in mind the importance to us of the Aden base. This is borne out by the phrase in the paragraph which underlines that the military base in Aden was "for the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities", which clearly was put in at the insistence of Mr. Sandys. And, indeed, this is borne out 1008 by the remark he made on June 1 the following year, when he referred to the fact that the military base in Aden must be retained; that is, in our interest, to enable us to fulfil our world-wide responsibilities as he saw them. In the event, the conference envisaged in the White Paper was never held, and not even the wildest or most prejudiced critic of the present Administration could suggest that it was the fault of Her Majesty's Government that the conference was not held.
Possibly it may be useful and help to get this matter in its proper perspective if I put on record the immediate background to this conference. Talks about the possibility of a federation of the various States around Aden and in the hinterland of South Arabia were begun in 1953, and the establishment of the Federation of Arab Amirates of the South, as it was then called, in 1959, was a hopeful beginning of the process under which the small States of South Arabia which had accepted British protection in the 19th or early 20th centuries could advance together in unity towards independent nationhood. There were six founder States in that year, 1959. By 1966 there were 17, including the Colony of Aden which joined the Federation in 1963.
When the present Government took office, which was shortly after the conference to which reference has been made, no one could have tried harder than my right honourable friend Mr. Greenwood to convene the first of the conferences envisaged in the White Paper. Almost the first thing which the new Colonial Secretary did was to visit South Arabia, and there he announced that as soon as the local Governments were ready the conference would be held. In December, 1964, he secured all-round agreement to a conference to be held in March, 1965. In the event it proved absolutely impossible to get the local leaders round the conference table, not from any lack of trying on our part but because they would not agree among themselves about the conditions under which they would come. In the process, the Aden Government resigned and a new Government was formed under Mr. Makkawi.
It has been suggested that the signatories to the Report of the 1964 Conference can be identified with the membership of the present Government of the 1009 South Arabian Federation. In fact the signatories include members of the then Aden Government, and since the 1964 Conference it has been difficult, to put it mildly, to secure from the Adeni politicians any constructive co-operation at all.
My right honourable friend, following the failure to assemble the conference in March, 1965, tried to make progress by appointing a Constitutional Commission for South Arabia, the purpose of which would have been to recommend the most generally acceptable course of future constitutional development for the area. This initiative was also frustrated by the Adeni politicians, and, indeed, the Commissioners were declared by the Aden Government to be prohibited immigrants and were denied the opportunity even to visit the territory. Despite all these frustrations, my right honourable friend again went to South Arabia last July to try to make further progress. The most to which he could secure agreement was for a working party to draw up an agenda for a conference, but even this proved too ambitious an objective, and the working party broke up with nothing achieved.
From that regrettable disarray it emerged that, although the Federal Ministers themselves were willing to co-operate, the other delegations insisted that progress could he made only if Her Majesty's Government first agreed to acceptin totothe resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December, 1963. Those resolutions, I would remind your Lordships, reaffirm the right of the peoples of the territory to self-determination and to freedom from colonial rule. They considered that the maintenance of the military base in Aden is prejudicial to the security of the region and that its early removal was therefore desirable; and finally the resolutions recommended that the people of Aden and the Aden Protectorate should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination with regard to their future.
Clearly, it would have been irresponsible for Her Majesty's Government to accept without qualification this resolution of the U.N., but in fact in substance there has never been any real collision between the policy of the present Government and the essentials of that U.N. declaration. We have agreed that there should be independence for the country. 1010 We had always agreed that there should be constitutional reform, and that this must be a matter for agreement between the peoples of the territories themselves. In June of last year the Prime Minister made it clear that our policy in these matters should be based upon the proposition thatno base is militarily or morally defensible unless it has the support of the people in the territory in which it is sited.Nevertheless, we have had to contend in Aden, and in the States of the hinterland, with violence, terrorism, assassination and attempts generally to undermine the economic development of the country and to make the preservation of law and order impossible. I know that it has long been the convention to describe all nationalist movements as being terrorist, and I have been as impatient as any when the efforts of basically patriotic people to achieve freedom for their country are described in this way. Nevertheless, it can be said that here in Aden and in the Federation we are faced with a violence which is organised and financed from outside; which is largely undertaken by mercenaries; which has struck at quite innocent people in a despicable and cowardly way, and which in any case is not needed in order to achieve independence, since this has from the beginning been quite definitely and clearly offered as the immediate end of political development.
It is against this kind of background that the decision to terminate our base in Aden was taken in the context of our general review of defence. And here perhaps I may take a little more of your Lordships' time to say something about the objective which earlier British Governments set themselves—
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, if the noble Lord has left this question of the pledge, I am bound to say that what he has said seems to me to be unsatisfactory. The pledge is fairly specific in the words that he has read out, but no doubt we shall not agree on this. May I ask the noble Lord just two questions? First of all, will he confirm, or deny, that the present British Government confirmed to the British High Commissioner in Aden that we would carry out these pledges? Secondly, could he confirm, or deny, that the Secretary of State for Defence, when he was in Aden last June, 1011 personally assured the Federal Government that they could trust the British Government to fulfil and honour all their obligations?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I have heard these quotations before. I have no knowledge of the circumstances in which they may or may not have been made. Certainly, there is nothing on the record. But the fact is, of course, that up to quite recently—let us face it—it had been accepted that the base in Aden was to remain. Of' course, if the base had remained in Aden it would have been in Our interests, as Mr. Sandys has said, to have sonic continuing defence agreement although the country may be politically independent. Whatever was said was tied to the presence of a British base. There has never been any undertaking on the termination of the base facilities, to continue a defence agreement.
§ LORD HARLECH
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again but, as I understood it he was saying earlier that one of the criteria for staying in a base of this kind was whether or not there was opposition from the local inhabitants. He then went on to say that in his view this was not genuine nationalism, but had all been instigated—his words were "the violence was financed and organised from outside". So he is not arguing at the present time that the reason for leaving the Aden base is because all the inhabitants, or a large proportion of the inhabitants, of Aden wish to see us go.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am saying, I think, more than one thing. I have made quite a long speech. I noticed the noble Lord taking down what I was saying at the time about violence. It is perfectly true, in my view, and in the view of our Intelligence people, that the violence itself is instigated, organised and financed from outside. But it does not mean to say that the people of Aden, or a great proportion of them, nationalist in outlook, would not like to see the base go, even though they themselves may not be throwing the grenades. That I think is the distinction which I was trying to indicate.
I was going on to say something about the objective which earlier British Gov- 1012 ernments set themselves, of trying to establish this new united and independent Arab State. There are some, possibly in this country, certainly in Cairo, and in certain less well-disposed delegations in the United Nations, who seek to dismiss the whole objective as an exercise in tricky British diplomacy, designed simply to serve our defence interests by creating a buffer State around the great military installations of Aden. Even if this were the only reason there could still be no genuine cause for criticism, for surely stability, law and order in a territory, is infinitely preferable to intertribal feuding and the wretched waste of precious resources which lawlessness entails.
But that was not the only motivation. The truth is that most of the British officials who serve in that area, of all grades and ranks, became as much personally involved in the constructive effort to build up the economic strength and political unity of this part of Arabia as any of the local population. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to all those, in the administrative offices of AlIttihad and Aden, and in the austere, often uncomfortable and sometimes physically dangerous posts in the hinterland, who have served this developing Federation. Theirs is a quite disinterested, worthy ambition to see the area achieve nationhood as a new independent Republic of South Arabia. They saw this growth of the Federation as something which gave reality to the natural expression of the Arab desire for unity and the wish of related people to stand together as a unit in the modern world. Much has been done in the Federation, most of it under the guidance of British officials and a great deal of it financed by the British taxpayer—wells, irrigation projects, schools, hospitals, and the establishment of Federal forces designed to maintain law and order. The fact that so much more remains to be done is a measure of the primitive ground on which the work had to be started. The immediate question, however, is what we are doing to help deal with the problems which inevitably will arise in South Arabia when the new Government is assuming the responsibilities of independence and facing the difficulties which inevitably will arise on the termination of our base.
1013 First of all, about the constitutional position. Although the attempt to get the Federal and the Adeni Ministers in conference together to agree to proposals for a new Constitution has failed, the Federal Government themselves invited two constitutional experts, Sir Gawain Bell and Sir Ralph Hone, to draft a Constitution suitable for application to the whole of the Protectorate. Their work has now been completed. Their report, with the draft Constitution, has been submitted to the Federal Government and has been widely and favourably commented upon by the Press in this country and elsewhere. It is a progressive document. The initial reaction in the Federation is favourable. Decisions upon the Constitution are, of course, largely the responsibility of the Federal Government, but it is desirable, it seems to us, that the broad outlines, at any rate, should be accepted both by Aden, on the one side, and by the three Eastern Protectorates, on the other side of the Federation.
We are glad, therefore, that welcome has been given to a proposal which is now being considered, that there should be a form of election appropriate to the different areas, to establish a representative organ which would have the responsibility of considering in detail the constitutional proposals drawn up by the experts. We hope that after consideration, with amendments if so required, there would be a recommendation from this representative organ which would be acceptable to Aden, to the other sixteen States within the Federation, and to the three Eastern Protectorates so far not federated. If constitutional progress can be made in this way, we shall, incidentally, have met almost completely another of the principal requirements of the United Nations resolution.
We recognise that there will be economic consequences for Aden arising from our decision to leave the base. We have already arranged for the Secretary of State's Economic Adviser to visit Aden and to examine the situation on the spot, in the light of the decision about the base, and to make recommendations as to the steps which could practicably be taken by the authorities in Aden to withstand the undoubted shock of the withdrawal of some £14 million a year purchasing power which was previously injected by the presence of the British base.
1014 Moreover, with the authority of the Government, I have already told the Federal Supreme Council that we recognise that they will continue to be in need of external financial assistance for some time after independence. The scale, form and extent of that assistance to be given by Her Majesty's Government will be decided in the normal way nearer the time of independence. We recognise that this aid will also have to take account of the Federal Government's need to continue to make financial provision for the Federal forces.
When I met the Federal Supreme Council we had discussions on a quite friendly and confidential basis. I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I would not for one moment have considered discussing matters with them as to future constitutional arrangements without telling them of our decision about the base. I must say that I cannot understand how he can suggest that the decision should be taken to quit the base in two years' time, and yet tell no one in the area what we are going to do.
§ LORD BESWICK
I cannot see what purpose can be served by these charges of bad faith and dishonouring of agreements. They will certainly not help the morale of the Servicemen, who are doing a difficult job in far from favourable conditions in Arabia. Nor will such charges make any easier the task of those who have to plan the withdrawal. I cannot see that they will help those political leaders in South Arabia who are determined to see through to success the effort to achieve a new Federation of South Arabia. Enough damage is being done to our name by the Voice of Cairo. I do not think that it should be added to by anyone in either House.
§ 5.40 p.m.
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, on Aden, although I think that in many ways it is a great pity that we are proposing to vacate it. However, I will leave other noble Lords to deal with that matter. I should like in the first place to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the full details which they have given in their White Paper. On the other hand, there are a number of 1015 anomalies, and perhaps the most glaring appears in the Defence Estimates, on page 27, paragraph 21. It reads:The aircraft carrier is the most important element of the Fleet…Yet on page 9 ofThe Defence Review, paragraph 3, it is laid down that we shall not build a new carrier force. Her Majesty's Government cannot have it both ways: it is not possible. Perhaps the noble Lord who has set down the Motion to-day can elucidate this point.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I thought I did so. I repeated what was in the White Paper. This is a simple matter of fact. It is the most important unit or type of offensive power in the Royal Navy to-day. The reasons for not continuing it after 1975 have also been given.
Yes, my Lords, but if the Government think that it is the most important item in the Fleet, then why do away with it'? On page 9 ofThe Defence Reviewreference is made, in paragraph 2, to our amphibious fleet, commando ships and assault ships which, it is said,will greatly strengthen our forces outside Europe.How can these forces operate without air cover, which in most cases can only be provided by fleet carriers? Are we never going to learn the lessons of the last war? How often in the last war did shore-based fighter protection fail to turn up, and as a result how many ships and sailors were lost unnecessarily? That is quite true. I am not one of those tied to the idea that we must have a large carrier fleet with all its expensive and sophisticated radar equipment. Why not smaller and cheaper vessels with simpler and cheaper equipment and vertical takeoff aircraft, the control of which can well be carried out by the carriers' attendant frigates?
This Defence Review again brings into strong relief the question of the eventual integration of the three Services—certainly of the Navy and the Air Force. Fighter Command, Coastal Command, Transport Command, Training and Technical Training Command could all be absorbed in the other two Services. If this were accomplished, we should be left with Bomber Command. Surely it 1016 is not necessary to retain a separate Service to operate a handful of F 111As. I should like to make it quite clear that this plan is not a battle between the demands of the Navy and of the Air Force. In fact, a distinguished Air Marshal wrote to the Press only recently on these lines and asked if we could continue to justify the retention of a service which, as the years go by, will become more and more an expensive luxury. Her Majesty's Government, of whatever complexion, will have to grasp this nettle sooner rather than later, when undoubtedly a great deal of money could be saved in Defence.
On this side of the House we are not asking for increased expenditure on Defence. What we are asking is that the 6½ to 7 per cent. of the gross national income laid down for Defence expenditure by the last Conservative Government should be retained and not reduced to 6 per cent. or 5½ per cent. as foreshadowed by the present Government. Incidentally, when the Conservative Government were in power, I think I am correct in saying that the 6½ to 7 per cent. was sufficient to allow for the gradual rebuilding of our carrier fleet, and all the necessary plans had been prepared for the work to go out to tender, when this plan was overtaken by events. It was unfortunate that certain sections of the Press tried to highlight a supposed battle between the Navy and the Air Force over the carrier fleet, and I think that in one case it was suggested that the Navy wanted carriers merely for prestige purposes. I wonder if your Lordships are aware that the Council of the Air League are in favour of carriers and sent a telegram to the Minister of State for Air and also to the Prime Minister to that effect.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? I never received this telegram, and I checked with the Air League and found that no official telegram was sent.
I shall be delighted to send confirmation to the noble Lord as soon as possible. I cannot understand how Her Majesty's Government can lay down a fixed expenditure on Defence without looking at their commitments first and then determining the amount of money required to honour them. When ewe talk about Defence, presumably we 1017 mean defence of world peace in the cold war, which is still very much with us. If our foreign policy is to be unchanged, how can we maintain our commitments when, in the words of Her Majesty's Government, our Services are stretched to their limits and beyond, without proper financial provision. The first paragraph on page 4 ofThe Defence Reviewsays thatDefence must be the servant of foreign policy, not its master.I am sure this is quite true, but how does Her Majesty's Government intend to implement this statement without proper provision for defence? Perhaps Her Majesty's Government can indicate what commitments they propose to give up in addition to Aden to meet the fixed sum to be spent on defence, and at the same time lighten the burden now falling on our defence services. In the days of Hitler what he wanted was all guns and no butter. What this Government want is all butter and very few guns.
The trouble with this Defence Review and Estimates is that it is trying to compromise the loss of the aircraft carriers by proposing a number of new types of aircraft, ships and missile systems to fill sonic of the gaps which the disappearance of carriers will leave. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government if these new types have been properly costed. And, what is more, they may or may not be successful. I suggest that it is highly likely that they will cost a good deal more than the savings from the cancelling of aircraft carriers. I hope that all your Lordships who have the wellbeing of the Services at heart and wish to give the men the proper tools for the job will vote for the Amendment.
The fact is that the decision not to employ carriers after 1975 will in fact deprive the Fleet of its main armament, without the provision of any effective substitute against surface attack outside the range of shore-based aircraft. This means that the Navy will be unable to defend not only itself but also our vast merchant shipping fleet against the existing forces of our enemies. I understand the Chamber of Shipping is very concerned about the omission fromThe Defence Reviewof any specific reference to the importance of defending our merchant shipping or to the means of 1018 achieving that defence. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government could deal with this matter. I consider the Defence White Paper a very disappointing one, and it will not produce the forces which we require.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the debate to hear the opening speeches, but I was engaged outside on North-East affairs. However, I should like to congratulate my fellow countryman from Durham, Lord Barnard, on his maiden speech. He and I come from the same county and I knew his father. He made a very good speech, and I hope we shall hear him again often in this House.
I should also like to congratulate the Government, after getting power in 1964, on carrying out a far-reaching investigation of our defence needs in the next twenty years. We have for years been carrying a great strain upon our economy, especially over the last sixteen years, and something like £25,000 million has been spent. Whatever disagreement there is about our future rôle in the world, it is apparent to everyone that we cannot carry, year after year, the ever-increasing costs which defence is imposing on our economy. I consider that the Government are correct in stating that they will not undertake major operations of war except in co-operation with allies. Going it alone, by ourselves, in the future is not possible. While I recognise that it is necessary at all times, in the world as it is, for us to have a defence to defend our shores, we must ever be seeking to get disarmament in the world and to strengthen the United Nations as an instrument for peace-keeping.
The burden of my speech to-day is concerned with the Navy and its carrier force. I was never an officer in the Navy I was an A.B., and the only time I was on the quarter-deck was when I was tried for misdemeanour. I served in the submarines, I was trained in the C-boats, and I served on the H-boats and the L-boats. I was also in the Ml, which was then an experimental boat, and it had a 12-in. gun for'ard and went down off the coast of Portland Bill in 1921. During my time as an M.P.
1019 I went away on the A-boats, especially in the "Anchorite", to see the use of "snorts" and radar, and was also in a NATO exercise. In 1961 I was invited by the American Navy to go to sea in a nuclear submarine, the "Nautilus", and, therefore, I have been able to judge the new submarines against the old.
I say, quite frankly, that I consider that, in the context of a war in the future, the Government are taking the right lines in relation to the carrier force. If there should ever be a war in the future—and I hope we shall never have another one—the nuclear submarine will be supreme at sea, and surface ships will have a very difficult time against the submarine killer that we know today. It is rather significant that Russia, a great country, has no aircraft carriers at all, but it has many submarines and a large number of them are nuclear driven.
The basic issue is whether in the 1970s the Government need to start on a new generation of aircraft carriers to last till the year 2000. Of course, there are secondary issues, such as the timing of any transfer of responsibility, the need for one extra carrier for the interim period, and the new ships and weapons for the Navy of the future. The Defence Minister has made it quite clear that the issue was never one of a choice between the carrier and the F 111, and it has been after searching investigation that the Government have decided that some land-based tactical strike reconnaissance aircraft are needed for the protection of all three Services.
Since the end of the last war the British carrier force has remained that which was built or laid down by the end of the last war. Apart from the general contribution which it makes to the Navy as a presence, what has been the carriers' range of activity? In the Korean war the Royal Navy carriers operated as a part of the Far East Fleet, as a contribution to the total United Nations air strike forces. While aircraft undertook strikes against land targets, the ships themselves were at that time operating in an area where no maritime threat existed, particularly so far as submarines were concerned. In essence, this was a sensible use of the military forces at our disposal. It did 1020 not represent a task which could be carried out only by carrier-borne aircraft.
At Suez—and I hope we shall never have an operation like that again—the Royal Navy aircraft carriers played an effective part in the operation. In Kuwait in 1961 the carrier "Victorious" did not, and was not planned to, arrive till pine 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 employed, but not in a primary ôle. She mounted the helicopter assault forces in a Commando role. In Zambia it was a convenience to use the aircraft carrier as a naval presence, but once it became necessary to establish an air defence system on land we could not have done this job from a carrier.
It is the Commando ship (often wrongly called a "carrier") that is now, and will be increasingly in the years ahead, the type we need. In 1964 our Government discovered that we had inherited a position in which no new carriers had been laid down in the previous twenty years, and no action had been taken in any of their Defence Budgets by the critics on the Conservative Benches, either to reshape the Royal Navy or to provide for an effective renewal of any of the carrier forces.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he would disagree with me that the first modern carrier, "Ark Royal", was finished in 1955; that the second. "Victorious", was completely rebuilt in 1958; that the third modern carrier, "Hermes", was completed in 1959; that "Eagle" was completely modernised in 1964; and that "Centaur" was completely refitted in 1961? These are the most modern carriers on the sea at the present time.
§ LORD BLYTON
I think the noble Earl had better look up his history again, because I went very closely into this. No carriers have been built since the end of the last war. Some may have been reconditioned, but never built. Although the CVA.01 had been announced, its keel was never laid. In the Tories' Election Manifesto they say that they will build one; but the fact remains that, although they promised one when they were in Government, it has never left the drawing board.
1021 In the circumstances in which we took office, the Government have had to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the aircraft carrier in the context of a wasting carrier force, our likely future commitments and the level of defence expenditure that we, as a nation, can sustain. The Defence Review has confirmed that the aircraft carrier is inherently a most expensive way of providing air power. With a three-carrier force, only one can be kept permanently in the Indian Ocean; and I am given to understand that the cost over the next ten years will be in the range of £1,400 million. The carrier will be increasingly vulnerable, as new weapons are developed and as more nuclear submarines are built. If the carrier's aircraft are used against land targets, they are limited by the range and the weapon-load; consequently, a great many more aircraft would be needed to equate with a land-based capability.
My Lords, all these disadvantages of operational capability and cost effectiveness might have to be accepted if it could be demonstrated that there was a likely, essential, long-term task which could he fulfilled by the carrier, even after allowing for the greatly increased performance of the forthcoming generation of land-based aircraft. In a large war with one of the great nations, these huge ships like carriers will be sitting ducks for nuclear submarines. These submarines—and I have been in them—travel at great speeds at great depths; they can turn in their own length under the sea; the men in them can live for weeks under the sea without having to surface; their speed under water is something like 25 knots; they manufacture, under the sea, their own oxygen; and, with their new weapons, these submarines will be killers, so far as carriers are concerned, in future wars. In the years ahead the Navy will have to face the fact that, in major wars, the submarine will he the most important part of our Royal Navy. It is not on huge ships such as carriers that we have to concentrate, but on getting a large nuclear submarine navy with many of the new weapons that are available to us to-day.
Paragraph 37 of the Defence White Paper defines the one military environment in which a carrier could, in the future, be essential. That is the landing 1022 of troops against a sophisticated opposition outside the range of land-based air cover. Even if we had the carriers, it is doubtful whether we should have the military capability to sustain such an operation. In any case, there is no political justification at all for planning on having the capability to undertake an operation of this type. If in the future we are going to be involved East of Suez in an operation against a sophisticated opposition, it will be done either under a treaty obligation or at the invitation of a friend or ally, and in both cases land-based facilities will be available to us or we shall be supported by other countries.
It is suggested by the admirals and those who love these great ships on the ocean that there is another essential rôle for the carrier, which is in the protection of our national merchant shipping routes. As an old A.B., I would say to the admirals and the captains that this is quite unrealistic. For example, at any one time there are 300 United Kingdom ships in the Indian Ocean. A small carrier force which could guarantee to provide only one carrier in this area could, by itself, do only a limited amount to protect this shipping. There would still be naval and land-based air forces available to discharge this task in the unlikely event that it could be identified and isolated from the mass of world maritime shipping in this area.
Therefore, I see no case at all for the reprovision of this most expensive ship; and I consider that the Government are absolutely right to make the best use of the equipment now at our disposal over the next few years, during which time they can both reshape our forces and adjust our commitments abroad. The Government have decided on the re-equipment of our existing carriers with a limited number of advanced aircraft, like the "Phantoms" and the "Buccaneers", which will give us a worthwhile supplement to our military strength pending the re-equipment of the R.A.F. with longer-range aircraft and the Royal Navy with new ships, submarines and new missile systems.
Now, however, in this context, the Conservatives are demanding another carrier. There has not been one for twenty years. Why did they not build 1023 one during their thirteen years of office, if they were so keen about this carrier force and if they thought it was so important to us? The facts are that we could not order a new carrier until now because the design studies which Mr. Thorneycroft authorised two years ago are only just completed. If we ordered it now we could not get it until 1973. Now the Party opposite are saying we must have it. Is it to be paid for by an import levy or by reducing deficiency payments to farmers and putting the cost on the housewife? Because it must be paid for.
Why are the Government attacked on this issue? This attack by the Tories in the context of the Election seems a little hypocritical to me. I saw many Ministers of Defence during my twenty years in the House of Commons; there was a new one nearly every year during the thirteen years the Conservatives were in power. This is what Mr. Duncan Sandys, the then Minister of Defence, said in the House of Commons on February 26, 1958, on the question of aircraft carriers:We have no aircraft carriers large enough to operate the long-range bombers which would be needed for an effective strike operation.We—that is the Tory Government—really could not contemplate building more and bigger carriers which, with their aircraft, would cost over £100 million each."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 583, col. 388; 26/2/58.]This statement was based on 1958 prices. Now the Tories are fighting for a carrier at 1966 prices, a carrier which is going to be of no use in future wars. I cannot understand the enthusiasm for a new carrier to-day, in view of what the Minister of Defence said in 1958. But perhaps it is to encourage the Naval towns to vote Tory in the next Election.
My Lords, in my final remarks I want to speak about the future of the Navy. I have a love for the Navy, having served in it as a boy. I joined the Navy when I was 16½ years old, having put down my age as 18, and went into submarines. The whole of my speech to-night is actuated by my desire to promote the best interests of the Navy and the best interests of the defence of my native land. I believe the future of the Navy lies in the gradual rundown of the Fleet Air Arm so as to 1024 make it possible to safeguard the future of those officers and ratings at present operating in fixed-wing naval aircraft. Some will see the end of their engagements; others will have to be offered alternative employment. It may shock officers of the Navy, but I see nothing wrong in this. The miners and railwaymen have had to face a similar situation because of the technological changes that have taken place in their industries. The Royal Navy will have to face these changes in the same way as my people are facing changes in the mines to-day.
I say that these changes should not cause any alarm in the Navy because it will still have a very important part to play in the future in the nation's defence. Royal Marine commando carriers and assault ships will still be available, with their helicopters, to assist the Army whenever required; the four Polaris submarines will take over from the Royal Air Force the responsibility of providing Britain's contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent; the Government intend to build up the force of nuclear-driven hunter-killer submarines; and antisubmarine helicopters will operate from the converted Tiger class cruisers and the ships that will succeed them. The Navy is to be equipped with short-range surface-to-surface missiles to give it a strike power against any enemy missile-firing craft. This, and the new Type 82 destroyer, equipped with surface-to-air and antisubmarine guided weapons, will enable the Navy to hold its own against any ships likely to be in service, and will combine with the shore-based aircraft of the R.A.F. to ensure protection for the Fleet against attack in the 1970s. The present force of carriers, as I have said, are all over twenty years old. In considering whether large expenditure should be undertaken to renew this force, we must examine whether the military case for the carrier will remain as strong in the future as it has been in the past. I do not believe that new aircraft carriers are essential in the long term for Britain's rôle in the world.
My Lords, I have tried to make clear that the Royal Navy will be properly equipped for the major rôle it now fulfils and which it will have to fulfil in the future. It is wrong to think that, because the decision on the carrier has been taken, the Navy is demoralised. 1025 There are many officers and men in the Navy who know that the day of the large carrier is gone. I know that there were admirals who fought for the Dreadnoughts and who will now fight for the carriers; they like these big ships for prestige reasons. But in this day of change, I know also those dedicated supporters of the carrier who have recognised (and told me so) that the carriers sooner or later would have to go. The carrier as a weapon has been with us for fifty years. The existing carrier force will remain operational for as long as possible, until its life end in 1975. Meanwhile I plead for a reshaping of the Navy in order to provide an effective maritime force, without carriers, in the future. It is because I think the Government are absolutely right on this issue that I shall support them in the Lobbies.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment moved by my noble Leader. I fully agree with the arguments he advanced, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, I think I found some things in these two White Papers to praise: their clarity of exposition and the fullness of the information given—although admittedly in some respects it might have been fuller. Reading between the lines, I think it is clear that some very useful measures of reorganisation have been effected. Moreover, it cannot he disputed that in the preparation of Estimates for the next financial year the Government must have regard to available income, as well as to expenditure and, where possible, relate departmental expenditure to the long-term plan of the economy.
Equally, the main features of our defence policy should be part of a long-term plan related to the best assumptions that can be made of political and technological developments. Indeed, if the basic assumptions on which this Review and the Estimates are framed had been sound, criticism could surely have been confined to points of detail. I am afraid, however, that I am far from convinced that the basic assumptions are sound, and consequently I should like for the main part to examine these assumptions and, secondarily, to refer to two points which, though of comparative detail, seem to me of particular importance.
1026 The statement at the beginning of the Review thatMilitary strength is of little value if it is achieved at the expense of economic healthhas an impressive ring. As an aphorism it has been praised by many Press commentators, but to my mind it is a very dangerous half-truth. "Military strength in this context is surely a relative term. From the defence or negative point of view, we must be strong enough to discourage aggression. From the positive angle we must be strong enough militarily to fulfil our commitments and to protect our essential interests overseas. My Lords, "strong enough" surely does not mean as strong as we can afford to be if we do all the other things we should like to do, but rather that we should be as strong as we have to be to do the things that we ought to do.
It may well be that the major Powers of the world are now more alive than ever they were to the futility of a large-scale war; that they are more afraid, and rightly so, of the economic and social consequences, whatever the military outcome. Moreover, it is inevitable in the circumstances of to-day that Western civilisation should look to the United States as the principal provider of the insurance against a calculated large-scale attack with world domination as its objective. But even though in the area of potential world-scale aggression the outlook has become much less unsettled than it was, human nature being what it is, throughout the world there are, and so far as I can see there always will be, trouble spots where local conflict may easily assume menacing proportions if not quickly contained.
In Part II of the Review we are told:Defence must be the servant of foreign policy, not its master.Again a fine-sounding phrase; but again, I think, a half-truth. For the clear inference from the Review is that, in part at least, our foreign policy is contained by what we can afford for defence after what are assumed to be prior charges are met. The Review says, as indeed is incontrovertible, that we must be ready to continue living in a world in which the United Nations has not yet assumed effective responsibility for keeping the peace and the arms race has not yet been halted. Our NATO obligations are clear, and there 1027 Is, I think, no argument about that. Out-side NATO, however, paragraphs 17 and 18 of the Review give good reasons for our continuing to do what, in paragraph 19, is blandly stated to be to some extent beyond our capabilities. This, my Lords, strikes at the very root of our political and economic existence as a. nation; and to my mind the danger of it is nowhere better illustrated than in our declared intention to abandon the Aden base.
We have heard a great deal about Aden this afternoon. I have done a. certain Amount of research into the subject, and I was prepared to talk at some length about it. I have listened with the closest attention to the very comprehensive statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I am quite satisfied that the Government believe that honour is satisfied, from their point of view, because they have tried—though they failed—to get together a conference of the Southern Arabian Confederation and the Adeni Government. My Lords, I am afraid that I do not find myself in agreement that there is the end of the matter so for as obligation is concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, quoted Article 38. It is perfectly clear that the commitment there, the undertaking, was to convene a conference for the purposes of fixing a date for independence not later than 1968 and of concluding a defence agreement. That is the quotation which the noble Lord read, and one accepts that. I do not think that he himself specifically used the argument — though it has been used in another place—that the obligation to convene a conference and the obligation to conclude a defence agreement in this context are two quite different things. I can understand that point of view, but I find it very difficult to agree with it, and I am not prepared to accept (and I hope that this House will not be prepared to do so) that one attempt in March, 1965, and the setting up thereafter of a working party are the end of the matter, so far as our obligation is concerned.
There is one rather curious thing which I find very difficult to understand. If we tried, and genuinely tried, as I am sure we did, to get these people together and to have a conference, and then failed, why is it that the Government blandly state in the White paper that we are abandoning this base; and the words 1028 used apparently do not relate to this attempt to convene a conference. I quote from the Defence White Paper, and I am sure the noble Lord will recognise the quotation:South Arabia is due to become independent by 1968, and we do not think it appropriate that we should maintain defence facilities there after that happens. We therefore intend to withdraw our forces from the Aden base at that time, and we have so informed the Federal Government. We shall be able to fulfil our remaining obligations in the Middle East by making a small increase in our forces stationed in the persian Gulf.That is a thousand miles away. My Lords, I find this very difficult to understand.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him for one moment. I quite agree with him that if we pulled out our own forces they would still be left with a defence problem, and this I have discussed with the Federal Supreme Council. I have put to them the point that if we attempt further to assist them with our forces we shall never be able to extricate ourselves. The answer which I suggested to them, And which I suggest to noble Lords, is that their own forces should be put into a posture which would enable them to maintain law and order on the frontier; and it is in the attempt to put their defence forces into a more balanced position that we consider our obligation now lies.
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords. I appreciate that, and I am sure the noble Lord will also appreciate that to have made this announcement at this time does seem to be issuing a rather warm invitation to Nasser and some of the others.
This question of the agreement has not been specifically referred to to-day, but I believe it is of interest, and perhaps I might be allowed to read a letter from the former High Commissioner in Aden, Mr Trevaskis. Which he wrote toThe Timesnewspaper on, I think, February 28 He said this:When the Federal Government asked for independence they coupled it with a request for the conclusion of a defence agreement with Britain, knowing that, with 65,000 Egyptian troops standing on their borders, independence without defence would be a mockeryIn 1964 when granting this request for independence, Mr. Duncan sandys, then Colonial Secretary, gave the Federal Government 1029 a solemn assurance that a defence agreement would be concluded to provide continuing British protection.To launch South Arabia into independence without assuring it of any adequate means of defence against external aggression would be an act of bad faith and cynical irresponsibility.I hope that your Lordships will accept that as evidence that both here and in Aden, in the mind of the Colonial Secretary at the time and in the mind of our High Commissioner at Aden, the understanding was that we had given a solemn undertaking to maintain our base there after 1968.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, does the noble Lord really think that that assurance, in so far as it was an assurance—and I have read out the terms of the agreed report—would have been given had the Administration then decided that our own base was no longer necessary?
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords, I think that that is rather a hypothetical question, because I have not seen any evidence that the Administration there do not want us. I take it that the noble Lord was referring to the potential Administration of the new Republic, and not the Adeni Government that happen to be in power at any particular moment and have objected to this. If the people there do not want us, then consistently with the policy advocated in the White Paper, it would be difficult for us to maintain ourselves there; but I do not think that that condition has yet been fulfilled.
The other question that arises is whether this is a good thing. Assuming that we are not wanted out of Aden, is it a good thing that we should leave it? I think that if we do leave, it will be a considerable political and economic disaster. My noble Leader referred to the speech of the Prime Minister of June 17, 1964 I looked this up in the OFFICIAL REPORT and thought that he gave a very fair statement of the argument. He was speaking then, of course, as Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Wilson said:So far as one can see, we need Aden as an essential centre for peace-keeping operations in a wide area around it, and as the right honourable Member for Enfield, West (Mr. fain Macleod) said, it is an essential staging-post in our communications with the East, particularly India and also Malaysia, to whose support against external aggression we 1030 are as fully committed as are the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 696, col. 1405.]I will not labour this point, but I think that I am justified in saying that, unless we are prepared to think again on this crucial issue the damage to our political and economic interests will be very real. Is this an example of defence being a servant of foreign policy and not its master?
My second point of comparative detail, on which I shall speak briefly, relates to the Army and its Reserves. The Army has to carry a great part of the responsibility in meeting our Defence commitments, and in most cases it is the Army that has to meet the first impact of local disturbances and endeavour to contain them. According to Chapter IX, paragraph 19, of the White Paper the Army is only slightly below the authorised strength; yet it is common knowledge that the authorised strength is such that there is very little reserve from which to draw troops required to cope with unexpected local conflict.
There has been some suggestion that the Government have in mind to cut the authorised strength of 195,000 at April 1, 1966, to 165,000. The noble Earl who is to reply to this debate will be able to assure the House, I hone, that this suggestion is not well-founded. But even on the existing figure, which is just below 165,000, the Army clearly requires more reserves than can be provided by the Emergency Reserve and the Ever-Readies. The proposals relating to the Territorial Army and the Army Volunteer Reserve touch on this. There is a brief reference to these proposals in paragraph 19 of Chapter III of the Review, and the plans therein referred to, as announced by Mr. Reynolds in another place on February 2,meet some of the arguments that were raised against the original proposals, which involved simply the elimination of the Territorial Army as we know it. These original proposals are referred to in some detail in paragraphs 39 and 40 of the second White Paper (Cmd. 2902). I must here declare an interest, in that in World War I served in the Territorial Army.
Although the latest plans have yet to be fully examined and debated, I submit that it would not be right, in a general debate such as this, that their existence, 1031 indicating the Government's present intention, should be ignored. They would seem to me to involve the creation out of the existing Territorial Army of two quite separate forces—on the one hand, the Home Defence Force, nominally of 28.000 men, recruited and trained on a Territorial basis and, on the other hand, the Army Volunteer Reserve, of some 50,000 men. I was glad indeed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, speak on this subject and I agree in all that he said about the necessity for a very close link between those two branches, if the separation is made. May I also add my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Barnard, whose maiden speech I heard with the greatest of pleasure?
The existing Territorial Army would obviously be initially the main source of recruitment for the A.V.R. I venture to suggest that, after the initial dichotomy, it is going to be very hard to maintain the A.V.R. at anything like its planned strength. There are two obvious difficulties, as I see it. The first is that while the obligation for attendance is to be the same as it was for the Territorial Army, the training is to be week-end training for the Reserve, and this is certainly in many cases a long way away from the place of work and not so convenient as existing arrangements for training with the Territorial Army. Secondly, the call-out liability for the A.V.R. is less clear than it was for the Territorial Army. The possible "occasions" have not been clearly defined, but it is only natural to conclude from the general argument which has been advanced for this force that, with our Regular Army overstretched, as it is, to meet existing commitments, the occasional localised trouble, of which recent experience has given plenty of examples, could involve quite frequent call-outs on the part of the Reserve, such call-outs lasting perhaps up to six months. This is a difficult obligation for most men in regular employment.
My personal opinion is that these two factors would be deterrents which would outweigh the attractions of the proposed call-out bounty, and that recruitment for the new A.V.R. would not be easy, I should imagine, from the experience of the existing Territorial Army, however sympathetic the attitude of employers might he. This is obviously not the time 1032 to argue this matter in detail, but I thought it right to mention these points to indicate that, much as one would welcome, in preference to the original proposals, the retention of something of the Territorial Army organisation, with its local and regimental associations, there are some aspects of the proposals, particularly as regards the A.V.R., which require very careful consideration.
In conclusion, I should like to revert to my main theme: the basic assumptions. The Defence Review as a whole illustrates convincingly to me that our resources of men and material are overstretched in relation to our commitments and essential needs. The disposition set out in these Estimates may be in general a reasonable way of allocating 6.6 per cent. of our gross national product to-day and 6 per cent. of what we expect our gross national product to be in 1969 –70. But what is the basis on which these percentages are fixed? Is the real meaning of the phrase "economic health" the things that people would like to afford and are told by the Government they can have? Are we really to regard improvements in our standard of living as a first priority, or is our standard of living to be what we can earn? Do we really believe that reliefs to mortgage holders are going to be paid for by a betting tax? Or is not the prospective revenue from the betting tax just as much required to meet the costs of the abolition of prescription charges and the higher drug bill, which together look like rising in this fiscal year by some £40 million or £50 million, or twice the cost estimated fifteen months ago? Or, if we are prepared to accept this strange idea of the revenue from one form of taxation being set against a particular item of expenditure, could not the revenue from the betting tax be used to help pay for the retention of our base in Aden, which I think costs £35 million a year?
I am in danger, however, of embarking on an argument about the national economy which was more appropriate to the debate in your Lordships' House three weeks ago. Therefore, I will not pursue that line to-day, except to make this final point. I believe—and I think my noble friend Lord Carrington said much the same thing—that there are many people in this country who would give the essential needs of defence first priority, and 1033 would be appalled to think that it could be regarded as a kind of residuary legatee. Some remember all too vividly our unpreparedness in the past. And there are others among the younger generation who, through their own military service or the experience of their friends, have some understanding of the issues at stake. If, my Lords, it could be shown, as I believe it could, that our military strength in men and material is being allowed to drop below the minimum at which it ought to stand, and all because an arbitrary limit of £2,000 million had been set as being all we could afford for defence, mid if another 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. on that bill were going to make, as it well might, a really significant difference, then I believe that there are many who would be prepared to forgo for a time some of the prospective additional benefits now being dangled before their eyes. As I see it, my Lords, in their own long-term interests, as well as in the immediate interests of the country, they would be well advised to do so.
§ 6.43 p.m.
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, is not in his place, because, like him, and like some other noble Lords, I went to sea at the age of 16, I spent a great deal of my time in submarines, and I was in trouble on the quarterdeck. I am only sorry that I did not meet the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, there. Perhaps we can put that right in the future, though not, I hope, on the quarterdeck.
I will not detain your Lordships for long this evening, as your Lordships will be familiar with the arguments for and against the salient points in the Statement. They have been set out in the White Paper itself; they have been well covered by the Press, and they have been argued in your Lordships' House this afternoon. I want to comment on only two points, both of which, in my view, threaten the Navy's future; and in so commenting, I should like your Lordships to know that I spent a great deal of my Service life working with the Royal Air Force. I was in Britain's first aircraft carrier, where, of course, all our flying was done by the Royal Air Force. I served at Bomber Command Headquarters at the beginning of the war, and for two years during the war I worked closely with Coastal Command. So I think, with all 1034 modesty, I can claim to know and appreciate the vital and substantial rôle played by the R.A.F. in assisting the Navy to keep control of our sea communications. I may be biased towards the Navy, but certainly not at the expense of the R.A.F.
In passing, may I say how much I agree with the suggestion I have heard recently that the title of Coastal Command might be changed to Maritime Air Command? This sounds to me to be much more descriptive. Having said that, I would add that it came as a disturbing and unpleasant shock to read of the decision to cut the carrier programme—the ships and aircraft that have been the teeth of the Navy for a generation. This is more particularly so as it was only about four months ago, if I remember rightly, that we were given to understand that we might get two more new carriers. Over the years we have cut our naval forces out of all recognition. Battleships have gone—there were 40 of them in my early days; cruisers have virtually gone; the bases at Burmuda, Malta, Trincomalee and Hong Kong have gone; the Grand Harbour at Malta is empty. Now the carriers are on their way out, and Aden is to go. As a consequence, we shall shortly be left with a Fleet consisting of destroyers, frigates, submarines and an incomplete amphibious force. The main armament of these destroyers, frigates and submarines gives them an antisubmarine capability, and not very much more; and, improvement though this is, it is not enough. The Fleet, as has been pointed out already, cannot, for instance, do without strike aircraft for amphibious operations in the more remote areas. And even within F 111 range, support may be 1,000 miles away—a disturbing thought for the soldier in the jungle who may be pinned down until that support arrives.
Surely it is not very realistic to suggest that allies will always be able and willing to provide just what carrier help we need at the precise moment that we need to have it. Before long we are going to be left without the flexibility and versatility of the carrier-borne aircraft, and we shall be dependent on airfields that experience has shown we may have to give up for political reasons. The White Paper says that in 1973 our remaining commitments will not require the new CVA 01 carrier. As my noble friend Lord Carrington has said, how can we say that in seven years' 1035 time we shall not need that carrier, that mobile airfield that we could move at short notice to any position on the oceans of the world?
Of course, there are limits to what we can afford, and it is vital that we should get our priorities right. I imagine that nobody would argue if one put the safety of these islands as top priority; and this, from the maritime angle, means the safety of our lifeline across the Atlantic. With this we must surely couple the safety for our seaborne oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. If either of these were interrupted, we should in a very short time be at the mercy of an enemy. We still have one of the biggest merchant fleets in the world, and it still has to be protected if we are to survive. These two lifelines, then, are my top priority, and our insurance premium must, I believe, cover this risk.
In order to protect those lifelines I should have thought that we should want large numbers of anti-submarine vessels, backed by the helicopters of the converted "Tiger" class; and we should want aircraft that can operate anywhere on those lifelines, no matter what airfields may be denied us. And we should also want the bases at Singapore, Simonstown and Aden. I may be told that I am arguing on a basis of conditions that existed in the last war, and that we are never again going to fight on those lines. It may be that we shall not, but all I would say is this: Why has Russia built her vast submarine fleet, and why is she now adding to it? And why have we, quite rightly in my view, built a number of highly complex and successful destroyers and frigates? And why are we now embarking on a programme of expensive nuclear submarines, one of whose primary roles is anti-submarine? Surely, it is because we believe that we may have to deal with those Russian submarines.
From the air point of view, if the F 111 can cover these lifelines, well and good. But if we are to have no carriers, shore-based aircraft must be there to deal with Russia's powerful fleet of cruisers. We should perhaps be unlucky if these got loose in the Indian Ocean, but it is certainly a possibility that they may break out into the Atlantic. Whatever way you look at it, it seems to me that those 1036 50 F 111 aircraft have an awful lot of sea to cover, more particularly when you remember that they will not all be serviceable at the same time. I suppose the Government could send the "Dreadnought" and her sister ships after them, but for a long time to come we shall have very few of these, and, in any case, these really splendid submarines have not, so far as I know, any weapon more effective or alarming than the old torpedo.
And while I am talking about carriers, do not let us forget their peace-time role, for, after all, we still, thank goodness!, spend more of our time at peace than at war. The quick and effective dealing with brush fire situations, and those minor incidents where the presence of one of Her Majesty's larger warships can so effectively resolve an explosive situation; the landing of the ship's band to play in the village square and of the ship's football team to play the local side, has more than once solved our problems with a minimum of disturbance and expense. The F 111 may be a fine aircraft, but it is not suited to that sort of role; nor, for that matter, is the submarine. Do not let us forget, either, that once we give up our carriers they are gone for a generation or, much more likely, for ever. The design teams will be dispersed, the Fleet Air Arm will lose the art of taking off and landing at night and in foul weather, and the Navy as a whole is bound to lose much of its enthusiasm and appeal, with a resultant fall in re-engagement figures.
Let us remember what our carriers have done in the past, what they and, indeed, the whole Navy may have to do in the future, and let us retain the invaluable ability to send a self-contained force any-where on the oceans of the world at any time without, perhaps, having to borrow a carrier or two from France, Holland or the United States. If we cannot afford four carriers, then I suggest we should somehow make ourselves afford two, simply to keep the art alive. Two will not, of course, suffice for war-time requirements, but they will be something and they may in the meantime save more peace-time brush fires. It seems to me that we are once more in grave danger of running down the Fleet so far in peacetime that if and when war comes it cannot possibly fulfil our minimum requirements. There is nothing new about this, 1037 of course. We have done it time and time again; but cannot we ever learn this lesson, and call a halt to the rundown before it is too late?
To end, may I turn for a moment to the important matter of personnel?—and I am referring in the main to naval personnel. Paragraph 29, on page 72 of the White Paper, gives some highly significant and disturbing information. It makes it horribly clear that the re-engagement rate of naval personnel is far below requirements and that the position is still deteriorating. We are told, quite rightly I am sure, that the two main causes of this are probably the overstretch of our forces and the long periods of separation from families. We are also told of some immediate steps that are being taken in an endeavour to improve the position. I feel sure that something drastic will have to be done if we are not to reach the position where we have ships that can no longer be manned. Though pay is, of course, one of the ways of attracting people, I do not believe it is the answer in this instance. By and large, the present rates of pay are good and reasonable. What we have to do is to ease the strain and keep the families together. At present there is no doubt whatever that the Navy is over-stretched. In war time, we all accept long and continuous periods at sea, long hours in harbour on maintenance work, and so on; but it is peace time now, and the sailor rightly looks forward to reasonable periods in harbour and reasonable time off to get ashore. On the whole, he often does not get it.
At present the hulk of the ships of the Fleet are on what is called General Service Commission, which means, in effect, that the ships do not do more than a year abroad at a stretch, and they then return home for some months. During the period abroad no provision is made for families to join them. lf, by chance, anyone can afford to get his family out, there are no married quarters, no medical services, no overseas allowances and, indeed, no facilities whatever; and the sailor very naturally dislikes this, gets fed up, and wants to leave.
How are we to remedy this? I see in paragraph 19, on page 7 of the White Paper, there are set out some general limitations that it is now intended to put on our requirements outside Europe.
1038 First, we are not to undertake major operations except in co-operation with allies. Surely, this has been our policy for years. Is it not for this reason that we are members of NATO, CENTO and SEATO? And are not the Malaysians our allies in the confrontation with Indonesia? Secondly, we are not to provide military assistance to a country unless it provides us with the facilities we need to make such assistance effective in time. What is there new in this? Surely, the Government would hardly enter into new commitments unless our intervention was likely to be effective. Finally, we are not to maintain defence facilities in any independent country against its wishes. Surely we have learned this lesson long ago, and experience has shown that there is in fact no other sensible course. I am left with the feeling that, though the general limitations may stop our commitments from increasing, they will not have any marked effect in reducing them.
By way of further reducing commitments, the White Paper also indicates that we are to give up Aden and leave Guinea and Libya before long, and that we are to reduce numbers in Cyprus and Malta. From the naval point of view, these all sound very small deductions, and will save the Fleet an insignificant amount of work and foreign service, I should myself have thought that we should have to find some more substantial saving, perhaps by reducing in the Far East. If this could be done, it would, incidentally, save some of the large fuel bill that is now incurred in getting ships home 8,000 miles before their year abroad on General Service Commission expires. As for the family side of this important business, could not this be solved—and solved it has to be, somehow—by putting ships on local foreign service instead of on General Service Commission? This would, in effect, mean paying for families to join their husbands abroad, providing them with married quarters, medical supplies, overseas allowances, and so on. It would, in fact, put them more on a footing with the Army and the R.A.F., and it would mean that they could, and would, stay happily abroad for two or three years on end and, incidentally, save more of the big fuel bill incurred in getting ships home annually to give the crews their spell at home. This will all cost money but I can see no alternative if 1039 we are to keep our small Fleet properly manned and the Navy an efficient and contented Service.
§ 7.1 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, in case there may be some confusion owing to the change in the order of speakers, I must explain that my noble friend Lord Balerno very kindly arranged to change places with me in the list of speakers. I hope he will not think it too personal if I just remark that, during the First War, he was for a time the junior subaltern of the battalion which I commanded, and in the Second War he commanded that battalion.
I venture to address your Lordships because what little experience I have I gained because I was first a member of a volunteer battalion, many years ago, and then when the 1914–18 War came I was able to join what was called "the new armies", and at the end of it, as I explained, I was in command of a battalion. The point on which I take so much pride, and which I think is of importance, is that I was in the same regiment the whole time.
I feel that the White Paper which was published in December (Cmnd. 285) was, in a way, a prelude to the Papers that we are debating to-day. The first paragraph in that White Paper started with a tribute to the performance of the Territorial Army, and then the second paragraph begins:Tradition has played a large part in the history of our Armed Forces and is a valuable asset, but we must not allow ourselves to be fettered by it.I should have preferred that last sentence to read:But we must see that nothing is done to diminish or discourage it.When most of the British Army's regiments were formed during the eighteenth century (I think that statement is fairly accurate), I believe they were named after the counties in which they were formed as their recruiting area, and history and traditions are based on those names and their achievements through the years in different wars. In Scotland, and particularly in the Highlands, the names given were not the counties, but the names of the clans in the recruiting area for each of those regiments. The result was that they inherited the loyalty 1040 and assurance of those clans in action, and that was immediately adopted by the regiments without any difficulty at all, and has continued to this day.
I should like to give some examples. Before each war the Army has always been looked upon as something quite inefficient which could not possibly do anything at all. Before the Battle of Waterloo the Army was referred to as "infamous". But what happened? It was a pretty tight run affair, as we know. The Guards held Huogomont, because they never give way, and they made possible a little later on the famous charge by the Scots Greys with the Gordon Highlanders hanging on to their stirrups and their pipes playing. A hundred and fifty years afterwards, last year, there was a celebration on the field of battle; and I am sure the noble Earl the Leader of the House would agree with me, if he were here, that as representatives of each regiment which took part in the battle marched on to the field, with their colours, one could feel that pride of regiment and strength of morale.
That was a long time ago and some people may say, "Well, it is atavistic balderdash". Then let us go forward a hundred years and three months from the time of the Battle of Waterloo. At the Battle of Loos we had Highlanders. We had a Scottish division, part of the "New Army" as it was called, dubbed "Regulars", and there was a division composed of men who, less than a year before, had been civilians; they had never had anything to do with the Army. At the beginning, of course, there was great impatience because we were afraid the war would be over before we could get out there. There they were in their trenches, as a defence point, and at the moment of attack they moved forward in perfect order, with perfect discipline, again with the pipes playing, and they completely overwhelmed the fully-trained conscripts with whom they were dealing, in spite of losses, on the same scale as at Waterloo. That sort of thing went on throughout the war, but that was a not-able example of achievement through morale and pride of regiment, because each of those regiments felt themselves to be part of the original regiment, in just the same way as the Territorials still feel themselves to be.
1041 In my opinion—and I think we all agree with this—it is very important that our allies should realise that this spirit exists. Indeed they have taken pride in it and they have been impressed. Later on in that war that same division was in action alongside a French division, and after the battle was over the French division was so impressed that they at once put up a stone monument on the spot where the furthest forward Highlander had fallen, and they put an inscription on that which really testified to their admiration. It should be kept perpetually before our allies what that spirit means. There is a town in Belgium which our Highland Battalian relieved, in 1918, at the time of the Armistice. We stayed there for some time, and the town came to admire the spirit of the Highlanders and they have kept in touch with us ever since. This summer they are going to have a ceremony in memory of what happened, and there will be an exchange of Colours.
What a terrible shock it would be to them if they were told that that Territorial battalion was reduced or diminished or even ceased to exist! The noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in a recent speech here reminded us that all our wars have been fought in other peoples' countries; and it is so, of course. But on each occasion from Napoleonic times measures have been taken for the defence of this country, and so it must always be. During the last war we had such bodies as the Home Guard; but what every one felt was that they were really part of defence.
As I understand it, the proposal now is that the arrangements for defence should be carried out by little sections of people who are not part of any regiment. I hope many of your Lordships have seen the letters inThe Timessigned by several of us who have a very special interest in the Highlands as a home of which we are proud, and there in the Highlands there is the highest rate of recruiting per head of population anywhere. They are full of enthusiasm and they feel part of these regiments, whether it is as Volunteers, Territorials or part of the main regiment. We had last year a celebration, again a 50th Anniversary, of the Battle of Loos, and that spirit was still alive and will continue to be so. We 1042 feel, many of us, that the present proposals for Highland defence are quite inadequate. It is, many people think, a spot where invasion might be attempted. I may be wrong in this, but so far as I can make out it means reducing the Territorial battalions to a few small companies scattered about, without any drill halls and without a local population feeling that they are all part of it. Of course everything must be done to make the defence of this country adequate if we should ever be invaded. It is here that the need is greatest. But it must be borne in mind that, whatever defence arrangements are made, the end must be victory as usual.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I intend to confine my remarks to-night to the Reserve Army. We had a debate on this subject in the House last November, and since then we have had the Government Statement of February 2 on the establishment of a Home Defence Force, which is referred to in the Defence Review. We know now that discussions are going on, but although there have been some leaks, whether deliberate or otherwise, to certain newspapers, we do not know much beyond that. I found myself very much in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, said earlier in this debate. The Government announcement on February 2 met some of our doubts regarding the success of the future Reserve Force, but not all of them by any means, and I want to concentrate to-night just on two, but important, points.
The first is the need for flexibility in the design of the Reserve Army. It has been mentioned several times in this debate how one does not know what the situation is going to be in a few years' time. In the November debate the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said that he had learned in his long military life that only one thing is certain in war and that is that everything is uncertain. Therefore, clearly we do not know what the situation is going to be in five years' time, or what the requirements are going to be in five years' time; still less do we know what the situation is going to be in ten years' time. I think everybody agrees that the present Reserve Forces require some change, but 1043 the impression has been given by many people, not, I may say, to-day in this debate, that the Territorial Army, which was formed in 1908, has gone on ever since more or less without change. That is not at all correct. I have been mixed up with it for a great many years now—more years than I like to remember. One thing that comes home to one is that every five years the Territorial Army has been reorganised. This has certainly happened since the last war and it also happened before the war. The danger is that those reshaping the Reserve Forces think that they are reshaping them for all time, and do not realise that within five years they will have to be reshaped again.
The Government have based their plans in the light of their present view that a general emergency would involve the threat of nuclear war and nothing else. Yet in the Defence Review it is stated:NATO's experience over the last decade suggests that the danger of deliberate war in Europe at any level is small as long as the potential aggressor believes that this is likely to lead to a nuclear response.Later it goes on to say that:In recent years the threat to peace has been far greater outside Europe than within it.There are differences of opinion, clearly, about what form future emergencies may take and what the threats may be, but I think one thing is certain, and that is that we do not know what the main threat will be in five or ten years' time.
Although I agree that the Territorial Army requires change and that it is not in line with present needs, yet it has shown great flexibility in the past. It has dealt with entirely Volunteer arrangements and it has dealt with National Service; many units have changed their rôles, and although they might not have liked it at the time they have got down to work well in the new rôle given to them. Surely, therefore, our main objectives in reshaping the Reserve Forces must be first to shape them to meet the requirements of the time, and that is what the Government is trying to do, but, secondly—and this is just as important—to ensure that they can be reshaped again in five years' time to meet the changed requirements which will undoubtedly arise then.
1044 This is one of my main objections to the Government's original plan as first announced. It was destroying the basis on which any future reorganisation could be carried out. In other words, it was destroying the flexibility which is given at present by the basis on which it is spread nation wide and can be developed to meet widely changing requirements. We do not know what the Government's revised plan is yet, or whether this flexible basis is going to be maintained. We have had the announcement about the Home Defence Force, but it is vital that there should be a close link between this Force and the Army Volunteer Reserve if this requirement of flexibility, and I may say many other requirements, are going to be met.
The second point I wish to make is with regard to recruiting, as the whole design for the Reserve Force will be meaningless if we cannot recruit the men to fill it. My experience with the Army Reserves is almost entirely in London, and what I say about this is, I believe, true of London; the extent to which it is true of other parts of the country I do not know, but I strongly suspect they are very similar. Those who join the Territorial Army join because they have a strong military bent, but rather a different type of bent from those who join the Regular Army as a full-time profession. But quite a number find that they like it. When they join the Territorial Army they like the Army life, and they transfer and become Regular soldiers.
This military bent in the case of the Territorial soldier can be broken down into three parts: first, a general liking for adventure; second, a feeling that he is doing a worthwhile and stimulating job for the benefit of the country as a whole and, third, a desire for a sense of comradeship and a feeling of belonging to a unit or group with standards of efficiency, tradition and comradeship. I would say that few join for what can be got out of it from a material point of view. If they want to make money they can, at any rate in London, get part-time evening jobs without any difficulty at all, in which they earn far more and get far more material income than is to be had from the Territorial Army.
I am not decrying the idea of the bounty, because I think it is not unimportant, especially when various pressures are brought on a man to leave—pressures 1045 from home or from his girl friend, or from some other influences. The amount of time a man can give to the Reserve Forces and the call-up obligations which he can accept varies from time to time. A young man may join the Territorial Army and at that time may have no other obligation. He may be extremely keen. Then comes the pressure from his employer, or his feeling towards his own career that he must take up some form of part-time education. He then carries on with his training in the Territorial Army, but at times before examinations he has to work hard every evening, and he finds that he cannot spend his time on the Territorial Army. Also, he starts to get interested in girls and gets married, and then there may be other influences. It is therefore possible that the pressure from his employer and of his future career affect the amount of time which he can spend on the Territorial Army.
A young man who is working hard to make a career may find it difficult to accept the Ever-Ready type of commitment in which he can he called up for six months at a time. I think the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, referred to this, and I think it is a problem which all employers will have to deal with in relation to what encouragement they are going to give to people who can be called up at short notice in that way. Employers accept the idea that if there is a major emergency a lot of their young men will go; but this type of Ever-Ready commitment brings new problems. If, therefore, we are going to maintain the Ever-Readies, or any other force which is going to be called up and be able to be dovetailed in the Regular units at short notice, we must have a wide basis for recruitment. Only a small proportion of those who accept the Reserve commitment can take on the additional Ever-Ready obligation; and if we are to get the numbers we require they must be spread over the country as a whole. As I read the first. White Paper on the Reserve Force, it seemed to me that we were going to have far fewer Territorial Army centres, and yet we were going to require more men undertaking the Ever-Ready type of commitment. I think we are going to have great difficulty in getting them.
Then there must be an atmosphere in which people can switch from one type 1046 of commitment to another. I have illustrated already how a young man's commitments change as time goes on, and I feel we want a situation in which he can join, say, a Home Defence Force (or whatever that part of the Reserve Forces is going to be called), and after he has reached a certain standard of training, he can transfer to a force with more urgent commitments; and then, when he gets married and possibly has children, he need not be lost altogether but can transfer back again to the Home Defence part of his unit, or, it may be, a different unit allied to it, and carry on and do excellent service there.
I mentioned the sense of adventure as one of the factors which encourage recruitment. The White Paper on the Reorganisation of the Army Reserve envisaged that most of the reduction in strength of the Territorial Army was to be in the combatant arms. Nineteen out of twenty regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps were to be disbanded, as well as 41 out of 45 of the Royal Artillery, and in the Infantry 86 battalions were to be reduced to 12. There is to be more emphasis on the logistic units. This, I think, will cause a problem in recruitment, because the sense of adventure which takes a person into the Territorial Army does not easily lead him to join one of the less glamorous types of unit.
Play has been made with the argument that the Army Emergency Reserve is proportionately as well recruited as the Territorial Army, and that consists largely of logistic units; but it consists, in the main, of people who do the same sort of work in civilian life as they would do in the Army, and therefore this is quite a different matter from recruiting people for, say, laundry companies or general hospitals.
I referred in the debate in November to the fact that when in the mid-fifties we tried to recruit a number of mobile Defence Corps battalions, Army Emergency Reserve, it was a failure. I think the main reason why the Army Emergency Reserve recruits well is due to the particular trades which it recruits. I would urge, too, that there should not be cheeseparing in relation to bands. Apart from their usefulness in advertising and therefore in recruitment, a military 1047 band is, I think, an invaluable means of forging a link between the Army, whether Regular or Reserve, and the general public. With so few people in uniform nowadays, this is perhaps the only contact that the general public has with the Army. It is the only way by which it recognises the Army. However, it emerges that if we are to get the right men into the Reserve Army there must be ability to interchange between the Army Reserve proper and the Home Defence force. This must be closely linked together with a basic training which is similar for both types of force.
Finally, it is most important that the Government should come out with a clear policy for the Reserve Forces and one which takes due account of all the factors involved, both short and long term. It would be easy to make play with the changes in thinking which seem to have taken place in the Ministry of Defence, but I find it heartening that people will change their minds, and will admit that they are changing their minds. Above all, the Reserve Forces do not want to become a political issue. In many years of involvement with the Territorial Army, I never remember a Party political argument or debate taking place in any headquarters. In fact, one did not know what were the politics of the people with whom one was serving. Enormous harm has been done to the Territorial Army by the uncertainty and argument over the last few months, and this is reflected in the falling off in numbers. The Government now have to make up their mind, not only on what I hope will, and must, be a workable solution, but then also on embarking on a major campaign to give the reorganised Reserve Forces a clear object in life and one which will fit in with the short and long term requirements of the country.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, in the narrow frame in which this Motion and the Amendments are set, I prefer the Motion and will support it. But I confess to a profound sense of unreality about a great deal of what has been said to-day, and it may be that there are others in your Lordships' House who share this sense of unreality. I am quite sure that, whatever may be our reactions to many of 1048 the phrases uttered and the sentiments expressed, if these phrases are widely canvassed and ventilated outside your Lordships' House an even greater sense of unreality may well be occasioned.
I have jotted down many of the statements which have been made, more or less dogmatically. One was that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, is reported to have said that we have fought all our wars on other people's territories. If there are any Cavaliers and Roundheads who are still in their graves, I feel sure that they will rebut that charge. And I know many splendid people in the Church where I work who feel very strongly that the last war was definitely fought in their own territory in the blitz, and caused the destruction of their own houses. That statement is, of course, sheer nonsense. When, for instance, it is said as an accusation against the Government that their intention is all butter and very few guns, what in the name of God is wrong with that? That would seem to me to be a thoroughly admirable intention for any Government which invites the people of any country to support it.
What is the average man likely to think when we seem to be so concerned about the preservation in 1975 of an aircraft carrier, and a further provision that such aircraft carriers will still be viable in the year 2000? Is he not likely to say that anybody who engages in this kind of debate would be better served in devoting his time to trying to bring about the time when there will be no need for any aircraft carriers in 1975, let alone the year 2000? And might he not well think that, if we are in possession of these weapons for very much longer, according to my noble friend Lord Snow the probability of their accidental use, with catastrophic results, is almost as great as the possibility of their intentional use? One could go on with this list, but on the whole I can better employ the short time during which I seek to delay your Lordships with one other reference—the fact that this debate is concerned with the possibility that in the future we shall have to deal with Russian submarines. I do not think one could convince anybody outside this House that, if we had to deal with Russian submarines, or had to deal with Russia, there would be any eventuality from such an excursion into madness but the total destruction, not only 1049 of our life in these islands but very largely of the life that goes on in the world as we know it to-day.
I believe that this sense of unreality springs from an ignorance of or a refusal to face the underlying principles that should have characterised this debate. If it is true that we are "bunker-minded" —and this is certainly true of a great deal that has been said in the House this afternoon—it is because we have ignored two fundamental questions. One question that has been totally ignored is the moral appropriateness, if one is considering defence, of the use of mass violence at all. The other very considerable question, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, adverted most competently (and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord King-Hall, will be dealing with it as well), is whether or not it is a practical policy to consider defence in terms of mass violence, considering the conditions under which that kind of defence will have to be carried out. I will speak to these propositions briefly.
I make no secret of it, and I make no apology, particularly in a country which is officially Christian, for the fact that I am a pacifist. I shall not argue the pacifist case, but I should be untrue to myself if I did not witness to it or testify to it, and I propose to do just that. I have no right to expect from the Episcopal Bench a chorus of "Hallelujahs" as I make this point, but I might perhaps wish for an occasional "Amen", which has not been forthcoming—not for the reason that it is the only conception that can be given to the New Testament to take the pacifist position, but to remind myself (and I would have been happy to remind my Episcopal brethren) that none other than the immortal Dr. Temple said that the pacifist position is a reasonable one and an inference from the gospel which is justifiable. I believe it to be true. I believe the whole apparatus of violence to be morally wrong. I am further convinced that if we could personalise the issues with which we are dealing we should see in much greater clarity that they are totally wrong.
May I invite your Lordships to do a simple exercise? What is the difference between putting a baby on the fire and putting the fire on the baby? Surely the answer is, the anonymity of 25,000 feet. If an airman were compelled to see the 1050 effect of his napalm bomb on a child, I do not believe that he would, for any cause, throw that child upon the fire or put fire upon that child. Ecclesiastically and morally, I believe that in many cases, and particularly in the case of modern war or modern defence, the cure is invariably morally worse than the disease itself. All the more so, when we have heard nothing in this debate whatsoever, except in the most general terms and in occasional references to Russia, of the possible or certain enemy to which we have to look with fear, and for which we have to prepare with violence.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Are we to assume from his remarks that if this country were attacked, not necessarily by Russia, but by any totalitarian aggressor, the line he would prefer would be just to allow them to come in, shake them all by the hand, and allow them to take over the government of this country?
§ LORD SOPER
That is altogether too simple and facetious an alternative. I could answer that if the Russians marched up Kingsway we would invite them into the Kingsway Hall and give them Methodist tea, which has a greatly cathartic effect. But that is a trivial answer to a fundamental question. I will seek to answer it fundamentally: yes, I believe, as a practising Christian, particularly as each year I come nearer to Good Friday, that whatever the consequences it would be morally wrong for me to seek to withstand by such means even a Russian invasion. I would therefore seek, by the Grace of God, not to do it myself, and to invite others not to do it as well.
I well realise that there are profound dangers in such a statement. I only ask your Lordships to accept my own sincerity in saying it. I have looked at the question not only emotionally and from the point of theology, but also from the point of view of practical affairs to which I will make further reference later. I would add here one word which may be of interest. It is not necessarily true that a Communist invasion would destroy the liberty of those who preferred pacifically to resist it rather than to resist it by force of arms. The example in 1956 of the insurrection, whatever 1051 may be the methods by which it was conducted, of Hungarian boys who had no other experience but that of a Communist dictatorship is a marvellous tribute to the eternal qualities of freedom which are not extirpated even by the most violent of totalitarian régimes.
May I now return to the testimony? As this is official by a Christian country, it is relevant to a debate on defence that the pacifist position should at least be declared. But I believe that what is morally wrong—and I believe that war, under any conditions, is morally wrong—can never be politically right. I know that politics is the art of the possible and that compromise is inevitable and that is a much neglected part of Christian thinking. But if the idea is prevalent that by the use of the weapons we have—aircraft carriers or no—we could prevent the invasion by the Chinese of any place East of Suez, then we are, it seems to me, talking in Cloud Cuckoo-land. I much prefer the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to which I listened with great interest, that diplomacy, rather than violence, is the only viable instrument Whereby these controversial and dangerous matters should be resolved.
Furthermore, I would present to your Lordships what seems to me to be an incontrovertible case: that the true answer to those people who now opt for Communism is that if you and I were in the similar economic condition in which they find themselves, East of Suez or South of Suez, we, too, should opt for Communism. Therefore, instead of putting our meagre resources into this violent expenditure on weapons which will become out of date before they are obsolete, how much better would be the plan of applying ourselves to a wholesale attempt to feed, clothe and nourish those whose only reason for turning to the violence and totalitarianism of Communism is that in many respects they have no option otherwise!
Finally, if we are considering nuclear war, I would respectfully suggest to your Lordships that we are talking in an asylum rather than in any respectable and reasonable place. The sheer concept of what nuclear war means is beclouded by words like "second-strike retaliatory action", "massive riposte" or "con- 1052 ditioned riposte". Sooner or later, we become bemused by these words, and fail to see that the only option we have is to prevent a nuclear war starting; because if it did start, there would be no calculable end to it, except, as I see it, a large-scale destruction of life as we know it.
I want to refer, therefore, to the one argument advanced for the nuclear deterrent—that it deters. My Lords, I do not believe for one moment that it does, and we have the classic example of what happened in Cuba; for the salient fact about Cuba is that Mr. Kennedy was not deterred. This is a chilling fact, and one that I can never escape when I am invited to believe that no country would embark upon nuclear war, because of the absolute deterrent, and because of the knowledge that if it did so embark it would involve itself in indescribable destruction. Mr. Kennedy was within half-an-hour of taking that risk. It so happened that Mr. Khrushchev was not.
If I had to believe that this world was a game of poker, then I should have to remove this collar and would take no further part in any responsible debate. But I do not believe that. I believe that it is basically a reasonable world. Therefore, in paying my tribute to the faith which I hold, I believe that this Defence debate should begin with the recognition that those who take the sword can perish by it, and should end with the declaration that if we were prepared—and this country is peculiarly suited to make this adventure—totally to disarm, we should then possibly lead the world into those very avenues and pathways of peace to which we all look and for which we all hope.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I have listened with great fascination, as I always do, to the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I wonder whether he can explain to me, in one sentence, why he is voting for the Government and not with Lord Gladwyn.
§ LORD SOPER
I thought I said it right at the beginning. There is a conflict here. Perhaps I was inaudible at that point. Let me say it now at the end of my speech. I believe that a small crumb is better than no bread, and though I regard this as not even half a loaf, I prefer the Government's position to those which are alternative to it.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, perhaps I might say that I hope the noble Lord will not vote for the Liberal Amendment on pacifist grounds, because the Liberal Amendment does not, of course, contemplate complete pacifism.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, I am now following the noble and reverend Lord, and I have to descend, I am afraid, to a lower level, but I promise not to mention the word "Russia". I should like to remind the noble Lord, however, of one point. There are quite a number of us who, having gone through a war as I have and been a prisoner, probably dislike war just as much as he does.
I, like the last few speakers, confine my points to the Reserve Army, and I can assure your Lordships that I shall be very brief as I do not intend to repeat what I said during the last debate in your Lordships' House on this very vital issue, especially as since then the Government have been wise enough to retreat from the position of ultimate folly to which certain of their advisers had pushed them. I refer, of course, to the original intention to abolish the Territorial Army and with it all pretence of any viable home security. For these wiser counsels we are grateful to many in your Lordships' House, but a large measure of gratitude must go to a significant section of the informed public, not by any means confined to the supporters of any one political Party. That is more than can be said for some people in the other place. We speak in almost complete ignorance as to the distribution and other important details of the T.A. defence arm, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider carefully the many points, and very valuable points, that have been raised in this debate.
I intend to confine my points to two only. I hope that the Minister does not 1054 overlook the horrible possibility of a limited nuclear attack carried out on certain strategic targets, with a follow-up by airborne troops into uncontaminated areas where they could build up with the object of taking over all or part of the country. Surely, unless we are dealing with a maniac or someone who has made a horrible mistake, an enemy would not want to take over a complete desert. Our very limited Regular forces will be mostly scattered over the world's surface, as they are to-day, leaving a comparatively small number concentrated in exactly those areas most likely to be among the nuclear targets. Surely the answer to that is the dispersal of the Territorial force in the areas unlikely to be subject to direct nuclear attack. They would then be in a position to give maximum aid to the stricken areas and, if properly armed, to contain an airborne attack.
Finally, my Lords, is a separate command for the Army Volunteer Reserve and the T.A. a good idea? I very much doubt it. My experience as a Regular, as a Territorial and as a member of a T.A. and Auxiliary Forces Association has impressed upon me the supreme value of the T.A. as a recruiting agency for the Regular Army. I believe sincerely that by splitting and dividing the three forces the essential co-operation will be lost and that recruitment will suffer a severe and permanent setback. The harm already done to morale and recruitment by the recent unfortunate interlude, could, and should best, be repaired by the closest possible tie-up between the T.A., and A.V.R. and the Regular Army.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, my ultimate conception of the perfect world society is very much the same as that of my noble friend Lord Soper, but I am afraid that I approach my target by a somewhat more circuitous route. A few months ago when we discussed this question of the Territorial Army I found it my duty, unhappily I must say, to point out to my friends on the Front Bench that I thought the Ministers had made a mistake. I said that I felt it was contrary to all conceptions of strategy through the ages to leave our home base undefended. I suggested that, in the possible event of a nuclear war, we should require a well-disciplined and lightly 1055 armed force in this country, and I thought it was rather a pity to spurn the proffered services of a number of public-spirited men who wanted to help their country. Moreover, though I think I said at the time that the idea of the new Reserve was a very fine one, I felt rather that these cuts in the basic T.A. organisation might dry up the reservoir from which we expected the recruits to the new Reserve to flow.
But now I want to give credit to my friends in the Government, for having considered the criticisms that we made here on the last occasion, and for having brought forward this new scheme which allows the Territorial Army to soldier on. I have spoken to quite a number of my Territorial Army friends, and they agree that the new scheme will work. True, many of them say that it does not give them all that they wanted. Nevertheless, they mean to show that it will, and they mean to see that it does work. Only this morning I received from my own county T.A. Association a copy of orders that have been issued to all their commanding officers. There is a spirit of enthusiasm running through those orders from the first line to the last. They speak of making the training "purposeful, interesting and of a competitive nature".
It is very good to see that quite a large number of the units, with their local affiliations, are going to remain in existence, instead of the previous conception of organisation which meant that whole tracts of the country would be left without a single T.A. unit and that such units as there were would be concentrated in some of the big centres of population. It is good to see, also, that an adequate number of drill halls will remain; and it is good to see that the new organisation will be big enough to give good men the chances of promotion.
I think myself—and I find that many of my friends think along the same lines —that the men attach very considerable importance to preserving an association with their county regiment, to preserving the right to use their old cap badges, and so on. These are sentimental matters, but sentiment plays a very great part in theesprit de corpswhich is necessary in any military or paramilitary organisation. It is a fact, of course, that many of the 1056 soldiers in the new T.A. will be soldiers of a different kind from what they were in the old organisation and what they are at this present moment. I can well understand that there will be no real rôle for artillery units in the new organisation, but I am not quite so sure about the yeomanry. I think that, even in the cleaning-up and home defence rôle which we envisage in the possible event of a nuclear attack, there might well be room for yeomanry regiments, mounted in armoured cars, travelling quickly from one part of the country to another. But, apart from all these considerations, the T.A. men are still going to be soldiers, and that is going to please them very much indeed.
As I said before, some of my friends would have liked to see a slightly larger establishment for this new organisation; and some of them would have liked to see a closer integration between the home defence units and the new-style reservists. They feel that that would have made the flow of reservists from the T.A. units into the Reserve an easier matter than it is likely to be now, when the organisations are to be self-contained and somewhat separate. They think that young men, having had a taste of the Home Defence Force, might want to take on a more responsible rôle, and therefore enrol in the reservist part of the organisation. They think, also, that many of the reservists, having served their time on the Reserve, or having got married or encountered some other kind of disaster, might like to carry on soldiering, not with the stern commitment of the Reserve organisation but in one of the home defence units; and it is suggested to me that there would be a two-way flow between the two kinds of bodies. However, I recognise that there is an argument in favour of the two-tier organisation because the rôles of the two tiers are to be different; their training is to be different and their weapons are to be different. When all is said and done, the reservists are an integral part of the Regular Army, and if we tried to integrate them perhaps both of them would suffer rather than benefit. So, if the experts are agreed on the two-tier system, I would support it.
But I want to mention to the Minister a point to which many people in the T.A. attach a good deal of importance. I 1057 think that the two tiers should be linked as closely as possible socially and in a sense of comradeship, and by using the same drill halls, because I want them to feel that they are all members of the same branch of the family. In any case, my Lords, there was a general realisation throughout the T.A. that some measure or reorganisation had to come, and most of the people among whom I move have a feeling of relief that they are now going to get this new lease of life. I think the country as a whole will feel happier now that it has a home defence army—perhaps a small one, but a home defence army—which, we hope, will never have to be used.
I hope the Minister, while he is working out the details, will give some attention to two subsidiary matters, not basically important but of interest to people in the T.A. The first is that I hope the Government will maintain and foster the Army Cadet Force. This is a fine body of young people. They get a taste of responsibility and discipline: they do not go around smashing kiosks and doping themselves in coffee bars. They have a spirit of adventure inculcated in them, and they get an outlet for that spirit. All those things, I think, are good in these days when we are so seriously troubled by juvenile delinquents. I should like to see the T.A. units act as "uncles" to units of the cadet corps. I think this would be to the benefit of them both. So I hope there will be a close link there. Secondly, I hope that the Minister will not overlook the position of women in the Territorial Army. Women are useful in many spheres of human endeavour, and in the Territorial Army they have done a tip-top job. They like it, and they want to carry on with it—and the men in the T.A. want them to carry on with it, as well.
Finally, on this point, I am glad to see that the Territorial Army associations are to be kept in being. It may well be that there will not be so many of them as there have been in the past; it may well be that certain county associations will have to be amalgamated. But I think it is a very good thing indeed that they should continue in existence, because they are most useful in recruiting and they have a great influence with employers in their areas who, but for their approach, might not feel inclined 1058 to give men the option of time off that enrolment in the T.A. necessitates. Having left those few points for the Minister to consider, I want to congratulate the Government on the courage they have shown in changing their mind. I think it shows an appreciation of our democratic processes: I think it is a sign of bigness. I would personally thank my noble friend Lord Shackleton for the very close attention that he has given to all representations that have been made to him.
Now, my Lords, I want to say a word or so about these aircraft carriers, because they seemed to constitute the gravamen of the indictment that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, laid against the Government. I want to pay tribute, of course, to the affection which the noble Lord feels for the Royal Navy—but something more than affection is needed. There has got to be sound judgment; there has got to be efficiency; there has got to be a willingness to look forward as well as to look backward. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, sounded more like an Election address rather than a scientific appraisal of our defence needs in the next decade. I do not agree that in matters of defence the judgment of the Conservatives is always right. I know it is one of those things that we are always led to believe, but I do not think the facts bear out that theory.
My Lords, in their thirteen years of office they did not organise the defence of this country on an efficient basis. They spent far too much—over £25,000 million —and got too little for it. Look at the way they mounted that attack on Suez—an attack with which I did not agree, but which was not, anyway, a masterpiece of military strategy when they did carry it out. Then look at the way their judgment was so often wrong on defence matters. Let us have a few specimen headlines from the Press during the three years from 1960 to 1963. Here is one of the headlines:Blue Streak written off—Unsuitable for defence—£33 million rocket will be scrapped".Then, another heading:Blue Water scrapped by Cabinet—.£30 million write-off.And another:Abandoned air projects cost over £250 million.Then let us look at that story of the TSR 2 plane, where the costs soared. It 1059 was to cost £80 million in 1959; it was to be £137 million in 1962; it was to be £200 million in 1963; it was to be £260 million in 1964. And we finished up with an estimated cost of £600 million. No wonder it was scrapped by the present Government! It ought to have been scrapped long ago.
Let us look at the Defence White Paper, of 1957, still in the days when a Conservative Government, the masters of military strategy, were directing our affairs. Their main proposal then was for scrapping the Fighter Command of the R.A.F. Fortunately, that decision was reversed. But I think these few examples show that you cannot accept the dictum that the Conservatives, in matters where national defence are concerned, are always right. The truth is that they do not really take defence seriously. During their thirteen years they had nine different Ministers of Defence. As soon as one started in the job he either resigned, or was shifted or shunted. No wonder we did not get any thoughtful continuity in defence matters.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington (probably because he was a little nervous about his own Government's record in the matter of carriers), went off course for a few minutes and dealt a few political backhanders to the present Government. Let us look at them. He said that we (the Labour Members) used to be rude to Sir Alec. But I never noticed any ultra-politeness on the part of the Conservative Party as a whole towards Sir Alec. Anyway, it was not we who cut his throat; it was the other side. They probably realise that they have made a mistake. Nevertheless, we have not been rude to Sir Alec. We rather liked him; we thought that we could win Elections if he continued to lead the Tory Party. Then the noble Lord made play about Mr. Wilson's speech at Plymouth. But the noble Lord did not go on to say that this very Government is going to have an aircraft carrier completely refitted at Devonport Dockyard; so there will he work for the naval employees at Plymouth for years ahead.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
He said that we should have a new aircraft carrier. That is very different from a refitted aircraft carrier.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
I am dealing with the specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in which he suggested that the dockyard workers had been basely betrayed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I was trying to show that it was not so.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
He did not suggest that. He merely doubted the defence policy of the Prime Minister.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
I gathered that he doubted the defence policy of the Prime Minister; just as I doubt the defence policy of the noble Lord. But I have produced more evidence than he to show that reason for doubt exists.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, also went on to say with what relish the Aden announcement would be received by President Nasser. I do not know what respect President Nasser has for the present Government; but we did not have to humiliate ourselves as the Tories did a few years ago. I am sorry that at one stage of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, belittled the ability of the R.A.F. to play a certain part in our national defence. I look upon the R.A.F. as a proud and efficient force, and it is not rendering a very good service to the nation to belittle the ability of that force in the eyes of the public. But perhaps this is not unexpected, as the noble Lord's own Government tried, in the 1957 White Paper, to abolish half of the R.A.F. It shows that they have rather an unbalanced view in defence matters.
Part II of the Defence White Paper which is before us—which appears, appropriately, in red covers, but perhaps that is fortuitous—pays tribute to the part that aircraft carriers can play. That is why we are refitting "Ark Royal." But that is in 1966, and perhaps in the early years of the 1970s. But any carrier laid down now would not be seaworthy until 1975. By that time we should have a new generation of rockets, a new generation of killer-submarines—and we all know how many hundreds of these the Russians have at the moment—so that an aircraft carrier laid down now and completed in ten years' time would probably be quite useless by the time it was ready to go to sea. A kind of Pearl Harbour attack by the sophisticated weapons of those days could send it 1061 down, with all its planes, in a very few minutes.
By 1975, of course, we shall have long-distance planes able to do the job for which the aircraft carrier is supposed to be needed. They will do that job just as efficiently, and certainly far more economically. But in 1966 the aircraft carriers are very useful indeed. They are the very heart of any naval fleet; but our present strength allows fewer than we really need to base a full aircraft carrier strategy in the various oceans of the world. Why is that? Who is to blame? Surely it is because the Conservatives, in thirteen years of office, did not lay down one single aircraft carrier. Those carriers would be sailing with the Fleet to-day had they done so. If it is desirable that we should have more aircraft carriers, then they themselves should have built them. They did not. They now blame us for not doing something which they did not do themselves. I went to look atJane's Fighting Ships.This is what it says in the latest issue:It is not generally realised that no new aircraft carriers have been laid down in the United Kingdom for twenty years: that is, since the end of the Second World War. It is now nearly eight years since it was officially given out that the Royal Navy would require a new aircraft carrier in operation by 1970.The "eight years ago" that is mentioned in that quotation is the year 1957. A carrier takes up to ten years to build. So they should have been laid down in 1957, if they were to be ready by 1967; or laid down in 1960 if they were to be ready for 1970. But we had nothing but stalling from the Conservative Government year after year.Let us look at 1959. In the debate on the White Paper the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, the then First Lord, said:I do not think I can he expected to say exactly what ships we are going to have over the next three or four years. All I can say is that the number of ships will remain virtually unchanged in the categories which are most important, the aircraft carriers and escort vessels.We move on to 1961, in the Defence White Paper debate. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, then said:In the Admiralty we are discussing "—that is the word, "discussing"—not building—plans for a new ship—a new design—a new concept. That ship will still be operational nearly thirty years from now, We are 1062 faced with the not very easy problem of deciding what the world will look like in thirty years' time. The aircraft carrier of to-day is so far removed from the carrier of even fifteen years ago as to be an entirely different weapon of war.We all agree with that. But the stalling was still going on. Later, in the 1961 Defence Debate, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said:Lord Ashbourne is making the case for increasing the size of the carrier fleet. This would be very welcome, but with our limited resources we must rely at present largely on rapid reinforcement from the area West of Suez.Lord Ashbourne was asking for an extra carrier East of Suez. Later in the same debate the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said:These ships are going to be extremely expensive, as indeed are the aircraft to put in them, and before we decide what to build and when to build it we must be quite certain we have it right.So the stalling went on. In 1962 the White Paper on Defence said:There is no need to order a new aircraft carrier yet, but the necessary design work has been put in hand.Then, in 1963, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was moving the Statement on Defence, he said:The future of the aircraft carrier is only one facet of a careful examination which will be carried out during the next few months into the rule of the Navy during the 1970s.He went on:Obviously I cannot anticipate the outcome of that review … but the decisions eventually made will be made on their merits …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 247, col. 772; 13/3/63.]We all know that reviews take a long time. We have heard that from the other side of the House very often during the last sixteen months. But the stalling still went on. Six years had passed since that original statement from the Admiralty saying that a carrier was needed.
We move on again to a later period in 1963, on the occasion of the debate on the Queen's Speech when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was replying to my noble friend Lord Shackleton, who had moved a Resolution condemning the Government then for not having a sound defence policy—a very wise Motion for my noble friend to move. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Carrington said:… it is also obvious that there can be no effective foreign policy except one which 1063 is based on a sound national economy … Any British Government, therefore, is faced with a series of interlocking decisions in formulating its defence policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 253, col. 232; 19/11/63.]We shall all agree with that. He went on to say that it isnecessary to determine what proportion of the gross national product can be allocated to defence. Any defence policy which placed an excessive strain on the national economy would be self-defeating.And so say all of us! But the stalling about the aircraft carrier still went on. If the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wants now to spend more on defence, I think that he must tell us where he would get the money. Would it be by increasing taxes, or by reducing the services of the Welfare State? It has to be one of those two—unless, again, the noble Lord is going to abolish the Air Force as his Government tried to do in 1957.
The noble Lord gave a number of quotations. I am going to give one more, and it will be the last. It is from the words of Admiral B. B. Schofield in the current issue of theArmy Quarterly.Admiral Schofield is known to everyone as an authority on naval affairs. He states:If instead of the £300 million spent on the development of the TSR 2, the programme for the construction of four new carriers costing approximately the same amount had been approved, the British maritime forces would be in a far better position to carry out their task than they are to-day.He went on to speak of theuncertainty which for far too long has surrounded the future of the Royal Navy's carriers.That, of course, deals with the far too long period when a Conservative Government were in office and did not build any carriers—and now they are blaming us for not building them. If those carriers had been built at that time they would have been useful in the present generation, which is a generation in which carriers most certainly are useful. They would not have been carriers which would not be completed until the next generation, by which time the fighting ability of carriers must be far more of a doubtful question.
So, my Lords, it comes down to this—does it not?—that the Conservatives dallied for thirteen years. They thought about the difficulty of getting the right designs that could face the 1980s. They talked about not over-straining the economy.
1064 They stalled and quibbled and they did not lay down the keel of a single new aircraft carrier. After those thirteen years of neglect they have no right to condemn us. The people who ought to be in the dock are themselves. And I thank your Lordships for having been so generous as to listen to me for so long.
§ 8.14 p.m.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, I do not pretend to be a great expert on defence matters, but having had personal experience in the last war for some three years I have always retained a lively interest in defence matters. It seems to me impossible to set defence apart in a realm of its own, and this has been made abundantly clear this afternoon. Defence must be the servant of foreign policy. Basically, we are a trading nation and our foreign policy is involved on this basis. This becomes more apparent every day. We see the importance of commercial attachés in Embassies abroad, and even the status of our Foreign Secretary on his visit to South America. This is right and proper, and no one complains about it. So the "servant" must always stand nearby the "master", and therefore it would be very close to the trading States and the trade routes.
I wish to turn for a moment to a subject about which we have heard a great deal this afternoon: that is, the Navy. I think it has been made abundantly clear that if a carrier force is to be kept, it has to be virtually three to four carriers in strength. I think it very difficult for anyone, unless he is a great expert on purely naval matters, to be able to get completely clear in his mind what are the arguments for and against. The only point which I would put forward has already been stated this afternoon: that the Government thinking on this seems to be slightly contrary to American policy. The British Navy has led in the field of carrier design over the question of the angled deck and the sophisticated radar system. It strikes me as somewhat extraordinary, with the large commitments which we have in the world, especially East of Suez, that this decision should have been made.
I was very glad to hear what was said about the position of the Fleet Air Arm, that it will not be completely run down and that the only question relates to the fixed-wing element. It seems to me, if 1065 we are to retain our commitments East of Suez, that unless we produce an aircraft in the near future which is capable of flying gigantic distances, either carriers will have to be maintained, or we shall find ourselves in the position of having to build airfields on the various coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. If the policy is to hand over more responsibility to Australia that would be a slightly different matter, but I cannot believe that Australia could take on more than certain commitments, and I cannot see America taking on the whole responsibility for the Far East.
My Lords, I should like to touch on two points which have been mentioned this afternoon. One was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, regarding the morale of the Navy. I am quite convinced that there is still a great deal in the point about contact on the level of naval crews, regardless of what type of craft it may be. I am certain that if we got naval crews ashore in a local area where there might be a mild disturbance, it would be proved, as has always been said, that whether it be British seamen, airmen or soldiers, they are the best ambassadors in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, mentioned that Russia was not bothering about carriers and was concentrating entirely on submarines. But the geographical position of Russia is slightly different from that of this country which is an island. We have sea communications which we must keep open at all times.
I wish now to turn to the question of the Army. There is a reference in the Defence Review to the Chieftain tank with its 120 millimetre gun. Scientists have been working on this tank for a lone time and I understand that it is about the finest tank in the world. I hope that within a short time it will be possible to get these tanks out to our serving units.
I myself was a Greenjacket. This is going slightly back down memory lane, but I think it covers the problem of morale. After the War, my regiment was disbanded, first into one battalion and then completely. Then a first battalion was raised again, and a second. But when this goes on, all the best officers are lost. They go to Staff appointments and when the time comes to raise another battalion it takes months to collect officers again. I think the noble and gallant 1066 Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, was the first who produced the idea of the brigade. It took a certain amount of time, naturally, to settle down, but it has worked out exceedingly well. The brigade has at least three battalions and a depôt to draw from, so that battalions can be kept up to strength and the regiment does not lose its officers.
I would end by saying that I am certain that if we are to continue to keep the Services up to strength on a voluntary system, a continuity of policy must be kept going. I know that this is not always easy, but I am certain that it is the basis of all morale in the Services. If endless change in the rôle of any one Service takes place, morale must suffer and obviously the Services will be faced with more and more officers and men coming in on a short-term basis and not fulfilling their full time. The change in the rôle of the Navy is a shattering idea, especially to an island people such as ourselves. In war, whether nuclear or localised, the first thought that jumps to the mind of any islander is the maintenance and protection of our shipping lanes.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, the usual channels, for whom I have the greatest regard and affection, have got into the habit of putting me down to speak in what we call in the Navy the Dog Watch, but in fact we are largely through the Dog and inside the First Bell of the First Watch. As your Lordships know, the First Watch goes on till midnight, but I do not propose to occupy the whole of the First Watch with my remarks.
My purpose in rising to-day is to give support to the Amendment in the name of my noble friend and leader, Lord Carrington. I will try to indicate why I do so as briefly as I can. I hope that your Lordships will hear with me if I devote most of my remarks to naval matters, and will understand that this does not mean that I am happy about the Army and the Air Force aspects of this White Paper. I am not. I wish to speak briefly. Moreover, many noble Lords—and there are still some to come—are far more capable and qualified than I am to speak on Army and Air Force matters.
We have had a long and interesting debate. On purely naval matters I find 1067 myself in complete agreement with what my noble friend Lord Ashbourne said, and, on more general aspects, with what my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve said, and I will refrain, so far as I can, from covering the same ground.
Command Papers 2901 and 2902, which we are debating to-night, have had a period of gestation amounting to elephantine proportions. I would make no particular complaint of this, if at the end of the day it produced something worth while, but, in my view, this is just what it has not done. I cannot say that the final result is a surprise to me or to anyone else. For weeks past we have had a series of leaks, inspired or otherwise, but on the whole quite remarkably accurate. I cannot find in these White Papers how much the Ministry of Defence spend on security, but, however much or however little, it does not prevent that edifice from leaking like a colander.
Although not altogether surprised, I must confess to strong feelings of disappointment, particularly where naval matters are concerned, because I remember very well the speech of the right honourable gentleman the present Prime Minister when he spoke in Plymouth just before the last General Election. In asking himself the rhetorical question: "Why do I stress the rôle of the Navy?", he gave his own answer: "Because it has a key rôle in our defence strategy". With this answer, I am, of course, in complete agreement. It must be one of the rare occasions when I find myself in agreement with anything the Prime Minister has said. However, I agree with that wholeheartedly. As your Lordships will know, whenever I have ventured to address your Lordships' House in a Defence debate, I have always made it clear that in my opinion the safety, honour and welfare of this country depends, always has depended and always will depend, upon a faithful and dogged pursuit of a maritime strategy. In this, the Royal Navy cannot avoid playing the leading rôle, though of course it must be, and normally is, supported by the R.A.F. and the Army.
Therefore, when I read the Prime Minister's speech at Plymouth before he came into office, with all his talk of increased naval strength, I said to myself, "We have a real convert here. The West 1068 Country air, with its strong naval flavour, has done him good. Perhaps he has heard Drake's Drum." Now we have the White Paper. It is clear that neither he nor any member of his Government, with only one notable exception, has heard Drake's Drum. They may have heard the Liverpool Beat and the boom of a voice no longer with us, but one thing is most clear—they have not heard Drake's Drum.
It is clear from the White Papers, or so it seems to me, that Her Majesty's Government have chosen to ignore the one basic truth which was so clearly stated in the Defence White Paper for 1962 (Command 1639). Paragraph 26, which I apologise for quoting again, but in my view it is fundamental to any thinking on the defence problem, says:The ability to assure free movement by sea at the right time and place remains of fundamental importance to these islands. Indeed, the sea may, in certain circumstances, be the one open highway for strategic movement free of international political hindrance. To discharge this responsibility ".The White Paper went on to say,we need a balanced and versatile fleet capable of bringing force to hear under the sea, on the surface, and in the air.I hope that when the noble Earl comes to reply for Her Majesty's Government he will be able to tell us that the Government accept this statement which I have just quoted as a basic truth which must colour all our defence thinking and planning. At the same time, will the noble Earl who is to reply also tell us that they appreciate that movement by sea is of fundamental importance to us not only for strategic and tactical reasons but also to ensure the actual provisioning of these islands, even on a seige basis. Fifty per cent. of our food and 90 per cent. of our raw materials is brought in by sea. We are even more dependent on sea transport to-day than we were 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago.
In our last Defence debate, which happened to take place on November 11 (the fact was very much in my mind, because on that date in 1918 we made arrangements to receive, I think it was, 400 surrendered U-boats at Harwich), I ventured to remind your Lordships that twice in most of our lifetimes we had seen this country brought to the verge of defeat 1069 by the enemy's attack on our sea communications—by U-boats, aircraft, mines and surface raiders. To-day our potential enemies can muster a submarine force infinitely more powerful than anything produced by the Germans in either world war. In fact, the Russian submarine force is already twice the size of that in service with the United States Navy. I am quite certain that this force will be at sea at its war stations, not just East of Suez but in all the oceans of the world. This is what it has been built for. The Russians have done their homework on the history of the last two wars.
Although the noble Lord, Lord Soper (he is no longer with us), deprecates any mention of Russia, I would remind him that there are many evil men around in this world to-day, and if they have the weapons they will be strongly tempted to use them if they can see an advantage right at their hand. Moreover, these Russian submarines would be well placed to make an immediate attack on the enormous mass of vital shipping sailing to and from this country. They would also—and if I were the Russian Naval Commander-in-Chief I would make sure that they did—have all these mysterious atolls, where F 111 As are going to land and kill, pinpointed, and before war broke out most of them would be out of action in one way or another.
The Royal Navy has a major rôle to play in combating these enemy submarines, surface raiders and aircraft. Other noble Lords have referred to the provisions for this duty indicated in the White Paper, and I do not propose to waste your Lordships' time by going over them again. Frigates and destroyers are necessary, and, in my view, aircraft carriers: but I will come back to aircraft carriers later on. Before that, I should like to mention Coastal Command, a service of which I have always had a very high opinion, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, knows, and about which I have constantly spoken in these debates. Coastal Command is absolutely necessary to give the Navy strong support in the anti-submarine rôle. I agree with my noble friend Lord Ashbourne that this force would be more suitably called Maritime Command, and I hope that perhaps our voices may persuade the Government to do just this. However, it has been given only marginal space in the 1070 White Paper—five lines under the heading "Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft ". Surely this force has an offensive rôle, as well. Although we are told that the ageing Shackleton Mark Its are to be replaced by a version of the Comet especially developed for the maritime rôle, I understood from the debate on the aircraft industry last week (I may have got it wrong) that only 50 of these aircraft are to be ordered; and to-day, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton (I am not sure that it was), put the figure at 38 to 40. Perhaps we may be given the correct figure. I think that this, with the ageing Shackletons, will give us a pathetically small force for what should be described as Maritime Command.
Before I leave what I have described in previous debates as the Cinderella of the Service, I should like to make one suggestion which I would ask the Government to consider. I raised this point in a Defence debate three or four years ago, but I think it is even more urgent to-day. With the diminishing numbers of bases, for one reason or another, with present engines and present techniques, I feel somehow that it is worth having a look at flying boats. They do not need aerodromes, and in the maritime field they proved themselves in the last war—the Catalina's to a great extent—and I cannot help feeling that the 1966 version of the Catalina might be quite a good aircraft for the purposes we have in mind.
Another important element in our antisubmarine forces is the nuclear-powered controlled submarine—the so-called hunter-killers. I searched the White Paper when I first received it from the Printed Paper Office to try to find out what the Government's plans were. Of course, we have the "Dreadnought", and three others building; and I think I am right now if I say that, following on the Answer to a Question in another place, yet another of these nuclear-powered controlled submarines is to be laid down, though it did not say quite when. Personally, I think that it is absolutely necessary, and that we should now embark on steadily replacing our conventional submarines with the nuclear-powered submarines. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, that they are magnificent ships. Like him I was trained in a "C" class submarine, with 2,500 gallons of 1071 petrol underneath one—not a very nice shipmate. I also served in "Ls" and "Es", as he did. Therefore, I have a great fellow feeling for him as a fellow-submariner, but I cannot agree with all his remarks about aircraft carriers.
Before I leave the question of nuclear-powered submarines, I would point out that the White Paper says thatnuclear power propulsion has revolutionised the submarine; that it is the greatest advance in warships since sail was superseded by steam.I think it is high time that we realised that nuclear power has not only revolutionised submarines; it is more than on the verge of revolutionising other warships. Therefore, I am disappointed that the White Paper makes no reference to what is being done about nuclear power in general for naval vessels. Is it that Her Majesty's Government agree with the First Lord of the Admiralty of 1828, Lord Melville, who said:Their Lordships feel it their bounden duty to discourage to the utmost of their ability the employment of steam vessels as they consider the introduction of steam is calculated to strike a fatal blow at the supremacy of Empire.f course, Lord Melville was operating like this Government, on the score of purely political expediency. He realised that the introduction of steam vessels would involve him in an expensive building programme to replace the wooden walls which had served us so well at Trafalgar. I hope that Her Majesty's Government do not take that view about nuclear power, and that when the noble Earl comes to reply for the Government we can hear something of their thinking on this matter.
Now I must briefly refer to aircraft carriers, because I do not believe that the balanced and versatile Fleet we require is complete without aircraft carriers. I will not detain your Lordships for long, because time is getting on, but I must tell you that, shortly after the White Paper was published, I received a letter from an American naval friend with whom I served during the war. He wrote quite spontaneously—I received the letter about a week ago—and said:I am impelled to write to commiserate with you and the Royal Navy on the Government decision to substitute F 111s for a carrier East of Suez. I have not seen a copy of the 1072 whole paper—only newspaper reports—and hence do not know what the argumentation "—a lovely American word!—has been—probably very technical. But now, having done a good deal of work on that area, the decision makes no sense to me unless there is an undisclosed agreement that the United States will provide relevant naval power as required on a contingency basis. Nothing I am aware of makes a plane of the F 111 type, backed by an airborne strategic reserve, of any strategic value in that area, and of very doubtful tactical value.This officer, who has only recently retired, has been engaged until recently on special Staff studies in great depth for the United States Navy, a duty for which he is particularly well equipped. I do not want to say more than that, because I do not want to identify him too closely. But I am quite prepared to disclose his name to any noble Lord who is interested. It is clear that this American naval friend of mine is not voicing only a personal view, since the Pentagon has recently decided to order more carriers. Like my United States naval friend, I do not know what the "argumentation" has been in the Ministry of Defence. Like him, I can imagine that it was highly technical. But, unlike him (or perhaps he is too polite to say so), I suspect that it was very woolly.
I do not propose to stray into that jungle. Like him, the decision makes no sense to me, and I am reinforced in that view by the admirable letter from Admiral of the Fleet Sir Caspar John which was printed inThe Timesof March 3. I personally agree with every word of that letter and feel certain that most thinking people would. I do not propose to quote the letter at length, but I will, with your Lordships' permission, quote the last paragraph, which says:In my experience there are some things better done from the sea and some things better done from shore. I believe that an enlightened combination of Naval and Air Force talents would see to it that the country got the fullest practical value for the money it spends on its tactical air power.Those, my Lords, are my sentiments; and I shall come back in a moment to that aspect.
Before I read the Admiral's letter—and let me say now that I have never had the privilege of meeting him—I made a note to ask Her Majesty's Government, in the course of this debate, what had happened to the Templer Committee 1073 report. In his letter, Sir Caspar John says:This committee produced what was, in my opinion, a thoroughly workmanlike report, which I judge would have resulted in a practical get-together of these two great Services with a welcome end to the time and energy-consuming controversies which have bedevilled their relationship for so long, and made decisions on their future so difficult.When the noble Earl comes to reply for Her Majesty's Government, perhaps he will be good enough to tell us—in fact, I think we should have an answer—what has happened to this report. Has it been suppressed or pigeon-holed; and, if so, why? It seems to me a very strange omission from the White Paper we are debating to-night that there is no reference at all to the report of this very experienced and highly qualified committee.
But there are many strange things about this White Paper. Long before it was published —and, indeed, in some cases even before it could have got under way —many snap decisions were taken: cancellation of the TSR 2; cancellation of the fifth Polaris armed submarine, and reorganisation of the Territorial Army. Mercifully, the original scheme for this has been scrapped, largely due to pressure from all sides of this House and in the country at large. I have a horrid suspicion, amounting to a certainty, that this unsatisfactory and woolly-thinking White Paper conceals intentions to make further cuts in our armed strength. It is for these, and many other reasons, that I support my noble friend's Amendment.
Moreover, how can we have any confidence in this Government's handling of our defence when they are headed by our present Prime Minister? The right honourable gentleman, speaking at Plymouth on September 27, 1964, with what he was pleased to describe as "all the sincerity at his command" said:The Royal Navy is not adequate for out needs; it has been run down to a dangerous extent.My Lords, that was not true at the time. The Royal Navy was in fact on the way to being built up to a very satisfactory level. But even had it been true, what have the present Government done about it? The only way I can describe it is in the expression generally used by sailors—the name of a sweet lady, to describe their preserved meat. The Prime Minister's statement may well come true, if this Government remain in office much 1074 longer. However, I am certain that this great maritime nation will hear Drake's Drum, loud and clear, very soon indeed—on March 31 in fact—and then they will drum, not the Dons up Channel but this Socialist Government out of office.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ LORD HAIRE OF WHITEABBEY
My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships for long. We have been listening to a debate of some eighteen speakers and there are still six to come, so I will do my best to be brief. I am sorry that both the last speakers from the opposite Benches did not find an opportunity to refer to the very telling speech we had immediately before, from my noble friend Lord Leatherland, who in fact gave in advance the answers to the points being made by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in his speech. I myself thought that my noble friend Lord Leatherland had produced a very fine speech which noble Lords might well have referred to, and I hope they will read it, for the answers to their questions, to-morrow inHansard.Also I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who I am glad to see with us, did not find the noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, sufficiently challenging to rise to some of his statements.
I should like to start my speech this evening by referring to one of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his speech this afternoon. He seemed to be thoroughly dismayed—in fact I think he used the word "dismayed" —that the Government should be so audacious as to start off with a fixed target for their Defence budget. He thought it was almost impossible that a Government should control their defence by establishing the figure of £2,000 million and then deriving all their policy and all their decisions from that one figure. Yet the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, quoted a passage where the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, himself said, in one of his previous speeches, that this was the way to proceed with a Defence budget. I do not find this at all strange. From these Benches we have continually heard speeches by noble Lords who have complained about the escalation in our defence costs. We have all the time noticed, and almost come to expect, that once you fix a target for a defence policy you have to be most careful to prevent 1075 this from escalating. We are in fact establishing a figure of £2,000 million at 1964 prices to control our Defence spending. Already Defence spending is above £2,000 million at present-day prices, and we have introduced a form of control and we intend to follow that through.
I personally find this document which we are discussing to-day,The Defence Review,a form of controlled disarmament. I hope that as each Review comes forward each year, as we are promised, this disarmament through our Defence budget will continue, because there is no more unpopular feature of our Budget—and I say this at a time not only when there is an Election in the air but when in fact we are shortly to have a Budget—than the costs which Defence assumes. Your Lordships may not realise that something like 5s. 4d. in every pound of tax collected goes in Defence. Some one-quarter of our total Budget in this country goes in paying for Defence. Think what we could do with all this money in building houses, in building hospitals, in making roads, in building schools, factories, and the rest. These are the things on which we should in fact be spending our money, instead of which we have been hotly debating to-day whether we should have more, or many more, aircraft carriers.
I am certain that if in fact noble Lords opposite wish to make the subject of Defence a plank in their Election platform, they may come unstuck. The Prime Minister, after all, has welcomed the idea of having a great debate on Defence, so he is not going to be the least bit worried if in fact noble Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in his final remarks, want to open an Election discussion on this issue. I think in fact the result would be very different from that envisaged in his last remark.
We do not insist on reckless reductions in the budget for Defence. We are not anxious to disregard our national security or our national commitments. We recognise that those are there and in this wicked world they have to be faced; but, my Lords, it seemed to me that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, this afternoon talked about "Defence without honour". It seemed that he had assumed, from reading this Defence White Paper, that we were in fact totally regardless of the commitments entered into by our 1076 Government and we were quite ready to dishonour what had been undertaken previously. He talked about our failing to keep our promises in Defence. I felt there was quite a smell of the hustings about this. May I say that in the past I have had close contact with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in the leafy lanes of Bucks at previous Elections when I was contesting a seat in another place, and many enjoyable encounters we had; but there is no such particular dishonour in our defence policy; there is no such neglect of our national commitments.
This Defence Review which we presented to the House and to the country took some sixteen months to produce. Was this time wasted? Was it to be expected that the thousands of hours which senior civil servants, chiefs of staff and the Cabinet put into this Review were going to be wasted? Would it not be impossible to think of this work without accepting some changes, particularly in the policy of the Government as previously laid down? I really think that if noble Lords were being fair they would recognise that this White Paper is a matter for congratulation because this is the first time that this House has been presented with a new type of defence statement, a new type of White Paper (true, it is red), and this is the first time that we now know where we are really going in the matter of Defence. This is surely a matter for congratulation. My right honourable friend the Minister for Defence, my noble friend his colleague, and my other colleagues really do deserve the thanks of this House; not the sort of carping criticism, if I may say so, which they have had from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon.
It was obvious that to achieve a reduction to £2.000 million per annum my right honourable friend and my noble friend and his other colleagues had to challenge three things. It was obvious that they had to challenge every policy that we have had for defence and foreign policy. It was obvious we had to challenge every commitment we had; it was obvious we had to challenge every weapon we had. And this was why noble Lords opposite sometimes felt this Review was taking so long. Of course it was taking so long, because these challenges were at work, 1077 and either the Government had to renew their faith or eliminate the waste they found.
It has been obvious that since the last War, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn said this afternoon, we are no longer a world power. It is no use pretending we are, and it is no use trying to spend up to our past glorious days in an attempt to satisfy our ego. We in this country must satisfy ourselves, as for many years, even before the War, we satisfied ourselves, that we are engaged in a policy of collective security. Our Defence policy must be based on the threefold policy of NATO, of CENTO and of SEATO. There can be no getting away from that. To-day I have often felt we were at sea in more ways than one when we spoke as though we were going to face a great, independent holocaust and we had to be prepared for it. Never again shall we fight an independent war. We believe in, and we must trust in, collective security. Therefore anything outside those three policies must be thoroughly examined. It is for this reason, after examination, that Aden has to go. Noble Lords may regret it, but in fact it will go by 1968. Notice has therefore been given. And Cyprus and Malta will be greatly reduced; they will have to find protection in the various international arrangements which will be set up for them or are set up, and they must have time and notice to do so.
Why should all this dismay the noble Lord, Lord Carrington? He says we are creating a power vacuum. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, showed that the time has really come when we must drop many of our commitments which are not legally based and for which in fact we could not establish a legal standing. I found the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, had the right attitude in many of the points which he raised. In fact, I could go a long way with his speech. His was a much better approach, if I may say so, than that of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who was going to decide the military commitments and then spend accordingly. Surely the reverse of that is the truth. I believe we cannot go on much longer trying to cling to an East of Suez policy, certainly not after the confrontation in Malaysia ceases. I feel that the time will then be ripe when we 1078 must withdraw from an East of Suez policy.
Thirdly, I say we must eliminate obsolete weapons wherever we find them. That is what the Defence Review does. That is why the aircraft carrier programme has come under serious scrutiny; and we have heard so much about the carrier programme this afternoon that I do not wish to add to it. The aircraft carrier is not, and nobody should pretend it is, a modern weapon. As I think one of my noble friends said this afternoon, it is a sitting duck; there are very few rôles left to it and its cost effectiveness is impossibly high. I really cannot see that within the next five to ten years the carrier programme will justify the cost as it is phased out.
I well remember that during the War there was a case for the aircraft carrier. My noble friend Lord Shackleton said this afternoon that during the War, when he was in Coastal Command, he well remembers the Battle of the Gap, the Battle of the Atlantic, when we were faced with that ugly area in the Atlantic where the U-boat ran amuck, and when the operations boards in my Operations room at the Admiralty and other Commands often during those dark years showed black. Every black spot was the sinking of a ship, and sometimes we had over 200 a day. That was entirely due to the fact that we did not have the protection in the Atlantic because our Navy and our aircraft could not give it. My noble friend said that in 1943 there came the Liberator and, as we all know, those who fought in the Battle of the Atlantic, it was then that the gap began to be closed. It was then that the days of the aircraft carrier were numbered.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Why, if this is true, do the Government intend to keep the aircraft carriers till 1975?
§ LORD HAIRE OF WHITEABBEY
I think it is obvious to noble Lords that they have to be phased out. They cannot be immediately closed down. This would be a costly operation. It would be putting an end to the Royal Navy, which none of us intend should happen. Now it is obvious that land-based aircraft can cover the world. With the introduction of the F 111—and it has not come yet—the noble Lord knows the cover can be more 1079 effective than ever before. We are going through a phase of reappraisal and it is none too soon. The Board of Admiralty may feel hurt. The Royal Navy may no longer be the Senior Service, and it is not easy for noble Lords opposite, so many of whom have given service in the Navy, to accept that. I think that the R.A.F. is now assuming the rôle once held by the Navy. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, gave a generous compliment to Coastal Command. I believe that Coastal Command is probably taking over much of the rôle of the Navy in our nearby waters; that is, at least until the Polaris submarine comes into its own in the early 1970s. Then, of course, the nuclear weapons will be more easily distributed at sea. When that happens, a new type of Navy may have a rôle to play.
While other countries—with the single, and we hope only temporary, exception of the United States, due to Vietnam—are reducing their defence budgets, it is obvious that we should not be increasing ours. It is for this reason that I applaud the decision taken by Her Majesty's Government to keep a tight rein on our defence spending.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord—he is most kind to give way. He says that there are now land-based aircraft which can cover the world. But in order to operate the land-based aircraft it is necessary to have land bases. Are we quite certain that we can find them when we want them?
§ LORD HAIRE OF WHITEABBEY
My Lords, the noble Lord is making the mistake which I mentioned earlier. He is assuming that we carry out a unilateral defence. We do no such thing. This system in which we are employed is, in fact, a collective security, and it is up to us to see that NATO, SEATO and CENTO provide such bases throughout the world. As I say, it would be quite wrong of us, in view of the reduction in armaments and defence budgets throughout the world, to be spending more. The Defence Review shows us the way to cut down on defence spending. For that reason, if for none other, I believe that it should be warmly welcomed by this House.
§ 9.10 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I had proposed to confine my 1080 remarks to the Reserve Forces, but having heard a few of the comments made regarding carriers and other aspects of our defence, I would ask your Lordships' indulgence if I make some comments. I have an interest, as I am a serving member of the Territorial Army. During some of the courses in connection with the Territorial Army I have been instructed on affairs concerning this country and its adventures overseas. Out of this, and from general knowledge, I have come to the conclusion that our Regular Forces have been engaged in war, of some sort or another, ever since 1945. During this time they have conducted several emergency operations in areas for which they were not prepared. Owing to the greater use of air power they have been able to use aircraft to the fullest advantage. So far every time they have been particularly lucky in having a major airfield from which to work. The people concerned have themselves admitted that one of these days they will come across the situation in which they find themselves opposed by an Air Force able to meet ours. That, I regret to say, poses the 64-dollar question. And they do not know the answer to it. Even to-day, they do not know whether they have the weapons to withstand such a force.
Before I turn to the Reserve Forces, upon which I wish to say more, I would tell one other short story, which is concerned with the same subject. About eighteen months ago, I was on a course during which we had a long and erudite lecture and discussion on how to use air power to feed the forward troops right up on the battlefield. It was a most interesting lecture. We were all spellbound by it. At the end, the lecturer turned on the lights, switched off his equipment, and asked, "Are there any questions?" A few Brigadiers and Generals asked a few intelligent questions, and then one humble major (it was not I) put up his hand and said, "Forgive me if I ask this question, but how did the helicopters get there?" The lecturer looked around and said, "I will ask the Chief Instructor to answer that question." The Chief Instructor looked around and said, "That is a fine question. I do not know the answer." So far they have flown off aircraft carriers. I will leave your Lordships to work that one out. The only other comment I want to make, 1081 having listened to the last speaker, is that I should have thought that each and every one of us in this country would be prepared to pay 5s. 10d. in the pound for the defence and honour of this country.
I will now turn to the Territorial Army and its proposed reorganisation. This is what I came to speak about, and I do not wish to go further into the other aspects. We have all heard of the proposed reorganisation, and I would urge whatever Government we may have in the future to implement whatever suggestions they have fairly quickly. We have been for 21 months in a state of uncertainty, and this is a long time to ask people to continue working with uncertainty as to their future. The Government are very quick to point the finger at any private industry which does not behave itself, but by their handling of the reorganisation of the Reserve Forces they have shown that, whatever else is taught in the Socialist schools, man management is certainly not. It all has to do with the way in which it has been put across. With regard to the Army Volunteer Reserve, the way in which it has been put across has had a good reception. So far as the Home Defence Force is concerned, although we know what is intended, we have not had sufficient details to be able to put it across to the soldiers. We are hoping for the best.
I should like now to refer to two vital points which must be looked into. The first concerns the employees of the Territorial Army associations; the second the employers of the men whom we hope to get. To take first the employees, while it is true to say that most Territorial units have some idea, though perhaps a vague one, as to what their future may be, the employees on whom we rely to carry out our administration have no idea at all. In their White Paper the Government hinted that there would be a redundancy scheme, but the employees have heard nothing more than that. If they cease to carry out their jobs—which they well may be driven to do, not because of any disloyalty to us, but because their families may be so affected that they cannot stay—then it will be impossible to implant the Government's ideas. Therefore I would urge that something should be done for those who wish to stay on, and that they should at least get a cash bounty or something of the sort.
1082 The implications are that such a redundancy scheme would be based on that which is applied in the London Government area. It may have been perfectly adequate for London Government, but it does not appear to be adequate for the employees of the territorial associations. London is a large area, a close-knit community, and a person who moves from one district to another does not have very great problems. But the people to whom I refer are faced with the decision about going from Scotland to work either in Wales or in Ireland. This in many cases is unthinkable and to my mind it is unreasonable to expect them to do so.
The man concerned should be able to get a job somewhere within a reasonable distance of his home. The employees feel that they may be offered a job in the Civil Service well away from their own homes, and that if they do not take it, because it cuts across their family ties, they will be debarred from receiving any redundancy compensation. This is certainly the basis of their fears. I hope that such people will be reassured that if they stay in the Service they will be suitably recompensed, and that any redundancy scheme will be practicable and one which they could accept. I do not mean that they should get a job necessarily in the same town, but certainly it should be within a reasonable distance from their families. The suggestions as they stand are unacceptable. The employees are very worried, and if they cease to carry out their obligations the Territorial Army associations will be unable to stop them, and this will be a very difficult hurdle to get over.
May I now turn to the position of the employers? If one wishes to get recruits to the Army Volunteer Reserve one needs first to get the confidence of the men's employers. All praise is due to the employers up to the present for the efforts which have been made at association or unit level, for they have co-operated admirably. The employers know from reading their newspapers that there has been a change. They think that the Territorial Army as such is ending, but we want to get the men from them, and we want the employers' good will. We want the Army Volunteer Reserve to succeed, but it will not succeed without the good will of the employers. May I just remind your 1083 Lordships that when you are dealing with the Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, you are dealing with the most complex machine there is, and that is a human being, and if you can make him work in the best way then you have done your job.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, he would be a presumptuous and daring subaltern who did not at once accede to the request of his commanding officer, even of 50 years ago; and the more so when that commanding officer is also a Chief of the Clan to which he owes allegiance. It is for that reason that I have exchanged places in the batting list with the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair.
I would welcome the Government's decision to have a second tier of the Territorial force, or whatever it is to be called, but possibly for a reason which is somewhat different from that which they give. I would regard this second tier as forming a basis for expansion in the case of emergency, and I think it ought to be regarded as such from the beginning. The Volunteer who joined in 1859—the great beginnings of the Volunteer movement—joined for home defence alone. But forty years later, in the Boer War, the Volunteer Force formed a very useful emergency corps upon which the Army could be expanded, and was expanded, and it was the lessons from the Boer War which impelled Haldane, with the advice of Haig, to form the Territorial Force, as it became in 1908.
But I suppose that at the moment we must think of this home defence rôle of the second tier, and we must take this opportunity of taking a fresh look at the whole problem. I am glad to think that the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, is at the present time engaged in consultation with the Council of the T.A. Associations and with the Ministry of Defence on this point. It would be wrong to assume too much, or to make too many guesses about what is going to come out of it, but there are some points which I should like to make.
First, I think that this home defence force must be coterminous with the Civil Defence arrangements for the country, and that its command structure must 1084 fit into this also. I think also that each group of three companies—which I believe may be called a battalion—must be commanded by a volunteer. After all, the liability of this second tier is something like one week's camp, nine evenings and two weekends, and I think a volunteer officer, if he is sufficiently interested to become a volunteer, can easily spare the amount of time necessary for the supervision of 300 men organised in three companies.
Another point which I should like to make is that I think that the military hierarchy for this second tier should be as small as possible. After all, there is little for them to do but supervise training. I should like to consider the military hierarchy which has developed in the Territorial Army since the war, whose development is in part the cause of this great inquisition at the present moment. Before 1939 you had a brigade commander, with practically no staff but a clerk, commanding three infantry battalions and supervising their training. When the Territorial Army was doubled, the same brigade commander, with one staff officer, was able to command those battalions, in which there could be over 4,000 officers and men. It was done with economy, and I think it was done with efficiency, as events in 1939 and 1940 proved.
I very much question whether, even in this new second-tier proposal, there is a full-time job for a Regular Army officer looking after three battalions, and I would suggest that this job could possibly be combined with that of regimental colonel, which is already in existence. I would agree with all that other noble Lords have said about the integration of the defence force with the Army Volunteer Reserve. There needs to be close association; but I think the Army Volunteer Reserve will probably normally have to be commanded by a Regular officer, a Regular colonel, although this should not imply that he will also command the battalions of the second tier—the Territorial force, or whatever it is to be called.
I submit that the Reserve Forces must never again be used primarily to enlarge the career structure of officers of the Regular Army. To do so is to run away from the real problem. We must face the fact that only relatively few officers are 1085 required beyond 45 years of age, and that it is not the object of the Army Reserve to enable elderly officers to extend their service by five years or so. If there is no honest job to be done, it is much better to get the Regular officer out young, after twenty years of service. I think there will always be jobs in civilian life for the 40 or 45 year olds provided that they have some qualification when they go into the Army or have acquired some qualification while in the Army, such as a university degree. This, I think, is in consonance with the declared aims of the Defence Review.
I welcome the Report by the Committee, which is quoted in the Review, regarding the increased importance of the recruitment of officers from the universities and the increased flow at graduate level from the Service colleges—not only in science and engineering but also, as the Defence Review says, in the humanities. We read there that at the present moment there are 36 officers reading for arts degrees. I would suggest to those responsible that they might put a little bit more emphasis on the newly-developing faculties at universities of social sciences. The university graduate schemes which have come into existence during the past few years are making progress. I noticed from the Defence Review that they were not making progress so far as the Navy was concerned. My own observation is that they are making the greatest progress in the air, and I attribute this in no small measure to the very high standard of officer that the Royal Air Force sends to the university, to the leadership that they display to the students who join the air squadron and to their open-mindedness in dealing with those students who come at a later stage wanting to join the Service.
The other good thing which again stems from the Tory Government but has not been turned down by the present Government—in fact, it has been pushed forward —is the creation of cadetships at the universities, cadetships to come to the univertities with a pledge to join the chosen Service afterwards I would submit that these cadets must be looked after carefully while they are at the university. The medical and dental cadetships are going to be the salvation of the medical side of the three Services. We must realise that the Services are competing with industry 1086 for precisely the same type of young man and that industry can offer perhaps more glittering rewards than the Services can ever offer. I was very interested in the way in which the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, referred to the opportunity of adventure and comradeship drawing men into the Services. This is precisely what draws so many students towards the Services, and this is what the Services have to offer in competition with industry.
I suggest that another inducement that can be added is an early pension, with the opportunity that offers for a young man who is not going to get great promotion in the Services to make a fresh start in life. I wonder how many of those officers who were selected for permanent commissions during the last War and whose time is now running out have found it difficult to get suitable jobs. Most of them did not have university degrees. I believe that most of them have been willingly snapped up by employers.
The other and final point I wish to make about the Defence Review is on the paragraph about higher defence studies. A committee has reported on the higher defence studies, and this is most intriguing. There is mention of the creation of up to six fellowships for the Services and for Ministry of Defence civil servants at the universities. To balance that, there is the creation of lectureships or senior lectureships in certain universities. I think the good work that has been done by Professor Michael Howard of London University shows how useful this suggestion can become and how important it is to have independent thinking of the highest quality and of integrity directed to the problems of defence as well as to the other problems which face the nation. Not only will it be a good thing that a proportion of the officers of the three Services should he graduates in the humanities; but it will, I suggest, be even more important that a proportion of the civil servants in the Ministry of Defence should have graduated in defence studies.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ LORD KING-HALL
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred to me in his speech, I feel that I should make it quite clear that although my 1087 views on defence are certainly not orthodox, I am certainly not a pacifist, and that if a mob attempted to invade this Chamber I should be delighted to place such small amount of violence as I may possess alongside the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, and once more to be associated with him as in submarines in 1918. I do not object at all to the use of appropriate violence in appropriate circumstances.
My Lords, we read on page 1 of the Review that the purpose of the Defence Review is "to shape a new defence posture for the 1970s ". This word "posture" means a position in relation to circumstances. Therefore what matters above all else is that our defence thinking should be related to a correct appreciation of the circumstances as they exist to-day and in the foreseeable future. If the analysis of the circumstances which I am about to submit briefly to your Lordships is correct, this new posture does not take into account these new circumstances. In a way, it is only a cut-price version of the old posture suitable for the pre-nuclear age. We still intend to claim membership of the club of great military Powers, but at a kind of reduced subscription rate, as might be appropriate for country members of a club. The only issue between the Government and the Opposition is, I think, that the latter claim we are really trying to do too much on the cheap. They do not differ, broadly speaking, over the nature of the new posture in principle, and they do not really differ about the circumstances to which this posture is to be related. I hope to show your Lordships that within the last 25 years a number of new developments have taken place, some of which have never occurred before in the history of mankind, and they radically altered the circumstances which have to be taken into account when we are doing our defence planning.
There is one circumstance which has not altered: it is that man's highest loyalty is still to the sovereign State, and the relations between those sovereign States is expressed through power politics. Power is the decisive factor in political disputes between these States. Although power can be moral and economic, I think it a fact that from time immemorial the most significant component of power in the power politics formula has been 1088 one's capacity to bring physical violence to bear on the enemy. But in August, 1945, there was a blinding flash over Hiroshima as nuclear energy was used for the first time to produce military violence. I submit, my Lords, that that bomb did very much more than destroy Hiroshima; it dealt a mortal blow at the supremacy of physical violence in the context of power politics. I remember writing on August 16 of that year:Total war—large-scale national war—is no longer meaningful in power politics.Physical violence had become so violent that it had become useless, and I think that is the most revolutionary event which has ever happened in human history.
It is therefore hardly surprising, I think, considering the rapidity with which it has taken place, that most people find it very difficult to appreciate the immense significance of this event, because in order to do that one has to break through a thought barrier in defence thinking and realise that circumstances which have been facts and truths for centuries have now suddenly become non-facts. It is very hard to abandon the worship of one sacred cow; it is still more difficult to abandon the worship of a herd of them. Yet, my Lords, even before the nuclear weapon came on the scene there were signs that conventional violence was becoming, to put it mildly, inconveniently destructive. I recall Sir Winston Churchill saying to me in another place in 1945, "This bombing of Germany is all very well, but where are we going to live when we get there? "—a very practical remark, as one would expect from him.
Furthermore, the destructive effects of modern conventional war are so great that although in World War I we thought we were going to be able to make the Germans pay for the war, it was never suggested during World War II that this could possibly be done. Although it was accepted that we could make no economic gain because of the immense destructive force that we had to use in order to achieve our political aim and get rid of Hitler, I still think it would have surprised a good many people if, in 1945, they had been told that twenty years later we were going to ask the Germans to buy arms to help us With our balance of payments.
1089 I have already referred to the changes which nuclear development has brought about in reducing the significance of physical violence capacity in the formula of power politics. There are recent developments which also require us to take a new look at what power now consists of. It is not very easy to find the right phrase for one of the new factors that I should like to mention, but I am calling it mass opinion. In the old days, when the issue had been settled by the professional fighting men the views of the civil population were really not of very much account. They accepted the result. They had lost the war. But since World War II, we have discovered that the possession of overwhelming military power—in violent form, that is—does not always produce the total victory it used to do. We have discovered that bases overseas, if the surrounding population is hostile, tend to become concentration camps. We found in Cyprus and Palestine, the French found in Indonesia and Algeria, and I rather suspect that the United States are finding in Vietnam, that physical violence is not enough to deal with those situations in which guerrillas and terrorists, using relatively low-level violence, have widespread support among the people.
Linked up with this new importance in defence problems of the influence of mass opinion is also the technique of nonviolent resistance, which was used successfully by the Norwegian teachers in Word War II and adopted by the negroes in the United States of America. I think that this is a form of power of which we are going to hear more in the future. If ever the Bantu in the Republic of South Africa were able to organise themselves so as to withdraw their labour on any large scale, the South African Government would be pretty helpless, notwithstanding the preponderant amount of physical violence it would have.
In the same field of thought of modern developments is the problem of occupying enemy territory. When my noble friend Lord Chalfont was appointed to his present post, I ventured to write to him and say that he had better take a lease of a villa in Geneva, because of the large number of meetings there would be. I also suggested that he should set 1090 up some committees to see whether some of the ideas which have hitherto been accepted in defence thinking as gospel were still valid. One of those questions which I think needs looking not is whether or not one sophisticated country can effectively and profitably occupy another. We have twice occupied Germany in my lifetime and I think we were very glad to get out of the place.
There is another new factor in the question of what power is in power politics to-day. When we think of the United States in the ordinary terms of power, we note that, for example, the U.S.A. has 2,600 nuclear warheads in its strategic alert forces, an increase of 300 per cent. in the last five years, and that 7,000 tactical aircraft could be mobilised in 90 days. But, due to the population explosion in Asia and the world food shortage, it looks as if the only sources of supply to prevent widespread famine will soon be in the North American continent. I am not suggesting for a moment that the generous-hearted Americans would ever use this power in a blackmailing manner, but it is a power in power politics, and so is the foreign aid given to emergent nations.
If to help economic development in poor countries is to assist in preserving international peace, then—I mention this as an aside—it is about time that some Western European Powers bore a larger share of this international charity. Economic aid and the cost of military measures to keep peace are two sides of the same coin. The Defence Review says that:military strength is of little value if it is achieved at the expense of economic health.I should prefer to say that economic health makes it possible to exercise power in power politics by the discriminatory use of economic resources.
One of the difficulties which confronts defence planners at this time is that although, as I have endeavoured to show, the whole picture of the circumstances in which we must take a brand new look at defence has changed, and is changing pretty rapidly, there is still, as it were, a hangover from the pre-nuclear age, and this, of course, is the circumstance with which the Defence Paper is chiefly concerned. So, even if one rejects the accuracy of what I have tried to outline as being some of the 1091 new factors which we must take into account, there are some questions to be asked about old-fashioned Defence policy as described in the Review, particularly about our policy East of Suez.
It is essential in defence matters that one should be clear about one's object. From the moment one arrives at the Defence College to the moment one leaves, it is rammed home that one must be clear about what our defence policy is. What, I ask, are we trying to defend East of Suez? Against whom are we trying to defend whatever it is? I accept at once that certainly at this time we have a moral obligation to defend Malaysia against Indonesian confrontation, but I think this should be for a limited period, and that we should look at it from that point of view. So far as Australia and New Zealand are concerned, I think they know very well that for their security against serious aggression they must depend on the United States. I do not think we are capable of giving India any worthwhile defence if she were seriously attacked by China. I do not believe for one moment that China wants to invade India. The menace in India, it seems to me, is that democracy may collapse; and no doubt China would do its best to encourage that process. I do not think that any military strength that we have would be of much use there, whereas economic aid might be very useful indeed.
I am glad that we are leaving Aden, but I will not burden your Lordships with detailed reasons for that. And I am against the idea that we should be committed for much longer to our Persian Gulf commitment. Here I am in agreement with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We must be careful that in the next ten years we do not find ourselves suporting rather out-of-date forms of Government against popular movements. As to the west of the Indian Ocean, I am not clear what our commitments are to the ex-Colonial Commonwealth countries. If, for example, we open our newspapers and read that in some Central African State there has been acoupwhich has perhaps been only partially successful, are we committed to send in forces to help one side in what may be a civil war? I am only asking the question. If Nkrumah, for instance, 1092 had been in Ghana, instead of being imprudent enough to leave his country, and the revolt there had not been 100 per cent. successful, could he have called on us immediately to send in a couple of battalions?—that is, of course, if he had not already broken off diplomatic relations. I do not know whether there is an answer to that question.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, I happen to have the answer to that question available, and I look forward to giving it to-morrow. I only intervene now to say, if I may, without impertinence, what an extraordinarily interesting speech the noble Lord is making, and what a demonstration it is of the fact that, however late a speech is made in your Lordships' House, it commands the attention of the Whole House if it is of the quality demonstrated by the noble Lord.
§ LORD KING-HALL
I must say that I am completely thrown off my stroke by this most flattering intervention. I thank the noble Earl very much. I shall now endeavour to get my feet down on the ground again. To put it shortly, I think it is best, broadly speaking, to leave these emerging nations to sort out their own problems, and I hope that, if they get into a lot of trouble doing it, the United Nations will have enough authority and strength, backed by us, to intervene. I am coming hack to the United Nations in a moment.
In short, I am in favour, broadly speaking, of reducing our commitments East of Suez as rapidly as possible, proper notice being given to those concerned. I realise that this means a detachment from what appears to be our commitment to give moral support (I do not think it could amount to much more) to American policy in that area. But I sincerely believe that our American friends are making a mistake in their policy towards China, in trying to contain China by military means, and our association with them makes it harder for us to work towards getting China into the United Nations. I believe that it is in the interests of the Americans themselves that we should have a certain detachment and independence in our approach to the Chinese problem.
1093 Your Lordships may be thinking that you are listening to what, when I was a boy, was called "Little Englander" (I remember my first recollection was of seeing a pro-Boer being chased down the streets of Margate and having rotten eggs thrown at him: I asked my nurse what it was all about, and she said, "He is a Little Englander"), and that I am advocating in effect a posture of neutralism, analogous perhaps to that of Sweden. I assure your Lordships that that is not at all my idea of the future of Britain. I believe that we are a great nation, and the problem before us is how to be a great Power in the world when it is obvious that if great Power status and influence depend upon the amount of violence capacity one has, we are just not in the hunt. On February 3, 1966, the Minister of Defence said in Australia:The most important conclusion we have come to "—he was referring to the Defence Review—is that we do intend to remain in a military sense a world Power.I believe that to be quite impossible if the words "military sense" mean the size and strength of our Armed Forces.
As I have tried to indicate earlier in these remarks, a whole series of developments have taken place which have dethroned the capacity to exercise physical violence from its previously and immemorially dominant position in power politics, the most important of those developments, of course, being the nuclear weapon, now, I greatly fear, likely to proliferate as we await the explosion of the French hydrogen bomb in the Pacific. My thinking in this matter leads me to believe that it has been a most providential event from the point of view of Britain, that at the moment in history when, due to the growth of the United States and Russia, it was obvious we could no longer compete in the possession of violence capacity, the nuclear weapon and the other factors I have mentioned have combined greatly to lessen the significance of violence as an element in power politics.
How, then, should we exploit this state of affairs for the benefit and greatness of our country? The Defence Review, Chapter II, paragraph 4, says:it remains a major aim of British policy to enable the United Nations to take on more "—1094 peace-keeping—in the years to come ".Time is in very short supply and the statement in the Defence Review says:Britain is already making a major contribution to the United Nations forces in Cyprus and has offered further units for logistic support of a United Nations force, whenever this is required …".That statement does not seem to me to be a very striking or substantial contribution to what is described officially as a major aim of our policy.
As I see the shape of things to come over the next twenty years I believe—I deeply regret to have to say it—that mankind will destroy itself if it persists in the idea that international disputes are to be settled by military force, now that this is becoming more and more nuclear in character. It is a type of violence likely to be used tactically, as well as strategically; and if used tactically it will surely escalate. The alternative is to make a supreme effort to strengthen the United Nations before it is too late. I therefore want Britatin to inaugurate a defence policy which, from the political point of view, is as revolutionary politically as the tendency and application of nuclear energy to military purposes has been revolutionary in the material field.
I have two proposals to put forward. The first one is so modest that I do not think anyone can object to it. My first suggestion is that the Defence Review is based on the assumption that physical violence is still the chief element in power politics. I should like the Government to set up a Royal Commission, or an analogous body, to examine the whole question of defence in the nuclear age, and in the changing circumstances, such as the growth of the importance of mass opinion, which I have mentioned. Of course, such an inquiry would also look into the pros and cons of non-violent resistance.
My second proposal—I know that I am asking perhaps for the moon—is that Her Majesty's Government should say here and now that, as a major contribution towards strengthening the United Nations, which must become the world's peacekeeping authority, we intend to create what I call a United Nations Aid Service. I must not weary your Lordships for the last five minutes I propose to speak by going into any details of this body, but in 1095 outline it will be composed of three brigades, one in North America, one stationed in Europe and one in the Far East. Each brigade would consist of technicians of all kinds—engineers, doctors and so forth—and a small contingent of troops conventionally armed.
This force would have its own ships and aircraft. I think each brigade might consist of perhaps 10,000 men and women; but the essence of my proposal is that Great Britain would initially finance and equip this aid service, which would be open to volunteers from all nations, and we would renounce national political control thereof. It would be at the disposal of the United Nations as a comprehensively equipped,—highly mobile body, available to deal with great natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and so on, or with peace-keeping operations. Its personnel would be U.N. servants on long-term contracts. Having launched the idea from this country, I should hope that other nations would then join in, but I want Great Britain to have the credit of starting it up. I am well aware that many people will say, "That is a lot of airy-fairy nonsense; never anything like that before in world history". My Lords, the nuclear bomb had not been heard of 25 years ago and now makes nonsense of traditional pre-nuclear defence ideas.
I notice the Defence Review says that we must satisfy non-nuclear members of the Alliance thatnuclear weapons will or will not be used in accordance with the needs of the Alliance as a whole ".On March 4, 1965, Mr. Hogg said in another place that in a nuclear exchangeThe Russians and Americans, after having suffered immeasurable damage, might after a fashion survive. I do not know. But one thing I do know and that is we would not survive ".In reply to this, the Secretary of Defence said that Mr. Hogg understood these facts. He knew that if we ever loosed off this weapon, life on this island would be extinct in three days. Therefore, I cannot concede any circumstances in which it would be needful to the Western Alliance to use nuclear weapons. But the horrible fact is that the development of the tactical nuclear weapon is leading 1096 to a situation in which nuclear weapons are becoming looked upon as conventional weapons. Mankind is living under the darkening shadow of an unprecedented disaster. There is hope that it can be avoided if one nation of importance is prepared to break out of this vicious circle by taking a dramatic move away from the concept of the use of national military forces to settle international disputes. It is a move which would give hope to mankind and might be a step in the direction towards the ultimate goal of World Government.
I am on record in books and elsewhere as advocating that, on grounds of both expediency and morality, Great Britain, unilaterally if need be, should abandon the use of nuclear energy for military purposes. I realise that this seems absolute lunacy to those who, from my point of view, are still on the wrong side of the thought barrier in thinking about defence in the nuclear age. It is for this reason, in seeking measures which do not too violently upset conventional thought about defence problems, that I ask that Great Britain should be the nation to make a substantial move forward into policies and a posture appropriate to the nuclear age, by inaugurating what I have called the United Nations Aid Service.
We are often told that the British people have lost a sense of purpose. Let our purpose be to throw all our weight and influence behind the task of strengthening the U.N. Let this be the spearhead of our new defence posture, and let us take as our guide line Milton's words when he wrote:Let not England forget her precedence in teaching the nations how to live.Were he alive to-day, he might write "teaching the nations how to survive". Let us show the world that we can be a great nation and exercise beneficial power without possessing the immense violence capacity which, to my way of thinking, is still erroneously considered to be the principal element in power politics.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, it is late and I shall be very brief. There are, however, one or two points I wish to bring forward, and they are rather diverse ones. First of all, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, whether the negotiations over the new constitution of 1097 the Southern Arabian States were carried out with the knowledge of the local Rulers that the Aden base was going to be given up. Otherwise, if they did not know, it strikes me, and probably strikes them, that they were negotiating under false premises.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, if the negotiations on the constitution to which the noble Lord refers means the constitutional proposals of Hone and Bell, the answer is that they had the Report from Hone and Bell with the new constitutional proposals in one week and the news about the base in the following week.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
I thank the noble Earl. Turning to the Territorial Army, or whatever it is going to be called in the future, I must say I do not think recruiting is ever likely to go well if the force is going to be largely tagging along behind the police and the anti-bomb organisations. In order to get good Territorial recruiting they must be made to feel that they are part of the sharp end; they must be well armed; and it must be brought home to them that they really have a rôle in home defence.
On the matter of home defence, I question whether the present proposal is anything like adequate. I do not wish to make any helpful suggestions to the Russians or anybody else, but it occurs to me that if a potentially hostile nation wanted to have a go at England it would be perfectly easy to extract the strategic reserve from this country and then we should have no troops on the ground at all, except a few depots which would not be in the first instance organised or very war-worthy. Troops on the ground strike me as absolutely essential. Otherwise we shall not need an atom bomb to subdue us, and if two or three airborne divisions were flown in they could take over the whole country. I think it is necessary to have far more troops on the ground, even if only partially trained, as Territorials must be. An under-armed infantry 1098 would not be a suitable component, and the force should include a large proportion of armoured cars and some guns.
There is one point on which I should like, with great deference, to question the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and that is his suggestion that a Territorial W.R.A.C. should be embodied in the proposed battalions. My own experience is that it is worth a great deal for a unit to know and realise that it is in a position to go to war on mobilisation, self-sufficient. Instead of embodying the W.R.A.C. to do the cooking and the clerking and that sort of thing, I would suggest what my own regiment did before the war. We enlisted time-expired Regulars, sergeant cooks and quartermaster sergeants, and made them storemen, for which they got a house and a small increase in their pensions; then, on mobilisation and when we went to camp the storemen became sergeant cooks and quartermaster sergeants. Finally I should like to record how much pleasure I have, as an old Yeomanry Commanding Officer, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Barnard, on a first-class maiden speech.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Selkirk, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Denham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.