§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, on his maiden speech in this House. I was very glad to see him here because his father, Walter Monckton, was one of my greatest friends, and to see his son here is just exactly right. I hope he will continue to speak as a soldier. He has left the Army and is now on the way to becoming a tycoon in business—as I think they all become. If I had any advice to give him it would be that he should always speak as a soldier and not get too involved in politics.
My Lords, I find myself in rather the dilemma that the Deputy Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said he was in, in that I cannot listen to the whole of this debate. To-morrow morning, very early, I leave for the Western Desert and Egypt, and if I cannot remain for the whole of this debate I ask your Lordships to excuse me, as there is still a great deal to be done.
867 Let me say at once that in my view the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1967, is not too bad. Of course a great many questions arise, but do not let the criticism be all destructive. I should like to approach the problem in a somewhat different way and, it may be, pour some oil on the troubled Defence waters in your Lordships' House—I hope. There is a great principle involved in this matter of Defence. In considering what is best to be done in the realm of Defence we have to distinguish between what is an immediate current requirement and the requirement of the longer-term future, the two being very closely related; and nothing must be done in the short term which would conflict with the long-term political and strategic aim. We have constantly to remind ourselves that we belong to an Alliance, and within that Alliance the overall strategy must surely be jointly conceived. It seems to me to-day that that is not the case.
I should like to make some constructive suggestions, in outline, of course, as to what might be a sound Western strategy for the Alliance—that is NATO, which includes the Mediterranean—and for the general area East of Suez. Then I should like to conclude by suggesting that the armed forces we raise need to play their part in that Allied strategy—speaking again, of course, in outline.
First, NATO. There is no Russian threat to-day in Europe, nor will there be one, in my view, in any future we can foresee, so long as the West is sensible and does not run down its nuclear strength. Therefore, the armed forces in NATO which are under arms to-day can be reduced, and I hold the view that the bulk of the NATO forces from overseas countries—that is, Britain, Canada and the United States of America—might well return to their own homelands, leaving small token forces in Europe side by side with the forces of the European Powers.
Of course, there is some difficulty in reducing Allied forces in Europe until the German problem is solved, and that is because of the Russian fear of Germany. Although it is safe to say that the threat from the East in Europe has practically disappeared, it is also true to say that it could be recreated. It could he recreated if we were to allow Germany to become the predominant military Power in Europe. As I have said, we 868 belong to an Alliance, and Alliances ride the waves uneasily, certainly in war time, as I know very well. But in peace time Allies can be difficult people, because of intense nationalism when fear has disappeared—and perhaps I had better leave it at that. NATO must be prepared and ready to oppose any aggression from the East with conventional forces, and if that aggression cannot be held it must be backed by the complete nuclear power of the West; but I do not see that happening. In the strengthening of NATO politically lies the proper strategy of the Alliance.
Now, my Lords, I turn to East of Suez strategy. I would suggest that we ought to reduce the forces we have on land East of Suez, but it would be a major error to withdraw completely until the Western nations have agreed upon a strategy in that part of the world. That strategy should include a phased withdrawal of our land forces from the Middle East. We cannot handle alone all the defence problems East of Suez. The United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and I should hope France, must concert together and agree upon a joint strategy, and all contribute towards its implementation. The question of bases will be a major factor. I believe the fact has to be faced that the armed forces of the white man are not popular on land, in the Middle or Near East or in the Far East. I do not think the West is best served East of Suez by bases in countries where the inhabitants are none too friendly, or may not be too friendly for long. The only secure base is in a white Commonwealth country; for example, Australia. It seems to me that our future in the present British bases East of Suez is very uncertain. To sum up, there should be an unhurried phased withdrawal of our land forces in the general area East of Suez. But we must have a presence in that area, and I believe our presence in that general area should be an off-shore presence, on and under the sea, and not on land if that can possibly be prevented.
To carry out that strategy, what armed forces do we ourselves need? I have frequently stated in your Lordships' House my view that the armed forces should be based on a maritime strategy, sea power being backed by air power. Now this strategy, if agreed upon, will mean that the aircraft carrier will be 869 needed until V.T.O.L. aircraft are fully developed, and that would be certainly until about the early 1980s. The aircraft carrier is a mobile base of air power and its strength is offensive, carrying torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters, and they are necessary to implement fully a maritime strategy. That strategy demands, and this off-shore presence demands, American naval domination in the Pacific and a strong British fleet in the Afro-Indian ocean. And it is a great pleasure for me, a soldier, to be able to refloat the British Navy. I say that because there are some noble Lords who thought I was trying to sink it. Not at all!
To-day, when a major war can be ruled out so far as we can foresee, we maintain—not in this country but we maintain altogether—armed forces of some 450,000 officers and men. If we can rule out a major war, that does not make sense to me. I suggest that there ought to be definite cuts in our Defence expenditure, and the first reduction should be in the large number of civil servants in the Defence set-up and in the enormous headquarters maintained in NATO on a war basis, planning for a war which will not take place. I also suggest that we need to-day a somewhat different Army from that we have had in the past. The only armed action we need consider to-day would be limited war operations against guerilla forces, irregulars and so on, in support of our friends East of Suez or in Africa. And for this we need a small, very highly efficient Army of, say, 140,000, 150,000—that sort of figure—kept mostly in the United Kingdom.
With a small, highly-trained professional Army we ought to aim to reduce all unnecesary top hamper, a very heavy attack being launched on large Staffs. I should also like to see the Army return to the organisation of "fours". I think "fours" ought to be in inverted commas—four companies in a battalion, four battalions in a brigade, four batteries in an artillery regiment and so on. The savings in overheads in top hamper would be very great in senior officers and Staffs. Furthermore, in active operations a unit organised in "fours" could remain longer in action without relief than one organised in "threes", as at present.
We must be able to launch quickly from the United Kingdom an operation anywhere in the Near or Far East or in 870 Africa with airborne and air-portable forces. That requires aircraft with an endurance of at least 5,000 miles with a reasonable pay load. One of the problems in that respect is that over-flying rights are difficult in some countries, or are becoming difficult. We therefore must have an all-sea route down the West coast of Africa, up the East coast of Africa, to some suitable areas in that part of the world. Without such an all-sea route, a friendly South Africa is vital and a friendly Rhodesia is very important. The immediate striking forces from our strategic reserve in this country should be "special forces". Here again I would put the words "special forces" in inverted commas, including parachute forces, S.A.S., and Royal Marine commandos. And it is worth considering whether all such "special forces" would not be best placed under a "special forces" command, in peace and war.
That, briefly, is how I see the Defence problem. And I should prefer to leave it like that; I should prefer not to go into details, which are more properly the province of the Minister of Defence and his professional advisers, the Chiefs of Staff. My Lords, I hope that I have not overstepped the normal time that I take in speaking, but I had to be quite certain that I refloated the Royal Navy.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, I am afraid that I do not feel in good form to-day, because I think that one gets to the stage when one feels a little obsolete, like so many other things. I would start off by saying that I disagree entirely with most of what "Monty" suggests—at least, as the noble and gallant Field Marshal. I am never quite certain in my own mind what his maritime strategy is: he has never really defined it. If it is world-wide strategy, I agree with him. But in these days, to my mind, strategy is always a matter of the three Services working together. In some cases on the sea you get the Navy and the Air Force. When you spend a lot of your time embarking and disembarking armies, then you get the Army and the Air Force. But otherwise you must have bases if you are going to work overseas at all.
I was most depressed when the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, still adhered to 871 the policy of evacuation and withdrawal. I think that is most remiss. I was not quite clear what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, gave as his policy. It seemed to be rather: "I'm all right, Jack. Don't get involved in anything. Withdraw from everywhere." The noble Lord did not say whether he would also liquidate all our assets East of Suez. There they are vast and valuable, and if we withdraw our peace forces, it is rather as if we move London and expand the police force. I think that is the answer to that.
There are three things which form my text to-day. They are in this Defence Statement, and I think they are first-class. They refer to the last war in the Far East, but the text applies to everything. If your Lordships look at page 6, paragraph 22, you will see that the document says, regarding the campaign in South-East Asia after "confrontation":It was a fine example of what British forces can do outside Europe to maintain international stability. Without their contribution to the Commonwealth effort, much of South-East Asia might have collapsed into disorder, perhaps inviting competitive intervention by other powers with the consequent risk of general war.To my mind, that sums up exactly what we are trying to do to-day.
Then, if we turn to paragraph 25 (and I think that in the Navy especially we have always thought this most important) we see this comment:This achievement would have been possible if the Commonwealth troops … had not won and held the confidence of the local inhabitants. … The 'hearts and minds' campaign was as critical to Commonwealth success in containing the conflict asanything else. That, I suppose, has always been a theme attaching to the Royal Navy. Then the last paragraph to which I wish to refer, paragraph 26, says:There can also be no certainty—so long as threats to stability remain—that those forces will not be required to give help to friendly Governments … as they have done in recent years.It seems to me that those three paragraphs put the situation so clearly that it is difficult to get anywhere else with it. They represent two things: first, strength; and, secondly, what amounts to "showing the flag".
I should like to quote two incidents which occurred when I had the privilege of serving under the first post-war 872 Labour Government. They are two things which I remember so well. First, I remember the Chiefs of Staff being summoned to the Cabinet—I think it was at the time of the Abadan "show". "Ernie" Bevin, who was the great Foreign Secretary at that time, wanted some action taken. He was suggesting certain action in regard to which we said: "Sorry, but we are afraid we cannot do it." One of the reasons was this: when you think of reinforcing from this country, it is necessary to remember that you cannot take people from cold climates, pop them into 100 degrees and expect them to fight at a moment's notice. That is one of the difficulties of reinforcing from this country. I remember "Ernie" Bevin so well on that occasion. He was most depressed, and said, "I thought I had strength behind me." He threw up his hands, saying, "How can I possibly negotiate as a Foreign Secretary unless I have some power behind me?". That is how the matter stands today.
As regards the "hearts and minds" there are many people who, I think, rather look down on our "showing the flag", and that sort of thing. They regard it as a little bit of showing off, but it is most important. In that respect, I would again refer to the time of that Government, when the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Jowitt, had been to our exhibition at Copenhagen. When he came back he wrote a letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty, which ran rather like this:I have just returned from a visit to Copenhagen where the British Exhibition is now being held. You will be aware … that H.M.S. 'Maidstone' together with some attendant submarineswas there.I should like to give you a first-hand impression of the value of this visit. The officers and men have done magnificently and the presence of that ship has done more to foster Anglo-Danish friendship than anything else. You could see a mass of small children being escorted round by the crew. On one occasion a special party for crippled children was given and this deeply touched the imagination of the Danish people. It is literally true to say that these children and their parents will never forget the kindness which has been shown to them.My Lords, I think that is typical of what the Royal Navy has been doing for perhaps a hundred years. But I think that often it is not taken into account when 873 we talk about these withdrawals from abroad. To my mind contact of that kind is most important for keeping the peace.
After those opening remarks I should like to deal with some of the few details which so greatly affect my judgment. I should like to turn to some of the areas concerned; first of all, to the Mediterranean, which the noble Lord, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, has already mentioned. There the situation, from the Naval point of view, is just pitiful. We have in the Mediterranean, on an average day, 400 British merchant ships. Around the shores there are many countries which allow those ships to get into difficulties. We have observed Greece; we know about Palestine, and so on. I think we have two frigates, or something of that order, and an Italian Naval Commander-in-Chief. My goodness! How the mighty have fallen! It may well be, as the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, has pointed out that, with American and Russian fleets off Gibraltar, one day, I suppose, the Government will ask them to look after our interests in the Mediterranean. It is the only outcome I can see. It is very depressing. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, has mentioned already what I was going to say about the troops in Malta.
I will turn to Aden, which I know fairly well. I do not know whether people realise the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East. They are just talked about as "Aden". The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, at Aden, is responsible, I suppose, first for the Persian Gulf, and I should say that we have £1,000 million worth of trading value in the Persian Gulf, which we are now just leaving to luck. Then he has his duties in relation to the Red Sea, where I think he runs the ports and lights at the South and all the navigational facilities for our main shipping lines to the Far East; and, of course, Aden is the main fueling station for those ships. Furthermore, people do not realise that he is responsible for Mauritius; he is responsible for the Seychelles, where lately he had to send a frigate to keep order. He is responsible for the three Protectorates of South Afrca, now, of course, independent countries, which may want help. He is responsible for the Rhodesia blockade— 874 it might be a good thing, perhaps, to give that up.
This large round of responsibilities is often disregarded, but it will have to be taken on by somebody. With our little force up the Persian Gulf at the top, the supply question is not an easy one; it can easily be cut off, and then the force is useless. To my mind, when we evacuate—if we do—there is no question that there would be a "Congo" in Aden. Anybody who knows Aden knows that that is going to happen. It is no good bringing in the United Nations people, with some United Nations General, for nobody is going to take the slightest notice of what he does. And if you put U.N. observers on the border, the hill tribesmen would just pick them off. It is our responsibility; we must take it; and I hope we shall be able to withdraw from this present situation.
Turning to the Far East, we find there a very difficult problem. I happen to know it very well indeed. I know many people there, and one feels great sympathy with them. I do not think it is realised in these days what tremendous influence we British have in those areas. Whatever people may say, wherever you go, the people respect the British; they like our influence; we are their friends—in spite of what "Monty" said—and they look to us for leadership; there is no question of that.
May I get in a piece of personal reminiscence? I had the honour not long ago to go as a guest of His Royal Highness in the Royal Yacht through the Far East. Two things there struck me. His Royal Highness joined the ship in Rangoon; he came by air. It was a wonderful sight, the yacht coming into harbour, its silver hull glistening in the sunlight, with thousands of Burmese around; and the organisation was perfect. There was an enormous guard and band of Burmese, all playing the tunes we hear the Brigade of Guards playing at Buckingham Palace. As he walked along two Burmese A.D.C.s in full uniform did the slow step in front of him; and it was a remarkable sight. It was all so friendly. I was standing with General Ne Win waiting for the Duke to arrive. I said "Have you still got a Fraser Street in Rangoon?", and he replied, "Yes, it is our main street". I said, "My father laid up in Rangoon when he was a young officer, and that street 875 is named after him". He shook me warmly by the hand.
Then I said to him, "Like most countries which are separated from us, I hope you are not going to name this street some awful name, like 'Ne Win Street'". He did not have time to reply; he smiled. As we went on board that evening, Prince Philip said to me, "By the way, General Ne Win told me to tell you that on no account will he change the name of the street". That, to my mind, is a tremendous example of hearts and minds, and knowledge of each other.
There is only one thing more I should like to say. Singapore is a very important base. Our entry into Singapore was fantastic. We came in escorted by a cruiser and two frigates, and there was a myriad of boats coming out, the water police trying to keep them away from the Royal Yacht, and Prince Philip beckoning them to come closer. And, of course, Prince Philip won. In the harbour were all the merchant ships, British and foreign, dressed overall, sirens blowing, and the waterfront lined with 200,000 people coming to see him. Next evening there was a great banquet given by the four chambers of commerce, Chinese, Malay, Indian, British, all joining together to give this great banquet of a thousand people in honour of Prince Philip. They elected the British Chamber of Commerce representative to the chair. We had bird's-nest soup, Indian curry, roast beef of Old England (which included Malayan ox, I fancy), and, of course, we ate with Chinese chopsticks. After the dinner Prince Philip in his speech said—and I thought this a bit daring—"You are soon going to be independent. I would ask Ministers not to assume office for the purpose of taking power and accumulating wealth, but to govern for the welfare of their people." It was astonishing to hear the applause he received. One might have thought that people would be a little upset about it.
That gives an idea of what we are losing if we depart from that area. We shall lose contact, we shall lose all our influence; and, as the Defence Review says, we may have to fight another sporadic war. All those things are going. I know these areas very well, India and Burma, and so on, and I know that the ordinary people there are more upset 876 about this than the high-ups. They all say, "The British have now lost all interest in our part of the world". And our friends will say, "We have been betrayed for thirty pieces of silver". That is what is going to happen.
One must be a little constructive. Many noble Lords have referred to the uncertainty of the situation. Uncertainty is more demoralising than anything else. What I should like the Government to do now is to say, "We will keep the status quo only for the next six years". That would settle everybody down, it would please the forces and safeguard all our interests. If the Government are compelled to save more money—I am sure that I shall get into trouble about this—I would say, "Scrap the last two Polaris submarines", because, in my view, I am afraid that something which cannot be used for anything else except when mankind has decided to destroy itself is rather a waste of money. I suppose that for prestige reasons you want to keep two, but I would certainly scrap the other two.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HEAD
My Lords, I should like at the start of my remarks to add my own congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, on his maiden speech. I thought that for a maiden speaker he was bold in introducing so controversial a statement as that the 5th Dragoon Guards was the finest regiment in the British Army. It is a great tribute to your Lordships' good manners and restraint that there were not at least a dozen noble Lords on their feet disputing that highly controversial and arbitrary statement.
I do not think that even the most critical or politically partisan of your Lordships would deny that the present time is not an easy one for any Government where defence is concerned: I concede that point at the start of my remarks. There is the economic situation, with the Treasury ravening for cuts; the fact that defence is always a most popular target for cuts—there are no votes in defence; the fact that the critics are now, on the one hand, saying, "Pull out of Europe", and, on the other, "Bring all the troops back from the Far East and from the Middle East". And there are others who say that we cannot afford to be a member of the "nuclear club".
877 If the Government were to meet all the critics, then the subject of this debate would probably be whether or not we could afford a Guard at Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards. Probably, the argument would be that we can afford it, because it attracts foreign visitors and we can pay for it in good hard currency from the visitors which it attracts. But it seems to me that the situation is much more serious than that; and the aspect of it about which I am apprehensive, and which has emboldened me to address a few remarks to your Lordships, concerns decisions that may be taken at this difficult time, and those that look like being taken. Those decisions may have very lasting and hazardous results for this country and, indeed, for the world in the future, because it is my belief that although we are not a rich country our example and performance in the field of Defence is still of very considerable importance to the world.
I followed and read what has been said about Defence, and I must confess that I cannot discern any clear plan. I admit that it is difficult, but what I found somewhat sinister about the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is that he made it all sound so easy and simple. I believe that what I discerned in the plan is this; that there is a tendency to make cuts wherever the Government feel they can get away with them: for cuts in those places where it appeared easiest to make them, but without any discernible plan behind those cuts as to where we were going in the future and as to what should be the shape and size of the forces in the future. I should like to confine my remarks to two aspects, which I believe to be very important aspects, of our Defence policy in the future: they are, first, Europe, and, secondly, our problems resulting from granting independence to a very large Colonial Empire.
I should like to turn first to Europe. I must confess that I am anxious about the present trend in Europe. All your Lordships know well the attitude and behaviour of the French towards NATO. I have heard that, apart from the move which was announced to-day, the Americans are thinking of moving part of their Air Force back to the United States. We are removing a brigade, 878 and I am apprehensive lest all this is a trend away from the forbearance and restraint necessary to keep adequate conventional forces in Europe, and that the dyke is going to be breached.
I am not at all reassured by the voice of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I must confess that I am not at all in agreement with him over this, though he is a very "large gun" indeed—I see that he is not in the Chamber, so that makes it easier for me. Therefore, I hope without discourtesy, I will try to reduce the size of his gun and to increase the size of my comparative pop-gun, by saying to your Lordships that eminent military figures are not always necessarily right where matters of future strategic policy are concerned. Lord Haig stated categorically that he saw no military future for the aeroplane, and I may say, with apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of North Cape, that the most eminent and brainy sailors practically "died in the last ditch" trying to prevent the introduction of the convoy system which saved our bacon. Later, your Lordships will remember the military attitude to the tank; first of all, in regard to its making and then its misuse when it was made. So it does not necessarily follow that over Europe the Field Marshal is right.
My point is that it is very tempting to reduce the conventional forces by saying, as he did, "Keep up your nuclear guard and you will be all right. There is no threat from Russia". I shall not quarrel with that, but the day may come when Europe is not so tranquil. In Europe we still have a divided Germany, and in each part of that Germany there are still latent, very strong political currents. Even in Czechoslovakia and Poland changes are going on politically. Suppose that the conventional forces were reduced to a state where one could not take prompt action to redress a snatch, a grab. We know how these things are excused: "Intolerable provocation. Had to take immediate action." Before you know where you are, East Germany has a bit of West Germany, or vice versa; or Poland has perpetrated a foul. Something may happen which could be dealt with and redressed by an adequate conventional force. But if it is not there, and one cannot deal with an incident by 879 conventional means, one is increasing the reliance on the nuclear deterrent.
I suggest that where we are going wrong at the moment is in our attitude towards the deterrent. The credibility and effectiveness of the deterrent is based entirely on our willingness to use it. Owing to a lot of wishful thinking and a good deal of self-delusion, we still think that people—or rather America, which is what it amounts to—will use the deterrent if and when a minor aggression unchecked by the lack of conventional forces demands it. I say to your Lordships quite categorically that they would not use it. If we think of the President of the United States and what would come from his pushing that button to release atomic weapons—and very few of your Lordships, including myself, know about the accuracy and increased horror of the last few years; if we visualise what the President would bring down on New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, Minneapolis and Washington, do we really believe that he would press it if somebody "nabbed" West Berlin or if there were a big incursion as a result of a quarrel between East and West Germany? I say to your Lordships that, in my view, there is not the slightest chance of his pushing the button.
What is the result? If we have no conventional forces to redress the wrong, the other side will get away with it, and we are back to the situation of the grab, which all of your Lordships can remember only too well before Munich. They say. "We will not do it again. Sorry." Then we say, "Well, peace has come at last"; and then there is another grab. Now, at this stage of affairs, not only do I regard a reduction of conventional NATO forces in Europe as dangerous, but I believe that, if it happened, it might well prove a disastrous step. I may be accused of being old-fashioned, but if anybody does so accuse me—even the Field Marshal—I say to them that they have not thought out this deterrent and its horrors. It is getting to be a kind of umbrella of terror, under which it will soon be comparatively easy for an evil-doer to do his evil and get away with it, if there are no, or not enough, conventional forces to put him right. I therefore address this plea to the Government, and to the Field Marshal: that 880 this force—unwelcome, expensive and burdensome though it be—shall not be prematurely reduced.
The other matter with which I should like to bother your Lordships for a moment concerns our duties as an ex-Colonial Power in retaining sufficient force to ensure the stability and, so far as possible, the peace of the ex-Colonial areas until the checks and balances which will come, as a result of their independence and of the power vacuum which the departure of the great Powers—not only us but Belgium, France and the Dutch—has left in these areas, have been worked out. It has been in these areas, because of their independence, because of the withdrawal of Colonial Powers, that all the rows have been caused since the last war—in Vietnam, the French; in Indonesia, the Dutch; in the Congo, the Belgians; and we have had our troubles in Cyprus, Malaya and Kenya. To shirk our duty would, I believe, be unfinished business on the part of a Colonial Power. So far I believe we have done a good job—in fact the best job of any ex-Colonial Power—during this transitional period of independence. But to reduce now our ability to intervene, especially where we have treaties, like Malaysia, is not only to create great difficulties for them in the future but, I believe, is to increase the likelihood of the sort of large-scale wars we have had in Korea and in Vietnam. After all, you could blame Vietnam on the French if you wanted to. I therefore think that adequate force for this purpose must be retained.
I do not want to be partisan about this (although I shall probably be accused of it because I have been a soldier) but in looking after the ex-Colonial territories since the war all three Services have done a tremendous job. I would make so bold as to say, however, that the Service which has borne the main burden, the maid-of-all-work in all this, has been the Army. I may be being contentious, but when I was abroad I was struck by a remark made not from this side of the House but by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. I hope I shall not embarrass him by praising him from this side of the House, but this is what he said. I am afraid I have not refreshed my memory from Hansard, but I hope that I remember it aright. He was talking of the role of the three Services in these 881 brushfire wars and minor wars all over the world. He said:The Air Force are doing a wonderful job, and they never stop telling us so. The Navy are doing a wonderful job, and they expect us to tell them so. The Army are doing a wonderful job, but they would be absolutely astonished if anybody told them so.If I may say so, I think those were very perceptive words by the noble Earl. I think it is easy to overlook the importance of having an Army of adequate strength to fulfil this particular function.
I am apprehensive in this because what I foresee is the arrival home of a large number of soldiers from the Far East and a whole brigade (and a bit more, perhaps) from Europe coinciding with the Treasury ravening for cuts and no accommodation for the soldiers, or not much. These are circumstances which might easily bring about a situation in which the Army was cut well below its present strength. I concede that these are apprehensions but, knowing what I do, I do not think they are entirely unjustified. In my opinion, it would be a disaster if the Army was cut below the size at which it could fulfil this function.
It is no good the Minister of Defence saying that the Government have no intention whatever of ever being committed again to such a large extent in the Far East. That, if I may say so, is one of the most stupid remarks a senior Minister has ever made, because if you have treaties and you have troops there, are you going to become engaged with some minor Eastern Power—rather a difficult one—and say, "We said we would not become deeply involved, so you win, goodbye"? Of course not. You are going to reinforce. You cannot be beaten up by, say, the Indonesians, if it happened again, or by anyone else. Of course if you have troops there and you are taken on by a minor Power you must win and you must send the troops there.
I should like to say to the Government that the size of the Army was only marginally enough for us to get away with Indonesia—only just. Out in Indonesia there were far too many infantry battalions doing about three one-year unaccompanied tours within a five or six year period, and they were getting fed up. The Army was getting over-strained. The wives were saying, "This is not the life 882 for us", and were instrumental in getting some of the senior N.C.O.s, those who really matter, out. The Army was getting over-strained, and it only just got away with it. When it comes to the question of what size the Army should be to do this job, I hope that we first disillusion ourselves of the ability to control commitments once something happens. I would remind the Government that the assumption for the manpower plan of 1957 was that there would be no British soldier East of Suez by 1960. That was a hell of an assumption, and it shows that people can go wrong in these assumptions. I beg the Government not to cut the Army below the safety level for its job, and not to allow the Treasury to cut it to fit into the barrack accommodation and the minimum of married quarters, which is what I fear.
My last point, my Lords, is that these soldiers, sailors and airmen, particularly when they are doing these jobs all over the world, must be well equipped. Somebody said how splendidly equipped they were, which to some extent is true; but do not let us pat ourselves too much on our backs. I visited the forces in Borneo a great deal when I was in the Far East, and all three Services did a marvellous job. But at the start the Army were struggling with wireless sets which did not work at all, and but for the use of the Australian sets they would have been almost incommunicado. And, thanks to the inertia of the Indonesians, or to the fact that the Indonesian Generals' hearts were not really in it, on one or two occasions there was not really strong activity on the whole of the Indonesia border simultaneously. They happened one by one, and we just got away with it. The Army just got away with the number of helicopters they had. But two "pushes", and there would have been deep embarrassment. And there were no more in this country. We were using the seed corn by taking away the helicopters they were learning on in England. There was a desperate shortage, and a big delay in their manufacture because they had handed over the engines from one firm to Rolls-Royce. The reason for that was because the Royal Air Force was supplying a commodity for the use of the Army, and it is only human nature and only to be expected that it should go at the bottom of their estimates.
883 Take the Royal Navy landing craft as an example. Nowadays, these inter-Service matters should be taken clean out of the Service Estimates. Things like helicopters and landing craft should be put in a special category of their own. Otherwise, they will be squeezed out by these F.111s, about which I should like to say something, but there is not time. The noble Lord mentioned helicopters—no numbers, no expectations and no future manufacture. But for soldiers doing these jobs all over the world, which I think they will have to go on doing, helicopters are to-day an absolute sine qua non.
I think one can say—and all Governments are included in this—that in the years since the war we have been marvellously served by the three Services—and perhaps one could say that we have better Services than we entirely deserve. I pray that in the future they will be left at a size adequate to discharge their duties, and with equipment that will enable them to do so. They deserve it.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON
My Lords, I feel that I should start my remarks by declaring my two interests in the matters which are dealt with in the Defence White Paper. The first is that I am an old soldier, and in that capacity I should like to add my heartiest congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, on his excellent maiden speech. My second interest is as the chairman of a company which is a Government contractor for Defence equipment in a fairly big way. That is a position to which I succeeded through the very sad and untimely death of a very distinguished Member of your Lordships' House—I refer to the late Lord Kilmuir. In that position I naturally have a close interest in those passages in the Defence Statement which deal with the questions affecting procurement of arms and equipment from industry, the problems of research and development in respect of military equipment and the relationship between the Ministry of Defence and industry.
Starting on the purely military side, I find a certain lack of realism in some passages in the White Paper. For example, in paragraph 6 of Chapter I it is stated that: 884… general and complete disarmament … is being pursued in all ways open to it, notably at the 18-nation Disarmament Conference at Geneva, with increasing prospects of success.Without in any way wishing to detract from the very sincere and, I know, determined efforts made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in this context, I think that Her Majesty's Government are in danger of misleading themselves and the people of this country by statements of this kind. Thirty or more years ago I had the task in the War Office of doing the Staff work on this question of disarmament and similar matters. So far as I am able to judge, no progress towards general and complete disarmament has been made since then—rather the contrary. I should be interested to know why the Government struck such an optimistic note about the future. I should be only too pleased to be convinced on this point.
A little lower down on the same page of the White Paper, it is stated that:At their meeting in July, 1966, the NATO Defence ministers finally agreed to instruct their military advisers to revise NATO strategy in the light of the forces which Governments would undertake to make available on a rolling five-year programme, while retaining the commitment to the forward defence of the NATO area.Having once had some command responsibility for the defence of part of the NATO area, I should like to emphasise that the possibility of retaining the commitment to the forward defence of the NATO area depends on the forces and resources available, and not on a political directive.
On the next page of the White Paper, under the heading "The Nature of the Threat", there seems to me to be further lack of realism. I do not attempt to challenge the statement that "tension in Europe has relaxed": I hope devoutly that the relaxation will continue. But I submit that it is essential to make clear the distinction between the military ability of a potential enemy to use force of arms to achieve his political ends, on the one hand, and his intention or political readiness to do so, on the other. It may be, as stated in the White Paper, that a change of intention is "unlikely to develop overnight". But it could happen quite quickly; whereas, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, knows as well as I do, once Armed Forces have been allowed to run down it takes a long time 885 and costs a great deal, to build them up again. I agree with the Government that both political and military extension of the détente would best be achieved by mutual reduction of the forces of the NATO and Warsaw Pact Powers. But, so far as I am aware, there is no indication yet of any readiness on the part of the Warsaw Pact Powers to make significant reductions. From a military point of view I should like to stress a strong note of warning against unilateral reductions in the total fighting power of NATO.
Still pursuing the theme of realism, the fact is stated in the White Paper that:The pattern of deployment planned in the Defence Review will mean that a higher proportion of our forces will normally be stationed in the United Kingdom".So far as the Army is concerned, this will substantially reduce our total military power unless it is matched by a corresponding increase in the air transport and air portability facilities. I find it difficult to make out from the Statement what, if anything, is intended in this respect. Troops quartered in this country, with its very limited facilities for formation training, will quickly atrophy and become a doubtful asset in our Defence balance sheet unless they can be moved quickly with their equipment to areas overseas where they may be required to intervene, and unless they can be trained accordingly.
To quote again from the White Paper:The peaceful use of military forces in this country is not a role likely to attract the type of man needed in the Army to-day.My Lords, I would accept the argument, developed in the White Paper under the heading of "Planning for the Future", that it is not possible, nor would it be wise, to settle here and now in all details the size and shape of the Forces for the next decade. But the continued uncertainty (and this has already been referred to this afternoon) in the Forces, and particularly in the Army, is having a most serious effect on confidence. Unless something can be done quickly to restore the position in that respect, I fear that it will lead to the premature retirement from the Army of many very valuable people.
It is not difficult to imagine what would happen and what would be said of any large industrial organisation that made general and vague announcements of im 886 pending redundancies and then let month after month go by in complete silence about the details. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, has already referred to the, I would say, specious, and probably spurious, article in The Times on April 25 reporting the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to the Parachute Brigade, which ends with the words—and I will read them for the sake of those noble Lords who have not seen the article:The great unanswered question in the minds of parachuting people is what is to happen to these cheerfully lethal individualists as the bounds of Empire narrow and the chances of finding a bit of trouble grow steadily more brief.The "great unanswered question" referred to there applies certainly to the Army and, I think, to the rest of the Armed Forces as well.
My Lords, so far as I can make out, the Government have given no indication in the Defence Statement of what they have in mind as to the general pattern of our forces. There does not seem to be any plan, any consistent theme or cohesive line of thought on our national strategy in the mind of the Government. In the opening chapter of the Statement it says:The main purpose of the Defence Review was to bring defence expenditure into balance with the nation's resources.A little lower down it goes on:The second … aim of the Defence Review was to reduce the over-stretch of our forces.A little later on the same page it says:A third aim of the Defence Review was to cut the cost of defence in foreign exchange.But these are not aims of Defence policy; they are factors—very important and crucial factors—which have to be taken into account in order to relate our Defence policy and our foreign policy, on the one hand, with our economic situation and our available resources on the other; to determine what can and cannot be done; to decide where danger must be covered and where risk must be taken because the payment of the premium is beyond our means or for some other valid or relevant reason. The Statement goes on to say:The Defence Review of 1966 was not intended to provide a definitive answer to Britain's defence problems … 'We have always recognised that the defence review 887 must be a continuing process and a permanent part of our policy making.'What is Government policy? Take the Army, for example. What do the Government expect the Army to do, or to be able to do? The Statement goes on:It is now normal practice to examine defence programmes on a 10-year basis.That is all very sound and sensible, but referring again to the Army, what is the planned programme for the Army for the next decade? For what role, what target, what contingencies is the Army to be organised, equipped and trained?
These are the great unanswered questions. These are the questions which I believe have to be answered, and then the necessary finance and economic criteria applied and a definitive policy framed from that investigation, from that relationship, from that reconciliation, between what needs to be done and what can be done, and where risks must be taken, and where dangers must be covered. To approach the problem the other way round is, in my opinion, to put the cart before the horse, and I hope that the noble Lord who is to wind up the debate for the Government will be able to give some indication of his views on the objectives of the Government's Defence policy, the threats which we face, the responsibilities which we must be ready to discharge which call for the provision of military power, and how that military power should be composed and provided. I believe that these are the foundations on which the Defence policy must be based, and without some clear indication of the Government's policy on these matters it is not really possible to make any worthwhile contribution to the solution of the practical problems of strength, organisation, equipment and positioning of our Armed Forces.
Referring again to the Army, it is my belief that in our present circumstances our primary need is for an effective field Army; a mobile, fully equipped, fully manned, balanced and cohesive fighting force, with the necessary logistic support and training organisation. It should comprise our Strategic Reserve in this country, our land forces, whatever they may be, in Germany, and such Army fighting formations as we maintain in other parts of the world. In other words, what I am suggesting is the concept of a small 888 but single all-embracing Army, and I think that such a concept, coupled with the task force system would provide us with more efficient and less expensive land forces and an Army in which all ranks now serving would be proud to continue serving, and which recruits would be proud to join. I hope that my suggestion can be given full consideration, so that as reductions in our overseas commitments and other changes in the deployment of our Armed Forces consequent on developments on the international scene take place, they are realistically and objectively planned to leave us with an Army really suited to our needs, and not with a hotch-potch of units with no possibility of making any effective contribution to national policy other than aid to the civil power.
At the other end of the scale there is the new A.V.R. III. During the past few months, I have attended three functions to mark the transfer or the passage of units from the old Territorial Army into the A.V.R. III. I have been greatly encouraged by the spirit of enthusiasm with which this process is being carried out. But if that spirit is to be maintained, I believe that some improvement on the basic scale of equipment provided for the A.V.R. III is very necessary. Otherwise, after a year or so, after the first camp with very limited scales of equipment, I think it will prove impossible to attract the type of men needed to join the A.V.R. III. At present, the numbers are satisfactory because you have the carry-forward of the old spirit of the Territorial Army. I hope that that spirit will be maintained, but I believe that one factor in maintaining it will be the provision of a slightly—not greatly—larger and better scale of equipment suited to the role of the A.V.R. III.
I will now turn for a few moments to the other interest which I have in this matter of Defence policy. This is clearly not the occasion to discuss the complicated problems of price negotiations, methods of costing, level of profits, and so on; except to stress the urgency (in the interests, I suggest, both of the Government and of industry) of accelerating the current negotiations going on between trade associations on the one hand and the Treasury on the other, on the important issues which are involved in this business.
889 The main points to which I should like to draw attention in this connection are two in number. The first is the need for greater and continuing efforts to secure closer and closer co-ordination between the requirements of our own fighting Services; the export potential of the international arms market and the value of the technological fall-out that stems from research and development of future weapons the communications systems and the military equipment, which is a very important feature in the advance of our technological skills and knowledge in this country. The second point I should like to mention is the need for our own fighting Services to be more commercially-minded both as regards costs and potential markets, particularly with regard to framing specifications for new equipment. It is the over-elaboration of specifications for military equipment more than anything else that puts up the cost.
In the same connection, I should also like to stress the need for even closer co-operation between members of the Foreign Service and the Armed Forces overseas, through our Ambassadors and at other places where we are represented, to help to sell British military equipment to overseas customers. I suggest that this is a vital matter of interest to the Minister of Defence who, I submit, could and should take an even stronger line in the future than he has done in the past; that is, regarding my first point, on closer co-ordination between the three interests involved, the needs of our own Services, the potential of the international market, and the technological outfall which comes from research and development.
On my second point, we in the company with which I am associated most warmly welcome the appointment of Mr. Raymond Brown as head of defence sales. He is well known in the industry in which I work, and is trusted as a competent businessman with wide experience in the appropriate fields. We only hope that his advice will be accepted, and that he will not be unduly hampered at any stage of his efforts by officialdom. We also warmly welcome the increasing interest now being taken by Her Majesty's representatives overseas in this business of the sale of British military equipment, as evidenced by the tour of British companies in this country 890 by our Ambassador in Washington during his recent visit to London. We have had excellent support at top level from our representatives overseas, but sometimes people lower down the scale are not fully educated and do not fully recognise the importance of this aspect of their responsibilities.
May I make one final point. As the Government must know, the business of competing for United States defence contracts is not quite such a simple matter as is stated in the Defence White Paper. However, I hope for an opportunity before long to discuss that and other relevant questions personally with some of those concerned in official circles, and so I will not take up any more of your Lordships' time by going into any details on that score. I should like to conclude by saying that from my experience in industry over the past five years I think that there is an urgent need for closer co-operation, more frequent consultation and better understanding on both sides of the other's point of view.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, on his maiden speech and to welcome him as a reinforcement to the Cross Benches. He has just given up the post of Chief of Staff Rhine Army, and I hope that he will use his military knowledge to the full in future.
One advantage—or disadvantage, if one looks at it in another way—of being fifth in a row of soldiers and admirals, is that one is part of a team. On the other hand, if one has taken the trouble to write out a speech and finds that the previous speaker has said it all before, one finds it a little difficult, particularly as I agree so much with what the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding of Petherton, has said.
I agree also with everything that the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, has said, and I will not repeat his views. He has the great gift of clarity and of translating his ideas into a plan in about twelve minutes. He mentioned the "system of fours". I entirely agree with this and I would say, although I have been retired from the Army, that in Malaya I introduced a 891 "system of fives" and made every battalion go into the jungle with five companies.
I think that I can best illustrate my angle on the series of Defence White Papers by quoting passages to show that there has been a susceptible change in policy, and that a great deal more goes on between White Papers than we are aware of when we read them. In 1965, this Government's first White Paper said:British defence policy has two purposes, to guarantee the nation's security and to contribute towards peace and stability in the world as a whole.Later it says:It must maintain a capacity for providing military assistance in many parts of the world.It was easy to agree with those objectives. But it did not take long—about eighteen months—for the Defence Review, after a good deal of withdrawing and cutting of our forces, to say the following:We set out to decide which political commitments we must give up or share with others, but also to limit the scale of military tasks which may be imposed by the commitments which remain.This shows that there has been a change of emphasis. Although we recognise that all our commitments remain, we shall have to limit the scale on which we honour them and do what the noble Viscount, Lord Head, said. We must say: "We are terribly sorry. We came to your war, but we haven't any more reinforcements, and we shall have to pull out. You win."
This year's White Paper is a splendid record, and the Ministry of Defence have to be congratulated on their achievement and on a good deal of progress in many senses—but Defence policy is not one of them. There is practically no Defence policy in it at all, except the hope that there will be a revision of NATO strategy to match the forces available. In other words, there has been a change in between these White Papers, a progressive change towards inability to meet our commitments. This is translated into cuts. And the White Paper this year says:The main purpose of the Defence Review was to bring expenditure into balance with the nation's resources.892 The second and third aims were quoted by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, and I will not repeat them.
This is putting the financial cart before the defence horse with a vengeance—and I make no apology for repeating what I said a year ago in our Defence debate. I forecast then that we would pay for it, and I think that we are beginning to pay. I know that we must live in an age of economy, but not to the point of impotence. I cannot help asking what would have happened if we had followed the same policy of putting the financial cart in front of the defence horse in 1937 and 1938. Supposing we had said that there was no more money for the antiaircraft defence of Britain, or for Hurricanes and Spitfires? Certainly we should not have won the first two or three years of the war, and we might have been beaten.
I come to the other commodity which is also very short; namely, manpower. This may be crying before we are hurt, but we have had many inspired leaks about future cuts. We are not told what they are to be. The figure that I have read in the Press is of the order of 40,000 or 50,000. Observing that we have 440,000-odd men in the Forces, this is about 10 per cent. If we make a cut of 10 per cent., we save 10 per cent. of their pay, not to mention the other things, and one-tenth of the pay bill is £44 million. It is a real saving, because we cannot suddenly unwind the clock and put these men back into the forces. I hope that I am exaggerating this figure. I should like to think that I am, although I am afraid I may be right.
While this is going on, we have added 44,000 civil servants to the central establishment, and I dare not think how many we have added to the local authorities. The only figure I have seen is 160,000—and I hope that it is wrong. Would your Lordships rather have civil servants or soldiers, sailors and airmen? We ought to consider carefully before we make a decision of this kind, and I should like to be told by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that I am crying before I am hurt, and crying unnecessarily. There is nothing I should like to be told more. I hope that I am wrong.
I will not deal with Europe, because that has been well covered already, but I should like to go abroad for a moment.
893 The Defence Review says that there will be no attempt to maintain defence facilities in an independent country against its wishes. That is right, and we all agreed with that statement this time last year. The corollary is that if a newly independent weak country asks for a defence agreement, they should get it—and we have been asked. To my mind, our interests abroad coincide with our friends in various parts of the world. I need not go round the map. If that is the case in South-East Asia, I hope that what Mr. Healey and the Prime Minister have said is correct; that is, that they have no intention of withdrawing completely. It would be a terrible thing to do that, because we would be deserting our friends and giving up our interests.
I think it is high time that we got "off the fence" over the Vietnam trouble. It is wrong to be an ally of the Americans in Europe and not to be their ally in the Far East. I think it is wrong to expect the Australians and New Zealanders to help us against Indonesia, where there was a war to all intents and purposes, and not to be alongside them in Vietnam at the present time. I think it is a false argument to say that we cannot be there because we are one of the co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference. It is very wrong to say that and to fuss about whether our arms are used in Vietnam, when Russia are selling "Migs" and "Sams" as fast as they can to the North Vietnamese.
About a year ago we were all hoping that confrontation would end, that things would quieten down and that we should be able to bring our troops home. I remember sounding a note of warning to say that the Middle East could get quite exciting. At that time we had not made the fatal decision of February 22 of last year, when Nasser changed his mind and decided to leave his 50,000 men in the Yemen—the very day after the Government's decision. If we say, in our Defence Papers, that we intend to contribute to stability in various areas overseas, then I think that it is wrong deliberately to contribute to instability. That, I believe, is what we are doing in Aden.
I will not bore your Lordships with a repetition of the Aden problem, except to say two things which I do not think have been mentioned before in your Lordships' House. The first is that the tribes 894 of South Arabia, the men who live on the top of the Radfan, in those hundreds of miles of arid country, hate the Adenese like the devil; they look down on them as dock labourers. They have done nothing else for centuries. Secondly, all these tribesmen carry rifles, and if they are short of a rifle, and have not been given one by the British, they nip across the border and get one from a cousin. They have done that for hundreds of years, and will go on doing it. This is in order to show their manhood and to fight if they are attacked, even fighting each other internally. This they have done in Aden for centuries: not just while the British were there; not just while the Indian Army were in control; not just while the Royal Air Force exercised air control, and not, more recently, while the British Army have been more responsible. If they were left alone and not dominated by a great Power such as we are they would fight each other. In the Middle East one conqueror replaces another. That is how they fill their power vacuum.
You can debate Aden for many moons, but I think the short answer is to give the South Arabian Federation the Defence Agreement for which they have asked, and make it for a period of five years. You do not have to stay there with a large base; but you must have a foothold in the place. Incidentally, if we leave Aden and have no foothold there we shall probably find ourselves having to go back to war to rescue the country. That will be far from easy and extremely expensive. We really cannot leave them to chaos.
I think I have time for one other aspect of the cuts. This may be crying before I am hurt, and, if so, I should like to be told. There is the careers aspect, both for officers and men, in all three Services. We have lived in a period of axes; they have happened at regular intervals. We hoped that the 1957 one of the "golden bowler" was the last; but of course it was not. What I want to say is a glimpse of the obvious, but there is no other profession, except in Parliament, where you are cut off in the middle of your career. If you are an architect, a doctor, a chartered accountant or a lawyer, when you enter the profession you expect to retire from it and not to be kicked out. This, unfortunately, is what happens in the Services.
895 As a retired officer, one hears a great deal about these problems; and the instability which the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, mentioned is very much the case. People are worried. If you are an officer of 30 to 35, wondering whether you will get into the Staff College, with two children who have to be educated and a wife who does not want to go rushing all over the place but is prepared to serve with the Army, and you are suddenly faced with having your career changed and do not know what you will do next, it is extremely serious. All the ceilings that have been offered—service up to 55—amount to paper transactions. The Navy paid no attention to it; the Royal Air Force had great difficulty; and the Army, although they tried hard, cannot keep most people until they are 55. In other words, you go at 30 to 35. On the last occasion I think it was Sir Frederic Hooper (I hope I have the name right) who headed a small committee of top industrialists to help officers retiring into civil life. And it must be remembered that it is more difficult now to get into industry than it was 15 years ago. I have cases of this almost every day. I hope that a successor to Sir Frederic Hooper will be found and that we shall help these officers as much as possible.
I now come to my final point. My chief comment on the Defence White Papers as they come along one a year, or the Defence Reviews, is that the decisions are not taken in the White Papers themselves but are taken in between, and every time we are faced with a fait accompli. We debate the issue in the other place and in your Lordships' House after it has been settled by the Government. The Government have the advantage of professional advice from the Chiefs of Staff, but sometimes the decisions are not right, and they need to be aired. I should very much like to see set up in this Parliament a Defence Committee consisting of Members from both Houses, who could hear the confidential information from the Government and consider it with expertise. There are plenty of people in both Houses who have a continuing interest and could be trusted to take part in these confidential discussions. I think this could well have a great influence; it certainly does in Washington. I strongly recommend that system.
896 My conclusions are, therefore, three. If these decisions are to be made, do not let them be made by default. If we decide that hospitals, schools, universities and social security come higher in the batting order than Defence expenditure, then let us do it consciously and not by a fait accompli; let us not be faced with these cuts and then debate them afterwards. If, secondly, it is decided in this country that we cannot afford to meet our commitments overseas —in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East—and we are definitely on the way to becoming a second Holland or a second Portugal, then let us act consciously, and let us debate it: do not let us slide into it.
We have to remind ourselves, that power is made up of more than industry, finance and economics. It contains the other element, of force. You cannot sit at the top table, as has often been quoted —we have marginally helped in this or that transaction through sitting at the top table—you cannot get near the top table unless you have power; and force is an element of power. Do not let us slide into these wrong decisions just because of a period of financial difficulty.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I recognise that I take part in this debate with many disadvantages compared with those who have already contributed to it, but, at least, I have one advantage over the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, who has just addressed your Lordships. He remarked that it was a little difficult, after a long series of speeches by distinguished representatives of the Armed Forces, to follow them, because he would be repeating what they said. I, at least, have the advantage that no one in this debate, with the exception of my noble friend Lord Rowley in part of his speech, has said the kind of thing which I want to say to the House.
There is the great danger in a debate on a broad subject like Defence of painting a wide pattern. I admit that I am tempted to enter into many matters because of what has been said during this debate. I am, however, going to resist that temptation. I want to speak about what I believe is the most urgent issue in Defence at the present time, and that is to bring about some limitation of the 897 distribution and strength of nuclear weapons in the world. I listened to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Head, with great interest. He assumed that because both America and Soviet Russia would fear the consequences of nuclear war, such a war is not likely to take place. I recognise the strength of that argument at once. But there is always the danger, first, that nuclear war may be let loose by accident, and, secondly, perhaps greater, that it may emerge from a local situation without any intention but become so widespread in its consequences that world war ensues.
But I will, if I may, say this to the noble Viscount. The danger to-day is that the possession of nuclear weapons may spread. Already the United States of America, Soviet Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China, and twelve other nations to-day, are in the technical position where nuclear weapons could be produced. If that tendency proceeds, I would say that within a decade the weight of the chances would be on the side of a nuclear war taking place, rather than against it. And in that situation the most important task which has to he done in relation to Defence is to obtain a limitation of the spread of nuclear weapons in the world.
I am glad that the final speech in this debate is to be made by the Minister for Disarmament. I want to pay my tribute not only to his sincerity but to his persistence and ability. The way in which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, at Geneva and elsewhere, has pressed the proposals for a non-proliferation treaty should have made all of us who desire that end proud of the fact that he should have been the representative of our Government on those occasions. It is to the nonproliferation treaty, because I regard it as a most important and urgent matter, that I want to address my remarks.
Its first difficulty is that, even if that treaty be signed, two nuclear Powers may not accede to it. France may not do so, and China is not likely to do so. We must pay some attention to their attitudes and try to meet them if the nonproliferation treaty is to be in fact successful. So far as China is concerned, I think there is some reason for less fear: first, because of the internal divisions which are within it and which will demand the attention of her Government and people, 898 and, secondly, because of her concentration upon her own social and economic construction; and while China is doing that she is unlikely to become involved by her own initiative in a nuclear war. But I should like to urge upon our Government not to rely only on events within China. We have some part to play in preventing that danger from China. We have the part to play of using our influence to restrain all those forces in the world which may help to provoke China in this situation.
I was one of those who welcomed the fact that our Government dissociated themselves from the action of the Government of the United States of America when first they extended their bombing to the neighbourhoods of Hanoi and Haiphong. There is now very great danger indeed that that strategy will be taken much further, to the port of Haiphong and to the very centre of Hanoi. Action of that kind will inevitably bring reactions in China. I would urge that our Government should use their influence to exercise restraint upon the American Government so that they do not pursue policies in Vietnam which are likely to bring dangerous actions by China.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? It is very easy to make statements of that kind. Of course, one can sympathise with the noble Lord's point of view, but I think that one should know the situation inside a little more before making such statements, and realise the problems that the American Forces are up against, not only in North Vietnam but also within South Vietnam. They have their difficulties there, too, and I think one should not condemn them for fighting against what is a very real danger.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, appreciate the point of view which the noble Lord has expressed. He will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail, though I can assure him of this. I have tried to study that situation, both in North Vietnam and in South Vietnam, just as fully as it is possible for anyone in this country to do. I have followed events at Washington, and I should have said that the recent events in Washington justify the kind of warning which I will now sound.
899 When one faces the problems of China, one faces not only the immediate dangers which will arise from them. But I would say this. When we are thinking in longer terms in relation to China, we are likely to see happen a change in its philosophy similar to the change which has taken place in Soviet Russia. When Soviet Russia was isolated in the beginning of its revolution it had much of the ideology that is present in China. It has now become aware of the dangers of nuclear war. It has now become a part of the community of nations pursuing policies which are bringing a détente with the West. And I think it very likely indeed that in China's experience, as it gives its attention to the construction of its new society, it also will pursue foreign policies which will not bring dangers in the form of nuclear war. If we will recognise that it should be a member of the community of nations, with its right place in the United Nations and the Security Council, then I think the danger of China will be lessened.
I would say that the case of France, which also may not sign the non-proliferation treaty, is more a matter of her status and her prestige than a matter of preparing for war. France is not likely to be at war with America or Soviet Russia. She might even be neutral if the disaster of war between America and Russia took place. If one looks at France, one sees that it has neither the danger of the necessity of defence nor aggressive intentions. One can only come to the conclusion that President de Gaulle is thinking in terms of the status and position of France, rather than of the actual use of his nuclear weapons. In regard to that, Britain could make a big contribution towards meeting that desire of France for status. The spokesman for the Opposition remarked that the Labour Party in this country had stood for the termination of an independent nuclear deterrent and that we had not carried out that policy. If we did carry out that policy it would be of some advantage in appealing to France to recognise that she can have status in the world and contribute great moral principles to the world without having the nuclear weapon which she now possesses.
My Lords, I had proposed to discuss the suggestion that the British deterrent 900 should be handed over to NATO, but in view of the time and what has already been said I do not intend to pursue that matter. What I want to say, looking at the non-proliferation treaty, is this. There is, quite naturally a certain resentment among the non-nuclear nations of the world that this great nuclear power should just be left in the hands of America and Soviet Russia, really to determine the destiny of the whole of mankind. They have the feeling that these are to be the two great Powers which, because of their maintenance of nuclear force, will be able to determine the future pattern of the world. It might almost be described as a new form of nuclear colonialism.
If we are to face that psychology in the world, I believe that the non-proliferation treaty must be accompanied by other measures, and those measures have been suggested by a number of non-nuclear nations, including India. Those proposals are that non-proliferation of nuclear weapons must be accompanied by a general disarmament treaty. They are urging that it is not enough for America and Russia to say to the other nations that they should not have nuclear weapons; America and Russia themselves should give some example of the disarmament which they are hoping for in the world. And if, accompanying the non-proliferation treaty there were offers by America and Russia to limit, and indeed to look forward to the termination of, their nuclear weapons and to limit their expenditure upon armaments, they would have much more response from India and the neutral nations which are now a little suspicious of the non-proliferation treaty.
I should particularly like to ask the Minister, if I may, what has happened to the proposals for general disarmament which were brought forward both by the West and by Soviet Russia a few years ago. They both had the intention of stages of disarmament which finally would lead to a disarmed world. There was not an extraordinary difference between the proposals which America and Soviet Russia made; they were proposals about which there could have been discussion and considerable agreement. What has happened? Why have they not been pursued? Why do we not hear of them now? I am urging upon the Government that if they are hoping that the non-prolifera- 901 tion treaty will be successful there should be a reversal to the drastic proposals on disarmament which only a few years ago were being considered at the Geneva Conference and which came from both America and Soviet Russia.
I want now to say one thing in support of Lord Rowley's reference to the danger of chemical and biological warfare. A considerable sum of money is allowed in the Defence Estimates for scientific advance and for development, and the noble Lord asked whether that covers the researches which have been made into chemical and biological warfare. He asked particularly if that expenditure was to be upon an offensive use of chemical and biological warfare. I doubt very much, because of security reasons, whether the Minister will be able to indicate what is being done in the way of research, but I shall be very surprised indeed, because of the theory that the best defence is offence, if in the research which is now being carried out by departments in this country and in other countries attention is not being paid to germ warfare, which may be even more destructive than nuclear warfare and which in fact is cheaper to produce, and can be produced much more widely. I urge upon the Minister for Disarmament, when he replies, to give us some hope that the problem of biological and chemical warfare will be considered and an initiative taken to try to include that in general disarmament proposals to accompany the proposal for the non-proliferation treaty.
My Lords, probably the years in which we are living will prove to be a decisive time in the history of mankind. These generations are the generations of great scientific development. Those scientific developments could lift the whole of mankind to a standard of life which has never been known. They could also destroy mankind. Many of us are urging in this Defence debate—and I know the complete sympathy which the Minister for Disarmament will have for these proposals—that the Minister will not only proceed with the proposals which he has put forward but will add to them the proposal for a wider general disarmament, and particularly will look at the new ways of warfare which are now being found and which may be so destructive to mankind
§ 6.37 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said that the most urgent issue in Defence at the present time is the limitation of nuclear strength among the nations of the world. I am rather inclined to agree with him, although I cannot follow him in many of the other points he has made. That is an important point, although there are other issues which I have to put before your Lordships shortly.
I am sure that all noble Lords who are associated with the Navy will appreciate the support of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, when he said that he had refloated the Navy. I think he also said that he supported aircraft carriers. I am not sure whether he supported the large carrier or the smaller and less sophisticated carrier, with vertical take-off aircraft, about which I wish to say something later.
Referring to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I have never heard in your Lordships' House, in a debate on Defence, such a policy of "scuttle" as that put forward by the noble Lord. I can hardly believe that the policy he evolved is that of the Liberal Party. No wonder the Party has lost support in the country! We are not yet a nation of "Little Englanders", though we seem to be somewhat on the way at the present time.
My first reaction, on a study of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, was to be taken somewhat aback by the rather mystifying heading, "Royal Navy General Purpose Combat Forces", on page 34. What on earth does this mean? Surely the old term "Active Fleet and Supporting Forces" is much more descriptive than this continual use of American jargon. What does it all mean? Also, what has happened to the Working Party on the Future of the Fleet? I think it was last December that the Minister of Defence said that the Working Party had made its Report to the Admiralty Board. I hope that today we may be told something about the contents of this Report. Are we to be told what types of ship are to be provided for the Fleet when the carrier is phased out in the 1970s? There is no indication at all in the Statement before the House to-day.
903 In spite of the cancellation of the large CVA carrier, I understand that recruiting and re-engagement in the Fleet Air Arm is still very high indeed, and perhaps the Fleet Air Arm visualise the eventual construction of smaller and less sophisticated carriers with the vertical take-off aircraft. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are making a study of the potentiality of the small carrier with the vertical take-off aircraft, which I am sure should be the basis of the striking force of the Fleet in the future and, of course, air cover for local and amphibious operations in a limited war.
I would turn for a few minutes to the question of conventional war about which we hear so much these days. It is maintained in some quarters that conventional war is unlikely to last long and that the escalation into nuclear weapons would occur very quickly. That may well be so on land, but what about maritime warfare? I suggest that a war of attrition at sea by enemy submarines might last a very long time, and no country would be prepared to risk an all-out nuclear attack on land to win a war at sea. That is the point. It is clear that if a country such as Great Britain loses command of the sea she cannot regain it by unleashing Polaris on enemy land bases: it could not be done. It would be like saying, "If you continue to starve me, I will commit suicide". The only valid defence is to regain command of the sea in the conventional manner; and this, of course, highlights the submarine.
In the last war, the Germans, I think, had 24 ocean-going submarines when the war began; and eventually they reached a figure of 100 in service, and very nearly brought us to our knees. The Russian submarine fleet is believed to number some 400 ocean-going vessels, many of them nuclear. The nuclear submarine with only a torpedo armament can deny the sea to commerce. But there is still one more development to come. It is only a matter of time before surface-to-air guided weapons are adapted to submarines. In future, the submarine will not be living in fear of aircraft: it is likely to be the other way round. Tactical weapons, such as nuclear depth charges or other weapons might of course be used at sea. It can be argued that 904 the use of tactical nuclear weapons at sea would lead inevitably into an all-out nuclear war. On the other hand, they might never be used.
I would say that the greatest danger to this country lies in a conventional war at sea, in the threat to destroy our commerce, which can well happen without all-out nuclear attack taking place. It is true that we have a few so-called nuclear "killer" submarines, armed with torpedoes, but I suggest that we need many more of this type, together with other anti-submarine forces, to combat the nuclear submarine menace from Russia. We have seen the large aircraft carrier supersede the battleship, and we are now on the threshold of seeing the large carrier superseded by the all-purpose missile-carrying submarine, capable not only of attacking other submarines and surface craft but also of shooting down aircraft. There is little doubt, I think, that this type of nuclear submarine will be not only the dominating weapon of sea power but the means by which sea power will exercise in the future a far greater influence than it did in the past. May I suggest that Her Majesty's Government have another very close look at the submarine menace, with a view to research and establishment of the all-purpose submarine which will undoubtedly become the capital ship of the future?
§ 6.47 p.m.
My Lords, your Lordships might expect me, as an old submariner, to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teynham; and I certainly do. There is little doubt, in my view, that the nuclear-powered submarine is the capital ship of the future. I think I should perhaps at this stage declare an interest, to the extent that I have a son in the Navy. Having served in it myself for much of my life, I have also a natural interest in its wellbeing.
There is at the moment a strong movement to cut down our Armed Forces overseas, and in particular East of Suez. From the financial angle this is, of course, very good sense. There is one thing that this country cannot cut down on appreciably, and that is overseas trade. So long as our overseas trade is carried by sea, so long must we have sufficient maritime forces to ensure its safety. In my view, we are already well below the 905 low safe limit in this respect. To give a general view of our trade East of Suez, something like one-third of our overseas trade is with this area. We do substantial trade, of course, with Australia and New Zealand. Our rubber and tin comes from Malaya; enormous quantities of oil from the Persian Gulf, and so on. From the latest figures I can find, in one day we have 285 ships at sea in the Indian Ocean and another 131 in port, making a total of over 400 ships in the area on any one day. In 1964, 3,800-odd British ships passed through the Suez Canal, or rather more than ten a day.
To move now from the general to the particular, some years ago I drew your Lordships' attention to our dependence on oil from the Middle East. I should like to touch on this matter again this evening for a few moments. There is very little reference to it in the White Paper. When I last addressed your Lordships on this matter we obtained more than half our total requirements of oil from the Persian Gulf. Since then the proportion has dropped: we now get appreciable quantities from both Libya and Nigeria. But we still get 30 per cent. of all our requirements from the Persian Gulf, and another 14 per cent. through the pipe-lines to the Mediterranean, making a total of 44 per cent. altogether from the Persian Gulf area. Your Lordships will realise that this represents an enormous figure, as our total imports of oil nearly double themselves every six years.
When I think of these things I cannot help thinking also of Russia's enormous submarine fleet. As the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has already said, there are something like 400 vessels altogether, many of them now nuclear-powered. They are not there for fun. They are there to be used, in certain circumstances, to bring strong pressure to bear. I know very well that relations with Russia have recently improved, but these submarines are still there, and the threat from them could become very real in a comparatively short space of time.
We are told at page 5 of the White Paper that it is no longer realistic to attempt to provide maritime forces for a prolonged sea war after a strategic nuclear exchange. I daresay most of your Lordships will agree with that; but, without 906 stretching the imagination too far, I can think of a most unpleasant situation in the Arabian Sea, when our maritime forces, both sea and air, could be stretched to the limit and beyond, before any general nuclear exchange had taken place.
When we leave Aden next year it is certainly not impossible that Colonel Nasser may move in. Suppose he does. He could, I imagine, if he wanted, get control of the Red Sea, the South East Coast of Arabia and those pipe-lines to the Mediterranean. If he did that, and if relations with Russia became strained, as has happened before, I should be surprised if Russia did not get some of her submarines down from Vladivostock and station them in the Indian Ocean and perhaps the Aden area; and I should be surprised if she did not get some more of her submarines down from the Black Sea and station them at Alexandria, where we stationed our submarines in the last war and from where we carried out such devastating attacks on Rommel's supply lines.
I can visualise Russian maritime aircraft ranging over the Arabian Sea and locating our tankers on their way from the Persian Gulf to the Cape—for, of course, the Canal would then be closed—and directing her nuclear-powered submarines. with their enormous speed and almost unlimited endurance, on to them. It seems to me that most unwelcome pressure could be brought to bear on us in this way before any nuclear exchange took place unless we had substantial anti-submarine forces down in the area and a base from which they could operate. For a while, the anti-submarine ships themselves could work with the use of fleet support ships, but before long a base would be required for docking, repairs, recreation and so on, for I believe that both Singapore and the Cape are too remote. In the Mediterranean could not Russian submarines based on Alexandria create havoc with our oil tanker traffic from Libya? And should we not then be very sorry indeed that we had virtually no Fleet in the Mediterranean and no base at Malta?
As I say, we should need substantial anti-submarine forces to counter this submarine threat to our oil supplies, both in the Arabian Sea and in the Mediterranean. Where those anti-submarine forces are to come from, I cannot imagine. Our CENTO allies could perhaps 907 help, but only marginally, for they have only small navies, even smaller than our own. Looking at the list of forces in the White Paper I cannot see that we can produce any substantial quantity from there. As an indication of our naval weakness, I have recently read in the Press that we have not even sufficient ships to provide for a Navy Week at Rosyth this year; and in the near future we are to hand over the NATO appointment of Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean to an Italian admiral. I understand the reason for these examples, but I find them deplorable, for they point all too clearly to the fact that the Navy is already numerically well below a prudent safe limit.
There is, of course, no easy solution to this problem, and what I am afraid of is that the noble Lord who is going to reply to the debate will simply say that we cannot afford the Armed Forces we require. If this is so, I earnestly hope, though I doubt, that the country understands what a grave risk we are taking in not paying up our insurance premium. It is no use imagining that when trouble comes we can press a button and then have the larger forces we require, for it takes years to build ships and aircraft, and years to train the crews to man them; and we are most unlikely to be given years. If we are lucky, we shall have months, or perhaps weeks; if we are unlucky we shall have minutes, or perhaps hours. We were told last year that we would not undertake major operations in war except in co-operation with allies. We may not wish to; but unfortunately these matters are not always under our control, and certainly in the last war, and certainly much against our wishes, we had to manage for a long time without the help of any allies.
To move from the Arabian Sea, I thought of referring to the shortage of carriers this evening; but I feel that this has been sufficiently covered over the year, and I say only that I just do not believe that a few F 111s, working from island bases in the Indian Ocean, can effectively take the place of carriers. I trust that when our present carriers have had their day there will be some smaller and cheaper carriers—mini-carriers, if you like—to take their place; something much smaller and cheaper, as was suggested 908 by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that can operate with the V.T.O.L. aircraft. I wonder whether we should not follow the example of Spain, and buy a few ships like the U.S.S. "Cabot", a ship of 15,000 tons and 32 knots, which can carry about 25 aircraft. This might fill the bill and would save a lot of money. In passing, I believe that these high speeds such as 32 knots will be essential for most of our ships in the future, to help to balance the high submerged speeds of nuclear submarines.
Now a word about over-stretch. I see right at the beginning of the White Paper, in Chapter 1, paragraph 2, that reduction in over-stretch is now being achieved. The paragraph goes on to say that large numbers of Service personnel and families are being brought home. But the fact that personnel are brought home, though perhaps it may help, does not necessarily overcome what I understand is meant by over-stretch—indeed, it may aggravate it. In addition to separation from home and family, I understand "over-stretch" to mean, briefly, all work and no play. That is no good to anyone in peace time. We expect it in war; it is all part of our business. But in peace time we must have sufficient forces to carry out our commitments, both in operations and in exercises, and to allow an adequate margin for relaxation and recreation. If we do not do this, we shall soon most certainly have a discontented Service, and recruiting will surely suffer. In this connection, I wonder whether the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate could say how many lieutenants, lieutenant-commanders and commanders have applied to retire during the last two years. A comparison between this figure and that for the years 1960 and 1961 might show a surprising increase. If it does not, I shall be one of the first to be very pleased indeed.
I turn now to page 20, paragraphs 42 and 43, of the White Paper. This reads as if our negligible force in the Mediterranean has been doing its best to fill odd gaps around the station and indeed outside it, and no doubt in consequence forgoing the peace-time flag-showing cruises we used to have and which are so important from the prestige and trade points of view; and forgoing periods at Malta where families may be waiting hopefully, but in vain. I wonder whether I might just read out those two paragraphs? They are quite short, but they 909 are most illuminating. This is what it says:On several occasions ships intended for the Mediterranean station had to be sent East of Suez for operations off Beira and Malaysia. It has also been necessary to reinforce the West Indies station by one frigate from the Mediterranean. To balance these reductions in the Mediterranean, units of the Home Fleet were detached to the station for visits when opportunity occurred.Some of the ships, which regularly pass through the Mediterranean on route to and from the Far East and Middle East theatres, also stopped there for occasional visits and exercises.This might be regarded as an indication of flexibility, and I would absolutely agree with that. But I would also call it "overstretch"; and the example which I gave of the lack of ships for a naval exercise at Rosyth, owing to a requirement for them to take part in a NATO exercise, looks to me uncommonly like over-stretch. I know how important the Defence Minister rightly considers a reduction in overstretch to be, and I only hope that he is succeeding in reducing it. Somehow I have grave doubts.
That covers the points I wanted to put to your Lordships this evening. Perhaps I may sum up by saying that I believe it is vitally important, so far as the Navy is concerned, that over-stretch should be overcome, and overcome quickly. And the proper way of doing this, if I may suggest it, is to stop our dangerous downward slide in naval strength and build up a class of mini-carriers, and to see that our anti-submarine forces (including nuclear-powered submarines and maritime aircraft) are at such a strength that we may at least be in a position to deal with a likely submarine threat in the most vital areas.
§ 7.2 p.m.
My Lords, I seem to have got into a naval bloc of two distinguished sailors ahead, two astern; and an Admiral of the Fleet who I thought was safely over the horizon has now come back again. But I will not follow my noble friends, though I entirely agree with a great deal of what they have said. Having been to Malta fairly recently, I agree that it is tragic to see that the British Navy is hardly visible there at all.
As has been said already, our main criticism of the Government is that they 910 are proposing to impose arbitrary cuts in overseas garrisons to save money without any clear political or strategical aim; with no regard to the unexpected in the future; and, we suspect, without paying much attention to the feelings of our allies. Surely to-day we are members of a team, and therefore we cannot walk off the field. Admittedly the French have walked off the field, but they are still kicking about on the next pitch, and they would be quite ready to join the team in an emergency. We are not saying that cuts are wrong, but arbitrary cuts which are imposed only for financial reasons, and with little regard to existing and future possible commitments, must be wrong. So, if we accept provisional cuts in the British Army of the Rhine, we want to know a great deal about the strategic and political implications and about the attitude to this of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
So I would ask the Minister what our Allies think of this proposal, and ask him also whether Belgium and Holland are going to pull out a fifth of their troops, too—because it would not surprise me at all if they did. I hope that he can give us reassurance. Presumably this matter had already been carefully studied before this decision was made. We are not in Western Europe only to protect Western Europe: we are there to defend ourselves. And do not let us forget it. The Channel may have saved us last time, but it will not again. The British invention of the hovercraft, which has been quickly seized upon by others, alone would see to that.
As regards the Far East, the Minister said yesterday in another place that it would be possible to reduce the number of men and women working in or for the Services by about 20,000 compared with the total at the end of confrontation. Is this a reduction on the figure before confrontation, and are there any reasons other than financial stringency for it? If there are, what are they? And what will be left after 20,000 British troops have been brought home? We might accept the decision to reduce to the pre-confrontation figures, though, speaking personally, I deplore the reduction of 4,000 in the Brigade of Gurkhas who are invaluable for service in tropical countries. But any further reduction of our pre-confrontation figure is surely unwise until the situation improves considerably. There 911 is no part of the world which has such ominous possibilities in the future.
Then what do Australia, New Zealand and the United States think about it? Or is it the Government's policy now to disregard their views? In the Daily Telegraph there was an excellent article a day or two ago. It said:To put it bluntly, our allies have great admiration for the quality of the British forces but they feel that if you scratch the surface of British intentions you find a Government that just doesn't want to know what its commitments mean.The article ends:When the Minister of Defence does detail his cuts he should also say clearly what our policy now is towards Far Eastern commitments. Vague assurances of 'continuing interest' are no longer enough to convince America and Australia that we are not merely covering up an underlying intention to pull out altogether.I would ask the Government spokesman to answer these points, which in our view are very important.
The Government have never given any reason for abandoning their oft-expressed policy of increased conventional forces, and it appears that they intend to reduce the Defence forces to the bare minimum to deal with the problems of to-day. Surely it is a terribly dangerous step, and one that might have the most serious repercussions in the unknown future. Are we quite happy at dropping from being militarily a second-class Power to being of the third or fourth rate? We know that we can no longer afford to stand on our own militarily: we are dependent on our allies. But these allies expect us to continue to play our traditional part in the defence of the Free World and all that we fought for at such great cost in the past.
Though the Government appear to be quite oblivious of it, it is still, rightly or wrongly, a fact that the countries of the world pay a great deal of attention to military capability. Our voice is still listened to with a certain amount of respect as a result of our past record. We are still dependent for our food and livelihood on the security of the sea lanes and on our overseas commercial interests. That is why we cannot afford to commit the tragic mistake of former years and allow our defences to be reduced below danger point. The Minister 912 of Defence is reported to have given assurances in Malaysia, and on his return, to the effect that we can always reinforce a small garrison out there if need arises; and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said the same thing to-day. Of course, we can reinforce existing garrisons anywhere if we are up against a very poorly armed enemy, but even in limited war if the enemy is well armed, a reinforcement force will need a great deal more equipment than can be carried in the aircraft which could be made available.
Then there is the very important question of training troops in this country for operations in different climates and conditions. This point has already been touched upon by the noble and gallant Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Fraser of North Cape. Noble Lords who have served in the Army will have taken part in many TEWTS—tactical exercises without troops. Is it proposed on Salisbury Plain to introduce JEWTS—jungle exercises without trees; or DEWS—desert exercises without sand? How do the Government propose to train and acclimatise the Army in this country?—for they will not be acclimatised in these conditions. This underlines the folly of giving up Malta, where some degree of acclimatisation can be carried out in pleasant welcoming surroundings, with modern barracks and married quarters on which so much money has been spent recently.
I am very glad that to-day my old friend and colleague the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, made his maiden speech, and I heartily congratulate him on it. I was very glad to hear what he said about Malta and I warmly agree with him. The position was also most ably put by the honourable Member for Northampton, Mr. Paget, in another place on March 6. He described the Government's policy regarding their decision to abandon Malta as, "the craziest of all". He gave a number of other good reasons for retaining our garrison there, but omitted the very important one of acclimatisation. These obvious criticisms make one wonder whether the Ministers of the Defence Departments know anything about operations, training and logistics, or whether they ever take professional advice. Or perhaps, if they do, it may be that their senior colleagues will not listen to them.
913 A great deal has been said in another place about the accommodation to be provided for returning units. I wish to make only three points which seem to me relevant. These reductions overseas have caused very much concern. We have heard statements in another place about a number of new barracks which are being provided, and about a large number of married quarters which are to be built or bought. We now know to-day that 20,000 are coming back from the Far East and that a Brigade Group, which I presume is about 6,000, will be coming from the British Army of the Rhine by April of next year. I should like to know, therefore, whether accommodation is being provided for 26,000 troops. I should like an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on this point. What are the Government going to do? If accommodation is not being prepared, are the Government planning to disband the troops or to amalgamate units? This is very important and we should like an answer. If the troops are to be disbanded, what is the total figure of the Army to be?
Secondly, I am convinced that there will never be enough training areas in this country. It is obviously out of the question to take any more agricultural land, and the wild mountains and moorland areas, such as exist in Northern Scotland, are not at all suitable for formation training for a mechanised Army. The Government must face the fact that, although a Minister in another place said that it was hoped to purchase more training areas, this country is too small. Therefore I suggest that, with the help of the Navy and the Royal Air Force, more training should be carried out in other countries. This would be immensely popular and would do much to counteract the boredom of a home-based Army, hemmed in by the restrictions which exist in the present available areas; and it might do something towards acclimatisation and the understanding of tropical conditions. I hope that the Government will also remember that our forces are splendid ambassadors, quick to make friends, defeating all language barriers and generous spenders. They can do much to restore our declining prestige.
I think the Government have made a mistake in disbanding, as they have just done, the district headquarters in this 914 country, if many units are being brought back. I know, having been a district commander myself, the enormous amount of administrative work which is involved in looking after only a few Regular units, even if they are under somebody else's operational command. It is wrong that operational brigade and units staffs should be bogged down in the endless paper demanded by our bureaucracy, both national and local.
Lastly, I should like to make a point about community assistance. A special study has now been made of this by one Command, and I am sure there is a great deal in it. The impending withdrawal of so much of the Army to the United Kingdom will require a readjustment of Service outlook, so that military resources are used more extensively for the benefit of the community. The need for the Army to share more fully in everyday life demands wider recognition. Work for the community can be designed so that it has a military value equal to that of more orthodox training. There is much to be done which civil authorities and voluntary organisations would like to do, but which, with their limited resources, they cannot do. Often such work is well suited to the Services. Also, the Army has a valuable potential in the field of youth.
There is increasing concern among many of us about the possibility of cuts. We feel that the time has now come when it is no good just lopping-off bits of the Army, yet still retaining the same framework. It is necessary to re-think the whole structure anew, if in the changed circumstances of the Army it is to be a cohesive force. If these cuts have to be made on financial grounds alone, as seems apparent, would the Government remember that while in an emergency they may be able to build up quickly quite a lot of administrative units, the same is not true of fighting troops? They can get from civilian life categories of soldiers, sailors and airmen who can follow the same trade in the forces as they do in civilian life, but they cannot lay their hands on tank and armoured car crews, gunners, infantrymen and, indeed, trained sailors and airmen. They need such a very complicated training nowadays. Their lives, and the lives of their comrades, depend on their skill which is achieved only by hard training.
915 When the Government disband teeth arm units they disband them for good. There will be no longer a "phoney" war period for starting up from scratch. Therefore, I again stress the importance of not putting into effect any reorganisation of the Army before we know the commitments and are much clearer about the future. This gives force to my argument that it is extremely unwise to cut down the infantry. It is the only arm which can be moved quickly by air, with all its equipment—except, of course, its new armoured personnel carriers. It always suffers the most casualties. It is no longer backed by a Territorial Army which is similarly armed and trained, but has only a small reserve which would quickly be swallowed up by a period of hard fighting; and, of course, it no longer has the well-trained native troops of a great Empire. In addition, the infantry provides probably the major share of personnel for staffs and training establishments, which mushroom so quickly in an emergency.
Surely a little time is needed to appraise the world situation and see how things develop in the Far East. The infantry, as constituted to-day, require security of tenure and stability. Infantry units have been overstetched and pushed around for too long. For example, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders have had eighteen changes of station since 1945, not counting local moves around Borneo, and eight of their moves have been outside the United Kingdom.
But if the Government insist, unwisely in my opinion, on further amalgamations or disbandments, may I put in a special, rather private plea for the position of the Scottish regiments? The move towards the large regiment, the grouping of several of the old regiments, is going well in England and has been brought about voluntarily. But in the English brigades there are not many obvious distinctions and differences between regiments: only differences of cap badges, buttons, perhaps a lanyard—that is all. In Scotland, however, officers and men join a specific regiment, not the Army, and they wear their own traditional uniform, their own tartan. Any change affects morale and recruiting. Change, if it comes, must come up from the bottom. It must be proposed by the young officers and the N.C.O.s, and not forced by decree. 916 I make this point particularly as I am aware that there are no Scottish Ministers concerned with the Ministry of Defence and, so far as I know, only the Secretary of State for Scotland in the Cabinet. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether he might ask for a rise, so that at least we would get two Scottish Ministers into the Cabinet.
That leads me on to the redundancy terms, which have been expected for several months. As has been brought out by several noble Lords, there is considerable disquiet among young officers at this delay. Many officers have recently resigned in disgust, without waiting for the terms to be announced. Morale is not as high as it should be, and it is daily getting lower. The Government are losing the confidence of the Forces. There is an appalling feeling of uncertainty about the future: it has never been so bad as it is to-day. To-day, everyone in the Forces who thinks and reads at all is convinced that a Socialist Government know and care nothing, so far as the future defence of the country is concerned, and care little about the people they intend to discard. They are far more concerned with vote-catching ideas and with obtaining the money to put these ideas into effect. When the Government came in they took over the best Defence force in the world for its size, small and over-stretched as it was. They appear to be on the way to ruining it by lack of understanding, foresight and interest, in their exclusive preoccupation with schemes which will appeal to the type of elector mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, the man whose motto is, "I'm all right, Jack …".
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, as a sailor, may I first add my congratulations to those already expressed to my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley on a very soldierly maiden speech? I hope we shall hear him very often in this House. Like many other noble Lords on this side of the House, I read the Defence White Paper with considerable misgivings, and nothing that has been said in another place has given me any reassurance. The White Paper has been described as an exercise in accountancy. I think that is really a quite apt description. Noble Lords have already complained of a lack of overall policy, that 917 cuts have been made piecemeal, and that many of them are of a very arbitrary kind. I do not wish to labour this point, as it has already been well made.
The point that I should like to take up this evening is on the question of the apparent departure from a maritime strategy, and I should like to deal with this in its peace-keeping context rather than in its war-time context. The maritime strategy has served this country well for 400 years and longer, but at the moment, according to the White Paper, we seem to be getting away from it. While retaining 50,000 men or so in Germany—and I do not question the need to do this—we are abandoning the aircraft-carrier, we are removing ourselves from our overseas bases, and we are recalling our warships from the oceans of the world. It is with this aspect of policy that I should like to deal this evening, although I have had considerable assistance already. The noble and gallant Field Marshal has re-floated the Fleet for me, and the noble and gallant Admiral of the Fleet has already said much of what I would have wished to say. I will endeavour, therefore, to be as brief as I can.
My Lords, the situation at the moment, as I see it, is as follows. We have emerged with little credit from what I think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, would describe as the scuttle from Malta; we have handed over the command of the Allied Forces Mediterranean to an Italian Admiral; and we are now embarked upon the scuttle from Aden, in the course of which operation I see a grave danger of betraying our friends in order to appease our enemies. I can also see not far over the horizon the beginning of the scuttle from Singapore. As if this was not enough, in very recent months we have removed our Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic from the Cape. Some of your Lordships may not realise what are the duties of this officer. In times of tension and trouble it was his duty to assume command of all Allied Forces interested in the defence of the Cape route, now more vital than ever before. We were under no pressure from the Government of South Africa to remove this officer. It was entirely voluntary, and the financial saving must be absolutely negligible.
918 We have heard a little of the intentions of the Government in the Persian Gulf, but I should be grateful if in his reply the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, could tell us a little more of what is intended in the Indian Ocean. I have always understood that from a peace-keeping point of view the Indian Ocean has been regarded as a British responsibility.
My Lords, one of the planks of the Government's foreign policy has always been the preservation of world peace. I do not think there is any one of your Lordships who would disagree with that policy. I believe, and I believe very sincerely, that the removal of a British military presence—and here I am thinking chiefly, but not exclusively, of the naval presence—from such places as the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Cape, and even the Caribbean, is doing no great service to world peace. These are areas in which for 200 years we have exercised an absolutely decisive influence for peace and stability, very often with extremely small military forces. The Pax Britannica of the last century was maintained because the White Ensign was flying in almost every port in the world at any given moment, and it kept the peace for 100 years. We are turning our backs on this, and I regard it as a very serious step. We cannot of course afford to do this now—of that I am absolutely aware—but it is a very different matter from withdrawing our naval presence altogether from parts of the world where we have been for so long predominant. It is too often forgotten that the Royal Navy can be and has been the most powerful force for peace since the Roman Legions—and it could be so again with a little assistance.
There are also our national responsibilities. This country still has financial assets and long-standing interests all over the world. Are these to be undefended? Patriotic British businessmen are working in small and large, comfortable and uncomfortable, parts of the world trying to push our exports, on which the Government rely so much for our financial recovery. Are we to let these men remain unsupported because we have taken away all the ships?
I have always found it quite impossible to persuade either professional politicians or civil servants of the importance of this rather material activity called, 919 "showing the flag", to which the noble and gallant Admiral of the Fleet has already referred this afternoon. I know that to some this sounds at best as though it were a sort of large luncheon given by a firm to many possible customers on a very large expense account. I speak with some knowledge of this particular activity because over a period of 35 years, during intervals of furthering my naval education, exercising at sea and the fighting of wars, I have been doing little else. I should like to assure the House that the expense account does not in fact cover the performance, either for officers or for ratings. I know this very much to my cost; but I do not believe that those of us who have spent quite a lot of money entertaining foreigners in foreign ports have ever grudged a penny of it.
I think it would be fair to say that a successful visit of a British ship to a foreign port—and these visits are successful; sailors are good at this sort of thing—can do more good in a short time than official visits, welfare visits or all the other types of visits that take place. As the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, said, our soldiers and sailors are the best ambassadors we have. Let them loose, and they will do the job for us. The effect on the British communities in these places, whether it be of the visit of a single frigate to a small port, or of an aircraft carrier or a squadron to a large one, is dynamic. I know from experience the amount of good that it does. This aspect of our world-wide naval presence should not be forgotten, and neither should the support, comfort and help it gives to those of our countrymen abroad who are trying to help us to get on our feet.
In conclusion, I should like to put into slightly different words what the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, told us a short time ago; and I agree with every word he said. We do not yet live in a perfect world. The influence for good that we can exert still depends on the size and quality of our military forces and, perhaps even more important than military forces, on the will to use them to stop wars and to prevent small conflagrations from escalating. My own fear is that, if our present Defence policy is continued to its logical conclusion, we shall find overnight, and possibly rather to our 920 surprise, that we have become a fifth-class Power. I read recently that our prestige in the Far East was now considerably below that of the French and only a little above that of the Portuguese. This is a very high price to pay for more schools, more hospitals, more roads, more pensions and more free teeth. I honestly believe that the average British voter, if he realised what was going on in his name, would not stand for it. I am only too well aware of the hideous cost of the defence programme in this technological age and the size of the problem that it poses. But let us please look first not at a "cash ceiling", but at our worldwide responsibilities. Let us try to meet those responsibilities in the most economic way we can, even if certain sacrifices have to be made at home. If we do not do this, I am convinced that the voice of this great nation will cut very little ice in the councils of the world.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, once again this great and hallowed debate on Defence is drawing to its close. Again it is my privilege and my duty to address your Lordships in the closing minutes of the last dog watch. It always seems to be my fate to do that, but I will not detain your Lordships any longer than I can help. I shall be assisted in this because obviously a number of noble Lords have heard the pipe: "Cooks to the galley", and have left the Chamber. This relieves me of the responsibility of replying to any points they may have raised. In any case, most of my noble friends have already said what I wished to say. But I must just refer to the remarks of my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who has had to leave us. He said that he refloated the Navy. This is from a slightly guilty conscience; because last year he did the opposite and we had to dis-rate him in conversation outside the House. But when he returns from Libya, we may well offer him honorary membership of the Navy League.
My Lords, I have never found it particularly easy to make a worth while contribution to these important debates on Defence. I must say that this year I find it unusually difficult, because the White Paper (Cmnd. 3203), of which we are called to take note, leaves so much of real importance in the air. For example, paragraph 42, "Planning for the Future", 921 under the heading of "Combat Forces"—I wish we could get away from that horrible American expression—says merely:It is hoped to announce further plans later this year.Does that mean that we are to have another Defence White Paper and the opportunity of another debate? I hope so.
Later, in paragraph 61, appear these words:Although we cannot now settle the shape of the defence organisation for the 1970s, we can insure that any further changes will be decided and introduced as quickly and smoothly as possible.I find that paragraph slightly difficult to follow, because if we do not know the shape of the organisation how are we to ensure that:further changes will be … introduced as quickly and smoothly as possible.However, I freely admit that it is very difficult to foresee precisely what our Defence requirements may be in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the attempt must be made. It is the responsibility of the Government of the day to do so. Moreover, the Government of the day, unlike humble Back Benchers like myself—and unlike even my noble friends on the Front Bench—have available to them masses of information (through diplomatic, Intelligence and other sources) which should enable them to make intelligent forecasts.
During the last war we had a body of able men safely in some dug-out in London who were known as the "Fops"—the Forward Operational Planners. I am sure that to-day we have "Forward Contingency Planners". I am equally sure that they are able, intelligent men, and perfectly capable of preparing plans for the 1970s. In fact I suspect that they have done so already. I also suspect that it is the cost which frightens this Government. However, we do not have to have special staffs, special sources, or any unusual amount of common sense to predict with some certainty quite a number of things that will be with us in the 1970s; and of these I propose to give the most important examples. Naturally, I start with the oceans of the world. Those of your Lordships who have listened to my previous speeches know that I am a fervent advocate of maritime strategy, but I shall not pursue that to- 922 night because it has been pursued so ably by a number of my noble friends.
At any rate, the first important thing which will be with us in the 1970s is the oceans of the world, free to all from let or hindrance, and free of political interference, if only we and our Allies provide and maintain sufficient of the right sort of forces to keep the freedom of the seas. Secondly, we and our Allies, particularly ourselves, will still rely on the bulk of our requirements being carried by sea. Thirdly, our potential enemies must surely have learned the lessons of the last two wars, when we were brought near to defeat by the violent attacks on our sea communications. My noble friend Lord Ashbourne has already drawn the attention of your Lordships to the potential menace of the Russian submarine force, and so it is unnecessary for me to discuss that further. These three factors, my Lords, are probably the most important which it is safe to assume will still be with us in the 1970s, as in fact they have been for many years.
There are other factors which can be recognised and taken into account, and I should like to refer to them very briefly. First, there is the "diminishing base" factor to which I have often referred in your Lordships' House. This has been operating faster and faster since I first coined the phrase several years ago during one of these debates. Malta, Aden, Simonstown and others are no longer available, and now Singapore, as one of my noble friends has said, looks like joining the list of those which are on the way out or are out. Strategically this may be justified, but I do not want to go into that to-night. However, something must be put in their place to support and nurture the amphibious forces which, in my submission, we shall still require.
Years ago, when I first went to sea, the world map was dotted with red spots, every one of which was a coaling base. Everywhere one went during World War I one found a collier waiting with open hatches, with coaling shovels and bags. Well I know that, for I can still smell the coal dust in my nostrils, as I suspect can my noble friend Lord Teynham. In World War II we still had many bases, and at them we found the ubiquitous tanker from which to replenish. Since World War II the art of taking in oil at sea has been brought up to a fine pitch.
923 But this is not enough. Tankers themselves have to be replenished from time to time, and for this purpose they need a port; and while at sea between their filling up point and operational zone they are a constant liability, having need of protection and escort.
All this about bases brings me to the inescapable conclusion that over the next twenty years we must move towards a situation in which all our major naval ships and vessels are nuclear powered. I should have liked to see some mention of this in the White Paper as a long-term plan. After all, one of our fleet submarines which has a British built and fitted nuclear power plant has just completed a 12,000 mile voyage submerged, so at any rate we have the experience.
May I get back to what we shall find in the 1970s, my Lords? In my opinion, what we now describe as the newly independent nations will still be there, a little less newly independent but still new in terms of world history. They are exceedingly unlikely to have stable Government on the Westminster model, and they will still be sensitive to such matters as over-flying rights, bases, airfields, et cetera. Moreover, by that time, judging by what one knows is going on at the moment, they will have acquired, in one way or another, a frightening quantity of sophisticated arms. No doubt your Lordships saw in the newspapers that the mothers and children who are being brought home from Aden had to make a detour of 1,500 miles because of some restriction on over-flying. I am very glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, arrived home safely from Aden. I understand that he is to go back shortly, and I only hope that he will not have an unnecessarily prolonged flight due to restrictions on over-flying.
In the event of trouble there is a need to protect our interests, the main one being the safe and timely arrival of the supplies needed by the Free World, mostly, I think, by us. It is our declared policy that we are not going to fight any war ourselves; we are going to count on the assistance of Allies, with the United Nations and so on. In planning our defence forces for the 1970s we must surely take account of the fact that our main Allies are the United States of America and the older Commonwealth 924 countries. There are a few others, but they are very small and could give us only limited assistance. Alas!, my Lords, the United Nations has not yet developed into the world force for peace for which we had hoped, and I fear that it is unlikely to overcome its present difficulties and defects before the end of the 1970s. Therefore I think that in our planning for the 1970s we may safely assume that in the main the United Nations will not be of much help. Of course, the contingency planners have all these facts in mind and many others. I have not referred to the difficulty which has been mentioned by some of my noble friends about the German problem. That is a long legacy of the war, with the Berlin Corridor and the rest of it.
These facts I have tried to set out as briefly as I could, and I feel that I have done so incompletely. They lead to the conclusion that we must plan in the 1970s for three amphibious, tri-Service task forces. I do not intend to detain your Lordships by expounding my views on the detailed composition of these forces. I am quite clear in my own mind of what they should comprise. Some of my noble friends have mentioned many of the components which I think we should need. I will confine myself to saying that each task force must include an aircraft carrier. Here I may say that I have never been in favour of building the carrier described as C.V.A.01. I used to think that smaller carriers were preferable—I thought that you could get two or three for the price of one—but on further consideration I have come to the conclusion that aircraft carriers must be large. This is to do with the number of aircraft they can embark, maintenance facilities and all that sort of thing; but nevertheless, even if they are large I still think that their design may be simplified. After all, we are not going to expect our carriers in the middle 'seventies to fight battles of Midway or Matapan. Their main purpose will be as offshore air-strips.
I was further influenced in this view by the realisation that we now have the technique of building very large ships very cheaply. I read in the technical Press that tankers of 100,000 tons, and more, can be built for £60 a ton; and if we laid down three of them we should probably get them much more cheaply than that. In my view, such ships can be made to carry and 925 fly the whole range of aircraft likely to be available to us in the 'seventies, or even further ahead. Most important, they would have the speed, the space and the facilities to service these aircraft anywhere in the world. There would be no need to develop island bases at great expense, bases which would be even more vulnerable than aircraft and could be put out of action by one Chinese junk and a few determined men.
The cost of the whole Defence programme is fantastic, but this great country must, and can, afford adequate forces for our defence. What we cannot afford is a cut-price insurance policy. We have had plenty of examples recently in other spheres of what disasters follow from a cut-price insurance policy. I read this morning what (he noble Lord, Lord Bourne, mentioned: that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that we are going to take on another 7,500 civil servants this year, and that by the end of the year the total increase since the Socialist Government came into power will be 46,000–12 per cent. plus. If we can afford this additional burden of more people sending income tax claims to Samuel Pepys (there is no doubt that your Lordships saw that brilliant effort the other day) we can surely afford proper Defence forces.
Mention of Samuel Pepys reminds me that 300 years, plus a few months, ago the cry was heard here in Westminster: "The Dutch are in the Medway". The ancestor of my noble friend Lord Albemarle mounted a horse, rode to Gravesend and organised a spirited defence. We are not likely to hear that cry again, but we are likely to hear, as a result of the Government's present Defence policy, something much more sinister like: "Nasser is in Aden", or "The Chinese are in India". Noble Lords opposite will not have horses to mount. Perhaps they will get on an F 111 something or other and fly there. Let us hope that they find a concrete landing strip to come down on.
§ 7.54 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, in picking up the final words of the noble Lord who has just spoken, I shall this evening restrict myself to one issue only, the most acutely painful and perhaps the most immediately perilous issue of the day—our threatened, precipitate withdrawal from Aden. Five days ago I flew to Aden, returning on Sunday. I did this 926 because I had not been there for five years and I felt that some speaker on this side of the House should be able to base his words on recent observation. I did this not to argue with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but rather in the hope of finding some common ground with him from common observation. As all of us in this House would expect, I found when I was there that the noble Lord had won for himself the respect of those who met him. They found him a patient, attentive and sympathetic listener. He has left behind him in Aden hopes that this sympathy will bear fruit—and perhaps that fruit will be gathered after he returns there.
I am not going to set my two days against his fifteen, aided as they were by a Comet-load of assistant fact-finders—experts every one. But thanks to the helpfulness of Sir Richard Turnbull, in my two days I was able to see the High Commissioner himself, the Commander-in-Chief and other Service Chiefs, the Commander of the Federal Army; and also, most essentially, I was able to speak to some of the senior Ministers heading four of the main Departments of the Federal Government and to a number of Federal Government officials. For all this help I know how much I owe to the personal, almost fraternal, introduction of the noble Lord himself who, unhappily, had left before I arrived. The very intensity with which I had to use my time has engraved certain impressions, and the convictions of those with whom I spoke, on my mind.
First of all, I am certain that there is something adundantly worth defending in the South Arabian Federation. That seems to me the first demand of a Defence policy. And it is worth defending for its own sake and for ours. This is a debate on Defence, and on thinking out what I should say I found myself bringing in material facts to illustrate this aspect of the worth of the South Arabian Federation, the aspirations of its leaders to-day. Rather reluctantly, I have excluded this for the sake of brevity, and because such detailed matter falls outside the strict scope of a Defence debate. But I must stress that the men I spoke with were nationalists, in the best sense of the word. They themselves feel, and they wish to create in the territory, a sense of loyalty to the nation they are building.
927 In this context, I have two criticisms and only two criticisms, of the noble Lord in his mission so far, and as I have never flinched from his criticism it may be better to state them early and set them behind me. It appears that on arrival in Aden he had referred at a Press conference to the terrorists as "Nationalists". I was taken aback when I read it, and later learned that others among those whose interests he was and is most ably seeking to serve were taken aback, and indeed offended. I am very ready to accept that this was a remark taken out of context, and that at worse it must have been one of those vernacular slips which seem more fundamental and calculated than in fact they are. But it seemed to imply that in the view of Her Majesty's Government the terrorists, or extremists, to seek a more euphemistic term, are the true nationalists and patriots, more so than the Federal Government itself. The exact reverse is, of course, the case.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord was good enough to tell me that he was going to raise this point. As he knows, I am very anxious to say nothing which is liable to make my mission more difficult. Although I was exceedingly careful in my Press conference, there is always a possibility of misunderstanding. As one with Irish family connections I do not wish to suggest that terrorists are not necessarily nationalists. I believe this to be correct. But I certainly would not wish the corollary to follow; that there are not others who are not themselves pursuing courses of terror but who are not as determined to seek the national interest and therefore to be called nationalists. But the use of these terms is always somewhat misleading. Without wishing to take refuge in the statement that this is semantic argument, I fully take the noble Lord's point. It is terribly difficult to say anything, in Men that will not offend someone. Clearly at some time I may have to say things that offend some people. But I do not wish to erect any obstacles in the way of what I may or may not be able to do.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I completely accept what the noble Lord has said, and I take into account, of course, his Irish background and prejudices. From my observations I would say that of the 928 two terrorist organisations FLOSY is the paid servant of a foreign and power-greedy Government. Its two main organisers, Makkawi and Asnag, are better known in the world outside than they are in the territory of the South Arabian Federation, except for the villages of Crater and Sheikh Othman. Neither of them has ever visited any State in the Federation beyond Aden itself, and nobody outside Aden even knows what they look like. The rioters and ruffians whom they employ are not nationalists in any sense which we could accept; they are hooligans and unemployed toughs, in it for the pay and loot. They are almost entirely Yemenis, with no permanent stake in Aden. And I cannot believe that there is any connection between them and the noble Lord's ancestors in Ireland.
In the troubles from February 10 to 13, for instance, 19 Arabs were killed in the riots, of whom 17 were Yemenis and one came from the Hadramaut; that is to say, only one was a citizen of the Federation. In the view of most of the men to whom I spoke and who were closest to the problem, the other organisation, the National Liberation Front, are regarded as being more nearly nationalist in their character and composition; but this organisation also operates through terrorism, and was also spawned initially by Egypt; and the indications are that it is still paid by Egypt.
My Lords, these considerations, to my mind, come clearly within the ambit of this debate. The defence of South Arabia is divided between two separate commitments, confronting separate attacks, and these should be two quite separate responsibilities. There is no dispute between us across the Floor upon this point. There is no argument between the Federal Government and Her Majesty's Government. The attack from within, the immediate and so far unsuppressed campaign of terrorism and civil disorder, should and must become the responsibility of the Federal authorities. They are determined to accept that responsibility and they are confident that they can discharge it within a matter of months. Indeed, they will take over full responsibility in this respect in the whole territory outside Aden as from July 1, and this comprises all but 1/400th of the 929 territory and 5/6ths of the population. Nine weeks from to-day the whole of this area will become entirely a responsibility of the Federal Army, and well within this year they intend to take over the internal security of the Aden State as well. They cannot do so at the moment, because they are at a stage of expansion from five battalions to ten battalions, and some of the best officers and N.C.O.s are therefore engaged in training.
Before going further, I will, as promised, express my second criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his most valuable mission, in which we all, and I as much as anyone as he will know, wish him the most complete success. In his enthusiasm for the task he had been set, he stated (and this is a conscious paraphrase) that he would go anywhere and see anyone connected with the terrorist organisations. We know this to be characteristic of the whole-hearted vigour which the noble Lord puts into anything he undertakes. Others, who do not know him, saw it otherwise. To them, it seemed that we were ready to make a pact not simply with the Devil himself, but with the Devil's meanest and lowliest lieutenants—the Devil's hired assassins—in our desperate urgency to abdicate all authority or responsibility in this area.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am reluctant to join in at this stage, because it is obvious that any remark that I make is going to flutter a dovecote somewhere. I must make clear that certain of the opinions of the noble Lord, and indeed certain of his statements with regard to the taking over of security, are matters still to be examined and considered, and I hope that he will not press me on this subject. Certainly I said that I was willing to go anywhere and see anyone. The first people I called upon were the Federal Government, and I believe I established good personal relationships. I do not think, however justified it may be, that it would be advantageous for me to join in labelling anybody at this moment with a particular type of characteristic. Indeed, the terms the noble Lord applied to the terrorist organisations were undoubtedly applied to Irish terrorists who subsequently be 930 came patriots, and with whom the British did business.
I want to be very careful on this matter, but I would repeat firmly that if we are to achieve a settlement here it will be necessary to talk, and, so far as I am concerned, I am willing to talk to anyone. This, I think, must be accepted, and Her Majesty's Government are not laying down terms in advance, as unfortunately FLOSY has done. But Makkawi and Asnag are well known to people in Aden. Certainly there are those in Aden who regard them with considerable respect, and this will be found even in the Federal Government. Therefore I only say that, so far as I am concerned, I leave all options open, and I hope that no one will read more into what I have said previously or what I am saying now. I hope that I have made my position clear.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I think the noble Lord has made his position clear. I think that later on in what I have to say we shall find ourselves in some dispute, but I am sure the noble Lord will not mind that. What I have said brings me fairly naturally on to the second aspect of defence; that is, against the other form of attack to which South Arabia may be submitted, and against which the Federal Government and Federal forces cannot be expected to defend themselves.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord once more? There is one thing that I regret I did not say earlier, and I should like to take this opportunity of saying it. It is not only English lives that are at stake. I am sure every noble Lord will agree that the real tragedy of what is going on is the killing of Arab by Arab. This is something which is a great source of sorrow. Indeed, it is arguable that they are the ones who may suffer the most.
LORD ST. OSWALD
Indeed, I may say that one of the achievements of the noble Lord while he was there, as I can witness, is that he got his own personal concern across. That is part of the good that he has been able to do. But I have moved on to the wider form of warfare, when Arabs of the Federation may be killed by others from outside the country; that is to say, by forces invading the 931 country from whom they cannot be expected to defend themselves. It is in this sector that they feel themselves betrayed, and indeed brutally betrayed, by the present British Government. I am speaking, of course, of invasion by a foreign aggressor from over the frontier. There is no pretence, so far as I know, that they can deal with this. Yet our Government have stated their intention of removing the whole of the British defence which at present we provide and which they had every reason to expect would be provided for at least some time in the future.
We cannot, I suppose, nor would I wish to, go over again the issue of whether the British pledge to the Federal Government was broken or not. Suffice it to say that those who gave the pledge and those who received it both consider that it has been broken, as my noble Leader said earlier to-day; and so does everyone most closely concerned except Her Majesty's Government, who by some morality of their own are pleading innocence while the world cries "guilty". Great delight is given to Egypt, presented gratuitously with another means of discountenancing Britain.
What has to be realised (and I doubt from their statements whether Ministers do realise it) is that President Nasser will be content only if he can show the world—in particular, of course, the Arab world—that he has not only forced us out but panicked us. He is determined to rub our noses in defeat. In this operation he is obtaining, in the opinion of a watching world, the aimless, unwitting collaboration of Her Majesty's present Government. If he can call attention to the fact that we have broken our word, then indeed "bully for him" and his ambitions!
For us to-day on this side of the House it is not even necessary to argue from the basis of a broken pledge. For us it is clear that, even if that pledge had not been given, the necessary measures of defence for this new country would have to be afforded by a British Government. After 130 years we cannot pull out and leave, in a state of defenceless chaos, those who have been our loyal friends, who have stood by us when we needed them, and who undoubtedly need us more than ever in the hour of independence. What the Government appear 932 prepared to say to them—and I do not, I am afraid, care how harshly I express this—is: "You have been our friends. Because you have been our friends you are on the black list of our mutual enemy. You will undoubtedly suffer from that if we leave you entirely alone. Nevertheless, we are proposing to do precisely that." The language will be more diplomatic, but the meaning contained will be as raw as I have stated. Or do the Government claim that the new State would be able to defend itself against an Egyptian Army, with a modern Air Force, a force which I believe even now nearly matches our own stationed in Aden? They cannot possibly, I believe, claim that. Therefore, present policy means surrendering Southern Arabia to her enemies.
My Lords, it is inconceivable to me that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, would associate himself with the implementing of such a decision, after seeing the situation on the ground and meeting the people most closely concerned, including those, as I see it, condemned by the present policy. These are people as indigenous to that territory as we are to these islands. They are not, as the noble Lord now knows, a set of narrow, haughty men trying to exclude everyone else but themselves from power for selfish purposes.
There has been a rational appeal from Her Majesty's Government that they should broaden their Government. This on the face of it, and indeed in depth, is reasonable. Nor is it opposed. A senior Federal Minister said to me three days ago: "We will broaden our Government to the limit. That limit is bounded only by a determination to serve South Arabia. We cannot and will not bring into our Government men paid by another country to destroy our new State from within." I ask the Ministers on the Benches opposite, and their colleagues, as reasonable men: Can they deny that this is the attitude of the Federal Government, and can they ask more of that Government? I have spoken of our confidence in the noble Lord's own sense of justice now that he knows the facts. We also count upon his persuasiveness among his colleagues now that he commands the facts.
I think that perhaps little is known of the lengths to which Federal Ministers 933 have already gone in their endeavour to broaden their Government. I have been shown, on a Minister's personal file, a letter to him from Mr. Asnag, who has been mentioned by the noble Lord, written from Cairo on March 20, 1966, accepting the invitation of Federal Ministers to a meeting in Beirut on the following April 5, with the object of bringing four Ministers from the Party which later became FLOSY into the Federal Government. That letter accepted the date, the place, the conditions and the agenda. But what happened? The Federal Ministers flew to Beirut on the day appointed. Their four prospective colleagues then in Cairo were ordered by President Nasser, at the last minute, not to go.
Mr. Asnag and Mr. Makkawi submitted obediently to their master. The other two, Naib Ja'bil bin Hussein and Sultan Achmet el Fadhli, insisted that they had given their word; that this was a genuine endeavour to form a broader Government, and that they would go. They were told that their take-off would be forbidden, and they replied that they would go to the airport—publicly restrained, if need be, from entering the aircraft. In the face of this courageous and forthright conduct Nasser gave way, and the two who would not break their word flew to Beirut, only to learn on their arrival that they had been dismissed from the Party. The meeting, therefore, as planned did not take place. So much for the contribution that FLOSY, or Mr. Asnag and Mr. Makkawi, can make to the South Arabian future. They are, on the basis of the evidence of that, foreign "stooges", and no more welcome to the South Arabian Government than foreign "stooges" would be in ours.
My Lords, I make no apology for bringing such political considerations into a Defence debate, because the first essential of Defence on this internal front is strong Government, and I do not believe that the present Federal Ministers should be urged to expand or broaden their Government by taking in catspaws of the principal enemy of their country. That is weakened Government. To broaden it, of course, by bringing in delegates from the Eastern Protectorate, would be a very different matter; but I see small chance of their adherence while the pre 934 sent uncertainty continues. But if the noble Lord can achieve that, or some other broadening, then I shall look forward to being the first to congratulate him.
In my remaining words I shall ask the Government some direct questions, and I shall touch upon what I very personally believe could be done. My belief does not entail anything very extravagant, and its object is in fact to prevent extravagant losses. Honour and our own national interest are closely involved in this outcome, and I do not concede that the two are divisible. "Honour" may be an old-fashioned word in sophisticated political exchanges to-day, but that does not devalue its concrete importance in negotiation. The repute of negotiators, the credibility of their utterance, may hang upon the importance they give to it. That is especially true in the Middle East, where honour is not regarded as an old-fashioned term.
In immediate physical terms Britain stands to lose a great deal if Aden passes into hostile hands and its facilities are either confiscated or refused to us. For instance, last year Khormaksar Airport was the largest, or the most intensely used, R.A.F. aerodrome outside Britain. Aden itself was the second largest bunkering port in the world, after New York. The British Petroleum refinery supplies 3 million tons of fuel a year, which is one-fith of its total world bunkering service. To replace that refinery in another part of the world would cost £50 million, about £35 million of which would be, as I understand it, in foreign exchange.
I have asked in advance, do the Government accept these figures, because I understand that they are figures which have been submitted to them and, of course they have the means of checking them? Have they measured these figures against what they would expect to save by total withdrawal? In a different context, what have they done so far by way of preparing the Federal State for its own self-protection? I know that the assistance given to double the Federal Army has been appreciated and effective, but what of the air component? When will the complete force of jet Provosts, in particular, and also the other aircraft and helicopters, be delivered? When will all, or even some, of the necessary pilots be 935 trained? I ask this because I understand that the delivery dates and the dates for completion of training are long after any date so far mooted for the last British Serviceman to leave Aden.
What is to be done in training the Federal Army in British intelligence techniques? Will intelligence material and facilities be handed over to the Federal Army when they take over their responsibilities? Can the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who is to reply, say that anything has been done as yet to train them in British intelligence skills and procedures? This is a vitally important question, because it is cardinal to the success, the effectiveness, of internal defence, which is to be taken over in the very near future by the Federal Government.
My Lords, to widen my inquiries, what do the Government think would be the consequences of total withdrawal? That is not only a fair question, but it is one which we are obliged to ask and which the Government, it seems to me, are obliged to answer. What they propose has been a sudden, unforeseeable, shattering, twist of British policy. It is not too much to say that those most concerned, the prospective victims, were dazed and disbelieving. It is a compliment to this country that they should he so disbelieving. It is not a treatment that admirers and collaborators of Britain had ever conceived at the hands of Britain. So, on their behalf and ours we are bound to ask, where do the Government suppose that this policy will lead?
Are they satisfied that it will not lead to the invasion and conquest of Aden? I suggest that, looking facts in the face, they must conclude, with others, that their declared intention, if carried out, would almost certainly lead to that. And where would it lead beyond? Eastward across the breadth of Arabia, pursuing us into our new bolt-holes in the Gulf—to our stopgap bases, Sharja and Bahrein? Are the Government entirely saguine that this does not describe the probable course of events?
I find it hard to believe that present Ministers would not find the same answers to these questions as I do, and those answers would bring about a change of policy. This would mean the Government swallowing some of their words. Every Government has to swallow some 936 of its words, and in all friendliness I should have thought that the present Government had developed the digestion of a healthy camel in this respect. This would be a recasting of policy which no thoughtful politician could deride. It would manifest strength of purpose, not infirmity.
In a situation infinitely complicated I believe that the minimum essentials are relatively clear-cut: the essentials of freedom in Southern Arabia and of honour for us. After 130 years of total responsibility, we cannot give a few calendar months of notice of our complete withdrawal. The first necessary steps have already been taken: I mean the preparation of the Federal Army and the handing over of the internal security task. Gratitude will long remain in Southern Arabia for the work of such regiments as the Cameronians and, now, the Northumberland Fusiliers. There is nothing new in saying that they have aquitted themselves magnificently in the difficult, disagreeable and dangerous role they have been required to play. There is something new—and I think something necessary—in saying that needless handicaps have been imposed upon them, and that their effectiveness has been needlessly limited. Yet this I believe to be true. The technique, the discipline of minimum force, is I am sure, right. But once arrests have been made with minimum force they should be followed up by action, and by punitive action which hurts the proved offender. That has not been done and is not being done.
There are to-day several hundred prisoners in Mansura prison, most of them murderers or attempted murderers, who have not the faintest anxiety for their future and, by the look of it, need have no anxiety. Hundreds have been arrested; none has been even prosecuted. The reason for this is a public and official acceptance of the fact that under trial by jury most, if not all, of the jurors would be too intimidated to do their job and give a verdict of guilty. While these conditions prevail Her Majesty's Government, through their representatives in Aden, are not punishing those dangerous men, they are protecting them. This is not a rush to Judgment—it is a cringing from judgment. Will not Her Majesty's Government have to begin to think in terms of introducing some emergency 937 regulations, so that this leniency, amounting almost to exoneration, will no longer continue to encourage murder?
I believe, with others, that the first thing to be done is to restore public order, to restore a situation in which innocent men and women do not walk in fear of their lives, and murderers have cause to fear punishment. This can be done either sooner, by British troops, as we should all prefer, or later, by the Federal troops, when they take over in Aden State. By then the death roll may be longer, and public confidence harder to re-create.
Once order has been restored, as I am certain it can be, there still remains the danger of invasion, after our departure and so long as Nasser rules in the neighbouring Yemen. It is 80 miles by road from Taiz, just beyond the Yemeni frontier, to Aden itself. At Taiz there is a well-equipped Egyptian force, including armour, separate from the 40,000 or 50,000 men engaged with the Royalists. Indeed, as my noble friend said earlier it is the presence of Egypt in Yemen as a base which enables Nasser to cause confusion and intimidation in Aden. through control of Radio Sa'ana and Radio Taiz, and the constant passage of money and arms across the border. In fact the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, spoke to-day of the sophisticated nature of the weapons which were arriving for the terrorists over that border. It is the rich plum of Aden which keeps Nasser in the Yemen. Once he is convincingly denied, and for some clear time ahead, the plucking of this prestigious and strategic plum, which he now anticipates within a twelve-month, he will pull out of Yemen. With an ill-grace he will leave our friends and supporters in the Federation to build their new country as they desire. This would be a case, as instanced by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, in his impressive maiden speech, of British forces preventing warfare by being on the spot.
There is more than one formula in my mind for achieving this, but each effective formula that I can envisage contains a continuing British presence in Aden, if only in the form of air power, beyond Independence. This cannot conceivably be an indefinite presence, an indefinite undertaking. The South Arabians themselves would not ask for that. I think 938 it must be tied in some way to the intrusive and bitterly resented presence of Egypt in the Yemen. It could be a treaty in terms as bald as that, for South Arabia has only one enemy of significance. It could be an undertaking to remain for three years, with an option to vary that date by mutual agreement, which would he understood to mean the same thing. Whatever British forces remain would he guarding our interests in the Gulf, as well as the very life of the new country we have established and in which, one day, we may take as great a pride as we do in other free nations of the former Empire. The fate of South Arabia hangs at this moment between salvation and sacrifice. It may be for Ministers opposite and their colleagues to determine which will transpire.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, it is not often one has the privilege of listening to such a valuable and well informed speech, if I may say so, as that given by my noble friend. I am only sorry that so few of us were here to listen to it. After the many interesting speeches, particularly on military strategy and deployment, that we have heard so far—and no doubt there are many powerful speeches still to come—I should like to touch briefly on a subject which I believe has not yet been covered fully, and that is the procurement of military aircraft.
Anyone who has studied the Defence Estimates, who has read recent Hansards and who has talked to those in the British aircraft industry would, I am sure, agree that the success of the Government's controlling policy is in grave doubt. But whereas the general policy is in grave doubt, the specific policy for strategic strike reconnaissance aircraft appears, in my view, to be near collapse. The reason for that is the uncertain future of the A.F.V.G. project. This project, as the House will be aware, was born in 1965, was acclaimed in 1966 as the core of the Government's future policy, and yet still has to get its specification agreed between the countries. The problem of the specification, perhaps rather like that of the TSR 2, is that both countries appear to want it for differing reasons, the French for an interceptor aircraft and the British as a bomber, and no specification can 939 apparently suit both of these in one aircraft.
In recent months, the French have appeared to somewhat cool off from the project, and one reads of attempts being made to interest the Germans. But should the French pull out and should the Germans not participate, what will become of this project? Does Britain intend to "go it alone" in this field, or will it have to turn and buy more F 111s? I hope the noble Lord, when he comes to reply to-night, will be able to comment on this project and help clear the smokescreen of verbiage which has surrounded the project during the last few weeks. Can he say, for instance, whether a target date has been fixed for an agreed specification and what interest has been shown in this aircraft by other countries?
When one studies the list of military aircraft in the Defence Estimates one finds that almost the only new aircraft that has come through its entire production programme unscathed by criticism and rumour is the American Phantom aircraft, which, as the House will recall, is due to enter service in 1968. It is perhaps a strange quirk of irony that the present Government are not able with any conscience to accept congratulations for this order, because, like so many good things, it was a contract they inherited from the previous Administration and one in which my noble friend Lord Jellicoe played such a leading role. Before leaving this almost unique success story of aircraft procurement, may I ask the noble Lord what is the up-to-date percentage of British equipment installed in this Phantom order, and what is the estimated rise in cost of the aircraft since the order was originally placed?
Turning briefly to the F 111 aircraft, which I appreciate was dealt with most fully in another place yesterday, I would point out that there is one feature which I believe is now beyond dispute, and that is the fact that this is the only aircraft available to-day to meet the requirements of the Royal Air Force. With this in mind, it was interesting to read only the other day that Air Chief Marshal, Sir Wallace Kyle, Chief of Bomber Command, was asked in America about the 50 F 111 aircraft that have been ordered and was quoted as saying: "This does 940 not necessarily mean it will be the end." In other words, we presume this is not necessarily the final order. Perhaps the noble Lord when he comes to reply would comment on this point. And may I suggest that if there is to be a further order the opportunity should be taken now, before the cost rises?
I would now turn to certain specific questions on the F 111. I am wondering whether the noble Lord can now tell us more about the technical support arrangements for this aircraft. It is my information that no British firm has yet been invited to tender as a sister or daughter firm to the prime contractor, and in view of the comparatively short lime that now remains I should be grateful if the noble Lord could indicate the Government's intentions in this matter. I may remind him that the Phantom order in this context was placed with Hawker Siddeley some years ago. The other specific question on the F 111 concerns the automatic test equipment. As I understand it, this considerable order, which comes to something like 15 million dollars, will be awarded either to a British firm, Elliott Automation, or an American firm, Emersons. Her Majesty's Government will no doubt have in mind the many advantages that will obviously accrue if it can be placed with a British firm. I would ask the Government tonight whether they can confirm that members of the Ministry of Technology have been to both the British and the American companies to evaluate this order; and are the Government, under the contract on the F 111, perfectly free to place this order wherever they wish?
I should like finally to inquire very briefly on the Anglo-French Jaguar project. Not much, I believe, has been disclosed in recent months as to the advance of this project, but perhaps the noble Lord could advise us what is the total of research and development costs so far committed by the British Government in this project. As I said at the beginning of my short intervention, I believe the present military procurement policy is going through a most shaky period. It is not the first time that a Government has faced such a shaky military policy, but it is, I suggest, the first time that the central core of any Government's policy has proved so suspect and so rotten.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, first of all I should like to join in the congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, on his very excellent maiden speech. There have been many speakers and there are more to come in this very important debate, and nearly all the points which I had in mind have been well and truly covered. Therefore I shall be very brief and stress only what I consider to be important factors affecting the Reserve Forces, and in particular A.V.R. III, which has hardly been mentioned during this debate. I would urge the Ministry of Defence to be flexible and try to remember that particular areas have special needs. Standardisation and centralisation for their own sakes may be justified in the Regular Army, but the Army with which I am dealing is made up of part-time volunteers often widely dispersed.
This is not a good time to suggest any additional material expenditure, but I would ask Her Majesty's Government not to starve the Territorial Army, particularly in marginal matters, such as accommodation and the question of civil employee redundancies, which may not be strictly covered by the Home Office £3 million. Such starvation should be resisted, if there is indeed a serious desire in Whitehall that this force should succeed. I would remind noble Lords that it was only the pressure of patriotic people from all political Parties that saved the clay for the survival of the Territorials, and that there are still plenty of people in the Government and in the Ministry of Defence who would be only too happy to see the Territorial Army die of starvation. I hope that we may have a statement from the Minister in support of the Territorial Army. It would go far to allay this fear.
Finally, it is vitally important that those Territorial Associations which are retained, albeit on a vastly reduced scale, should keep their independence. As "Yes-men" to the Ministry they cease to be of any real value. Here, again, an assurance from the Minister would be of value: an assurance that the Associations will not be forcibly divorced from contact with local opinion. By centralising the professional servants—that is, the secretariats—and bringing them to a far greater degree into the military chain of 942 command, this result would seem to be aimed at. There is also the possibility of doctoring Associations' future legal constitutions. This tendency presumably springs from a determination in Whitehall that never again will the Associations be in a position to mobilise public pressure on the Minister as they did in 1965. I submit that it is the duty of all noble Lords to resist always the ever-growing introduction of "Big Brother" into what is still supposed to be a part of democratic Government.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, it is getting late and there have been many speeches, many of which have covered the ground that I am now about to try to sum up. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, will forgive me if I do not immediately follow him, but I do not believe the theme of the Reserve Forces is quite what I should deal with. I am dealing really with the 1966 Defence Policy, not that of 1967. As I see it, the 1967 White Paper is a dull continuation of a desperate theme, and it is with the 1966 theme that I want to deal.
It is sad indeed that the Government, like so many Governments over the last 300 or 400 years, have made a monster blunder. This has happened, if you look back in history, usually after there has been a long measure of peace. It is indeed sad that it should have occurred at this time, because whereas in the past if Governments made blunders because they did not understand either the need for or the potentialities of their fighting forces, there was usually time to make up the mistake before the situation became desperate, now it takes ten years to develop a weapons system, and we have not the time to make good the fault unless we do it quite soon.
This unfortunate theme stems, I believe, from the fact that the Government have not thought out what the long-term purpose of the fighting forces of this country should be. Earlier in the debate various noble Lords said that defence planning is complex. I believe it is complex only if you do not know what you are trying to plan for. But if you do know what you are trying to plan for it really all fits into place. You must, of course, look far, far ahead; and you must look beyond the stage at which you can make guesses, with scenarios as to what might be or what might not be.
943 There are one or two absolutely cardinal features for which we in this country need defence. First, we must defend our own country; secondly, we must help our allies to defend theirs; and, thirdly, we must ensure peace in those parts of the world with which we trade. Those three features are equally important because, being a country with a great many people, a high standard of living, and virtually no natural resources of any importance, we must trade. This has always been so. People said that trade followed the flag. It did not; the flag followed trade. It was the East India Company which developed India, not the forces of the Crown. So we have to look to what is required to ensure that there is peace in the area in which we trade, as well as provide the necessary forces to protect our own country and, of course, our allies with whom we are so closely linked.
I would make one distinction which has not been mentioned before; namely, that there is a subtlety between the defence of trade routes and keeping the peace in areas with which we trade. The defence of trade routes is really beyond our resources on the scale on which it is necessary; but if we can keep the peace in areas where we trade, two things will come from this: first, our trade will continue to flow uninterruptedly; and, secondly, the countries concerned, mainly undeveloped ones, will be able to cross this economic barrier with which they are all confronted in order to make themselves self sufficient. By doing that, not only do we do ourselves a good turn, but we do them a good turn, too.
Your Lordships may say: Why should we do this? Why should not somebody else do it? The answer to that is that we, not alone but more than most other countries, must have this free-flowing trade Other countries could get by with losing trading facilities here and there, but we cannot. We depend on it wholeheartedly; so therefore it is beholden to us to concentrate a measure of our fighting forces to make quite certain that our trade is not interrupted.
The second point, which I pass over quickly, is, where should we have our forces? Of course, the answer is world wide, because our trade is world wide. And because it is world wide, our policy 944 must surely be wholly flexible as the years go by—and I am looking to the 1980s or 1990s, not just the 1970s. Our long-term policy must allow us to deploy our forces wherever we wish to in order to help prevent war in localities around the world. At the moment, as we heard earlier this evening, the pressures are in areas such as the Arabian Peninsula, and we have recently had them in Indonesia. The pressures in the future may be anywhere. They may well not be precisely where we think they may be. There may be some splendid new mineral discovered in some part of the world that nobody has thought of before, and we shall require to make sure that the trade in that mineral is uninterrupted and free.
It might be said: Why do you think that there will be trouble in these various areas? The answer to that is that, sadly, we are all human, and if people do not have some sort of restraining influence, if they get greedy, as Nasser has, or it they get greedy like other people might—I will not elaborate on that—they will cause a war with their immediate neighbour. Not only is this to the neighbour's disadvantage, but it is to our disadvantage, too.
If we establish this, the next point is, how are we to carry out this policy? Because we have to be flexible and have to work all over the world, we can only do this effectively from the sea. To do it from the sea, we must have comprehensive seaborne forces. We must have forces which include submarines, surface vessels and seaborne air power. We need seaborne air power for two reasons. One is because in the future we shall not have the bases, even the few remaining ones we have now. Whatever happens, we are bound to lose bases, partly because it is uneconomic to keep them going, and partly because the world as a whole does not want people to have bases overseas. Again, I am not thinking of the immediate future, but right into the distant future.
The other reason why we must have seaborne air power is because it can be shown—I will not go into details—that at quite a short distance from a shore-based air base it starts to become uneconomic to provide the air power from the shore instead of providing it from the sea. It is also a fact that what one requires, in effect, is a tactical air force, 945 such as soldiers will recognise, in support of your sea power. Therefore, you must have seaborne air power. You must have it for reconnaissance and for strike, and you must have it for a long time to come. And certainly beyond the period set out in the 1966 White Paper you will require it for air defence as well.
In regard to the 1966 White Paper, in cutting off the aircraft carrier the Government, by denying to their successors flexibility in being able to protect the trade of this nation, did a great deal more harm than am sure they realised. Because it takes ten years to develop a weapons system, we cannot afford to let the expertise which is built into the aircraft carrier, let alone the actual systems themselves, dry up in the mid-'70s because it will do untold harm to our country in the future. It may be said that we cannot afford the aircraft carrier. If we set our policy based on the sound ground of what we require in the future, and say that we must have a maritime policy to deal with the trading areas around the world as well as having the facilities at our front door for protecting ourselves against immediate attack, if we get that in balance, then we can start looking at what we really require. We require comprehensive seaborne forces.
I would question whether we require 50 F 111Ks. I think that 10 would be enough. It is, sadly, about a month too late to press the Government not to buy the other 40, but if they were businesslike about it they would cut their losses and get rid of them as best they can. We need 10 in order to learn how to operate variable geometry aircraft, because we shall definitely need the follow-on Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft when it becomes available; but, of course, we shall not need it unless it can be operated from the sea as well as from the shore. All new major aircraft in the future should be operable from both the sea and the shore, so that they are really flexible. As for the immediate future, the Buccaneer Mark 2 can do all that the Air Force wants as a successor to their older aircraft to cover the gap until the variable geometry aircraft becomes available.
It may be argued that if we were to cancel the 40 F111Ks this would be 946 contrary to the offset purchase agreement with the United States. This would be nonsense. As far back as I can remember we have had an interdependence agreement with the United States, in which we bared our hearts and exchanged happily all sorts of technical information without any restrictions whatsoever. We exchanged research and development techniques, and we have done so for ten years at least. But whenever we come to the stage of saying to our gallant allies—and I would hate your Lordships to feel that as fighting men I do not greatly admire our allies—"How about your buying some of our equipment because we are already buying a lot of yours?", they have said, "Oh, no, we cannot do that since we have a law against it". This was incredibly bogus, because they owed us so much in ideas and were not prepared to do a straight deal when it came to the production stage of the contract. So they owe us the offset agreement "for free", and there is no need to buy 40 F.111Ks to get it; and we should I am sure save the necessary cash in that sort of way, based on a sound future policy which really achieves what we in this country will require through the years into the future.
If I may briefly sum up, what we must have are flexible fighting forces which can be deployed where a Government wants when it wants; and if you have them on the sea you can put them where you want in the world. If they are not needed, then you take them away again. If they are needed, they are available to carry out the task that is required. If you do not need them around the world for a period, you just keep them at home while you are not using them. And we need, of course, the land and air forces necessary to work in with NATO, or with any successor which it may have, for the immediate protection of this country and its neighbours.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, will forgive me if, as an infantry soldier, I do not follow him on his flights across world strategy but confine myself to somewhat more pedestrian matters. I should like to join in the congratulations 947 to the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, on his illuminating speech. I remember the time when his father was Minister of Labour and had a great deal to do with the Services and in the run-down of National Service. Certainly in the noble and gallant Viscount we have a "chip off the old block".
I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow—a fellow infantry officer, and a Highlander at that—said about community assistance in regard to the Army at home. I should welcome any extension into the sphere of the youth services. I trust that particular effort will be directed towards the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, where useful work can be done; but it must be carried out at the lower levels of the Army units connecting up with the local youth clubs and other youth organisations. As for what Lord Thurlow said about the possibility of cuts, I would reinforce his statement that if the Government disband they disband for good. And his statement that in Scotland a man joins a regiment rather than the Army is certainly true.
The main purpose of my speaking here to-night is not to look far into the future, as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has done, but to come back to a more immediate point; that is, the provision of officers for the Forces. There are, of course, the Service academies and schools, but I wish to draw particular attention to the part which universities can play in matters of Defence. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that there is a very steady increase in the numbers of young men who are entering the universities. Great pressure has been put on the universities to increase their numbers, and the proportion of young men of the age group who would normally be going into the Services but who are now going into the universities is steadily increasing.
In Scotland, where the population is static and not increasing, the universities are clearly taking a very substantially larger proportion of that age group. They are taking every year a bigger and bigger cut of young men: young men who possess the very qualities of integrity, self-reliance and a sense of service and duty that are essential for officers of the Armed Forces. The pressure has already 948 been clearly manifest in the case of the medical services, and here the situation has been saved only by the introduction at the universities of medical cadetships for each of the three Services. But for the fact that these were introduced, with some considerable foresight, a few years ago, there would have been a desperate shortage of medical officers in the Services.
In the Statement on the Defence Estimates, we have on page 67 the statement that in the Royal Navy there is a marked shortage in the engineering specialisation. Of the provision of officers for the Army, we read that certain marked shortages remain—for example, among junior officers in technical corps. We also read of a shortage of about 25 per cent. in the appointments to short-service and limited-service commissions. Of the Air Force we read on page 68 that,Recruitment for the main ground branches is … still … 25 per cent. short. In the engineer branch, the number of graduates and professionally-qualified men who enter has again been extremely disappointing.There will always be some dedicated boys who enter the Service Colleges direct from school. Some of these will be of the very highest calibre, as they have been in the past; and by and large the senior ranks of the Service will always be recruited from such boys, rather than from entry by other means. That is almost invariable. But the ordinary run-of-the-mill boy who has sufficient intellect to get into the university will be going there in steadily increasing numbers, and there will be left for the Service Colleges simply the residuum of those who have been unable to pass the necessary examinations to get into the universities.
When a young man is at the university there is direct competition for him between industry and the Services. The competition from industry is steadily increasing. In the old days industry wanted graduates only for the technical and scientific branches. Now it needs graduates for management at all levels; for management at levels to which the foreman used to be promoted. Now it has to have men of graduate calibre brought in and trained by the big firms. In the old days salesmen could be taken up from almost anywhere. To-day the salesmen in the big firms are almost exclusively graduates.
949 An example occurred recently at the University of Edinburgh, where a young man was due to take Honours in Economics in July. He was "got at" by four of the major firms. At the same time he had quite a desire to take a commission in the Army. He went in the spring to the interview boards of those four big firms, each of which offered him a job if he went there. Luckily, we persuaded him to hold back till he could have his Regular Commissions Board, which fortunately he passed, and I hope that he is going into the Regular Army. But almost intensive pressure was brought by two or three of the university staff to persuade this lad not to accept what the firms had offered to him, and to stick to his own basic desire.
The image of the Services in the universities is definitely improving. We have got over the pacifist period which rather dominated us towards the end of the National Service period, and for some time after that. The universities would welcome the far-sightedness on the part of the Ministry of Defence in establishing Defence lectureships in certain universities. Each of these Defence lectureships—and I think they exist in six or seven universities—is working on a somewhat different aspect of Defence, and each will be accumulating around it a body of post-graduate students, some of them Service, some of them Civil Service, and some of them, we hope, industrial. The different Defence problems can be threshed out in an academic atmosphere, and they will contribute not merely to the thinking at the Ministry of Defence hut, later on, as they grow more mature, to the thinking of Defence problems in the nation at large.
The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, spoke of the Joint Committee of the Senate and Congress which has been set up to study Defence matters. Here, in the establishment of these Defence lectureships at the university, we have another example of learning from the United States. It was the present Secretary of the United States Navy, Mr. Nitze, who pressed for the establishment of these departments of Defence which have been set up in certain of the American universities, and the Ministry of Defence is greatly to be congratulated on studying this development in the United States 950 and on putting it into operation in this country.
In the majority of the universities of this country there are Service units. The university air squadrons have, I think, fully justified their existence by producing a steady flow of young officers for permanent commissions in the R.A.F. The few universities who have Royal Naval sections, usually based on their local R.N.R., have also been producing, so far as their small size has allowed, a steady number of both medical and seamanship officers for the Royal Navy. In proportion, the Officers Training Corps, one must admit, has not been providing so many young officers for the Regular Army. That is largely because it has been geared to the Haldane tradition and to the purpose for which it was set up—that is, providing officers for the Territorial Army. I think that its scope for providing officers for the Regular Army can be developed.
During the past few years the total number produced from the British universities has been of the order of 40, but now that more pressure has been put on within the universities the number in the pipe-line at present, due to graduate this July and to commission thereafter, is of the order of 54. But in addition to those who go through with university commissions—that is, those who graduate and then go on to a commission—there is a large number of young men, fully as many, who I would not necessarily say fall by the wayside in their examinations as they go through university but who go through to the Army without, for one reason or another, having taken their degree. It is often that they have taken the wrong course at the university; and rather than start off on another course, take their degree and go into the Army, they go straight into the Army.
I would also draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that these Service units have a counter-balancing value to the university. They contribute very considerably to the life of the university and engender goodwill towards the Services, both among the students and among the staff.
I welcome the announcement which was made recently by the Under-Secretary for Defence in another place concerning the establishment of a Royal Defence 951 Academy which is to exercise control over the Engineering Department of Cranwell and its counterparts at Manadon and Shrivenham, as well as the new Royal Defence College. By these means suitable young officers will be educated to university degree status. These colleges must be staffed by graduates and, if they are to be any good at all, the staff must have academic ambitions. In other words, the staff must be continuously interchangeable with the existing universities. The staff must move from these Service colleges to the universities, and vice versa. There must be a continuous change.
My Lords, university education and the education of the young officer of the future is going to be a very fluid thing, with movement one way and the other. Unless the Services maintain this cooperation in close contact with the universities, there will be in the future a very serious deficiency of officers of sufficient education and sufficient intellectual quality for all three of the Services.
§ 9.15 p.m.
My Lords, I am always grateful for small mercies, however small. I am grateful for two now. The first is that this long debate is drawing to a close. The second is that we have not been asked this year by the Government to approve their Defence policy. "Not too bad," I think the noble and gallant Field Marshal called it. Bits and pieces of it are not too bad; but as for Defence policy there is very little Defence policy in it: It is virtually invisible. Such policy as does emerge is uncertain and inconsistent, inconsistent at least with almost everything that the Labour Party were saying in those far-off days before October, 1964, it is of course, only consistent with "Tailor" Healey's need to cut his Defence coat from the rigidly-determined amount of cloth that he has managed to wring from Mr. Callaghan and his colleagues.
That is the note which we have heard sounded time and time again in this debate this evening: a note of serious disquiet about the uncertainties, above all, that hang over this whole area of our national life; uncertainties which touch and are tarnishing—as we have heard from many expert witnesses, and not 952 least the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Harding of Petherton—all three of our Services, or threatening to. That is the note which has, I think, predominated throughout this debate.
There have been some "noises off", some voices of dissent. There were the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who produced his new, watered-down, theory of "scuttle". Two years ago it was all going to be done in one year. I will give way to the noble Lord if he will allow me to finish my sentence. It is now a policy of staggered "scuttle".
I have it here, in fact; I was refreshing my memory:In 1966 we should contemplate a reduction of £100 million in our expenditure on the base at Aden and in our establishments in the Persian Gulf.That sum is more than our total expenditure in one year. I assume, therefore, that it was a policy of total "scuttle" in one year.
I have read it; and that was the conclusion I came to. I will re-read it, I promise the noble Lord. We have heard a voice of dissent from the noble and gallant Field Marshal. There were only two things that I was prepared to predict about his speech when I came into your Lordships' House this afternoon. First, that it would be out of step with the policy of the official Opposition. It was. Second, that it would hit the headlines to-morrow. It will.
This is still, whatever gloss Mr. Healey put on it, after two and a half years of Labour Government, a Defence policy in constant flux. I will not pretend, any more than my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition or my noble friend Lord Head, that these are easy matters. They are not. I am quite prepared to give the Government credit where credit is due. Of course, there are some certainties embedded in their constantly changing Defence policy.
First, the Government are clearly determined, having now thoroughly digested their 1964 words, to retain a British 953 nuclear deterrent ultimately under British control. The White Paper is uncommonly coy about this. There are only two paragraphs on nuclear matters in the whole of its main part. But no matter: the nuclear submarines continue to come down the slipway, spurred on by Mr. Mason. The second certainty is that, whatever else happens, we know that our Defence policy will remain within the rigid and arbitrary straitjacket of the £2,000 million at 1964 constant prices—that original snap decision imposed, I still like to think, on a reluctant Secretary of State from which so many of our present Defence ills spring.
I am not querying the need for a limit. What I am querying is the decision at that time to impose that particular arbitrary limit, at a time when the Government could not have appreciated our Defence commitments in the large and our capability to discharge them. And I fear that there may be another certainty creeping up upon us because of the Government's total failure to secure the increase in national production to which they were pledged, and because they are now coming under stiff pressure from their Left Wing. It is, I fear, only too predictable that pressure to make further arbitrary cuts within this already arbitrary ceiling will mount. Apart from this, my Lords, all else is in flux, despite the superficial tidiness of this White Paper.
I agree with some words—in fact with a great deal—spoken much earlier in our debate by the noble Lord, Lord Rowley. I agree that we may not now be a world Power. But I also agree with the way in which he put it: that although not a world Power, we are still a Power with world interests and world-wide commitments. What worries me at the moment is the Government's approach to those world-wide commitments and our capability to discharge them. We have heard from a number of speakers that our Defence policy in the Far East appears to be drifting and that this drift is a matter of very grave concern to many of our Allies. Last year we had those ringing declarations from Mr. Healey while he was on his way through Australia. This year, yesterday to be precise, we had some very careful words indeed.
We are now told that the Government aim by next April to achieve a reduction 954 of some 20,000 men and women in the Far East theatre working in or for (careful phraseology) the Services. I have no particular quarrel with that figure as such, but I should like to know on what assessment it is based. What worries me is that neither in this Statement nor in the White Paper, nor in the Defence debates in another place, has any coherent picture emerged of the Government's approach to their strategy in the Far East, to the part that they think we need to be playing in the 1970s and the 1980s in that part of the world and the equipment that we should need to discharge that part. All we are told, and that yesterday, is that the Government are contemplating further reductions over and above the 20,000 and that these will be explained to Parliament in due course.
My Lords, I do not wish to be a Cassandra but I am getting to know this Government. I suspect that in the last resort, probably just before the Summer Recess, we shall be confronted by some form of fait accompli. I fear that our Allies, too, may be confronted by a fait accompli. I fear, above all, that whatever cuts may be proposed will be more the product of passing financial, and possibly more permanent political, pressures than of a deep and, if need be, radical reassessment of our commitments and capabilities, that reassessment time and time again the Government have told us they were engaged on. I fear this, because we are getting to know this Government and we have seen what they have done in the Middle East.
I shall not speak about the Middle East. My noble friend Lord St. Oswald has had his say—almost more than his say—on that subject. But I should like to add my voice to the voices of many of your Lordships in wishing the noble Lord—I am almost inclined to say in this respect, our noble friend—Lord Shackleton well in the mission on which he is in mid-course. I am sure that all of us join in that sentiment, and I am sure, too, that we have been impressed by the largeness of view and the moderation which he is bringing to this very important task. We wish him well on this mission, we deplore its necessity and we deplore the fact that it is the Government's actions which have caused this mission to be necessary.
955 Nowhere are the inconsistencies and uncertainties of the Government's Defence policy more clearly seen than in Western Europe. Nowhere is their failure closely and coherently to relate the military, political and economic aspects of their policies more clearly to be seen. Nowhere is the pre-eminence of purely Treasury considerations more naked than here in Western Europe. As my noble friend Lord Carrington said at the start of this debate, day in and day out, year in and year out, in the 'sixties our present leaders when in Opposition deplored the weakness of NATO on the ground, in the air and at sea. Day in and day out, year in and year out, they pressed for a stronger British conventional contribution, through B.A.O.R., to the conventional defences of Western Europe.
Much of this still seems to be recognised by the Government, or at least by part of it. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated in the Defence debate in another place thatthe consequences of any ill-considered withdrawal of our forces from the mainland of Europe would be disastrous.I agree. Such a withdrawal, as the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, said in his remarkable maiden speech, could well start a chain reaction within NATO, already—heaven knows!—weakened sufficiently by the defection of France; the end result could very well be German hegemony within that weak NATO. That is the precise result, precisely the opposite result of what the noble and gallant Field Marshal desires, which would flow from the adoption of his policy of withdrawal from Europe.
Now that the Government are poised, the jays and the other cuckoos in the nest consenting to launch themselves into Europe, one should have thought that at least in this our leaders would have been consistent, that they would have put in the forefront of their considerations the need to maintain strong British conventional forces in Europe alongside our allies on the Continent. But this is not what we see. I do not see a considered, well-knit policy here, embracing the political, the military and the economic. For here, like almost everywhere else in the Government's Defence policy, it has not been defence or foreign policy considerations which have been paramount. 956 It has been the Treasury warriors who have been making all the running. Mr. Healey himself has made it as plain as a pikestaff, for it was he who said that:… the size of any reduction in our forces in Germany will be dictated by the need to bring the foreign exchange costs down to the level covered by offset and other payments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 9/8/66, col. 306.]There could be a good strategic case for reducing B.A.O.R., that marvellous instrument, possibly by 5,000 or 6,000 men, yet it would seem surprising that we should have hit on the right strategic answer when, by the Secretary of State's own admission, the choice has been dictated by other than strategic decisions. I must confess that the Government's reasoning in the White Paper—their ex post facto reasoning—rather worries me, as I think it has worried many Members of your Lordships' House this afternoon. We are told that the NATO alliance cannot very well be expected to prepare for a long war in Western Europe, a long, conventional, slogging match. I am perfectly prepared to accept that. Such a war would almost certainly escalate into the nuclear sooner rather than later.
But there is a grey area here. What worries me is that Mr. Healey sees all this in black and white. At one end of the spectrum, an attack which even depleted NATO conventional forces could contain by conventional means, "at the lowest level of military force"—a batallion or two gone berserk. At the other end of the spectrum, the unthinkable, and therefore impossible, nuclear holocaust. Is life, is military choice, always so cut and dried, so black and white, as this? We are told confidently in the White Paper that:it is recognised that aggression at any level will always be met by an appropriate military response.Is it so recognised? Recognised by whom? And what will the appropriate NATO response be if the attack is at a rather higher level than the lowest level of conventional military strength? These are difficult and puzzling questions. That is why I find the sublime confidence of the White Paper so disturbing.
Would it not be wiser to admit that we are all fallible in this area—the Russians included—and leave a rather wider margin of error? Is it wise, is it 957 rational, to confront the Alliance with this stark choice between abdication and self-incineration in all cases save Mr. Healey's chosen circumstance—attack by accident at the lowest level of military force"?Would it not be wiser, by keeping our conventional guard stronger, to widen our conventional non-nuclear options? Would that not increase the efficacy of the nuclear deterrent itself? Should we not strain every nerve to put NATO in a strategic posture whereby if the Alliance is faced with a choice in the grey area there is time for us, and for those on the other side of the hill, to reflect on the awful consequences of escalation?
But, no; Mr. Healey is confident. Having preached for all those hard years in the wilderness the need for an adequate range of conventional responses, now that he has entered into his kingdom, he seems to have embraced in all its terrible and I believe, deceptive simplicity the trip-wire strategy of Dulles and de Gaulle. Of course, he may banking on the pacific intentions of the new bourgeois Soviet leadership. He and the noble and gallant Field Marshal may be right here. Major wars between the major industrialised Western Powers may he as inconceivable to the present generation in the Kremlin as it is to us. It may well be so. But I would remind your Lordships that leaders can change and so can circumstances, and that there still remain vast and potentially explosive issues right at the heart of Europe.
Of course, the noble Lord opposite may reply (I do not know whether the noble Lord, Chalfont would; I doubt if he would) that the maintenance of reasonably strong conventional NATO forces in Europe reduces the chances of disarmament and arms control in Europe, which we all desire. If so, I would entirely disagree. Certainly such a reduction should be our aim. But these should be mutual reductions, mutually agreed. Unilateral reductions in our conventional forces, above all, unilateral reductions in transparent response to political pressures and short-term economies, will have the reverse effect, because they entail the surrender, without recompense, of our bargaining position.
958 I have sketched some of the uncertainties suspended over our commitments and our ability to discharge them. Those large uncertainties are reflected in the uncertainties surrounding the role and structure of the three Services. These, in their turn, as we have heard from many expert witnesses to-day, are gravely affecting the morale of our Armed Services.
My noble friend Lord Thurlow speaks with such weight on the Army that I wish only to underline two points which he made. We all suspect that heavy decisions vitally affecting the future of the Army are in the air. So far the Government's Defence Review and policy is nothing but a quilt of ad hoc, piecemeal, decisions. I urge the Government, if they are considering, as we are told they are, the future of the Army, to get down to fundamentals; to consider its future structure, if need be ad initio, in the new circumstances of 1967. Whatever else they do, I implore them not just to chop down the Army strength to whatever figures may temporarily correspond to temporary withdrawals, or temporary reductions, or temporary shortages of accommodation, or transient financial and political pressures.
Secondly, I would urge the Government to bear in mind the paramount value of our infantry. I hope they will bear in mind the words of their own Under-Secretary of State, which he used in the other place in the Defence debate a few months ago. He said:In considering what provision should be made for the unforeseeable contingencies, we shall no doubt continue to find that the infantry battalions in the modern Regular Army —and here I include the Parachute and Special Service units—give us as outstanding value for money as any other category of expenditure in the Defence budget.My Lords, an equally long shadow hangs over the Royal Navy. It is having an equally grave effect on Naval morale, as I know myself from only too many first-hand reports. Frankly, I can understand the feeling of the Service, which has had many echoes in your Lordships' House this afternoon. Having absorbed the shock of the misguided carrier decision—and here I am at one with my noble friend Lord Mottistone—the Navy was told that a senior Committee, the Future Fleet Working Party, had been set to work to recommend on the size and shape of the future Navy. That Committee 959 reported, I understand, in September, 1966—eight months ago. Yet, my Lords, we are told in this White Paper that new ships which the Royal Navy will need for its future tasks are being planned—that is all; no more; no background; no glimpse into the future; nothing. And that after all these months of incubation.
What the Navy requires, after two and a half years of Defence reviewing—I prefer to call it Defence to-ing and fro-ing—is a real sight of the real future ahead. It needs to know what the task of our Navy in the 'seventies and 'eighties is really going to be. Apart from the Polaris force, is it to remain an oceanic Navy, with world-wide commitments, as the build-up of our amphibious forces, and perhaps the build-up of our "hunter-killer" forces, seem to indicate? Or shall we go back to the role of a pre-Tudor Navy—coastal defence with a dash of fisheries protection, and conveyance for the Prime Minister's next Summit Conference thrown in?
It is not surprising that Naval officers, and indeed all those concerned with the future of this Service, are asking these questions, because as yet the Government have failed to answer any of the really crucial questions. They have not told us whether a small fleet of Healey or Montgomery carriers is to succeed the carrier force which they have scuppered. They have not told us whether in default of carriers, we are proceeding, along with our allies, in developing surface-to-surface missiles. They have not told us what lies behind their thinking about the "hunter-killers". Nor have they told us what their future escort programme is—the backbone of any Navy. We were told last year that the Type 82, for example, was the first of its class. Is it, or is it not, the last of its class?
So, in conclusion, to the Air Force. One would hope, when one reads that the Government have settled the broad shape of the future programme of Service aircraft, that the uncertainties which hang over the future of the Army and the Navy do not cloud that of the Royal Air Force. If so, one would hope in vain, as my noble friend Lord Kinnoull pointed out, because the Government have put their shirt, and that of the Royal Air Force, on the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. That project is termed by the Government the "core" 960 of their long-term aircraft programme. More. It was made clear by the Secretary of State in the last Defence debate in another place that, without it, there was no future for the aircraft industry, not only in Britain but also in Europe. Personally, I think those are strong words; in fact, I am inclined to think a little exaggerated. But that is by the way. That is a paraphrase of the Secretary of State's own words.
I trust that this important project will succeed, for a whole host of reasons. But it is clear that Mr. Healey has raised our hopes prematurely. No project study has yet been agreed. That, of course, is impossible, because so far there has been no agreed definition of the project between the French and British Governments. I was told only five weeks ago from an extremely reliable source that in fact there are, or were, five different designs competing for this aircraft. And only the other day we learned that the escape clause open to either Government has been put back 18 months or so. It almost defies belief that a project at this stage of non-development now, in May, 1967, could have been termed by the Government in their White Paper of 1966 the "core" of their major aircraft programme".
My Lords, I have spoken for too long and I will conclude. My noble friend Viscount Head said at the conclusion of his most telling speech that he thought that this country since the war had obtained better Armed Forces than perhaps we had really deserved. I am very much inclined to agree with that view. This White Paper makes the point in more ways than one—sometimes in ways it does not intend to. I hope that one day, even under this Government, we may get the Defence White Paper which the Armed Forces and this nation really deserve. This, my Lords, is not it.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, many noble Lords with great experience have spoken in this debate—this long debate—and I am reminded of a remark made by that great Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who has already been quoted once this afternoon, when he referred to a problem which he was facing in foreign policy as "a Pandora's Box full of Trojan horses". The debate this afternoon has 961 reminded me in some ways of that remark, but at this late hour in the evening I do not propose to gallop after all the Trojan horses which have appeared from the box, especially as some of them, on closer examination, by some curious zoological transformation, have turned out to be red herrings after all. But as the Government have been accused of almost unrelieved negligence in the formulation of their Defence policies it might be as well, even at this late stage of the evening, to look briefly at some of the principles upon which a Defence policy must be based, and upon which this Government's Defence policy is based.
Some of the speeches that we have listened to this afternoon have touched on the peripheral elements in a Defence policy, and some of them have dealt with the machinery needed to put a Defence policy into effect. We have discussed the organisation of the military establishment, we have discussed the morale of the Armed Forces—although I must say I think altogether too much emphasis has been placed on the rival claims of the individual Services, a procedure and an approach which to my mind is obsolete to the point of anachronism. We have discussed how the forces are deployed, how they are equipped, and we have touched upon—although I think rather less seriously than it warrants—the resources which this country has and can afford to devote to all these activities. But all these are largely peripheral matters.
If we are to formulate a rational and intelligent Defence policy, we have to look a little deeper into the problem than that. What is a Defence policy? It is essentially a complex of decisions about the size and shape of a country's military establishment. It is about the proportion of the nation's resources that can be devoted to the military establishment—a very important point—and, as I have suggested, the way in which that defence establishment is organised, equipped and deployed. The function of this military establishment is, of course, security; that is to say, quite simply, assuring the safety of the people of this country.
It is possible to argue that the only real security, not only for this country but for every other, is in a disarmed 962 world; a world in which there are no military establishments, except possibly in the context of internationally controlled peace-keeping. This is an argument for which I have a great deal of sympathy. But we must deal with the world in which we live, not with the world in which we should like to live, and the world in which we live is one still organised into nation States riven by mistrust and suspicion, and in which each nation State still seems to be prepared to use its military forces in pursuit of what it conceives to be its national interests. In a world like this it would be an irresponsible Government that abdicated from its responsibility for the security of its people.
General and complete disarmament is unhappily a long way away. With a bitter war going on in Vietnam; with a deep hostility between the United States of America and Communist China; with a wide and growing idealogical and political gulf between the Soviet Union and China; and a cold war in the European Atlantic area only now beginning to thaw and give way to a new climate of confidence and dètente, it seems to me unlikely that the great Powers can agree in the near future to any spectacular measures to reduce their military establishment. This Government can, and does, pursue the ultimate aim of disarmament; we can, and we do, pursue vigorously partial measures of disarmament, like the non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which are the first steps towards the ultimate aim. And it is true, in spite of what has been said by noble Lords opposite, that progress is being made in this field. There are still problems, even problems about the non-proliferation treaty. Success in the final achievement of that treaty is not just around the corner. But it is false and misleading to say, as one noble Lord has said, that there has been no progress in the last 15 years in disarmament. Of course there has been progress, and there continues to be.
How, then, do we go about formulating this Defence policy that will keep the country safe and must at the same time do nothing to conflict with the ultimate aim of disarmament and international co-operation? This, of course, is where defence and foreign policy interact. Basically, the military establishment and 963 the Armed Forces—and we realise this quite clearly—are an instrument of foreign policy. But at the same time rapid developments in military technology often influence what is possible in foreign policy, and the two are closely and indissolubly linked.
I think that one aspect of this subject that has been wilfully neglected is the fact that we must guard, too, against the danger that in concentrating too much on safety and security and defence we forget that we have another responsibility to the people of this country, a responsibility for their wellbeing and for their prosperity. This equation seems at first glance to be a very simple one. If we spend too much on our defence arrangements we shall have too little left for the essential needs of social justice and prosperity in this country. If we spend too little on defence our prosperity and wellbeing will constantly be at risk from the ambitions of others. But again, of course, things are not quite as simple as this. These factors are not mutually exclusive. They constantly interact with each other, and the search for a rational and intelligent Defence policy must be a continuous and continuing process. It cannot be a policy made once and for all; it is dynamic and not static.
In spite of the remarkably naïve statements of some noble Lords opposite, the Government, I assure your Lordships, have examined closely the long-term direction of these policies, and the continuing review of Defence policies that is even now taking place is a part of this examination. It would be quite inappropriate and unwelcome for me at this time of night to develop this theme at any greater length. We have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate. My noble friend Lord Shackleton, who apologises for his absence, has outlined the way in which the recent Defence White Paper seeks to embody some of the principles in our constantly developing policies for Defence.
I should like briefly to refer to some of the points that have been raised. First of all, let me say quite plainly that I cannot and do not propose to give detailed answers here and now about the final deployment of our Armed Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, in the 'seventies and the 'eighties, nor about 964 their shape and size and equipment, nor about housing and training areas in this country. All this, as I have said, is a matter of continuous review and detailed planning, planning which is even now going on. All the points and comments of noble Lords opposite will be taken into account in this planning.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Does that mean that he is not going to answer my question about what Mr. Brown did or did not say in Washington about our likely attitude towards our base in Singapore in the 1970's.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I might comment on what Mr. Brown did say. It would be difficult to comment on what he did not say. But when I come to deal with that point I hope that I shall be able to satisfy the noble Lord.
There were a number of points made in the debate which were made with constructive intent. Those I shall hope to answer. There were others—and I seem to remember one which contained a reference to the Government swallowing its words—which, in my view, were largely provocative and destructive and even mischievous. And I felt at times this evening that we were engaged not so much in a Defence debate as in a protracted period of Question Time—six or more hours of it. The fact that I do not altogether welcome this method of conducting a general debate may be of little importance to noble Lords opposite; but what I am afraid is decisive is that in the short time that I have left I cannot possibly answer more than a handful even of the constructive questions that were asked, and I am sure your Lordships would scarcely forgive me if I did.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned that the Secretary for Defence had turned out to be a better disarmer than the Minister for Disarmament—a happy shaft of wit, but not a very accurate one, because of course the Secretary for Defence and the Minister for Disarmament work together in the same Government. We do not work against each other; we are not in competition for policies of Defence or disarmament. We are colleagues, and we work both in the same direction and towards the same goal. 965 I will pass over, for all sorts of reasons, largely those of decorum, the noble Lord's statement that the Government's policies are responsible for the tragic trouble in Aden. I think that, on mature reflection, he may probably regret that remark.
§ LORD CHALFONT
When he speaks of the rumbling discontent of the Left Wing in the Labour Party in Defence matters (a reference also made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe), I find this a strange suggestion from a Party which seems to have as many Defence policies as it has Shadow Ministers, and as many strategic concepts as it has retired officers.
To deal with all the questions raised by the noble Lord would, I fear, take too long. I hope he will acquit me of discourtesy if I do not, for example, follow him and his noble friends down all the Aden trails. These are interesting matters; perhaps we can debate them at a later date.
On the question which he seemed to be particularly anxious to have answered, the fluttering in the dovecotes in the United States and Australia, about our East of Suez policy, I conclude that the noble Lord was referring to reports which have appeared in some of the more sensational organs of the British Press suggesting that we are about to embark on a complete withdrawal of our forces from the Far East at any moment. Had my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made any such statement, it would indeed have caused a flutter in the dovecotes, or put a cat among the pigeons, or any other biological simile that one might like to employ. But the truth is, I am afraid, more mundane.
My right honourable friend took advantage of the meeting of the Council of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation in Washington, to give the United States Government, and his Australian and New Zealand colleagues, advance notice of the consultations which my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary would be having with Commonwealth Governments during his visit to the Far East. He explained the reductions we 966 had already made, and the reductions we were proposing to make in the near future, along the lines foreshadowed in the Defence debate, and more recently those announced by the Defence Secretary in another place on May 1.
My right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio gave some details earlier in this debate of the sort of reductions we now have in hand. For the more distant future my right honourable friends made it clear in Washington, in Malaysia and Singapore respectively, that, as was explained in the Defence White Paper, the long-term purpose of our diplomacy is to foster developments in those areas which will enable the local peoples to live in peace without the presence of external forces. But provided they are needed and welcome, provided that the continuing presence of British forces can help, then they will remain there. I do not think it would be profitable, nor do I intend at this stage, to speculate how fast and how far we can go at any particular time.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question on that matter? I do not know that the Editor of the Sunday Times will be very pleased to hear his newspaper described as a "sensational newspaper", but never mind about that. May I ask the noble Lord to confirm that he is denying categorically that any idea of British abandonment in the early 1970s of the base in Singapore has been floated either in Washington or in Australia?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, the noble Lord is using tendentious and loaded language. He spoke of the "abandonment of our commitments in the Far East", the "abandonment of our base in Singapore". Of course the future of our deployment in the Far East has been discussed and is being discussed with our allies. As I have said, I cannot and do not intend here to speculate on the speed, the phasing of that withdrawal, and how any residual presence of forces will be deployed or where it will be placed. This is a matter of continuous planning and consultation with our allies. It would be foolish and irresponsible of me to speculate on that in the middle of the most delicate diplomatic exchanges with our allies.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, in that case the noble Lord has more or less answered my question. I think all of us must draw our own conclusions from his lack of an answer.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, the only conclusion I would ask noble Lords to draw is that we are in the middle of delicate diplomatic consultations about the future of our whole Defence policy, including our deployment in the Far East. Anyone who draws more specific conclusions than that may well be misled.
May I now pass to the characteristically pungent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn? I personally acquit him of any crime in quoting himself in his speech. I cannot think of a more authoritative source to quote. But I wish that we could get away from this habit of suggesting that anybody embarking on enlightened and imaginative policies is said to be accepting Liberal advice. This is a condition of political euphoria. That may be a comfort in the Liberal Party, but it helps us very little. It seems to enable the spokesmen of the Liberal Party to propose ideal solutions for any problem, however unrealistic they may be and however irrelevant they may be to current political realities. And then, when patient negotiation and years of international diplomacy has contributed to changes in the international climate which lead to a solution, they are able to say in the same way, with the complacency of a successful racing tipster, "I told you so". Really! One has come to expect more from the once great Party which the noble Lord now represents.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, all I would say is that what we said is true, and has in fact been accepted; and that is that.
§ LORD CHALFONT
As the noble Lord said, "he told us so".
I should now like to comment briefly on the extremely knowledgeable and constructive speech of my noble friend Lord Rowley. I know that he will forgive me if I do not at this time follow him along all the interesting trails which he pointed for me. Perhaps we can discuss these things at some other time. I should, however, like to comment briefly on the point he made about chemical and 968 biological warfare. I know that he is anxious that I should comment on this facet of his speech. I must confess, if I may say this without discourtesy to the gentleman concerned, that the views of Mr. Gunnar Myrdal on this matter are familiar to me, and I cannot characterise them as very authoritative or particularly new. Certainly the Government would like to see action taken to deal with biological and chemical weapons in the arms control and disarmament context. We shall take every step we can to see that these weapons are dealt with in that context. But there are signs that the international community is concerned about these dangers, and I share that concern. Indeed there was evidence of this at the last General Assembly of the United Nations, which passed by an overwhelming majority a Resolution calling for strict observance by all States of the principles and objectives of the 1925 Protocol on these weapons, and both the United Kingdom and the United States voted in favour of that Resolution. I hope that if there are any other points about this—
§ LORD CHALFONT
At the moment, I cannot recall exactly how Russia voted, but I can certainly look up the records and let the noble Lord know.
My noble friend Lord Rowley also expressed a fear which is in the minds of many noble Lords in all parts of the House. I can say categorically that there is no question in any of the Government's plans for the redeployment or the reorganisation of the Defence forces, or in its Defence policy, of defaulting on any of our Treaty commitments.
The remarkable maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, has already been referred to. I should like to refer to it again, because I thought it was one of the most remarkable maiden speeches I have heard in my short time in your Lordships' House. It was perhaps unconventionally polemical and pungent, but then, as he said, there is no point in getting on your feet unless you have something to say. I personally welcomed the constructive and fluent tone of his speech. I should like to join with the noble Viscount, Lord Head, in expressing some perplexity 969 at his curiously perverse remark about the finest regiment in the Army. Perhaps what he really meant was the finest cavalry regiment in the Army, because I am sure all of your Lordships will be able to identify quite well which is, in fact, the best regiment in the Army, and I am sure I do not need to name it.
I should have liked to comment at some length on the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, but as he is unable to be here I shall simply content myself with saying that it was as usual brief, constructive, knowledgeable and, of course, it had the supreme merit of differing almost diametrically with the views of the Front Bench opposite.
I should like now to refer briefly to the question of nuclear weapons—an important, solemn question referred to by, among others, the noble Viscount, Lord Head, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. The North Atlantic Alliance has at its disposal now a vast armoury of nuclear weapons, and the United Kingdom makes a substantial contribution to that armoury. As I said earlier in the more general context of Armed Forces and military establishments, these weapons exist because of the state of conflict and mistrust that pervades the world. Speaking both personally and as the Minister with special responsibility for disarmament, I wish most profoundly that these weapons did not exist. But I think we must face the fact that the maintenance of some sort of uneasy stability has been achieved since the end of World War II to a large extent by the nuclear balance between East and West, and the fact that in the event of nuclear war each side could destroy the other.
It is arguable, and I myself would argue it, that we are now moving into an era in which this balance is in grave danger of being disturbed, and we shall have to rely in the future on bringing the nuclear weapon more firmly under control by measures of international agreement, rather than on the simple ability of the nuclear weapon to maintain stability by the balance of terror. But in the meantime the nuclear confrontation exists. and the United Kingdom provides a contribution to the Western Alliance upon which, as my noble friend Lord Shackle- 970 ton has said, our security ultimately depends.
Perhaps I might take the opportunity here to reply to the specific question of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the Polaris programme in which we are engaged. There have been some delays in the programme itself, but we are confident that, essentially, the Polaris programme will meet the original date planned for its completion.
My Lords, does that mean that all four Polaris submarines will be operational during 1969?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, essentially, the original, planned programme, which is as the noble Earl has indicated, will be met. We have had some difficulties over the training facilities, but we have every reason to believe that here, too, all the problems there have been satisfactorily overcome and that we shall meet the main target dates.
But, having said that, I should go on to say that, in spite of the Smoke screen that certain noble Lords have tried to draw across this, providing such a contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent is a very different matter from trying to maintain an independent British nuclear striking force. I do not know how many more times we have to go on saying this. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has said in another place:We just cannot conceive of circumstances in which the United Kingdom would want to use nuclear weapons independently, and as long as we find it necessary to keep these weapons our clear policy is to internationalise them.Our V-bombers are already assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe; and when the Polaris force becomes operational it, too, will be committed to NATO and assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander.
There are those—not, I may say, on the Benches opposite—who suggest that this policy of internationalisation is not enough, and that the United Kingdom should unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons capability. This, I may say, has never been the official Labour Party policy, despite indications to that effect from the Benches opposite. If an action of this sort showed any signs of leading 971 to a change in the international climate and to substantial measures of disarmament, there would be a great deal to be said for it. But all the evidence we have at present—and there is a great deal of it—convinces us that there would, unhappily, be no such effect.
I should have liked to dwell for a few minutes on the subject of nuclear-sharing in the Alliance—one of the most intractable problems concerning the internationalisation of nuclear weapons—but I fear that time will not allow me to do this. I am indeed only too well aware that I have no time to answer many real, factual questions that have been asked here to-day. It will be obvious, I think, why; and I intend no discourtesy. The comment from the Benches opposite that perhaps the reason is that I do not know the answers is lamentably wide of the mark. If noble Lords are prepared to bear with me for another hour and a half I am quite prepared to answer all the questions that have been put.
My Lords, one point has been made tonight upon which I feel I must comment, in a somewhat disobliging way. It is difficult to provoke me into Party polemics, especially on an issue like Defence, but I must take grievous issue with the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, on his remarks about the Armed Forces. To suggest that the Armed Forces are in a collapsed state of morale as a result of the depredations of the Labour Government is one of the most breath-taking accusations I have ever heard from a member of a Party which, when it was in Government, consistently kept the Armed Forces short of equipment, over-stretched them and gave them commitments to carry out which they could not possibly fulfil. Under a kaleidoscopic succession of Defence Ministers the Conservative Government did their best to turn the Armed Forces into a "stage" Army, and it is that damage which we are only now beginning to repair.
Even if this were not an outrageous suggestion against Her Majesty's Government and their attitude to the Armed Forces, it would in my view be a disgraceful reflection on the state of morale in the Armed Forces to-day. The noble Lord has painted a picture of an Army in a state of collapsed morale. I must confess that I do not recognise this Army. 972 I do not recognise in it the troops who are carrying out their duties magnificently in Aden; I do not recognise it in the highly efficient and well-equipped body of men in the British Army of the Rhine. I do not recognise it at all. To suggest, as the noble Lord has suggested, that the Labour Government do not care about their soldiers is the most disgraceful suggestion of all. I am sorry to be polemic about this; but this was simply a series of accusations that I could not possibly allow to pass.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? The main purpose of my accusations on this point was the frightful worry about the future of the Army. It was not that the Army's morale is in a poor state in Aden, or anywhere else, but that the men are all extremely worried about the size and shape of the Army. If I did not make that clear I am sorry. Certainly I did not intend that my remarks should be taken in the context that the Army morale, from the point of view of doing its job, was in a bad way. It is not. But there is no doubt in my mind that there is worry in the Army about the future. I should have stressed the worries more than the morale. But I apologise; I did not mean to put it as emphatically as the noble Lord has taken it up. But there is a definite worry. If I can withdraw the remarks I have made about morale I will willingly do so. It is the worry about the future that I intended to stress.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I accept entirely that handsome statement from the noble Lord. I regret it if I misunderstood him. He and I are both so committed to the welfare and morale of the Armed Forces that I can understand that we both probably went a little too far.
In conclusion—and I really must stop now—the process of Defence policy-making, as I have said earlier, must never be static: it must be dynamic. In spite of what some noble Lords opposite have said, we must, and we do, look ahead to the way in which the international structure of the world will develop in the next 10, 15 or 20 years. As noble Lords have said, it is difficult to be certain of anything in the future of international relations. But of one thing we 973 can be fairly sure: that the world will still be a very dangerous and precarious place to live in. The growth of China as a nuclear Power; the dangers of the proliferation of nuclear equipment; the dangers of an intensified arms race among the super-Powers; all these, and many other developments of a political kind—as in Europe, in which connection we have heard the historic statement earlier in this House to-day about our own relations with the Continent of Europe—and developments of a technological kind expressed in the field of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon systems, will paint the broad canvas against which we shall have to construct our national policies.
My Lords, there are greater and more significant developments even than this taking place, with which I have not had time to deal in the House to-day: the rapidly expanding populations, especially in the developing countries of Africa and Asia, and the incredible speed of scientific discovery, especially in the field of exploiting natural resources. All these will be significant elements in what will be, unless we begin to deal with it now, urgently and imaginatively, a greater and more terrible confrontation than any we have seen so far in the world, a confrontation between the industrial countries of the world, with so much of the wealth and security and happiness of the world in their grasp, and the developing countries that are now beginning to seek their fair share of the benefits of science and technology; the confrontation, in fact, of the rich countries and their high standards of living with the poor countries where starvation is too often a familiar part of the pattern of life. My Lords, this is not as irrelevant as at this late hour of the night it may seem to you to be. It is against this background that we must begin to imagine and outline the foreign policies of the coming years, and the defence policy that will be needed to carry them out. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that he is getting to know this Government. There will be opportunities during a great number of years to get to know them even better. As I have said, this is a great and complex task that we are embarked on, and I can do no more tonight than reiterate, in the last few seconds of what I have to say, 974 the basic principles on which our defence policies are based.
First, and most important, they move hand in hand with our policies for disarmament and arms control. Secondly, they follow rational priorities which will enable us to make Britain not only safe, but prosperous as well. Third, they show to the world our determination to follow the principle of releasing precious resources from the field of military expenditure so that they can be devoted not only to improving our own quality of life but to giving hope to those countries where the quality of life is already so appallingly lower than our own. Finally, all our changes in Defence policy are made with full recognition of our solemn international agreements and in full consultation with our Allies.
In short, our Defence policy plays its part in buying for this country security, prosperity, and at a price which is not only acceptable to us but is relevant to the real and growing needs of the rest of the world. My Lords, the next 15 or 20 years will present a great challenge to Britain and the other great countries of the world. We are seeking a revolution in international politics, a new system of international security. The White Paper which we have been debating to-day claims to be no more than one of the early signposts for this long, planned road to a new system of international security. This challenge is one that this Government are determined to meet.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down for the last time, may I ask him this question? I fully understand that he could not answer all the questions which have been asked—his speech would have been of an intolerable length if he had answered them all. I would not for one moment suggest that he did not know the answers to a number of the questions, largely because my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and I had given him advance information of the questions that we were going to ask; therefore, clearly, that cannot have been the reason. But it is rather important that we should get answers to these questions. I would therefore ask the noble Lord whether he would write to each one of us who has asked these questions and send us answers; because it is fairly clear from the debate we have had that it will be necessary for my noble friends and myself to put down another Motion about 975 the equipment of the Forces, since we have not had the answers this evening.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, of course—and I apologise for not making this clear—I shall take steps to answer those questions which have been asked on matters of fact, and questions that were designed to elicit information, if I have not been able to answer them in your Lordships' House to-day.
My Lords, may I just add that I am sorry that the Minister has not found it possible to answer any of the questions put to him to-day about maritime warfare and the Fleet in general?
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at nineteen minutes past ten o'clock.