§ 2.56 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW rose to draw attention to the maritime strategy which the protection of our trade routes and the defence of the Free World demands and to the part within this country should play in implementing that strategy; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise this afternoon to draw the attention of this House to our maritime affairs and to the future of the Royal Navy. This is only the fourth time on which I have ventured to speak in this House on defence matters. On the first two occasions I was very recently retired from the Royal Navy and I had some hobby-horses to ride. On the last occasion, which was in March of this year, I was concerned about the Mediterranean and felt it my duty to take the Government to task on that occasion for their neglect of the Cape route and their general attitude towards South Africa and the Simonstown Agreement. To-day I want to take a rather broader view of our maritime strategy, in the hope that perhaps a little of what I have to say might find its way into the Supplementary Defence Statement which I understand we shall get before the Summer Recess.
§ I should like to take as my starting point the Government's decision, which was announced in February, to withdraw all our defence forces from east of Suez and to concentrate our defence effort in 147 Europe. In our present financial state there may well be a case for bringing back into Europe the Army, the tactical Air Forces and what remains of our strategic bomber force. The Polaris submarines are already assigned to NATO and I shall not refer to them again, except to say that while I am well aware how expensive they are it is my firm belief that we ought to have five of them and not four. Finally, on the European scene, there is one other aspect which I believe is very relevant and that is the mine threat. The ports of Western Europe are extremely vulnerable to mine attack. That is a form of warfare in which the Russians have for centuries been extremely expert, and it behoves us to keep abreast of the most modern techniques in mine location and mine detection and to have available sufficient minesweepers with trained crews which can act in emergency.
§ The remainder of our maritime forces I regard as being in an entirely different category, and I cannot believe that it is Her Majesty's Government's intention that our maritime forces should be confined to the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Western seaboard of the Atlantic. As I think I have said before in this House, our seaborne trade is not con fined to European waters nor to the Atlantic alone, and it seems to me extremely important that we should consider the rest of the oceans. It is no argument to say that trading countries such as Holland and Norway conduct their trade satisfactorily without large navies. They do so under the umbrella of the major Free World maritime Powers—up till now, ourselves and America. If that umbrella is removed we are all, in my opinion, at risk. On this issue I am in full agreement with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who only last February or March warned us not to march on Moscow, not to get involved in a land war in Asia, but to ensure that the Free World maintained control of the oceans.
§ This warning, my Lords, I think is even more pertinent to-day, when we see a large Russian fleet in the Mediterranean, Russian control of the Red Sea and Russians slowly but persistently penetrating into the Indian Ocean. This country is still a major maritime Power, 148 and the Royal Navy is still the third Navy in the world by a very considerable margin. It is surely up to us to play our part, not only in support of our own seaborne trade but in defence of the Free World. In my opinion that part—the part that we should play—should involve us in taking on the major responsibility for the defence of the Western seaboard, not only of the North Atlantic but of the South Atlantic, of the Cape route and of the Indian Ocean as far as the Western coast of Australia. The Americans can probably do the rest.
There are certain sentences in Chapter I of the Defence White Paper of February of this year which give me some faint hope that something on these lines was in the mind of Her Majesty's Government at the time. If I may quote your Lordships paragraph 3, sub-paragraph i, it says:
We shall, however, retain a general capability based in Europe, including the United Kingdom, which can be deployed overseas as, in our judgment, circumstances demand, and can support United Nations operations as necessary".
Again, in paragraph 17 we read the following:
We shall, however, maintain our interest in the stability of the Middle East and the Far East; …
My Lords, if we were to make these implied commitments more specific it would give enormous comfort not only to the Americans and our NATO partners but also to Australia, to New Zealand and to our other Allies in Asia and Africa.
§ Assuming for a moment that this was our declared policy, let us look at the maritime forces which would be needed to implement it. First, we should require sufficient surface ships armed with the most up-to-date anti-submarine equipment and surface to air guided missiles for protection against air attack. Secondly, there are the fleet submarines. At this moment in time the nuclear submarine has undoubtedly the edge on any anti-submarine equipment that can be carried in surface ships. The best craft at this moment to sink a nuclear submarine is another nuclear submarine. We have a programme of nuclear submarines of this type, and I hope very sincerely that this programme will not be one of those which is put back. May I remind your Lordships that the Russians have 149 400 ocean-going submarines in commission at this moment? That is over ten times as many as Hitler had when he started World War II. We cannot afford to ignore this threat—and it is a threat which will not be confined to Europe.
§ Thirdly, I come to amphibious forces. The only thing I should like to say about amphibious forces is that they are essentially peace-keeping. They are designed to get our troops into a threatened area in time to stop the fire catching alight. It is perhaps unfortunate that the designation "assault ships" was given to "Fearless" and "Intrepid". They are essentially peace-keeping forces. Fourthly, afloat support: this really depends on whether or not we have any bases left. If we have no bases and are to operate in wide areas of ocean, we must have auxiliary ships capable of providing oil-fuel, stores and ammunition to H.M. ships at sea. Fifthly, bases: it will clearly be desirable in this context to retain small maritime bases in those places where we are still welcome and from which we now propose to withdraw completely—Singapore, the Persian Gulf and possibly the Western coast of Australia; and, in addition, there is the continued use of Simonstown. Sixthly, there is maritime air requirement, to provide reconnaissance and strike capability with the Fleet.
The first four of these requirements—the surface ships, the fleet submarines, the amphibious forces and the afloat support—we already possess. The numbers must inevitably be governed by our financial resources, but up to this point the present shape of the Royal Navy is admirably suited to the role which I have described. The fifth requirement, bases, involves a modification of policy, and I will not labour this point to-day except to remind noble Lords opposite again of the enormous value in terms of peace and stability which even a small and comparatively inexpensive military presence in a sensitive area can provide. The Government themselves were aware of this in 1966 when, in the Defence White Paper of that year, they said that Royal Navy vessels
…give a visible British presence throughout the world often where other British forces are seldom seen".
I hope that your Lordships will adhere to that thought.
§ Lastly, and perhaps most controversial, there is the problem of maritime air. Much has already been said and written on this subject, and for that reason I want to deal with it as briefly as I can. In the context of a purely European strategy, it could be argued that the Navy's need for air-strike and reconnaissance could be provided by the R.A.F. from shore bases. This is never entirely satisfactory, but on grounds of economy there is an argument; and that is no doubt why the Government, who do not wish to go to the expense of building aircraft-carriers, are so delighted with that particular concept. On the other hand, no naval force commander in the wastes of the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean is going to be happy in the knowledge that his strike and reconnaissance component will be provided by another Service, and possibly from bases anything from 1,000 to 2,000 miles away. He must have his air-strike and reconnaissance capability within his own force.
§ The helicopter, about which we hear a lot these days, is an admirable flying machine for anti-submarine work, for amphibious operations and for many other tasks besides. I understand that it is now to be fitted with a weapon which will make it capable of dealing with fast patrol boats. This is all to the good, but it cannot carry out, and never will be able to carry out, the strike and reconnaissance role necessary for a fleet at sea. It is too slow; it has too short a range; it is too vulnerable.
§ I will agree that the £60 million aircraft-carrier "C.V.A.1.", laid down by a previous Government, had by 1965 priced itself out of existence. There is another point, which is that few types of naval vessel are any use on their own. We should have required, at the minimum, four carriers, and it would have been desirable to have six. Howexer, I do not believe it is beyond the power of British genius to design a comparatively cheap hull with a flat top capable of carrying a special type of aircraft to carry out this vital task; and this is even more possible if that aircraft is capable of vertical take-off and landing. If we are to perform our proper maritime role in the world to-day to support our oversea trade some answer to this problem must be found.151
§ My Lords, in conclusion let me say that I am not making these proposals out of a nostalgia for the days of Pax Britannica or from a certain sense of chagrin at seeing the great Service in which I served for 35 years reduced to its present plight. It is in the maritime role that we can best serve the cause of peace and give protection to our seaborne trade and to those who are seeking to further it in far away parts of the world. That much I am sure we can afford. The other thing I can assure your Lordships is this: there is no other country in the world which can do this particular job better. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will all be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, for raising this extremely important topic. He has drawn his Motion very widely, so widely indeed that it calls in question the whole of our defence policy with which maritime strategy, which also covers a vast field, is inextricably involved. In my submission, our defence policy should, in the final analysis, be based on sea power, a point which Her Majesty's Government are inclined to overlook from time to time. Where are our principal trade routes? Since the Suez Canal was closed, they are not in the Mediterranean. Therefore, I think the Government are right to close our bases in the Mediterranean.
There are, in fact, only two major trade routes affecting this country. The first is from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, stretching across the Indian Ocean to Cape Town and thence up the West Coast of Africa to British waters. The second is from Canada and the United States across the Atlantic. I think that the present arrangements under NATO are sufficient to ensure the protection of the latter—subject to the proviso, as the noble Earl has pointed out, that between the United States and ourselves we have available sufficient light craft, escort carriers and long-distance shore-based aircraft to contain and defeat any submarine menace that may arise.
I shall therefore concentrate on the former trade route, that from the Far East to this country. Here it seems to me that the Government have allowed themselves 152 to be pushed around by forces which have no direct relevance to maritime strategy. What might have been an orderly redeployment of our resources has, it seems to me, been replaced by the threat of a disorderly withdrawal three years hence, imposed not by strategic requirements but by present economic pressures here at home, which really have nothing, or very little, to do with long-term maritime strategy and which, in any case, should not govern it.
My Lords, since the end of the last war, Malaysia has been saved twice, and Kuwait once, by comparatively small ground forces operating under the embracing shield of sea power. I am not saying that the closing of the Singapore base may not in the long run be inevitable and even desirable. But that we should allow ourselves to be bundled out of the Far East in the full glare of worldwide publicity without any agreement betwen the five Commonwealth countries directly concerned seems to me to be almost incredible. Defence in the Pacific and the China Seas, again based on sea power, can reasonably be left to the United States. The defence of Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia cannot. A base, preferably in Australia, to which all of us should make a contribution in cash and in kind appears to me to be essential.
What is Mr. Healey's contribution? A brigade of Europe-based ground troops is to be earmarked after 1971 for emergency service in South East Asia. That is all. Apart from this:any forces we provide for operations outside Europe will have to be drawn from the capability which we maintain for the defence of Europe, subject, where necessary, to the agreement of our NATO Allies.Is it to be wondered at that this has brought pretty cold comfort to Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand? It is clear that the NATO Alliance must be maintained—and by agreement, I would hope—but I cannot help asking myself why there should be this tremendous concentration at the present time upon Europe where, in my judgment, the real threat does not lie. Why keep so many troops lolling about in Germany when we might easily build up a reserve for training in this country, and adequate transport facilities to get them wherever they are needed, without asking the permission of anyone?
153 My Lords, we have now made what amounts to a public admission that we are incapable of making any contribution to the defence of an area which is vital to us, and that we are being forced out of our present bases in the Far East before we have had the time in consultation with the four Commonwealth countries most directly affected, to devise alternatives. Sea power, for the time being, has been jettisoned. With all sincerity I beg Her Majesty's Government not to throw overboard the idea, at least, of a conference between us, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand; not merely to throw out bluff and loose opinions but to get down to brass tacks; not merely to present an ultimatum (as Mr. Healey did at Kuala Lumpur the other day, when he said that a single brigade is available and there will never be any more), but to get down to genuine consultations to see whether we can combine to make a base which preferably, I think—and here I think I carry with me the noble Earl—should be in Western Australia and which we should all play our part in building up.
Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam goes on. It has had hitherto the tacit support, and, therefore, to an extent, the moral approval, of Her Majesty's Government. Nevertheless, it was described to me not long ago by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery—and I have said this to your Lordships before, in a passage suppressed in the Press—as the most purposeless, most senseless and most cruel war that has ever been waged. I well remember when, 14 years ago, Mr. Walter Lippmann, not an inexperienced journalist, sat in my fiat, looked at me and said: "If ever we make the fatal mistake of landing ground forces on the mainland of Asia then we shall find it almost impossible to extricate them. We should depend on the sea and rely on the sea. That is where our salvation, as well as yours, ultimately lies."
I do not want to delay your Lordships too long. But I am one of only four speakers, so I think I might let myself go a little on this occasion: there cannot be any pressure on time. I turn now for a moment to the Persian Gulf. I have addressed your Lordships on this subject only recently, and I shall not add anything to what I then said, except to repeat that when we consider what our oil stake 154 is in this area, the withdrawal of the British naval and military presence—or its threatened withdrawal in three years' time—is an act of almost inconceivable folly.
Why are we doing it? The Rulers have offered to pay their share for the protection of their own vital interests, but what has Mr. Healey to say to that? All he can find to say is that we are not mercenaries. Whoever suggested that we were? The force here need not be a big one, provided it is there. It is not a question of landing great armies on the mainland of Asia. It has already repelled the attack from Irak on Kuwait, and. I suggest that one brigade, or even two battalions, plus a few frigates in the Persian Gulf, would be sufficient to meet the requirements.
Now, My Lords, proceeding on our world tour we reach Cape Town, to which Suez in its heyday may now be compared. It is by far the most important trade route for this country in the modern world. All our trade has to pass by it now from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan—the lot. Simonstown is vital to us. Yet Her Majesty's Government have put even this base in jeopardy by refusing to sell arms to South Africa, for our own protection as well as theirs. When I was in south Africa the other day my South African friends were dismayed by this action. So far, the South African Government has not gone beyond the stage of saying that the whole question of the Simonstown base would have to be reconsidered. But why risk it, my Lords? I cannot understand.
Finally, we come to West Africa, and find ourselves confronted by Biafra. Here was a classic opportunity for the beneficent use of sea power. We could and should, have landed a Commonwealth peace-keeping force, which the Biafra Government has stated its willingness to accept, on a demilitarised corridor along the borders with Nigeria pending, or during, negotiations. Instead, we have gone on giving arms to the Lagos Government, with the most terrible and shocking results. My Lords, I am sometimes surprised by the comparative—I almost said callousness, but I will say indifference, of the public in this country to the fate of those wretched people in Biafra at the present time. The Press has given far 155 too little attention to it with some honourable exceptions, among which I include the Daily Telegraph. I am going to read (because I think that your Lordships should have your attention drawn to it; it is not drawn often enough, in my opinion) from an article written the other day in the Daily Telegraph by Mr. Norman Kirkham. He wrote:This is a primitive, ferocious war which confuses up-to-date military tactics and use of modern weapons with tribal rites and a wide belief in the power of Ju-Ju gods.Report of atrocities and massacres have been frequent. I have seen bodies with hands tied and heads cut off, and other corpses which have been mutilated in other ways. There have also been stories of women raped, and many Ibo women and children are said to have died in the cross-fire of battle …The Federal Government has the whip-hand with an overwhelming advantage in soldiers, equipment and supplies. 'Hawks' among the leaders want to push on through the heart of Iboland. If this happens, the British Government, Russia and other European Powers which have supported the Federal Government with arms supplies and moral support are likely to be placed in a position of acute embarrassment.There can be no argument that the war has already degenerated from a police action to quell rebellion into a tribal bloodbath.My Lords, if in these circumstances Her Majesty's Government can contemplate with equanimity the fact that they have supplied arms in very substantial quantities to the Federal Government in Nigeria, there is nothing more that I can say. But I was thankful to see a letter in The Times, I think it was the day before yesterday, from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham drawing our attention, in a few pregnant sentences, to the appalling things that are happening, and happening largely as a result of our own action in Biafra to-day.
Her Majesty's Government deny arms to South Africa, and on Monday we are to be asked to impose increased sanctions on Rhodesia. But no one, not even Mr. Wilson, has yet accused the South African Government, or Mr. Ian Smith, of advocating genocide—in short, exterminating a whole tribe—and what is happening in Nigeria now is nothing short of that. The hands of Her Majesty's Government—not through intention, but I think through a grave dereliction of duty—are bloodstained to-day, because instead of 156 using sea power as it should have been used to stop this senseless slaughter, which they could have done, they have allowed themselves to become accessories after the fact.
I hope that these remarks will command some attention, because I do not believe that the British people as a whole realise what is going on in Biafra to-day, or what has been done and what continues to be done in their name. There has been nothing compared to this since the Black and Tans, and that is about as far as I can go.
My Lords, when shall we learn our lesson? Sea power saved us in the war against Spain; in the war against Louis XIV; in the wars against Napoleon and in two world wars during the present century. Lack of it brought us nearer to defeat than anything else in both the world wars. Air power in the modern world is a component part of sea power, no less and no more. It should be used as such.
I conclude with a quotation from a letter written to The Times by Captain S. W. Roskill, one of the most distinguished of contemporary naval historians. He wrote:The real need in 1942 was to close the 'air-gap' in mid-Atlantic where by far the greatest proportion of the enormous shipping losses suffered in 1942 (1,664 ships, totalling nearly 8 million tons) was incurred. That purpose could only be accomplished by very long range shore-based aircraft or by escort carriers … The long range aircraft were denied to Coastal Command because of the concentration on bombing Germany. When, in the early spring of 1943, some two dozen American Liberators joined Coastal Command, and a few escort carriers at last entered service, they at once turned the tide in the Atlantic decisively …The priority accorded to the devastation of German cities was, quite apart from ethical considerations, probably the most grievous and costly misjudgment of the war; and the consequences are still with us.I think I might reasonably point out that much the same thing is going on and much the same arguments apply, so far as the devastation of cities is concerned, in Vietnam to-day.
My Lords, I conclude by begging the Government to stick to first principles; then they will not go wrong. The old British Empire rested upon sea power; the new British Commonwealth rests, and will rest, on sea power. So it has always been, so it will always be. By 157 confiding our nuclear deterrent to the sea, the Government have acted wisely. Let them act as wisely elsewhere.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, if I am not present at the end of the debate, although it is rather a short list of speakers, I hope that the noble Lord who will reply for the Government will not regard it as an act of discourtesy but understand that I have had to leave your Lordships' House. I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, very much for drawing attention to this very important problem. The length of the list of speakers bears no relation at all to its importance. I agree with almost every word said by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who can put it much better and more up to date politically than I can.
I would suggest another way of approaching this problem. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, mentioned sticking to first principles. I should like to mention what I regard as a first principle, and at the end, quite briefly, to show why I think the list of priorities of the present Government is wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said quite recently—I think it was in the defence debate in February; and he was quite right when he said it—that ideas about the relationship of military and political establishments, the classic ideas, are no longer valid. He went on to say that the application of modern techniques and weapon systems, et cetera had created an entirely new climate of international behaviour. It is in that setting that I suggest it is not much good looking too far back and it is better to look at the post-war situation where, as I have often said and I must repeat to-day, the present defence situation is governed by two basic factors.
The first is the advent of nuclear warfare. At present we have a nuclear stalemate, which may or may not be upset by the advent of anti-ballistic missiles. I sincerely hope not. The second factor in the post-war defence strategy is the system of alliances which has been built up, particularly NATO, CENTO and SEATO, of which we are members. Even the United States of America, one of the two super-Powers, is unable to carry on without allies at the present time.
Unfortunately, recent White Papers seem to have by-passed these two basic 158 principles and concentrated more on the cost-effectiveness mechanism, which it was right to set up and which has proved to be a very useful tool when, for economic reasons, we have to cut, cut, cut, but which in my opinion is not the best way of looking at defence strategy. I suggest that the first Defence White Paper produced by this Government, in February, 1965, was right when it said:Britain's defence policy has two premises: to guarantee the nation's security and to contribute towards peace and stability in the world as a whole. These two purposes are inseparable.Exactly: they are inseparable. But they have been separated. In fact, the second one—stability—has nearly been thrown out of the window.
I would quote another remark which was made in the July Defence White Paper of last year:The security of Britain still depends above all on the prevention of war in Europe.That is partially right, but it leaves out one very big thing. It leaves out the fact that Britain has nearly lost two world wars, not through in military operations on the Continent but through losing millions of tons of shipping by U-boat attack. Again there has been little discussion of basic principles and simply the geographical round-up of how to cut here and how to cut there. This has been said before, and I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for repeating it; but I am afraid than that is the situation.
The modern principles of sea power, curiously enough, have been better put by a soldier (who I am sorry to see is not in his place to-day), the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. Ten years ago he said:Sea power will be vital for the Western alliance, for any all-out contest between East and West.And he added:We must confine Russia to a land strategy.He went on in the same vein. Following that interpretation of the modern requirement for us to operate sea power to control the seas, which I believe is correct, it is very wrong to allow the Soviet Navy to establish itself in peace time in waters which we and the Americans have normally controlled. I think that it is quite wrong, or at least it is a very 159 serious diminution of our power, to allow Soviet naval bases in the Mediterranean and in the Indian Ocean. I mention these two areas because there is no risk of the United States Seventh Fleet losing control of the Far East or of the Pacific.
Not only have the Russians established themselves in the Eastern Mediterranean, but there will shortly be a near-vacuum in the Indian Ocean. Aden has been handed over, and this, in my opinion, is an absolute gift for a submarine base on the Indian Ocean. Now we have considerable friendliness and intimate talks between the Indians and Soviet Admirals in Bombay, Madras and other places, buying and selling ships and helping them to improve their naval defences. In 1971 we propose to hand over one more naval gift—namely, the Persian Gulf, another base. On top of this we seem likely to give up Singapore, which I need not remind your Lordships is vital to the defence of that part of the world.
The question of Simonstown has already been adequately dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. If we were to lose control of that, it would be terrible. The distance between Plymouth and Sydney, which would be the resulting gap for naval operating bases, is over 11,000 miles. That is too far, if I come to a little bit of method. The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, will forgive me if I do not enter into naval details (indeed, he would not expect that), but it is a fact that the farther apart we string our naval operating bases the less likely is a land-based air support to be effective. In fact, we shall have to have afloat support. This is not a new technique. The Americans started it in the Pacific during the war and, as the noble Earl has mentioned, Britain has a small Fleet trained. But if we give up bases at the present rate, there will have to be an even bigger and, in the end, more expensive afloat support machine.
I will not go into more details, but this leads me to various conclusions about our attitude to sea power and control of the oceans at the present time. Observing that the Soviet and China are our only two prospective enemies, and that China is not a Sea Power, I believe that our maritime strategy should be anti-Russian. It should be three things. First 160 of all, we must confine Russia to a land strategy. If such a thing as a conventionel war breaks out (I am not referring to a general global war, because that covers the whole field) we should use the sea to outflank, or take in the rear, enemy armies, as we have done many times before. The enemy should be prevented from using the sea for his own purposes. Last, but not least, shipping is best protected in escorted convoys. We learned that lesson the hard way twice, and we still live on nearly 200 million tons of imports per annum. Therefore we shall require naval operating bases both in the United Kingdom and overseas, at the other end of the trade routes and along them. Escorts must of course be combined sea forces and air forces.
In my opinion, the above three maritime requirements for the defence of this country are just as important as the land and air contributions to the Alliance, including NATO. As the noble and gallant Field Marshal remarked in our last debate on defence, the 20 Russian divisions in East Germany and the six East German divisions are not there to march Westwards. They are there to ensure the permanence of the frontier of Eastern Europe. I think that was a very wise remark, and I absolutely support it. In this modern situation, I believe that we ought to get back to that maintenance, contributing, with our allies, to the stability of the world, since minor breakouts can easily develop into bigger wars. I suggest that Britain's priorities inside the alliances ought to be these. First, to maintain the Polaris deterrent force; secondly, to maintain sufficient naval forces to confine the Russians to a land strategy and to protect all convoys coming to Western Europe. Thirdly, we should contribute to world stability by keeping small conventional forces in small bases—I have argued frequently for small bases—where we are still welcome, where we have been asked to stay: and there are two places where we have been asked to stay—South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf. In both of these places they are reluctant to see us leave.
This leads me, my Lords, to my final conclusion—that is, that these priorities are better than the ones which have been written in that large Defence Review, in which, on page 14, the Government say:We have planned a reduction in the tasks which we shall undertake in the 1970s and 161 we have taken major decisions about our arms and equipment.That is absolutely right, but I am afraid that they have taken the wrong decisions.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the three noble Lords who have spoken, and in particular my noble and gallant friend Lord Glasgow, whose raising of this point at this time is so apt, as he himself put it, in the hope that it may have some influence on the Supplementary Statement that we are to receive later. It is significant that all the speeches made so far have pleaded (if that is the right word) for the Government to reconsider and adopt a naval strategy; and, so far as I know, there will be no speeches on the other side, except possibly one from the Government. This is significant, because it shows that noble Lords in your Lordships' House who take this subject particularly to heart all believe that a naval strategy is the correct one for this country at this time.
Many of us have been pleading for this for some years, and the question is: Why? Rather than go over the ground that noble Lords who have already spoken have covered so ably, I should like to confine myself principally to looking at why the naval strategy is the correct one. Probably the point in time at which, looking back and using hindsight, one can see that this was becoming the correct solution was the time when Mr. Harold Macmillan made his "winds of change" speech. It was not necessarily easy to see at that time, but that, surely, was the point at which one could see that sooner or later we were going to have to move out of the permanent tenure of overseas bases and perhaps hand over our peace-keeping responsibilities to the United Nations.
The question at issue is when, and how soon, either of these things will happen. If we can hand over our peacekeeping responsibilities to the United Nations first, then a strategy which is largely land-based may be feasible. If, on the other hand, the first thing to happen is that we have to move out of our bases overseas, then, accepting that peace-keeping is still necessary, we shall have to be sea-based. It is not clear quite how soon this movement out of 162 overseas bases will come about, but I think your Lordships will agree that sooner or later this must happen, for political reasons if for no other: and we now know that, though this Government started by saying that they were not going to move out of anywhere, they have now found, for reasons which are not military, that they have to go almost immediately. So surely it is reasonable to say that, whether we like it or not, of the two things that must happen, the movement out of permanent tenure of overseas bases is coming first.
It seems to me that if peace-keeling is still to be necessary in the wider oceans of the world, it is necessary not only in South-East Asia, as noble Lords have said, but also in the Persian Gulf, and very necessary in Africa. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, made an interesting point about Nigeria, which I strongly support. In case it should be suggested that the United Nations might be capable of taking that action, your Lordships may forgive me if I recount an experience that I had some three weeks ago when I was in New York and took time off to go to the United Nations and see them at work. By chance—perhaps it was a lucky chance—a debate was going on in the Trusteeship Council in which we were being sharply taken to task for not freeing Swaziland more quickly and for not allowing rights to the Opposition in Bermuda—who no doubt would have rigged the elections, then about to take place, in their favour.
The two countries that were making this point so forcibly were Tanzania and the U.S.S.R., both countries with one-Party Governments, whose right and, indeed, knowledge to make comments on a subject of this sort struck me as being very doubtful. A United Nations which spends its time doing that sort of thing cannot concentrate its purpose on the vital importance of keeping peace in the world—keeping peace so that the developing nations do not have the material resources to destroy in large quantities, as has happened in the Congo, in Nigeria most recently, and in Algeria—one can string off the countries which have been allowed to go without proper support from a peace-keeping nation.
If the United Nations cannot do it, then other people must. My noble friend Lord Glasgow said that people 163 might suggest that the other European nations should do their share. I rather think that they should. I do not think they would do it as well as we should, but I think they should join in. This is something that we might work towards. It has also been suggested that it might be left to the United States of America. To my mind, this is not only unfair but wrong, because not only is it doubtful whether the United States of America could take on this vast task all by themselves, but it makes a tremendous difference to a country if it is not the only one that is acting as the policeman. There is perhaps a point—though this might strike your Lordships as irrelevant—that in this country we have police forces which are territorially based rather than centrally controlled. There is a similarity in that respect between having more than one peace-keeping nation at work in the wide oceans.
So it seems to me that logic—and we now find, also, economics—not to mention duty, forces us to the conclusion that in the wider parts of the world we must have a maritime strategy, and we must spread ourselves as widely as is necessary in among the countries that are liable to be disturbed, which are, in general terms, those that have a one-Party Government.
Before I sit down, perhaps in passing I should make brief reference to Europe, which has been mentioned. Here it is reasonable to say that the most important feature about peace in Europe, and the deterrent there, is the Polaris force. That is the European deterrent. There is no doubt good purpose in supporting our Allies in NATO on a limited basis, and in giving them the moral support that they require, but I would question whether there is a tremendous military need now for permanent forces to be deployed in Europe in large numbers. We are thus left again with the thought that in European waters, too, it is the maritime strategy which at this time we now require. And so, my Lords, we must ask the Government to forget the commitments that they may have made within the confines of Whitehall and to clear their minds and adjust their defence policy to reality, instead of the obscurity which they seem to have based it on heretofore.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, I intervene for but two minutes, if I may, to make just one point. I applaud most heartily the speeches of the noble Earl who opened this debate and of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, both of which I heard with very great interest and satisfaction. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said, I think, that the Government's strategic maritime policy had been dictated not by strategic considerations but by economic considerations at home here in Britain. That is no doubt generally true, but it is not true with regard to the defence of the Cape of Good Hope route, and he would not have meant it to apply to that, I am sure, had he been speaking longer.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
The fact is that we can maintain a presence and an interest in the Cape of Good Hope —I would almost say without any cost to our Exchequer, because it is a mutual interest between ourselves and the Republic of South Africa, and because of the old Simonstown Agreement and the gentlemen's agreements in relation to Simonstown which have persisted since.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, I have been visiting South Africa fairly recently, and I find that the South Africans view our attitude more in sorrow than in anger: sorrow that so great a country should so lightly throw away agreements and understandings of 300 years' standing. I do not want to shirk what I believe is the motive in the minds of some members of the Government, or at any rate of their supporters. I feel that it ought to be faced and thought about. This motive is not economy at home; it is the feeling that they must support the United Nations in a complete ban on arms to South Africa. The previous Conservative Government felt that the United Nations must be supported in a ban of what might be called ordinary arms, but it was this Government's predecessor, which was also a Labour Government, which within a few weeks of coming into power declared, through the mouth of Mr. Wilson, that the ban must now be extended from ordinary arms—that is, military arms, Police arms, tanks and bullets and all the 165 rest—to coastal arms; and the Government felt obliged to support the United Nations over that.
I want very briefly to make just two points. One is that the security of Britain and its relationship with one of its most important friends in the South Atlantic, and one of its most important trading partners, should be based not upon other people's opinions but upon our opinion. That is the first point. Secondly, there can be no moral obligation to avoid defending a coastline based upon the possibility that a weapon such as a submarine or a coastal defence aeroplane could be used for internal police purposes, because it manifestly could not. Therefore, there was no need for the Government to do what they did then; and, indeed, it was an unwise act. The best thing they can do now, in the interests of a good and friendly relationship with one of our best friends in the South Atlantic, and our second most important customer, is to make it clear either that they made a mistake or, if that is too much to ask, that circumstances have now enabled them to change their mind. I will not go into the question of whether they nearly did change their mind in the Cabinet a few weeks ago, because that might be too unpleasant for them to remember. But I do beg of them to take my advice, if it is not impertinent for me to put it that way, and to do this right thing now.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I should like to intervene very briefly at this stage, if I may, in order to reinforce the observations which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has made with such force and eloquence this afternoon. I believe that it is not just a question of maritime strategy; it is a question of preserving our friendships all over the world, and our power to preserve order in the outside world, that is now at stake. If the outside world relapses into disorder, which seems to me quite possible, then we shall suffer very greatly in our trade and we shall probably suffer more than anybody else.
It is interesting to look back to see why it is that we have got into the present jam. First of all, I should like to recall that when there was trouble in the Persian Gulf in the old days the 166 forces always came from India, and Aden was looked after largely by India also. India was close at hand and it did not cost the United Kingdom much, if anything, and the whole operation was carried out very easily and quickly. When India became independent, and when we lost control of the Suez Canal, the position became very much more complicated. There was a much greater cost to the United Kingdom. The climatic conditions do not suit British Servicemen, and the whole thing is obviously more complicated.
But, my Lords, I want to insist, if I may use such a word, that we really ought to reconsider the very great interests which are involved in this matter. There is in the Koran a saying that:Allah loveth a strong man and despiseth a weakling.I have served for years in the Middle East and never found that quotation to be wrong. When we announced at Aden that we should be going away in some years' time we were friendless; nobody was further interested in knowing us, in listening to what we had to say, still less in even establishing a system of law and order at home. They looked over the frontier to see whether the Yemen was not going to be more powerful, whether Nasser would not send them arms. In the Aden area we lost control from that moment. My Lords, I am most concerned that the same thing may happen in the Persian Gulf.
I think there is a series of questions, which may have been asked and answered in the Minutes in the Foreign Office—I hope sincerely that they have been—but certainly I have never seen an answer to them in public. At the risk of being indiscreet, I should like to ask some of them. First of all, are the Government satisfied that the position of Iran will not be affected if we withdraw from the Persian Gulf? Iran sits there with the Soviet Union to the North. It has very much closer commercial relations developing with the Soviet Union. But it has the British sitting in the South, and it has been able to preserve a good state of independence. I wonder whether the position will be the same when we withdraw from the Persian Gulf. For instance, is it estimated that Iran will continue to belong to the Central Treaty Organisation? Will the 167 Central Treaty Organisation continue to mean anything without the British in the Persian Gulf? Is it supposed that the Americans will be able to go to the Persian Gulf'? My Lords, let us be realistic: that is not very likely.
Also, if Iran has to modify its policy—and I do not suppose it will want to—how, I should like to know, is it supposed that we shall be able to send forces by air for the reinforcement of Singapore? Are we sure to be able to fly through Egypt or Syria? Are we likely to be equally popular in Arabia? Shall we continue to have anywhere to land in the Persian Gulf? It seems to me highly doubtful. In other words, these things are interrelated. I do not feel any confidence that we shall be able to carry out some of the high-sounding things that we say we are going to do about Singapore, where we obviously must maintain a position of sorts if China is not going to be able to expand southwards, if we lose control of the routes by which we are able to go to Singapore.
I believe that these are not only strategic considerations; they are trade considerations in the widest sense. If we were to have disorder in the Persian Gulf, or if we were unable to buy the oil of the Persian Gulf (which we use in such large measure) unless we paid for it in dollars, what would be the effect on our balance of payments? Would it not be something like eight or ten times greater than the cost of maintaining our present forces in the Gulf? In my view it is important that a proper computation should be made of these issues on the widest commercial and financial grounds—overseas financial grounds, as well as the strategic and foreign policy grounds that I have mentioned.
It seems to me that there are two groups of people who have been anxious to reduce our responsibilities and commitments overseas. First, there are what I might call the "small Europeans" and, second, there are the people who are obsessed with our own financial difficulties here at home. Of the two groups, probably the second are the more important, but I should like to say a word about the first group. I believe that it is really not in the interest of the United Kingdom to take off all its clothes, renounce 168 all its friendships and enter the European swimming bath alone.
In my view, one of our main values to Europe is that we have these tremendous overseas friendships and connections. The British Commonwealth handles 25 per cent. of world trade; it is largely seaborne, and the security of it depends to a great extent on our control of the oceans. I do not believe it is in our long-term interest to weaken that position. Nor, for that matter, is it in the interests of Europe. Europe stands to gain more than anybody by coming in with us on this issue. General de Gaulle has made this a sticking point because he wants to keep us out, and he thinks it inconceivable that we would enter Europe at the cost of renouncing all our Commonwealth and overseas friendships; and I think that is right.
General de Gaulle has not made this mistake in his own case. The price structure of various colonial products in the Common Market is distorted by the fact that the French have established a system of prices above world prices for many colonial products, and this has been of great advantage to the former French Empire. Although that system is soon to disappear it has meant that the French have brought large groups of people with them into the position of "associated States". It is unthinkable that we should consider it to our advantage to renounce all our friendships overseas in order to go into Europe. I feel most strongly that we ought to go into Europe, but I believe that we ought to bring those overseas connections with us. We shall not be doing ourselves a good turn if we listen to the "little Europeans" and renounce those connections in order to get in.
The other group of people are probably more important, and they are obsessed with perplexity as to how we are going to solve our balance-of-payments problems. Frankly, no Government has yet succeeded in dealing with this problem adequately, but I believe that we shall not set our own difficulties right until we get this country working on a sensible basis. I travel a great deal. This year I have already been to Seattle and to Irkutsk, and wherever I go I see people working like mad. There is little question of tea-breaks and such things outside this country, still less of 169 strikes and troubles on the scales that we seem to have them, in spite of the statistics which some people are able to quote. I believe that the answer to this lies at home.
This is not the time to deal with such issues; we will keep them until later. But I should like to point out that only a small change would be required in the internal economic situation in the United Kingdom to enable us to pay for all these items which, with what seems to me to be complete folly, we are now renouncing. I think we should retain a balanced view of these costs and expenses. There is almost no limit to the overseas assets we shall have to renounce unless we set our internal affairs in order. No satisfaction will be obtained, in the end, by withdrawing from Singapore, the Persian Gulf or anywhere else, because if we do not manage our internal affairs correctly, the savings will be eaten up by inflation. The answer probably lies at home, but do not let us throw out of the window, simply because we have a five-year or ten-year crisis on our hands, assets gathered together through generations of hard work. Let us have the "guts" to see the thing through.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD VIVIAN
My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate this afternoon, but in view of the fact that other noble Lords have intervened perhaps I may be allowed to do so for just three minutes in order to underline what the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, said in regard to the Russian Navy. He told your Lordships that they were at large in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the North Atlantic and the Persian Gulf. It is in connection with the last area that I wish to say a few words in support of the noble Earl, and also in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. I may also say that I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Bourne, Lord Mottistone and Lord Hankey, in what they have said.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, referred to the withdrawal by 1970 of naval and military forces from the Gulf area as "absolute folly". How right the noble Lord is, and how right Sir Alec Douglas-Home was when, in another place on January 24 this year he said:… it is recognised by all who live in the Gulf that should we leave prematurely—that is, on anything like the time scale named by 170 the Foreign Secretary—this area will be torn by strife and trouble, and the Soviet would be only too ready to stir the pot."—;[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, col. 423.]I hope Her Majesty's Government will be alert to the fact also that Fleet Admiral Gorshkov, the head of the Soviet navy, has a declared naval philosophy: that it is essential for the Soviet to rival Western Fleets throughout the oceans of the world.
In conclusion, may I thank my noble friend Lord Glasgow for initiating this important debate and remark that the action of Her Majesty's Government, in their disastrous policy of withdrawing naval forces and troops from the Gulf area for reasons of economy is, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said, "complete folly". In this connection I should like to leave your Lordships with a thought. It costs £12 million to £15 million to retain the British garrisons and the naval forces in the Gulf for a year, and this is just about the same sum as British Railways lose in a month.
§ 4.10 p.m.
My Lords, I greatly welcome this debate. It is right that we should on occasions concentrate our attention on special aspects of defence policy. It is also right that we should concentrate our attention sometimes on these vitally important matters maritime. Your Lordships had a debate some 38 years ago on May 8, 1930, on the London Naval Treaty, and in that debate my father said these words:…those of us who realise the absolute importance of the safety of our sea communications must ask ourselves, when naval reductions are proposed or are in progress, how far those reductions affect our security in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 458.]My Lords, those words ring rather true today. Naval reductions are in progress and further reductions will, I fear, be proposed in the further White Paper which the Government will publish, doubtless on the eve of the Summer Recess. It is timely, therefore, that we should debate these matters maritime. That is why I welcome this debate, and I do so particularly because only nine speakers—a welcome innovation—have spoken, and above all because it was so ably introduced by a valued friend, with almost every word of whose speech I found myself in total agreement.
171 I should like to add this by way of preface. Most of what I have to say will be about the Royal Navy, but I, like the other speakers, do not for one moment pretend that a maritime strategy is the concern of one Service alone. It is something which embraces and intimately concerns all three. Again, I am critical, very critical, of many aspects of this Government's defence policy. I believe that withdrawal and retrenchment in this sphere has gone too far, but I realise as well as any that we must cut our military coat according to our economic cloth. The programme of naval construction which I personally have in mind would certainly be contained within that overall defence expenditure of £2,000 million at constant prices which once represented the Government's ceiling on defence expenditure.
The Government have chosen to concentrate our main defence effort in Europe and in the North Atlantic, and I do not wish to dispute that broad priority. But as soon as one translates this into maritime terms one is immediately struck by two very stark facts. The first is the formidable threat of Soviet maritime power. The second is that this is a threat which cannot be contained by the United Kingdom in isolation; we can contain it only in alliance, and this is of course a fundamental change. It is a far cry from those far-off days of the London Naval Treaty. It is an even further cry from those even further off days of 1912 when Mr. Winston Churchill introduced his first Naval Estimates with the proud boast that the Admiralty were prepared to guarantee absolutely the main security of the country and the Empire day by day for the next few years.
My Lords, we ignore at our peril the growth in the last two decades of the maritime power exercised by Communist nations and other potentially hostile countries. This swing in the balance of maritime power, especially Soviet maritime power, is one of the most remarkable, if least remarked, transformations of the post-war era. It is perhaps natural that most people should still regard the Soviet Union as an exclusively land animal. If they do so they are making a very grave mistake, which in the long term could be a tragic mistake. In most respects the 172 Soviet Union is one of the two great maritime nations in the world to-day. A glance at the inventory of the Soviet Fleet makes this perfectly clear; above all, the ocean-going force of 400 submarines to which my noble friend Lord Glasgow referred, the 350 or so conventional powered submarines, and the growing force, already some 50, of Soviet nuclear powered submarines. I believe myself that this vast navy has probably been created for mainly defensive purposes, but I may be mistaken. In any event, it is certainly true that the Soviet Union possesses an ever-increasing offensive naval capability which the Soviet leaders, were they so minded or so tempted, could employ in a variety of most unpleasant ways.
Given the dependence of the Atlantic Powers on the oceans and on freedom of passage across those oceans, it would be folly on our part to ignore the fact that the Soviet Navy now gives the Soviet leadership a very wide range of options at sea. These options cover a whole spectrum of risks. At one end of the spectrum, and carrying a minimum of risk, are relatively minor yet possibly very vexatious actions like the detention of Western shipping in certain possible contingencies. At the other end of the spectrum we should be wise to recognise that it is within the capacity of the Soviet Fleet to block the approaches to these Islands whether by submarine or by mine and possibly also by missiles deployed at sea. I do not say that this is a trump which will ever be played; and of course if it were played it could be over-trumped by the nuclear weapon. But I do say that this high maritime card exists, and while it exists and has not been removed by the sensible method of progressive multilateral disarmament the only thing for the alliance of Powers, at sea as on land, is to put themselves into a position where they are not confronted with an intolerable choice between acquiescence—call it surrender, if you will—and escalation—call it self-incineration, if you will.
On land, as I understand it, the NATO strategy in the unlikely event of a deliberate Soviet land attack—I would entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said about this, but an attack could come from miscalculation or accident—is, by the use of conventional 173 forces, to win a period of delay sufficient to enable the Western Powers to ascertain the real intentions of the Soviet Union, for both sides to weigh the ghastly risks of escalation, and, one trusts, having weighed them, draw back from the brink.
As I understand it, the strategy of the West in the Atlantic should be precisely similar. What should our contribution to this Atlantic maritime strategy be? We all know the difficulty of quantifying the land contribution. Do we need 75,000 or 50,000 men in B.A.O.R., or a token Division like the noble and gallant Field Marshal has said is all that is necessary, or none at all as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, suggests? I find it no more easy to quantify our maritime contribution in European and North Atlantic waters. All I would say is that in quantity it should match our position as the second maritime nation in the Alliance, and in quality it must match the undoubted quality of the Soviet Navy.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, would the noble Earl forgive me for one moment. I did not say that we required none at all. I said that we required much less.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I was saying that our maritime contribution, although I find it difficult to quantify, should be in quantity a worthy contribution, and in quality must match the undoubted quality of the Soviet maritime forces. Above all, we must be able to make available not only sufficient but also balanced forces. Clearly, the prime need here is for the right mix of anti-submarine forces: the nuclear propelled hunter-killers, the antisubmarine warfare escorts and, not least, adequate maritime air power; and with reference to the last element of this tripod I find the Government's decision to run down the maritime air reconnaissance force based on Gibraltar to be a sad, and indeed a deplorable, decision. But we also need to contribute adequate mine hunting and mine sweeping forces.
Here, with the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, I must admit that I doubt the adequacy of our present planned contribution. An adequate maritime strategy for the North Atlantic Powers in the Atlantic and associated waters demands not only the right ships but also the right organisation. 174 The new Standing NATO Naval Force, Atlantic, is, to my mind, a step in the right direction; but by any criterion this multi-national force of five frigates or so is a pretty timid first step. If we really believe this concept to be right, as I happen to believe it to be, we should press for the size of this force to be increased. Moreover, since in anti-submarine warfare you need all the clubs in the maritime bag, we should urge the inclusion in this force of the other essential components—hunter-killer submarines and maritime air power. Again, if this concept is right for the main Atlantic approaches to Europe, it is also right for the vulnerable flanks of the Alliance, the North Norwegian coast and Southern Europe. I hope that when he winds up this debate shortly the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will be able to tell us more about the Government's expectations in these respects.
So much for Europe and the North Atlantic. The Government have made it clear that for them these are the priority areas. But they have also told us that, after the withdrawal from East of Suez, we shall retain a general capability, based in the United Kingdom and Europe, for deployment overseas as circumstances demand. Like my noble friends, I should like to know much more about what thinking, what planning and what hardware lie behind this studiously vague phraseology. I should like to know whether the Government recognise our unique dependence on the sea; that over 90 per cent. of the trade on which we so utterly depend is carried by sea, and the fact that, day in and day out throughout the year, we have well over 2,000 merchant ships at risk around the globe.
I should like to know whether the Government really recognise the unique quality of sea power, its ubiquity; and whether they are prepared to take advantage of that unique quality, the ability, for instance, to switch rapidly forces from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Above all, I wonder whether they recognise that in most cases it will be only through the exercise of maritime power—power deployed on and across the oceans, and under them—that we shall be able to discharge our continuing obligations outside Europe, be it to our remaining Dependancies, be it to threatened British populations, be it to allies or to the United 175 Nations, and be it, not least, for the protection of our trade and our shipping.
§ LORD ROWLEY
My Lords, would the noble Earl permit me to put a question? May I ask him whether he is talking about the answer to the Russian threat, for example, in time of war? In view of the fact that the Russian submarine fleet, as we all know, constitutes about 400 modern submarines, does he really think that this country alone could find an answer to safeguarding our 2,000 ships in time of war, in the event of Russia being involved? Or would he make it clear that what he is saying is that all the Allies together should face this problem and should pool their resources, economic and otherwise, in order to build up a possible reply to the Russian submarine strength?
My Lords, I would certainly grant that if we were involved in a maritime conflict with the Soviet Union—I suggested this when I was speaking on the Alliance—we could not handle it by ourselves. That is perfectly obvious to me, as it is to the noble Lord. But it is quite possible that we may be involved in maritime conflict and may need to deploy our maritime forces in support of our merchant shipping, or for a hundred other reasons, against Powers other than the Soviet Union. I do not think I need specify them, but obvious examples could occur to any of your Lordships.
A number of noble Lords in this debate have mentioned the words which the noble and gallant Field Marshal employed in our Defence debate some three months ago, about the need for this country to play its part in securing for the West that essential maritime supremacy in the wide stretches of the Indian Ocean, from the Malacca Straits in the East stretching westwards to the Cape of Good Hope. Like noble Lords who have spoken, I found myself in agreement with what the noble and gallant Field Marshal said here, although I suspect that in these waters, too, the United States may one day, and perhaps fairly soon, have to play its part.
I agree also with what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said about the growing importance of the Cape route. Only yesterday we read in The Times that eight times as much oil as in 1960, before the 176 closure of the Suez Canal, is being carried round the Cape. Only yesterday we read that of the 290 great tankers now under construction, over 140, representing more than 30 million tons out of 40 million tons under construction, are to be of over 150,000 tons. These are too big for the Suez Canal in any case. We know that before Suez was closed one British ship, on an average, rounded the Cape each day. Now each day an average of 53 British ships pass the Cape. This excludes an average of 36 British ships in South African ports every day.
It does not need much imagination to visualise the damage or the panic which one hostile or potentially hostile nuclear submarine on patrol on this vital sea lane could occasion. It does not, I feel, need great statesmanship to realise the vital importance to this country of the Simonstown Agreement in these circumstances, and of reasonable relations with the South African Government. In the circumstances, with so much at stake for this trading country and its maritime interests, the policy of our present rulers towards Southern Africa which, if pursued to a logical conclusion, must involve a collision course with South Africa itself, imperils—I deliberately use measured words—the ultimate security of this country.
What of the position on the other side of that great ocean? I do not once again wish to stigmatise the folly of our withdrawal from the Singapore base when we have been implored to stay there. We read in the Defence White Paper that it was the Government's intention to maintain their interest in the stability of the Far East as well as in that of the Near East, and not surprisingly. Your Lordships may not all know that some 13 British ships daily passed the Malacca Straits last winter. That is just a small measure of our deep trading and maritime stake in that area.
When replying perhaps the noble Lord can tell us more about the discussions now proceeding in Kuala Lumpur. Can he tell us, in response to the pleas which have been advanced on all sides of your Lordships' House, both to-day and three months ago, that the Government have not closed their minds to some new joint defence arrangements with the 177 Australians, the New Zealanders and the Americans?
I have always believed—here I think I am in complete agreement with my noble friend Lord Boothby, and indeed, I think also with the noble Lord, Lord Rowley—that if our decision to withdraw from Singapore was irrevocable and that we really meant what we said about the possible redeployment in certain circumstances of British forces in that area, the best earnest of our intention would be a decision, in agreement with the Australian and New Zealand Governments, to set up a Commonwealth standing maritime force. It need not be a very large force, but one with naval, air and army components based in Northern or Western Australia. Such a plan has been advocated on many occasions and from all sides of your Lordships' House, and I hope the noble Lord, when he replies, can confirm that it is at least still a runner.
I turn now, in conclusion, from strategy to material, and I shall try to be brief, because many of my suggestions, I think, coincide with those which have already been made. I believe that the nuclear propelled submarine represents a far more revolutionary advance in naval warfare than did the "Dreadnought" in the first decade of this century, or did the aircraft carrier in the decades between the two world wars. I was, therefore, somewhat concerned to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, say in our Defence debate three months ago that the rate of construction of our nuclear fleet submarine force had been cut back. I should like to know a little more of what lies behind that statement. I suppose that our shipyards would permit us to build two of these animals a year; that would give us a force of some forty submarines. I should have thought that as a minimum we need, if only for training purposes, a submarine force of twenty. But the cost of these ships is very formidable. They cost £20 million to £25 million apiece, and that being so I wonder whether it might not be wise to plan to incorporate in our modern submarine force a small proportion of new conventionally powered and far cheaper submarines. I float that as a purely personal suggestion, in view of the formidable cost of the nuclear powered submarine, which, 178 of course, must remain the main element in our submarine force.
Then there are the surface destroyers and escorts. It is possible that in time, given the growing importance of the subsurface and all the advantages which it possesses for the operation of naval vessels, the Royal Navy will tend increasingly to go "underground", if that is not a mixed metaphore. But, for the time being, the surface ship is a vital link in the A.S.W. chain, and a frigate represents a far more effective naval presence than a submarine. When it has come to the crunch in two world wars, we have always found ourselves tragically short of these vessels. I recognise that very difficult decisions face our naval staffs here. There is an extremely difficult choice between quantity and quality, but I hope that the noble Lord can reveal more of the Government's thinking on this matter.
I should like to re-emphasise what my noble friend the Earl of Glasgow has said about mine warfare. I am convinced that this is an area to which we need to pay greater attention. By the same token I must express some personal doubts whether our present programme for modern maritime aircraft—thirtyeight of the new Nimrods—is adequate. Here again I would welcome the noble Lord's comments, particularly on whether it is proposed to replace the Shackleton Mark Ills when they go out of service.
My Lords, this brings me, nearly in conclusion, to the vexed question of sea-based air-power. Like my friends. I do not propose to re-open the old carrier controversy. I am not able, even if I wished, to resurrect C.V.A.O.1. However, I personally remain utterly convinced that if we propose to maintain a meaningful, albeit small, maritime capability outside Europe and the nearer Atlantic, we cannot do so, especially after the demise of the F.111, the A F.V.G. and so many bases, without some form of sea-based, sea-operated aircraft.
I recognise only too well the disadvantages of the small carrier. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government made a profound mistake in not examining more deeply the proposal for what I would call a general purpose "flat-top" which was under examination a year or so ago—a medium-sized "flat-top", as I understand it, which would have been 179 able to carry a commando or a battalion with, say, half a squadron of S.T.O. aircraft, or half a commando or half a battalion, with a full squadron of S.T.O. aircraft, or some intermediate mix. I believe that a versatile vessel of that sort around 15,000 tons or so, and not too expensive or too sophisticated, would have many uses in that whole shadowy spectrum of possible maritime conflict which embraces cold war and falls somewhat short of what I would call full limited war. I believe that if the aircraft in these vessels had been manned by the Royal Air Force, this would have consummated that marriage between the dark blue and the light blue, in the maritime context, which is so much to be desired.
I do not pretend to know how all this now stands. All I would urge on the Government is not to close the options here for themselves and, above all, for their successors. I assume that "Eagle" and "Ark Royal" are safe at least until after the next General Election, and I trust the same applies to "Hermes". I hope the noble Lord can confirm that "Hermes" will remain in commission until at least 1971. I trust that he can also confirm that the Ministry of Defence are continuing to give study to the question of sea-based air power and its carriage, including the possibility of rocket assisted take-off for the next generation of carrier aircraft.
I trust that also—this is a personal view of mine—they have not made any firm commitment on the next type of new cruiser. I myself feel that they are not yet ready for a decision here, and I bear in mind the words Mr. Winston Churchill used in that debate to which I referred in 1912:It is an ill-service for the Navy and to the State to build a single ship before its time.My Lords, I have only this to add: in an era of Service economy, research and development is often the first thing to come under the "chopper". I believe, however, that in this era of very rapid technical innovation and great strategic uncertainty, research and development should be the last thing for the "chopper."
I have a short list of items which I hope are on the research and development programme apart from those which 180 have already been mentioned or which are already included in the White Paper. First, surface nuclear propulsion, a feasibility study into its possibilities; second, surface-to-surface maritime missiles, which could well be studied, and perhaps produced, in co-operation with our European partners; third, sonar, in which we probably hold a lead over the rest of the world, a lead which we should continue to maintain; fourth, all aspects of defence oceanography.
My Lords, I should like in conclusion to say this. As our relative power, or the will to exercise that power, contracts, we may continue to contract out of our main land commitments outside Europe, and perhaps it is right that we should do so over a period of time. However we and this country cannot, or should not, contract out of the sea environment. We cannot, or we should not, for the bread-and-butter reasons of our trade and of our merchant marine. We cannot. or we should not, for all the political reasons which many noble Lords have given in this discussion this afternoon. We cannot, or we should not, contract out of this sea environment for the reason which has also been given by my noble friend Lord Glasgow. We are rather good at this maritime business. Few people in this country live all their lives out of the swing of the sea. Ever since Henry VIII this country has always been at the heart of the sea affair. I trust that we shall remain so. I believe it to be absolutely essential for the security and prosperity of this country that we should so remain.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (LORD CHALFONT)
My Lords. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, for giving us this opportunity of a short debate on maritime strategy. I must confess that from time to time during the debate I had to look hard at the Order Paper to remind myself that his Motion was to do with maritime strategy. We had recondite allusions to European swimming baths. We had a brief excursion into Common Market policy. We had animadversions on the idleness of the British workman. We even had a few comments on British Railways. All of these seemed to be, in a sense, only remotely connected with 181 maritime strategy. I know that the practice of your Lordships' House in this respect is a flexible one, but I know that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not follow all these tortuous paths to their end. I shall, I hope, confine myself to the subject to which the noble Earl has drawn our attention; that is to say, maritime strategy and the protection of our trade routes.
Although I shall briefly refer to some of the more general comments which have been made on defence policy, I do not wish, nor do I intend, to reopen the defence policy debate as a whole. I was, however, somewhat concerned to hear noble Lords talking of confining Russia to a land strategy, and then again of keeping China in its place. I suggest that there are slight undertones of delusions of grandeur in this type of phrase. It seems to me possible that the Chinese and the Russians may have something to say about this, too. This is all of a piece with some of the language which has been used in this debate, and I hope I shall not be accused of being offensive or patronising if I say that a good deal of it has been completely out-dated in the context of nuclear weapons and the nuclear age. When I listened to phrases such as military bases, sea power, military presence being bandied about this afternoon, the whole fantasy of majestic British fleets commanding the seas, the whole curious flavour of gunboat diplomacy in some of the things which have been said this afternoon, one might be forgiven for thinking that Hiroshima and Nagasaki had never happened, or that, if they had happened, they had happened in vain. It seems to me that, as some one much more distinguished than myself has said before, the one thing we learn from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history.
Before moving on to address myself specifically to the Motion of the noble Earl, I should like to take issue as gently as I may with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, some of whose remarks depressed me more than I can say. He suggested in general that there was some great groundswell of opinion in favour of what is rather vaguely and imprecisely called a naval strategy for this country. I am not quite sure that I am clear what 182 "a naval strategy" is. I think I know something of naval strategy in general, but I do not think that there is any such thing as a naval strategy for this or any other country. Of course, the country's strategy must have a naval element in it. I should be reluctant to regard as a reflection of any overwhelming clamour for a naval strategy in this country the speeches of a number of Members of your Lordships' House, however distinguished, on this subject, especially when I suggest that a substantial proportion of these speeches in favour of this vague concept of a naval strategy contained a good deal of special pleading. There is, of course, no such clamour or demand for a naval strategy in this country, and we should be most unwise to think that there is.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether I might define this matter, because he seems to have confused the issue? A naval strategy is a strategy based en sea-based power.
My Lords, I am accustomed to being accused by the noble Lord of confusing the issue. I do not think that I have done so on this occation. I repeat that I do not believe that, for this or any other country, it is possible to have a strategy based on one component of its defence forces. Strategy in the nuclear age is a strategy which must have components of all the forces. To my mind, "a naval strategy" is a total irrelevance.
There were two things the noble Lord said that really upset me. The first was his brief and rather disobliging comments on the United Nations. He confessed that this was based on one brief visit in which, he said, he had been fortunate enough to land himself in a committee discussing a certain subject which clearly raised his blood pressure by several degrees. If he had had the opportunity to take part in the work a this organisation—which, frankly, I believe to be one of the great hopes for the future of the civilised world—for a long period of time, as I have, and as other noble Lords in this House have, I think he would have thought otherwise before making that kind of trivial and, it seems to me, rather offensive remark about a 183 potentially powerful, and certainly extremely sincere, international organisation.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Oh!
§ LORD CHALFONT
I do not expect to find any agreement with these views on the Benches opposite. I am delighted to find that my views on the United Nations are not shared by noble Lords opposite.
Perhaps I might say one further thing to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, which has nothing to do with the United Nations, but arises out of a comment he made which seemed to me to suggest (I know he will correct me if I am wrong) that the presence of a Polaris submarine—which he referred to somewhat curiously as a "European deterrent"—meant that we no longer needed land forces on the continent of Europe. If this somewhat breathtaking leap-back—or "stagger-back" might be a better term—into the darkness of the doctrine of massive retaliation is what he meant, does the noble Lord really mean that we can defend Europe against attack with nuclear weapons alone and that we do not need any other forces deployed on the Continent? If the noble Lord believes that, he will believe anything.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord and the House will allow me to explain. I believe this to be a leap forward and a true understanding of what the word "deterrent" means. Since I have received a direct attack on this point I think perhaps it is worth clarifying. I honestly believe this to be true. The principle of deterrence is to deter your enemy from conducting offensive operations, in whatever circumstance he is able to do this. If your enemy is in a position to conduct offensive operations with nuclear weapons, you can deter him likewise with nuclear weapons. If your enemy's limit of offensive operations is that of, shall we say, the relatively untutored forces in Nigeria, then the deterrence you require is of a much lower order. If you have a Government which is determined to understand how to use sea power, you can probably double your deterrent so as to make sure that people do not even start to conduct offensive operations.
Deterrence is all a system of growth, depending on where you are operating; 184 and if you do the thing properly, and are determined to understand what you are doing, you can deter people from fighting. When it comes to the European situation, I suggest that it is highly unlikely, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said earlier, that the Russians will march into Europe. The Russians are deterred by a nuclear deterrent, although there are other reasons for having armed forces on the land mass of Europe. I would suggest that they are not needed there to deter the Russians from warfare; they are deterred by the nuclear deterrent.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining his views on the doctrine of strategic deterrence. I should be delighted at some other time to explain to him my views, which are diametrically opposed to his own, and I should be delighted to try to point out to him where I think he has made one or two mistakes. But what I should like to say at this stage is that what he calls a leap forward—if the doctrine that he has just expounded is indeed the leap forward to which he referred—is the doctrine that was being expounded by military strategists in 1956. That has now been completely overtaken by various concepts called flexible response, graduated deterrence, the conventional option, and all the other developments in nuclear strategy that have taken place since 1956, when we were, so to speak, in our infancy as nuclear strategists. If the noble Lord calls that a leap forward in military thinking, then I can only beg leave to disagree with him.
May I pass on now to the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow? He has, I think, whatever disclaimers he may have entered, addressed the House in terms that contained a certain nostalgia for the past. I hope he will forgive me for saying that. It is the past, although he disclaimed it, of the Pax Britannica, when it might have been possible for this country to guarantee the security of its economic interests worldwide by the simple application of national military force. Now there can to-day he no question of the Royal Navy attempting to control vast overseas maritime areas single-handed.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, it is not so very long ago that we dealt with a confrontation in South 185 East Asia between Indonesia and Malaysia, and saved Kuwait from being raped by Iraq, by the very methods which I am putting forward to-day.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I am sorry, my Lords, but this debate is likely to widen far too much if we go into questions of that kind. I could argue that the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia was solved by means not entirely to do with our maritime strategy, or with our application of armed forces. There were other factors at work, too; and certainly there were other factors at work in the clash which nearly happened in Kuwait.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
No, my Lords. There were other factors at work, but what really settled the matter were our well-tried methods of exercising sea power. The noble Lord cannot get away from that.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I am sorry, my Lords, but I do get away from it, and I think that anybody who believes that those problems were solved by this country's application of sea power, or that problems of that sort can be solved in the future solely by the application of sea power by this or any other single country in the world, is living in a fool's paradise and one from which we may all very soon have a very rude awakening indeed. I beg noble Lords to let me get on and develop my own argument. Those who have put forward the attractions of a maritime strategy have had their turn, and perhaps for a little while I can now have mine.
As I was saying, whatever may have been the case in the past there can to-day be no question of the Royal Navy controlling vast oceans single-handed. Whatever noble Lords opposite may say, our maritime strategy is a realistic one. It is based on two indisputable facts, both of which noble Lords opposite seem reluctant or unable to assimilate: first, that we must bring our military commitments and our foreign policy commitments into line with our economic strength, and there is nothing weak or foolish about that; and, secondly, that the security of these Islands lies fundamentally in Europe and the Atlantic area. Those are two factors which I believe to be indisputable and upon which our maritime strategy is based.
186 In the European-Atlantic area, where our forces are to be concentrated in the future, it is in my mind quite inconceivable that the maritime threat, to which great reference has been made, could be one which involved the possibility of a prolonged all-out war at sea whit put at the same time a war on land and in the air; and that is a war which world inevitably develop very rapidly into a nuclear exchange. Of course, I suppose it is possible that there might be isolated acts of aggression at sea which might, unchecked, develop into all-out war. It is also possible that the period of escalation, of development from conventional to nuclear war, might be longer at set. than on land, largely, I suppose, be cause maritime aggression does not infringe territorial integrity; and territorial integrity is, unhappily, still a very strong and corrosive instinct in human beings.
I think to meet that kind of maritime threat it is clear to us, and to all our NATO allies, that we should plan—and here, perhaps for the only time this afternoon, I shall carry noble Lords opposite with me—to have strong and effective naval forces. But the vital fact about modern strategy is that we must protect our sea lines of communication—and here, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will agree with me—as an alliance; not as individual nations. It is only with our combined strength that we shall be able to provide the necessary defence against the massive naval forces of the Warsaw Pact, about which great play has been made this afternoon. and so make maritime aggression unprofitable.
We shall also—and reference was made to this earlier to-day—have a naval capability for deployment overseas if that is necessary. But the task of guaranteeing a right of free passage through the international waterways and the high seas is not one that can be carried out by any single country, and I ask noble Lords, and the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who made his usual thoughtful and powerful intervention, to accept that we cannot police the world alone, and there is; no reason why we should. It is for the international community, for which some noble Lords opposite seem to have scant respect, to see that this is done. is Her Majesty's Government's policy to work through the United Nations in this 187 respect, and we shall be well-equipped to discharge our share of this responsibility with the naval forces that are now planned.
Certain reference has been made to the situation in the Mediterranean and to the appearance of Soviet naval forces there. As has recently been announced in another place, we are in a position to make some improvement in the immediate future in the degree of commitment of certain of our maritime forces to NATO. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, will welcome the decision to retain two frigates in the Mediterranean, earmarked for assignment to the Supreme Allied Commander. Similarly, the amphibious forces provided, of two commando ships, two assault ships and their associated Royal Marine Commandos, will be earmarked for assignment to the Supreme Allied Commander. This arrangement relates for the moment to 1968, but we hope to renew it for 1969 when we are called upon in December to make our firm force commitments for the next year, and arrangements will be made for a commando ship to take part in the Mediterranean exercises of NATO in 1969.
Before I conclude this brief reply to the debate, perhaps I may take up one or two specific points and questions. I think it might be wise for me to comment briefly on the question of the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean, mentioned by the noble Earl. Noble Lords will be aware that there was an adjournment debate recently in another place, on the subject of the increasing Soviet presence in the Middle East and in the Indian Ocean, and that this subject was dealt with quite comprehensively. Certainly, the Soviet Union is taking a lot more interest in the area than previously; apparently, I suppose, in the hope that some political advantage will be derived from it. But, of course, Soviet political activity in this area is nothing new, and we must accept that the freedom of the high seas applies just as much to the Soviet Union as to any other nation.
I suggest there is no evidence that this increased Soviet deployment represents a danger—certainly not now and, I suggest, not in the future, either—to commercial shipping routes through the area or to other United Kingdom interests. But whether that is true or not, we have taken 188 note of the situation and I promise the noble Earl that we shall watch these developments very closely. As the Government have pointed out several times, and as I have already said this afternoon, we shall retain a general military capability which could be deployed overseas it circumstances required it. If it becomes necessary to intervene in this area to protect our interests, then we shall be ready to do so, and we shall be able to do so.
I should like to take up one or two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and particularly his point about Simonstown. Of course the facilities in Simonstown have proved their value—nobody would argue about that—especially since the closure of the Canal; and I take all the points that have been made about the Simonstown Base and the fact that its continued availability will in the long run be of very great value to the Royal Navy. No one attempts to deny that. However, I should like to point out that we could rely on afloat support if these facilities should at any time be denied to us, although, of course, afloat support would be much more expensive and much less flexible than support from Simonstown. But, in spite of what has been said this afternoon, I must say that there is no evidence that I know of that our policy regarding the supply of arms to South Africa—which. I say at the risk of inviting ridicule from the Benches opposite, is in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations—is directly linked in any way to the future of the Simonstown Base. I certainly have no evidence of that.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, may I say that the Prime Minister of South Africa himself stated, while I was in South Africa, that it would be necessary, in view of the refusal to supply arms, to review the whole situation regarding the Simonstown base?
§ LORD CHALFONT
I take that point; and, of course, I have myself noted certain remarks which have been made in public by South African politicians. I can only say—and I know the noble Lord will not want me to be more specific than this—that our evidence is that, in spite of remarks which have been made in public, the future of the Simonstown base is not directly linked to our 189 South African arms policy. I ask the noble Lord to accept that.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, by that does the noble Lord mean that we shall enjoy the use of it without stirring a finger to protect it?
§ LORD CHALFONT
No, I do not think that anything I have said could be taken to mean that at all. I apologise if I gave any such impression. I said only that our arms policy in regard to South Africa does not, so far as we know, appear to be linked to the future of the Simonstown base. I said nothing about the defence of the Simonstown base: nor did I imply anything.
§ LORD CHALFONT
Yes, my Lords, of course we have in mind using it. We use it now and we shall hope to use it for some considerable time. All I am saying is that our ability to use it does not appear to he linked to our South African arms policy.
May I now take up the points made by the noble Earl. Lord Jellicoe, in what I thought was a singiulnrly—perhaps "singularly" is an unfortunate word, but an extremely constructive and moderate intervention. Perhaps, without commenting on what he has said in general, in order to save time I could take up the specific points that he asked me. First of all, on the question of our contribution to the NATO Multi-National Force, which I think was the first of his points, it is our hope that the Multi-National Force of five frigates will lead to other similar arrangements which will enable us to develop our NATO maritime planning on even more closely integrated lines than we do at the moment. But I know he will realise that the development of such plans in terms of the numbers and types of ships, and that kind of specific detail, will be a matter of detailed NATO planning which has yet to take place. On the question of the Commonwealth Standing Naval Force, I am afraid I cannot be quite as forthcoming as—
My Lords., may I interrupt the noble Lord there? He used the phrase, "Commonwealth Standing Naval Force". Since in addressing my noble friend Lord Mottistone he drew such a fierce distinction between term "naval" and the term "maritime", should like to remind the noble Lond that I in fact used the phrase "Commonwealth Standing Maritime Force".
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I, in return, say that I was drawing no distinction between "naval" and "maritime"? I know of no distinction. I was drawing a distinction between naval strategy and military strategy as a whole. I know of no distinction between naval strategy and maritime strategy, and if the noble Earl could help me I should be delighted to hear his distinction between them.
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that they are entirely different, and I am astonished at his ignorance.
§ LORD CHALFONT
May I, them, at the risk of keeping your Lordships for another five minutes, ask the noble Earl to explain to me the difference between naval strategy and maritime strategy?
My Lords, maritime strategy is strategy exercised across either over, on or under, the oceans of the world by either navies, by navies carrying troops or by airpower, or by any mix of the three, and is not confined exclusively to naval forces.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I am grateul to the noble Earl. I never supposed that it was, so perhaps we are not so far apart as I feared.
My Lords, as to the Commonwealth Standing Naval or Maritime Force in the Far East, to which the noble Earl made reference, as we have made clear already British naval forces, after withdrawal from the Far Fast, will be based in the European and North Atlantic areas, and I have said that we shall have a capability to move elsewhere if circumstances demand. But we have no plans for maintaining standing forces in the Far East after our withdrawal. Nor have we any plans for making any contribution to a force of the kind which the noble Earl has mentioned. Of course, this idea may 191 recommend itself to our Commonwealth partners. If it does, that will be a matter entirely for them. We have no plans to contribute to such a force.
The noble Earl asked about the reduction in the rate of build of nuclear submarines. As the noble Earl will know, the Prime Minister announced that we plan to slow down the rate of building nuclear submarines at the time when we are reducing our commitment. However, we have plans to provide for a growing force of these fleet submarines to provide the main striking power of the Royal Navy; and really the only solid information I can give the noble Earl is that by the time the carriers phase out of service we should have seven nuclear submarines in operational service. Finally—
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord—I know he is answering my questions, although I regret some of the replies which I am receiving—but can he tell us what the proposed rate of construction is going to be for nuclear-propelled submarines?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am afraid I cannot off-hand, "off the cuff", so to speak, go any further than I have gone. If there is any more information of this kind which the noble Earl would like I should be glad to get it for him. The only figure I can give him is, as I say, that by the time the carriers go out of service we shall have seven of these nuclear-powered submarines in service. I do not know what kind of rate of build that reflects, but I shall find out and analyse it for the noble Earl.
Again, my Lords, I must interrupt the noble Lord. It is not the first seven which are worrying me, because they have already been announced. It is what comes after them that concerns me. That is why I was wishing to probe a little more.
§ LORD CHALFONT
Yes, I understand. I am sorry I had not appreciated that that was the thrust of the noble Earl's question. I will get that information and let him have it.
As to the replacement for the Shackleton Mk. III, which is another 192 specific question asked by the noble Earl, it has already been announced that the Nimrod will replace the Shackleton Mk. III and that it will come into service in 1970, both in the reconnaissance role and in the anti-submarine role. So far as the five-Power talks are concerned—I think the noble Earl made a big reference to those—I will send him, if he has not already seen it, a copy of the communiqué which was issued at the end of the five-Power talks in Kuala Lumpur on the 11th of this month. There will be, as he may know, a Statement by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary in another place next week on this subject, and I would ask the noble Earl to await that.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I am sure that the usual channels will take that point up.
Finally, my Lords, there was the question of all the new development techniques and the "shopping list" of research and development of which the noble Earl made mention. I can assure him that all these points will be taken very seriously into account, and I can also assure him that my right honourable friend will be taking all these matters—rocket assisted take-off, sonar development and all the other things he mentioned—very firmly into account in planning his Supplementary White Paper later this summer; in fact, next month. I believe—I hope—that I have answered the specific questions that have been put to me this afternoon. I do not expect to have answered fully, or even substantially, the doubts in the mind of the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, or in those of other noble Lords. There is clearly a difference of opinion here. I would almost go so far as to say that in some cases there is a failure of communication. But I would ask noble Lords to believe that the world has moved on: I know that this sounds trite and obvious; but I feel that it needs saying. I have no intention whatsoever—and no one, I believe, would suspect me of it—of belittling or underestimating the role, the glorious role, that the Royal Navy has played in the past. But we are in a completely new situation now. It is a new situation politically, a new situation 193 militarily and a new situation economically.
Noble Lords are fond of asking the Government to return to first principles. Let us return to first principles. Let us realise that one of the first principles of life to-day—of international life, of military life, of strategic doctrine—is the factor of the nuclear weapon, and the fact that it has completely revolutionised all political and military thinking. At least, I hoped, I feared, I believed, that it had. But, frankly, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, to quote from Captain Roskill's comments on sea power in the Second World War is grossly irrelevant to the problems we face to-day. One might as well offer to a man lost in the middle of Manhattan a map of Nottingham as now to talk about the lessons of sea power in the Second World War.
My Lords, this is a new world. If we do not grow up militarily and politically, if we do not stop believing that we can play soldiers like a lot of 19th century and mediaeval emperors with the weapons of the 20th century, then I say in all sincerity that we may not survive for very long. It is survival that defence policy, be it maritime or air or military, is concerned with: survival not in the specific terms of sea power or air power or land power, but survival in the sense of the way in which we protect the security of these islands against all kinds of attacks, or threats of attack, from outside. We cannot do this by concentrating exclusively on naval power or on any other element of strategic power. Indeed, I doubt very much whether we can ensure our survival and prosperity for very much longer by the simple exercise of military power.
I have expressed these doubts before in your Lordships' House, and I will not weary you with repeating them. I will only say that I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, for giving us the opportunity for this short debate. I hope that I have answered the specific questions which noble Lords have put to me; but I beg noble Lords in considering the whole question of strategy, maritime and every other kind, to come into the second half of the 20th century. It is a very new place.
My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, I 194 should like to ask him this question. He has accused some of my noble fiends of adumbrating an outdated strategic doctrine. I think he has rather guyed, unfairly guyed, in my view, a great deal of what was said in this debate but in view of that, I assume it must have been a Freudian lapse on his part when he referred to 19th century medieval emperors.
§ LORD CHALFONT
No, my Lords If the noble Earl will read the OFFICIAL. REPORT, which is always a model of accuracy, I think he will find that I said "19th century and mediaeval emperors". Even I know the difference between the 16th century and the. 19th century.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My lords, the thing that worries people to-day is that if our line of communications across, let us say, the North Atlantic, were to be severed, then we should starve. That is obvious. The point is that whet that happens, if it can happen, are we to resort to nuclear war. Is that the only answer?—submission or nuclear war.
§ LORD CHALFONT
No, my Lords. I know your Lordships will not want me to reopen the debate. The point at issue—it is not a simple one; none of it is simple and it would be wrong of me to suggest it is—is that if there is a danger of our trade lifeline being cut off in some notional or hypothetical war, of whatever kind, what I am saying is that that element of our security, like any other element of security in the nuclear age, cannot be a simple matter for the nation State on its own. Collective security is the only thing that matters, the only thing that will keep us safe. I am not suggesting that the difference must be between starvation and nuclear war; I am saying that the survival and prosperity of these islands depend in future ort collective, and not individual action.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I must express my gratitude to the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate to-day. I was delighted to find such eloquent exponents of sea power as the noble Lords, Lord Boothby and Lord Bourne. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is also one of the team, and I thank him very much for his support to-day I am 195 also grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for applying his very considerable experience as a serving soldier, as a diplomat, and as a former First Lord of the Admiralty to our deliberations. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has spoken with great eloquence. I cannot pretend to agree with all that he has said, although I am grateful for some of the things that he told us. His main argument is one that I should very much like to take up with him at some time; for I believe I could prove to him that some of the well-tried principles and methods of the past are not quite so outdated as he seems to suppose.
Finally—for I do not wish to keep your Lordships any longer—there are two very brief points that I should like to make. I do not think that any noble Lord on this side of the House ever suggested that the Royal Navy should keep the seas by itself. All we asked was that we should be allowed to play our part as the third naval Power and as perhaps still the greatest maritime nation in the world. The second point—and we always come up against it—is the claim that we cannot afford it. Here in this country we are wallowing in welfare. The present Government in four years have taken on a number of bureaucrats exceeding in size the entire Rhine Army—or, to put it another way, about as many as two-thirds of our entire naval forces—to look into our private affairs and to try to administer a great deal of legislation not all of which is in the interests of the country. I would implore noble Lords opposite—and this is my last word in this debate—to try to keep a sense of proportion. I believe that our standing in the world, the encouragement we can give to the underdeveloped countries, our ability to keep the peace, are more important sometimes than these things. May I end by asking noble Lords opposite to keep a sense of proportion when it comes to spending money? I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.