§ 3.7 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT rose to move, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1968 (Cmnd. 3540). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, the Leader of the House, the Motion that is before your Lordships. Before I begin my formal remarks may I apologise to the House, as I have already apologised to my noble friend the Leader of the House and to the Leader of the Opposition, that at some stage during the debate I shall have to leave your Lordships' House in order to fulfil another engagement connected with my European responsibilities in the Foreign Office. I shall hope to return to your Lordships' House before the end of the debate, but I trust that if my absence is noticed (which is not at all certain) your Lordships will acquit me of any discourtesy.
§ My Lords, if this debate on the Defence White Paper follows the pattern of previous debates in your Lordships' House, we can look forward to a discussion in which passionate conviction and special pleading will both play a prominent part. Before the afternoon is out I prophesy that hobby-horses will have been ridden in squadrons through the Palace of Westminster and that enough King Charles' Heads will have been exposed to stock a fair-sized waxworks. Noble Lords opposite, according to the weight of their military experience—often a very considerable weight—will have attacked the Government for what they are alleged to be doing, or not doing, to the Territorial Army, the Auxiliary Fire Service, the Navy, the Air Force or the Infantry. I suspect that the pacifist convictions of some noble Lords behind 213 me will lead them to suggest that whatever the Government are alleged to have done to the Armed Forces they have not done enough. Indeed, one of the things of which we can be reasonably confident is that wholehearted support for the Government's defence policy will come mainly from the Front Bench on this side of the House.
§ It would be wrong of me to try to anticipate in detail all the arguments that will be deployed; but with your Lordships' indulgence I should like to open the debate this afternoon by saying why I think this general attitude of hyper-criticism of the Defence White Paper is wrong and short-sighted. This is not to suggest any resentment against constructive criticism of the Government's defence policies; but merely that I believe we should consider our attitude to this or that White Paper, to this or that redeployment or reduction of the Armed Forces, against a broader and deeper political and strategic background; and if I can do so this afternoon without being either portentous or presumptuous, I should like to sketch, in the short time that I shall allow myself, the outlines of the sort of world in which political and strategic decisions will have to be taken in the last part of this century. Some of what I say this afternoon may be familiar ground to many of your Lordships, but in the interests of sanity in our military policies I do not propose to shrink from a little repetition.
§ The first of the many sobering facts of life that we have to face is that the modern world is a world of super-Powers. The principal roles on the world stage are no longer played, as they were in the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, in Berlin or in Paris, or for that matter in London. They are played, for better or for worse, in Moscow and in Washington, and there is another actor waiting not too patiently in the wings, China with its 700 million people, its growing military power and its nuclear bomb. Anyone who finds himself responsible for shaping the foreign and military policies of this country for the next twenty or thirty years must ask himself, I think, two major questions: What sort of problems will face this world of the super-Powers; and what part can we play in helping to solve them 214 in a way that will serve the lasting interests of our own people?
§ The most intractable problem of all, I suggest, is that of the great growing gulf between the rich countries of the world and the poor; the spectacle of two-thirds of the world living in misery and disease, and crushing poverty, while the other third carelessly feeds the comfortable sleekness of its own affluence ought to be, on its own, enough to outrage the conscience of any civilised man. Even if it does not—even if we are prepared to sit back and see the poor get poorer while the rich get richer—at least I think we ought to have enough sense to consult our best interests. I think there should be no mistake that the deprived people of this world will not be content for ever to see the world's goods in the hands of a happy few, while they themselves live in the shadow of starvation.
§ I do not want to play too often the role of prophet of doom, but I must ask your Lordships to look these facts in the face and ponder what they mean, to remember that the poor of the world are for the most part coloured and the rich are for the most part white. Racialism is already a creeping menace in at least one great nation, and if this terrible confrontation between white and coloured begins to take shape on a global scale then we shall be faced with a menace a thousand times worse than anything the ideological warriors of the cold war could imagine or invent. And when China becomes a super-Power, as sooner or later she will, the third world will not lack a leader. If we cannot solve in a civilised way, as we surely must, the problems of food and population, the basic world problem of an intelligent: and equitable distribution of the world's resources, this is the measure of the threat that will emerge to peace and order—and, indeed, to the survival of all of us.
§ This is not a foreign policy debate, my Lords, and it is not our concern to-day to discuss how these problems might be solved. Were it otherwise, I might want to say some things about the way in which the recognition of the facts of life about China might help some of our foreign policies. But this is a defence debate, and our business to-day is to discuss how the military resources of this country should be organised in such a way as to secure the interests of the 215 British people as the sort of world that I have depicted begins to emerge. I know that there are those who will say at once, "Well, if that is the case, if the military threat to our future is from China or from some terrible racial conflict, why are we withdrawing our forces from our bases and garrisons all over the world?" The answer is that we are no longer the centre of a great and powerful Empire; as the world changes, so do we change, and we must accept the limitations of our new circumstances. This is the simple equation of power. We no longer have the power on our own to control and manage events.
If this occasion had been a more leisurely one, I should have liked to examine the concept of power in international relations a little more closely, because I think it is arguable that in the world of nuclear weapons orthodox power theories are obsolete. The inhibitions on the use of force as an instrument of policy have, in my view, invalidated many of the arguments of the power philosophers, of Machiavelli, of Locke, and of Rousseau. There are signs that this realisation that the power concept in international affairs leads to self-defeating policies is dawning in the minds of the world's statesmen, but it is dawning with a painful slowness, and the world in which we live, and in which we have to care for our people, is still a world of the nation State, volatile, self-regarding, aggressive, and with, as Thomas Hobbes once put it:
the Right of making Warre and Peace with other Nations and Commonwealths; that is to say of judging when it is for the publique good, and how great forces are to be assembled, armed and payd for that end; and to levy money upon the subjects to defray the expences thereof …".
§ My Lords, we may not like the nasty and brutish world of Thomas Hobbes, but we still live in it, and we have to deal with it as best we may. And in this jungle of international power politics I believe it is true to say that the measure of power can be defined as the comparative ability of nations to apply the resources that are available to them to the achievement of realistic objectives. I think this is a definition that is widely accepted, and one that ought to be held up in letters of fire in front of anyone who seeks to criticise this or that military policy. Power can be defined 216 as the comparative ability of nations to apply the resources that are available to them to the achievement of realistic objectives. Obviously, if the resources are limited then the power is limited. But perhaps even more important than that, if the application of national resources is inefficient or misguided, then even that limited power is correspondingly diminished.
§ In the period before the first world war Britain found herself fulfilling honourably and not without distinction the role of world policeman. And because, in the terms of the day, she used her quite modest national resources more efficiently than any of her rivals, she was able to sustain that role even against the wishes of nations potentially stronger than herself. Since the Second World War a vastly different state of affairs has prevailed. There are various reasons for this. First, we have suffered the economic effects of the great burdens we bore in the war. Secondly, there is the remarkable advance in military technology; the cost, in terms of resources, needed to maintain a strong world-wide deployment of military force has increased enormously, out of all recognition. Thirdly, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, two countries who some decades ago would not or could not assume leading roles in world affairs, have now emerged, as I have said, as super-Powers, as nations with vast resources efficiently organised and harnessed, and they are prepared to use some of those resources to extend and protect the international interests of themselves and their allies.
§ So far as we in this country are concerned, the foundations of our military power have been diminished. There are many reasons for that. Perhaps the most obvious example is that the resources of the Indian sub-continent, which up to 1947 had played a central part in our military capability, ceased to be available to us. Fourthly, post-war British Governments have increasingly come to recognise that the people of Britain are not prepared to accept that a comparatively high proportion of national resources in men, materials and production should be used to maintain Britain's former world role at the expense of their country's position as a trading nation.
§ I hope there is no mistake about this: the diversion of economic resources 217 needed for a nation of our size and means to maintain credible world-wide military forces in the mid-20th century would be very great indeed, and I greatly hope that no-one will be deceived by those who talk of reversing the present Government's policies and restoring our military presence in the East. Of course, it could be done. But let us be clear that if it is done it will either fatally weaken our Armed Forces and our defences or it will irretrievably damage our economy. It might even do both, and to suggest otherwise is to be utterly irresponsible.
The nature of the basic problem of Britain's military strength is therefore simply this. The accelerating scientific and technological revolution of the mid-20th century has fashioned two great super-Powers; it may be about to produce a third. Our peace and our security might be threatened by new and cataclysmic developments. The quality of our life, and indeed our very survival, may be at risk in these events; but we are not strong enough nor big enough to defend ourselves without help, much less to carry the burden of the rest of the world indefinitely.
Until 1964, no Government had carried out the full-scale reappraisal of our defence and foreign policy which the recognition of these economic and political realities entailed. The result was that we got the worst of both worlds. We tried to meet commitments with forces that were too small. Yet even these overstretched forces were enough to hamper the normal development of our economy in comparison with that of other exporting countries. When this Government came to power in 1964 it decided, as the 1966 White Paper put it,
To carry out a far-reaching examination of the nation's defence needs in the next decade, with two objectives: to relax the strain imposed on the British economy by the defence programme which it had inherited, and to shape a new defence posture for the 1970s.
In carrying through this review we have, as far as possible, tried to consider the interests of those who, in the past, came to rely on the physical presence of our forces to preserve stability in their parts of the world.
But again, as the White Paper of 1967 made clear,
the purpose of our diplomacy is to foster developments which will enable the local
peoples to live at peace without the presence of external forces.
In an age of rapid political and technological change, defence policy is not, and I doubt if it ever has been, something which can remain unchanged for long periods of time. As we said in the White Paper of 1966, and again in the White Paper of 1967,
the defence review must be a continuing process and a permanent part of our policy-making.
The special economic difficulties of the last twelve months have shown how essential such a continuing review is if our military policy is effectively to defend our interests in the modern world. It is fanciful to wish that we were still a great imperial Power and it is foolish to behave as though we were. We are not a large nation and our natural resources lie almost entirely in the technological skills which we have developed. Other nations are now beginning to acquire these skills, some of them have already done so Our survival as a leading industrial nation depends basically on our ability to devote a high proportion of our productive capacity to exports. Any attempt to carry a military role beyond our means would cripple us in competition with our commercial rivals.
Unless we are prepared to shed extraneous military commitments we shall face the perpetuation of a state of affairs in which we meet our commitments either by sacrifices which are wholly disproportionate to any gain that would result, or by a dangerous reliance on forces whose size and equipment are inadequate for the tasks they are asked to perform In short, as I have said before, we can no longer continue, in the face of our economic difficulties, to pretend that we have the strength to shoulder a major military burden based on a permanent world-wide deployment of forces. Nor can we afford special military capabilities for a variety of geographical areas outside Europe. Certainly any such pretence would. Jo no service to the best interests of our friends and allies.
And to those who persist in con using military power with political influence I should like to make one thing quite clear. We do not accept that the maintenance of stability which remains a prime object of our foreign policy is always best achieved by military means. This does 219 not mean that we shall neglect the basic security of these islands: but, for the rest, we have had to look closely at the part we can play in the total defence of the free world and decide where our limited effort can most usefully be employed.
Part of the business of government is to choose between the conflicting claims on scarce national resources. This is as true of military policy as of any other sphere of Government activity. If we cannot sustain a world role, then we must decide what we can most effectively do within our resources. And the answer is, as the 1968 White Paper says, to recognise that:
the foundation of Britain's security now, as always, lies in the maintenance of peace in Europe.
Our first priority, therefore, must still be to give the fullest possible support to the North Atlantic Alliance."
And here perhaps I may be allowed to say a brief word about military alliances. They are, of course, a byproduct of the orthodox power theories that I mentioned earlier. It can be powerfully argued that they are, in fact, one of the self-defeating policies to which I referred—that so far from contributing to lasting security, they increase tension and aggravate political confrontations. I say that this can be argued. Whatever may be the truth of this, one thing is certain; so long as we live in a world of power politics, as we do, our only security is collective security. Until all military alliances have atrophied in a world that has learned to live in sanity, we cannot guarantee to be safe alone. We might, of course, be quite safe alone; but no Government can afford to gamble on that kind of possibility. So long as there are—and there are—still countries in the world that are prepared to use, or threaten to use, armed force to damage our interests, then it would be an irresponsible Government that did not arrange its military affairs to meet that threat.
Our safety lies in the safety of Europe and the Atlantic, and it is inseparable from the safety of our friends in that area. The general military capability which we shall maintain in Europe after 1971 will, of course, be available, for deployment elsewhere overseas. Some of it might be used in support of United Nations operations; and in all our
planning we have taken full account of the need to be able to contribute forces—as we are doing at this moment in Cyprus—to the work of the United Nations in keeping the peace. Some of it might also be needed to help our friends overseas. Certainly, for example, it would be unthinkable that we should not come to the aid of Australia or New Zealand should they be the victims of aggression. But we should not lose sight of the fact that an attack on Australia and New Zealand would be likely to take place only in circumstances of a major war in which we should not be acting alone. We shall also, of course, retain the capability we need for the commitments we shall still have in our dependent territories. But, as the White Paper we are debating emphasies,
it has been a fundamental principle of the current examination that reductions in capability, whether in terms of manpower or equipment, must be accompanied by reductions in the tasks imposed by the commitments that we require the Services to undertake.
So, as I have said, the main role of our forces in the future will increasingly lie in the European theatre, and their equipment and training will be primarily geared to the needs of that theatre.
As your Lordships will be aware, last December NATO Ministers endorsed a new strategic concept for the defence of the NATO area. This was the culmination of a long process which has resulted in a major revision of the strategy which was adopted by the Alliance in 1956 and which had become outdated by events. The main principles of this new thinking in NATO strategy are, first, that in future the defence planning of the Alliance should not only be based on the military capabilities of the Soviet Union and its allies but should also take due account of our best assessment of their political intentions. Second, and linked with the first principle, is the recognition that if the situation were to deteriorate and the threat of war in Europe to increase, this would be reflected in political changes which would give forewarning of the possibility of attack, in addition to and probably well in advance of any military indicators.
Third, it has been agreed that NATO should base its military planning on the forces and resources which member 221 countries are actually able to make available rather than, as in the past, on ideal but unattainable force goals. Finally, and perhaps most important, this concept, which adapts NATO'S strategy to current political, military and technological developments, is based on the familiar principle of meeting aggression with a flexible and balanced range of responses, conventional and nuclear, to any aggression. These responses would, of course, be subject at every stage to political control.
In this connection it might be appropriate for me to say a word about the duration of the North Atlantic Treaty, on which the position seems to be widely misunderstood. And I noticed that the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in another place has himself, uncharacteristically, fallen into error on this point. It is frequently assumed that the North Atlantic Treaty is to be reviewed or re-negotiated in some way in 1969. This is not the case. The Treaty has no set term. There is a provision in Article 13 of the Treaty for any member country to give one year's notice of withdrawal in 1969, when the Treaty will have been in force for twenty years. It is useful to put the record straight on that point.
But, to return to the military situation in Europe, force levels are not a matter of simple strategic and tactical calculation; there is also the vital matter of the political implication of reducing, if we can, the number of troops who glare at each other across the Elbe and the other frontiers between East and West. We recognise in NATO, as I have said, that we must take proper account of the probable intentions of the Soviet Union and its allies, whatever their present capabilities may be. We must continue by all means that are open to us to work, with our allies, for improved East/West relations, since European security can in the end rest only on a satisfactory solution of the outstanding political differences between East and West.
In the meantime, there is no intrinsic reason why the balance of mutual deterrence in Europe should not be maintained at a much lower level of forces on either side. If we could achieve a mutual, balanced reduction of forces in Europe, this could make an important contribution to improving relations between East 222 and West. There is unfortunately no sign at present that the Soviet Union would be prepared to contribute to such a process, and, without some sign of that readiness, it would be foolish for us to act alone. But this situation could change. Things are changing now with bewildering speed in the Communist world, as noble Lords will have seen from recent developments reported in the newspapers and if there is such a change in the attitude of the Soviet Union then we in the West must be ready immediately to take advantage of it. It is for this reason that NATO is now, at British initiative, studying the possibilities for mutual reduction of forces between East and West as part of the work on the future tasks of the Alliance.
By our decision to concentrate our future defence effort mainly in Europe and the North Atlantic area we have reaffirmed our conviction that Britain's political future and our main contribution to world stability lie above all in partnership with our allies in Europe within the Atlantic framework. In this way we can contribute to the development of a stronger European identity in the defence affairs of the Alliance, without weakening the wider Atlantic connection on which the security of Western Europe continues to depend. In defence, as in other matters, I believe that the voice of a united Europe should be heard. With our European partners we face common issues in matte's of strategy and defence policy and, no less important, in the problems created by the cost and complexity of modern military equipment. And in defence, as in other areas of industry and technology, we have reached a point at which it no longer makes sense for the Western European Powers to pursue the illusory goal of national self-sufficiency.
The need for co-operation is widely recognised. For example, there is the constructive suggestion recently put forward by the Governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg that, among other things, common action among the European States that desire it should include the development, production and joint purchase of military equipment. Her Majesty's Goverriment have warmly welcomed the Benelux proposals. I hope that we are now seeing the beginning of a movement towards 223 the creation of an effective European personality within the Atlantic framework, which can make a distinctive European contribution to the problems of our common defence. For our part our contribution to the defence of the North Atlantic will be a well-balanced, professional, mobile and highly effective force. This concentration of our forces is in the area where they can do most to preserve our own security and the security of our allies without detriment to our own basic economic strength. It is absurd to suggest that this is in some way deeply humiliating. What would have been humiliating, for us as a nation and for our soldiers, sailors and airmen, would have been to dissipate our limited manpower and equipment in penny packets over the whole face of the globe and to have accepted commitments which, if it had come to the crunch, we could not have fulfilled.
My Lords, I do not deny that the road along which we have travelled in the last few years has been a difficult one and that the decisions which had to be taken along that road were momentous. They were not taken lightly. The reassessment of our defence policy which has resulted has meant straining many long-standing bonds and questioning many traditional habits of thought. But I am convinced that the results in the long run will ultimately be healthier for the international community. For example, the withdrawal of our military presence from South-East Asia is undoubtedly painful for Singapore and Malaysia. But already there are signs that it is giving an impetus to the development of effective co-operation between those countries and their nearer neighbours—the sort of co-operation which brings mutual security and constructive progress in its train.
A similar spirit is apparent in the Persian Gulf. Since the announcement of our decision to withdraw from the Gulf by the end of 1971, there has been evidence of the readiness of the Rulers of the Gulf States to co-operate among themselves in assuring the future stability and prosperity of the area. The two Trucial States of Abu Dhabi and Dubai announced on February 18 their union for purposes of defence, foreign affairs 224 and certain aspects of economic development. This was followed by a three-day meeting between the Rulers of Bahrain, Qatar and all the seven Trucial States to consider their situation in the light of the impending withdrawal of British forces. The meeting ended with an announcement that the nine States had agreed to join in a union to provide for collective defence, a central budget and a joint Council of Rulers. This constructive approach to their common problems was taken at the unprompted initiative of the Rulers themselves. We, of course, warmly welcome their agreement and we shall gladly respond, so far as we can, to any request for assistance in making it effective.
My Lords, there are many other aspects of defence policy with which I should have liked to deal. I have, for example, said little or nothing about the future size and shape of our Armed Forces. Our Navy will be the strongest European navy in NATO. I should have liked to say more about the Army—it will still be one of the most experienced armies on the Continent, and its equipment will be second to none. The Air Force will have some 400 modern combat jet aircraft. But I have taken up too much of your Lordships' time already. Others in this debate will have plenty to say about our Armed Forces, and my aim has been the modest one of setting the scene for our debate.
All I would say on the state of the Armed Forces is that, in spite of the dire predictions of some of our professional prophets of disaster, our soldiers, sailors and airmen seem to be reacting to their new challenge and to the sacrifices in which they are being asked to share, with their traditional blend of good-humoured stoicism and unshakable loyalty. They often think, as I did when I was a soldier, that politicians are usually either knaves or fools, and often both. But we should take great comfort from the fact that, whatever our Armed Forces think about politicians, they do not meddle in politics. It is easy to be deceived by the bitterness of those whose disappointment and frustration has got the better of their military good sense—and we might do well to remember that barrack-room lawyers can be found in the officers' mess as well as in the NAAFI canteen. But my impression, from the consultations and discussions which I have 225 had with my friends and former colleagues in the Services, is that we can have in the future as we always have had in the past, complete confidence in the way our Armed Forces will conduct themselves and serve their country.
This year's Defence White Paper is necessarily an interim document—an outline of the changes recently announced and an analysis of other decisions reached in the past twelve months. The Government are now engaged in a detailed assessment of all the implications for the future, and we shall hope to make a fuller statement before the Summer Recess.
In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to restate, very briefly, the principles which we believe should guide us in reaching the central decisions of defence and foreign policy. There are many of us—and I dare say this includes most Members of this House and indeed of the other place—who believe, with John Locke, that man is a moral as well as a social animal, and that there is a higher law than the law of force. Even those who do not go as far as that will probably subscribe to Immanuel Kant's great categorical imperative:—
So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal—never as a means only.
In a civilised democracy based upon that kind of philosophy, as ours is, we cannot accept for ever the concept of war as a rational instrument of policy. We must hope for, and work for, the day when the world will be ordered in a wiser and saner way, according to the rule of law and not the law of the jungle.
No country has worked harder than ours, under successive Governments, of both Parties, for the United Nations and for disarmament. These must continue to be cardinal elements of our foreign policy; but, as I have said in your Lordships' House before, the world is what it is, not what we want it to be. It is not simple, safe and reassuring; it is complicated, dangerous and frightening. If we are going to make it any better for our children and their children, we must temper whatever idealism we have with an appreciation of the harsh realities of life. While we all have a duty as human beings to work tirelessly and endlessly for a world free from hatred, fear and 226 organised violence, we have another duty as British politicians and statesmen. It is to order our affairs to-day so that the people of this country not only enjoy the quality of life that is their right but also remain each day safe to enjoy it. That, my Lords, and nothing else is what a Defence policy, and above all this Government's defence policy, is for. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1968. (Cmnd. 3540). —(Lord Chalfont.)
§ 3.45 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his thoughtful if at times somewhat Olympian address, some of which I agree with, some of which I must confess went just a little over my head. We have a long list of speakers. I notice that they include two powerful Tory warriors, the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft, who share at least one attribute in common; and that is that their oratorical boomerangs are just as likely to recoil on their own Front Bench as on the proper targets opposite. I hope that the noble and gallant Field Marshal, whatever else he says, will continue his fraternal endeavours on behalf of the Royal Navy. He refloated it, if I recall correctly, in our debate last year—aircraft carriers and all. I hope that this time he will succeed in piloting it safely out to sea, navigating between the Charybdis of Chalfont and the Scylla of Shackleton.
The number of speakers in the rebate this afternoon serves to illustrate the seriousness with which your Lordships regard these issues of defence; and rightly so. I do not wish to hide my grave concern at this moment, nor do I wish to hide my feeling that in certain important respects the Government have reneged on their defence responsibilities toward the nation. But only six weeks ago we debated and carried a somewhat critical Amendment which touched on much of this ground, and I do not wish to plough all that up again. Indeed, I hope to offer one or two constructive suggestions to noble Lords opposite. But before doing so I wish to summarise the main counts in our indictment against the Government's present defence policies.
227 In the first place, we deplore the lack of stability and settled purpose in those policies. That much-heralded Review to end all Reviews was unveiled to us two weeks ago, and since then, like the veils of Salome, Review after Review has been stripped off the increasingly naked body of our defences. That is the process which I think the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, engagingly described in the words, "defence policy cannot remain unchanged for long". Second, the Government have, in our view, gone back on clear pledges to our friends, our allies and our associates around the globe. Third, they have shaken the confidence of, and done something to threaten to undermine the morale of, our Armed Forces. Fourth, they have allowed vital gaps in the equipment of those Armed Forces to emerge.
The root cause of much of this, I hold, was that arbitrary decision of theirs, some years ago, to impose an arbitrary limit on defence expenditure. I would not for one moment query the need to relate our defence expenditures to our economic capacities. But I do query the priority which, within that overall need, the Government accord to the defence of this nation. That, in sum, is our indictment; and that, in short, is why I personally find it hard to continue to regard the present Secretary of State, for whose personal qualities and for many of whose public qualities I have a high regard, as any longer credible, at least in his present office.
But that said, I should like straight away to say that I for one do not quarrel with the priority—I will quarrel in other respects, but not with the overall priority—which the Government wish to accord to Europe in our defence policies. Like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I believe that our destiny is in and with Europe, however difficult the going or the getting in will prove. I believe that in the past the policies of many of our Governments towards Europe have not been broadly enough based. Sometimes in our approach to Europe we have given priority to purely economic considerations; sometimes to political considerations; sometimes, and more lately and correctly, to technological considerations; less often to defence considerations; and very seldom to all these con- 228 siderations together. I do not dissent. therefore, from the Government's priority, and I would recognise the need to accord a due priority in our defence policy towards European affairs. But what we challenge is making this priority exclusive of virtually all other considerations.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—I wish he were here this afternoon—is, I feel, entitled to congratulate himself. The Government, as I see it. have swallowed the Liberal Party's defence policy, hook, line and Gladwyn. Indeed, they have gone further. Even in his most iconoclastic mood the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, did not advocate, as I understood it, a total and immediate British withdrawal from the Far East. If I recall his views correctly, he wished—as, indeed, the Government professed to wish until around Christmas—to maintain a limited military presence in Singapore as long as we were wanted there: to maintain an amphibious capability in the Far East; and to develop with the Americans, the Australians and the New Zealanders base facilities in Australia. The Government have gone much further. They have out-Gladwyned Gladwyn and out-Mayhewed Mayhew. They have adopted a policy, in short, a good deal closer, I would suspect, to that of the younger Liberals than to that of some of the more elderly ones sitting just to my right.
I can only say that I profoundly regret and profoundly deplore the decision which they have taken. It means that militarily we are proposing to withdraw in the very near future from that portion of the globe where the crust of stability is at present at its thinnest. As a student of Asian affairs has said, Singapore is thestrategic centre of the likeliest area of contest of the power struggles this century.
Thence, despite the pleadings of the indigenous Government, this Government, counting our pounds but neither our wider interests nor our honour, propose to shuffle out. I would readily concede that the power which we could bring to bear in this crucial area throughout the next crucial decade or so might be only quite marginal.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I was not quite sure when the noble Earl stopped quoting, or whom he was quoting. I do not want to interrupt, but I thought he said he was quoting.
I was, my Lords. The quotation was a description of Singapore as thestrategic centre of the likeliest area of contest of the power struggles of this century".It is Dr. Bell. But, my Lords. it was demonstrated in Malaya in the fifties and it was demonstrated in Borneo and Sarawak in the sixties how crucial the application of even marginal power could be in containing insurgency and in aiding nascent nations to live an independent life. Although, therefore, our power may have been marginal, and although I, for one, have never contemplated that in a military sense it would be right for us to maintain a presence on the mainland of Asia indefinitely, and certainly not for one moment longer than we were asked to play such a part by the indigenous Government, I believe that our contribution was uniquely valuable. It offered an alternative method to the Americans in crisis management; it showed how wars could be won without escalation, and it is a technique that may be sorely missed in that part of the world.
Now it would be idle to pretend that anything that I can say will be able to deflect the Government from their chosen course, but I would at least plead with noble Lords opposite to do all they can to see that, when we leave, our extraction, our self-extraction, is as painless as possible. and that in preparing to leave, leaving and having left we do our utmost to promote stability.
What, therefore, can the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the Leader of the House, tell us about the air defence arrangements which we propose to make in conjunction with the Governments of Malaysia and of Singapore? Are we going to supply the skilled staff officers whom Lee Kuan Yew so ardently desires? What about the great dockyard at Singapore? I think some 90,000 jobs depend, directly or indirectly, on the Singapore base. In this respect, at least, Malta is relatively a mere fleabite. What can the noble Lord tell us about the discussions which Sir Alan Dudley is now conducting with the Singapore and Malaysian authorities? Above all, can the noble Lord hold out any hope that the Government, despite everything they are saying now-and they have shown a certain aptitude for eating their words on occasion—will be prepared to review the 230 position if, when we approach this crucial terminal date, it is clear that a rigid adherence to the 1971 dateline is bound to lead to disaster in this most sensitive region of the world?
My Lords, it is for not dissimilar reasons that I deplore the Government's decision to withdraw by 1971 from the Persian Gulf. I will not enlarge on that area. But I would remind the noble Lord, who referred, and quite rightly referred, to the signs that a Federation of the Trucial States of Qatar and Bahrain may be in the making—and I welcome it—that sleeping claims, overlapping claims, between many of the nations and States which surround this area are also coming to life under the impulse of our threatened withdrawal. I would ask this of the noble Lord, since I think he used very much the same words as did his right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place, when referring to the Federation. Mr. Healey said:We shall be ready to help in whatever ways we can to make it effective."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/3/68; col. 57.]I would ask this question: If, for example, the Rulers request of us a small and limited military presence for a limited time, shall we be prepared to help in that way?
My Lords, I turn now to Europe. In the defence debate in another place: last week Mr. Healey prided himself on the decision reached by the NATO Council last December that the NATO forces should beused so as to maximise the Alliance's capability for conventional resistance against a possible attack." (col. 60.)He said he wished to probe the Or position's thinking a little about this. The noble Lord referred to this matter in his opening speech, but I should like to probe a little more the Government's thinking about all this. I make no apology for so doing, since we have been told again by Mr. Healey that the survival of the human race could indeed depend upon the extent to which the NATO Powers were able to delay a Soviet advance in Central Europe.
Some of us have in the past heard that great American and that great European, General Norstad, enunciate this doctrine of the pause—the period. the critical period, which would enable the Powers to ascertain their mutual i mentions, their real intentions; to weigh the 231 astronomic risks of escalation, and, one would hope, draw back from the brink. I have always believed that this doctrine was right, that it was right for NATO to arm itself with sufficient conventional forces to be able to enforce such a pause.
Therefore I welcome this part of this year's White Paper, although I must confess that I was a little surprised to see, after all the trumpeting of this brave new doctrine, that all we apparently hope to achieve is an extension of the theoretical period of delay from two days to three, or perhaps four. If, indeed, the survival of the human race depends upon such a pause, this would seem to be a fairly modest ambition.
That said, however, I am inclined to wonder whether the new facts correspond with the new doctrine. Provided that the forces of the Western Powers have not been weakened, this doctrine must surely imply that the conventional forces available to NATO have been strengthened. But is this in fact the case? We have only to recall the events of the last two years to know that the ground forces available in the central sector have been seriously weakened. The French have withdrawn two divisions—and, worse, have pulled out of NATO. Thirty-five thousand American troops have gone; and there is the withdrawal of one British brigade from the British Army of the Rhine.
These withdrawals threaten to set up a chain reaction. The Belgians are thinning out; the Canadians may, I understand, be proposing to do the same; there is pressure on the Dutch to do so. And we do not need to have our ears particularly close to the ground to know that, with the cuts in the German defence budget which were decided on last summer, the German divisions available for the defence of the central sector may well be reduced from the present level of twelve to nine; and even, indeed, to eight.
If this downward trend persists it seems only too possible that by the mid-1970s NATO will have for the defence of this vital central front not the original target of 30 divisions—which was adhered to vainly for so long—but only some 15; and of that 15 only two may be American. It would seem therefore that the Secretary of State may have persuaded his colleagues to adopt the McNamara policy of a flexible and graduated re- 232 sponse at the very moment when, due at least in part to the actions of Her Majesty's Government, NATO may be becoming incapable, or less capable, of carrying out that policy. If that is so, it is not only the military balance between East and West that will be impaired. Strategically, NATO will again become almost totally dependent upon the American nuclear umbrella; the doctrine of the pause will go overboard; diplomatically, Western Europe will become increasingly vulnerable to possible Soviet leverage. And that is the way to invite a renewal of Soviet pressure, the relaxation of which we all welcome, on Western Europe. Equally important, we shall lose such bargaining power as we possess in seeking what is, I think, the goal which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, wishes to pursue; namely, mutual agreed reductions in the level of the Armed Forces maintained respectively by the Western and the Warsaw Powers.
My Lords, if the Government mean what they say about the priority to be accorded to Europe and to European defence, if they are serious about the doctrine of graduated response, and if they have really converted their NATO partners to it, let us be wary about following the advice which I suspect some noble Lords will proffer in this debate. This, I would claim, on military, political and indeed disarmament grounds, is not the moment for us to contemplate further withdrawals from the Rhine Army. Let us by all means press for better off-set arrangements with our more well-to-do German allies; but let us not do so under the threat, explicit or implied, of further reductions in the Rhine Army.
I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, had to say about the Benelux initiative. I would hope that the Government could use that as a starting point. Could not the Government, in partnership with our allies in Europe, take these proposals as a starting point to see whether we could establish a joint European Armaments Board with some real authority, and authority in its own right, to try to see whether the countries of Western Europe, including France, are not able in the 1970s and 1980s to open up a wider arms market among themselves, to spread the almost unbearable research development costs and organise 233 significant sections of their armaments production on an efficient common basis?
While I am on this theme of "joint-ness" I would add this. I assume from what was said in another place that the Government propose to back the new NATO Standing Naval Force and also the ACE Mobile Force, as it is called. If this is their intention, I am glad. I saw something of the start of the new naval force when the original NATO frigate squadron, Matchmaker, was born. I think that there may be a case for having three NATO Standing Forces in European waters—one in the broader Atlantic, one in Northern waters and one in the Mediterranean, where, as we all know, Soviet naval strength is being increasingly deployed. I myself see no reason why the concept should be confined solely to frigates, and I should hope that if such joint forces were established, the Royal Navy would play a full and proud part in that. Unless the Government propose to sell or "mothball" all the ships which they will be withdrawing from the Indian Ocean, there is no reason why they should not do so. It would be a good thing, quite apart from sentiment, to see a substantial British fleet once again moored in the Grand Harbour at Valletta.
While I am on the subject of Malta, I should like to put this suggestion to the Government. Would they not consider exploring, with the Government of Malta and in conjunction with their NATO allies, the possibility of basing a strengthened ACE mobile force in Malta itself? Here again, unless the Government propose to disband or "mothball" all the troops and squadrons they are bringing back from the Indian Ocean, we could play a full part in such a force.
My Lords, there is precious little in the White Paper which enables one to judge the Government's more detailed intentions towards the Armed Forces. But I should like to say a few words and ask a few questions on three of them. My noble friends will doubtless be asking more. We are all becoming increasingly conscious these days of the Soviet Union, for it is not only a land but a marine animal. That being so, I should like to question Her Majesty's Government about the defensive capabilities of the Royal Navy. Most of us who are interested in these matters know that successful anti- 234 submarine defence depends on the "mix" of maritime air power, of surface escorts and of the fleet submarine, the so-called hunter-killer. What concerns me is that, at this precise moment when the Government say they are concentrating more upon European and upon home waters, at this moment when we see the growing ubiquity and strength of the Soviet naval forces, they should choose to cut back on the construction of our fleet submarine forces. It was our intention when in power to build this force to a dozen; and then to go on from there. What is the Government's intention?
My noble friend Lord St. Oswald will be discussing the Air Force at g -eater length. I have only one query to rut to the Government about the Air Force. It is to ask for more information about the Canberra replacement. Even this Government cannot defy Newton indefinitely and keep the Canberra indefinitely in the air. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, telling us only ten months ago that to a very great extent we had a settled programme of re-equipment for the Royal Air Force. He went on to say,But this does not denote that all we have to do is sit back and await delivery."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/5/67; col. 824.]No, indeed, my Lords. Those were prophetic words, for now this whole policy is in ruins, or large parts of it are. We have neither the TSR.2 nor the F.111, nor the Anglo-French variable-geometry aircraft, and we have spent nearly a quarter of a thousand million pounds obtaining precisely nothing.
My Lords, the Government are present veiling their detailed intentions towards the Regular Army, but we know enough to know that the size of our Regular Forces may be about to be further severely curtailed. Yet at this precise moment when the Government are preparing to cut our Army to the bone, at this moment when adequate reserves would seem to be more necessary than ever before, they have decided to murder the only reserve defence force, T. & A.V.R.III, on which expansion in an emergency could be based. It is indeed a sorry story. We all remember how grudgingly the Government accepted the concept of this force. We all know how small the Government were determined to keep it. We all know how stubbornly 235 they fought to restrict its role. We all know how meanly they equipped it. However, as a result of the pressure exerted from the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, downwards, this Force was brought into being. Like all Members of your Lordships' House I am distressed that the noble Duke is not with us today, and at the reason for it.
In any event, as a result of the unquenchable enthusiasm of its members this Force showed every sign of being a success. Yet now, at the one moment when it looked like being more essential than ever before the Government decide to kill it: and all for the sake of £2½ million. And that at almost the same time as they announce Supplementary Estimates of no less than £562 million—enough to have kept the Territorials going for almost 200 years, according to my calculations. This one act shows more clearly than anything else the priorities which this Government attach to the defence of this country.
In my view they are making a desperate gamble. It may, of course, pay off—I hope it will. But, my Lords, fundamentally the Government are gambling on there being no war in our time. They are also gambling that never in any circumstances shall we need to expand our now greatly reduced Regular Army. It is a rash assumption, and only ruler, possessed of a high degree of intellectual arrogance, or those prepared to put at risk the ultimate security of these Islands, would be prepared to take it. My Lords, there are many speakers and I will not stand—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Earl in his flow of very good eloquence in a very interesting speech. I should be grateful if he would fill in a gap which has yet to be filled by Opposition speakers. I should like to know how he sees the T. & A.V.R. III playing a role in the military situation, as he has himself described it, other than the rather limited one that was attributed to it. The noble Earl has talked about expansion. There are other ways of expansion and there are other reserves on which there could be an expansion, but I should be grateful if he would develop that point.
My Lords, what has worried me about this matter is that 236 apart from T. & A.V.R. III all our Army Reserves, as I understand the position, are precisely tailored, either as units, subunits or individuals, to fill places which would require to be filled in the Regular Army in an emergency. There is nothing on which to base expansion in an emergency. There is nothing; and I think it lamentable that the role is to be denied to the T. & A.V.R. III should these Islands be subjected to attack, even a minor attack. But at the end of a much too lengthy speech I should prefer not to be drawn into a long reply on that point. I am quite certain that my noble friend Lord Thurlow will be dealing with the noble Lord's question to me.
I wish in conclusion to say just this. Once again—and we are getting familiar with it—we are faced with a situation where, in defence policy, much is uncertain. Major decisions have to be taken between now and later this summer. I would urge that on this occasion the Government approach these difficult issues with a shade more humility than they have sometimes shown in the past. After all, my Lords, they have amply demonstrated that in matters of defence they, like others, have a certain capacity for human error.
Admittedly, they are now restricted in their field of manæuvre by reason of the narrow assumptions on which they are working and by reason of the collapse of their economic policies. But on this occasion I should hope, my Lords—I would urge—that they should be as flexible as possible in their approach and leave open as many options as possible Let them remember that in the last resort the security of these Islands should rank in priority above all their other responsibilities. Finally, let them remember that, as a Government, it is probably not they who will be saddled with the situation which their impending decisions will create, because Governments, like the defence policies of the present Government, are not immutable.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, there are not many matters nowadays on which the Liberal Party finds itself in agreement with the Government. For that matter, there are not many subjects on which the Labour Party finds itself in agreement with the Government. But on 237 defence we can at least claim that the Government have at last done the right thing in deciding, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, to abandon the impossible role of a world peace-keeping nation and to give our defence much more of a European look. I am only sorry that this change of policy stems from pressure of economic events rather than from the conviction that this is the proper role for Britain in the latter part of this century.
Having said that, I must say that I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, a great deal more convincing than the White Paper itself. I thought it a very well argued case for the policy which the Government have adopted. I was extremely grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for the kind things which he said about my noble friend Lord Gladwyn and for the credit which he awarded to him. Indeed, the noble Earl is quite right. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in common with many others in the Liberal Party, has made clear that we would have started withdrawing earlier and taken longer over it in order to get a better phasing, and I believe that this was the right policy. Nevertheless, we welcome the statement in the White Paper to the effect that Britain's defence effort will in future be concentrated mainly in Europe and in the North Atlantic area. A year ago we were unable to support the Government and their White Paper because they refused to abandon this East of Suez role. I am not going to labour the point, but we are indeed pleased that the views we have expressed have been accepted.
What I do find incomprehensible is the statement, if it was correctly reported, by the Leader of the Conservative Party pledging that the next Conservative Government would return British troops to points East of Suez. In addition to the arguments put forward, and the reasons given, by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I should have thought that that was a highly dangerous pledge to make. Not only would it cost an extra £300 million a year, I believe, in the 1970s, but it introduces a measure of unpredictability in the defence policy of this country which could have very serious effects on the policies of other countries.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, that is not entirely true, because what has happened here is that the Leader of the Conservative Party used the words "if the Conservative Government come back" (and that is a very big "if": we may be waiting until 1970 or 1975, or even later), and all that time this will be risk that people will be under. They will be thinking: "Perhaps the Conservatives will win the next Election". So there will be this uncertainty in that area of the world where it should not be. I think that this is, to use the word of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, an irresponsible action on the part of the Conservative Party.
I should prefer to concentrate on what happens next, and I am going to ask the Government a few questions. The White Paper says:The Government recognises that the reorganisation of the Services will involve difficult re-adjustments. It will be one of our major aims to reduce individual hardship and to maintain efficiency during the period of transition. Thereafter, the Government's intentions is to have balanced and effective forces which offer a good career to those who serve in themOf course, we all accept that, but I wonder if the noble Lord who is going to reply could be more explicit. The policy to accelerate cuts must inevitably cause a sense of insecurity in the Armed Forces, and it could have adverse effects on recruitment of both officers and men, in quality and quantity. Are we doing enough to offer our forces what one might describe as a career within a career?
What I have in mind is that we should should try to make sure that members of the defence forces coming near to the end of their military careers, which is often when they are relatively young, when they are in their forties, are prepared for a further career while they are in the forces. I know that a good deal is being done but I wonder whether we could not get more done and provide civil courses in management, marketing, social welfare and the like, which, would qualify them with more than they have at the moment when they come out of the Armed Forces. Personally, I am impressed by what those leaving the 239 Armed Forces now have to offer. In my own organisation we have had considerable success with people who have come from the Armed Forces. I believe that the provision of relatively short courses on business subjects would help in the quality and quantity of the recruits we get.
The second question, which was touched on by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, concerns our role in Europe. Is it right that we should bring back 5,000 men from Europe and station them in this country in the near future? If we now believe that the defence of Europe is paramount, then B.A.O.R. should be maintained and equipped at optimum strength. I believe that it is in the field of conventional rather than nuclear weapons that this country can make a real contribution. I think that we must all view with some apprehension the present inferiority of the NATO Armed Forces in Central Europe. I do not know whether the withdrawal of these 5,000 men and a squadron will increase this inferiority, but certainly I have misgivings about it.
I was gratified to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said about our intentions in the Persian Gulf. I think that this is absolutely right. I believe that our own troops should be withdrawn and a proper system of collective security created in the area, and I am glad to hear that Her Majesty's Government will give assistance in this matter.
My fourth point, again one on which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has touched, is our relationship with Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. I know that the Government acknowledge that the situation in Hong Kong is unique and cannot be fitted regularly into the pattern of Far Eastern defence. The fact remains that we need, and must keep, troops in Hong Kong. I, for one, have the greatest admiration for the work that is being done, in very difficult circumstances, by our Armed Forces in the Hong Kong area. But I am concerned about our relations with Australia. This arises largely from the haste with which our policy is being implemented. I fully support the withdrawal of our forces from East of Suez, but I cannot help reeling that we are walking out on 240 Australia far too abruptly and without nearly sufficient consideration of the impression we are creating in that country, which for so many generations has been extremely Commonwealth and British-minded. Those of us who fought side by side with Australian divisions in the last war will feel that at all costs we must preserve proper relationships with Australia.
I have nothing specific to put forward here, but I should like to feel that we could make some gesture to Australia to indicate that we would not leave her in the lurch should unforeseen circumstances place her in a position of jeopardy. I read into the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that this would be in the Government's mind. I accept that our commitment would have to be a limited one, but if we could give them confidence that our air transport was always kept at optimum efficiency then they would feel that when a specific emergency came we should be able to get there and assist them. I suppose that one could think in terms of a positive widening of the ANZUS arrangement to include Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Perhaps the Government would consider that this question should be raised at the Conference on Asia which I understand is to take place in the autumn.
Finally, I should like to raise the question of the Eastern Mediterranean. I would ask the Government whether it is part of their plan, as I hope it may be, to base on Malta some of the Royal Navy ships which are coming back from the Far East. This would help NATO, it would demonstrate our concern with NATO'S weakness on its South-Eastern flank and would also contribute to the defence of Europe and, indirectly, help Malta's economic problems.
I can only reiterate that while we very much welcome the Government's change of heart compared with their attitude last year, we deplore the fact that this should have been brought about almost entirely by the pressure of economic events, with the result that there could not appear in this Paper any long-term, well-thought-out plan for the future. I am glad to know that this is being looked at. I am sure it is right that it should have its proper priority, but we want a policy in this country which ought to be able to 241 stand up to the test of the next twenty and thirty years. It must be, therefore, a policy which can be adjusted from time to time, but we have to look that far ahead. I would only say to the Government that I should prefer that, rather than get this out in midsummer and rush it, they took their time and got it right.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, for allowing me to exchange places with him in the batting list. I explained to him my reasons, and he willingly agreed. I should prefer not to be drawn into the battle which has been raging across the Floor of the House; I am a man of peace. I except from the battle the noble Lord, Lord Byers, because he has been well brought up. He served under me on the Staff.
It seems to me that in our Defence debates in this House we tend to devote too much attention to discussing the trees in the wood, with the result that we often lose sight of the wood. That, surely, is looking at defence through the wrong end of the telescope. Therefore, I should like to make my contribution to this debate by having a good look at the wood. This will involve discussing the strategy of the East and examining what should be the political strategy of the West.
There are certain pillars or bastions around which our political strategy and the framework of our defence must be based. I suggest that the following four are most important: (1) The advent of the nuclear weapon, the H-bomb, has changed completely the whole conception of the conduct of war between East and West. (2) Military strength without a solid background of economic strength is of no avail. Both are necessary to being very nicely balanced. (3) Britain has ceased to count as one of the greatest Powers in international defence. We do not enjoy the prestige in the world that we once had. (4) In the long run, nothing can prevent China from dominating the mainland of Asia, except China herself.
I should like to examine briefly each of these pillars or bastions, suggesting what should be the strategy of the West in which we have to play our part. With regard to the first pillar, because of the 242 nuclear strength of the two strongest Powers in the world, America and Russia, there is no danger to the West in Europe—no enemy to fight. Of course, the re will be lesser conflicts in other areas. Russia maintains 20 divisions in East Germany; there are also six East German divisions. But the Russian divisions are not there to march westwards. They are there to ensure the permanence of the frontiers of Eastern Europe; they are there to ensure that the Oder-Neisse Line will be Germany's final Eastern frontier. The Germans will never be allowed to regain the territory East of that line. They are there to ensure that there will not be a united Germany. Russia would not allow a united Germany, with launching sites on the Polish border. Seventy million Germans in the middle of Europe? No; not until the European security problem has been solved through the agreement of all concerned. I would then suggest that the British Rhine Army can, therefore, be reduced to a small token force. Personally, I should withdraw it altogether. But clearly, for political reasons, we must have something there, though not more, I should hope, than one division. What is essential in Western Europe, it seems to me, is friendship and solidarity between France and Germany. But its aim must not he towards a united Germany, because in that policy lies great trouble.
I come to the second pillar, the economic strength. The cuts in our fighting Services have been large. I should have been prepared to see even bigger reductions if by so doing we could build up our economic strength the more quickly. Also, the cuts would have been easier to bear if they had been accompanied by savage attacks on the enormous Headquarters of NATO: the huge staffs, all planning for a war which is not going to take place; and the massed armies of civil servants, turning out papers, half of which no one can read intelligently, and the other half not worth reading. But these attacks have not been made.
Some famous British infantry regiments have disappeared. I cannot mention, them all, but I felt very sad about one; namely, the Durham Light Infantry, the regiment which marched with me from Alamein to Germany and never put a foot wrong. The fighting men of Durham are stocky little men, but they are grand soldiers in a battle. But we must keep the wood 243 in view, even it a good many trees have to be cut down. All in all, my Lords, it is wise to remember that you cannot have a good Army without good infantry. I do not say that merely because I happen to be an infantry soldier; I say it because my experience leads me to believe that it is true.
I now come to the third pillar. Because of the decline of our prestige as a world Power, we can no longer operate a purely British strategy. We must be so organised that we can play our part in a western strategy in this world of politics and war. I will discuss that problem in a little more detail when we come to the fourth pillar, which deals with the East of Suez settlement. But may I say now that the smaller our Armed Forces, and particularly the Army, the more it is essential to have some form of reserve organisation in our own land, and one which can quickly be made ready to act. Do not let us forget that, although our prestige has declined, it could be put right. We British are a great people, and I utterly disagree with those who say that we are finished. But we are a people who need courageous and inspiring leadership in which we have confidence. Given that, we can rise to great heights, as many of our enemies in this twentieth century have good reason to know.
The fourth pillar concerns China, and what has come to be called the East of Suez policy. The People's Republic of China is working up to 1,000 million inhabitants; it is building up great economic strength; it has the H-bomb, but not the accurate delivery system; and it has a standing army of 3 million. The domination to which I refer would not be effected by military aggression, but by ideological and economic pressure over the years, working towards the nations in the mainland of Asia looking to Peking, as they once used to do. China is not, and never has been, a naval Power. But China would be a very dangerous enemy to attack on land. The nations of the West would be wise to observe the second rule of war: do not go fighting with land armies on the mainland of Asia. I imagine that your Lordships will all know the first rule of war; I cannot think anyone would not know that.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
The noble Lord who served on my Staff says, "Tell us". The first rule of war is: do not march on Moscow. Various people have tried it—Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon and Hitler—but it is no good. I hold that it is right to withdraw our land forces from the mainland of Asia and the Middle East, and I believe that all Western nations should do the same. But we must ensure the integrity of Hong Kong and Singapore, which are islands, actually. Instead, Western strategy should be based on absolute domination of the oceans and major seas in Asia and the Near East: the Pacific, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. All that, I should hope, would be undertaken by the United States. Then we have the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Afro-Indian Ocean, and I hope that that will be undertaken by Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa—and, I hope, the French. In fact, Western strategy in Asia and the Near East should be based on sea power.
To be successful, and to be able to bring aid to our friends, sea power must be backed by air power, and this cannot be done by land-based aircraft. It simply is not "on"; it is not possible. Carriers are essential. A carrier is a mobile base of air power. We need carriers, certainly up to the middle 1980s—not great monster ones, but small, fast ones. And the same policy would apply in the Atlantic and European waters such as the Mediterranean: in fact, a maritime strategy, global, deploying sea power and backed by air power, mobile bases of air power. Britannia may no longer rule the waves, but the West can, and must, do so. That is essential, not forgetting the sea under the surface waves. So long as the West can dominate the oceans and the seas in the Far East, no harm can come to Australia and New Zealand, and that is of very great importance.
As to the British Army—I said this in a defence debate in your Lordships' House in May last year—I hold that we want a small, all-Regular, highly efficient Army in the neighbourhood of 150,000—something of that sort of size—kept mainly in the United Kingdom and training in Canada, Australia, Malaya, Libya and places of that kind; and a spearhead 245 force to help our Commonwealth friends overseas to have adequate forces, S.A.S. and commandos. But we must have bases East of Suez where there will be a small force on which to build, a British garrison and a Gurkha brigade in Malaya or Singapore—naval forces need these bases—and one in Australia. In pursuing this maritime strategy, my Lords, let us not forget that a friendly South Africa is vital.
One last point. All these reductions in our Armed Forces have begun to affect morale. Being a soldier, I know what has happened in the Army. Its spirit is not beating as strongly as it should. Officers and soldiers have no clear purpose. They do not know where they are going. The Chiefs of the Army must spend less time in their offices. They must get out and about and explain to officers what the future holds. If this is not done, morale will suffer more and more; the spark will die; the intake at Sandhurst will suffer, recruiting will suffer—and then where do we go? This urgent task must be done by Service Chiefs and not by Ministers, because, unfortunately, Ministers are at present suspect in the Army. But, even so, Ministers must recognise the danger and encourage the morale-raising crusade. My Lords, I apologise for keeping your Lordships rather longer than is my custom, but I thought this strategic survey was really needed.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, as you will have heard from the noble and gallant Field Marshal, this really is a pretty serious occasion. I have in my notes as the first heading, "We are at a turning point in our defence affairs". No longer can we believe the fiction that defence is the servant of foreign policy. That has been thrown out of the window, and the position is very much the other way round, for inescapable reasons. One consequential effect is that we have to reverse the teaching in all our staff colleges and schools, where we learnt otherwise. But my reason for speaking on this subject in a serious way is that I want to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his very interesting opening speech, when he said that it would, or might, be irresponsible to 246 differ from the Government and argue against the change of direction in our defence policy at the present time.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening, I hope it will help the House if I say that I said no such thing. What I said was irresponsible was a suggestion, not that one could criticise the Government's present policies, but to say that in the future those policies would be reversed and that forces withdrawn from East of Suez would be returned to East of Suez. I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for making that clear.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, of course I accept that explanation. My point really is that I wish, like the last speaker, the noble and gallant Field Marshal, to talk in general and not to talk about administration and career effects, which I think your Lordships will have plenty of opportunity to do in future. I want to discuss what I think are the essentials of the Army.
In our last debate on defence (I think it was held in the middle of January) the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, in reply to a question from me, said that £1,600 million would be equivalent to 5 per cent. of our gross national product. This Government took over a defence expenditure of 6.8 per cent. So, in other words, it is 26 per cent. down. On the personnel side it is about the same. This Government took over Armed Forces of 459,000, and if I read the present White Papers correctly we are dropping to 337,000, a cut of about 27 per cent., which is more than 1 in 4. It is very serious. I do not dispute the necessity for these cuts; what I do question is their direction.
The big question is: Does this 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. reduction justify the complete radical change which the noble Lord., Lord Shackleton, referred to in his last speech on this subject? If it is justified, then we shall have to accept it. But what has happened is that we have said that we are hard up, and we are now handed a Defence White Paper, the one we are debating, which sets out the major decisions which the Government have taken. There are nine, I think, and more to come in July. The Prime 247 Minister said the same in his very important speech on January 16. He said—I have his words here—Given the right decision, our real influence and power for peace will be strengthened. We have accordingly decided to accelerate the withdrawal.There is no discussion, no argumentation at all, of the reasons for this change of policy. Therefore, if I may go through some of the reasons in outline, I hope it will help your Lordships' discussion.
I think also at this point that these matters would be very well discussed if we had an Armed Forces Committee, such as they have in the Congress of the United States, in which bipartisan and other important matters of defence could be hammered out confidentially. Then we should not be handed down these decisions that the Government have taken.
I will now try to fill the gap, and will do it in the order of NATO, sea power and then Asia. When we come to NATO, the truth of what was said exactly two years ago in the Defence Review still stands. The danger of deliberate war in Europe at any level is small so long as the potential aggressor believes it is likely to lead to a nuclear exchange. That is as true now as on the day it was written. Ever since the Soviet Union exploded the hydrogen bomb in 1953 it has been the case that the two super-Powers could mutually destroy each other. At the same time they could see a brick wall in front of their noses; therefore they have not done it. In fact, the danger of World War III in the nuclear sense has receded.
Unfortunately, war has not receded in this sense: that there have been more serious limited wars under this umbrella of awful balance than ever before. In fact it could be argued that it is because there is this awful balance that nations feel free to have this limited war, knowing that there will be no nuclear intervention, as is the case of Vietnam at the present time. It is fashionable at the moment—and the Secretary of State for Defence mentioned it in another place last week—to talk about the doctrine of flexible response. There is, of course, a risk in this. We must have every club in the bag, every weapon in the armoury, so to speak; but there is a risk in this theory. 248 For 19 years the safety of Western Europe has depended, not on conventional weapons but on the strategic command of the U.S. Air Force on "Omaha", "Nebraska", and all over the world. We know very well that France would not have left NATO if she had not thought this was so.
I must agree, however, that NATO should not drop its guard at the present time, except step by step with the Warsaw Pact, if that possibility comes. But I do not agree with what was said in a recent letter by General Hackett in The Times—and I quote:The concept of a straight advance to the Rhine, where the Russians would sit, like the Israelis on the Canal, is at least interesting.I am afraid I do not agree with that. Federal Germany—Bonn and the Ruhr. Dusseldorf and all that—is not the Sinai Desert. If ever there were a sincere case for full retaliation and the use of the nuclear deterrent, that would be it. Otherwise, why has America been in NATO for the last 19 years?
I regard this form of direct attack down the central sector of NATO as the least likely form of aggression. To my mind, there is much more danger on the flanks (especially the southern flank) now that we have a Russian fleet based in the Mediterranean. I have said this before but I feel I must repeat it: the corollary to this is that a submarine blockade is by far the most serious threat which this country has to face. I therefore feel that the best British contribution to NATO is an increased Navy and R.A.F., especially anti-submarine forces; and of course I agree with the noble and gallant Field Marshal, as I have done for the last 15 years, that we could safely reduce B.A.O.R. to one division, thus saving £30 million or £40 million of foreign currency.
I now come to sea power. The noble and gallant Field Marshal has said a great deal about this and my remarks will be short. Let us leave history out of it. It is a fact that this country depends on uninterrupted sea traffic. I believe there is a traffic of 140 million tons in and 140 million tons out of our United Kingdom ports every year. It is also true that the Royal Navy has to do its best to give this enormous sea traffic protection in war. Therefore the Navy must have bases. It has the bases in the 249 United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Freetown, Simonstown, Aden—we shall regret this, I am afraid—Singapore and Darwen. Without these bases in friendly hands we should be in great difficulty.
And of course I support what the noble and gallant Field Marshal said about the importance of air support. It must either be carrier-borne, ship-borne or land-based. In any case, we need bases for the Navy, so we might as well fly the land-based aircraft from them. Because of geography, which has not been changed by our economic cuts, these facts are vital to our living and therefore to our defence. Yet they are not even mentioned in the last three Defence Papers—the Defence Review, the July, 1967, Supplement, or this latest Paper. They have not received a mention; they should have done.
The need for friendly bases leads me to Asia. Again, the present need for cuts has not diminished the truth of what was said two years ago in the Defence Review. It is in the Far East and South Asia that the greatest danger to peace may lie in the next decade, and some of our partners in the Commonwealth may be directly threatened. That is as true to-day as the day it was written. Since then, and much more recently, we have had re-emphasis on the need for stability in that part of the world.
One might imagine that the decision to withdraw totally from the bases in that part of the world, with the exception of Hong Kong, was done in a time of peace and tranquility. On the contrary, it is being done at a time when the situation in Vietnam is highly unfavourable. We have only just finished, a year ago, the confrontation with Indonesia, which country continues to throw up many unreliable leaders, and we could all be proved wrong to-morrow morning by having to send the troops back. We could easily have to send 50,000 or 60,000 troops back; just because it has been quiet for the last year or eighteen months in that particular area there is no reason to expect that it will continue. For that reason, I believe that the giving up of Singapore is absolutely fatal. We saw what happened in Aden. We shall live to regret it. We have been through a most awful time in tribulation in Aden, and here we are doing it again.
250 To my mind, our withdrawal (as I suggested in my last speech to your Lordships) should be based on event; and not on times. This was admitted by the Government in the July Paper last year, which said:We cannot predict when the situation will make this possible"—that is to say, for the local peoples to live in peace. Exactly; but the Government go on to ignore the timing and to withdraw within three years.
I have mentioned bases and perhaps I need not emphasise that subject much more, except to say that if, on the one hand, we agree that we should never stay in a base where the local inhabitants wish us to leave, then the converse must surely be true. If they ask us to stay, surely we should not withdraw. As the Prime Minister of New Zealand said recently, it is a difficult thing to withdraw altogether, leaving a complete emptiness, rather than to reduce its size. I have often advocated small base; and I will not repeat what I have said before, except to say that small forces have the power to pre-empt a situation and to keep it quiet, sometimes without firing a shot. The July Defence Paper of last year admitted this but said it was more economical to rely on sending forces from Britain. Of course it is more economical—nobody denies that—but it is not more efficient. Usually you have a debate in the United Nations and you cannot even leave this country.
What ought to be the object of our staying with small forces in that part of the world? It has been put many times better than I can put it, but the Government themselves have said that their main object is to ensure stability—in fact we have even heard it this afternoon—and to defend our friends while they are still weak. That is nothing new. It is simply that we are re-negotiating the treaties concerned, and we have told them we are going to withdraw, knowing very well that they cannot yet protect themselves. The threat is twofold: aggression if South Vietnam goes wrong—military aggression; subversion if it does not. And I have told your Lordships before what happens in the Singapore schools if there is not a strong Government in Singapore. The Commonwealth has been mentioned. The only thing I would say about Australia 251 and New Zealand is that they are keeping very quiet at the present time. They did not count the cost when they came to our aid. They may not be saying much, but they are thinking a great deal.
The Persian Gulf has been, and I have no doubt will be, adequately covered, but I would make three small points. How long will it be before a National Liberation Front appears in the Persian Gulf? Not very long, I fancy, after its great success in Aden. Arabs are individualists, and although we have heard this afternoon that they are begining to get together—in the Trucial States, Qatar and Bahrein—which is all very encouraging, it does not mean very much, I am afraid. They do not pull together in a crisis. Lastly, the Arabs are historically accustomed to a foreign dominant Power being in the Middle East. They have had that for 4,000 years. At the present time there is not one, except in the Persian Gulf temporarily while we are still there. But it would be flying in the face of previous history to imagine that there will not very soon be a dominant foreign Power in the Middle East.
I have come to the conclusion of my argumentation in outline. I should like to repeat it, if I may. The first point is that I have never thought, since World War II ended, that the security of this country lies on the Continent of Europe. It lies, in my opinion, at sea; and the sea includes not only the Atlantic but the Pacific. This form of defence, if we strengthened it, would not be selfishly British: it would suit NATO very well, because NATO, as we have often said, should be looking outside itself and should be very interested in world stability, as we are. Incidentally, if we do not try to defend our own sea communications it means we shall be relying on somebody else to do it. Secondly, as to the alliances which are often mentioned, I suggest that our obligations to our allies in other overseas parts of the world are at least as great as to those in Europe. And, what is more, it is as much in our interest and security to do our share in Asia just as in Europe. In Asia and the Gulf our friends are still weak, individually and collectively, and they live on the edge of a dangerous whirlpool. We ought to defend them while they are in that position.
252 Lastly, I asked the Government, for the second time, would they please set up an Armed Forces Committee of both Houses where responsible people who know a little about defence can be consulted, without this business of handing down decisions which have been taken—sometimes without the benefit of people who know—and who, incidentally, could provide the continuity: because, of course, Governments change. I have deliberately left out of my argument trade and sentiment, although they are fairly strong, but I hope that I have shown why, in the present plan, our timings for withdrawal from Asia are wrong—and I am not an imperialist.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords, your Lordships' House is singularly well furnished with men very well suited by their records to take part in a debate on Defence, and one rather hesitates to intervene. May I say what an honour it is to follow two distinguished soldiers and, if I may say so, particularly to follow the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I remember many years ago, when I was a very humble student at the Staff College, General Montgomery, as he then was, was invited to come down to give us a lecture, and we were marshalled by our instructors and told not to cough or shuffle our feet or do anything else to annoy the great man. I always remember his opening words. He said: "Gentlemen, you will not understand everything I have to say, but I suggest that you study the way in which I approach the problem". If some of us thought there was a certain self-confidence in that remark, I think I may say that a grateful nation a few months later, as the noble Viscount stood before Alamein, recognised that the self-confidence was fully justified. I have not quite that confidence at this particular moment, but I would ask your Lordships to study the way I approach the problem.
I approach the problem in this way, and I think it is not dissimilar to that of the noble Viscount. I recognise, of course, that we have to make economies in the field of defence. I also recognise that we have to cut back spending. But what I invite your Lordships to do, as both noble Lords who preceded me have done, is to ask the question: Is this White Paper really describing the best way to spend 253 that which still is a very vast sum of money? I am bound to say that the conclusion I come to is that it is not. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said that defence should be the servant of foreign policy, and this of course is true. It is because of this that I have—if I may admit in front of my own Front Bench—a little sneaking sympathy for the Secretary of State who succeeded me; because the foreign policy of the Prime Minister of this country has at times rested our frontiers upon the Himalayas and at times upon the South Downs, and at the moment they are resting, I think, rather uneasily, and perhaps impermanently, on the Rhine. As one who has served in the Ministry of Defence, it is not very easy to devise defence policies which fit fluctuations quite as rapid and as wide as that.
So I have thought where one should start this argument. I think I would start here. On February 16, I read a responsible article in a responsible paper, the Financial Times. I will not read it to your Lordships, but I will give the gist of it. The gist of it was that the choice before us was whether we should cut our defences to those necessary to defend these Islands, on the one hand—which the writer said would please the Left Wing of the Labour Party; I do not know whether it would—or whether we should be more ambiitious and build up larger defences and perhaps even then not get admission to Europe. I wish the choice was as simple as that. The fact is that that article and this White Paper, and much else that is said, seems to me to be all part of what I would describe as a rather innocent conspiracy, not to mention the unmentionable, to conceal at all costs the plain fact that these Islands are indefensible; because unless one faces that brute fact it is impossible to base any serious argument about defence. Ask any Chief of Staff of any Service who has been in post for three months, and he will tell you that whether you double the Navy or double the size of the Army, or the Air Force or the Reserves, you cannot by any conventional means guarantee the defence of these Islands. Thus the theme develops that we depend in part, as the noble Lord said, upon the deterrent, and in part on a great network of alliances NATO, CENTO, SEATO, and a great ally in the United States of America—and it is on 254 these twin pillars rather than on local defence that the defences of these Islands are really basically established.
I am not going to spend long on the deterrent. I would only say this to any who may still have any doubts about it. I will promise them that no Secretary of State for Defence ever goes to that Council Room at the top of that Ministry "sold" in advance on the idea of the necessity of nuclear weapons. Nobody would wish to retain any weapons, particularly weapons of that kind, unless he was utterly convinced of their necessity; and I warrant that any Secretary of State who went there and listened to the arguments was convinced, as I was convinced, and as this Government are now convinced, that the deterrent plays an important part.
First of all, the Western deterrent itself is a great striking force which is designed to persuade any enemy that there is no prize which they could conceivably win that would in any way compensate them for the appalling damage they would suffer. But the basis of the deterrent is of course the belief in the mind of an enemy that we should all stick together; that in the last resort the West is all on the same side; that men are prepared to take appalling risks, even of their national survival, in support of one another.
I hope and believe that these things are true, but I am bound to mention to your Lordships that they are not always obvious. Not everybody in this country is 100 per cent. in support of our ally, the United States of America, in Vietnam at the moment. Doubts exist about questions of that kind. And so it has been thought prudent to take out a measure of reassurance much opposed by the Labour Party at one time, but now accepted by them only in the form of the Polaris submarine fleet and the rest. These things are all accepted, I am happy to say, without even the smokescreen of the Atlantic Nuclear Forte or the M.L.F.: that has sunk without trace. This policy is now clearly set out and described in these White Papers.
But, my Lords, that represents only 5 per cent. of our defence. The main part of our defence must be, obviously and inevitably, on the conventional side. May I start with Europe because this White Paper starts with Europe? Less 255 so than the noble Viscount, but in a humble way, I have myself had an opportunity of following the various arrangements for European defence, always dependent to a large extent on the views of the United States of America who make such a vast contribution. I have seen variations. I am told that they are advised by the Rand Corporation of California. They have certainly been advised in many ways, for I have heard the question argued every way, from massive retaliation to prolonged conventional war. And about the middle position, as I see it, for the defence of Europe, was put by the present Government in the White Paper of 1966, in which they said this:Until progress is made towards disarmament the only alternative to Nato's present dependence on nuclear weapons would be a massive build-up of its conventional forces in Western Europe. Even if Britain are prepared to face the heavy economic cost of this alternative, Nato as a whole is not willing to do so. A decision by Nato to increase its conventional forces in this way could in any case stimulate an arms race in Europe, since the Warsaw Pact Powers would probably follow suit. It would provide no protection if the aggressor himself decided to use nuclear weapons first.That was the view of the Government then. That was the view of the Government after they had conducted this great defence review to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred. I warrant that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government now. I do not think that sensible men change their views very quickly about that; and I am bound to say that it is difficult to see how one stems from that paragraph on to anything like an important reinforcement of our troops in Western Europe.
May I put another point to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Lord Chalfont has prided himself upon a change in policy. There has been a change in policy, because for many years in Europe the defences were based, first of all, on an assumption that you ought to plan according to the capability of the enemy; secondly, that you would not get much warning; and thirdly, that the military commander could assume the forces they wanted, rather than the forces they got. Lord Chalfont has said, quite rightly and wisely, that all that is at an end. I congratulate the Government on putting an end to something which did not make a great deal of sense. They 256 are now to take account of what the probable intention of the enemy is. They are now to take account of the fact that there probably will be a warning. They are now to plan—this is important—not with the forces that the military commanders would like to have, but with the military forces they think they may be able to get. How is that the preliminary to any large-scale reinforcement in Europe?
Therefore, if I might summarise my question to Lord Shackleton, while I admit that one must have read a great many of these White Papers to understand what they mean, to anybody who has the art of reading Defence White Papers the argumentation is almost exactly the opposite to the conclusion into which the Government seem to be trying to push us. So I would ask first of all: What does a "European policy" really mean? I think that, if it means anything, it means tactical nuclear weapons and heavy armour. If that is so, I would only say, with humility and from such limited experience that I have, that I would doubt whether it is really wise for this country to put any massive investment at the present time into either tactical and nuclear weapons or heavy armour.
In considering Europe we have to remember France. If we are going to talk about the conventional defence of Europe then I say that it is meaningless without France. Lord Chalfont said that it was an illusion to think that there would be a re-negotiation in 1969. But whatever the technical position, somebody has got to start talking, either in 1969 or, preferably, before, about what is going to be the relationship of France and the rest of these Western European countries. Without France, you cannot defend Europe. May I say, in passing, with what sadness many of us heard the other day of the death of General Ailleret, who was known to me when I was Secretary of State and was, I believe, a loyal servant of France and a most co-operative friend of this country. Somehow or other, whatever the other political difficulties with France, there must be contacts in which the military on both sides sit down and see how we can use such forces as will be available in some kind of conventional defence in that particular area.
257 But, my Lords, defence is not really about the Northern plains of Germany—here I agree with what the noble Viscount said. Defence—with the talk of it and its planning—is about Vietnam, about South Africa, about the Gulf, about the sealanes of the world upon which are to be found an increasing number of Russian naval forces. This is what defence is about. It is not about whether a squadron of aircraft is moved from Germany back to Biggin Hill, or wherever it is wanted. Defence is about these large issues. The wood, if I may say so, is what we have to look at.
I appreciate that we are not fighting in Vietnam; nor did we fight in Vietnam under the previous Government. We used the excuse, or explanation, that we were one of the Joint Chairmen of the Geneva Conference. I can understand why we perhaps even hesitate to provide arms that can be used in Vietnam, but this sounds a terrible thing to do to a principal ally. What I cannot understand is why, at a moment when our principal and most important ally is in a difficult situation in Vietnam, we should choose to announce that we are walking out of East Asia altogether. That seems to me to be an almost incredible thing to do. Whatever our long-term policy and hopes might he, I cannot understand why we chose such a moment.
I do not know what will happen in Vietnam. I do not believe that the Americans, who are a gallant, brave and determined people, will allow themselves to suffer a military defeat. Under the pressures which bear upon them, if they are deserted by all there could be some kind of collapse of morale at home. Whatever happens in Vietnam, I feel that we should not contribute to it, but we should at least be sure that we are willing to stand up in some way with the Americans with some limited presence in the Far East. I very much hope that the noble Lord will think about these things. Although the Americans have taken on a vast role, there are still many of them who say: "Let us cut out of all this. The burdens which we are bearing to-day, overseas and at home, are too great. The attack which is being launched against us from every quarter is too harsh. The desertion by our friends is too bitter. It will be better to retire into an American fortress." If the Government have con- 258 tributed in any way to that sort of feeling on their part, it would be a very heavy responsibility indeed.
This is what defence is about. It is about South Africa—it is about Simonstown. If ever Simonstown was important, it is even more important to-day. I am not here to talk about race policies. Heaven knows!, the race policies in the world are not such as to commend themselves to any Member of your Lordships' House, whether they be in Kenya or in South Africa. We are concerned with the defence of this country and with the defence of the West. I beg your Lordships to believe that in that regard friendships with South Africa is of ever growing importance. I do not say that it does not matter that we throw away £200 million of exports, because it does—but it does not matter as much as the capacity to keep friends in this vital part of the world so that, although many other avenues have been closed in recent months and years, this avenue, which is of such importance to the Royal Navy, is not closed to us. Defence also is about the Gulf, and I will content myself with saying that I cannot understand the policy about the Gulf. If the Sheikhs are prepared to subscribe cash to this end, and the Government are willing to help in any way, surely if the sheiks say: "Keep a limited force here until we, find ourselves in a rather more secure world than is the case at present", then this is not a request which we could refuse anyone, let alone men whom we count upon as our friends.
I want to ask how we propose to fulfil our role outside Europe. I have read the White Paper, and I would call Lord Shackleton's attention to paragraph 3 (h) and (i), which say:No special capability for use outside Europe will be maintained when our withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia, and the Persian Gulf, is complete.(i) 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.Those two paragraphs seem to me to be flatly contradictory to one another. If the difference is between having a general capability and no special capability, what on earth does it mean? If it means 259 that we are going to have a general capability for acting overseas but that the troops whom we send will have no special weapons, no special training, no special methods of acclimatising themselves, then that is not defence planning. It is murder, as any military commander will tell you. You cannot do that. You have to take steps to see that troops who are to be sent about the world to dangerous places are properly equipped. I cannot conceive that Her Majesty's Government intend that they should not be properly equipped, and I should be grateful for some explanation as to the means which they envisage.
I agree absolutely with the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, about the carriers, which are the eyes and the teeth of the Royal Navy. Deprive the Navy of those, and what do you see?—a narrow horizon around a ship. I speak from a certain limited experience, and I have seen emergencies. Whenever an emergency arises, the question the Secretary of State asks is, "Where is the nearest carrier?" I observed that when the present Government wanted to watch what oil was being run into the port of Beira, they asked for a carrier, because that is the only method of watching over large areas of sea. Unless you can observe what is going on, it is hardly worth the effort.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am very interested in what the noble Lord is saying. He said that this is the first question which a Secretary of State asks on these occasions. Would he also care to give the usual answer which he gets?
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords, I am not quite sure that I follow what the noble Lord is saying. I am saying that we should certainly keep the carriers. May I pursue this a little further? I recognise that anyone who says these things has to study methods of economy. For example, I would fly the Royal Air Force off the carriers. They now have a standard equipment. Both the Navy and the Air Force are using Phantoms. There is no reason why one should not substitute the Fleet Air Arm by the Royal Air Force, and an important economy could be gained in this respect since they could be both seaborne and land-based.
260 I should like to say something else about the question which the noble Lord asked me. What else do you spend money on in defence? Most important of all you spend money on men. I would rather see this country with 100,000 men who were really trained and capable of being moved about the world, efficient commando-trained, properly equipped, flexible and mobile than with 140,000 men sitting in Northern Germany. I should much prefer it, and I believe that it would be a greater contribution to the defences of this country.
May I say just one further word about defence economy? I do not want to detain your Lordships, but may I give one example? Let us take the Singapore base. The Singapore base to-day has more men on its headquarters staff than it had at the very peak of confrontation—and this at a time when the Government are preaching economy. I except the Royal Navy, for a reason which I will give in a moment; but the Army, the Air Force and the Defence headquarters there to-day, have more men than were there at the very peak of confrontation. Why cannot economies be made? Why wait until 1971? Why face us with the situation of saying, "We cannot afford these massive bases, and therefore we have to get out of the Far East", when that base could be cut by half within the next six months?
As I say, I except the Royal Navy, because they have lost the figures. I have been asking for a month, and they do not have the figures over the last four years of who was in the base. There are grave defects of administration here, and I urge the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that some senior officer should go out pretty quickly and have a look at that area of the world, so that instead of talking about defence economies, we can really get down to the question of where savings can be made. What frightened me was the explanation given by the Minister of Defence for Administration for the Army. He said that he did not think these figures looked too good, but then he added:The increase in numbers has arisen mainly from the integration of branches of single-Service headquarters into joint Service branches.This is a most astonishing revelation from the Government. I thought the whole 261 object of integrating them was to have fewer. But, no: they are to be all added up together, with some more on top.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asks, "What is the answer to the question about economy?" The answer is to get out and do some economising, because these are paper tigers that we are talking about here; not the real teeth. He said that in the Army and the R.A.F. headquarters the increase in 1966 and 1967 was largely attributable to confrontation. As the confrontation came to an end in the summer of 1966, that must refer to the confrontation between the Service Departments and the Ministry of Defence. That is the only explanation that I can give.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships further, but I should like to refer to one more sentence in this astonishing White Paper. Paragraph 2 says:We have no intention of allowing a repetition of the situation which existed in 1964 when, because of the lack of balance between military tasks and resources, our forces were seriously overstretched.That is the statement either of God or of a fool, and I have never associated the Secretary of State with the Deity in this matter. A man who really believes that he can foretell what our military commitments are likely to be is a very rash man to have in charge of our defences.
I say this not because we were overstretched in 1964—nobody knows better than I do that we were. We were overstretched in every way. We had confrontation in Indonesia; we were helping the United Nations in Cyprus; we were helping people in East Africa; we were called in in British Guiana, and the rest. Of course we were overstretched. And magnificently we were doing the job. Never was morale higher; never were people more proud to be members of the armed Services; never were they more ready to spend long periods away from their families. But it was a much healthier situation than there is to-day.
So, if I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who is going to reply to this debate, my case is not that we should not economise: I wish to heaven that we would start economising. I can see endless fields for economy in defence. But I should like to see us end up with limited forces, if you like, with bases cut to the bone—not the lush things that 262 we see at the moment—but mobile maritime-based forces. I accept entirely what the noble and gallant Viscount said. I wish that we would talk not so much about Europe, for Europe is no more defensible on its own than this country is defensible. I wish that the Government would look for a strategy instead of just stumbling on a slogan.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, by this time in the debate the wood has had a fairly thorough inspection by many noble Lords, not least by my noble friend who has just sat down. Therefore, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments if, instead of having another look at the wood, I have a look at one or two trees. I am quite aware that before he left the House the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, warned us against the danger of riding hobby horses too much, and I admit that that is nearly as much of a sin as trailing too many red herrings. But I look on the matter in a rather different way, having always been interested in advertising, and if you say often enough something in which you believe then sooner or later some people are likely to think it is true.
Before I look at my few trees, I should like to say how very interested I vas in what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said about support in certain circumstances to Australia and New Zealand. I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said in that respect, even if I do not necessarily agree with him in anything else that he said.
My first point concerns the statement in Chapter I of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, dealing with the changes in the planning organisation. I should like to give these changes a strong welcome, particularly if they are read in the context of what is written a little biter on about the formation of an independent National Institute of Higher Advanced Studies, based on the expansion of the Royal United Services Institution. This matter came under review about two years ago, when we were told that it would not be right to make further use of the R.U.S.I. because of security reasons. That, I thought, was a very bad answer, because it has always; truck me that when people give reasons of security for not doing anything it usually means there are no better reasons; just 263 in the same way as when they give reasons of morale for doing something, it is usually fairly plain that no more solid reason exists.
But nowadays Defence subjects have become so long-term, so technical and so complicated that their study needs, I am quite sure, to be put on a much longer-term basis than it ever can be if, for the study of the Service side of the problem, one relies solely on serving officers of the three Services, on those who happen to hold positions in the Ministry of Defence at any one time. Those people, however talented and efficient in themselves, can never stay long enough in the Ministry to develop their professional study of the subjects involved to the necessary point, or to acquire the expertise which is necessary to see that their professional views carry the proper weight against the views of the civilian members of the Ministry, and indeed of the Treasury. This was bad enough in the old days when no officer stayed longer than four years, and it has been much worse since the tenure has been three years.
Speaking as one who was a professional soldier and who served in the War Office for a long time, this reduction of tenure has done immense damage to the professional side of Service thinking. I know that the reason for it was in order that people could go out from the War Office or the Admiralty to command formations, and not damage their careers. But those reasons are gone; first, because of what I have already said about the increasing complication of the Service subjects; and, secondly, because the opportunities for command, alas ! and alack ! are nothing like so great as they used to be.
That is the first point I want to make, and to a certain extent it leads up to the second thing I want to talk about, which is home defence, because here, whatever the political thinking may have been—and I do not consider it has been very good—the professional thinking has not been good, either. I certainly do not want to go over all the ground which was covered by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, when he spoke in this House on January 24—and I am very sorry indeed that he is prevented from being here to-day—and I am certainly not going to 264 try to paint his lily. I want to approach this question of home defence from a slightly different angle, and to start with paragraph 7 of Chapter I of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, where it says:The foundation of Britain's security … lies in the maintenance of peace in Europe".That paragraph was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and it also received emphasis from my noble friend Lord Jellicoe; and I am quite certain that it is right, bearing in mind that, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said, no land defence can be any good unless it is supported by proper strength at sea. But if what is said in that paragraph is right, then whatever goes on East of Suez, with which I am not concerned at the moment, it must mean that our European effort is staged and directed from a home base, and that if that home base is to be satisfactory then it must be properly defended. Here, my Lords, is where the plans for the A.V.R.III and Civil Defence completely fail to implement the policy which is laid down in paragraph 7 of the Statement which I have just quoted—and I challenge any noble Lord opposite to prove the contrary.
One goes on to see how they are going to implement it, which is paragraph 19, called "Home Defence". Nothing that is said in paragraph 19, as I understand it, begins to tie up with what is said in paragraph 7. What has gone wrong? I believe a good many things have gone wrong, and to get a proper appreciation of the problem I think one has to go back to the 1957 White Paper. That White Paper, of course, was the one which laid great emphasis on nuclear defence against nuclear attack, and from that day to this the roles of the Home Forces and Civil Defence have been to my mind grossly misinterpreted by making out that there was no other role for home defence forces except defence against nuclear attack. That is something which I have argued in this House many times, because there are all kinds of tasks which have to be undertaken, not least anti-sabotage, all of which come in and which in practice cannot be undertaken, as everyone knew in the war, by any organisation which is not specifically designed for the purpose. In February, 265 in the debate in another place on Civil Defence, we were told by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that the decision to cut down Civil Defence was "inescapable" (that, I think, was the word that was used) in the face of the present situation. Can anybody possibly believe that the decision was "inescapable"? Of course it was not.
To come back to the 1957 White Paper and the nuclear attitude, I have always felt that it suited the convenience of the Home Office to concentrate on nuclear defence because it was an easy problem. It could be contained; it was fairly remote in practice, and it did not involve dealing with realities, such as sabotage—and anybody who has read the events reported recently in the daily papers, not merely in Warsaw but in Cambridge, will see how the forces which are used nowadays for what I suppose one would call peaceful purposes could easily be diverted to the impediment of any defence effort that might be required of this country in the future.
§ So, my Lords, I feel that up to now we have got the threat wrong. We have denied ourselves the power to implement our policy towards the defence of Western Europe. But in saying that I am certainly not saying that it would be either right or necessary to attempt to maintain any large-scale organisations at a high state of readiness. Certainly not. But there is all the difference in the world between this and what is described in paragraph 19 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates as "care and maintenance". One might ask: Care for what, and maintenance for what? Nothing in the Statement, or in any of the debates in another place which I have read, make me think that this problem has been properly thought out, or that there has been any serious professional thinking on the subject. Professional thinking on this subject is never easy, because it involves co-operation and collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Home Depart.
Now we come to the matter of expansion. This was something about which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked my noble friend Lord Jellicoe. Perhaps I could help my noble friend Lord Jellicoe by saying one or two words about this. I think the first thing to say 266 is that if you are making a plan for the use of troops you must never count your soldiers twice. Those who think that the expansion of the home defence forces can be done by people who are there to be trained to supply reinforcements for the field force are making that mistake. Of course you can count them on paper: that is what noble Lords opposite did two years ago. They said that because there were so many hundred thousands of troops in this country who were there for another purpose, therefore there was no need to keep the part-time defence forces. That is the fallacy which is at the root of what I regard as the wrong and unwise thinking behind the decision pratically to abolish Civil Defence and A.V.R.III. If you wish to provide a nucleus for expansion of a force in the event of war, you have to provide the cadres designed for that purpose, and for no other. The aim, the appeal, has to be set to a nucleus of keen, devoted and dedicated people who in peace time are ready to do a great deal for very little, and who provide the foundation on which expansion can take place quickly.
There is another point here, if I am not wearying your Lordships; and it is this. It is impossible to carry out home defence without men trained in the use of arms. If the intention to abolish A.V.R.III is persisted in, it means that the nucleus of civil defence is left without any armed support on the ground. Let us look again at the way in which this plan was thought out, because it is worth noting that in the Statement made in another place by the Prime Minister on January 16 the fate of the Civil Defence and A.V.R.III is dealt with in the Home Office section, paragraph 43 of that Statement. Two years ago, when the decision was made to transfer A.V.R.III to the Home Office it must have been a very unwelcome decision and a serious tactical defeat for the staff of the Home Office. Traditionally those who work in the Home Department have been at variance with the people who worked in the old War Office. This situation has existed for years. It has nothing to do specifically with the A.V.R.III or with any such thing. It goes back to the time when Home Office officials refused to produce borstal records of recruits because they thought it more 267 important to hide these from their commanding officers than to let their commanding officers understand the true position and help to handle those recruits rightly.
So, my Lords, it is fairly plain, on any sort of common-sense basis, or on credibility (which is the fashionable word), that, the Home Office having had A.V.R. "wished" on to them two years ago, the priority for sacrifice on this occasion would be fairly high. It is idle to suppose that the expense involved in the very moderate proposals which are known to me and which the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, has made, bear any relation to the restoration of our economic prosperity. Of course they do not. They bear no more relation to the restoration of our economic prosperity than the increased grant for the arts, which was on the other side. I think, therefore, we can dismiss that. But, of course, the percentage of the cut in relation to the Home Office Vote was a great deal bigger, and therefore that much more welcome, than the percentage of that cut would have been to the Ministry of Defence Vote. These arguments, although they may sound trivial in your Lordships' House, I think have carried a certain amount of weight in Whitehall.
This may lead to thinking out a new approach. Home Defence does not really belong to the Home Department. It never did. It was put there, as I imagine, in the late 1930s when it was thought that Civil Defence, if under the Home Office and called by that name, would be made more attractive to members of the Peace Pledge Union, who might then be persuaded to help defend their country without thinking of defence in terms of war. If those functions—and I mean the wardens' side of Civil Defence and connected subjects, the Observer Corps naturally, and the security duties of A.V.R.III—were put back where they belonged, in the Ministry of Defence, and were handled by people who are more professionally qualified to deal with those subjects, then I think we should be at the dawn of a new day in this respect. We should get clearer thinking; we should relate our home defence plot to our European plot, which is very necessary. And we should also, as a byproduct but an important one, restore the morale of the forces affected.
268 I go back to what the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said about the infantry. You cannot go on putting any human organisation, such as the Forces are, on the rack every two years, subjecting them to a major operation, major surgery, and then think that they will go on indefinitely, keeping their morale, keeping their courage and their efficiency and behaving as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, rightly said they are still behaving at the present time. So, my Lords, I come back to paragraph 7 of the Defence White Paper. If anything I have said this afternoon has helped towards clearer thinking on this problem—and I am certain it needs it—then so much the better.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ LORD ROWLEY
My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not follow him in the points he made, although he knows from our association during the war how highly I esteem his abilities. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Chalfont on what I thought was a brilliant and constructive speech. It was a little unorthodox at the beginning, but I believe it is none the less necessary for us to heed the approach he followed at that moment because it is indeed most dangerous if we do not. He referred to the fact that two-thirds of the world's population are to-day living in conditions of starvation. He suggested that it would be madness, or certainly foolish, for us to ignore the discontents and resentments that are influencing the teeming millions of Asia and Africa as a result of the privations that they have to undergo.
I would only say that those discontents and resentments are not surprising, when we realise and when they realise that both the West and the East, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries, are spending something like £40,000 million a year on armaments. And while I believe that of course we must concern ourselves with our national security, I believe that this problem of world insecurity is going to loom up more and more, and sooner or later—and sooner, perhaps, than later—we and the Communist world will, in our own interests, have to seek to grapple with the political, social and economic problems that are afflicting this two-thirds of the population of the world.
269 My Lords, I listened with great interest to the noble Lord—I was going to say "my noble friend"—Lord Thorneycroft, who sat with me in the House of Commons for many years. I thought that from his point of view he made a strong case as far as part of his speech was concerned. I hope he will forgive me for disagreeing with what he had to say about Vietnam. But I will say this. I, for one, agree with him that we must now dissociate ourselves—and I have taken this line in speeches in the other place in bygone days—from the American involvement in Vietnam. But when he comes to suggest that in view of the fact—and there is some truth in what he says—that there are people in the United States who are asking whether it is worth while being involved in other parts of the world, and whether they should not return to the pre-Second World War policies of isolation, and hope that if they do it will not be due to anything that our country has failed to do, I cannot accept any suggestion—I am not sure whether the noble Lord really meant to make such a suggestion—that we are in any way letting down the Americans.
As the White Paper says, in Europe our contribution is considered vital to Western security. We are to have the second most powerful Navy in Europe on the NATO side and the second most powerful Air Force and in spite of reductions that are looming up, we shall probably have at least 55,000 very well-trained, experienced and equipped soldiers. Therefore, I hope it will not be accepted, whatever the tragedy of Vietnam, that we are letting down the Americans. After all, as the noble Lord will remember, at the time when the Americans began to put a limited number of troops into Vietnam, we had 40,000 or 50,000 troops deployed in Borneo and in other parts of Malaysia because of the confrontation with Indonesia.
I should like now to return to a consideration of the Government Statement on Defence. There seems to be general agreement that military capability must be related to economic strength. Therefore I think that there will be little dispute in your Lordships' House when I say that in view of the serious economic position in which our country is to-day —for many years we have been living 270 beyond our means—we have to face the realities of life. In my view this Defence Statement is a realistic and balanced statement of Defence policy, and so I speak to-night in full support of it.
On the other hand, however much we agree that the foundation of our foreign policy must be peace in Europe, and consequently we have to maintain our full support of NATO, I think we are still puzzled, or some of us are, if not discouraged by the fact that now, 19 years after World War II ended, East and West are still in confrontation. Vv e were told about the numbers deployed on the Warsaw Pact side by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred to the fact that, as the result of the possession of vast n embers of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons by both sides, the NATO and the Warsaw Pact Powers are in a state of deadlock. While I should not be too ready to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, that we should reduce our forces in West Germany to about one division, I cannot help thinking that it is time that the Gaitskell Plan or the Eden Plan was taken out of the archives and looked at again.
My noble friend Lord Chalfont said, "We cannot make any progress in thinning out the forces on both sides in Central Europe because the Soviet Government is not prepared to play." I should like to supplement the idea of limiting or thinning out the forces in Central Europe (I have made this point before, and I hope that I may be allowed to make it again) by suggesting a non-aggression pact between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. I wonder why it is not a realistic proposition to propose a non-aggression pact between them. I still believe that we should endeavour to ease the tension still more. After all, the tension must have been eased in tile last two or three years, because it is said in the White Paper that there will now be a considerable period of warning in. Central Europe of any change of policy likely to lead to a war. Why cannot we take advantage of this present relaxation?
I imagine that the possibility of getting agreement for the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, which is to be discussed by the General Assembly shortly, 271 may be another factor in lessening tension. Why cannot this be regarded at any rate as providing an opportunity to discuss the possibility of a non-aggression pact between East and West? If we could get a non-aggression pact, it might well lead to what I think is the only eventual safeguard for peace in Europe, and that is a system of security covering all the countries, East and West, in Europe. The only way I can imagine that the problem of a divided Germany can be ended is within a system of European security.
My other point relates to the paragraph to which the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, referred, and I share his feeling that it needs clarification. There is to be a special capability for carrying out our obligations in Europe, and a general capability which would enable us to deploy forces from Europe and the United Kingdom which might be required to help our allies, and presumably our Commonwealth partners, in other parts of the world. What does that mean? I should like to make one suggestion which I hope will be dealt with by the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate.
Like other noble Lords, I fought alongside Australians and New Zealanders during the First World War. I have been to Australia several times, and to New Zealand, and as one noble Lord has said, the people there may not be saying much but I am sure they are thinking a lot. All they know from this White Paper is that there is a general intention to send troops to any part of the world, based on what is called this general capability. I should like to hear a firm statement from our Government that they would be in favour of a Commonwealth Brigade. I am sorry that the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, is not still in the Chamber, because I think he would agree with me when I say that one of the greatest victories in the history of this country, the battle of Alamein, was achieved by a Commonwealth Army which the noble and gallant Viscount commanded. An Australian and a New Zealand division formed Dart of that great Army.
I believe it would have a wonderfully reassuring effect upon the people of New Zealand and Australia, and indeed of 272 Malaysia and Singapore, if we had a Commonwealth Brigade—perhaps a division might be too ambitious. It could be composed of units from this country (these might well be rotated), from Australia and from New Zealand and, it may be, part of the 6,000 Gurkha force which, apparently, we are to retain. I believe that the presence of such a force, if that is what the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore wish—it must not be done against their wishes—might have a very reassuring effect upon people in that part of the world. I am not going to suggest that if ever we get involved with China—which heaven forbid!—6,000 or 10,000 troops in Singapore or Malaysia, or even in Australia, would be much good.
I understood from the White Paper last year that discussions were to take place with regard to facilities. Can we be told whether these discussions are going on? Are there to be facilities for a naval force and also for training Australian and New Zealand forces, together with forces which could be flown from this country? I believe that it is along those lines that we can put teeth into this rather vague statement about "general capability", to which the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, also referred.
My last point is this. We are told that a draft agreement for the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons has been agreed at Geneva and has now to go before the General Assembly. I think that that is a significant step forward. But it is also stated, as a protocol to that agreement, that the British, Russian and United States Governments have agreed to give a guarantee of security to any non-nuclear Power which is attacked by a nuclear Power, presumably with nuclear weapons. I imagine that that will be very welcome news to the non-nuclear Powers who sign the agreement. May I ask how that will affect the French, because they have not taken part in the Conference? Will there be complications arising from that fact or would their signature be welcomed to that guarantee of security? I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some information on that point. Finally, may I say that while I believe, as the White Paper indicates, that the foundations of our national security lie in peace in Europe, the security of the world lies 273 in world peace based on the rule of law and order controlled by a world authority.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in the course of his most interesting speech, told us that the Government would not neglect the basic security of these islands, and it is because I am apprehensive about our ability to safeguard that security when in my opinion it would appear to be most vulnerable that I rise to address your Lordships.
I wish to expand the reference made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bourne, to the danger to our country of submarine blockade. It is common knowledge that here in our country we can produce only slightly more than half the food we require and that, in consequence, we have to import foodstuffs from many countries overseas, from North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and West Africa, as well as from Holland, Denmark and other countries. It is also common knowledge that we in these islands have no raw materials whatsoever, other than coal, and have to obtain our iron ore, copper, zinc, bauxite, tin, rubber and oil, to mention only a few, from across the seas. If, then, our lines of communication with these countries situated all over the world were seriously interrupted, for even a few weeks, the people of this country would be in danger of starvation and our industry would be brought to a complete standstill.
A blockade of these islands, conducted by conventional forces, operating, it may be, close to our shores or in the wide waters of the North Atlantic, or yet farther afield where, by reason of geographical features, shipping has to converge—as happens to-day as the result of the closing of the Suez Canal in the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope—would very seriously embarrass us. Indeed, if we did not have sufficient forces to keep in check an enemy operating on our trade routes, we should speedily be brought to our knees. And even if, with drastic rationing, we were able for a time to feed our people, the greatly reduced production that would come from our factories would leave us without the means to buy food and therefore, even before running the gauntlet of the block- 274 ading forces, would leave us shorter still of being able to meet our requirements.
We know that Russia, whose ships are now appearing in all the oceans of the world, and in some force, possesses; some 500 submarines, many of which are modern ocean-going vessels, while a number are nuclear ships capable of long voyages underwater and of remaining and operating for an indefinite period of time in the area allotted to them. The difference between the last two wars, in each of which, as we were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, recently, we came perilously near to defeat, and the present situation is that the submarines of to-day are many times more formidable adversaries than those we had to contend with some 25 years ago. It follows that the corvettes, frigates, sloops and similar vessels, which we built in such tat numbers and so rapidly during the last war, would be quite useless against the modern submarine. And the type of ship carrying the vastly complicated instruments and weapon systems that are necessary to-day takes years, not months, to build and bring into service. They cannot possibly be produced on the spot in the face of an emergency. To serve any worthwhile purpose, they must be in service when the emergency comes.
It is in this connection that, together with many others of my generation who have been through two world wars, I dread to read that tensions with other Powers are now relaxed and that accordingly the measures which were considered appropriate for our safety even a year or so ago are no longer required. I note that it is stated in the White Paper that we should receive timely, possibly prolonged, warning of any change in the political situation that might make war in Europe more likely. My Lords, it is not the first time that we have indulged in like speculation. It was in the years between the wars that the Service Ministries were advised that war need not be anticipated within the next ten years, and with every passing year the ten-years fiction was retained. In the event, war came much more quickly and caught us almost entirely unprepared. For that the people of this country were certainly not to blame. They had been lulled into a sense of false security. They had been led to believe that the war which ended in 1918 was the war to end all wars, and 275 that for the future we could safely leave our affairs in the hands of the League of Nations.
Are we, I would ask, again being lulled into a sense of false security? In cancelling the measures which until now were considered essential to our safety, are we not again—and for the third time—burying our heads in the sand? If we are, I doubt whether the people will again forget those responsible. For surely the first duty of any Government—all Governments—is to provide above all else for the defence of the country. If a country with a submarine force anything like the equivalent to that which the Russians now possess were to deploy that force against our shipping in the North Atlantic, could we obtain the food and raw materials that we must have from overseas?
I wonder whether the Minister, when he comes to reply, could see fit to answer that question. I anticipate that possibly his answer may be that by ourselves alone it would be unlikely, but that, of course, we should not be alone: we should have with us our partners in NATO. But would all the forces that NATO can to-day provide, remembering always that the United States and Canada might well be involved in other spheres, be capable of keeping this country supplied? If not, it seems to me that we should have only two courses open to us: we should either be forced to surrender or to resort to nuclear war. I do not believe for one moment that the mass of our fellow countrymen realise this.
For some 200 or 300 years the Royal Navy has been able to ensure that we receive the food and raw materials that we require, and it is difficult to realise that it is no longer capable of doing so. But, that apart, I do not believe that the country realises that we could suffer defeat through an attack on our trade routes by a country employing conventional forces and conventional methods, and that then the choice before us would be either submission or resorting to the nuclear bomb. I would then ask: Who is to judge which of these two alternatives would be the less repugnant to a proud and free people?—the possibility of annihilation or the certain loss of the freedoms which we cherish and which we have for so long enjoyed.
276 This nation has a right to know whether or not the Government can say with confidence that the forces of NATO are a sure gurantee that the people of this country would never have to choose between those two alternatives. Perhaps, again, I may ask the Minister whether, when he comes to reply, he will feel able to give a firm and unequivocal answer. It may be, however, that he may tell us that the cost of keeping such a force in being which would enable such an assurance to be given would be far beyond our means. That it would call for great sacrifices, I readily admit; but I believe that, if we had the will, we could do it. Surely, no sacrifice is too great if it enables this generation to hand on those freedoms which millions of our fellow countrymen gave their lives to preserve and to hand on to us.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
My Lords, I intervene in this debate only in search of enlightenment—enlightenment not only, I think, for myself, but for a great many people in the country who are interested in defence but have no inside information and have to make the best they can of the announcements made in Parliament and elsewhere. I am afraid they find it extraordinarily confusing. When one considers that there has always been in this country in peacetime a tremendous apathy towards defence altogether, and if we now have added to it confusion among those who are interested as to what exactly the Government are trying to do, and why, and what part they may expect to play in it, then I feel that the situation is a dangerous one and a very poor foundation on which to build a credible defence structure.
On the one hand, the Government's Defence Reviews show such an obsession with financial considerations that it is really difficult for the private citizen to extract from them a logical and consecutive programme based purely on defence considerations. It is felt, too, I think, that there are divisions in both the major political Parties on our attitude to various aspects of defence. On the Opposition side we have had a series of most noncommittal statements; and I suppose it is a common attitude among Oppositions that they do not wish to commit themselves. But, as I say, it is an extremely 277 difficult thing for the private citizen to understand what is going on if there is not a full and frank dialogue between the two main Parties in terms which the citizen can understand.
There are a great many questions that I should like to ask, but your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I propose to ask only one test question on what to me is the most vital of the questions which arise out of the present Defence Review Paper. I live in hopes that the noble Lord who is replying to this debate may throw a little light on it which I have not got so far. It is in connection with NATO, which is the Government's first priority, and rightly so, and this new strategic concept. It is a very grand name, but I myself am not really convinced that it is all that new. I would rather describe it as a belated recognition of the limitations which have always existed on the credibility of a nuclear deterrent.
These are quite clearly dealt with in the White Paper. I will list only some of the obvious ones. The most important, perhaps, was referred to by the Secretary for Defence. who said this last week:When the consequences of nuclear war are so horrendous, no Government with the awful responsibility for ordering the use of nuclear weapons are likely to do so automatically except in response to an unambiguous and total thrust".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/3/68; col. 61.]That is probably the main limitation which would always exist on the credibility of the nuclear deterrent. But there are others, and there may be more to come. There is great doubt at the moment, which the Government also admit, on the role and credibility of tactical nuclear weapons and what place they are meant to take in our strategy. There must be inevitably uncertainty regarding the continued American presence in NATO. Who can say how long the Americans will be prepared to leave their present forces, or indeed future forces? As the Government have frequently told us, we are bound to think of this not in terms of this year or next year, but of at least five to ten years, anyway; and a great many further uncertainties may arise in that time.
Finally, there is another possible limitation on credibility which was referred to 278 in the debate in another place but which I do not propose to pursue, and that is the question of the anti-ballistic missile systems. I mention those only to emphasise that, so far as I can understand this Review, it is now agreed in NATO that there is a very wide credibility gap which will have to be filled by conventional forces. Nobody can say how wide it is; it will probably vary from time to time. How is it to be filled? I hope that someone will give us some ideas at least on this matter, bearing in mind that the importance of deterrence every bit as great with conventional forces as it is with the nuclear weapon.
What are the implications of this? I do not know what they are. But it would appear to be a classical defence situation which we are facing, where the initiative is necessarily with the other side, and where he has numerous options available to him, but those options in every case limited at the top end by the threat of the nuclear deterrent Mr. Healey said in another place:But the real danger in Europe…is not of such an unambiguous attack. It is of a conflict whose beginning is limited in size and geographical extent…NATO must possess sufficient forces to control such a conflict without resort to nuclear weapons at any stage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/3/68, col. 61.]That is fairly straight, and I should have thought it meant that, if there is tension between East and West, there is art open invitation to indulge in a campaign of widespread harassment, carefully timed, carefully limited in size, so as not to attract nuclear reaction, and I see no reason why it should not be quite long-drawn-out. This may simply be a distraction connected with something happening quite outside the NATO area. But if there is to be any initiative from the East in these conditions, I think it is most likely to take the form of prodding here, prodding there, and creating the maximum amount of confusion and harassment without incurring the major danger.
In meeting this danger, I am not clear what the Government have in mind. There is nothing new in having quite inadequate forces to meet all the requirements of a defensive situation of that kind. The normal answer, I should have thought, was that the best you could do would be to have quite limited forces actually holding the fort, as you might 279 say, or holding a line (although that is an exaggeration), and a very substantial reserve which would not necessarily be committed all the time. That is quite normal practice. But I see no mention of how this is to be achieved, if it is to be achieved. If that is the case, this reserve must necessarily be flexible, able to take on a considerable variety of tasks. Its state of readiness, however, need not necessarily always be very high. Some of the reserve could be at a high state of readiness; other parts at a lower state; and indeed these states will vary from time to time according to strategic and tactical situations.
The consequences of such a system is inevitably that a reserve of this sort, being designed to meet a great variety of possibilities, is never fully ideal for any one of them. But that is what one must face in the interests of an economical defence situation. This is pure speculation, and what I should like to know from the noble Lord who is to reply is whether this is in fact a possible situation, or, if not, how the Government see the conventional side of NATO strategy being worked. If there is to be this requirement for a substantial reserve, have the Government given any thought to what form this might take? Or are they going to have sufficient Regular troops to provide both the forces in NATO and the forces held in reserve? Or will the reserves include a proportion of Regular troops and a proportion of reservists, or even National Servicemen, which all other NATO nations have?
These are vitally important questions, and they are vitally important questions now, because it seems to me that, until we have at least some idea what the result of this new strategic thinking in NATO is on our Army commitments, it is folly to do anything to run down our existing capabilities below the point at which they can be easily revived. I think we are very near that point now, my Lords, and therefore I would urge the Government to consider seriously whether they should not await a more definite ruling from NATO as to what the requirements are going to be, before they allow this process of rundown to go any further.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount one question to help my noble friend the Leader of the House to answer him at the end of the debate? Is he taking into account, or is he not, the Allied Command Europe Mobile Reserve, which has been formed for the very purposes about which he is talking and to which this country makes a considerable contribution already?
§ VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
No, my Lords, I was not specifically taking that force into account. Of course, I do not know the size of it, and I do not know what size of commitment the noble Lord has in mind. I am really asking questions because I do not know. But I can see that if any of these commitments were to become running sores, as one might say—not this question of three or four days but running into months, or even years, for that matter—in the position of stalemate the amount of reserves required will be considerably greater than what is planned at the moment.
Finally, I would remind the Government that whether we are thinking in nuclear terms or in conventional terms, the public must understand that our object is deterrence. If it were not, and if we were contemplating huge armies meeting in the field, as they used to, of course a token force in NATO would be utterly useless. But I am sure we are all agreed that there is no question whatever of matching unit with unit with the Warsaw Pact countries, and for deterrence purposes a very much smaller scale of forces should be sufficient if it is properly controlled.
The other point to remember is this. The credibility of defence forces, of whatever kind they may be, is primarily determined by the steadfastness and determination of the people who are going to use them. Therefore, I would suggest to your Lordships that it is most important that a much greater effort should be made to explain to the country generally what the Government's policy is, because I do not think they understand it just now, and I am quite sure they do not understand the policy of NATO. Unless they understand it, we cannot expect the tremendous support which we have always had before if we ever had to meet a serious conflict in Europe.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I find it easy to follow the noble Viscount who has just spoken, because he has just said the very words that will form part of the main theme of what I have to say; that is, that it is not clear to us why the Government decide on the various things they do decide upon. We had from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, a sort of philosophy to back up the White Paper, which in the ordinary course of staff work one would have thought should come first, before the White Paper was written. But, as has been the case with practically every White Paper that this Government have produced, they have omitted much more than they have included.
To a certain extent I am going to follow the Government's process, which is what a staff officer calls "situating the appreciation"; that is, dealing with the conclusions before arriving at the answers needed to make those conclusions work. I am going to do this because it is easier to follow them that way, and we are invited to "take note of" the White Paper. Therefore I propose to start by dealing with one or two points of substance—and there are few in this White Paper—and then go on to points of major omission. I will conclude with what I think should be the philosophical background to the thinking of the Government.
On the points of substance, in my view the Government are to be congratulated on the proposals they make on pages 6 and 7 of the White Paper in a minor reorganisation of the military staff of the Ministry of Defence, in bringing in an A.C.D.S. for operations and one for policy, and on having a D.C.D.S. for operational requirements. These are all good moves in the right direction. Also the reorganisation of the financial control of the Ministry of Defence, mentioned on page 7, which has not been referred to either here or in another place I believe, is to my mind the most important change that the Government are bringing into being. If they have the time to carry out other changes which they are proposing, those changes might be more important, but I hope most fervently that they will not be able to do that.
282 To return to my point, the change in financial control to parallel with the functional organisation of the Ministers in the Ministry of Defence can be a great move towards the unification of that headquarters. At the moment, especially, the fundamental reason why we still have the three Services separate is because they are financially organised separately, and the change will be a good move. It is a pleasure to be able to congratulate the Government on something. However, there is a danger in a Ministry in which staff officers and officials serve a common purpose, because they lend to become ignorant of detail within their own Service. There is a great risk that when, by reorganisation, one tries to get rid of the bath-water of single-Service prejudice one also gets rid of the baby of hard-won practical knowledge.
It is most important (and here differ from one of the noble Lords who spoke earlier) that officers should not spend too long in the Ministry of Defence, o that they forget the real tools of their trade, whatever that trade may be. There is in fact a reference on page 37 of the White Paper—it is perhaps a result of this long service in high places—where it is discussing helicopters, to "the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force". I do not know the significance of leaving out the word "Royal" of the Royal Navy and leaving in the "Royal" of the Royal Air Force. I trust that this is not some ghastly punishment to the Navy for having taken the side of Cromwell some 300 year; ago, and I should like to think that perhaps the process of putting the Navy after the Army (which is not done elsewhere in the White Paper) and of omitting its Royalty is due to the fact that the staff officer who composed it was more familiar with the Army and Navy Stores than with the NAAFI.
The Government are to be congratulated on one other thing which is not in the White Paper but which was mentioned by the Minister of Defence for Equipment in another place. refer to the proposals for sharing between industry and the Services the research and development and overseas sales facilities. This has been slow in getting off the ground. It was started at least eighteen months ago, but it is nice to hear that it is coming along. All we can hope is that 283 both industry and the Services will recognise clearly the contribution that each can make to such joint efforts. There is a risk that one or the other will be scornful of their opposite number.
Those, unfortunately, are all the nice things I have to say about the Government. The next point to make is what I might term, "omissions of particular significance". In fact these have been well covered by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and also by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bourne, as well as by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. So it does not rest with me to say very much, except that in the framework which I shall suggest to your Lordships, in which we must preserve an ability to operate world-wide, we must be able to have comprehensive, credible sea-borne forces which we can deploy around the world; and we can have this credibility only if we have ships capable of operating fixed-wing aircraft. There is no alternative; and although your Lordships have heard me say this before—and indeed many others have said it—and although perhaps one might be accused of flogging away at a dying horse, this is such an important point that it would be wrong in the extreme not to continue fighting.
It is more important now than it has been hitherto, because whereas in their early defence policies the Government said they would keep the carriers until the mid-'seventies, they now say, on page 2 of the White Paper, that they will get rid of the carriers in 1971. They do not say so absolutely directly; they take two paragraphs in which to say it, which is interesting, but I think it can be read as definitely being 1971. We have been told that all fixed-wing flying training for the Fleet Air Arm has already ceased. This means that if the country has the misfortune to have this present Government in power until the end of its time it will not be possible (as it was before) to change the policy of phasing out the Fleet carriers.
This means that the sort of policy referred to by the noble Lords whose names I have mentioned, which enables us to play our part in helping to preserve world peace on a world-wide scale, which it has been our privilege to do in this country for some 200 years—this 284 change of timing means that we shall be unable ever again effectively to carry out such a policy of world-wide peace preservation without the country having been consulted on the issue. I suggest that this is a constitutional issue of importance, and needs to be taken in that sense, because it is a major change of policy. There is no doubt whatsoever that you cannot effectively contribute to world-wide peace-keeping operations, except in very special circumstances, if you do not have the ability to deploy credible seaborne forces around the world. So long as the Government left a chance for somebody else to put their errors right this was all right. I repeat myself, I am afraid, but I think the point is important enough to emphasise. Now they are trying to rig it so that it cannot be put right.
In passing, it is suggested in the White Paper that a helicopter armed with an AS. 12 missile can replace the strike capability of a fixed wing aircraft. It does not actually say that, but it implies that. That, my Lords, is nonsense. I had the privilege of operating a helicopter from my own ship and I was able, in the happy 18 months I did that, to learn a great deal of what you could do with them. But in the very early days when I first took command of this ship I had the privilege of entertaining the captains of an earlier ship of the same name, which was a cruiser, and I was boasting to these gallant officers, I regret to say, about this splendid helicopter of mine. They said, very quietly, "Of course, we had the Walrus in our cruiser which did the same thing". And the answer was that before 1939 that was exactly what they had; and what the helicopter can do in the strike reconnaissance type of role is no more, in fact rather less, than what the dear old Walrus used to do in the past. It does have one advantage, and that is that you had to stop, practically, to recover the Walrus and you do not have to stop to recover the helicopter. It has also its anti-submarine role, which is a separate issue. Let us not fool ourselves. A Navy which depends on helicopters to provide its strike and reconnaissance is a joke.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I am taking too much of your time. Perhaps we might turn to the question 285 of what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, called the philosophy. One wants to get to the basis of why we require defence forces, why indeed we should have them at all, and I think the easiest definition is to say that we must have defence forces, or there must be defence forces, in order to deter aggression wherever and whenever it may occur. The next question is where might one find aggression; how do we judge, if we are going to do this deterrent business, where we require the deterrent forces and what sort of deterrent forces? And I would suggest that the basis on which one can judge this is that any country which does not either constitutionally or in fact have an opportunity for giving itself an alternative Government is a potentially aggressive country.
If you think about it, any dictatorship that one could think of over the years, where there has not been an opportunity for a rival Government to be set up, has been a potential aggressor. Any of the newly emergent nations which are not nominally organised as dictatorships but in fact are, have disturbances potentially within their frontiers; and when you have disturbances potentially within your frontiers it is very tempting for the people who run those countries to conduct aggression outside their own borders in order to take their people's minds off the trouble. So we therefore need to be able to deploy deterrent forces, if we are going to take this on, wherever there are countries that do not have some proper Parliamentary Government.
The next question is why should we wish to deter this aggression? I suggest to your Lordships that there are two main reasons; the first, which has been mentioned already in many places, including by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, is the need to have unhampered world trade, a thing that we in this country depend on absolutely, without qualification. And that is what I call the selfish reason; though, mind you, if we are not successful in our trading we cannot do for the starving millions the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned earlier all that we should do. So we have a duty to preserve this trade and to preserve ourselves and our position.
But we also have another duty in resisting aggression and that is to save life. It is as simple as that. It is of interest 286 that the White Paper mentions on page 14 that in four years in Aden we suffered 135 dead and 900 wounded of British forces, and as the other references I shall make are to the dead rather than the wounded I will restrict myself to that. It does not mention how many terrorists were killed in the same time, but if, to take an example—it would be interesting to hear from the Government whether they have the figure for this—we say that there were five times as many, one could say perhaps that 800 were killed in four years in the Aden emergency.
We were told in the Sunday Times of last Sunday that in Vietnam, where the Americans are trying to conduct a holding operation, the Americans themselves lost 17,500 dead in the three years 1965–67. The South Vietnamese lost 1,738, the civilians killed by the Viet Cong numbered 12,000, and the North Vietnamese lost between 500 and 700, and that is all. It is an interesting proportion, but that takes me off my theme. Shall we say that they numbered, in total, about 30.000 in three years in Vietnam—10,000 a year. In Korea the American casualties in three years were 33,000, and it is significant that that is twice as much as they have suffered in the same period in Vietnam. These are figures that one has been able to gather from places where people have tried to do a peace-keeping operation of a sort. It may sound strange to your Lordships to call Vietnam a peace-keeping operation, but it is one.
In contradistinction to that, from The Times of March 4 we learn that in eight months in Nigeria the dead numbered 60,000 at least, which in eight months is twice as much as the three-year figure in Vietnam and twice as much as for the Americans only in Korea in a three-year period. Nigeria, if you think of it, is the first place which is an ex-British territory, Commonwealth territory, where we have not tried to keep the peace. It is also the first place where the trouble started, whatever the merits and demerits of the case, after the Government had started to move out, after the Government started, as they did with Aden, announcing in advance that they were going to move out; and we get this ghastly slaughter which The Times of March 4 reckoned as being mainly of civilian, harmless people. We find people making a tremendous fuss about murderers being executed in Rhodesia, but 287 not lifting a finger to protest against what goes on in a country like Nigeria, where we have abrogated our responsibility.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, as the noble Lord is speaking of an area for which I have some responsibility, may I intervene to ask whether he is suggesting that Her Majesty's Government and British forces should have intervened in Nigeria, which is an independent country? Is that what the noble Lord is suggesting?
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Yes. Perhaps I can just go on with this, to explain that, in the first place, if we think back over the last twenty years, there have been many other potential Nigerias. I will not elaborate. There have been various countries where trouble has brewed and has been stopped. The fact has not been given publicity, for the good reason that we do not want the peoples of the countries concerned to whose assistance we have gone to lose face by its being made clear that we have helped them. But it is a fact that Nigeria is the first country in which there has been this ghastly slaughter since the communal rioting in India, when again we walked out.
I just throw this to your Lordships for thought; that if we haul out of our responsibilities around the world and abandon any effort at making ourselves available to Governments, to help them keep the peace, there may well be further disasters of this nature. I would go further and say that not only is there this mass slaughter, but in disasters of that nature there is also material damage, which does the country itself great harm, delaying its development by many years, and also costs us vast quantities of treasure which would probably more than compensate for the extra money we had to spend in order to keep up our older policy of helping people to keep the peace around the world. So I think it is important to pause before we commit ourselves irrevocably to a "Europe only" policy.
As the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery, said, the hydrogen bomb makes all the difference. There is no doubt that the defence of Europe has been protected by nuclear bombs over the years, and will remain 288 so; and there is no particularly good reason why we should spend large sums of money in keeping land-based troops and aircraft in Europe. If we concentrate such cash as we are prepared to spend on the defence forces, on forces which can operate around the world without interfering with other people's countries, then not only can we, I hope, keep our own trade alive and prosperous, but we can also do the sort of duty that we should by these people whose countries are only just becoming established.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ LORD GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Margadale, for allowing me to speak before him. I must also apologise for having to leave early, as I have an engagement this evening. I came here from Yorkshire as a "Backwoodsman", to say a word for the Territorials, as there fell to me the honour of being given command of one of the Territorial battalions when they were formed last year. Two years ago, the Territorial Army was disbanded and, out of the upheaval, as a Phoenix from the ashes, came the A.V.R.III Territorials.
Unlike the A.V.R.I, and the Volunteers, the A.V.R.II, the Territorials have a limited number of drills and one week's camp only. They have no bounty, but few weapons and few commitments, and the uniforms were of the older variety. However, despite all the difficulties, the A.V.R.III did extremely well after a poor start. The upheaval inevitably sent a great many people away from the Territorial Army; some of them joined the A.V.R.II. In spite of the little pay they got, the morale was high and they had a good spirit. Recruitment was slow but steady; and, whereas some people joined the Volunteers for the money, certainly nobody joined the Territorials for that reason.
On entering into 1968, the Territorials were working out a good recruiting drive, and had reached about 50 per cent. of their target. Some people would say that the spirit in the Territorials was higher than in the Volunteers, but no doubt the Volunteers would not agree with this. During the year in which the Territorials have been in being they have been trained on the ground; they have 289 even been trained in the air, and they have been on the sea. They have had a varied training. They have trained with the Civil Defence, with the Fire Services, and with the Police. They have helped clear up the beaches after the mess of the "Torrey Canyon". They have manned the straw barricades against foot-and-mouth disease. They have helped clear up the storm damage in Glasgow where they were working with the Civil Defence. I do not think it can be said that they have neither trained nor worked. They have played a full part and trained during the year. I visualise that they would be there to fight such things as heath fires, and to help in any civil catastrophe. One could anticipate that they would fill well part of the gap that is left by the disbandment of the Civil Defence.
On January 12, 1968, it was announced that the Territorials would be disbanded. As is well known, after the announcement representations were made and discussions took place; and they are still taking place. In the course of a delay of no less than two months there has been complete and utter uncertainty throughout the Territorials. The ill-considered announcement was virtually a non-event. Not only was it ill-considered, it was completely lacking in consideration of all the personnel. It was bad enough for the Territorials; but for the permanent staff it was most unfair, because their livelihood depended on their jobs. They still do not know whether to be loyal to their battalions and to their regiments, or to go to the jobs which they are being offered. Many attendances dropped and, needless to say, there have been resignations and gloom. In spite of that, however, in some of the drill halls there is even added keenness, since people feel that they must get the most out of the service before it disbands; and recruits are, even now, still coming in.
Nevertheless, there is a general feeling of apprehension about the Government's intentions, and a feeling that the Government do not know what their own intentions are. This has happened twice in two years, both times in an arbitrary and ill-considered manner, and the Territorials cannot help feeling that it may well happen again. But, as I have said, the spirit of the Territorials is not lost and it would recover within a year if they 290 were allowed to continue. But, above all, a decision is needed, and needed soon, so that the Territorials can have some confidence in their future. When they are told that they can carry on—as I believe they will be told—they must knew that although they will not have a camp this year they will have a camp next year. The recruiting will be slow but sure, and it will recruit the best sort of men—the people who will be there, not for the money but for what they can do for the Territorials, for the fun they get out of the service and the work they can rut into it. Most Territorial battalions are determined this year to go to unofficial camps whether there is an official camp or not, though this will be extremely difficult for junior ranks unless they are paid by their employers while they are in camp.
I do not think one should forget that this dallying has also had a bad effect on A.V.R.II volunteers. It has lost their confidence, and they wonder whether what can happen to A.V.R.III could perhaps happen to A.V.R.II volunteers. I am told that the volunteer strength decreased by 960 in the last three months of last year, and it is interesting to note that during that period the A.V.R.III strength increased. One reason for the decrease could be the high commitments of the volunteers, and I think that this is one good reason for the existence of the Territorials. People change their jobs and find that they cannot attend quite enough: their commitment is too great, or the distance is too great to the volunteer drill hall; they get married and their wives want to see more of them, or they become less keen, and so they join the Territorials where they have much less commitment. Equally, there is a trade the other way round. People find that they can spend more time on these activities, so they leave the Territorials to join the Volunteers. I think that, without the Territorials, many people who are unable to go on with the Volunteers will be lost to the Territorial Army. The history of the Territorials is so long that one could spend a good deal of time on it, but it is worth realising that in 1914 they were embodied within 48 hours, that in 1940 many of them were already in camp, and those who were not were available in a matter of hours. Their record was a distinguished one.
291 The cost of the Territorials last year was £2½ million. British Railways lost £153 million, so the cost of the Territorials for a year will be well under one week's loss for British Railways, or, put another way, £1 in every £1,000 spent on defence. I am not sure of the figure, but it is a very small percentage of the cost of the Transport Bill. What a pittance is needed to keep this valuable Reserve. What if they are needed and they are not there? What if England fails next time? There will be no free spectacles then! It is said that when Hitler heard in the 1930s that the Oxford Union had passed a resolution, "That this House refuses to fight for King and country", he made a note of this and felt that England was on the wane. I think, too, that disarmament encouraged his view. One can but hope that the reductions in our defences and the throwing away of our Reserves will not mean that history will repeat itself.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Margadale, speaks, may I ask the two noble Lords whether they notified all the other noble Lords on the list of speakers of this private arrangement between them? There is a custom in your Lordships' House that when a change is made which affects other people—and there are others further down in the queue—then all noble Lords are informed as well as the Whips. I know that neither of the two Front Benches was aware of this change.
§ LORD MARGADALE
My Lords, may I say that the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, approached me, and I said that if the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, who is next speaker after me, agreed, it would be all right. I must apologise to the House if this was not known all round.
§ LORD GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I too, apologise to the House. I am afraid that I am inexperienced in the customs of the House.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I did not wish to sound like a schoolmaster, but it is a custom of the House. We all sometimes fall into traps, but occasionally it is liable to produce a certain amount of chaos if these matters are not notified.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ LORD MARGADALE
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail, although I support a good deal of what he has said. I shall be very short indeed in my speech, since at the week-end I had no voice at all, and I want to try to get my voice back. Furthermore, I should not like to bore your Lordships with having a rather dull croak to listen to.
I should like to declare an interest in that I have been a Yeoman and Territorial for a good number of years and still have the honour of being connected with both T. & A.V.R.II and T. & A.V.R.III. I was encouraged by the reply of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, at Question Time to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, that the Government definitely believe in the voluntary spirit and in voluntary service. For that reason I hope that I may register a plea to the Government which I hope will be considered before a final decision is arrived at and will result in a continuation, in some form, though no doubt in a modified form, of T. & A.V.R.III. Before I deal with this matter, I should like to say that I am in complete agreement with misgivings on the part of certain noble Lords about the withdrawals from certain areas overseas, and also with the speech made by the noble Viscount. Lord Bridgeman, in regard to home defence and home forces in general.
I believe it is vital that T. & A.V.R.III should be kept in this country in some form to maintain the voluntary spirit and voluntary service. Without this spirit and without a modicum of drill halls it will be difficult to keep up the same spirit of recruiting in the Regular Army. We know that already recruiting figures have slipped a little. I believe that some form of reserve on a county basis is vital should a national emergency arise. And when one reads one's newspapers one finds there are enough national emergencies around the world. As time goes on, it will be increasingly necessary to have some form of interchange in counties or areas for recruiting purposes for T. & A.V.R.II, and those who have served a period undergoing the exacting commitments of T. & A.V.R.II may go on to help T. & 293 A.V.R.III, and where a person is available as suitable in T. & A.V.R.III he can move to T. & A.V.R.II for the more military role. Whatever A.V.R. these men are in, they are civilians in private life, and they cannot just be moved for the military need if their business work makes it impossible for them to be moved long distances. My Lords, I do not want to detain the House longer.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, the front line trenches of your Lordships' House seem to be very thinly manned to-night. The Cross-Benches were empty until a moment ago, when one noble Lord arrived. The Liberal Benches seem to be completely empty. I presume they have gone to the NAAFI. That hardly shows the kind of fervent patriotic spirit which I should have expected in your Lordships' House to-night, when the defence of our country is concerned.
We had many thoughtful speeches earlier in the debate, some of them supporting the Government, some of them criticising the Government, some of them walking a tightrope, praising the Government here and damning them there. But one cannot listen to such masters of the soldiering art as the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, the many distinguished officers of various Services who have addressed us to-day, the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft—a former Minister of Defence—who seems to have gone on leave, without feeling something of a sense of occasion. I was merely a company sergeant major, with all the shyness and modesty which afflicts the holders of that particular rank. But what we are wrestling with to-night is the attempt that is now being made—and I say this deliberately—by a patriotic Government, to ensure the highest possible degree of defence for our native Islands with the money which can be made available. And the more we pretend that we can by ourselves defend the whole world, the less able we shall be to defend our homeland and our NATO allies. And this must be at the foundation of our discussion to-night.
We had a most powerful speech by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. He said some things which will make many of us think. But the general picture that I gathered from many of his remarks was 294 one of ourselves fighting wars all round the world. I shall not dare to criticise the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. He did a good job at the Ministry of Defence, and did a great deal to pull that Ministry together. But I believe he was the ninth Minister to have charge of that Department in the 13 years of Conservative Government, which seems to indicate that there was a grave lack of continuity under Conservative Governments and that they either could not find a competent Minister to take charge of it or thought that Defence was of so little importance that they could change their Minister every twelve months.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, began his speech with an exciting recitation about Salome shedding her seven veils. I began to wonder at which point the story would end, but, fortunately, he did not go too far for the decorum of your Lordships' House. He kept on at least one veil—the one veil that was to cover the naked inefficiency to which his Government had reduced our defences when they were in office. We have only to remember the clumsy way they muddled their offensive war in Suez to appreciate that.
There are in the world to-day quite a lot of people who are pacifists, and there are quite a number who are not. We even find that hitherto peacefully-minded people are urging us to bomb Rhodesia and to send armed forces there. I think that in the present disturbed state of the world we should not be true to our own people if we did not take reasonable steps to organise efficient defences. I nail my particular flag to that mast. But this must always be within the country's economic capacity. I want to congratulate the Government on the efforts they have made, and made with a certain degree of success, to marry our economic and defence capacities. If we had proceeded with all the programmes which had been devised by our predecessor Governments, we might have been less well defended to-day and we certainly would have been in greater economic difficulty.
I want to speak about only one subject to-night, but I should probably fire off a few bursts of rapid fire in other directions by way of a preliminary. I think the Government were right to abandon as a long-term policy the concept of giant 295 aircraft carriers as the foundation on which to build our Fleet. I should not object so much to smaller classes of carriers, but I think the evidence from the Middle East during the recent Suez war shows that the Russians have a large number of very small vessels firing very high explosive missiles. That shows that the giant carrier would have little chance of surviving against a mass attack by about a dozen of those ships. We also have to remember that Russia has hundreds of submarines and, also, that if a carrier goes down the planes go down with it unless a miracle happens.
If the object of a carrier is to carry planes, then it has outlived its usefulness the moment it ceases to be able to carry planes by going down to the bottom of the sea. I agree that while we have what I might euphemistically call a few outposts of Empire left, it is right to keep some of our carriers in commission as a short-term policy. But I believe it is no use at all trying to base our long-term naval policy on the giant aircraft carrier.
I think the Government are also right to base our air power on acquiring the most modern planes, whether they are made here or abroad. In fact, the previous Government purchased abroad on at least one occasion. We cannot afford to send pilots into the air in machines in which they will be out-speeded, out-manœuvred and out-gunned. I think the Government are also right to have reorganised the out-of-date Home Commands, because if we have to fight a war to-day it certainly will not be fought against Napoleon.
I also think the Government have been right to keep our forces in Germany. I know that here—and it grieves me very much—the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, thinks differently. It is one of those mysteries of this House that he and I frequently think alike. Probably it is because of that same old regimental tie we wear; one which I believe is also worn by a distinguished visitor who is sitting at the top of the House this evening. But I agree with the noble and gallant Viscount that the 20 divisions of Russians on the Eastern frontier may be there in order to prevent Germany from reuniting. I agree with him that probably few people 296 ever again want to see a reunited Germany in Europe, with all the possible menaces that that might involve.
When I go to bed tonight and my head droops down on the pillow, perhaps the last thing I shall say to my wife is, "Probably Monty was right." But I am quite sure that she will say back to me, "Well, you know, the noble and gallant Viscount did not take into account what might happen in France two general elections after the President." Nobody knows what may happen in France, and France may conceivably be a Communist country within the next ten years. So I do not think we should abandon the troops which we have in Germany at the moment. I think they are something in the nature of a safety valve.
Now I come to the point which really prompted me to join in your Lordships' debate to-night. I feel that the Government have made a mistake in strangling the "Terriers", the T. & A.V.R.III. We do not have to go into past history about this, as we have had two or three debates in this House on this subject. I made my view clear then, and I make it clear again now. I think the Government were right to set up T. & A.V.R.I and T. & A.V.R.II. As a result of that very wise action, the effectiveness of our reserves has been very considerably increased and those corps are making quite satisfactory progress. As a by-product of that reorganisation, T. & A.V.R.III was also set up, and this was to be given a solely home defence role. But this is the body which, much to the disappointment of large numbers of people—not only the people who are serving in the "Terriers", but those who have served in years gone by—is to be put in mothballs. We have been assured that it is not going to be killed stone dead. There have been hints that at some time it may probably be revived. But how can you speedily revive in an emergency an organisation which has been dispersed and one which has had its morale destroyed?
Why not keep it in active existence now? It is going to cost only £2.8 million. That is not very much more than the amount which the defence services spend on publicity and on advertisements—advertisements such as the one I have in my hand, which appeared in the 297 Evening Standard two nights ago. It says:Are you man enough for the Territorial & Army Volunteer Reserve?The new T. & A.V.R. provides the opportunity for a man to enjoy a worthwhile and rewarding spare-time job which provides opportunities for excitement and making new friendships.If you are over 17 and are thinking of accepting this challenge …and so it goes on. If, being over 17, I went along to a recruiting office and said, "Please, I want to join", what a state of confusion there would be in my mind when I heard that the "Terriers" were being abolished by the Government under this Defence White Paper!
I know it may be said that this particular advertisement was relating to T. & A.V.R.I and T. & A.V.R.II, and not to T. & A.V.R.III, but it does not say so; and I think that whatever morale-boosting influence that kind of advertisement might have is going to be destroyed by scrapping T. & A.V.R.III and depriving a lot of young people of an opportunity to serve their country in a worthwhile kind of public service. My Lords, public service has many faces. Some of us render public service with our words, but there are others who are prepared to render it by their deeds. These young fellows who want to join the Territorials are prepared to render their public service by their deeds.
Now despite the prognostications we have heard bandied about the House tonight, none of us knows whether a war is coming. I do not know; nor does the Defence Ministry. We all hope not; but if it comes, two conflicting theories have been put forward. One is that it will come quickly, and the other is that we shall have due warning because of political changes that may be taking place on the Continent of Europe—and some pretty important political changes are taking place there at the moment. But if it should come, then our first-line troops will have to go to Europe, and we shall have no organisation left here to defend our homeland, to protect our families or to defend our factories. It would be the easiest thing in the world for an enemy—I will not name it—which had hundreds of submarines and hundreds of parachute-dropping aircraft to overrun every key-point in this country within a matter of hours; and they would 298 probably have the assistance here of a fifth column of some kind, saboteurs and subversives who would also have to be watched. That is why I am suggesting that we want a Home Defence civilian army.
It can be argued, I know, that any European war in which we might very sadly be involved would quickly escalate into a nuclear war, but is this not all the more reason why we should make our conventional forces strong enough to enable us to keep struggling for a little time, without having to resort to nuclear weapons ourselves? It would give us time to talk; it would give us time to call in the United Nations; and it might ultimately result in nuclear weapons not having to be used at all. I think the lesson there is that the more we cut our conventional forces and our conventional weapons the more we might be compelled to resort to nuclear warfare in the very early stages of any future campaign—and that would put us back to the Duncan Sandys strategy of 1957.
Some of our Allies, of course, have big reserves. France has 500,000, Germany has 800,000 and Italy has 700,000 But they are all conscript countries, and I think that a citizen volunteer army is essential in to-day's conditions if this country wants to avoid conscription itself—and I know that we all do. It is even more essential that we should have this citizen army when we consider how we are reducing our own Regular Forces.
My Lords, it is known to many of your Lordships, as I said it in the last debate, that I have a sentimental association with the Territorial Army. For 22 years I have been on the Territorial Association for my county. That county association has now been abolished, a regional Association for East-Anglia has been set up, and I have been appointed as the sole representative of my county to that East-Anglian Association. But it is not out of sentiment that I am pleading with the Government to think again about this particular economy that is foreshadowed in the White Paper; and I hope that they will give very serious consideration to any proposals that are put forward by the Territorial Army Council at the meetings that are to take place.
299 I believe there is a need for the Territorial Army—that is, the T. & A.V.R.III, which I am trying to save—to be put completely under the Army Department instead of under the Home Office. I think this is an issue of cold, hard common sense; something that is in the best interests of our country and, if you look at it through a broad enough pair of spectacles, something which is really in the interests of peace.
§ 7.37 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I think I can say that I agreed with the last three-quarters of what the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said, in so far as it dealt with the Territorial Army; and rather than quarrel with him on the rest of it I would even say that I am prepared to believe that the Government are, as he says, doing their best in the field of defence. But it is indeed the best that a Government of gremlins can do.
My Lords, in fact this debate has revealed yet again—as if revelation were required—the calamitous course of defence behaviour of the present Government. In his long opening apologia the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that he did not wish to play the part too often of a prophet of doom. That is understandable. Ministers are not intentionally appointed as prophets of doom. Our complaint is that the Government to which they belong are doing nothing to avert doom and a certain amount to invite it. That is not to place the blame on them for lack of planning—it is a surplus of contradictory plans that has caused the confusion, bewilderment and consequent weakness of our immediate prospects.
By to-day, in March of 1968, the Government have strewn in the path behind them five or six forgotten plans, but Mr. Denis Healey is not yet the forgotten man. He continues still the likeable, almost endearingly cocksure apprentice hoisted into the seat of the top executive 40 months ago, still blissfully unabashed by the hash he is making. It is a hash on a truly distinguished scale, because he is playing with nothing less than Britain's security—Britain's alliances for the protection of the Free World. What the Government achieved at the 300 outset was the destruction of our plans for defence. They have gone on destroying each successive plan of their own long before it could be put into operation, and it has now become a habit.
I appreciate that although the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, can hardly deny the recorded facts that I have related, words such as "hash" and "destruction" of our defences may be unacceptable to him. To him and his colleagues it all has to be "redeployment", "coming to terms with our place in the world" and, more specifically, "concentration on Europe". Now to my mind, and in the minds of many others, it is a curious process of concentration on Europe which begins by withdrawing a brigade from the Continent of Europe. Some of us, however regrettable, even deplorable, we might regard the sudden total abdication from a defence role in other parts of the world, would consider it partly defensible if we were really convinced of the Government's determination to play an appropriate part in the defence of Europe. It may be that we differ on what is an appropriate part. The Government have a tendency to look through the wrong end of the telescope at their defence responsibilities.
In Europe, as in the rest of the world, our major military ally is America. At a time when America is facing titanic problems in the Far East, an area where our interest is at least as great as hers, we have just announced the total withdrawal and abandonment of our responsibilities. And so we have opted out of Asia and Africa in order to opt into Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I are both European in outlook. I can therefore ask him what practical significance is this decision to have for Europe. We know that one brigade is to be brought home. There is talk of more reductions. Can the noble Lord silence that talk? It is very necessary that he should say something encouraging, as I know he would wish to do. NATO is passing through something of a crisis, and the Council meeting in two months' time is likely to be crucial. The withdrawal of France from active military participation has weakened NATO. With America involved in other parts of the world and her responsibilities further stretched by our retreat, NATO'S resources are also adversely affected.
301 My noble friend Lord Jellicoe has already mentioned the withdrawal of 35,000 American troops from Europe, the cuts in the German defence budget and the reductions in the Belgian Army—that is to say, in fact, the disbandment of two regular brigades of the Belgian Army. Those engaged in NATO planning and thinking are disturbed by what they see as a tendency towards neutrality in some individual members. For the first time, a NATO country has decided to buy weapons from outside the organisation. There was an unwritten law that this should not be done. There would be, I should have thought, better reason for Her Majesty's Government to announce that we should reinforce rather than deplete our capability on the Continent itself.
I found the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, disturbingly sanguine in the way he dealt with this matter. He seems to expect an abundant warning of any threat of conflict in the future. He gave no idea of what he thought the warning would be, but I gather that it might be almost up to years, because political pointers would give warning before any action, any physical danger. The danger lies in such complacency, as was pointed out by General Hackett not many weeks ago. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is on record as saying, to our considerable satisfaction, that General Hackett's views were in line with those of the Government. But how are those views to be implemented?
For half a century, up to the time of the last war, military pundits in Europe used to draw an analogy between the whale and the elephant, the whale being the British Empire based on sea power, and the elephant being Russia based on land power, so that never the twain could meet, at least in theory. But now the elephant has become amphibious. Russia, as my noble friend Lord Jellicoe pointed out, is a maritime Power; and the whale has diminished into—let us say a dolphin. The latter piece of trans-substantiation is tolerable if the dolphin, which is an intelligent creature, operates with other dolphins or other friendly creatures in some defensive system and if it is regarded by them as a dependable partner to have around when things get sticky. I have to ask the noble Lord: 302 What are we doing to earn that reputation, or to prove our usefulness to allies upon whom our existence may also depend?
However Ministers may argue and cover up, to the eyes of all objective observers both our striking power and our defensive power will be drastically reduced in a few years' time. I am inviting the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to contradict this in answering some particular questions which I shall put to him, without attempting to cover more than a small part of the field of defence responsibility. Perhaps the most important question, to my mind at least, is what long-range reconnaissance capability are we to have in terms of air power. Certainly not what we should have had if the Conservative plan; had gone ahead, or even if the earlier plans of the present Government had gone ahead.
The TSR 2 was destroyed, physically broken up in a Bradford junkyard, with all the jigs on which it would have been constructed. Its place was to be taken by the buy of 50 F 111s from America, and they were cancelled on the factory floor. However, they were to be an interim weapon making way for the A.F.V.G. The A.F.V.G. aircraft was scrubbed off the drawing board, this time against the Government's wishes. It is still possible that we can one day have the British variable-geometry aircraft. What can the noble Lord tell us about that? Can he add anything to his cautiously optimistic words in our small debate on January 25? On that occasion he spoke of the work being done at Wharton. He knows how easily I am infected by any optimism from him, especially when optimism is at a premium, as it is to-day.
The aircraft in question has been called, with unkind implications, another "paper aircraft", which of course physically it is. But everything has to start as a "paper aircraft". Has he any real feeling based on his information that it will be transmuted into metal? It may well be—even should be, in this case—that we share the development and rewards with some other country or countries. But in that event will be pledge as far as he can on behalf of the Government that Britain will be the leading 303 designer and prime contractor—which has not happened in other cases of collaboration?
At best this aircraft will take many years before it leaves the ground, and we shall be missing the long-range all-weather, high-capability reconnaissance and strike aircraft which the TSR 2 or the F 111 would have provided. Mr. Healey, when extolling the F 111, said that it was the one weapon which had the capacity to help the Australians and New Zealanders if they needed our help. By that evidence it does not look as if they will get much help, should they need it, from us.
I still intend to concentrate on the European role and I do not think the noble Lord can convincingly say that in a few years' time the long-range reconnaissance task will be taken over by satellites. In a few years' time there will still be the interference of cloud cover over most parts of Europe, at most times. We shall have the Nimrod. I ask: in what numbers? I think the number of 38 has been tentatively given. Is this the limit which satisfied the noble Lord? Excellent though it is, within its capacity, the Nimrod, I understand, is virtually defenceless if operating out of reach of fighter escort. How is this problem to be overcome—and I am thinking, for instance, of operations over the Mediterranean? Is the Phantom being given a reconnaissance capability? We have heard that part of the avionics designed for the TSR 2 may be adaptable to the Phantom. This would be good news, and I would as soon hear it from the noble Lord as from anyone.
I have mentioned fighter protection, and I understand that the Harrier has turned out to be an even finer plane, in many respects, than had been foreseen. This is a definite plus—but does the noble Lord think that 60 will be enough? When we consider in the light of our national experience the losses that might be suffered in an initial clash, those losses could not be made good from the factory floor until far too late. In passing, I should also like to ask the noble Lord (and I have not given him notice of this question): has a fixed price for the Harrier been agreed? It may be that it has. I have not heard of it. I am sorry if this question is redundant.
304 I concede that a great deal of the importance of these questions hangs on the type of war which we envisage and which we might have to fight. With my noble friend Lord Jellicoe I must press the noble Lord to say to-day as much as he can, even if it means adding to his intended speech, on the Government's attitude to the new NATO concept of extended hostilities before nuclear engagement and, hopefully, preventing nuclear engagement. NATO planners are now thinking in terms of conventional fighting continuing well beyond the tripwire concept. What readjustments are the Defence Ministers making to meet this eventuality, or do they in fact discard the philosophy itself? If they do not, they have set about equipping Britain to play her part in the most curious way conceivable. They have dealt what seems to many of us a vindictive as well as a damaging blow against the reserve forces which would inevitably be called upon in such an engagement. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, dealt with this subject at great length and with great knowledge, and I know that my noble friend Lord Thurlow will be touching upon it; so I will not anticipate his theme.
I think it fair, and I believe that the whole House will think it fair, to call on the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to utter as lucidly as he can the judgment of Her Majesty's Government upon this new concept of a longer and extended period of conventional fighting which now dominates the thinking within NATO. Supposing that they share this philosophy, or even treat it respectfully, he must at some time—and I hope now—declare what he sees as Britain's role and what is to be done for Britain's preparation for that role. Upon this may hang whatever tattered respect may still remain to a demoralised and devalued Government; upon it could hang the whole fate of Britain and Europe, if not of mankind.
§ 7.52 p.m.
My Lords, I think many of your Lordships will agree that this Defence White Paper, with its review of Defence policy, is one of the most drab and ill-conceived documents ever to come out of the Ministry of Defence. There is not even a picture to cheer us up. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe said that defence policy is shrouded in mystery and 305 rather like the veils of Salome, coming off one by one. But if we could see some "Turkish delight" underneath it would not be so bad. The basic trouble, of course, is economic necessity, but perhaps the real trouble is a question of priorities and matters dear to the Left Wing of the Party opposite, who have doubts on this question of defence.
I am afraid that a great many people in this country look upon defence as a luxury or perhaps as a foolish relic of our days of power, and now no longer necessary. Are there no factors which might restore defence to the priority that it should have? Are we not distressed about our broken promises overseas? Should we not be asking ourselves what is going to happen in the Indian Ocean when we have pulled out, with the likelihood of the Russians moving in? Is it wrong to believe that the prime duty of the Navy is to protect our merchant ships in the far oceans of the word? I suggest that defence is not something which can be cut out when times are hard, because it is the premium which we have to pay for our national survival.
I wonder how many of your Lordships realise that some 650 merchant ships are at sea East of Suez at any one time. It has been argued in some quarters that it is not necessary for our merchant ships to be protected by our warships in peace time. Have we not seen only recently what can happen so easily to a lone U.S. patrol ship? That might well happen to a number of our merchant ships. They could so easily be harassed, and even made subject to acts of piracy, without any kind of declaration of war. It is of course a platitude, but none the less true, that we are utterly dependent for our survival upon our seaborne trade, and, my Lords, we must never forget it.
I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to Chapter I of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1968. If we look at paragraph 3, we find a list of decisions which Her Majesty's Government have taken, and we read: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.I must say that that statement seems to be founded on very wishful thinking. 306 Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will explain how they propose to carry out support operations East of Suez without our bases, and when our ships have been withdrawn.
Everyone knows that no maritime operation can be carried out without air support, and if no carriers are available where is the support to come from? Support from land-based aircraft would not be possible in many cases—owing, of course, to overflight difficulties with foreign countries, which might well prohibit support. I also suggest that we do not require very large carriers. I should like to see a number of smaller carriers with vertical take-off aircraft. I foresee that the future of the carrier is not above the water but below, and that before long we shall see the underwater submarine aircraft carrier.
I would say that the defence policy of Her Majesty's Government has been based very largely on political considerations rather than military ones. The Government do not appear, I would say, to have realised that the danger to peace is not in Europe but in the Far East, where the erosion of Western influence is daily taking place. In fact, there is a crumbling of our way of life by the impact of Communist pressure on a nuclear stalemate. I maintain that this threat is by far the greatest danger to peace in the world at the present time, and also in the near future.
The Minister of Defence has said that Britain's defence effort in future will be concentrated mainly in Europe and in the North Atlantic area. I fail to understand the Minister's reasoning. Her Majesty's Government have already stated that the risk of war in Europe has greatly diminished. In that case, why withdraw from places in the Far East where the threat is greatest? To me the whole of this White Paper reeks of political opportunism, and is linked only loosely to the vital matters of defence. I have little doubt that the Minister of Defence is fully aware that he is not pursuing a defence policy which is in the interests of the country, but, of course, he has no other recourse except to resign, and I really think that he should have done so.
I should like now to draw the attention of your Lordships to the integration 307 of the three Armed Services in Canada, which are now so close that officers and men wear the same uniforms. I am not going to suggest that we should follow this system at the present time, but I do suggest, in the interests of economy, that there is a basis for the partial integration of two of our Armed Services. I am certainly not making this suggestion with any thought of Service rivalry, but I feel that the Royal Air Force might well be split up into its old set-up of an Army wing and a Naval wing. An enormous amount of money could be saved, and this could go towards the supply and maintenance of a carrier fleet; with the Naval wing of R.A.F. pilots and observers operating with the carriers—in fact, the re-establishment of the old Royal Naval Air Service. I shall no doubt bring down the wrath of some of the Air Marshals upon my head, but I think many of them would be the first to agree that the viability of the R.A.F. has been destroyed as an independent fighting force.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? He has certainly roused my personal wrath, and I must deny at once that there is any belief among the Air Marshals of the Royal Air Force that viability has been destroyed. I do not really think that the noble Lord is helping inter-Service relations by his speech, but I suppose that he must make it.
My Lords, I think it will come in time by force of circumstances. With the loss of the F111 the Royal Air Force has very little left; perhaps some 700 aircraft. On the other hand, there are a large number of expensive bases and ground personnel which must be maintained under the present structure.
I would conclude, my Lords, by saying that I feel that this White Paper has no coherent policy. It is rather like a rudderless ship with the captain in the chart house wondering what to do next. I suggest that there is one very serious warning of which we should remind ourselves when we prepare to withdraw from the Far East. That is the effect upon the United States, which may well be that they will pull out of Europe, with all the dire consequences. Last, but not least, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do their utmost to restore the morale 308 of the Services, which is certainly at a very low ebb at the present time. Recruiting figures alone tell this tale. We are in a sorry state of defence, and I fervently hope that it will be possible to revise some of these decisions before it is too late, when perhaps we on this side of the House shall be again in power.
§ 8.0 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, we have been debating this White Paper covering all the defence services of the country, but only the last speakers have said something about the Territorial Army, as I think it is still for the time being called. There was a debate recently in another place on a Motion that the Government should restore the Territorial Army. As the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has just said, the Government have made many changes in their plans, and here is one change which would be of enormous benefit. If, instead of abolishing the Territorials and putting in their place organisations with some letters and numbers that I can never follow, the Government would leave the Territorial Army as it was, they would be able to perform their new duties satisfactorily.
I have always been sorry that The Territorials have been called the Territorial Army, as though it were a separate army, because the Territorial units are really part of the regiments. They wear the same uniforms. They belong to the same associations. They have the recognition of the regiments as part of their tradition, and some of them carry the Colours of the regiments. It is this regimental tradition that has been so important to this country for many years. I do not think there is any other country which has troops similar to the Territorial Army. If we look back into the past we find that in every case where there has been a war this country has not started it and has been looked upon as quite incapable of carrying it through. But always this tradition and pride of achievement has enabled us to do so. Take the Duke of Marlborough: the Government were always contrary to him, but he won the victories. He had with him those who admired him and agreed to the discipline. When I use the word "discipline", I am thinking of what I have always been accustomed to 309 while in the Army. Discipline is the carrying out of orders, without any forcing, because the troops know that the orders are right and they can admire not only each other but those who are in control.
Let me take the Battle of Waterloo. Before that battle our troops were "an infamous Army", but they all had a great admiration for the Duke of Wellington, as well as their regimental pride. At Huguemont, faced by a tremendous force of the enemy, the Guards never gave way and so enabled the Scots Greys to charge, with the Gordon Highlanders holding on to their stirrups and shouting, "Scotland for ever!", to demolish a superior enemy; and the battle was won, as indicated in the Royal Gallery, by Blucher coming in as bad light might have stopped play.
I come on to the Battle of Loos, early in 1915. There was talk then of "the flannelled fool at the wicket" and of "the muddied oaf at the goal". But immediately the war was started against us, the youth of the country showed what they were. The Territorials are often thought of as people who will come in after a lot of more training to help the Regular forces, but in 1915 the London Scottish went out with the First Expeditionary Force—incidentally, they were attached to the Gordon Highlanders. In the Battle of Loos the troops were the 15th Scottish Division, who had not been Territorials but had enlisted in the Kitchener Army and were full of the spirit and tradition of their individual regiments. On the first occasion they had ever been in action they attacked in the trenches, German troops who had been fully trained for many years. They completely overwhelmed them and drove them back, because the spirit of their battalions and the traditions of the Scottish Highlands took them through.
My Lords, I feel that to-day we have the same kind of young men. During Question Time we heard a lot about those youngsters not of the best sort. But we have young men who can be taken to be like those whom Kipling described in "If", or like those spoken of in the Fifteenth Psalm. I believe that there would be no difficulty in getting those recruits, if only we had the Territorials and the pride of the regiments back. The last thing I want to say is this. 310 Defence must be there, but defence must conclude with victory as usual.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for reminding the House again, as your Lordships have been reminded frequently this afternoon, that the first task of the Royal Navy is the defence of our seaborne trade, the maintenance of the freedom of the seas and in time of war the denial of that freedom to the enemy. This is very basic stuff, but it docs not emerge clearly from the very suitably coloured Grey Paper of the Defence Estimates, which is much more concerned with money than producing a credible strategy. Up to the present time the Navy has had a second and also, I believe, very important role. In peace time its presence in certain areas of the world and its ability to act quickly have produced a large measure of political stability in a number of very unstable areas. This, of course, was the secret of the Pax Britannica of the last century. A great deal has been said on this subject to-day, and a great deal more can be said. I should like to confine myself, bearing in mind the two points I have already made, to two parts of the world.
The first part is the Mediterranean. It is a very sad spectacle for one who served in the great Mediterranean Fleet of the late 'twenties and early' thirties to see its gradual reduction. This reduction has taken place under successive Governments, and during its course has struck a mortal blow at the economy of the gallant Island of Malta. I do not wish to go into these reductions in detail, but the fact now is that the Fleet based on Malta consists of a handful of minesweepers and the naval base itself has virtually been phased out. There are good and justifiable reasons for this. Over the years since the last war we had few ships and have been preoccupied in the Far East. Our peace-keeping task has been gradually taken over by the American Sixth Fleet, and the necessity for our being there has lessened. Our feeling was that in any future war the Mediterranean would probably be untenable for surface ships. Our loss of control of the Suez Canal also made it doubtful whether the Mediterranean would ever again become a major shipping lane.
311 But, my Lords, in the last few months two important things have happened. The first is that a large Russian fleet has emerged from the Black Sea and shows every intention of remaining in the Mediterranean. The second is the Government's decision in January to withdraw all our forces from the Far East and to concentrate them in Europe. The Mediterranean is very much a part of Europe, and I should like to suggest that even its southern and eastern shores are historically, if not geographically, extremely important to the defence of Europe.
There is a third factor in this Mediterranean problem, and that is Libyan oil. I believe that Libyan oil is not entirely suitable for all purposes, but now that we are withdrawing our forces from the Persian Gulf we are no longer in a position to give protection to our oil interests in that area. The day might well come when Libyan oil would be extremely important, not only to us but to our allies in Western Europe. Under these changed conditions and the new policy of Her Majesty's Government, I should like to see a British military presence reestablished in the Mediterranean alongside the Americans, and of course in Malta, as of old. Malta is admirably suited and equipped as a naval and air base, and we have spent something like £11 million in the last five years on barracks, married quarters and the rest. It is a very popular station, and it has been suggested to me that the sensible thing would be to maintain two battalions of our strategic reserve in Malta, as an extension of Salisbury Plain, where the advantages of acclimatisation would be very great. I would strongly support such a policy. It would do much to encourage the inhabitants of these islands, for whom this country has a very special responsibility. In addition, it would give timely support to the Americans and do something on the political level to counteract the dangers of the Russian presence in that area. I should be grateful if the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who is to reply to the debate, could give us some idea of the Government's future intentions for our forces in the Mediterranean.
This leads me on to the second area in the world where I believe we are 312 taking unacceptable risks. The situation as it stands at the moment is that the Suez Canal and the Red Sea are virtually under Russian control. The Russians are well-established in Egypt, in the Yemen and Somalia and since our rapid departure they are rapidly penetrating Southern Arabia. The security of the Cape route has therefore become a matter of enormous importance. Some weeks ago in your Lordships' House the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, gave us an admirable exposé of the Simonstown Agreement for which he was largely responsible. This was a most statesmanlike agreement in which this country and South Africa became jointly responsible for the defence of the Cape route. South African ports and airfields were available for British ships and aircraft. The British South Atlantic Squadron was based on Simonstown and a British Commander in Chief, already installed at the Cape, was to take command of the combined maritime forces of the two countries in the event of war.
What have the present Government done to implement this agreement? The first thing they did was to remove the South Atlantic Squadron, followed rapidly by the Commander-in-Chief. Only last year in defence talks with South Africa, South Africa agreed, in deference to our weakened state, to assume a much larger responsibility for the Cape route than they had had before. They did this on the understanding that Britain would provide them with the equipment to carry out this task. A month or two later they submitted their shopping list. Her Majesty's Government refused to honour it. I regard that as one of the most disastrous decisions ever made by any British Government. It cannot conceivably be justified on any grounds, strategic, economic or ethical.
I have said enough about the strategic aspect to show how vital the Cape route has become for this country.
On the economic side we have thrown away an order of £200 million in foreign currency and all the work for our people that that order would have provided. But that is not all. Orders for spare parts, replacement, improved electronic equipment, would have kept small firms all over this country busy for many years to come. Nowhere has this decision been more damaging than in my own part of the world. The shipyards on the Clyde 313 which are at the moment manfully trying to haul themselves up on their own jackboots to re-establish the great position they once held would have got possibly two submarines or two or three frigates from this order. That was just the shot in the arm that they and our rather battered aircraft industry needed.
On ethical grounds this argument is even more ludicrous. We have broken at best an understanding, at worst a firm agreement. I do not believe anybody in the world would suppose that a Negro riot in Johannesburg could be put down by a couple of submarines, a squadron of sophisticated frigates or even by jet aircraft.
Much has already been said on this subject, both here and in another place, but perhaps never by anybody who has worked quite so closely with the South African Navy. Some years ago I commanded, for nearly two years, a frigate in the South Atlantic Squadron. During that time it was my privilege, as senior officer of the frigates out there, to take to sea all the major units of the South African Navy at different times for training and exercises. Their senior and commanding officers were all personal friends—and a very fine body of men they were. Eighty per cent. of them were of British stock; a large number had been R.N.V.R.s during the war and fought side by side with us in the great struggle. They were wedded to British naval tradition and methods and anxious to learn all they possibly could from us. To throw those officers and men away, who are in no way responsible for the internal politics of their country, is an act of indescribable folly and fills me personally with shame.
Perhaps it is still not too late to make amends, and I would ask Her Majesty's Government to consider this problem very seriously. Failing such a change of heart, I would ask the noble Lord opposite what alternative plan his Government have for the defence of the vital Cape route. Speaking from the viewpoint of maritime strategy, I believe there never was a time in our history when it was more necessary for this country to have a closer understanding with the southern third of Africa: not only with the Union but also with the overseas provinces of our oldest ally, Portugal, another country which Her 314 Majesty's Government never seems to miss an opportunity to denigrate. These countries are staunchly anti-Communist; they have stable Governments; and as a result of their considerable natural resources they are progressing faster than other countries in Africa.
There is probably not a noble Lord in this House who would fully support the policy of apartheid. But let us not forget that white South Africa is faced with an almost insoluble problem perhaps understood by few in this country. We may not agree with their policies, but it is their problem and it is their solution, and who are we to adopt this attitude of "holier than thou"? It is a matter involving the future security of our country.
I will end where I began. Having decided to opt out of our responsibility in so many parts of the world, do not let us forget the value of the naval presence in sensitive areas where we still have wide and varied interests.
Our seaborne trade is not confined to Europe or even to the Atlantic. Whatever decisions are taken about the future role of our land and strategic air forces, our maritime forces must still be capable of protecting our merchant ships wherever they may be threatened. With the withdrawal from our bases all over the world, this presupposes a very large measure of afloat support, and it will undoubtedly require certain ships with flat tops. Like the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, I should be delighted to see gentlemen in light blue uniform landing on them. But perhaps almost more important still is that we should have close and friendly relations with the countries that lie along the trade routes. We cannot afford to throw away these advantages to appease too tender and often ill informed consciences or for reasons of purely internal political expediency.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, it has been said (I hope I have the words exactly right) that the security of these Islands should rank above all their responsibilities. "Their responsibilities" means the responsibilities of the Government, and the words were spoken earlier this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe. This, I think, is beyond 315 argument. If my noble friend will allow me, I will quote another remark of his:… the Government are gambling on no war in our time".This, at any rate, is how it appears, and there is one particular aspect of our defence affairs at the moment which seems to make this particularly clear; clear, that is, that there is enormous doubt—because gambling is unquestionably doubt.
I am returning, without any apology at all, to the question of T. & A.V.R.III, the Territorials. The reason why I make no apology is two-fold. First, I believe that what I have to say should be said often and clearly; secondly, I am not at all sure that the real significance of what is going on in connection with the Territorials has been made as clear as it ought to be. There again, I am doubtful of the word "clear", because clear it cannot possibly be. What I mean is that some light and clarification should have been shed upon the extraordinary puzzlement that is going on. For we cannot tell, or at any rate I cannot, what the Government's attitude to these volunteers is.
Let us remember quite clearly (if I may be slightly repetitive for about half a moment, if there is such a space of time) what these people are. They are the Civil Defence force for operations at home only. They are not the successors to the Territorial Army, in that they are not an army at all. They are required in time of war to give aid to the civil power. It was stated when the project of their raising was first mooted in another place that they would be available for aid to the civil power before or on the outbreak of nuclear war. This contention has never been, so far as I know, withdrawn. The role of the Territorials, if they were kept in being, would be to assist the civil power in time of general war, and general war means nuclear war, because it is still maintained as certain by the Government that their strategy is directed towards the holding of the line in Europe for as long as possible in conventional war, until nuclear war breaks out, which after a certain number of days, conceivably a week or two, it is certain to do. The Government entertain no doubts. They have made it quite clear that if a war should come in Europe it would go 316 nuclear almost at once; and furthermore, if it did, that within a matter of days organised warfare would become impossible.
If organised warfare becomes impossible, what is the state of affairs within the United Kingdom? The Government must have some views on this. We knew fairly reasonably what they were when there was in being a Civil Defence Corps and, for that matter, the Territorials. Now these have been either disbanded or placed on a "care and maintenance" basis, so what are we to suppose? The strategy remains the same. The military forecast remains the same, though downed somewhat by the fact that the likelihood of war of any kind has receded.
I am quite sure it has. Nobody has yet said that these forces are not necessary. And yet the Territorials are to be disbanded. Why? Or possibly they are not to be disbanded, but placed on a "care and maintenance" basis, which is very nearly the same thing. I know very well that talks are going on at this moment with the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, and the last thing I would want to do is to say anything that might prejudice these talks. But the Minister of Defence, Administration, has already said—he said it exactly a week ago—that in fact if these talks are successful (which I suppose is the implication), what will emerge will be a framework only, and it will cost only a fraction of the present cost of the T. & A.V.R.III. It will. These apparently are matters of decision. Therefore, this small framework is the most we can hope for to come out of these talks.
I hope (I say this in passing) that when we talk of "care and maintenance" nobody supposes that the Territorials are composed of nuts and bolts. You cannot, in fact, maintain a force of men in this way—and this is a force of men, and men activated by a spirit. The cabinet is not to be kept shining by periodical wipes with an oily rag. But whatever happens to them the question still remains: What are they for? Why do they exist? If they are to be disbanded, is it because they are not necessary? If they are not necessary, then why not? If the NATO strategy, to which we are committed, is based on the possibility of nuclear warfare—and it certainly is, because we still keep the deterrent in being 317 —then why is home defence not kept? Do the Government really believe that there is going to be no war at all, and therefore that no home defence is required? If so, why do we keep this NATO strategy in being and say, "That is what we are planning for"? If we are planning for it, presumably we believe in it. If we believe in it, presumably we believe that there is a risk of war, however small that risk may be. If war comes, it will be nuclear; there will be hydrogen bombs dropped on Great Britain. Therefore why is there no organised defence to meet it?
It is quite wrong to keep the nation, or the force itself, in any uncertainty. It makes no sense; moreover, it is highly unjust. What I should like to know—and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will allow us to have some kind of an answer to it—is this. Supposing this force is required, and it has been disbanded—and we must suppose that it may be required, because that is part of the strategy—how long will it take to reactivate it, to bring it up either from the state of total disbandment or of care-and-maintenance to a point where it is ready to discharge its duties in nuclear warfare? How long? Six months, a year, eighteen months? Whatever the answer may be, do the Government think, and if so why, that they will have that much warning of the approach of war? The time that it will take to reactivate these forces is one of the vital factors that must be taken into consideration in working out an appreciation of whether or not the forces ought to be disbanded. There is no escape from that. I put that question to the Government and I look forward confidently to an answer.
I would draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact (and this also has been mentioned before, though in slightly different ways) that this disbandment also has dangers in peace. Mr. Enoch Powell has spoken of the cold anger of the people on finding that first the Territorial Army and now the Territorials are to be destroyed altogether. Also your Lordships have heard the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, say—and you will probably know also that Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing has said—that, once disbanded, the Territorials can never be raised again. If we hit the Territorials, 318 we hit the Army, as my noble friend Lord Aberdeen and Temair will unquestionably agree. If we hit the Territorials we hit the Army as a whole, because there is too close a point of contact between the irregular and the regular parts of the Army for one not to feel the effects of the other. The pleasures of one are felt by the other; the shocks received by one are experienced as shocks by the other.
If we hit the Territorials we hit the Army, and we hit it where it hurts, which is in its morale; and I think it has been hit quite hard enough in its morale already. The noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein said this himself, so I have good authority for saying it. The Army now looks upon the Government with some suspicion—and not without reason. What do your Lordships suppose it is like to serve in some organisation whose orders emanate from a man who is known to believe that those orders are wrong? That is the position, not only in the Army but in all the Armed Forces in relation to the present Minister of Defence. I believe that the Services like the Minister very much. I do not doubt this is so; I personally like all the members of the Government: whom I know, but I know of no rational connection between liking Ministers and respecting the Government which they form.
The nation has great cause to be grateful to the Labour Party for much that is great and honourable in its past, but there are some who think now that its present is a little less than honourable and is very far from great. The Government have sustained a series of spectacular economic failures and it looks at the moment (although I hope this is not true) as though they are about to play the last defence of the nation—the Territorials—as a pawn in the economic game. I hope that I am wrong, and I hope that we shall have reassurances from the Government that this is by no means the case; because if it is, when the nation comes to understand exactly what has been done they will not soon forget nor easily forgive.
§ 8.35 p.m.
My Lords, the Army has done the Navy very well indeed this afternoon, and I warmly agree with nearly everything that was said on 319 naval matters by the noble and gallant Field Marshal and the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. What I have to say will, I hope, underline their remarks, and those of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, with whom I also very much agreed. Each time we have a discussion on defence I think to myself that our defence forces must have reached the bottom of the curve, and each time, so far, I have been wrong, for they continue on the downward path, and we pay off ships and reduce our field forces and our air squadrons. There is nothing new in this; we have done it before between wars, and it has become almost a habit—in my view a very bad habit. Everyone now understands perfectly well that our financial position necessitates a cutback in national expenditure, but unfortunately in peace time the defence forces always seem to be the easiest place to make a large slice of those cuts. So once more there is an axe; the ships are paid off, and the crews have to give up their Service careers and look for jobs in civil life.
Each time this happens our chances of ever being able to build up again our military strength are greatly reduced, for, as we all now know, it takes several years to build a ship or an aircraft and several years to train the crews to man it. While we reduce, it sometimes happens that other countries increase, and it is quite clear that this is what Russia is doing at the moment, at any rate from the naval point of view. This has been going on now for about five years, and it is there for all to see. Her fleet is this time being planned for a world-wide role and not, as it used to be, as a coast defence force. It is spreading its wings, getting out of its enclosed waters in the Baltic and the Black Sea and finding its way round the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, filling the gaps as we leave them.
It is easy to understand that if these changes in naval strength took place suddenly we might possibly be caught unawares—that is, if our intelligence organisation was at fault. But in this case there is no question of that. It hardly even requires an intelligence organisation: the newspaper correspondents can, and do, very properly tell us what is going on. The Russian Navy goes up in strength and increases its 320 influence throughout the world; and at the same time ours goes down. The Russians, having built a huge submarine fleet, are now busy bringing it up to date by adding to it a fair number of nuclear-powered submarines. They are building, we are told, two or three commando carriers, and they are training substantial numbers of marines for combined operations. And while they do this we go the opposite way; we pay off carriers, close down our overseas bases; and though we do certainly build very fine nuclear-powered submarines it is a painfully slow business. Meanwhile, the gap between the two navies widens and the balance goes more and more against us. There it is all happening in front of our eyes; we can see it going on, yet we do nothing to stop it, let alone reverse the process, and one can well guess what the consequence of all this may be.
As your Lordships will remember, between the wars the Government made the ten-year rule, which laid down that for planning purposes it could be presumed that no major war would break out within ten years, and each year those ten years slid on one year. Though that ten-year rule was cancelled in, I think, the mid-1930s, it was not cancelled in time to let us build up our defence forces sufficiently to deter, let alone hold, our enemies of 1939 and 1940. Though we have no ten-year rule to-day, the series of cuts in the Services over the last few years is having exactly the same disastrous effects, though I think to-day it has happened rather more quickly than it did in the 1930s.
One day this process will have gone so far that it will be worth somebody's while to "have a go", if I may in all seriousness put it that way. With our defence forces, especially perhaps the Navy and the Royal Air Force, so drastically reduced, we shall be unable to defend ourselves. Our world-wide trade, which is carried almost entirely by sea, will have pressure brought to bear on it, quite gradually at first perhaps. It might start with a submarine mine-laying operation off one of our larger ports, or a tanker, say, in the Indian Ocean, fully loaded on her way home may be stopped on some flimsy pretext and perhaps taken into Aden. Or it may even be sunk without warning and without trace by an 321 unidentified and indeed undetected submarine, and there is not a thing we could do to stop it.
I am sure I shall be told that we are a member of NATO and that NATO will do the job. But though NATO is a very important organisation and covers much of the oceans of the world, it is far from being world-wide and all-powerful. There are great areas of ocean that are not covered by NATO and that we ourselves are becoming less and less able to control. Do not let us forget it, that though the Empire is no more, we are as dependent on our overseas trade as ever we were for our very existence as a nation. I believe that if the people of this country fully understood what was going on now, before their very eyes, they would be ready to pay a more realistic insurance premium and so ensure that our defence forces are kept at a more sensible level.
Our maritime forces, both sea and air, together with our NATO allies must be able to defend our world-wide trade at all times. At the risk of saying what has been said by so many people so often before, I hope it is still not too late to stop or delay the phasing out of our small, but highly mobile and effective, carrier force. With our reduced forces mobility and flexibility are all important, and, above everything else, that is what the carriers can give us. America shows no sign whatever of thinking that carriers can be dispensed with; nor, so far as I know, do France or Holland or Australia, or for that matter Spain or India. Surely we should keep these ships and their crews in being for as long as we can.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, speaking in the Defence debate on July 25 last, when we were debating Command Paper 3357, I said that I could find nothing in that White Paper or in its predecessors produced by this Government which gave me any confidence that the Government really knew where they were going in this all-important matter of defence. The White Paper now before us, Command Paper 3540, only confirms my view that this Government continue to show themselves to be quite incompetent to provide for the proper 322 defence of this country or the protection of its world-wide interests.
It is unusually difficult to offer any constructive criticism of the Government's plans, because the White Paper which we are now discussing contains almost nothing but a list of withdrawals, reductions and cuts, and about the only reference to a plan is the bald statement that Britain's defence effort will in future be concentrated mainly in Europe and in the North Atlantic area. The White Paper convicts itself of being plan-less when it says in paragraph 3:The present Statement cannot reflect the full effect of the decisions that have been taken. It is inevitably an interim document.In other words, all these decisions have been taken without any coherent idea as to what the end product will be. I personally think that the word "irresponsible" is a better description than "interim".
In order to keep my remarks as brief as possible I ask to be excused from following my noble friends into so many matters concerning the Air Force and the Army. I would join my noble friend Lord Ashbourne in saying how grateful we are to the Generals, including one Field Marshal, who have so notably supported the Navy to-night. One of them, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said that infantry was still necessary. Well, in support of the Generals and the Field Marshal I should like to say that I believe that infantry is in the end the final, decisive weapon. They have got to be put in with the cold steel to finish the job, and that is what the Navy has done over the centuries—put them in to finish the job.
I should like to make a few brief remarks on some of the naval aspects of the situation created by this wholesale massacre of the Forces. According to a statement by the Admiralty Board which has been published in the Press we are to lose 16,000 officers and men from the Fleet in five years instead of eight. This is a major reduction, even taking into account that some of this reduction is due to normal retirement. In any case, the bulk of that will come from the Fleet Air Arm, a fact which I cannot describe as anything else but tragic.
323 Whilst we are on the subject of reductions of manpower, may I say that the White Paper, or Grey Paper, does not seem to me to be very clear on the actual reductions to be made in the Ministry of Defence. Perhaps when the noble Lord comes to wind up he can clarify the situation a little for me. All I am going to say is that in 1914, when we had a Navy, we only had one Admiralty official for 28½ men; to-day we have one Admiralty official for 2½ men. This seems to me excessive. In passing, I may mention that at the present rate of recruitment the Civil Service by A.D. 2045 will occupy 50 per cent. of the working population, while in 2195 the whole working population will be in the Civil Service. All I can say is, thank goodness I shall not be alive!
Apart from the reductions in officers and men and the decision to eliminate the aircraft carrier, the naval situation is gravely affected by our withdrawal from so many of our overseas bases. I think I can claim to be a realist in this matter, because in nearly every Defence debate in which I have spoken, and not only in the days of the present Government, I have continually referred to the diminishing base factor to which regard should be given in our planning. I have continually urged the Government of the day to make proper provision for the Fleet Train, or as it is more commonly referred to now, the afloat support. In a measure this has been done, though I claim no special credit in the matter. The fact that we have achieved a certain success in this was demonstrated at the time of the recent naval concentration off Aden, and less spectacularly and less well-known by the support of the unfortunate Beira patrol. If my recollection is correct, the "Eagle" and one of the fleet auxiliaries serving the squadron there created all-time records by remaining at sea for 80 days or more, a magnificent job.
If our withdrawals from Aden, and now Singapore and the Gulf, had been announced, arranged and negotiated in an orderly manner instead of what I can only describe as the "cackhanded" scuttle we have recently witnessed, it would have given us time to build up the proper afloat support which we need at a reasonable cost, for an afloat support has become a 324 matter of even greater urgency, not only for the Navy, but I think also for the Army and the Air Force. This must be so if there is to be any credibility in the Government's statement, paragraph 3(i) of the White Paper, which reads: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 Nation operations as necessary.I would refer to only two matters which I consider to be of prime importance in planning our afloat support for the future: first, it must include nuclear powered vessels; and, secondly, it must include aircraft carriers—"flat tops", if you prefer that name—for both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. To illustrate what lies at the back of my mind, I would mention the American aircraft carrier, U.S.S. "Enterprise". As your Lordships will know, this ship is nuclear powered and can therefore keep at sea more or less indefinitely. Moreover—and this is perhaps not so generally recognised—she has the capability of refuelling and storing, re-ammunitioning and revictualling her accompanying aircraft.
I personally think that the really economic and practical way to build up our future afloat support is to build it round a kernel of nuclear powered supply vessels and tankers. As your Lordships will realise, I have included aircraft carriers or "flat tops" in the afloat support force for the reason that, in my view, in the modern conception of their duties they are in fact off-shore air bases which carry with them not only the aircraft, but the radar, complete repair and maintenance facilities. They are infinitely mobile air strips, able to conduct flying operations day or night irrespective of whether or not there are any facilities on shore. If the mobility of our forces is to be all that is needed in the days not so far ahead when we shall have no overseas bases, this afloat support must be wisely planned and produced quite quickly. Without it we shall not be able to support operations in defence of our own interests, let alone those of the United Nations.
I suggest that the right way to deal with this problem is to set up the same type of organisation which has so successfully coped with the building of the Polaris submarines, which has progressed 325 that infinitely complex programme through so successfully and efficiently. Although, according to the White Paper, the Government seem to assume that naval operations can be confined to the North Atlantic area, this of course is a myth—pure wishful thinking, living in cloud cuckoo land. In an earlier White Paper (Cmnd. 3357) the Government themselves said, in the introduction:We cannot by ourselves control the course of events in the world.This is very true, as is also the fact that nothing the Government can do or say will alter the fact that this Island will continue to rely on seaborne trade for its existence, which fact has been so clearly explained by my noble friends Lord Ashbourne and Lord Glasgow.
The Suez Canal is closed and is likely to remain so for a long time to come. The South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the routes round the Cape of Good Hope have never been so important to us as they are to-day. Your Lordships will realise that oil companies have found that it is more economical to carry the oil from the Middle East round the Cape, in big 200,000 ton tankers, than sending smaller vessels through the Suez Canal when it is open. Their confidence in this plan is such that no fewer than 160 of these large ships are on order for delivery in about 1970. Bulk cargo ships of the same size are also on order or projected. Ships of this size draw 63 ft. The Suez Canal can take ships only up to 38 ft. draught. Under the most favourable conditions this extra depth could not be dredged before 1975 at the earliest. So I think that President Nasser is out of business so far as the Suez Canal is concerned for quite a long time. What affects us is that the Cape route will increase dramatically in importance over the next half-century. I will not go into details on this because my noble friend Lord Glasgow has covered it in great detail. But I hope and pray that the Government will come to their senses and take every possible step to ensure that the Simonstown Agreement is, if anything, strengthened rather than thrown away.
There are many other important matters to which I should like to refer: for instance, the need to have a substantial naval presence in the Mediter- 326 ranean. My noble friend Lord Glasgow has dealt with that. It is essentially vital to the southern flank of the NATO Alliance. There are other matters to which I should like to refer, but perhaps later on in the year we shall have a debate dealing with much of the material concerned in this debate, about armament torpedoes of our fleet submarines, the development of the PX 430, and our real need for a fifth Polaris submarine. Also, I should like time to develop another factor which seems to me to affect our defence most seriously, and which nobody has mentioned to-day. In 1914, when war broke out, or even before, we launched into a big building programme for the Navy. Those ships came forward fairly quickly, but many did not appear before the end of the war. In 1939 we did the same thing. The Government tell us that they hope to get ample warning of when war is coming. I am not so sure about that. I think that it will come on us like a thief in the night. But one thing is quite certain, and that is that we shall not have the opportunity or capability to build ships or aircraft and start a war-time building programme—it is just "not on".
I take a little comfort—and I am glad to be able to congratulate the Government here—from a statement which was made by the right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Defence for Equipment, when on March 24 he said:We have got to make a deliberate effort to take the first steps away from ever-increasing complexity and back towards placing more emphasis on ruggedness, simplicity and reliability.I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, although I do not regard such effort as a backward step; rather as the very reverse—as a real step forward. Finally, I should like to quote from our present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who said in 1962, when in Opposition:It is not our defence needs that are directing our defence policy. In the main it is cost. It is money and economics.Then he went on to say:If one is directing one's policy according to one's purse, it is almost certain that the policy will be wrong.My Lords, in so far as the present Government have any policy, this is certainly true of them.
§ 9.3 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, I intend, in the main, to deal with the proposals to disband the Territorial Army and the Home Defence Force and to place the Civil Defence Corps on a care-and-maintenance basis. Before doing so, I have a few words to say on the general situation. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that to serve one's country is the greatest privilege that one can be accorded. I fervently believe that one should be proud of one's country. For some strange unaccountable reason during this last decade it has become, I might almost say a deliberate policy of the Party opposite, and of many others, to denigrate this country, to run it down, and not to support it. I do not know why this is so because we have nothing in this country to be ashamed of.
Year after year we call upon our Servicemen throughout the world to serve in various trouble-spots, which they have done with their accustomed vigour and good humour. They have at all times been our best ambassadors. But what has been their treatment? Nothing. They have usually been slapped in the face and made to behave in a manner which, to say the least, is not good for morale. They have been discredited, and I do not know why. Now, as a result of three years of rather hopeless government, we are told that we cannot afford our responsibilities abroad and cannot live up to our obligations. At the same time we are told that it is now fashionable to "back Britain". We seem to forget that our Servicemen have been backing Britain all the time. And what have they got? Nothing.
I turn now to my main subject, which is the Home Defence Force and the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, Category III. As many of your Lordships know, this emerged out of the reorganisation of the Territorial Army, and I think that it is true to say that there were a number of members of the Government who did not wish this force to succeed. On April 1, 1968, the Home Defence Force will have been in existence for one year. It has succeeded and, given a chance, will continue to succeed. I must confess that I speak as one who has had the great privilege of commanding one of these battalions. My battalion was made up of young men who gave 328 willingly of their time, often at their own expense—they put their hands in their pockets to serve. But their morale was exceedingly high and there was nothing which they were not prepared to do. I cannot believe that this country can afford to do without young men who are prepared to display this sort of patriotism. It may be that this is what the Government wish to destroy, service for little or nothing. For under £2½ million this country had a force which was prepared to defend it at home, in peace and war. I ask whether one can afford to give up that sort of service for the doubtful gain of £3 million, which has probably been lost somewhere else for no reward at all.
Let me turn to the Civil Defence Corps, which has been treated in a similar fashion. The members of this Corps got even less than the Territorials. Their only reward for service was that they served their country; there was no money in it at all. They are now to be put on a care-and-maintenance basis. We know that the Almighty is far better at causing havoc than we ever can be, and there is always havoc caused when people are not prepared to sort out the chaos which has been created.
I remember not long ago attending a civil defence course when we were shown The War Game film. All your Lordships who have seen the film will agree that it is a war film of the worst magnitude and one that leaves nothing unsaid. I remember that, having seen it on that course, various people came forward to give their views on it. There were people from the police force, from the fire service and from local government authorities. After they had finished a padre got up, and asked whether he could say a few words. Permission was granted, and his comments were very telling. He said, "We are all here because we are officers in the service of Her Majesty the Queen. Her Majesty the Queen is the Defender of the Faith, and it says so on every coin of the realm. If you believe that faith, and are going to defend it, you must be prepared to pay the price of what you have just seen, however horrible it may be." I cannot believe that in the dialogue that has gone on, with the crocodile tears and everything else, sight of that has been lost. If we believe in what we defend 329 in this House, and elsewhere, then the price will be terribly high. I found what that padre said very telling, and I believed it.
Finally, I must stress what I feel very strongly: that after three years of a somewhat incompetent Government, which has been incapable of getting its priorities right, it is very difficult for those of us who enjoy holding our heads up high and serving our country to continue to do so with the pride which this country deserves.
§ 9.10 p.m.
My Lords, I intended in any case, to be very short to-day, but because the hour is late I shall try to be even shorter and will confine my remarks to one subject, which is the Territorials. What I say will be more in sadness than in anger. Perhaps it is merciful in this life that anger is hard to sustain, because if it were not life would become very uncomfortable. But sadness, especially over stupid decisions in high places, persists. We have had clear evidence again from a speech from the other Benches this afternoon that even Government supporters think that Government policy over our reserve forces is a mistaken one.
I am sorry I was not here during the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I am told that when he was speaking of his sadness at the disappearance of so many regiments he mentioned my old regiment, the Durham Light Infantry, by name and spoke of their long service under his command and the distance they had marched. He ended by saying, "They never put a foot wrong." They will think that high praise indeed, and I am sorry that he is not here so that, with all proper respect, I can acknowledge in their name to him in person that great tribute which they will always value.
A recent regimental news letter circulated by the same regiment, instead of having a usual army heading such as a reference to some A.C.I, or current topic, had at the top a reference to the regimental hymn, verse 2, line 3. Not remembering the regimental hymn from beginning to end, I looked it up and this is what I read:Change and decay in all around I see.330 That, my Lords, reflects pretty clearly and not disloyally the views of all ranks in the Army to-day, in the light of the Government's inability to sustain any consistent Defence policy. Change we all expect—that is part of life—and if the Army cannot adapt itself to change there must be something wrong. But as I see the decay, it is in the minds of Ministers who have lost the power of sustaining a consistent policy, and that is surely serious for the country at large as well as for the Army.
Luckily to-day we still have a skeleton force in the T. & A.V.R.III. Small as it is—it may become smaller and may even disappear—I hope the Government will have second thoughts before they utterly destroy its organisation and its spirit. We should bear in mind how very small its cost is, and what very good value the country gets for that expenditure. Foolishly, it has been made financially dependent in part on the Home Office, but that is a small terror which could very easily be put right.
Earlier this afternoon I was pleased to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, say from the Front Bench opposite that it was the Government's policy 10 encourage voluntary service. I hope that that may be followed up by the noble Lord who is going to reply saying that the Government really have had second thoughts about the Territorials. To keep them in being during this current year of 1968, while the Government are perhaps thinking it over, would not be difficult. I believe that, for a year at least, the bulk of the men would serve and would make themselves and their units efficient without pay—many units have publicly declared this—if only the Government would finance one short camp, or at worst a long week-end. It would keep the unit together in a way that evening or ordinary week-end drills cannot do. But, my Lords, the Territorials have been told by the Government that there will be no more camps, no pay, no allowances, no travel to or from camps, no petrol, no rations. However, if any unit survives this treatment, they are welcome to go to the training areas and camps and to make use of them free. What an offer! What an offer from a British Government to the volunteer regiments of its Army!
331 My Lords, there have been so many changes of mind that I cannot believe it impossible that we should see one more. If the cost were £40 million or £50 million, or even as much as the cost of nationalising the bus services which we are now being asked to approve, we might reasonably be expected to have second thoughts before pressing this case, as we have done in both Houses of Parliament. But a figure something like £1 million would enable the Territorials to carry on during this year; and against the mammoth Supplementary Estimates and the reckless expenditure under so many heads, it is hard to say that this £1 million would not be well spent, even if it meant killing some very small but very sacred cow which was the responsibility of another Department. Surely £1 million is not too much to spend not only to sustain a valuable part of our defence system but, what is more, to help strengthen a spirit of service and discipline in the country on which it is impossible to put too high a value.
§ 9.16 p.m.
My Lords, at this very late hour I always feel rather jealous of the Lord Chancellor (it is only on such occasions that I am), because he has a kitchen and possibly a cook around the corner, which is a privilege that the rest of us do not have. I shall be as short as possible but, speaking last for this side of the House, I have a great many comments to make.
We have now had a series of Defence Reviews; we have had a marathon in the House of Commons of six or seven days spent on debating defence; and we in this House have had a very long day ourselves. But still we on this side do not find a coherent defence policy; we do not find any statement of purpose; we do not find any connection between foreign policy and defence; and we have not had a word about where British interests lie. We are told again and again that we cannot afford many of the things that we need. We cannot afford any longer a Civil Defence organisation or the T. & A.V.R.III element of the volunteer Army which has been referred to so frequently tonight. We are therefore having to take a risk—and Ministers have admitted that we are taking a risk 332 —by accepting large and serious gaps in our defences in all the Services.
My Lords, when you take a risk you do not do it for longer than you have to; but we have never been told by anyone on the other side—and I have read most carefully the proceedings of another place—that when times are better these gaps will be filled. Yet, as my noble friend Lord Inglewood has said, we shall soon be asked to spend £76 million on new nationalisation measures. I often wonder whether, if a real study of defence costs were carried out, we should not find, when account was taken of income tax and of the profits tax paid by the firms making defence equipment, and all the rest of it, that these figures were very much smaller than they appear to be, because the money is coming into the Treasury through other, different ways. But that, of course, under our system of Votes, is never apparent.
What is the threat to our security today? Is it nuclear war in Europe? That is most unlikely, and probably only possible if some hothead makes a mistake. We know that on our side a very large number of nuclear weapons are deployed; and I think it most unlikely now that there is any risk of nuclear war. Is the threat that of a conventional war in Europe? My noble friend Lord Jellicoe has given us warnings, with which I thoroughly agree, about the reductions in Europe. Again, a conventional war could be started by some incident; whereas until very recently it was considered that NATO forces would only form a tripwire before nuclear war was inevitable. Now with a reappraisement of the balance of forces, in the Minister of Defence's own words, the object of NATO forces is:to prolong to the maximum the period of conventional resistance.Mr. McNamara has produced in the United States a most interesting defence programme and review which I commend to your Lordships. In it he says:Our NATO partners have now acknowledged the need to plan for a much larger range of contingencies than a massive NATO-wide attack launched with very little warning.Let us consider, thirdly, a conventional war in the Far East threatening SEATO, which may be bound up with, fourthly, insurgent warfare. A series of coups could bring into power, in Asia and elsewhere, Governments unfriendly to Western Powers. These were referred to in 333 another place by three of the supporters of the Government, the right honourable Member for Ipswich and the honourable Members for Hornchurch and Harrow, East, in their extremely interesting speeches. I hope that the Government will take notice of the warnings.
The Soviet Union continue to lose no opportunity of uttering hostile propaganda: they have even blamed us for the hangings in Rhodesia. In this connection, Mr. McNamara says in his Report:Even on the most optimistic assumptions about the future the Soviet Union will remain a great military Power. We must expect that it will continue to probe for power vacuums created by political or military weaknesses, vacuums into which it can project its political influence with moderate risk to itself.And, as I noted earlier, the Soviet Union show no sign of intending to reduce their own defence expenditure. On the contrary, it has tended to increase.
My Lords, from these facts the essentials in our defence requirements are clear: the defence of our shores and the home base; a capability of expansion; our participation in Europe as a member of NATO; a general capability to come to to the aid of our friends, to honour our obligations and to protect our property; the defence of our sea lanes, along which 90 per cent. of our food, fuel and raw materials have to come—a fact that was emphasised by my noble friend Lord Stratchclyde in his interesting speech—and, lastly, research and development.
I want to say just a little more about these. First, the defence of our shores and the home base. I need not dwell on that. It is sad to see that it is the only policy of many Socialist Members, who want to bring back the Army and sit down in our overcrowded island and let the world go by. So much for that.
Next, I turn to the capability of expansion. This, under the present Government policy, we shall have no longer. The Reserves, except for the A.V.R.III, are all required and earmarked to bring the present Regular Forces up to strength. If the A.V.R.III goes there will be no organised or disciplined units which can be trained-up; and with the structure gone, the centres and the drill halls disposed of, it cannot ever be reconstituted.
A lot has been said about A.V.R.III, and I shall not say any more, but much 334 play has been made of the uselessness of the old Territorial Army. I think that this criticism has been grossly exaggerated, both by those inside the Army and by the Ministry. There were some bad units and there were too many old soldiers; who liked to spend long evenings turning their drill nights into an "old comrades" club. But there was immense keenness, and the weapons, if not all up-to-date, were quite good enough to train on. The Regular Army was always ready to give a hand. It had modern equipment and was ready to teach its use. I can speak, my Lords, as a divisional commander of a Territorial battalion recently and as a brigade commander in two Territorial divisions during the war, and I know what is their value. However, that has gone, and we must consider what can be left.
Negotiations are going on to try to save this force, so I do not want to say more. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, sent a message to me 10-day and has asked me to say how greatly he regrets that he cannot be here. He is suffering from what he describes as "a slight indisposition". I happen to know that he was really very unwell indeed a day or two ago, but he is getting on very well. He tells me that negotiations with the Ministry of Defence regarding the T. & A.V.R.III are going on smoothly, and this fills us on this side of the House with hope. My Lords, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, whose memorable speech on this subject will long be remembered in your Lordships' House. So we on this side beg the Government to reconsider the decision they have announced.
I wish to say only a word or two about our participation in Europe as a member of NATO. I agree that we have a very good Army, if you can call five brigade groups an army. It is very well armed. All the equipment was, of course, ordered by the previous Government, and I am glad to say that, as an officer in the War Office, I had a good deal to do with some of it. Now it is time for the Government to look further ahead, and I hope that they are doing so. I am concerned that NATO members show too little interest in the areas outside their own perimeters. Is there not a danger that we cannot count either on their help or that of the United States if only our 335 interests, and not their interests, are threatened? And there is also France. How right was my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft to remind us of the vital importance of France being linked with us in any plans for the defence of the Free World.
My Lords, I wish to come on to the general capability which the Government accept. This is a matter about which we are extremely concerned. We are left with little idea of how general capability can be carried out. We plan to leave Singapore and Malaysia, the Gulf and Malta. The rift between us and South Africa has recently deepened. We have abandoned our long-range strike reconnaissance aircraft programme and we are phasing out our aircraft carriers. My noble friend Lord Thorneycroft mentioned this in his most inspiring speech, and I need say no more. But I hope that the Government will pay great attention to what my noble friend said. How can we come to the aid of our friends with more than token forces? How do we move the heavy equipment? How can we be sure that our strategic reserve, efficient as I know it is, and trained—though not acclimatised at present—with its air components will be sufficient for tasks in the far future when we cannot raise any more units in this country, whatever the situation? Here I am looking ten or twenty years ahead, when no one can possibly foresee the future. That is why my noble friends and I wish to retain a small military presence in some of the likely threatened areas. I mentioned this in a recent debate, and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, mentioned it then and again to-day.
I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, that headquarters are much too big—I said that before the economic debate—and I am sure that they should be pared down now. But when Mr. Lee Kuan Yew begs us to remain until he has trained his own people, when the Gulf States rulers offer us money to pay for our remaining there, and the Prime Minister of Malta goes backwards and forwards begging us to help that wonderful Island, where my noble friend Lord Glasgow and I served together so happily only three years ago, it seems churlish to turn down so emphatically their requests. At least let us 336 say that we will look at the situation nearer the time and review it in the light of the circumstances and not categorically refuse to do anything more to help. This would restore confidence in the Far East and preserve stability, and perhaps in Australia and New Zealand, where people are bitter about what they regard as the cynical and selfish attitude of the Government.
I would ask the Government to consider carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, said about a Commonwealth force. It is the sort of scheme that we on this side are seriously considering. I am sure there is a great deal in such a scheme which would be of inestimable benefit, not only to the areas where that force served but to our own troops, who look like being confined to this small Island. I do not think that I need say anything about the defence of our sea lanes, which has been discussed by a number of my noble friends, particularly by my noble friend Lord Glasgow. I entirely agree, and so do we as a Party, with what the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein said about carriers, and that point has been made by other noble Lords. Research and development has not been mentioned to-day. The research and development programme has been cut by £6 million. Can the Government tell the House where these serious cuts will fall? We feel that there is so much still to be done to keep up with our likely enemies.
I have two miscellaneous points I should like to put to the noble Lord opposite. The first is about recruiting. We are very concerned about recruiting and I expect the Government are as well. It is not surprising that recruiting is dropping off. There is complete uncertainty in the Forces. More and more do I hear officers saying, "I had better get out while I am young enough to start another career." If my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley had been here—unfortunately he is ill—he, as colonel of a regiment, was going to make this point. He tells me that as fast as he finds a suitable officer for his regiment, one of the others, highly trained and expensively trained, puts in his papers and goes, because he is nervous about the future. There is also a most alarming shortfall of medical officers in the three Services. The 337 Government must do something to restore confidence. They will never get officers of recruits while they keep changing their minds without any consistent policy.
I want to make a small point which has not been mentioned to-day and which is certainly not political or controversial; that is, about the role that the Army, when it comes back to this country, can play, in aid of the community. I know—and I am very glad of it—that the Government are considering seriously the scheme propounded by my old friend the present General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Scotland. Many troops are coming home, and there is great opportunity for integrating the Armed Services economically with the life of the community. The trade unions have been in on the pilot scheme from the start, and there is in Scotland a most happy relationship. During the disastrous gales in Glasgow, referred to by my noble friend Lord Ailsa, the Army gave rapid and immense help, and they have taken part in many other useful projects.
I believe, too, that there could be great opportunities in the future for such aid abroad. I should like to see a unit going to a friendly country for a month's training; and I hope that all the units that are being brought back will get frequent opportunities of going abroad for training and acclimatisation. But I should like to see them spend a further period doing useful aid of this sort—perhaps playing some part in United Nations or UNESCO projects.
I am sure that our criticisms of the Government's new defence policy are justified. These cuts and economies are made without enough regard to the world situation, of which we have had no assessment. The Minister of Defence fell back on accusations that my right honourable and honourable friends in another place made the same speeches as they had done in the debates on the cuts and the military effects of devaluation. It was natural that they should.
We believe that the only glimmer of hope for the future, the only relief in apprehension, the only encouragement to the members of the Armed Services, the only solace in a world where hatred and jealousy, resentment, covetousness and greed still exist, and in some cases grow, where race relations are being exacer- 338 bated by those who wish us ill, is a more realistic defence policy. This is felt deeply by our friends—our decreasing number of friends, I fear—throughout the world. Most of all, this is felt by those whom we on this side of the House look on as members of our own family, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many in South Africa. They are appalled at seeing what they consider the entirely insular policy of the Government and so many of their supporters, who show such lack of appreciation of world problems and strategic essentials that their vital interests and security are seriously threatened.
There are not many differences between us; they boil down to only a few points. We do not see how we can have the overseas capability to come to the aid of our friends when we have withdrawn from Singapore and Malaysia. We have not got a plan, even with our allies, to Protect our trade routes. We have no means of building up new units, if needed. We have no plans for filling other serious gaps in our naval and air defences caused by the economic cuts. I do not believe that any of these problems are beyond our means, or will be beyond our means when the financial climate is better. But have the Government the will to solve these problems? I beg the Government to consider carefully what we on this side, and indeed a great many members of their own Party, have said and advised in both Houses of Parliament.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I cannot say that I am looking forward to replying to this debate. After a number of very able opening speeches, from Lord Jellicoe, Lord Byers, Lord Bourne and others, we have had an example of the almost total impossibility of seriously discussing defence. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, that it is impossible for us to listen to the degree of either prejudice or political spite, from whichever side it comes. There has been very little from this side, because so few of us have spoken. Both my noble friends who spoke I acquit of that. But I find that it is not a very satisfactory process, and it may be that, before another year goes by, it will be possible to talk about ways of narrowing the subjects and whether the Government 339 must take the responsibility for this debate—because it is on our Motion; we decided we knew the House wanted to discuss it.
But I will try to reply in a way which I hope will not show too much prejudice. I will try to explain seriously why the Government have adopted the policy they have. I do not deny for one moment that mistakes may have been made by this Government, as mistakes were made in the days of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. Anybody who has been involved with defence knows of the appalling difficulties that are involved in these decisions. I should like to try to put to noble Lords, and particularly to the noble Marquess, Lord Ailsa, that there is some reason behind the Government's policy. One may disagree with it; there may be allegations of Party political influence in it. But, by and large, no Government of this country, I believe, will ever deliberately take decisions they do not believe to be in the best interests of the country.
I should like to turn to some of the very interesting points which were made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. He had to make his Party noises. They were moderately expressed. Indeed, I thought the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, was in a particularly moderate mood—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
—and I do not think he made more than a couple of insults in his speech. I should like to take this particular central point to which a number of noble Lords referred: the new strategy (if that is the right word), the new emphasis in Germany. I admit that in this area we are moving in ideas of a good deal of refinement which it is fairly easy to pull to pieces if you want to do so.
I think that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is one of the members of the Opposition who have understood what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has been trying to say; and, indeed, I think there has been, perhaps, a little more awareness in this House than in another place on the Opposition side. He pointed to our policies to prolong the period of what is called the "conventional pause", and asked whether that was weakening the 340 conventional force. This, of course, has nothing to do with the Territorial Army, which in fact ceased to exist about a year ago. The noble Earl spoke on this very central point of whether there is consistency in the withdrawal of a brigade from B.A.O.R., and on the point which other noble Lords including Lord Bourne, have made interestingly, whether it is realistic to talk about this new emphasis or new policy at a time when we may well believe that the conventional forces in Europe are diminishing.
I must make clear the position about the redeployment to this country, which I think has the strong support of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery. Unfortunately, I missed one of his short, smart speeches, through a switch in the order of speakers which noble Lords have been making to-day, but that meant that I was able to hear the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. These redeployments do not, or ought not to, involve a weakening of our conventional forces. The Brigade and the Air Force Squadron still remain under the operational command of the C.-in-C., British Army of the Rhine. They are still part of the Rhine Army; and this point is made in the White Paper. Our policy is based on the fact that we shall get a warning—possibly a prolonged warning—that war is likely. It should also therefore be possible at that point to commit more forces to NATO.
The details of any plans—obviously I cannot be more than tentative on this—will be worked out, and I hope that the Defence White Paper that comes out in the summer will give a clearer picture of our plans. Incidentally, I will apologise here and now to your Lordships' House (for we are bound to have a row when the time comes) that we shall have to debate that White Paper very much at the end of the Session. Of course there will be a greater concentration on Europe, and it will be easier then to assess the progress, and indeed the reality of what the Government, and the NATO Governments, have said about this new emphasis. It is an important point; indeed, I think it is perhaps the most substantial point for consideration in this debate.
There is again the possibility of a further increase in Naval forces within the NATO area. References have been 341 made to the NATO Standing Naval Force. An interesting suggestion was made by a noble Lord about three Standing Naval Forces. This is an interesting thought, although clearly he will not expect me to express an opinion on it to-day. Consideration is being given to the desirability and feasibility of establishing a Standing Naval Force in the Mediterranean, and I hope that this may go some way to comfort the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow.
We all have feelings of nostalgia and sympathy, and particularly the Royal Navy must have such feelings about Malta. I think that these feelings are common to us all, although it is certainly not as a result of the activities of the present Government that there is not much Navy in the Mediterranean. This has been a long process, and I cannot be more specific than I have been so far. The matter is under consideration, and there are many points of view to be reconciled. In addition, I should like to emphasise that NATO is giving thought to the question of reinforcing its flanks, both North and South, and such consideration must take into account the increased Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean, although of course it is not limited to this.
In a moment I shall return to certain single Service subjects, and in particular to some of the points that have been made about the Royal Navy. Since so many points were made I hope that noble Lords, because of the lateness of the hour, will forgive me if I do not answer them all. I have a large number of answers which I could give, but I think your Lordships have given to-day a pretty good whack. There is the point about the European Armaments Board. That is a specialised question on which I can write to the noble Earl.
I should like now to turn to the question of Malaysia and the Far East. I share the sentiments of noble Lords both with regard to Malaysia and Singapore, and with regard more especially to Australia and New Zealand. I should like to deal with a few facts that I think need emphasising. We are prepared, if our Commonwealth partners in the area desire and we can make satisfactory arrangements, to assist in establishing—I admit I have said this before, but it is worth emphasising—a joint air defence 342 system for Malaysia and Singapore and training personnel to operate it. We have now had some useful discussions about this with our Commonwealth partners. Those discussions are continuing, and noble Lords will not be surprised if I say that it would be premature for me to forecast their outcome and predict precisely what assistance will be needed. But I am optimistic about this, and I think the expressions of view could strengthen this. In regard to the particular staff that Lee Kuan Yew and others need, we have to find out the sort of personnel they want. There are a variety of ways in which any personnel that Singapore may need beyond her resources can be provided. I should not like to predict beyond saying those are all possibilities, and the Government, and I personally, are very anxious to do what we can.
This question of keeping vestigial forces in Singapore and Malaysia or in the Gulf does not, I think, stand up to examination. I was very interested in the point made by my noble friend Lord Rowley. There is no doubt that the British forces will, we hope in possibly even larger numbers than in the past, continue to exercise in different areas of the world, and there will be co-operation built up with Australia and other forces. But there is a question of rather important strategy in actually maintaining a fixed base, however small it may be. It is rather like the illegitimate child; it is only a little one. I am not suggesting for one moment that our bases were illegitimate. But a lot may flow from that fixed presence, and the policy that the Government have taken admittedly is to a very large extent on economic grounds. I would not wish to suggest that it is anything other than this, but again I am sure noble Lords will also agree that economic grounds are of the greatest national importance. It is a question of degree. Noble Lords shake their heads, but they must realise that there is a point beyond which even they would not devote the whole of the national resources to defence. This is a most difficult judgment, and our economic strength is of profound importance to our influence in the world. This country has been bedevilled for years under successive Governments by the weakness of our economic position, and we shall 343 be in a much stronger position to play our part both in peace-keeping and in other ways.
§ LORD ROWLEY
Would my noble friend permit me to interrupt him? Do I understand that the most he suggests is that British units will have exercises with Australian units? What I suggested was that consideration should be given to the formation of a Commonwealth Brigade or force containing British, New Zealand and Australian units, but the British units to be sent there on rotation. It is a little more than merely having exercises.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I told the noble Lord I was interested in it. He may say that is not enough, but I can only say to him that I was interested and I was giving some of the arguments against having a fixed element. It is not just a matter of saving local costs; those are relatively small. We are not withdrawing from the Gulf just to save £12½ million a year; it is a bigger matter than that. To keep a small force we need others at home to rotate them, and these are points some noble Lords have made. What we have to do as we cut our forces and their capability is to cut our commitments, and I say this quite deliberately. It is a matching of the commitments. I should like to express my appreciation of the moderation of the noble Lord, Lord Byers; he never said "I told you so" once. These two must go together. We cannot make the larger savings that we have to make in our defence expenditure leaving the Services to take the risk.
I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. When we took over defence from the previous Government there was much that the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, had done to improve efficiency. He left the instrument of the unified Ministry of Defence which has enabled us to produce, for instance, these much clearer Statements on Defence. All the machinery was there. But the over-stretch was too great and, whether or not one could entirely avoid it, it is an absolute determination of the Government that we shall not ask our forces to undertake more than they can do. It is for that reason that in fairness to them, and indeed in honesty—in this I 344 take the point of noble Lords who say that we do not express our appreciation of the Servicemen—we will not ask them to undertake more than they can do.
When the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, says that morale in the Services was high and that they were accepting separation and that sort of thing, I can only say that I agree that morale in the Services has been high, but there was some difficulty arising from family separation and other problems. I am not blaming him personally for this, but this is a reality.
Now I should like to say a further word about the Far East. It refers to the Five-Power conference. This is a matter of some importance. Her Majesty's Government have stated that we are ready to participate in a Far East Five-Power Conference. There are a number of problems which follow upon our withdrawal from that area. The invitation has not yet been issued. If my recollection is right, the conference will be at Ministerial level, and although no date is fixed I am hopeful, as is my right honourable friend, with whom I personally checked, that the meeting will be in the early summer. I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who referred to Sir Alan Dudley. There again, useful discussions were had and agreement was reached on a number of important matters. We are going ahead with working out a programme of aid commitments for the coming financial year.
There are a number of further points that one could usefully make with regard to the Gulf and to Malaya and Singapore. There is a possibility of leaving behind a small number, perhaps, of specialists at Bahrein Airfield. This is one example. There are a number of matters concerning loaned personnel. But this raises difficult issues and we shall have to discuss these with the countries concerned.
Let me now refer to this problem of the general capability. I must say that I think tremendously heavy weather is made by noble Lords who suggest that it is impossible to do something because a particular weapon is missing. I entirely agree with what my right honourable friend—I will not say that it was designed purely in order to strengthen the case for 345 the F 111—said that in any Far Eastern strategy and in regard to our ability to go to the help of Australia and New Zealand the help of the F 111 was essential. I am speaking from memory, but noble Lords will recall that it was along those lines. But I must say frankly, without suggesting that my right honourable friend was in any way indulging in hyperbole, that we are all inclined to say that something is essential. This was the spearhead, and as a former Air Force Minister I regard it as the most tremendous loss to the Royal Air Force. But it is absurd to say or suggest that we do not have a capability which we could use in Australia and New Zealand, and it must go without saying that we should go to the aid of Australia or New Zealand if they were attacked, just as they came promptly and willingly to our help in two world wars, relying on their general capability.
My Lords, I did not mean to interrupt the noble Lord, but he would agree, therefore, that his right honourable friend was perhaps "over-egging the pudding", to use his right honourable friend's expression.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, my right honourable friend is an enthusiastic man, and I have said that many things are essential. I have found many things essential in my life at certain times, but when I have been deprived of them I have been able to survive. We ought to be able to see this sort of thing in perspective. We do not need bases there for this purpose. Personally, it has always been my view that there were great dangers and expenses involved in the idea of keeping bases in Australia, once we left Singapore. There has been no fundamental dispute between the two sides that in the long run we were going to leave Singapore.
The argument narrows on the timing. I would grant that the Opposition have a point here. We have to take decisions, and there is never a right time to get out from anywhere. The previous Government took a number of decisions on withdrawals which caused great disturbance in their Party at the time. Does anyone really doubt that the previous Government were right when they went in for those withdrawals? There may still be noble Lords who believe that we ought to have maintained a British base 346 on the Suez Canal, but I cannot believe that there are many who would think that.
One particular element has caused a good deal of concern to noble Lords, and particularly naval noble Lords, of whom we have a strong element in this House, whereas the Air Force is singularly un-represented. I do not want to restate all the arguments about the carrier. I must admit that, from my own experience in recent months, remembering my ancient purely Air Force prejudice, which I believed to be rational that air power was best exercised by the Royal Air Force, I saw the value of the carrier when I was involved in the arrangements for the withdrawal from Aden. But the simple argument on carriers—and I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, appreciates this—is that you must have enough of them. It comes back to numbers. The problem of numbers could affect not only the Navy, but the Royal Air Force as well. There is an absolute total below which you cease to have a viable force.
It is of the greatest doubt in my mind whether a force of carriers of the size that either the previous Government were contemplating or that we might have contemplated was a viable force. I will not go in detail into the arguments, but I would say sincerely that it is a matter of profound military argument whether you can get the benefit out of a small number. I will not go into the arguments on the number of times carriers were not available, but I am bound to point out that even at the height of the Indonesian confrontation there were times when there was not a carrier operational in the Far East.
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again, but, without wishing to go into the pros and cons of this matter, could I follow the noble Lord in his argument and ask why it is that the present Government are proposing to run on a two-carrier force until 1971?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this has been particularly timed in relation to our withdrawal from the Far East. Here is an element of risk. The carrier in the Beira patrol, which did such splendid work there, after a certain 347 number of days had to be withdrawn and could not easily be replaced. I am here making a serious military point, not just a point in political or Government terms. Of course we should like more carriers, and the argument for small carriers has been constantly put forward. I can only say that the best advice has always been that they were not effective starters.
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? I am most anxiously following his argument. It was the advice of the Chiefs of Staff that the number of carriers which were then possessed, though not as many as one would have wished, was adequate for the job. Is the noble Lord's argument that because we cannot have, say, six carriers, we ought to have no carriers at all?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord has stated my argument fairly accurately, but not completely accurately. I will not refer to the advice of the Chiefs of Staff. I am stating an opinion, and I make it clear that this is an opinion which I hold and which many other people hold; and it is an opinion for which I think your Lordships will find there is considerable support, though not universal support, in Service circles; that is, that there is a number below which the viability of a carrier force falls off, and its utility falls off, so greatly as to make it not worth the expenditure. It is my view that a force of four is too small. This is disputable, I agree. I do not proposed to bring the Chiefs of Staff into it, though I should be happy privately to discuss it with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, and tell him those who I know would agree with my view—and they are not all members of the Royal Air Force. Indeed, there are a number of submariners who would agree with me on this matter.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, could the noble Lord say something on the magnitude of the expenditure? Is it about £500 million per carrier?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I wish I could remember. I think I should need to check the long-term costings, but I know that in certain circumstances it was something of that order. It may be that before the end of the debate the actual figure will in some way come into my mind. But it is very considerable. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, would probably be able to answer this question better than I can. It is a question of looking at the long-term costings. It is not just the cost of the carrier; it is the whole of the support, as it is with a squadron of aircraft.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting, but I think he is about to leave the question of the Far East. In that connection may I remind him that I was pressing for small bases, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, was also pressing for small bases, whereas the noble Lord has said that it is difficult to have a small base because it is so expensive. The point of which I want to remind the noble Lord, in case he thinks otherwise, is that the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who was speaking when the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, was out of the Chamber, also pressed for small maritime bases. He called them maritime bases. That is a point on which I think it is very difficult for us to agree. I just wanted to make that clear.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, unfortunately I missed the speech of the noble and gallant Field Marshal. I have a very careful note of what he said, and obviously I shall want to study a little more closely what he meant by "maritime bases". I think there is an encouraging freshness about the noble and gallant Field Marshal, but there is also a certain cryptic quality. At least, I am sure the Opposition Front Bench must hope so.
I am afraid that I have talked for very long, and I really must speed up. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, in his kind, helpful and moderate speech, asked a number of questions. I shall rattle off a number of quick answers. The Phantom will have a reconnaissance capability. It will have a British reconnaissance pod of a very advanced kind. Thirty-eight to 40 Nimrods are on order and they will have 349 a very great capacity—indeed, a greater capacity than the Shackleton. The first production aircraft will be delivered in late 1969 and it will be a very advanced aircraft. I am not saying that one would not want more, but certainly this will give a capability for which I am sure our naval colleagues in this House will be very grateful because, looking back, noble Lords who fought in the Navy in the last war cannot fail to be conscious of the anxiety and the stress that was involved in the absence of air support. I hope that this will be an important factor going towards strengthening our maritime power.
As to the Harrier, 70 aircraft are already on order, and there is a possibility of a further order. There is an option which is open. We have yet to settle on the mix that will follow the loss of the F.111 and the A.F.V.G. We have discussed this, and I will not go any further. I acknowledge that noble Lords have a point here, and I will not pursue that any further. I have nothing further to add on the fixed-price contract for the Harrier. It is, I am afraid, the old story: the company has all the contractual cover it needs, agreement has practically been reached, but there is still some difference on price and this has to be negotiated.
Now my noble friend Lord Rowley raised a very important point on the non-proliferation treaty, and it is surprising how little public attention has been paid to this matter. There has been a hundred times more publicity given to the Territorial Army, which I admit is close to people's hearts and sentiments, than to this tremendously important move between Russia, the United States and ourselves in regard to the non-proliferation treaty. I was specifically asked about the French Government. They have not participated in the discussions which have led to the statements on security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States which were made by the other nuclear Powers. This, of course, does not detract from the value of the assurances that the nuclear Powers have given, but it would be very welcome indeed if France joined in the negotiations.
My Lords, I think time will not allow me to deal with the naval side as much as I should have liked to do because I have a lot of material. I must say that, 350 perhaps because my own Air Force connection makes me feel rather mote sensitive on the subject, I think the Royal Navy, with its new equipment, is going to be very impressive indeed; and in many ways, of course, they will be better off in that respect, although there will be certain net economies because we shall not be spending—and this is the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Byers—£1,400 million over a 10-year period for three carriers. I have now remembered that information.
I hope noble Lords will not take the view that everything is terrible and that the Navy is finished. It certainly is not, any more than the other Services; and it really is going to have magnificent equipment. It is true that, in regard to the nuclear fleet submarine force, the rate of building has been cut back, but it will still continue to expand, and it is likely that later, after the slight hiatus, there will be an acceleration, especially when the Polaris programme is completed. I can assure the noble Lord that by the time the carriers phase out we shall have a substantial force of these most advanced submarines to provide our main anti-surface ship and anti-submarine capabilities; but that is not to say we are not losing a capability when the carrier goes.
My Lords, I must now turn to the T. & A.V.R.III, and here I am bound to say that I thought only one noble Lord knew the facts of the case. That was the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery—I suspect greatly under-estimated on that side of the House. He described to your Lordships what were the realities of the situation. The Territorial Army disappeared a year ago. There seems to have been a general misunderstanding about the purposes of T. & A.V.R.III. The one thing I rather resented from noble Lords was that practically none of them referred to the T. & A.V.R.II— or, if it was referred to, it was only in passing—and of the importance of its role, a role immediately relevant to our military needs in Europe. It is certainly true that the T. & A.V.RIII is colloquially known as "the Territorials"; but it is not, as some noble Lords still seem to imagine, the Territorial Army as we knew it. I could describe again—but I am not sure whether certain noble Lords will be anxious to know it—what was the role 351 that was laid down. I can only recommend that noble Lords read the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, which I admit was critical of the Government. But there are to be discussions; so at least let us have our discussions and considerations based on the facts of the case.
The reorganisation announced in 1965 had as one of its main points the abandonment of the Territorial Army role as the framework on which preparations for war could be built up. Do noble Lords really believe that T. & A.V.R.III was going to be the bulwark of the country against invasion?
Perhaps someone envisaged—I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who said something about this—some foreign Special Boat Squadron.
My Lords, I merely had in mind what the noble Lord's colleague, Mr. Reynolds, said in another place when this subject was under discussion.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it shows that we can have fairy tales in this; but if we really are concerned with foreign paratroopers and that sort of invasion then, as I have said before, we have to recreate Fighter Command which was run down by the previous Government. It is unrealistic to think in these terms. Does the noble Marquess wish to intervene?
THE MARQUESS OF AILSA
My Lords, does the noble Lord want to know the purpose of T. & A.V.R.III? It is to defend this country in case of attack. That is the task it has been given.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I think the noble Marquess ought not to take advantage. I gave way to him. I did not expect him to start to make another speech. I will not provoke him further by dealing with his remarks. I recommend him to read the speech of his noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery.
My Lords, obviously there is a great deal of sorrow over this matter, for the Territorial Army has been for so long a part of our national lives—although noble Lords know that it was only with the greatest difficulty, owing to the opposition 352 of the Conservative Peers in the days of the Liberal Government, that it was possible to create the Territorial Army at all. Lord Haldane had a terrible time from noble Lords on that side of the House. As I was saying, this decision over the Territorial Army is obviously a matter of great regret; but there are so many things which one has to regret in life at one time or another. This is a deliberate judgment, a deliberate decision. Noble Lords opposite hold strong views and they are entitled to express them; but I hope very much that they will accept again that even a cut of this kind, within the context of the role foreseen for the T. & A.V.R.III, was one which the Government came to not without pain and not without argument. Now that there are to be further talks, I think we should say no more beyond the fact that firm opinions have been expressed to-day; and I wish that some of them had been clearer as to the realities of the role.
Some interesting points were made. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, spoke about a "British Institute of Defence Studies". I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne is interested in this subject—I am sorry, I thought that he was. Progress is being made towards a complete reorganisation, and it may be that that is a matter which we can discuss on another occasion.
My Lords, I shall now bring my speech to a conclusion. None of my remarks up to now has been at all prepared. I have done my best to answer the points which have been made. I have an admirable winding-up passage which was prepared. My Lords, Her Majesty's Government's primary objective has been to take the right decision when confronted with harsh choices. It is right that we should discuss these and that we should reckon that some hard things follow. But this business of contraction has been going on steadily for years. Indeed, some of our biggest withdrawals took place under the previous Government.
This process is coming to an end anyway, because, admittedly, there will soon be hardly anywhere left from which to withdraw. But I am convinced that in an historic sense it is the right policy to follow. The argument is basically on 353 timing and I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will think a little more kindly, and I hope with a little less violence of opinion, in regard to the efforts of the Government, in difficult circumstances, to take difficult decisions which they believe to be in the interests of our country and of the peace of the world.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.