§ 2.41 p.m.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I rise to move, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House, the Motion that is before your Lordships: That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1969 (Cmnd. 3927). I must apologise to your Lordships because my speech may seem to be of inordinate length. I have cut it heavily, and I will keep it as short as I possibly can.
In opening our debate, I think it would be appropriate if I were first to say something about the money figures themselves—the 1969–70 Defence Budget position. Then I would hope to look at the defence policy scene from a geographical point of view—first Europe, as the main theatre of our defence policy, and then a look at the Far East. Finally I would hope to review progress on the re-equipment of our forces. Later in the debate, my noble friend Lord Chalfont will, as I have menioned, be referring to the Army Reserve Bill, but he will also be looking at the wider manpower scene.
I turn first to the current state of the Defence Budget. The publication of the 1969–70 Estimates marks yet a further stage in what history may judge to be one of the great achievements of this Government, their appreciation of the economic difficulties imposed on the country by an excessively large Defence Budget, with its consequential drain on scarce re 674 sources, and their achievement of a transformation of defence policy to bring the expenditure down to a level within our economic capacity.
For the first time in over ten years the Defence Budget estimates are, at current prices, below those for the previous year. In real terms they represent a reduction of £111 million on the Estimates for 1968–69. This is part of a pattern now well established by this Government, since in every year since 1965–65 the Defence Budget Estimates have shown, at constant prices, a reduction on those for the preceding year. These reductions, if their significance is to be assessed, must be contrasted with the rising trend planned by the previous Government. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has, in answering a Question in another place, shown how this Government's Estimates compare over the years 1965–66 to 1969–70 with the expenditure plans which we inherited. The reductions which we have been able to achieve—while continuing to preserve the nation's essential security—are of major significance. The previous Government were planning to spend, at to-day's prices, almost £3,000 million in 1969–70 on the Defence Budget. Thus, in this year alone we shall be saving about £700 million compared with their plans. This sum is on top of savings of about £1,300 million represented by the Estimates for 1965–66 to 1968–69.
My Lords, we still have some way to go in order to conclude the readjustment of our defence posture to accord with the realities of this country's economic and political situation in the world of the 1970s. Defence Budget expenditure in 1969–70 is estimated to be somewhat below 6 per cent. of the gross national product. By 1972–73, when the withdrawal from East of Suez will be complete, the Defence Budget is planned to fall by a further £150 million, and its share of a growing gross national product will fall to about 5 per cent. These proportions should be set against the 7 per cent. which the previous Government, in their published statements, had said they were prepared to allocate to the Defence Budget.
This summary of the financial position would not be complete without referring, to foreign exchange expenditure. Our policy realignment, besides enabling us 675 to make the budgetary economies to which I have referred, will also make a real contribution to the solution of the country's balance-of-payments difficulties. In spite of the effect of devaluation, the foreign exchange costs of our forces stationed outside Europe will, by 1970–71, have dropped to about two-thirds of their 1967 level of £180 million, and in 1972–73 will drop to one-third of that level.
Saving in cash expenditure need not, of course, lead to a proportional drop in combat effectiveness. To state an extreme example, which I hope your Lordships will not take too seriously, we might spend a further 1 per cent. of the gross national product on bands and horse cavalry but our military strength would not be increased thereby. In my view—although I cannot quantify my opinion—the Defence Review, beginning with the imposition of a ceiling of £2,000 million at 1964 prices on the Defence Budget for 1969–70, has imposed a most useful discipline on the planning and execution of all defence expenditure. We are, I believe, getting greater military strength for each 1 per cent. of the gross national product spent now compared with the past, and I suggest that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence deserves the country's thanks for his firmness and tenacity.
I turn now to Europe, the main theatre of our future defence policy. As we have made clear in our Defence White Papers, the foundation of our security lies, as always, in the maintenance of peace in Europe. Peace in Europe has been achieved because the West has been able to present a united front to deter aggression. This united front has been made possible by the creation and continued existence of NATO, which as the House is well aware, celebrated its twentieth anniversary earlier this month. Noble Lords will not have forgotten that twenty years after the First World War we were on the verge of the second; and, while at the moment there is no cause for great optimism, in my view the future is not without hope, because of the policies followed by successive British Governments and their allies. To ensure that peace continues, our first priority must be to give the fullest possible support to NATO. We have clearly shown the paramount importance that we attach to the North Atlantic Alliance by concentrating our 676 defence effort in Europe and the waters around it.
My Lords, NATO has from the outset been a defensive alliance, threatening nobody. Consistent with principles laid down in the United Nations Charter, its members are joined together to ensure their collective security. The basic aim of NATO is to prevent war in the Treaty area. This means deterring all forms of aggression, nuclear or conventional, major or minor. This deterrence is achieved by making it clear to the Warsaw Pact Powers that aggression is not worth while. NATO'S strategy of deterrence is a flexible strategy based upon a range of appropriate responses, nuclear and conventional, to various levels of aggression. It still rests ultimately upon the possession by the Alliance of a capability for almost inconceivable nuclear destruction. But the Alliance also has, and must maintain, strong conventional forces. These must be strong enough, in the first place, to deal with limited aggression. It would be irresponsible to rely on nuclear weapons to counter this; and to be seen to be relying on them would not provide a fully convincing deterrent to such an attack. An aggressor might be tempted to gamble that NATO might not be willing to escalate the conflict, with all the risks that that implied for NATO countries, in the event of a minor attack. He must be left with no such illusion.
Strong conventional forces are also necessary as part of the deterrent to a full-scale conventional attack by Warsaw Pact forces. But in this case they are only a part, and nuclear weapons are also necessary for effective deterrence of such an attack. Let me explain this. NATO has never been in a position to handle an all-out attack solely by conventional means for more than a limited period. In the Central Region, NATO forces are outnumbered by well over two to one in infantry and armoured formations—three to one if first-line reserves were mobilised on both sides—and by nearly two to one in combat aircraft. There are, of course, instances where the advantage lies on the other side; for example, in the field of anti-tank weapons, the West has a superiority of three to two, and the earlier figures I quoted certainly do not give a precise measure of relative capabilities, as qualitative factors must also be taken into 677 account. But the Warsaw Pact has another advantage as well. As an aggressor it would have the initiative; it would be able to select the points at which to concentrate its forces. The overall superiority of Warsaw Pact conventional forces would thus be greatly magnified at these decisive points.
NATO's conventional forces do not by themselves, therefore, pose an adequate deterrent to an all-out attack. Accordingly, NATO has to present the Soviet Union with unacceptable risks of escalation to full nuclear warfare. Tactical nuclear weapons have an important part to play in making these clear. This has always been the case. This aspect of NATO strategy has been unchanged down the years, and it has been fully supported by British Governments throughout. Neither are nuclear weapons enough by themselves in such a context. NATO'S conventional forces must demonstrate our determination to resist; and they must be able to win enough time to establish beyond a doubt that the attacker's intentions are aggressive, enough time for diplomatic action to bring the conflict to an end and, if all else fails, enough time to enable the fearful decision to use nuclear weapons to be taken in full knowledge of the facts. Neither the nuclear nor the conventional forces constitute a fully credible deterrent without the other; their combination has been effective for twenty years, and I believe it will continue to be effective in the future.
Recent changes in NATO'S strategy, in the context of a major conventional attack, have been in the direction of extending the conventional phase of hostilities: we need to ensure that we shall have the necessary few days during which any decision to use nuclear weapons can be taken. There has been some difference of view until recently between the Government and the Opposition. Sir Alec Douglas-Home spoke approvingly in another place last year of "the trip-wire which trips"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 24/1/68; col. 420]—the concept of an early and virtually automatic nuclear response. But it is encouraging that the speeches of Mr. Geoffrey Rippon during the Defence debate in another place last month reflected a great deal of agreement between the two sides on this matter, as indeed on other fundamental aspects of 678 NATO strategy. Not only did he agree that our major defence contribution must be to NATO and thatNATO cannot forgo reliance on nuclear escalation in case of large-scale attack without an increase in European military budgets that in present circumstances is beyond the bounds of practical possibility",but he also agreed thatit was right for NATO to abandon the former trip-wire doctrine of immediate massive retaliation in favour of the concept of a flexible response based upon a stronger conventional capability in Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/3/69, col. 252.]This measure of agreement between the Parties must strengthen the world's and particularly our potential enemies'— assessment of the strength of our national will to defend ourselves. And I believe that Mr. Rippon was right when he pointed out by implication that a policy of flexible response is not something that we can get for nothing. There are certain consequential actions that must be taken, and these are quite expensive.
My Lords, actions in alliances, as in most things, speak louder than words. Our actions towards NATO have been to make it our prime defence objective. We have a central role in supporting the solidarity and strength on which the Alliance depends. By concentrating our defence effort in the North Atlantic area we are better able to fulfil this role than in the past. Our contribution to NATO consists of all-Regular volunteer forces maintained and trained to the highest standards. We have committed virtually all the Royal Navy to the Alliance—by far the strongest navy in Western Europe. The British Army is the most professional in Europe and is equipped with the latest weapons. The British Army of the Rhine is over 50,000 men strong and can be reinforced rapidly to more than double its strength in case of need. As I shall be stressing a little later, the Royal Air Force is now well launched on the major re-equipment of its general purpose combat forces.
We have made substantial improvements to our NATO force contribution on three occasions during the last year. Among these improvements have been the earmarking for assignment of a mobile force of over 20,000 men from the Army's Strategic Command. together with air support from the Royal Air Force's No. 38 Group; the commitment of our powerful amphibious forces; and 679 the strengthening of our maritime presence in the Mediterranean. Our contribution is one of which we can be proud: and there can be no doubt that we are playing our full part in the most vital of all our possible defence roles, which is ensuring the security of our own people at home.
The improvements to our NATO force contribution in the last year have filled a number of long-recognised gaps in NATO'S capability. Taken as a whole, the present size of NATO'S conventional forces, in terms of numbers of major units, is reasonable in the context of the present strategy. But NATO cannot rest on its laurels after twenty successful years. NATO Ministers affirmed last June that NATO'S overall military capability must not be reduced except as part of a pattern of mutual force reductions by NATO and the Warsaw Pact balanced in scope and timing. We hope earnestly that in due course the Soviet Union will respond to the NATO offer of last summer. for discussions leading to a balance of forces in Europe at a lower level on both sides. But in present circumstances NATO must keep up its guard.
I turn now to our future contribution to the western strategic deterrent. The build-up of the Polaris force is proceeding as planned. H.M.S. "Resolution" has now been operational for some time. H.M.S. "Repulse" and H.M.S. "Renown" were accepted into service by the Royal Navy within the last few months and both submarines are undergoing their final trials and work-up, which include the test firing of Polaris missiles. H.M.S. "Repulse" has recently fired two Polaris missiles off Cape Kennedy. Both shots were successful and proved once again the accuracy and reliability of the system. H.M.S. "Repulse" will be operational this spring and H.M.S. "Renown" by the autumn. H.M.S. "Revenge" will be accepted into service towards the end of the year. Thus during the course of the year the Polaris force will become fully effective and will take over from the Royal Air Force the United Kingdom's contribution to the strategic deterrent which is at present provided by the Vulcans of Strike Command. Meanwhile these Vulcans will continue to fulfil a useful NATO task, operating in the low-level tactical role in support of SACEUR'S forces in Europe.
680 In the Far East we are making good progress with the withdrawal of our forces from Singapore and Malaysia announced by the Prime Minister in January last year. This year sees the start of the withdrawal of British units from the Commonwealth Brigade, which will be completed by April, 1970. As the Statement on the Defence Estimates foreshadowed, the first of these units, the 3rd Battalion of the Light Infantry, is now in the process of returning from its base in Terendak. Over the last year more than 5.500 Servicemen have come home from Malaysia and Singapore. Similar progress is being made with support facilities in Singapore. We handed over the Royal Naval Dockyard last December to the Singapore Government for commercial ship repair operations by the Sembawang Shipyard Ltd., with Messrs. Swan Hunter as managing agents. Under the terms of an agreement announced last year we undertook to hand over free of charge to the Singapore and Malaysian Governments those Service lands and fixed assets which they wished to use for defence and economic purposes; in accordance with this agreement we have transferred land, facilities and the associated equipment valued at over £19 million. It is clear that the Governments of both countries are making every effort to use the opportunities provided by this assistance to offset the economic effects of our withdrawal.
But it would be wrong to give the impression that we are pre-occupied only with the problems of the rundown. On the contrary, we are still deeply concerned with the maintenance of security and stability of the area after our forces have been withdrawn from it. We have made it clear that, while after 1971 we shall no longer maintain a special capability for use in the area, we shall still have the ability to deploy substantial forces there if in our judgment the circumstances demand it. We are also doing all we can to encourage our friends in the region to co-operate with each other in developing their own defence arrangements to meet the changed situation after our withdrawal.
A very good start was made at the Five-Power Conference which was held in Kuala Lumpur last June, when Malaysia and Singapore declared that their two countries could be regarded as indivisible 681 for defence purposes and agreed to cooperate in the setting up of an integrated air defence system. Agreements were also reached in principle about future naval co-operation in the area and we made clear our intention to continue training there after 1971 and to participate in the multi-national Jungle Warfare School which is to be set up in Malaysia. All five countries agreed to participate in a major exercise in Malaysia in 1970 to which we would contribute a reinforcement exercise from the United Kingdom. We expect that all these matters will be taken a stage further at the next Five-Power Conference which is to be held, at the invitation of Mr. Gorton, in Canberra on June 19 and 20. The impetus towards co-operation among our Commonwealth partners in the area was certainly enhanced by the very welcome decisions announced by the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand in February this year. that they would maintain naval, land and air forces in Singapore and Malaysia after 1971.
My Lords, we welcome these decisions, not only because both countries have decided to maintain a visible military presence in the area after our withdrawal but also because of the attitude of mind underlying them. As Mr. Gorton said in his Statement to the Australian House of Representatives, his starting point was that Australia is:a part of and … situated in the region. Hence security, stability and progress for the other nations in the region must also contribute to the security of Australia. We cannot fail to be affected by what happens in our neighbours' countries. What affects their security affects our security.We welcomed this practical and far-seeing approach when it was manifested at the last Five-Power Conference in Kuala Lumpur; we welcome it now, and we believe that it augurs well for the future of the area as a whole. Against this background we are optimistic about the future of defence co-operation between the countries in the area. It will be our aim to do all we can to further this at the next round of ministerial discussions at Canberra in June.
So much for the world scene of partnerships and alliances. Now I turn to the equipment of the forces on whom our defence policy entirely depends. I make no apology for looking first at tile youngest Service, for whom it is my pride to 682 bear special responsibility at the beginning of its second half-century. 'The re-equipment of the Royal Air Force is a subject which the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, gave us an opportunity to discuss a fortnight ago, so I shall not repeat what I told the House on that occasion, particularly as regards the multi-role combat aircraft. Noble Lords will be aware that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence is at this moment in Bonn discussing with the Defence Ministers of the other Consortium countries the future of this project. If these talks can be brought to a successful conclusion, we shall have within our grasp the largest and most significant collaborative military enterprise ever undertaken within Europe. This would be a step on the way to establishing in Europe a defence industry on a scale now possessed only by the super-Powers, America and Russia.
The multi-role combat aircraft project is significant, therefore, not only in relation to our military contribution to the Alliance, but also because it represents a European initiative within NATO and a means for developing closer economic, industrial and technological links with those European countries who, we hope, will eventually be our major partners in a European Common Market. It is perhaps worth re-stating at this point that a United Europe could have a defence potential which would be the equal of that of either of the super-Powers. The United States have a population of about 200 million; the E.E.C. and EFTA members of NATO one of 249 million, with a very strong industrial and scientific base. We are not as strong as we should be because we still have no agreed military production policy. The multi-role combat aircraft points the way to such a common policy; that is why it is so important.
My Lords, it may be helpful if I illustrate the position by reviewing briefly our military aircraft replacement programme according to the various operational roles. In the close-support role, the Hunter is now at the end of its Service life and will be replaced in this year and the next by the Phantom, supplemented by the Harrier. The outstanding performance characteristics of these two aircraft—supersonic speed, on the one hand, and vertical and short take-off and landing performance, on the other—will together provide the Army, and the 683 armies of our allies, with first-class battlefield support in ground operations. Noble Lords will be aware that a large number of Phantoms have already been delivered to the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, and the whole order will be completed by the autumn of this year. Operational training has been under way for several months. The first Royal Navy front-line squadron formed at Yeovilton at the end of last month, and the first in the Royal Air Force should form next month.
The Phantom, equipped with an advanced design of reconnaissance pod produced in the United Kingdom, will also assume the tactical reconnaissance role. As noble Lords will appreciate when I refer to the air defence role later, this aircraft has a remarkable operational versatility which I am sure will serve us well over the next decade. The Harrier was cleared for release to the Service on April 1, and deliveries to the Service begin this month. The dual version of the aircraft achieved a very successful first flight last week. The programme is thus only a matter of weeks behind the schedule planned some years ago, and costs are also well within the original estimates of both development and production. The build-up of operational squadrons will begin at the end of this year and will be completed with the fourth squadron in service by the end of 1971. Noble Lords will recall that we decided to place a further order for Harrier aircraft following the Czech crisis last year to increase the size and effectiveness of our air contribution to NATO.
The vertical and short take-off and landing characteristics of this unique aircraft will allow it to operate from any number of dispersed sites in forward areas. This enables it to make use of natural cover to reduce its vulnerability to attack from the air. It also means that the Army will have its air support closer at hand than ever before, and command and control arrangements are being devised to ensure the quickest possible reaction time for the aircraft and the closest possible co-ordination with the operations of Army formations. There is no question that with the Harrier Britain leads the world in vertical and short takeoff and landing combat aircraft, and further development has already been authorised to increase its range and 684 weapon effectiveness. The possible application of such a developed version of the aircraft to use with ships of the Royal Navy is also being considered. Interest in the Harrier is world-wide and export prospects are highly promising.
Looking ahead to 1974–75, the Phantom will start to be replaced in the close support role by the Jaguar, so that it, in turn, will take over air defence in place of the Lightning. The Jaguar, which, as noble Lords will be aware, is an Anglo-French project, successfully made its first flight last September, and the development programme is going well. The United Kingdom aircraft, two versions of which will be produced—one for the advanced training role and one for tactical close support operations—are scheduled to start delivery to the Royal Air Force in 1973. Three prototypes are now flying. British prototypes are due to fly in October, 1969, and January, 1970. The success of this programme to date reflects a great deal of credit on the British and French firms concerned and on those responsible for managing the project.
Turning now to air defence, studies of the future concept of operations and the type of threat to be encountered have confirmed the value of aircraft operating in an integrated air defence system with surface-to-air missiles. The Lightnings, first introduced in 1960, and still ranking among the most formidable interceptor aircraft in the world, will require replacement from 1974–75. When this time comes the Phantoms will transfer to the air defence role. Fitted with air interception radar of high calibre and complementary air-to-air weapon systems, the Phantom will be able to match the likely performance of enemy aircraft or missiles at high or low altitudes. It will of course be complemented by Bloodhound 2 and Rapier missile systems, and in Central Europe by the Hawk and Nike missiles of the NATO air defence system. At sea, the Phantom in the Mark 1 version will have been operating both in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force since 1969 in the air defence role, supplemented by the shipborne surface-to-air missile systems. In 1972 this commitment will pass wholly to the Royal Air Force, and plans for the long-range protection of the Fleet, involving tanker support, are to be mutually arranged between the two Services concerned.
685 Next year the Nimrod will start to take over the maritime reconnaissance role from the Shackleton. Deliveries to the Royal Air Force will start in the latter half of this year and be complete in 1971. Besides its search and anti-submarine capability the Nimrod will also be equipped with AS 12 and Martel stand-off weapons for surface attacks. Thus in these three major areas I think noble Lords will agree that our future aircraft needs are well cared for in the next decade and in some instances well beyond.
I should also touch briefly on the transport force and helicopters. The build-up of the former is about to be completed with final deliveries of the Belfast and the total lift now available is well matched to the mobile concept of our forces. As an illustration of the carrying capacity of Air Support Command to-day, noble Lords may be interested to know that, even under peace-time conditions, it carries nearly 200,000 passengers a year. The Belfast will be particularly useful in European operations with its ability to lift bulky loads such as the Abbott self-propelled gun and the armoured personnel carrier.
The increasing importance of helicopters for operations at sea and to provide mobility in the battlefield has been recognised in recent and future procurement of these aircraft. For the Navy, the Wessex 3 helicopter with advanced British anti-submarine equipment has recently come into service. It will be followed later this year by the Sea King, another Westland helicopter, which will have longer range and endurance. The Anglo-French helicopter package will satisfy the major helicopter requirements of all three Services for some years to come and the collaborative arrangements are proceeding satisfactorily. Initial production orders have been placed for the SA 330 medium-lift support helicopter which should enter Royal Air Force service next year and will have a much improved performance in range and payload over the Wessex which will continue in service. The SA 330 will also have the major advantage of being more readily airportable than any of its predecessors or contemporaries. Deliveries of the SA 340 will follow in the early 1970s primarily to replace the Army Sioux, and in the mid-1970s the WG 13 will start to take over from the Navy Wasp and Army Scout aircraft.
686 Finally in the aircraft re-equipment picture I come to the strike/reconnaissance role. The plan now is for the Buccaneer to replace the Canberra as the Royal Air Force strike/reconnaissance aircraft as the latter phases out from 1970 onwards. The Royal Air Force will already be operating Buccaneers in the maritime role as these are taken over from the Royal Navy after the carriers phase out at the end of 1971. The Buccaneer will lake on the more demanding tasks from the V-bomber aircraft now operating in the low level tactical role, and will remain adequate for over-land strike operations in Central Europe at least up to the mid-1970s; such shortcomings as the Buccaneer might possess (as compared for instance with the F.111) are of less significance now that our defence effort is concentrated in the NATO area. For this reason the Government decided la: year to place a further order for Buccaneers for the Royal Air Force to enable us to maintain our contribution to the strike forces of Allied Command Europe as well as to the maritime strike forces of SACLANT. The plan is therefore for the Buccaneer to be the Royal Air Force's strike/reconnaissance aircraft until the mid-1970s, although it will remain viable for considerably longer than that in the maritime role. The aircraft which we have in mind to replace it is the multi-role combat aircraft.
But, my Lords, my enthusiasm for what I already regard as my own Service has run away with me and I must proceed to tell noble Lords something of the similarly encouraging re-equipment picture of the other two Services. In the field of armoured fighting vehicles for the Army, the programme for the new Chieftain tank is now far advanced. It can out-gun any other tank, on either side, in North-West Europe and will be even more effective when, during the next few years, it is equipped with the new laser range-finder which will allow it to use the full range of its 120 mm. gun with greatly enhanced accuracy. The programme for the tracked armoured personnel carrier will be completed during the year, as will that for the tracked fitters' vehicles which will give R.E.M.E. protection whilst carrying out battlefield repairs. These will be followed in a few years by a new family of light armoured vehicles, wheeled and tracked, to re place the Saladin armoured car and the Ferret 687 scout car which have given such good service, and have proved to be export best-sellers, over a number of years.
Our anti-tank defence, which is centred on the Chieftain tank supported by the Conbat 120mm gun, the Vigilant antitank guided weapon and the Carl Gustav 84mm gun, will shortly be supplemented by the Swingfire guided weapon which is already in production. This long-range weapon, which will be mounted on highly mobile armoured vehicles, will greatly add to our anti-tank capability. To increase the flexibility of response to an armoured break-through we plan to add to the Royal Air Force capability for air-to-ground attack by equipping Army helicopters with anti-tank guided weapons to knock out such targets from the air. Other anti-tank weapons and devices are being developed. As regards missiles to complement aircraft in providing defence against attack from the air we already have the Thunderbird 2 surface-to-air guided weapon to cope with high-level attack, and for lower levels of attack the L70/40mm gun is replaced by the Rapier guided-weapon system, which is now starting production and will be supplemented by the Blowpipe guided weapon by the mid-1970s. These both promise to be the best weapon of their kind in the world.
The position of our field artillery, consisting, of the American M107 (175mm) and M109 (155mm) and the British Abbott (105mm) self-propelled guns, is satisfactory. But the keynotes of mobility, speed and flexibility of response are exemplified by a field artillery computing equipment, known as FACE, now coming into service, as a means of rendering automatic the previously manual process of gun laying, by a new airportable 105mm towed gun, firing the same ammunition as the Abbott, which will come into service in the early 1970s, and by a new towed airportable 155mm gun (the FH 70) being developed jointly with the Federal Republic of Germany which will come into service in the mid-1970s.
For the senior Service, my Lords, work continues on the development of a broad range of new naval weapons, equipment and ships, and I have already said something about the Navy's Phantoms and the new helicopters which are to enter 688 Naval service. For anti-submarine operations the Royal Navy are developing the Mark 24 submarine-launched torpedo and the Mark 31 air-launched torpedo. Work is also continuing on IKARA, the long-range, ship-launched, anti-submarine weapon system, which will be fitted in H.M.S. "Bristol" and also in a number of the Leander frigates. The AS12 air-to-surface missile is now in service, carried by the Royal Navy's helicopters operating in the anti-surface ship role. Studies are also in train for the development of a second generation missile of the same type.
For the defensive role, the Sea Dart medium-range, surface-to-air, guided missile system is being developed. This will be fitted first in H.M.S. "Bristol" and subsequently in the new class of Sea Dart destroyers. Development has also been started on a successor to Sea Cat, called Sea Wolf, a close-range, self-defence, surface-to-air, guided-weapon system. Increasing use is being made of computers; for example in ships' data handling systems, and research continues in a wide variety of fields in aid of future generations of naval weapons and equipment.
My Lords, the new naval construction programme continues on the basis indicated in successive Defence White Papers. Including H.M.S. "Dreadnought", now undergoing her first refit at Rosyth, three nuclear fleet submarines are already in service. The fourth, H.M.S. "Churchill", will join the Fleet next year. Three more submarines of this class are under construction and we hope to order the eighth shortly. By the time the carriers phase out, a substantial force of nuclear fleet submarines will be in service and will provide the Navy's main striking power, in terms of both anti-surface ship and anti-submarine capability. Apart from the American and Russian fleets, the Royal Navy will be alone in operating these powerful warships in significant numbers. During the current year, the surface Fleet will be strengthened by the acceptance into service of eight major units—two guided-missile destroyers and six "Leander" class frigates—in replacement of older vessels which will be phased out of service. They will be followed by H.M.S. "Bristol", the Type 82 destroyer and the last of the "Leander" class frigates.
689 Looking further ahead, the surface Fleet of the future will be based on the three new classes of ships already announced. First is the Type 42 destroyer. The order for the first ship was placed in November, 1968. The Type 42 is a smaller version of the original Type 82 design and will have the same surface-to-air missile armament, but will substitute a helicopter for the IKARA anti-submarine system. The principal task of the Type 42 will be to provide air defence for the Fleet. In addition, it will have a useful antisubmarine and surface gunnery capability and will be able to perform a wide range of normal peacetime duties required of naval vessels. Its main armament will be the Sea Dart guided missile, and it will also have a surface-to-surface capability. It will carry a new type of 4.5 inch gun—the Mark 8. For submarine detection the Type 42 will carry the most up-to-date sonar systems. The main anti-submarine weapon will consist of torpedoes carried by the ship's helicopter, which will also carry air-to-surface weapons for use against lightly defended surface ship targets such as fast patrol boats. For main propulsion the Type 42 will be fitted with a flexible gas turbine installation—Rolls Royce Olympus engines being used for cruising. The gas turbine installation is a further development of the system now installed in H.M.S. "Exmouth", which is the first major warship in the West to be propelled entirely by gas turbine engines.
Second among the new classes of surface ships are the frigates to succeed the "Leander", The order for the first of the new frigates was placed with Messrs. Vospers, Limited, in March. She will be a ship of some 2,500 tons built to a commercial design. She will be powered by Olympus/Tyne gas turbine engines, will be armed with surface-to-air guided weapons and the 4.5 inch Mark 8 gun and will also operate a helicopter. Design work is continuing on the third new class of surface ship; namely, the cruiser to succeed the converted "Tigers". This ship is planned to provide command and control of our maritime forces, to deploy surface-to-air guided weapons and to carry the Sea King anti-submarine helicopter.
My Lords, I have finished my catalogue of the weapons of war. These weapons of course must he matched to men, and 690 behind both must be the national will to use them wisely to ensure both peace and national survival. I am sure that an expression of that determination will be heard in your Lordships' House to-day. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1969 (Cmnd. 3927).—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, has made a most comprehensive and interesting speech, and your Lordships will be grateful to him for having introduced the White Paper so clearly. The noble Lord has, naturally, to present and explain the White Paper to your Lordships, and he certainly has done so. I was beginning to be rather mystified what on earth the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, were going to say for the rest of the debate; but no doubt we shall learn later on.
My Lords, I am under no obligation to follow the noble Lord in everything he has said, for this is the one occasion in the year when your Lordships have a chance of looking at the broader aspects of defence, and I propose for a few minutes this afternoon to discuss some of the broader aspects of policy of Western defence and how it relates to a purely national British policy. Ever since the end of the war, the whole framework of defence has been related to the nuclear bomb. Before the nuclear bomb it was possible for a country with a relatively large population and with a fairly big industrial base to provide for itself against any possible attack, even from countries which were bigger in population and in industrial power. For example, we in Britain owed our dominance in the 19th century in great part to a large Navy. The Germans, though ultimately defeated, managed in two World Wars to fight for four or five years against a combination of countries, far bigger in population and industrial potential than they themselves were. Defence policy in the 19th and early 20th centuries was much more simple. Conventional weapons were uncomplicated and fairly cheap; it was possible for a country to arm itself adequately to protect its vital interests without damaging its 691 economy, and controversy in those days centred rather on how much was enough rather than on what sort of defence was needed.
But the bomb and the increasing sophistication of conventional weapons, together with the much greater uncertainty of the type of situation which we are likely to meet, has made the decisions of Secretaries of State for Defence all over the world much more difficult and much more exacting, and I know that my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft and the noble Earl, Lord Alexander, behind him will agree with that. Let no-one imagine that the decisions which are taken are either straightforward or simple black and white decisions, or easy to take. Only the richest countries can afford everything, and even they are beginning to find it difficult, as the debate in the United States on the anti-missile missiles demonstrates. But the fact remains that the appalling destructive capabilities of the nuclear bomb and the prospect that it might bring a near destruction of mankind is precisely the reason that we have not had a world war for the last 25 years. Neither of the two great Powers are prepared to run the risk of complete catastrophe.
After the war, at the time when the United States was the only possessor of atomic weapons, the Russians realised that aggression by them would have meant the destruction of their country. Since then, as the two countries have become more evenly matched, it is mutual destruction of each other's country which has seemed to be equally unacceptable. For this we have much to be thankful. But certain questions arise, and the first one, which to me appears far the most important, is how much of a deterrent to war is a weapon which is so powerful that its use is unacceptable to both those countries which possess it. I have always thought—and this may seem to be a rather unusual theory today when Mr. Foster Dulles and his policy are much reviled—that it was largely due to Mr. Foster Dulles that we did not have much more severe trouble at that difficult time when he was Secretary of State. Everyone knew that Mr. Dulles, who was a determined man, would not have hesitated to advise the President of the United States to use 692 nuclear weapons if in his opinion the basic interests of the United States required that decision to be taken. And we must remember that at that time, the time we are talking of, it was the period in which the Russians were not capable of second-strike retaliation. The reality of the deterrent depends upon whether or not those who are being deterred believe that there is any prospect of its being used, and certainly Mr. Dulles left me, at any rate, in no doubt about what he would have done.
But the situation has now changed, and there are those who feel that the destructive capabilities of both the Russians and the Americans in their second-strike capability calls into question the whole theory of deterrence. I do not know. I should very much dislike to take a gamble on whether or not nuclear weapons would be used. It would be an appalling decision to gamble on whether or not an American President were likely in the last resort to be prepared to use his nuclear armoury. And I suppose that that uncertainty in itself is part of the deterrent. It follows that the Americans must appear to be, and must be, absolutely resolute in refusing to give way or to appease either the Russians or the Chinese, who will shortly have a big nuclear capability. Any sign of weakness undermines the reality of the deterrent. I do not mean by that that the Americans should not be prepared to negotiate with the Russians, or join in the discussions with NATO and the Warsaw Pact, or try in any way for détente between East and West, but not to the point where it appears that the United States is acting from a position of weakness rather than from a position of determination and strength.
But the Russian second-strike capability has also one important consequence for us in Europe. If it is arguable whether or not nuclear weapons would be used in the defence of American soil, it must surely be more arguable as to whether or not they would be used in the defence of soil which is not American, when the use of those weapons would lead to the destruction of America itself. We have only to look (and the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, did) at the relative strengths of the two blocs in conventional forces, both on the ground and in reserve, to realise that Western Europe could not 693 fail to lose a purely conventional war; that is to say, if things remain as they are. The deterrent in NATO is partly the conventional forces which are deployed on the ground, and which no doubt would give a very good account of themselves; but the much more powerful deterrent is the nuclear power of the United States which lies at the back of the organisation.
I do not wish in any way to call into question the determination of the Americans to assist their allies in every way. I am sure they have it. They are good allies and honourable men. But we must, I think, look at the matter from a European point of view. We must acknowledge to ourselves the awful decision which would have to be taken by a President of the United States in the circumstance of a Russian conventional invasion of Western Europe, a decision which, to save Europe from being overrun, would lead to the annihilation of the United States itself.
There are really only two things that we can do to make ourselves less vulnerable and less dependent upon the United States. First, we can so increase our conventional forces—I am talking, of course, of NATO, Western Europe as a whole—that we can match the Russian conventional forces. I confess that I do not see the smallest likelihood of this happening. However desirable it might be, I cannot conceive that in the present climate of opinion the countries of Western Europe would be prepared either to spend the money or the manpower in achieving such an object.
The second alternative is to have a nuclear armoury of our own. To me the possession of nuclear weapons of our own is a much more credible deterrent than to rely on a third party, however close a friend; and to that extent I fully understand the French Government's reasons for having developed their own weapon. It is precisely for that reason that I have always been in favour of the independent British nuclear deterrent, capable of being used independently by ourselves in circumstances in which our national position was in extreme danger. When we get into Europe, as we shall, and when there exists in Europe a political organisation capable of dealing with these matters, then it may well be that a European deterrent may emerge, 694 though there are, of course, many difficulties in such a concept. There would be no need for such a deterrent to be on anything like the scale of the Russian or the American armoury, and I should have thought that the damage which such a force could inflict would be perfectly adequate if it were something comparable to the size that we have at the present time for the purposes which I have outlined.
One of the paradoxes of the nuclear age is that in certain circumstances the most powerful countries become as weak as the small nations. Nor does the possession of the nuclear deterrent by the super Powers necessarily mean that there will not be outbreaks of smaller and limited wars between other countries. Vietnam and Korea were examples of the former; the Israeli-Arab war is an example of the latter. It is only when the vital interests of the big Powers are involved that nuclear deterrence has any relevance whatever. The United States, with all the destructive capability in her possession, has riot been able to finish the Vietnam war; neither has she or Russia been able greatly to influence events in the Middle East.
Your Lordships may ask, "What has this to do with British defence policy and the defence policy which Mr. Healey has pursued?" I think the first thing is that the Government were absolutely right to reverse their previous policy and to retain the independent British nuclear deterrent and I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, taking credit for the Polaris fleet. I would say, in passing, that I wished I had had a record of that speech which I could have played in the Election of 1964: but there we are. The nuclear deterrent is not particularly expensive, as the White Paper makes clear, and yet, for the reasons which I have tried to outline, it seems to me an absolutely vital British interest that we should remain in control of our own destiny, and I greatly welcome the courage which the Government have shown in reversing their previous position.
What of the rest? I have often said to your Lordships before, and at the risk of wearying you I will say it again, that one of the things that most struck me when I was in charge of a Service Department was that the only thing which 695 was really certain about defence matters was that the unexpected would, and almost always did, happen: in other words, in so far as possible one had to be ready for all eventualities. There may be some of your Lordships who have thought that what I have said about the possibility of Russian aggression is wholly far-fetched. Well, I hope so; but I would not take a chance on it. We all remember the shock when we learned the news of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, and saw the ruthlessness and efficiency with which that operation was conducted. I doubt whether the Communists or Communism has changed as much as some people whose memories are rather short would have us believe. It seems to me prudent, at any rate, not to rely too much on apparent changes of heart.
I confess (and I have tried studiously to be non-Party political in what I have had to say) that I find it a little strange to read in the White Paper on Defence the passage in which Mr. Healey describes how the arms budget of the Communist bloc is rising and how much greater it is than the arms budget of the West. The passage reads:The military power of the Soviet Union continues to grow. This year the Russian Defence Estimates went up by some 6 per cent. Soviet Scientific Estimates went up by 14 per cent. In terms of percentage of the gross national product, the defence spending of the Warsaw Pact countries together is nearly twice that of the European members of NATO.Yet in a passage in his speech he takes great credit, as indeed to a lesser extent did the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for the fact that the proportion of the gross national product that we are spending in defence is declining. In another place, the Secretary of State said:For the first time for over a decade the Defence Estimates…are actually lower than those of the preceding year".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/3/69, col. 230.]He went on to say:This year we shall be spending under 6 per cent. of our gross national product on defence compared with the 7 per cent. planned by the Conservative Government … By 1972–73 our defence expenditure will be about 5 per cent. of our gross national product.These two passages are totally at variance, the one with the other. I understand the reasons for that, but I confess that I do not care for them. If 696 we could spend less money on defence, everyone, in the Labour Party and outside it, would be glad, and it would no doubt be politically popular. But it must be the responsibility of the Government of this country to ensure the country's safety, and I find something rather distasteful about the way in which in one breath the Secretary of State takes political credit for having reduced defence expenditure, and in the next breath gives us grave warning about the total defence expenditure of our potential enemies.
There is no doubt that we are indeed running down our forces. To give but one figure (because I do not want to labour the point), in 1964 the operational Fleet, training and trials, consisted of 181 ships; and there were 170 ships in reserve and being re-fitted. To-day, there are only 144 operational ships and 60 in reserve. I am sure that the Government are right to concentrate, as indeed we always have done, the major part of our defences in the NATO area, for ultimately it is in that area on which our national safety depends. And though I do not agree with the Secretary of State that we have in fact done much to reinforce our troops in the area, I do not think that we, as a country, have anything to be ashamed of in our contribution to NATO. I think it could be argued that if some of our Allies in Europe did as much, pro rata, as we did, the conventional strength of NATO would be much greater than it is at the present time.
I also agree with the doctrine, which the noble Lord outlined, of flexible response. There must clearly be enough time for all concerned to think before irrevocable decisions are made, though I must say that I sometimes wonder whether the differences between flexible responses, trip wires, and massive retaliations, and all the other esoteric phrases, are quite as great as their proponents proclaim. I shall not say any more about NATO because my noble friend Lord St. Oswald and my noble friend Lord Thurlow will be saying something later about that.
The area about which I feel the most disquiet is that of reserves and home defence in its widest sense. In my view, the Government have run down our reserves very much too much, and they have done it to a point where they may 697 well undermine their own European policy. Your Lordships will know that the Party to which I belong have said that when we are returned to office we shall take steps to remedy that situation. It may well be that there will have to be a change in the old Territorial Army, but we are convinced that there is a role for such a force, whether it be for home defence or for help in emergencies; and we believe that a basis for expansion in war is essential. Yet this will not be available under the Government's proposals.
Noble Lords opposite will also know that we do not agree with them about the abandonment of British positions in the Far East and in the Persian Gulf. I do not intend to say much about that subject this afternoon, for we have argued it out at great length on a number of occasions. I would only say that if it is possible when the Conservatives get back into office, if things have not gone too far and if our friends wish us to do so, we shall consult with them in order to retain a presence in both these areas. I do not believe, certainly in the terms in which I am thinking, that it will be very costly; and it will certainly be greatly welcomed by our friends over there, in particular the Australians and New Zealanders.
To sum up what I have been trying to say my Lords, it is this. I believe that we can provide a proper national defence policy for this country, first by our contribution to NATO, and with it our independent nuclear deterrent; by a proper policy for reserves and for a disciplined force at home in case of emergencies; and that we should, if our friends want us, and it is still possible, keep a modest presence in South East Asia and the Gulf, and that if it is in the interests of our friends we should spend a little more on defence and be prepared to ask our fellow countrymen to do so. These are our aims, and I believe that they will meet with the general approval of the people of this country.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, may I make a small apology at the outset. I have an engagement this afternoon which may make it difficult for me to attend the second part of this debate, but I shall 698 certainly hope to be present at the summing up of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
We have heard a most interesting exposé of the Defence Statement by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and we have heard a most interesting, and I thought on the whole a convincing exposé of the general thesis of our defence made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I propose to touch on that aspect of defence in the second part of my very brief intervention.
May I say that on the whole we on these Benches welcome the Statement on the Defence Estimates for 1969? This, after all, is not unnatural. Following the advice we gave them in March, 1965, the Government, as we all know, eventually decided to evacuate our bases in the Indian Ocean by a given date. I do not say that this was propter hoc but I can unhesitatingly say that it was post hoc. We are glad to note, therefore, that satisfactory progress is being made in this operation, notably in Malaysia, from which—as we learn from Chapter II, paragraph 14—all our troops are to be withdrawn by the agreed date; that is, the end of 1971. I seem to recall that for our part we, that is the Liberal Party, did not object to some long-term project for having some British, or preferably by that time some European, element in a base which might perhaps be established with the agreement of the Australian Government in the North of Australia, especially if communications were installed West-about rather than East-about. That is, so to speak, another story.
But the process of evacuation does not, on the face of it, seem to be proceeding quite so smoothly as regards the Persian Gulf. Here I stand to be corrected and should like to be corrected. It seems, indeed, from Chapter I, paragraph 24 that:An outline plan has been prepared, but the final arrangements for our withdrawal must wait upon political developments in the area.That is what it says. It seems that these "political developments" concern—in strict accordance, I may say, with the sensible advice given by Mr. Enoch Powell in 1965—the creation of some "Asian balance of power"; namely, the organisation of local defensive arrangements after our departure. I am sure that it is very wise; but I should still 699 welcome some assurance from the Government that it is their intention that, here again, the evacuation of our forces should be completed not later than the end of 1971. I ask for that assurance.
After what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said just now, I am not quite sure if it is so, but I had understood that the Tory Party had decided that, should it come into power before the process of evacuation had been completed, it would reverse the Government's intention and re-establish British bases not only in Singapore but also in the Persian Gulf—anyhow, re-establish some bases in those areas, although presumably only if the local authorities should really wants us to do so; and quite likely they will not. I must say that I doubt whether, when and if it comes to the point, the Tory Party will really do anything so ill-advised, as we should think. The "imperial" argument which they use, as it were, to justify such a reactionary gesture always is that unless we have a small—but obviously costly—military presence in the Persian Gulf, our oil supplies and those of our Allies (a great proportion of which will undoubtedly continue to come from the Middle East) will in some way be endangered.
How could these supplies be endangered? Obviously the producing countries might decide not to ship the oil, though why they should cut their own throats has never been very clear to me since they would not have much in the way of alternative markets or facilities for getting the oil transported. But if they ever did organise a boycott, it would not be our small forces in the Gulf—if such continued to exist—which would be able to stop them, any more than these small forces were able to stop such action during the Seven Days War. Or—and this is the great bogey which is always dangled before our eyes—the Russians would come along and somehow collar the oil, either sending it to the Soviet Union in their own tankers or even building a pipe line across Kurdistan. I must say that I find it difficult to envisage the circumstances in which this could happen unless the Russians were in actual physical control of Iraq and Iran, and I should have thought also Turkey. And though this is possible, it is not something which 700 could possibly be prevented by a few British platoons and a sloop or two in Bahrain.
The establishment of pro-Soviet Governments in the countries concerned might indeed have unfortunate effects on our oil supplies. Our economic tail and that of our Allies might, for instance, be severely twisted. Admittedly, we might have to pay considerably more for the oil. But short of actual war with the Soviet Union, it is surely unlikely that there would be any embargo, even in the worst situation. And, anyhow, if there is war, many of our tankers will probably be torpedoed or otherwise prevented from supplying us and our friends. In any case, the outcome of the war, even if it were limited to conventional weapons—which seems rather unlikely—would in no way be affected by the presence or absence of a tiny British force in the Persian Gulf.
No, my Lords, the suggestion that we should spend hundreds of millions—which, incidentally, we do not have—in reactivating our bases in the Indian Ocean area is, as we on these Benches firmly believe, irresponsible. If a future Tory Government really had a few hundred million pounds to spare, they would be well advised to reinforce our troops in Germany, as I think was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, himself. For, as the Statement rightly says, it is now essential—and here I think we all agree—to concentrate our military role in Europe and to have "sufficient" (that, of course, is the magic word) forces there to counter any Soviet military threat, which, incidentally, I note the Statement dismisses as most unlikely. Perhaps. But there may well be a debate about what exactly we mean by the word, "sufficient".
I will not bore your Lordships with figures which have already been given by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, but it is a fact that the Warsaw Power preponderance over the NATO forces in Europe is at present immense. I think I heard the noble Lord say that it is not far off three to one, if we take into account all the services and all the factors, and perhaps even as much as seven to one if an offensive were limited initially to certain sectors. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, nods his head, so it is possible. Moreover, the Russian forces and 701 those of their satellites are all streamlined and standardised; and, as we saw in Czechoslovakia, they are capable of mounting an offensive with lightning rapidity, huge efficiency and without any warning at all. You can bet your bottom dollar, my Lords, that they have similar plans all worked out for a rapid incursion into Western Germany, perhaps with some limited objective, in the event of political circumstances being such as to justify the obviously appalling risk.
It is not being alarmist, therefore, to suggest that we cannot dismiss out of hand some adventurist action on the part of the Russians and/or the Eastern Germans. If the blow were to fall there is no doubt that it would be tremendously powerful, and little doubt that it would bring the adversary to the North Sea or the Rhine in a matter of a day or two, perhaps even less, unless the defence had recourse to tactical nuclear weapons. That is the crux. There are about 7,000 of these weapons, large and small, in the NATO armies in Europe, but all depend for their use on the decision of the President of the United States of America. If any Soviet offensive, even if of a very limited scope, does take place, the question whether or not to employ them will clearly have to be taken in a matter of hours. But the Soviet forces, too, have nuclear weapons, and if such a decision is taken they will, of course, retaliate. The resulting interchange will mean that much of Western Germany, and, presumably, a good deal of the D.D.R., will be reduced to rubble.
The Russians might well be stopped somewhere between the Iron Curtain and the Rhine, but nobody can possibly imagine what would come out of the ensuing chaos. All that can be said is that such a nuclear interchange would not be likely to involve the I.C.B.M.s, or even the Soviet I.R.B.M.s—the medium-range ballistic missiles—trained on Europe. For here the situation is that any "first strike" by the one super-Power or the other is likely, to say the very least, to be counter-productive. The two scorpions in the bottle will not, even if the worst should happen, actually sting themselves to death. I think we can take that as being highly probable, if not certain.
So, my Lords, everything depends on the Russians' assuming that in the event 702 of, say, a determined incursion the Allies will have recourse to tactical nuclears. The Russians will also surely reflect that if the conventional forces of the Allies were such as to be able to hold a first rush within a reasonable distance—say 50 miles from the frontier—action would be less profitable than if a dash to the Rhine or the North Sea were likely to be successful in a very few days, and the Soviet Union could then perhaps offer to negotiate a withdrawal on their own conditions; the dreadful alternative, from our point of view, being to initiate a nuclear interchange in the neighbourhood of the Rhine, with towns as far back as Aachen or Metz presumably coming under bombardment by the tactical nuclear missiles.
But if the Allied forces are to perform any such role they simply must be streamlined, standardised, co-ordinated and centrally directed. We must also rely, and rely absolutely, on the co-operation in Germany of the conventional forces of France. I am sorry to say this, but I think I am right in asserting that none of these desiderata exists to-day, and until they do we shall be in a potentially dangerous situation which will, of course, be rendered even more dangerous if there is any further withdrawal of Allied forces, and notably American forces, from Germany.
The absurdity is that all the desiderata could be achieved, and this with practically no additional expense, if we could arrange for a minimum of co-ordination and integration in some kind of European political and defence community, including France, within the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty. There is some reason to-day to suppose that with the resignation of President de Gaulle the situation is now such as to permit gradual progress in that direction. Let us hope so. If so, it should be exploited as well and as rapidly as is humanly possible. In such a political and defence community further plans might be elaborated for a new kind of conventional defence, with less reliance, perhaps, on heavy tanks and more on extremely mobile units complete with anti-tank weapons of the first order, rockets for use against other targets, anti aircraft missiles and so on. If the ingenuity of our scientists could eventually provide such units with nuclear-powered vehicles of great velocity, that would be perfect, for then they could operate really 703 independently. Such developments would, in any case, be likely to increase the morale of the Allied troops, and notably that of what I am afraid is a rather despondent Bundeswehr.
This is the time for new thoughts and fresh initiatives. Even if we cannot get immediate progress towards our European Political and Defence Community, we might at least be successful in establishing, for instance, some European institute for operational research—a sort of "think tank", as the Americans say—for force integration methods, and make further progress towards the creation of what I think Mr. Healey has himself described as a European element within NATO. To sum up, we on these Benches think that Mr. Healey's heart now—at last—seems to be in the right place. He should be encouraged to keep it there.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, I am sure it is right that we should debate Defence, even if only once a year, but I believe personally that it is wise on these occasions to discuss not weapons and equipment and details of manning, but the Defence policy itself, and that is what I propose to do. When this Government came into power, the first White Paper, in February, 1965, said that Defence consisted of two purposes: first, to guarantee the nation's security; and second, to contribute towards peace and stability in the world as a whole. We all agreed with that, and there was no difficulty. That White Paper went on to say: "These purposes are inseparable". Of course they were, and of course they still are, but I maintain that the Government have ignored this for at least two years past, as if a line could be drawn round about the Suez area and you could separate Europe from the East.
In February, 1966, after a year's very careful thought and a very detailed Review, that Review said:Defence must be the servant of foreign policy, not its master".Again we agreed, but again it did not happen. It would have been more accurate, in my opinion, to have said that Defence should be the servant of the Treasury, because that is what has happened. Every single Defence policy Statement which has come since then— 704 and there have been a good many of them—have been proudly descriptive, as we heard this afternoon, of how we save money. It may be that we have had to do so, but the fact remains that finance has governed Defence policy, and not foreign policy.
May I remind your Lordships that in 1965, when this Government took over, the Armed Forces consisted of 459,000 people. By the middle of the 1970s, when these plans go through, they will be reduced to about 337,000, which is a reduction of 122,000 men, or 26 per cent. That would not be so serious if we had started with I million men, but when the figure is 450,000 in my view it is a very serious reduction. A year ago I pointed to the dangers we were facing, and I thought we might get away with some reduction in numbers, but now we have had the increased reductions, inevitably because of the financial crisis. I have heard it argued that, although we are defended now by the nuclear balance of terror—and I agreed so much with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—we are now in danger of reducing the size of our forces to the level of the 1930s, when we allowed Hitler to pursue his ambitions without being able to prevent him. For myself, I do not think we have reached that stage, but we are getting rather near it.
Again in that Review, with very careful thought, it said:In recent years, the threat to peace has been far greater outside Europe than within it".That was perfectly true when it was written; it is still true to-day; and I think myself it will be true as long as we are here. In my opinion it is quite wrong to look at the defence of Europe in isolation. Of course I agree that NATO should be given top priority, but the day when quarrels among France, Germany, Italy and Britain developed into World Wars I and II is in my opinion past. The two super Powers face each other along the River Elbe—they have done so for 20-odd years—and they know perfectly well the risks, which have been described with such accuracy by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. And when there is any doubt about an ally, we have seen what happens. The Russians invaded Czechoslovakia with nearly half a million men, but it was a defensive act, in my opinion, inside the Warsaw Pact area, 705 not outside it. That is because they knew perfectly well the risks if they crossed the Iron Curtain.
Even if we accept the system of flexible response, which is now being pushed with considerable strength, the ultimate risks will, I suggest, remain as high as ever in the nuclear region, with the terrible results described. That is the reason why Europe has been quiet for the past twenty years, why it is quiet to-day and why I personally believe it will be quiet tomorrow and in the future. Outside Europe, however, it is very different. Here, the two super Powers are not directly facing each other. They always come into confrontation via smaller, weaker countries. Asia is full of these new States: I think I listed them the last time we spoke on this subject. As yet, they are quite unable to defend themselves, and while they are settling in we have promised again and again to remain with them and to help defend them. There is little prospect, to my mind, of them settling down at the moment. In other words, Asia has been the cockpit of the world since World War II—Korea, Malaya, the Philippines, Laos, Indonesia and now Vietnam, just to mention the big ones. There is only one thing certain when the Vietnam war ends, and that is that the politics in the area and the relative powers will be changed. Asia will continue to be the centre of friction.
From the British angle, what are our obligations? They are legal and they are moral. They are legal under the Malayan Defence Treaty; they are legal towards Hong Kong, which is still a colony; and they are strongly moral to Australia and New Zealand, who have come to our aid in two world wars. Alerting the Australians and New Zealanders (who, incidentally, are already fighting to the best of their ability in Vietnam) to increasing their garrisons in Malaysia and Singapore is not enough. It is unrealistic to say, as the July, 1968, Supplementary Statement said, that the Governmenthas consulted the Governments in the areas concerned about means of developing a new basis for peace and stability after British forces have left",and simultaneously to remove those British forces. It is unrealistic. Our word, as a result, is now doubted in that 706 part of the world, and I think that is a very bad thing. Surely the lesson has been learned over and over again that political influence means anything only when it is backed up by power, both military and economic.
In the Middle East, we seem to forget that if we had stayed there—I am not recommending that we should, but if we had by any chance stayed in that area with considerable forces—there would have been no short Arab-Israel wars. Then who would care to bet, if the British garrison were withdrawn, that Hong Kong would remain British? Those are the matters which I personally think we ought to consider. In other words, there is a very strong case for small British garrisons remaining on the spot. I admit, like the noble Lord, Lord, Carrington, that it has been argued again and again, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me for repeating these things, but the argument for small British garrisons remaining on the spot is very strong indeed. I have often argued that a company to-day is worth a brigade next week or a division a fortnight later. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr. Holyoake, was absolutely right when he said that there is all the difference between total withdrawal and keeping a small garrison. Berlin is a very good example of this. There we have three extremely weak battalions, the French two weak battalions and the Americans a reasonably strong brigade. They are as nothing to the forces all round them—absolutely nothing. But the Russians know perfectly well that if they start fighting there is a guarantee that there would be a war.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him for one moment? What he says about Berlin is quite true, but it is only the presence of the American forces which deters the Russians; it is not the presence of the small British or French element at all.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for pointing that out. I do not happen to agree with it. I personally think the British garrison is very well worth while. In short, we ought to keep a small garrison in Singapore; one of, say, two frigates, two squadrons of 707 R.A.F. and, perhaps, even one or possibly two battalions—that is, if it is possible to reverse the policy and that we have not actually left. If we have left it is very difficult to reverse it. Incidentally, the White Paper we are debating mentions that, based in Europe, we shall keep a general capability of returning to action in that part of the world to help our friends. If it takes two years to plan an exercise, I should like to know how quickly we should get there—especially with no bases and especially with no aircraft carriers.
Now I come to the Middle East. Here a similar argument applies, and perhaps even more so. If ever there was an unstable area, this is it; and if ever there were people who contributed to its instability by withdrawing in an irresponsible way, we are those people. The Arabs have never combined, I think, for 4,000 years, except against the Jews. I see no reason why they should start to do so now. Creating a power vacuum in the Gulf will simply invite this sort of power politics. The Middle East has always been dominated by a land Power. At the present time it is not; but it may not be very long before it is. Leaving behind diplomatic representation, however strong and adept, is not the answer and will be no safeguard to this position. Let us remember that it is only a year or two since the Trucial States were actually fighting each other; now they are engaged, under British supervision, in the exercise of forming a defensive treaty among themselves. But I should not like to bet too much on its realisation.
The Aden exercise—we evacuated there about a year ago—is, to my mind, small guide. We have created a power vacuum there. As soon as the Suez Canal is opened, I believe that the Russians will establish a small naval base at Aden. Arguments that the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians and the French do very well with their commercial operations without any forces in the East do not appeal to me. Let us not forget that the security in the area is at present being provided by the United States and by the British. If we, the British, leave a gap, especially in the Indian Ocean, there will be trouble. Will the Government please tell me how much more it costs to keep a battalion in Singapore or in the 708 Persian Gulf, without families, than it does on Salisbury Plain? Will they also tell me, observing that both these places are in the sterling area, how much the foreign exchange costs compared with a battalion in Germany? I have never been satisfied over this matter and I should like to hear the answer.
My Lords, I come to a mechanical point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington: recruiting and reserves. I shall deal with the reserves first. This Government, rightly, have modernised TAVR II, and I think TAVR I as well, into a force of 50,000 or 60,000 very well-equipped young men. I agree with that. Of course, it is not a reserve in the sense that it is uncommitted. It is, in fact, merely to plug holes, and is specifically designed to fill special holes in the low establishment of the Regular Army that we have to-day—mostly, incidentally, in B.A.O.R. The TAVR III (which they continue to call the Territorials) was transferred to the Home Office a couple of years ago chiefly to support civil defence. It was to cost only é3 million per annum. Now that civil defence has been knocked on the head, the Territorial Army has been practically destroyed; and I think personally that this is a shabby affair. What is more, I think it is very ill-advised not to have an uncommitted reserve. I maintain that the Territorial Army should be resuscitated and should he of the strength at least of one division, and preferably of two, with a home defence rôle as well as a civil defence rôle.
Please let us remember that when the Territorial Army was destroyed there was destroyed also a two-way link—which is rather vital to the next subject, which is recruiting. The two-way link was to the countryside, on the one hand, and to the Regular Army on the other. It was a very strong link indeed. A good deal of recruiting came via the Territorial Army. That has all been destroyed. It is no surprise to me that recruiting has fallen off. I think that the saddest figures in the whole of this White Paper are those in the appendix on page 81 which point to the fact that the number of young men from civil life joining the Army in 1965 was 12,000 and in 1968 was less than 8,000—actually, 7,577—a drop of 50 per cent. Those are terrible figures to have to compete with. 709 The exercises which are vividly described in the White Paper are not sufficient to attract young men into the Services. Germany and B.A.O.R. are no longer attractive and the present defence policy does not answer the standard question asked by young men of their fathers: "Will the Services give me a worthwhile career?" At the present moment, the fathers are answering "No". I am referring not to officers but to the other ranks. I believe that if recruiting continues to fall we shall before long find ourselves faced with the choice either of paying the same rates as in civil life to a small Regular force—which is an extremely expensive business—or of returning to National Service, perhaps in selective form.
Lastly, my Lords, I have a practical suggestion to make. It is to set up an Armed Forces Committee of both Houses of Parliament. I have made this suggestion before; but I make it more seriously to-day. I should like to ask the Government what they feel about it. Surely, we must admit that the annual Defence debates in this House, and perhaps the debates in the other place, once or twice a year are not a satisfactory answer. The Secretary of State, with a certain majority, has only to resist for a matter of hours. He can then go home and put the files away for nearly a year. Defence, in my opinion, ought to he completely bipartisan and should not be decided by the Party which happens to be in power at the moment. It is too important to leave it to one Party. Defence policy, apart from service and technical details, which are the concern of the Chiefs of Staff, ought to be fully presented by the Secretary of State and discussed, if necessary, under the Official Secrets Act. It is a continuing matter and ought not to be debated once or twice a year by Members of Parliament who, necessarily, know very little.
I recommend therefore the setting up of a Joint Committee of both Houses, an Armed Forces Committee on similar lines to the Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on the Armed Services in Washington. Incidentally, the Senate Committee was established in 1816, so it is not a new exercise. These two Committees in Washington can, and do, sit jointly. I recommend only one in this Parliament here. It may be that our 710 Armed Forces Committee, if it is established, should not have as wide powers as the United States Committees which have rightsto investigate, subpoena witnesses, travel and publish reports.We already have a Public Accounts Committee with very wide powers. I fail to see why we should not have the same thing in an equally important subject. It would certainly keep the Secretary of State for Defence up to the mark.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords. I hesitate to speak in this debate. For one thing, I speak but seldom in your Lordships' House, and for another I do not any longer rate myself as a particularly good critic. I have at least seen sufficient of the difficulties of Government to make me rather hesitate before starting to attack all those engaged upon it.
There is, moreover, one other problem that confronts us in a debate on the Government's White Paper. It is a rather academic discussion. If one went cutside this Chamber I do not suppose one would find many people who thought that the Labour Party would have any very great role to play, at any rate in the first five years of the '70s. Power and responsibility are already slipping from their hands, and as one goes round the world—as all of us who leave this country occasionally do—one finds that the voices that are increasingly listened to are the voices of some of my noble friends on the Front Opposition Bench in this House or from the Conservative side in the House of Commons. The question one is asked is not, "Why do the Government do this?" but, "What will the next Government do?" That is the question we have to answer. And so in this debate I do not want just to attack the Government. I want, if I may, to follow the able speeches of my noble friend Lord. Carrington and the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and try to discuss some of the fundamentals of defence policy.
Perhaps I might say one thing which is a little critical. I am getting increasingly worried about the Secretary of State. He keeps on saying the most remarkable things. I notice that in the White Paper he starts off by saying:The re-orientation of our defence policy is now completed, and the Armed Forces can 711 look forward to a period of stability and progress.That is either the most arrogant or me most foolish statement that I have read for a very long time. It is not for a Government whose defence policy has lurched between putting our frontiers on the Himalayas and putting them in the Thames Valley to talk about a situation of "stability and progress". The Secretary of State is an able and intelligent man—as are all the Members of Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, I think that when the history of these times is written, men will ponder on how so much wit, ability and honesty of purpose could be squandered on such disastrous policies. I think it is partly—at any rate in defence—because of a tendency to try to exaggerate the differences between Parties, sometimes when no differences exist at all.
During my experience in public life it has often occurred to me that the greatest Ministers talk least in the really Party sense. Take men like Churchill and Ernest Bevin. Sometimes you would hardly know to which Party they belonged except that there might perhaps be a look of anxiety on the faces of Members of their own Back Benches from time to time. But in the main they talked beyond and above Party; and they sought, wherever possible, the maximum accord. I am very worried, therefore, when I hear the Secretary of State larding his speeches with these dubious statistics.
I would warn the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, about these briefs from the Ministry of Defence. I would say to him, if I may, "Do be careful of their figures; and if you will have a word with me afterwards, I will explain their difficulties". These figures extrapolate somebody's defence expenditure five years ago and stretch it out in some graph to enable the Prime Minister to maintain that he has made a saving of the gap. My Lords, no Chancellor of the Exchequer would take that from anybody, except the Prime Minister. So I warn the noble Lord to be very cautious.
May I say one other thing? I do not know whether the noble Lord has been following the recent articles of that great defence correspondent, Mr. Chapman Pincher, but I commend them to him. 712 Mr. Chapman Pincher is one of the best informed defence correspondents that we have in this country and he is a very able, accurate and honourable man. We have all suffered under him from time to time: we have suffered because of his unfortunate habit of getting the facts right, which is so embarrassing to us all. But he called attention to the fact that I the figures of which the noble Lord was boasting allow for the fact that some £500 million worth of foreign aircraft are going to be paid for by a succeeding Conservative Government. I think that when noble Lords opposite talk about these things there ought to be, shall we say, at any rate a note on the account. I do not think that any accountant would allow a business to get away with such claims without drawing attention fairly firmly to this point. No doubt when the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, replies to the debate he will lay some special emphasise on it.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I tell the noble Lord that I shall not do so, because I have done it so often already; but the noble Lord was not here to listen.
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords, that is again an indication of agreement, so long as we all recognise that these figures which are normally quoted, these differences between Socialist and Conservative, are, as the noble Lord now says, a little bogus. The noble Lord says that he has said it before, and so I do not mind if he does not say it again. So long as we have reached agreement on these matters it is perfectly satisfactory.
My Lords, the other matter on which I have some doubts regarding the Secretary of State is this maximising of differences. In his speech in another place he covered pages of Hansard trying to find some miraculous difference between the way the Tories would defend Europe and the way the Socialists would defend Europe. But, in fact, it is not true that there is a difference. We are all faced with the same problems and, by and large, we are generally all forced to the same conclusions. I think we ought to address our minds to the general principles of policy which, whether we like it or not, fate really forces us to look at squarely on whichever side of the 713 House we may sit. Therefore, my Lords, may I turn for a moment to the nature of the problem as I see it? And may I say that, on the nature of the problem, I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and by my noble friend Lord Carrington. The problem that faces you in defence is not some theory about whether you want to fight in Europe or in the Far East.
It is perhaps often boring to repeat personal experiences, yet sometimes they highlight these things. I remember that when I arrived at the Ministry of Defence, some five or six years ago, I had every hope of slashing defence costs. I genuinely believed that this was something I could do, not because I was a very clever man but because the brilliant generalship of General Templer had so settled the situation in Malaysia that there was every prospect of bringing back large numbers of our forces from the Far East. This was going to be the policy; it would have saved a great deal of money. But what happened? My Lords, what happened was confrontation; was Borneo; was Sarawak. And then came demands in other parts of the world: British Guiana; East Africa, and for the support of NATO in Cyprus. My Lords, these are the realities of defence. It is concerned not with theory but with what is happening in the world.
It is idle to pretend that, somehow, one can pick a figure out of the air and say that that is what goes for defence. It depends on what other people are doing. What you really have to defend yourself against, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is the unexpected; and the best that we can do is to take the best defence and contrive the best defence forces we can, within the limits we think we can afford, and adjust them to what will in any event be almost certainly an unexpected thing. Thanks to General Walker, and the brilliant professional Army with which this country is blessed, all those roles that I have mentioned were sustained. Yet to-day Mr. Healey says that to carry out those roles, to face those situations, is too expensive.
At the time of which I have been speaking the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was among the bitterest of my critics. He wanted to introduce conscription, which of course would have been even more 714 expensive. If I took the sort of figures he was talking about then, and extrapolated them into the future, it would make anything the Tories ever had in mind far more extravagant. In fact, he did not do it. It was before his period in the "Corridors of Power", but he was a responsible man—
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords, I will not elaborate the figures but I will listen with the greatest interest and delight to the noble Lord who is to speak later in the debate who, I know, supported the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, at that time, and who believes—though I must not pre-judge his speech—that conscription ought to be introduced.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I an most grateful that the noble Lord is going listen to what I will say. He has done so on previous occasions, with advantage to him and perhaps with advantage this afternoon. But if he comes to this House—and like the noble Lord I am new to this place—and informs your Lordships, in his own emphatic and inimitable way, of a fact, I am sure that he owes it not to me but to your Lordships to substantiate what he has said.
§ LORD THORNEYCROFT
My Lords, I will substantiate what I have said. I do not want to do it at great length. What I was saying briefly is that while there may be many arguments for having a conscripted Army, it is, alas!, the. most expensive way of collecting the Armed Forces we require. We need vast numbers of people and we have to train them effectively. Not only that, but wt have to do so within a relatively short time, and then we have to lose them. If we are faced with troubles overseas, they 715 have to spend a considerable part of their time travelling from this country to the theatres of operation. This is the advice that I was provided with at the time by our experts at the Ministry of Defence. I did not believe that they were wrong then and I do not believe that they are wrong to-day. I do not want to pursue this point any further but I will always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, with interest in these matters.
We could have come to a different decision. We could have decided to abandon that role, but I am bound to say that we would have been wrong to do so. I think that the Government really share this view as well, because after reading the White Paper and listening to the noble Lord, I think that he is still contemplating a capability overseas. He is still looking for some way of carrying out a role in support of the necessities in which outside events involve us. And my judgment is that the Government are perfectly sincere in wanting to do that. The discussion is not really about whether we should do that, but about what are the methods and resources we should make available for this purpose.
I think that the policy of the Government under any Party is going to be a policy of Europe plus beyond. No doubt the main theatre may be Europe, but undoubtedly it will also be beyond Europe. This, I may say, will be a policy not only for the United Kingdom but also for Europe. The idea that there can be a European defence with all the European countries looking narrowly at one another, is a great illusion. The necessity of not stopping short of Suez, of realising that there is a world beyond, of recognising that peace is indivisible, is just as essential to any other European country as it is to us at the present time.
Can we afford all this? We can afford a great deal of it. Of course, we do not want to afford and should not afford the £500 million, or whatever the estimate has been, of the cost of defence beyond Suez. The figure cannot be accurate but it is a very large sum of money. Of course, the Government are right in reducing that figure. Again, this is common ground. But when the noble Lord goes on to say that we cannot match the contribution which Australia would be willing to put in at Singapore, 716 is the answer from this great country to be, "No". Is it really possible that we could not say that at least we are prepared to match an Australian contribution in that part of the world? I cannot conceive of any British Government being prepared to give any answer of that character.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I have recently been in Australia, and although the Australians might be shocked because we are moving out East of Suez, they are far more shocked at what they firmly believe was said to them before. They are under the firm impression that the policy was not to move out and certainly not in the way and at the pace at which the Government very shortly afterwards decided to do so. There is a lot of bridge building to do there. And I am afraid it is a lot of bridge building for any Party in power in this country, because once a great country like Australia feels that it has been let down, it takes many years to build up confidence again. And in defence confidence is essential.
There are only two things I want to say about this role outside. If we have the role the Government are talking about, in which everybody has to be shoved out at the last moment, it must be based on a maritime policy. We have to have some role for the Royal Navy. I think that this would be common ground. If we are going to have a role for the Royal Navy, particularly if the Suez Canal were closed or unsuited, the Cape route is of the greatest importance. I find it hard to understand how anybody can speak or write about these things without some reference to Simonstown. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he replies, will at least re-emphasise that a base at Simonstown and the co-operation of the South African Government (whatever other views we hold about their policies) are absolutely essential if we are to have a proper maritime role.
The other thing I want to say—and I say it more to my noble friends here, upon whose shoulders I think the responsibility will then rest—is that we should think very carefully before we part with the carriers. If we part with the carriers, we reduce the scope of the Royal Navy, apart from a blip on a radar screen, to a few miles of tumbled sea. Wherever 717 there has been an emergency, the question has always been asked: Where is the Royal Navy? I will guarantee that it is still being asked in the Cabinet to-day. The Navy is used by the present Government in all sorts of places. It has about three lines in the White Paper, but it is worth more than three lines; and all of us in this House know it. I hope that, whatever the decision, very deep thought will be given before any final decision is taken to phase out the carriers.
I want to say this about Europe. Defence depends upon more things than weapons: it depends on the will and purpose that lie behind them; it depends on foreign policy. And I am bound to tell the Government that I think the attempt to cancel the Concorde, the slashing aside of ELDO and the handling of what was called "the Affaire Soames", the recent démarche that took place, have done a tremendous amount of damage to our position in Europe. If we are going to talk about mutual defence, and about sharing things, we have to be on completely confident terms with other countries. We have to engage in joint efforts in many fields. France is the heart and centre of Europe. Without the full co-operation of France, European defence is quite meaningless.
I am not going to embark on a discussion of the present scene. But I think it would be unwise to imagine that some dramatic turn will suddenly take place in French policy. It is essential that efforts continue to get full understanding in defence between France and the United Kingdom. When I was at the Ministry of Defence we had regular Staff talks between the French General Staff and the British General Staff, and I attached the highest importance to these. I hope and believe that these talks are still taking place. I should like an assurance that they are. Naturally, I do not ask for information on what happens at these talks, but simply that they still take place and are being used to the full, so that at the moment an accord is possible and so that the underlying technical basis of defence is available for those who wish to bring these countries rather closer together. So, as I say, France is vital.
The main point that I wish to make is simply this. I do not believe that the differences on Defence between the Con 718 servative Party and the Socialist Party to-day are really deep. If I may answer the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I do not believe that when the Conservatives come to power such damage will have been done overseas that it will be impossible to recover the situation. I suppose that most people would say that this Government is going down todefeat oddly enough, defeat in defence—defence that is perhaps a little incompetent but is still defence—of die capitalist system, the Anglo-American Alliance, the Polaris submarine and the nuclear bomb; and are now taking upon themselves the responsibility of cutting the unions down to size. It is an awesome spectacle to see a Labour Government going down to defeat on those grounds, but it is not altogether disgraceful; and they will leave behind them the possibility something that is worthy in the Defence field.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, one of these days I must borrow Lord Thorneycroft's political crystal ball. However, in the meantime I should like to say how fortunate your Lordships' House is in having so many eminent Defence experts among its Members. I plead to be the exception that proves the rule. But I take some comfort from the fact that experts do not always agree among themselves. Those of us who have read the reminiscences of Generals in the last war are confirmed in that view; and I seem to remember that the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, when he was Minister of Defence was not always in harmony with his own colleagues.
I like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he is a politician; I admire him when he is a statesman, as he so frequently is in this House; and I thought that the first part of his speech here this afternoon would do credit to a professor of strategic studies. But I liked it less when he went on and became a politician. He said in the second part of his speech that we must spend more money on Defence. I would merely ask him how he reconciles that attitude of mind with the attitude of his Leader, Mr. Heath, who says he is going to cut down taxation by £1,000 million. The noble Lord did not give us an explanation of that.
Defence, of course, is vital to us, and I have always been a champion of that 719 point of view. But so also is our economy vital to us, and for two reasons: first, because it is vital for its own sake; and secondly, because no Defence policy can be really sound unless it has a sound economic understructure to go with it. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said in the first part of his speech (and it gave me very seriously to think) that the United States when the actual moment of the crunch came might not be willing to use the H-bomb in defence of a territory in Europe. He suggested, as an alternative, that there might be a European H-bomb. But could we in that moment of crunch rely on that European H-bomb any more than we could rely on the American H-bomb? Some of the European countries might not want to use it. They might not want to risk the certainty of destruction which would come about through retaliation; they would at once withdraw from that European community, and the back of NATO would be broken straight away.
I often think, my Lords, that I should like to be a pacifist. But there is a dangerous mood of violence in the world to-day. We see it on every university campus from Tokyo to California; we see it in the streets of all our leading capital cities; we see it in Vietnam, Nigeria, in the Middle East; and we see it even in Northern Ireland and in Wales. We see generation set against generation, race set against race, creed set against creed, and tribe set against tribe, as in the tribal war in Nigeria. This is not a time for psychedelic dreams of security and of trusting in the good intentions of everybody else. I wish it were. But, as things are as they are, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves against anybody who hits us, and I hope, as all sensible people hope, that preventive organisations like the United Nations and NATO will be able to keep any necessary hitting down to the very minimum. Nevertheless, we have to do our share in furnishing the forces which may help to prevent war from coming about.
Here I want to congratulate the Government on the realistic and rational Defence policy which they have introduced. It is the most realistic that we have had for many years. For they have had the sense to see that we cannot go on 720 policing the whole world. Mr. Enoch Powell told us not long ago that it was ridiculous to maintain a British presence in the Far East and the Middle East. I merely mention him as one of the recognised Conservative Party experts on Defence matters. It is a fact, even though Mr. Enoch Powell says it, that the more you scatter your forces, the less you contribute to your strength and the more you create a state of weakness. The Government have, I believe, really brought our Defence commitments within the economic resources of this country. Inevitably you cannot keep putting guns before butter for ever and ever; there has to be a stop.
I am glad that this new Defence policy will lighten taxation in this country, but, for the sake of safety, this lightening of taxation has to be done within reason. I think that this is what the Government have done. They have cut expenditure and at the same time they have improved efficiency. We have a better command structure; we have better weapons; our forces are more sensibly deployed, and we have a more sensible and realistic overall strategy. It is not a policy which assumes that we are going to engage in things like Suez adventures in the future. It puts the defence of our homeland first and recognises within this interest that we must be able to defend ourselves against any attack that might come through Europe.
My Lords, there is one thing about which I am doubtful. Is Western Europe adequately organised to put up the requisite defence? I do not want to be panicky, and I do not think that any attack is likely. I believe that if Russia seriously thought of attacking, then Russia would also think seriously about Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Poland, Hungary, probably the Ukraine and its independent-mindedness, and, of course, about China. But we cannot overlook the fact that recent events have resulted in a vast Soviet army being aligned along the borders of Western Germany, and just as in the olden days we were told to look to our moat, so I think at the moment we have to look to our NATO stockade. If, as I like to believe, we have adopted this policy of what is called flexible response, and have rejected the 721 alternative policy of an immediate massive nuclear retaliation, then I am unhappy about the state of NATO's conventional forces. And the less adequate those conventional forces are, the sooner the West would be driven to make use of nuclear weapons, which of course means European suicide.
I am especially doubtful about France, with her virtual "go it alone" policy, aimed at keeping the United States out of any very important voice in Europe. That is exactly what Russia wants. I hope that when these European security talks take place our representatives will not be seduced by soothing suggestions into splitting the United States off from Europe. I believe that the foundations of NATO were very soundly built, but it is essential that the United States is one of its main buttresses. If we look round just now we see that there arc a few loose tiles on the roof of the edifice. Apart from France, would Portugal be much use? Would Greece he much use? I know that both those countries have valuable harbours, but they also have something else about them which might be more of a liability than an asset. Would Denmark, at the mouth of the Baltic, be able to stand up against Soviet blackmail? At the moment, too, we see that Canada is seriously considering taking home some of her troops from NATO.
Then there is the uncertain political atmosphere over Europe. Is France to be looked upon as stable, either in the short term or in the long term? Will the Bonn Coalition last for ever? And is not Italy walking on a political tightrope? All these factors have to be faced when we are assessing the present solidarity of NATO. We also have to bear in mind that many of these European armies at the moment are manned very largely by short-term conscripts. NATO, in my view, as has been said by other noble Lords here this afternoon, needs to be strengthened and not weakened. So I think that the Government are right not to reduce our forces in Germany, even if for foreign exchange reasons we have to keep one of the brigades on short call here at home.
Incidentally, are the Germans, the prosperous West Germans, meeting enough of the foreign exchange costs of the 722 British Army of the Rhine? That Army will cost £98 million this year. Yet all we are told in the White Paper is that the foreign exchange is to he negotiated. I hope that the Government will treat this as an urgent matter and give it some early attention. As it is, this policy of helping to man the German front line is allowing Germany to direct more of her manpower into her factories, as a result of which they are able to undercut us in the export markets of the world. I recognise that there is always a danger in building up the German military machine. Some day there may again be a warmonger in Germany. But I think that that is years ahead. I think that as far as we can see the Germans are likely to be deterred from any aggression by the certain knowledge that they would have to fight on two fronts. In the meantime, NATO has the virtue of enabling us to look at Germany knowing that Germany will not have to develop her own H-bomb.
The essence of this part of what I have been saying is that we should not reduce our forces in Europe, and we should persuade others to strengthen theirs. Incidentally, I think the longer our troops remain in Germany on a friendly basis, the more understanding there is likely to be cultivated between our High Command and the German High Command, and between the British and the German people. I want to repeat, my Lords, that I do not suggest that we are going to see any attack by Russia on the West. All I will say—and I think it is very important indeed—is that the readily available armed forces of the Warsaw Pact countries in Europe are vastly greater than those of NATO. Reliable estimates have been given of three to one. We have heard this afternoon that it might be two to one. And it is a fact, of course, that the Soviet Government has 20 Divisions and thousands of fighting aircraft in East Germany alone. If we do not want the burglars to break in, we must keep a dog; and the bigger the dog we keep the less likely it will be that he will ever have to bite.
Just a word or two about the Territorial Army. The absence of a scheme for effective reconstruction of the Territorial Army is one of the incompletenesses (I will use a harmless word) in the White Paper. I have said before that in my 723 view it was a mistake to cut the Territorial Army about in the way we did. I know that one effect has been to raise the effectiveness of our main reserves. It has done that very thoroughly, and it is something for which we should be thankful. But those reserves are intended to reinforce our front-line units; they are not intended as the basis upon which we can build new echelons; they are not intended to provide a home defence force. A force of trained men in this country would be a boon if ever war broke out in Europe. I say "if", my Lords; but defence policy has always to be based on balancing the various "ifs".
Bear in mind that the fully trained general combat force of the Army that we have in this country is only 40,000 men. Bear in mind that those men, or most of them, would be required very quickly in Europe. We cannot leave the defence of the homeland to the Army Pay Corps, despite the fact that the pen may still be mightier than the sword. I wonder how many paratroops an evil-minded enemy could drop on this country in one night. And with proper organisation of sabotage they could bring this country almost to a standstill. I feel that the country could get good value from a citizen army for a few million pounds. If this title of Territorial Army is unattractive—and I agree that it has not a very glamorous sound—because successive Governments since the war have carved it about, why not try calling it something like "The Resistance"? I think that adventurous young men would rally round in their thousands.
In the meantime, I should like to make two specific suggestions. Let us look first of all at TAVR II—again, not a particularly glamorous title. It is organised at the moment in sub-units, and these sub-units are widely spread over the country. A colonel I know has two of these sub-units 70 miles from each other, and a third about a hundred miles away. I think that we should try to get those back on a territory basis. It would then be easier to get part-time civilian colonels (as we will call them) who would be able to give their attention to these units. Also, we ought to expand the cadres of TAVR III. At the moment the average cadre consists (and the Government made a much-appreciated concession when they allowed 724 the old "Terriers" to continue with these cadres of their old regiments) of a major, two captains and five other ranks. They would be far more useful if they were allowed to grow up to thirty or forty. This could be done gradually, not hurriedly, by allowing the men in TAVR II who have become a little too old, who have family commitments or have opportunities of promotion in civil life which make it rather difficult for them to continue to give commitment to immediate mobilisation in TAVR II, to go into TAVR III and continue their part-time soldiering there. I know that negotiations are going on over these two matters. I should like to see some progress made here.
The only other thing I want to do is to call your Lordships' attention to the book of Estimates which has been issued in connection with the Defence White Paper. It contains some fascinating information. On page 109, which deals with the Women's Royal Army Corps, we find that there are 1.730 officers and N.C.O.s and only 2,070 privates; that is to say, 1,700 of them have stars and stripes on their arms and shoulders, and only 2,000 of them have their arms and shoulders bare. If we deduct the bat-women and ladies' maids (or whatever they are called), who is left to do the "spud-bashing"? On the same page we find that the figures for the Army are even more revealing. Generals, brigadiers, colonels, majors, captains, subalterns, warrant officers—God bless them!—and N.C.O.s number 93,000; privates number 78,000, and those privates include not only the ordinary "squaddie" but the boy soldiers, junior soldiers and apprentices. There are 78,000 of them, and 93,000 to give them orders. I must say that I rather like idea. It is better than it was in my day; it gives opportunities for promotion, and I think some of the highly skilled technical work that has to be carried out by soldiers in these days deserves non-commissioned officer rank.
Last week we talked about pay and we were given an undertaking that improvements would be forthcoming. The sooner the information about an increase is made public the better it will be for recruiting. But the most fascinating of all the disclosures in the Estimates is this: the Army, Navy, Air Force and their respective Ministries and stations are 725 to pay £15¼ million this year in selective employment tax. In case noble Lords think I have invented that figure, may I point out that the headquarters of the Defence Ministry itself has to pay £402,000 and its out-stations £195,000. The Navy pays £178,000 for its main establishment and £8½million for its civilian staff. The T.A. itself pays, but it is only a small, unrecorded amount. Army headquarters pays £214,000 and its out stations £253,000. The Ordnance Branch pays £1¾ million, R.A.F. headquarters pays £175,000; and its outstations £3½ million, while R.A.F. stations overseas pay £2,000. This gives a total of £15¼ million.
Here is one trouble: if we increase the number of recruits, as we hope to do, we shall have to pay more in S.E.T. It may he that the Exchequer refunds it, but there is no specific mention of refunds anywhere in the Estimates. It may be that it is included in the total sum of appropriations in aid, but if that be so, why have we quite a number of civil servants collecting the money from the Army, Navy and Air Force and then paying it back to them? Why have we probably hundreds of bonny little Wrens, Wracs and Wrafs sitting on their chairs, adding up columns of figures when they might be making a more useful contribution to the efficiency and morale of the Services?
A more important point about S.E.T. is this: we are paying this year £4 million more from the Services to the Chancellor for S.E.T. than we paid in the year just ended, and if this money is not refunded the £5 million reduction which the Government have made in the total Estimates for the whole Defence Services which Ministers have put before us should really be a £9 million reduction. That, of course, nearly doubles the virtue of the Ministers whom I am so glad to serve. On that note I must end, because there are so many noble Lords who wish to speak; but: once more I should like to congratulate the Government on the energy and enterprise they are showing in reorganising our defences, and on the way they are giving the community better service for less money.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, in contrast to the weighty and, in some cases, complicated matters which have 726 been discussed during our debate to-day with such knowledge by some of the most eminent Members of this House, the matter which I wish to ventilate is simple indeed. In this country we grow only about half the food we require. With the exception of coal we have no raw materials whatsoever, and it therefore follows that to meet the essential requirements of our people and of our irdustries much of our food and the bulk of our raw materials have to come to us from overseas. These have to be paid for by exports, and I am told that 60 per cent. of the exports from this country are carried in the bottoms of ocean-going ships. Should the trading routes be seriously interrupted, even for a few weeks, our industries would come to a standstill, our exports would stop and our people would face starvation These facts are known to every single one of your Lordships, but they arc so evident that they are sometimes overlooked and forgotten. So far as the great majority of our people are concerned, when they think of these things they take it for granted that our defence arrangements are such as will ensure that at all times there will continue to arrive in this country everything that is essential to our life.
In 1917 submarines operating in the North Atlantic trade routes brought us very close to defeat; in 1943 they again brought us within sight of disaster. In the First World War the submarine was a small vessel which could not stay submerged for more than a few hours; which, when submerged (except for brief periods) could steam at only sortie two or three knots, and their speed on the surface was only very moderate. They were indeed highly vulnerable. In the Second World War we were confronted by vastly superior vessels: larger, faster beyond measure, both on the surface and when submerged. They could stay at sea for considerable periods of time and they were armed much better than their predecessors of the First World War.
In spite of having become so much more formidable, the submarine of the Second World War could still be dealt with and contained by small surface ships with very simple armaments and of only moderate speed, ships such as could be produced in vast numbers and very quickly by our shipyards. In addition, we had at the outbreak of that war many 727 old destroyers and other small naval craft, also large numbers of trawlers and other fishing vessels which, armed with a small gun and a few depth charges, were capable of convoy escort duties, of patrolling areas through which submarines were expected to pass, or in which it was anticipated that they might operate. These vessels were all capable of taking on the submarines and generally harassing them and making life most difficult for them.
The situation to-day, my Lords, is very different. The modern submarine is a large vessel—as large, and in some cases even larger, than our latest surface ships. They can stay under water for days at a time without surfacing, while being as fast, or even faster, both above and below water, than any of our other modern ships of war, and faster than the great majority of merchant ships. The type of ship which was so readily available and so suitable for anti-submarine work in the past is of no use against the modern submarine. One wonders how then we are going to protect our shipping.
My information is that we have no new discoveries which make it much easier to detect the submarine when she is submerged. Convoy escorts, I am told, hunt in groups, and patrols still appear to be essential to protect trade. I ask, where are the ships capable of undertaking these duties, or where are they to come from? I remember particularly the greatly increased speed, both of the merchant ships of to-day and of the submarine. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to tell us how it is proposed to protect our merchant shipping and that of our NATO allies in the event of war, and how the trade routes vital to us can be kept open at least to such an extent that we in these Islands receive the necessities of life.
When the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, wound up the debate on maritime strategy which had been initiated by my noble and gallant friend Lord Glasgow, on June 12 last year, I asked whether if our lines of communication across the sea were severed and we were faced with starvation—as we assuredly should be—the answer was submission or nuclear war? In reply the noble Lord said—and here I would quote from Hansard those parts of his reply which I believe to be relevant: 728The point at issue … is not a simple one … if there is a danger of our trade lifeline being cut … that element of our security … in the nuclear age cannot be a simple matter for the nation State on its own. Collective security is the only thing that matters, the only thing that will keep us safe. I am not suggesting that the difference must be between starvation and nuclear war; I am saying that the survival and prosperity of these islands depends in future on collective and not individual action."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12/6/68; col. 194.]I am sure that many of us will agree to a very large extent with what the noble Lord then said, but I would submit that that really was not an answer to my question, for I had said nothing whatsoever about "going it alone". What I asked was quite simple: if the lines of communication were severed and we were about to starve, was the answer submission or nuclear war? I had hoped that the noble Lord would be able to say that it was neither of these and that the forces of NATO would be capable of dealing with the situation and of freeing the lines of communication, at least to such an extent as would ensure our survival. I hope that that is indeed the case, and that not only this House but the nation may, before this debate ends, be assured on that very grave issue. My Lords, it is not only a grave issue for this country, it is also a very grave issue for our NATO allies, for should part of Europe be overrun we might well survive and again from these islands, as in the past two wars, play a vital part in recovering what had been lost. But should our communications across the sea be severed, this nation would perish, and that to the very great detriment of the Free World and the future of civilisation.
My Lords, I wish to apologise. I have to be in Scotland to-night and I have to leave now to catch my plane. I hope the noble Lord to whom I have referred and the noble Lord who will wind up the debate and your Lordships generally will excuse me if I leave you now.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has posed a problem which has faced this country ever since the end of the last war and stares us in the face, stark and stern. Our strategy, our defence policy, may one day face us with the choice of either suicide or surrender. I entirely agree 729 with my noble friend who replied to the noble Lord on the occasion to which he referred when he said that the only way out of our dilemma lies in collective action with those who share our purpose. That is why I have always been a steadfast supporter of NATO and a steadfast supporter of the Anglo-American alliance, and it is for that same reason I have always supported the views which have been expressed so eloquently this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne.
To my mind it is absolutely vital, with the limited resources available to our country, that those resources must be used to the best possible advantage. This House and another place should be the scenes where debates take place and strategy is hammered out. Here the full play of clash of opinion in a democracy enables the truth in the long run to emerge, or so I believe. But the facts of defence are not matters of opinion. It is no good trying to masquerade, to dress up opinions as if they were facts. We are faced with stark reality.
This is what happens in war—if I may just quote an example which I have constantly used to the point where I apologise for using it again. Before the war the great debate in France was about the Maginot Line—whether more money should be devoted to extending the Maginot Line this way or that, and on the capabilities of the Maginot Line. The French politicians, with the support, presumably, of the French public, took the view that enough money had been spent on La Ligne Maginot and would not give any more money. They were quite satisfied to base strategy on the Maginot Line as it was. The debate went on, articles were written, the equivalent of the Institute of Strategic Studies and its members had their say. And then there came the day when a Panzer division, which previously had not been introduced into the argument, arrived on the scene; and that was the end of La Ligne Maginot.
That is what happens to great nations. Defeat in war does not come like a thief in the night; it comes after a long period of refusing to face the facts, refusing to look the facts straight in the face. Defence policies do not emerge overnight. The seeds are sown, the plant grows, some plants die and some thrive. It is perhaps 730 after twenty or more years that we arrive at the situation where we are put to the test, as we were ourselves in 1914–18. I ventured to express the opinion to your Lordships a few nights ago that when that test came the policies which were perhaps born in the mind of Mr. Cardwell and carried through by Lord Haldane were put to the test and we survived. We met the first shock and victory came our way. There have been other occasions when the margin has been much narrower.
The noble Lord who has just spoken from great experience speaks with great authority on what will happen at sea. We are an Island off the North-West corner of Europe, of 50 million people, feeding and living by its trade. We are no longer in a position to defend cur lines of communication: it is idle to pretend that we are. The decisions which landed us in this particular mess, if I may venture my view of history, were taken a long time ago. I do not share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. He thinks that this country's fortunes are tied up with the French. I hold the opposite view. We instituted talks with the French General Staff. I think the greatest disaster that ever faced this country was when, under the influence of the growing power of Germany, hardly conscious that we had lost our place first to the United States and to Germany, the seeds of the Entente Cordiale were born. A million of our fellow-countrymen died, and for what? And our pre-eminence in the world passed at that time because, in an aimless sort of way, the Monarch of the day went to France and was cheered and the Entente Cordiale became the basis of policy. Cold, hard calculation and establishment of the facts is no substitute at any time for clear thinking, and never is that more true than in the subject of defence.
Perhaps I was a little unkind to the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, because I venture to say that in his inimitable way he is a great debater, and we have often exchanged words in another place. He was in full spate to-day. He fixed his target upon the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I rather headed him off from his quarry. I was rather glad he took a shot at me because it was justified by the fact that in the past my views have not been dissimilar from those of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
731 I want to come to what I regard as the fundamental of this debate: whether this country is now prepared and this House is now prepared to face the stark reality of our defence position. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, got one in by suggesting that conscription is the most expensive of all ways of running our armed forces, and I ventured to ask him for proof. I must confess I am still not convinced. He suggested that the onus rested on me to explain why. I have not come prepared to do that, but I have a fair memory and perhaps I may be forgiven if I make any slips. But let us follow the argument through. I have never been in favour of conscription for itself, and indeed in another place in 1952 I was among the first, with my old friend Mr. Shinwell, to call upon the Government to examine the possibility of getting rid of National Service. I reached the conclusion that if this country was to discharge its obligations to NATO, to discharge our obligations on a world scale and develop the manpower pool from which we would be recruiting, particularly in the years up to 1973, then we had to be very careful indeed before we abandoned conscription, for if a mistake was made in this field the consequences might indeed be tragic.
In 1957 we got rid of conscription, and the arguments which were produced this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, were put forward then. A White Paper was introduced which suggested that, above all, this step was going to save us money. Some months previous to Mr. Macmillan becoming Prime Minister he made a speech as Chancellor. It was his famous pipe dream speech, and he dreamed the dream of saving £700 million in defence costs. So it was no surprise that when he became Prime Minister there was some delay in the production of a White Paper, which above all was designed to save money.
Let me say this. To my mind, it is to the undying credit of a Member of this House, Lord Head, that he refused to join the Administration because he knew that this could not be done. He refused to face the consequences that would flow from the decision contained in that White Paper. The noble Lord, 732 Lord Thorneycroft, had no such difficulty. He believed that it would reduce costs. If it is true that abolishing conscription can reduce costs, how comes it that we are the only European member of NATO which does not have conscription? Does any noble Lord suggest that the Belgians or the Dutch are any less frugal than ourselves? They are concerned about costs all the time. But every single member of NATO, with the exception of Britain and Canada, has some form of conscription or national service. Then again, are not New Zealand and Australia, which like ourselves are democracies, and have Governments which are supported by popular suffrage, just as conscious of these considerations as we are?
Where do we go from here after what happened in 1957? May I say that in truth I am not seeking to make any Party political point out of this at all. What happened was that it was said, "We are going to have a volunteer Army, and we are going to give civilian rates of pay, generous rates of pay." At that time Mr. Duncan Sandys set up a Committee under the chairmanship of Sir James Grigg to examine the ways in which this should be done. I happened to know Sir James Grigg well. He asked me to go to see him, and on many occasions I did so and had many talks with him. He was a superbly honest and forthright man and he thought and talked in the same adjectival way as I sometimes do myself. I therefore got on well with him, and with Lady Grigg. We had many conversations, and I am quite sure that he never believed it was possible to have a volunteer army. But in written terms of reference he laid down the terms in which it might be done. There were to be biennial increases in pay. But what was to happen on top of that? Any man who cared to join the Army could come in, could get married, have married quarters for his wife and children, and move from here to there. So the point has been reached that in the Rhine Army we have as many wives and children as we have soldiers. When the noble Lord was Minister of Defence, he called this an Army. What I call it is a number on the ration strength. There were units there which were under strength and which were barely capable of moving their own baggage.
733 This afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, suggested that the Rhine Army was equipped with the most modern weapons. I pay the noble Lord the compliment of saying that he believes it. God help him! because there is not a word of truth in it. The British Army of the Rhine—and I have said this many times before—is armed with "Honest John" and the 8 inch howitzer both of them years out of date. Both the Germans and the Americans have ultramodern weapons. To-day the British Army of the Rhine could not fight for five minutes without the support of Sergeant and Pershing, American weapons under American control, manned by German troops.
These are the facts of life, and they are the facts which this House ought to establish for itself. They can be established under the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and repeated by myself time and time again. These are facts, my Lords, not matters of opinion. A Select Committee of both Houses might meet round a table, as happens in the United States. The Committee might have in the Commander-in-Chief, Mr. Healey and the Permanent Secretary, and might put to them the simple point: "Lord Winterbottom came to the House and said that the British Army of the Rhine is equipped with the most modern weapons. Please tell us what they are" I tell your Lordships that B.A.O.R. have not got an Army weapon—not one. These are American weapons, and they are manned by the Germans. Again, the cover at the present moment is not the R.A.F. but the F.104G, flown by Germans with American weapons. I do not dissent from this; but the noble Lord, should not come to this House and tell us stories like this. I go on with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, because I must not forget his invitation that I should explain the facts. I say again that I did not intend to come down and talk about this, but since he challenged me I am glad to help him.
In August of 1962, when he was Minister of Defence, the Army was hoping to develop a great weapon. It was to be one of the great weapons of all time—Blue Water. It was to be an Army weapon. But we have to depend on the Germans because we are without Blue Water. Of the Belfast, which the noble 734 Lord this afternoon spoke of as an important aircraft, we have 10 It is the most expensive aircraft in the world. It provides for one purpose, and one purpose only. It was designed: to carry Blue Water, but when that was cancelled it meant that it was admirably suited only for the purpose of carrying loads of table tennis balls because it has a capacity for great bulk for but a short distance. As a military weapon all we got was the bill.
Where does the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, come in all this? He waited until the House had risen—quite a coincidence, of course, because Conservative Ministers are always prepared to face the public and always prepared to face the truth; there is nothing devious about Conservative Ministers. He wailed until the House had risen in August, 1962, and then, at a Press conference, he announced that Blue Water was cancelled, and he hoped that the row would have blown over in the following few weeks. I should like to congratulate him on his perspicacity. But in regard to strategy in relation to our position in Germany, wholly influenced by the cancellation of Blue Water, wholly influenced by cost, we reached the point when, in order to get the manpower we had to push up the pay, the barracks and the transport, not only for the troops but for the wives and children, to the point where the cost of pay and emoluments is now up by well over 50 per cent. of our arms bill and this country cannot afford the men or to arm them. That is the basic position in which we find ourselves in relation to the balance between manpower and equipment.
But let me pursue this question of conscription. This afternoon, as I understand it (the noble Lord will forgive me; I was a little late, being concerned with other matters of some importance), at the beginning of the debate, the Army Reserve Bill was taken, if I may use a term which I acquired over many years in another place, "on the nod". However, I understand that we can discuss the contents of the Army Reserve Bill. This is indeed an interesting measure. What is intended, if your Lordships agree and this Bill comes on the Stature Book, is that for some years to come 150,000 men are to have hanging over their heads the prospect that one bright morning 735 an envelope will come through the door and they will find themselves called up for service in Germany. The Government do not need 150,000, they need 15,000. But so cumbersome is the administrative arrangement, and so reluctant are Governments to face the electors on this issue, and to tell them what it is all about, that both Houses of Parliament are asked to put on the Statute Book a measure to hold the call-up over the heads of 150,000 men. My Lords, that is conscription. These men never volunteered at any time in their lives. This is the residue of National Service.
I thought your Lordships might be interested in the history of this matter. On October 31, 1961 (the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, I think, has some responsibility for this) Mr. Macmillan came down to the House of Commons, and perhaps I may trouble your Lordships by reading what he said. He said:Apart from the question of actual numbers"—they were still worried about recruiting figures—there arc of course two further difficulties. In the first place, whatever the size of the army next year"—and this was at the time of the Berlin crisis—it will not, and I admit it, be properly balanced." [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 31/10/61, col. 34.]That was a Conservative Prime Minister, one supported by a Party which has great confidence in its ability to handle defence matters and which, according to Lord Thorneycroft and Lord Carrington, is on the eve of assuming political power, after which, they say, everything will be put right. Yet in 1961, at a moment of great international crisis, the Prime Minister of the day had to admit the Rhine Army could not fight because it was not balanced. He went on to say that it would not be properly balanced,and there will be shortages in certain administrative parts.—not, curiously enough, in the great fighting part of the army, but in the administrative units: because, of course, conscription had worked in that way. It is possible to get chaps for the "teeth" parts, but they will not join the R.A.M.C., or R.E.M.E.; they will not join the administrative arms. As the Americans found in Korea, you cannot run an army unless you have the tech 736 nical parts. It is like running a Rolls Royce with the wrong sparking plugs, or finding, when it is raining, that the windscreen-wiper will not work.
So in 1961 what happened? A great measure was brought down to the Houses of Parliament. How I remember the Press conferences, and the great speeches for the 15,000 they were going to have; that young men were going to dash off to all parts of the Commonwealth to defend our interests! How many did they get? Two thousand. And they had to be washed out, in the same way as the Home Guard concept was washed out, because it was a waste of money.
What happened then? The Prime Minister went on to say that they were going to introduce—he emphasised the continuance of the Berlin crisis—the Army Reserve Act of 1962, and explained that they were going to hold the National Service men for an additional six months. That was a breach of faith. These men had been called up for two years; but, whether they liked it or not, they were forced to stay for six months more. It is the same group of men—those who in 1962, because of the incompetence of a Conservative Administration, were held for six months—that this Army Reserve Act we have to-day will catch again, while both Front Benches of the House preen themselves and say, "We have got rid of conscription". My Lords, what humbug! What nonsense! What self-deception ! This House is then forced into the position of holding 150,000 men.
Who are the 15,000? In the debate in another place we had the confession who they were. They were the R.A.M.C. and the Pay Corps: not the fighting elements; not the "teeth" army; they were the administrative units which Mr. Macmillan could not get in 1961. These are the basic facts. If this country believes—as it says it believes through the mouths of its spokesmen on both sides of the House—in a European strategy, then it should set about honouring the undertaking given by a Conservative Administration. I did not give it. No Party that I supported ever gave it. It was a Conservative Administration in 1954 which committed four divisions to the Rhine Army. It is that to-day which makes this country almost wholly dependent upon a nuclear deterrent that we do not possess.
737 I was amused this afternoon—amusement, if I may say, qualified with a few tears—when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. He was doing the best he could, but ill-advisedly I thought, by claiming credit for Polaris. Of course he walked right into the trap which was quickly sprung by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who turned round and said, "I wish I had had a record of what he said this afternoon to use in the 1964 Election." It would not have done him much good in the Election in which I took part, since Polaris was kept going because a Conservative Administration—and I can see the laugh on Lord, Carrington's face—pushed along with the four Polaris submarines to the point at which they could not be cancelled. I happened to be a member of the Administration in 1964, so I speak with absolute certainty. If the Labour Government, when they took the decision over Polaris, had taken it in the mood of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, my services with them would have ended that day. I took the Polaris submarines only because they could not be got rid of. The idea that they make a contribution (a point which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington was quick to pick up) and would be a substitute for the independent nuclear deterrent carried by the Vulcan—what Mommy rot! The four Polaris submarines that we have are armed with A3. If in actual fact the Polaris submarines we have constitute any formidable deterrent, why do the Government not put Poseidon in them? The Americans have 41 nuclear submarines, and they are mostly armed with Poseidon. Britain is once again left with a "clapped out" version.
My noble friend does not realise how dangerous this is. Let us assume that in a moment of great international tension the chips are down and the Great Powers are looking in the whites of each other's eyes, and the Russians want to demonstrate that they would use the deterrent; they could even simulate that somebody has landed a Polaris, or a Minute Man for that matter—they are very similar—on to Russian soil. They could say that this was a British weapon—and we have the capability, at least on paper. So they take us out, just to demonstrate to the Americans what might happen to them. That is just about the worth of 738 four nuclear submarines which do not give all the year round capacity to do what we threaten to do, and which everybody knows we would not do. At the very worst, or if you like, the best. Polaris would only be useful assuming that it could get through. That is the reason why the Americans have Poseidon, because there is no guarantee that A3 would be able to generate the Russian defences. The only reason for Polaris is that if the worst happened to us and our submarines were still at sea, we might be able to execute a posthumous revenge. But I deny completely that it has a part in the defences of this country.
We have the bill, which is one of the legacies of the last Administration, but to use the submarines most effectively we should sell them back to the Americans, and let them arm them with Poseidon, which would give them a full capability. That is what I should like to see happen. I believe in the Anglo-American alliance, and I also believe in the efficacy of the American deterrent; I do not dissent from noble Lords on either side of the House about that. But I have always rejected this phoney concept that we have an independent British nuclear deterrent which is capable of influencing policy in any way whatsoever.
I have tried to make my position crystal clear. I fear that the claim that we have a deterrent can be used to deflect us from the realities of the situation. Here I am in entire agrement with the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, and with many of his friends, and certainly with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. Britain is a World Power or she is nothing. She has a vital interest in maintaining stability and I certainly believe in the worthwhileness of a manpower presence. I entirely agree with the presence of British forces in Berlin, in Hong Kong and in the Gulf. I would never have taken them out of Suez, but a Conservative Administration did that. I would certainly have kept a brigade at Suez. I am not a supporter of the Zionist movement. I never forget that after Gallipoli there were not. half-a-dozen Jewish settlements in the whole of Palestine, and I never forget that the Ottoman Empire was broken by the valour of British troops under General Maud and General Allenby. What is 739 now Israel—with the adventurous General Dayan, who I certainly believe is a warmonger if ever there was one—owes its existence to the valour of British arms, and I certainly would not have given up that legacy. But I am a pretty old out-of-date Blimp.
I want effective British forces and I will not run away from the issue of British conscription—I never have and I will not now. That is what surprises me about the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I have great respect for him, but I cannot understand why, when he goes to the Despatch Box, when he does not bear any direct responsibility, in the national interest he and his friends do not face up to the question of the imposition of selective service. Why do they not join with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and have a committee to share responsibility? Let us assume that they are politically right. Let us assume that they win the next General Election in, let us say, the next couple of years. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, was absolutely right. The problems have not altered. The worse he thinks about that Front Bench the more aggravated the problems will have become. So if the noble Lord accepts the simple concept that it will take ten years or so to put the problems right, why does he not share the responsibility, not only with the Front Bench but with the House as a whole, and have a select committee or a standing select committee, or various devices on the American pattern, to establish the facts? It seems to me so simple and such common sense that, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is not accepted.
I will not keep your Lordships for more than a few seconds more, but as I have endeavoured to make clear on the subject of NATO strategy I have entertained some serious doubts—and nothing I have heard to-day abates them—about the arrangements for the defence of Europe. I will not rehearse all the arguments, but it seems to me that this is such an important matter, touching not only military policy but also the foreign policy that lies behind it. that I feel I must ask the Government specific questions. And I want answers to those questions. if I do not get answers to-day, I shall use what Parliamentary skill I have to hold up Government business until I do get answers.
740 I am determined to get answers to these questions and not to be put off with bromidic White Papers or interviews of a kind. I want answers and I should like them to-day.
As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is to speak in the course of the debate. He and I are old friends in more than a Parliamentary sense, and I want to ask him these questions. First, does he consider that the nuclear threshold in Europe is now too low, and that in the event of hostilities breaking out there we would be committed to the use of nuclear weapons at a very early stage? Secondly, do not the Government agree that we must have a fully effective conventional capability in Europe, if the defence of Europe is to make any sense? Finally, do not the Government agree that the present situation, in which the Warsaw Pact forces have a very considerable superiority over NATO forces, falls very far short of fulfilling this requirement?
I agree that with the withdrawal from our other commitments overseas the Government have been able to make considerable improvements in the quality of our forces in the European/Atlantic area, but in my view this is a matter of such crucial importance that your Lordships are entitled to have a clear answer to the questions which I have put. No one would contest the fact that the defence of Europe should be based on what is called a flexible response, rather than on a massive retaliation. I am not convinced, and I hope I have made clear why I am not convinced. that the conventional forces at present in Europe are enough to provide that flexible response, and we may in practice whatever the theories may be, now find ourselves in a situation in which there is no middle course between surrender and nuclear suicide.
§ 5.47 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, we have listened to a very wide speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, on a subject on which he has great information and which we know is very dear to his heart. I will not attempt to answer the questions which he has put, since I am looking forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, defending the nuclear deterrent and advancing the reasons against conscription. This will be a very interesting discourse to which 741 I am sure your Lordships will listen with very real interest.
I should like to go one step further on the point which the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, made. I remember some years back discussing whether or not there should be a White Paper. There are quite strong reasons for not putting out a White Paper if you have nothing to say, but one thing on which we should agree is that a White Paper should be meticulously accurate in every particular, whether big or small. I shall draw attention to only two points on the first page of the Statement. One has already been covered, and that is that the Estimates are £5 million lower. We know that we are buying aeroplanes on the "never-never" system and that is not a very fair presentation; we know that pay costs will go up this year, probably by another £30 million, £40 million or perhaps £50 million, and we know that we are paying what might be called tribute to Singapore and Malaysia for withdrawing our armed forces. This figure is very illusory.
I ask your Lordships to take another point. I see here that in the first year since 1962 troops were not actually fighting. There was plenty of fighting going on in 1962, and there are plenty of officers and men in the Army, Navy and Air Force who can give vivid descriptions of what went on at that time. But that does not matter. All I am saying is that what is here should be meticulously accurate, and it is a great mistake if there is any exaggeration or any attempt to step aside from facts. One advantage of having a White Paper is that it shows in clear relief the variations in Government policy which have taken place from time to time., and no one is left in any doubt. But there is no evidence of a clear demonstration by the Government of the effect of going back on words which they have given.
This is fundamental to all alliances; and if it is thought that we can go back on undertakings we have given, this goes to the root of all collective agreements—and, after all, none of us pretends that we can go alone; we know we act on collective agreements. It affects the attitude of our allies fundamentally, and must inevitably do so. The effect on places like the Persian Gulf and on Malaysia 742 was catastrophic; but what I think the noble Lord must realise is that they have pledged not the name of the Labour Government but the British name, and any future Government will almost inevitably find it more difficult to be recognised and accepted.
We in this country sometimes think that all we have to say is "balance of payments" and we are justified in doing anything. There is hardly one country in the world which is not suffering from some measure of balance-of-payments difficulties, and they do not accept this as justification for going back on words which they have uttered. This was very well expressed by Mr. Giles in the Sunday Times. Talking about going back on a decision, he said:Whether or not it was a wise decision, the way in which it was taken was a monument of folly and irresponsibility, a lasting blot on the Labour Government's record".Then the article goes on to explain how poor Mr. Goronwy Roberts had to deal with it. If I may read it, it says:In November, 1967, Mr. Goronwy Roberts, the Foreign Office Minister responsible, journeyed round the area, assuring the rulers that Britain was there to stay for an indeterminate time, in the interests of the stability of the Gulf. Two months later this hapless man was hack again, announcing irrevocable withdrawal in 1971".My Lords, it will take a long time to get back the confidence that the events of that autumn caused us to lose.
I get the impression from Lord Winterbottom that there is a desire to modify some of the rather dogmatic statements which were made in January, 1968. I do not know quite what they are about, but I hope he is not attempting to create any false sense of confidence. He talked about various things like "jungle camps", and I think he used the words "substantial forces". I am a bit sceptical, I must say, about this; but I think he might tell us a little more about the arrangements that he is actually making. I should be grateful if we could know what sort of arrangements he has actually made, either in the Singapore and Malaysia area or, alternatively, in the Gulf. Perhaps I may myself mention one or two things that are happening. I heard one story—I believe it is true—about their asking for the use of a Wing Commander. Her Majesty's Government replied by working out the 743 actuarial calculation of how much it would cost to teach a Wing Commander to fly, and so on. All this was put together, and eventually an annual sum of something like £10,000 a year was the sum worked out to be charged for the salary of a Wing Commander. If this is the way this area is to be treated, if this is the sort of assistance which is to be given in the interim period, then all I can say is that Her Majesty's Government are adding great difficulties to the ones they have already created.
May I say one or two words on Malaysia and Singapore? Let us remember that we have already come out of two very difficult periods in that area—first of all the emergency, as it is called, and secondly the confrontation—and the stability and the development of the area have been maintained, to the advantage of all the people there. We can, in contrast, think of Vietnam; or maybe we can think of Israel, where, if we had stayed, perhaps the Israeli-Arab antagonism would never have arisen. In Malaysia and Singapore we have solved those problems on two separate occasions, and these areas are still going through the very difficult period immediately following independence. Where there is a real problem of a conflict between the Singaporeans on the one side and the Malaysians on the other, there is no shadow of doubt that our presence in any form makes that very much less likely to happen. I emphasise this to the noble Lords as important. In passing, I should like to mention, too, that if we are to exercise influence this is not the time to reduce the spending of our representatives from the Foreign Office in that area; that is to say, both in Kuala Lumpur and in Singapore. I am given to understand that very serious consideration is being given to that at the present time.
I would recommend to the Government two lines of policy which they can pursue—I think, frankly, without a great deal of difficulty. The first is to support the firm which has taken over the dockyard—Swan Hunter. It is of the utmost importance that Swan Hunter should be a success there. If it is not a success, let there be no illusion about it, this work will be taken over by the Japanese. The second thing is not so much the 744 presence of Army forces but the necessity for established air forces in the area and frequent and ready visits of the Royal Navy. Those things are wanted by the people in the area. I should like to think that the Government can give some assurance that that type of action is being taken. They have already created a division in the area, as the Government are probably aware. On the one side, the Singaporeans are being advised by Israeli instructors as to what they should do, and are creating a system of military organisation which is substantially at variance with that which exists on the other side. This is a situation which may very easily flare up into one of considerable difficulty, in which we should certainly be the losers, as would others in the area.
I would say one word on the Gulf. First of all, our expenditure there is nothing like as big. Secondly, this is a very rich area where still something in the order of two-thirds of the known oil reserves of the world exist. It is therefore almost in the nature of trustees of the district, trustees for the world, that we are trying to maintain stability in the area where the oil is taken. During the last 150 years, when we have been associated with the Trucial States, we could probably at almost any time have withdrawn ourselves without difficulty. We have taken the decision to withdraw at the very time when the major degree of change is taking place in the area. When a community living at subsistence level is suddenly moving to a vast oil revenue, with all the enormous economic and social changes which take place at such a time, we are adding the instability of the withdrawal of British forces.
I understand from the White Paper that we are looking for a political solution, and we seem to think that in two or three years the eight or nine sheiks in the Trucial area will come together because the British Government ask them to. Lord Gladwyn, who spoke so forcefully about European unity, seemed to think there would be no difficulty in about half a dozen or a dozen sheiks coming together. We in Europe, a far more advanced community, have had a lot of difficulty in coming together, and we are still in three separate camps; and yet we expect a far more simple people to come together in a matter of years in 745 order to suit our convenience. What are the Government going to do if, as I anticipate, there will not be a federation of sheiks? What is going to happen to the Trucial Scouts? Are they going to be withdrawn? Who is going to command them? You cannot have a body of troops keeping law and order in the place without any commander at all. These are matters we are entitled to know, and if the noble Lords do not know the answer they should not have made the precipitate decision which they made two years ago.
I will add only this: that I do not believe that we are acting in both the areas I have referred to simply in the interests of this country. We are there because no one else can be there at the present time, and we are fulfilling a role which is of value not only to the people of the area but to the many other people who trade in it. If we withdraw from it, no one is going to take our place. I think we owe it not only to the people of the area but to other countries of the world that we should seek to stay there in some force.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (LORD CHALFONT)
My Lords, may I first express my gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and to other noble Lords who are to follow him, that they have agreed that I should change my place in the order of speakers. May I also say that I am in a way rather sorry that I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord S. Oswald. I should have enjoyed (if I may use the word in a macabre way) listening to his speech before making mine. But I am assured by my noble friend the Leader of the House that he is prepared to deal adequately with the noble Lord.
My noble friend Lord Winterbottom has explained that in rising to support the Motion which stands in the name of my noble friend the Leader of the House I propose to refer specifically in the course of my remarks to the Army Reserve Bill, to which your Lordships gave a formal Second Reading earlier this afternoon. But before doing so I should like to comment, however briefly, on what I think to be one of the most significant points that has emerged from almost all the speeches that have been 746 made in your Lordships' House this afternoon. It is the question of the defence of Europe, the misgivings about the conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact, the doubts about the nuclear threshold and about the whole strategic doctrine of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in its defence of Western Europe. This has beet mentioned in various ways by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his typically thoughtful analysis of the present strategic situation; by the noble Lord. Lord Gladwyn, by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and by my noble friend Lord Leatherland who, if I may say so, again made a speech of the constrictive and thoughtful nature that we have come to expect from him.
But, before coming to that subject, I should like to seize upon one point which came out of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. He seemed to me to be suggesting—I make no attempt to quote him exactly—that there was a strong argument for having a European nuclear deterrent in certain political circumstances in Europe. My noble friend Lord Leatherland, I thought with considerable cogency, took him up on this. But I should like simply to put before your Lordships certain questions that I think we must answer ourselves if we are thinking in terms of the evolution in the near future or the distant future of any kind of European nuclear deterrent, without the emergence of a single centre of political control in Europe.
If the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was talking of a Europe in which there has been some kind of federal solution, of a Europe in which there is a single centre of political control, of a Europe in which there was one foreign policy, one defence policy and one centre of control served, one would expect, by a single directly-elected European Parliament, then perhaps there is not very melt difference between us on this.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, may I interrupt at this point? I realise that the noble Lord said that he was not quoting me; but perhaps he would be good enough to read in to-morrow's OFICIAL REPORT (if there is one; for understand there may not be) the actual words I used. I certainly was not suggesting that to-morrow there would be a European nuclear deterrent. I hedged it about with some qualifications, one of 747 which was that there had to be some control at the centre. Even then, I said, there would be a great deal of difficulties to be overcome before that could happen.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I should scarcely expect the noble Lord to advance a theory like this without hedging it around with a number of qualifications. if I have the opportunity to do so in the circumstances, I shall read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow with great interest. I am not suggesting for one moment that this is the theory that the noble Lord is advancing. I think that he and I are not far apart on this issue. But it is a matter of such complexity and importance that I think I must put to your Lordships some of the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not advance in the course of his interesting speech.
As I was saying, if we can have a single centre of political control in Europe, there then may be something to be said for that single central control having at its disposal military forces and establishments of all kinds. Perhaps my misgivings about such a European nuclear deterrent as he has put forward would be less in those circumstances. But I think we must be clear—even those who like myself are convinced and passionate Europeans—that we are not going to have such a single central control for many years to come. However fast and smoothly the process of European integration goes, the idea that we shall have a single Parliament, a single foreign policy and a single defence policy for the whole of Europe is one that, as I say, even the most starry-eyed European must accept as being something for the very distant future.
Where my misgivings lie is in the area in which it might be suggested there should be a European nuclear deterrent short of that. Even if the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not himself put that forward to-day, it has been put forward many times as a possible solution to some of the problems of the defence of Europe. I should like to say simply that those who put it forward must ask themselves some very simple questions. They must ask themselves about what is called the demography of Europe; that is to say, the intensity of population con 748 centration in Europe; the intensity of concentration of industries. And they must think of that in terms of the sort of target that Western and Central Europe would make for strategic missiles aimed from the Soviet Union or for tactical intermediate-range missiles aimed from the Warsaw Pact countries. They must ask themselves about the degree of warning time that a European country would be likely to get of any such nuclear attack. They must ask themselves about the difficulties of control.
I recall the great arguments that went on about the multilateral force, that ill-starred venture in which someone attempted the idea of getting together a fleet of submarines or of merchant shipping, armed with nuclear missiles manned by mixed crews of mixed nationalities and controlled by some sort of committee that was apparently going to decide when these weapons would be used. If it was impossible to evolve a system of control for something like that, how much more difficult is it going to be to evolve a system of control for nuclear weapons that would be wielded in one way or another by the whole of the NATO alliance or by the European Members of it?
I make these points simply to say that in Lord Carrington's interesting adumbrations about the possible future emergence of a European nuclear deterrent, I hope that nobody will think of this as being really strategically and politically possible until the path of European integration has gone much farther than it has gone to-day.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? I agree completely with what he has said: but he is answering the easy questions. There is another form of nuclear co-operation in Europe which could be much closer, much more possible; namely, the sharing of nuclear knowledge between us and the French, and even the possibility of sharing the manufacture of some nuclear material. It is a difficult question. It involves the Americans and their acquiescence; but I conceive that at this moment of time it may be a very much more relevant one.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, this is an extremely important point. The 749 question of sharing nuclear knowledge, or even certain areas of nuclear planning, not only with France but with other European countries as well, is a vital factor in the whole question of the defence of Western Europe. It is possible to say—and this is my own view—that it is not a particularly good time at this moment to consider any real close discussions of this kind with the French Government. Indeed, the French Government have shown in the past that they are not particularly interested in this kind of cooperation with us, either on a bilateral footing or on a multilateral European footing. In the course of my (I hope) brief speech I shall come later to the question of European co-operation as a whole. I think that perhaps the point that the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, has made will be dealt with then.
There is one point about Lord Carrington's speech on which I cannot forbear to comment. He made one more of those Delphic pronouncements about what the Conservative Party will do in the hypothetical event of its return to power. In these moods the Conservative Party—and indeed the noble Lord himself—sometimes reminds me irresistibly of that apocalyptic Shakespearean figure, King Lear:I will do such things—What they are, yet I know not; but they shall beThe terrors of the earth.I need no convincing that a Conservative Government would he one of the "terrors of the earth"; hut, my Lords, we should be in no doubt of something else as well. It is this: you cannot do all these things for nothing.
If the Conservative Party really believes, if noble Lords opposite really believe, that they can restore our military presence East of Suez; improve our conventional strength on the Rhine; strengthen our reserves; contribute to a European nuclear deterrent; retain our aircraft carriers—all these things have been suggested by one or other of them at some time—and at the same time reduce our taxes, which they also say they are going to do; if they believe that, my Lords, they will believe anything. And it sometimes seems to me that in the field of defence they almost are prepared to believe anything. This, my Lords, is simply not a practical proposition.
750 May I now deal briefly with the European theatre and the arguments that have been advanced about the nuclear threshold and the strength of conventional forces. My noble friend Lord Winter-bottom said in his speech that peace in Europe has been achieved because the West has been able to present a united front to deter any political aggressor. He went on to say that to ensure that peace continues, our first priority must be to give the fullest support to NATO. There must be few, if any, in your Lordships' House who would contest such a proposition in the present political climate in Europe. Europe remains divided: two conflicting political, economic and ideological systems prowl warily round, suspicious, fearful of each other's motives.
To most enlightened people, I think, there is no good reason why these systems should not live together in peaceful competition, each conducting its own affairs, with no fear of armed aggression from the other. But, of course, that is not how things are; and to those, if there are still any left, in your Lordships' Home who think that this is any fault of ours, let me quote one short passage from a statement issued by the Government of the Soviet Union on April 10, two weeks after the much-quoted Budapest Declaration calling for a conference on European security. This is what, among other things, the statement said:NATO has become an instrument of 'cold war', an organiser of subversion, espionage and ideological subversion and an inspirer of attempts to counter-revolutionary coups in Socialist countries. These actions, which have recently been intensified,—this, my Lords, is only a few months after the invasion of Czechoslovakia—set back the process of détente in Europe and thereby disprove the hypocritical statements of North Atlantic bloc leaders that they are allegedly working for a détente and seeking to make NATO a body that promotes peaceful co-operation.My Lords, that kind of language used about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the kind of language that only very stupid men really believe, and the leaders of the Soviet Union are not stupid men.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that the word "hypocritical" has never been user more hypocritically than in that statement?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that suggestion, and I shall bear it in mind in my future analysis of this document. As I say, anybody who has negotiated with the leaders of the Soviet Union is very soon convinced that there is nothing stupid about them. It is impossible, therefore, to escape the conclusion that, for the present at any rate, the Soviet Union perceives it to be in its interests to perpetuate the suspicion and hostility that exists in Europe.
Whatever the reason may be for this—and I do not seek to analyse that today—there are a number of inferences which we in the West are entitled to draw; and in the context of this debate by far the most important of those (this point has already been made by several of your Lordships) is that it would be criminally foolish to neglect our defences or to drop our guard while this hostility persists. I do not suggest that this state of affairs should, or need, last for ever. Military policy—it has been said before but it will bear saying again—is, and must be, the servant of foreign policy; and the foreign policy of this country, if it is to be credible and intelligible, must be based upon a recognition that armed force, organised violence, is a barbarous and self-defeating instrument in the conduct of international affairs.
My Lords, there can be no lasting security in a world that is divided into armed camps, and here perhaps I might take up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. I hope he will forgive me if I take it up with some force because he made a statement which I believe to be out of tune with the realities of the time. He said—I think I quote him accurately because I took down what he said—"Influence is only effective when it is backed up by military and economic power". Now, my Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, may believe that; I do not. I believe that those are the ideas of Hobbes, of Clausewitz and of the philosophers and strategists of the pre-nuclear age. Those sentiments, indeed, are perilously close to that other famous dictum:Power grows out of the barrel of a gun.a dictum that will be familiar to your Lordships; though I must say that I find the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and 752 Mao Tse-tung as unlikely an unholy alliance as Michael Foot and Mr. Enoch Powell. Those who lay claim to any kind of weight—
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, the Minister is quite entitled to make comments, but he is not entitled to align me with Mao Tse-tung because I never said anything of the sort. I was very careful not to say, "Power grows out of the barrel of a gun" because I do not happen to believe it. But I do believe the first sentiment.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I was, of course, making no attempt to link him in any significant way with Mao Tse-tung, I was simply pointing out that a statement that says that the only real influence is that which is backed up by military power is very much like the more colourful expression that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. But I do not wish to press that any further. I would simply say that anyone who lays claim to any kind of weight in a strategic debate in the nuclear age must realise that the nature of military power has totally changed.
The power to inflict almost total destruction on civilisation now lies in the hands of the leaders of the nuclear Powers. It seems to me, my Lords, that the categorical imperative from this is that we must find a more intelligent way of conducting international affairs; more intelligent than the obsolete instrument of nation States in a constant state of conflict, prepared to use organised violence in the pursuit of their national aims. Unless we do that, we shall eventually end up with disaster. The nuclear stalemate, even if it were indestructible—and it is not—can never be a substitute for what in the end we must all strive for, whatever political colour we may be, which is universal disarmament. Unless we realise that now, when the major armed confrontation is still the comparatively simple one between Capitalism and Communism, it may be too late to realise it when China is a nuclear super Power; when the great confrontations are racial, as they will be, and the great issues concern how the natural and industrial resources of the world are to be shared fairly among a population growing daily at an alarming rate. And let us be quick 753 to admit, all of us, that there is nothing fair about the way those resources are shared at the moment.
As I say, my Lords, unless we are prepared to search for some new way of conducting international affairs we shall in the end be heading for disaster. But, of course, I understand as well as any of your Lordships that disarmament cannot be approached in isolation from the political problems that divide the world, and especially those that divide Europe. While we go on seeking, as we must, with the Soviet Union and the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, some common ground from which to attack the problems of the third world; while we search for these policies of détente and for better relations across these artificially sustained ideological frontiers, we all have a clear duty—Governments particularly—to play our full part in the defence of our values and our freedom. It is incumbent upon us (and here I think I speak to the converted) to arrange things so that at least we need have no fear that the elementary freedoms of speech, thought and political action can be snuffed out virtually overnight because they threaten the power and supremacy of some neurotically insecure oligarchy.
In other words, my Lords, we must live in the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. That means that in Europe to-day we must still be ready to defend Western Europe to ensure the safety of these Islands. I make these points simply because there seems to be a feeling abroad, especially perhaps among young people, that all defence expenditure is bad and that all military organisation is bad. I believe that, whatever one may think about the ideal world of the future, we must still be ready to defend the values that we hold closely to us.
To come back to the views on how Western Europe should be defended, I think that so far, perhaps with one or two isolated exceptions, we have been on common ground about the need to defend ourselves. Where we may differ is how we should go about this task. Some noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, suggested that the nuclear threshold is too low. In parenthesis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, will feel that in the course of my 754 remarks this afternoon I shall answer his questions, if not directly then indirectly, because I should be horrified if he were to put into effect his threat to use all his Parliamentary skills to bring the machinery of your Lordships' House to a grinding halt, because I think that if he did deploy his Parliamentary skills that is what might well happen.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, the noble Lord can save himself any apprehension if he will be good enough to answer my questions directly. It may well he that I shall find a certain amount of enjoyment in unravelling the form in which the noble Lord may seek to rut his answers, but I put these questions after careful consideration and I think that not I alone but also your Lordships' House and the country ought to hate the answers. I think the answers are somewhat belated, and I therefore hope that my noble friend will remove any temptation for me to spend more time than I should in interfering in your Lordships' affairs by giving me a direct answer to what I should have thought were sensibly direct questions.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, of course, they are direct questions, arid the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, knows me well enough to know that he will get the answers. But I really must plead to be allowed to develop the argument that leads up to the answers in my own way. This idea that the nuclear threshold is too low, or, to put it more simply, that we are subscribing to a strategic doctrine in NATO which depends on the immediate or early use of nuclear weapons any conflict in Europe, would, if it were so, be a grave indictment indeed. Bat as my noble friend Lord Winterbottom has said, we recognise that it would be irresponsible to rely upon nuclear weapons for the defence of Europe against any possible form of attack. If we did that—I give the noble Lord this argument—a potential attacker might then assume that we would be unwilling to use these weapons except in extremis. Then we must have strong conventional forces. They must be strong enough—this is the point—to contain a substantial military aggression until it can be identified as limited or unlimited. They must provide the breathing space for diplomacy 755 to make its final attempts to ward off the certain devastation that would follow an exchange of nuclear weapons.
I have spent, in one incarnation or another, the last twenty years in constant company with this problem. I could, if we all had a limited time, spend a few infinitely depressing hours analysing the concepts of "flexible response" and "graduated deterrents"—incidentally, two terms that are very often used as if they were interchangeable, and they are not. I could examine the credibility of tactical nuclear weapons and the threat of escalation as elements of deterrence and if, by the time I had finished all that, your Lordships' House was not empty, or everybody in it fast asleep, I could then go on to examine the perennial argument among strategic analysts about whether the possession of the capacity to fight a war increases or diminishes the capacity to deter other people from actually starting a war. These are all extremely interesting problems to the strategic analyst. But this is the House of Lords and not the Hudson Institute, I am happy to say, and I will therefore content myself with two very practical observations. I hope that if they do not answer the noble Lord's questions directly in the form he would like to have them answered, and in the form he would get them answered by the Hudson Institute, at least they will convey the drift of the Government's view on the questions he has asked.
Whatever may be the arguments about the relative importance of nuclear and non-nuclear forces, one thing is beyond any doubt. Here I should like to refer back to something which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said. It is that the defence of Western Europe can never really be sound while the countries of Western Europe are unwilling to subordinate their purely national concerns to the interests of Europe as a whole. Just as it is true to say that only a truly united Europe will ever be economically self-sufficient in a world of industrial super-Powers, and that only a Europe speaking with one voice politically will ever be heard in the councils of the world, so it is true to say—and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said it—that only a Europe united in its determination to preserve peace will have any real chance 756 of survival if that peace should ever be broken.
My second point is a simple one, and comes back to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. What I must do is to ask those in this country who demand greatly increased conventional forces in Europe or elsewhere whether they are prepared to face the inevitable consequences. These are, so far as Britain is concerned, a substantially increased defence budget and the possibility of a return to some form of compulsory military service. If they are prepared to face these implications, then their case is intellectually respectable. But they must be prepared to say this out loud, if they do not want to be suspected of merely destructive criticism. If they are not prepared to face these consequences, then they must say, leaving no room for doubt or equivocation, where and how they would raise the manpower and the money to implement a strategy which has much to commend it, if only—and it is a big "if"—the political and economic realities can be overcome. This is a point I make in answer to the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? He has told us what the great British public ought to think about this. What do the Government think about it?
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, before the noble Lord answers that, may we also have an answer to what the Conservatives think about it? I asked the question of the Government, but I want to get an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, too. The Conservatives are constantly complaining that there is too low a force in Europe.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I really must interrupt at this point. I think the noble Lord must realise that he cannot continue an interruption by another noble Lord—perhaps after my noble friend has replied.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The thinking of the Government behind this is implicit in what I say: that it if is thought that the strength of conventional forces on the Rhine now is not enough, then the consequences must be faced. I have not said that in the view of the Government 757 those conventional forces are not strong enough. It is not so much the size of these forces that is important; it is the quality. So it is no good the noble Lord asking me what we would do. I am saying that those who say there must be more conventional forces—and I am not one of them—must face the consequences. Such forces cannot be got for nothing. This, as I was saying, leads me logically to the second and final part of my remarks. As I have just suggested, the obstacles on the road to the ideal world of peace and order are the realities of the world to-day; and if we take this at a lower level, ideal military policies which we should all like to implement depend upon the severely practical problems of providing men and money to carry them out.
This leads me to the question of reserves, and I think this might be the appropriate stage at which to take up a few minutes of your Lordships' time, as my noble friend said that I would, on the subject of the Army Reserve Bill to which we gave a Second Reading this afternoon. Noble Lords will remember that in the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy last July we explained that we were carrying out a general review of the Army's reserves. We also explained that one of the purposes of the Review was to find a means of providing from alternative sources the reinforcements currently found from the Army General Reserve. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, also criticised successive Governments for their attitude towards the Army General Reserve and Reservists as a whole. As I said, we hoped at that time that we should be able to tap the alternative sources of manpower quickly enough to enable us to avoid any further extension of that legislation which is causing the noble Lord so much pain. We were disappointed to find that this was not possible, although it may not come as any surprise to the noble Lord. It is therefore necessary to keep the Army General Reserve in being for five more years.
My Lords, the function of reserves generally is to bring the Regular Army, when necessary, on to a war footing. The principal reserves that we have are first, the Regular Reserve which consists of former Regular soldiers; and secondly, the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve, which consists of volunteers, and mainly 758 organised into units. Unfortunately, at present the TAVR is not as well recruited as we should like, and the Regular Reserves are deficient in some ranks and trades. So we have to rely on this other source, the Army General Reserve, for about 15,000 Reservists all as individual reinforcements. I will not go through the detailed requirement of those Reservists, but we do need 15,000.
The Army General Reserve from which we would draw these men is composed mainly of former National Servicemen, as the noble Lord knows, and was brought into being by the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserve Act 1954. This Act, with some amendments, was extended for five year periods, first in 1959 and then again in 1964. So the present extension comes to an end on June 30 of this year. On the occasion of the last extension in 1964 the application of the Act was limited to those who completed their whole and part-time Notional Service after December 31, 1962.
These Reservists are well capable of doing a useful military job. They were all trained in their specific jobs during their period of National Service, and although it is now six years since many of them served with the Colours, I am sure that they will not entirely have forgotten what they then learnt. In any case, a large number, estimated at about half of them, are working in civilian occupations which are similar or revelant to their military trades. These Reservists would be called up only in circumstances of the gravest war emergency. The noble Lord talked about them being "called out", but they would be called out, in fact, when general war was considered to be imminent The whole of our Defence and foreign policy, as I have tried to show, is designed to ensure, so far as possible, that general war will not happen. We cannot guarantee it, but that is the general drive and impetus of our Defence and foreign policy. The liability, therefore, is not a very onerous one. It is, in fact, extremely unlikely that any Army General Reservists will ever be called out; and if they were, it would be at a time when we should all be facing a very grave situation indeed, and the circumstances would be very much different from what they are to-day.
These Reservists, who number 168,000, do no training; they get no pay, and the 759 only cost of keeping them is that of keeping their records, which is essential, and that is something of the order of £9,000 a year. I do not think even the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, would begrudge £9,000 a year for keeping the records of these admirable men. Noble Lords may ask—indeed I think one noble Lord has already asked—why keep 168,000 members of the Army General Reserve when we need only 15,000? Well, we have tried to find a way of restricting the liability to those actually needed, but unfortunately this does not seem to be possible. It would be impracticable to define for the purposes of a selective process of this kind the very great number of categories that we require; and furthermore, the requirements change from time to time. The only real way of reducing the field of selection—and the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, knows this—would be to fix a cut-off date later than the present one of December 31, 1962. But if we did that, we should immediately deprive ourselves of some of the esssential ranks and trades that we need. This is a very blunt instrument, but unfortunately there does not seem to be any more refined instrument to hand. We have no alternative, therefore, but formally to retain the reserve as a whole, even though we shall on present plans need to call out only 15,000, in the very unlikely event of any being called out at all.
I should like to say a few words finally, my Lords, on the subject of recruiting for the Regular forces. This, as noble Lords know, and as the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has reminded us again, is not good enough. The Government realise that it will be difficult to keep up the level of recruiting which will keep our forces at the number required by our Defence policy. There is nothing new in this. Previous Governments, as the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, will know, have met with similar difficulties even at the period when the postwar upsurge of births—the birthrate bulge, as it was called—was producing the number of men of recruiting ages. So, as I say, there is nothing new in this problem.
Last week, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in a debate in your Lordships' House, told us how long before the arrival of the modern term "demography" he had thought of this problem as being the problem of there being too few fish in the 760 pool. If I may borrow his metaphor for a moment, I would say that the problem for the next few years is that the number of fish is getting fewer, and that we have to catch a higher proportion of them. That is the measure of the problem. This is a very serious factor in our plans until the mid-seventies. In 1964 the existing plans supposed that we should need 44,000 Servicemen each year to maintain the future level of Defence forces. In 1965 we came very near to this target by recruiting something like 43,500. The difficulty that we are going to face now is that the three Services recruit from the 15 to 20 year age group. In 1965, when, as I have just said, we got over 43,000 men, there were nearly 1½ million young men of that age group who had completed their education. This is the catchment area from which the forces were drawn.
By 1974 the number will have dropped from 1½ million to under one million, a reduction of nearly 35 per cent. Thus, while our long-term target is now rather more than 35,000 recruits a year, we shall have to produce this figure from a very much reduced field. So even if we get only the same proportion of Lord Wigg's fish in the pond in 1974 as we did in 1965, we should be recruiting only about 29,000 a year, or just over, against the long-term target that I have mentioned. So it is obvious that we have to aim at a higher proportion of young men as time goes on. It is only in the midseventies—perhaps 1974 and thereafter—that the trend will begin to favour us again.
There are, of course, other substantial difficulties. As the number of school leavers with higher educational qualifications increases, greater opportunities are open to them in civilian life. Young men are hesitant in the uncertain climate that has followed successive Defence Reviews to make the Army their career. Headmasters and parents are hesitant to advise them to do so. There are all these difficulties. But I hope and believe that the clear statement of policy in the Statement on the Defence Esimates (and I am referring now especially to paragraphs 45 and 46 of chapter 1) will help to restore confidence in the worthwhile character of the Service career.
We now have a Defence policy that recognises the basic reality of our economic and political interests in the world, 761 and because these are, if not stable, at least vital and crucial to defending the quality of life in Britain, I hope that young men will continue to believe that the Armed Forces present a worthwhile career for them.
My Lords, I shall not go into any more details about recruiting or about manpower. I have used up far too much of your Lordships' time already.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that subject, may I say that I was on a Parliamentary delegation to Cyprus last year, and the gravamen of the complaint of all the Servicemen, both in the Army and even more in the Royal Air Force, was uncertainty about their own future in the Service. I believe that that is a tremendous deterrent to recruiting. Could the noble Lord say a word or two about that?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I can only say that we hope that this Defence Review and the Defence White Paper that has sprung from it have created a situation of stability in the Armed Forces. I very much hope, and I know the Government hope, that there will be no more of these changes in the strength and the organisation of the Armed Forces. We have had a lot of them and there can be no denying the fact that they have created this erosion in the morale of the young men in the Forces. No one would attempt to deny that. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, accused the Defence Secretary of being arrogant in saying that we have reached a situation of stability. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, pointed out, nobody can say what will happen in the future. The only thing we can be certain of is that the unpredictable will happen. We should be very foolish indeed if we were to stand up as a Government, or as Defence spokesmen, and say. "This is the end of the reorganisation of the Armed Forces. There will never be another reorganisation". That would be foolish. But we believe now that, within the limits of what is possible to a Government in a rapidly changing world, we have created a Defence establishment which will make further reorganisations of this kind unnecessary. We hope that these young men can now look forward to a stable and worthwhile career.
762 My Lords, I hope that I have not detained your Lordships for too long. I have tried to cover a very broad canvas in a comparatively short time. There are those of your Lordships, I know, who will find my view of the world from which men have abolished armed force as an instrument of policy, academic and indeed idealistic. I make no apology whatsoever for that. I am not one of those who regard the term "idealist" as one of contempt. I believe it right that even those of us who are engaged in the grim business of politics—or, perhaps I should say, especially those of us who are so engaged—should have some concept, some vision, of the kind of world we are trying to shape. Certainly if we do not keep such a vision, and keep it safe from the daily pressures and compromises of political life, we shall I think deserve the accusations of "bloody irrelevance" that were reflected in the words of a passionate young gentleman at one of our more modern universities last week.
Some of your Lordships may be familiar with the writings of Walter Lippmann. If anybody is he may be able to place for me the passage in one of his essays in which he says in effect (my recollection may not be exactly accurate):One of the qualities that distinguish the civilised man is his desire and his ability sometimes to see beyond the ephemeral and the pragmatic, and beyond the uncertain groping of daily affairs to the vision that lies beyond; and, by the light of that vision, at best to become the master of his condition, or at worst to learn how to endure it".This, my Lords, may seem light years away from the Army Reserve Bill and the difficulty of getting enough recruits for the infantry. But what we are debating to-day, of course, is not only the ephemeral and the pragmatic; it is the totality of a Defence policy which has to make sense in the context of the foreign and economic and general policies of this country, without losing what I hope is the real vision of any civilised Government in the world to-day—that is, an international organisation from which the rule of force has been abolished for ever. I believe that the Defence policy of this country gives us some hope of that; and I am confident that, whatever may be the criticisms of your Lordships' House in detail and emphasis, in 763 principle that is the belief that will be generally shared.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I am very glad to have given way to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, because I feel that he has made an important speech that will bear very careful reading to-morrow. I have no intention of ranging so wide as he did, but I shall hope to take up one or two points that he has made with some points that I should like to make myself. I would take the time of the House for a few moments in talking mainly about two things: Army manpower, which several noble Lords have spoken about already, and home defence, which very few noble Lords have spoken about at all.
Before I do that, however, I wonder whether I may mention two small points in the Defence Statement which I think ought to be mentioned with approval. One is the evident quickening of the pace of streamlining the staff in the Ministry of Defence itself, which I think it was high time to do; and the other is an evident change in the official attitude to defence studies outside the Ministry. We see that in paragraphs 42 and 43 of Chapter 1 of the Defence Statement. This is a very good thing and points to a more liberal attitude in associating universities and the Royal United Service Institution with defence studies which have to be undertaken from day to day; and of course, if it is developed, it will pave the way to a wider circle of defence studies which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn.
For a long time it seemed to me that universities and the R.U.S.I. were kept out in the cold or, if you like, starved of vital information because of what I thought were very bogus considerations of security. That would lead to a state of affairs where, certainly among the professional Service people, there is very little continuity; because if there are changes of appointment every three years among the people who are supposed to have studied these matters, there is no continuity at all among Service people but only among civil servants, and that is not good.
Having mentioned those two matters, I hope with approval, I should like to 764 go on, perhaps not quite in the same vein, and I shall be dealing with the Army and not with any of the other Services. The Vote A in the estimates is £210,000 for all ranks. On page 66 of the Defence Statement the strength of all ranks is put down at 115,400. That is 11,000 down on last year. I am not going to give a great many figures (the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is much better at that than I am), but nothing I have read in the Defence Statement itself, or in the debates in another place, or in the Green Paper, The Task Ahead, to which I shall refer in a moment, makes me think that any of the attempts which I have no doubt are being made to stop the drift in recruiting are proving in the least successful.
Meantime, our concentration to-day on the Defence Statement by Mr. Healey should not cause us to overlook completely the passages dealing with defence in the other Green Paper, The Task Ahead, which comes with the blessing. not of Mr. Healey but of Mr. Shore. I know that this latter Paper is called a planning document and not a plan, and that the Paper we are discussing to-day is called a Statement. I myself do not know—I do not understand these things—the difference in the credibility of these two documents. Let us pay our money and take our choice; they are both priced at half a guinea.
But, my Lords, this defence passage in The Task Ahead is concerned entirely with reduction in defence expenditure. It says:Defence could defeat its own purpose of securing vital national interests if it were to place too great a burden on the economy.That ties up quite a bit with paragraph 4 on page 2 of the Defence Statement, except that the paragraph in The Way Ahead is in rather larger print. Those words about defeating our "own purpose of securing vital national interests" if too great a burden is placed on the economy seem to me to give a key to the thinking of noble Lords opposite. Incidentally it is a curious use of the word "vital". I looked up "vital" in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and found its meaning given as:essential to the existence of something absolutely indispensable, necessary or requisite".Looked at in that light I am bound to think that to use the word "vital" here 765 is rather a slipshod use of the English language, because it means that indispensable needs of defence are to be second to the need of saving money. If it does not mean that, what does it mean?
So much, then, for what the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has to say. May I now go back to the Secretary of State for Defence and ask noble Lords to turn to Chapter 1, at page 35. There it says that the forces are manned by volunteers. Taking these two passages together, it seems to me that we can piece together the policy somewhat like this. Whatever the vital national interests are, the defence vote is to be progressively reduced; and certainly whatever the shortfall in regular recruiting or lack of reserves, the maintenance of voluntary service is paramount. I should be glad to be contradicted about this—I hope that I may be. But I rather fancy that this statement, "the forces are manned by volunteers" is the first unequivocal statement by the present Government to indicate that on no account and in no circumstances will they revert to national service of any form. I cannot remember having seen such a statement before, and I should be interested to know if there has been one.
To return to what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said about the need for those who wanted a strong conventional force to be ready to face the consequences, I wrote down his words at the time, and the consequences were said to be a substantial increase in the defence budget and a return to compulsory military service. I hope the noble Lord will not mind my saying that I thought those remarks were slightly over-simplified. Of course an increase in the defence budget would be necessary, but it does not follow that the taxpayer would be asked to face an increase in the Budget. Secondly, the word "compulsory" covers a multitude of sins, or otherwise, because there are at least three main possibilities. One is compulsory military service, as it was known when it was in operation. Another is selective military service, which everybody has said is quite impracticable; but impracticable is not impossible, and we have yet to learn what happens when the experts are told to get on with it. The impossible, of course, is apt to take a little longer. The third possibility is compulsory training and then transfer to 766 General Reserve, which was what happended under the Belisha system.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, before the noble Viscount moves away from that point, may I ask him to give way for one moment in order that I may mention three small matters? The first is that he quoted a statement of fact—the forces are manned by volunteers—as being a statement of intent or non-intent. He has been so careful about the us of the word "vital" that I must ask him to be equally careful in analysing this particular sentence. It is a statement of fact, not an indication of what the Government may or may not do in some hypothetical situation in the future. Secondly, he talked about there being no need for a total increase in the Budget. I never said that would be necessary; I merely said that there would be an increase in defence spending. If you have increased defence spending and you do not increase the total Budget you must take it from somewhere else. That was the dilemma with which I was facing him. Finally, of course, I realise that compulsory service does not only mean universal conscription. That was why I was careful to say that there would be a need to return to compulsory military service in some form, and he will see this in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said. If the White Paper had said that the forces are at present manned by volunteers there would be no doubt in my mini as to what was meant. As to the other points, I take them, but now having gone back to 1937 there would be no harm, surely, in saying that one ought to go back not quite so far and to look at the 1957 White Paper and its consequences. That White Paper was the work of my own political friends. I spoke on it at the time and. I looked with some trepidation to see what I had said when I wound up on the first day—May 8—and found I had made three points. One was that a nuclear deterrent might fail in its object unless there was a certain amount of conventional deterrence. Another point was that I doubted very much whether the calculations which led to the announcement that National Service 767 should be done away with would really stand up to events. I find I am very glad that I said those things, because although I thought the decision to drop National Service at that time was a right one I felt that some of my friends in the Regular Army had been so anxious to get rid of it that they had produced a far too optimistic estimate of the recruiting potential and therefore one ought to have serious plans for reintroducing it in some form if the alternative was to fall short on our commitments, whatever they might be. But the recruiting figures have been going down ever since.
My own feeling is that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, was right when he said we are getting near the end of the road. We may not be quite at the end of the road, but the Army Reserve Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred just now, looks to me very much like scraping the bottom of the barrel. So we are coming to the end of the road, by which I mean Mr. Healey's road and not Mr. Shore's road. I think every opportunity has been given to young men to join the Regular Army. Every single suggested requirement has been met and we have done everything now, short of inviting them to join a brown collar union. The attempts to increase our recruiting have had to be made in the face of several adverse factors, not all of which will persist indefinitely, but two are there now. One is the disruption of the regimental connections and the other is the loss of the attractive overseas stations which young men have been able to serve in until now. In the process of dealing with this manpower shortage we have thrown overboard almost everything except our commitments to NATO.
Altering course on matters of this sort is a long process. Just as the gradual deterioration in Regular recruiting has been a long process, so altering course in our manpower policy will be the same. Even supposing noble Lords opposite were minded to listen to any suggestions that we might make from this side of the House this afternoon, none the less they would not have time for it. Therefore this problem will fall on the Government who succeed them, in exactly the same way that the problems created by 768 the 1957 White Paper fell upon the present Government.
Then we come again to this question of reserves, and I do not want to spend much time on it, because we have been going on for a long time. One thing that does concern me is that, although I have searched high and low in the figures connected with the Defence Statement and the Estimates, there is nothing to tell one what is the capacity of the present Reserve to bring the existing units to war establishment and provide them with the necessary first reinforcements—three months wastage or whatever it is—to make good what is wanted until a National Service scheme came in in an emergency. I know this is old-fashioned language, but none the less the real value of our NATO commitment must depend not only on the excellence of equipment, which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, talked about, but also on the need to have the right number of men and the right number of reinforcements. I am afraid that I have no reason to believe that that situation is in the least sound, and that is one of the reasons why I have said so much about National Service in one or other of its forms.
Now we come to the TAVR II. I think that both Lord Bourne and Lord Leatherland said the TAVR II in its present form is a great improvement. So it is; I entirely agree with them. But I also think that the numbers who will be persuaded to recruit to the obligation of TAVR II are very restricted indeed. The present figure, I think, is about 34,000 or 35,000. The establishment is 56,000, and from all I know—and I have seen a good deal of this problem—56,000 is the very utmost that it will be possible to get at any time, even assuming that a number of people come in technical units, such as those of the Post Office. That will not be a very large number to plug the holes of mobilisation, and if it is not enough and this 34,000 of Lord Chalfont's reserve are not enough, what then?
Now we come for one moment to the TAVR III and the Home Defence. The noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, made some sound remarks on that point, and we have had this in almost every defence debate from almost every 769 angle. I should like this evening to approach it from the angle that because of the emphasis in the Defence Statement on our commitments to NATO, and therefore to Europe, this country is bound to be a base for operations of some sort or other for ourselves and for fellow members of NATO from the other side of the Atlantic. Home defence in the last war was something rather different. It was first thought to be for invasion; then it centred on the disruption caused by air attack. But nowadays I fancy that the real risk will be not of parachute landings, or any such thing; nor the nuclear threat, but of sabotage.
I beg noble Lords opposite, and I would beg the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, if he were here, most earnestly not to sweep this danger under the carpet. I beg them to think what would happen if the expertise and the staff work used for things like the Great Train Robbery or student unrest were turned towards the disruption of the Queen's Peace. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to speak to his noble friend Lord Stonham and ask him for the figures of the strain on the police caused recently when the Birmingham aqueduct was blown up by people who apparently had the mistaken idea that their action would favour the cause of Wales. Those figures and the situation there, if they are appreciated, will give the key to what I am saying.
There was at that time nothing behind the police except a few odd lots of soldiers in depots who knew nothing about the problem, had not been trained for it and had no local knowledge; nothing in uniform except the ambulance corps, and, bless their hearts! the W.R.V.S. It was against this background that the Civil Defence Corps and TAVR III were thrown away. If anybody thought that the disbandment of TAVR III was going to produce any appreciable number of recruits for TAVR II, I feel that I must tell him that he was widely mistaken. There are something like 50,000 people in this country at any time—I am saying this from some experience—who will assume TAVR II obligations. There are something like 100,000 people at any given time who will assume TAVR III obligations—that is the fortnight's camp, and certain specified training periods. These numbers are very resistant; the 770 TAVR III 100,000 will not take on anything more, except in rational emergency, when they will. Figures will show that these numbers have been constant over the ages, and no amount of propaganda or wishful thinking will alter them more than marginally.
Under these conditions it is the greatest mercy that the T. and A.V.R.III cadres were, as one might say, saved for seed. But to anybody who has the slightest knowledge of the problem it is really fantastic when you think that the noble Duke the Duke of Norfolk and his T.A. Council had to throw in everything they had to reach that common-sense solution. I do not think we shall ever get any clear thinking on this point until you remove the division of responsibility between the Defence Department and the Home Office, or, to be more accurate, you alter the place where it is now; or, indeed, unless you adopt the other solution, which is to go back to the home defence executive in the war, a little known but very successful body under Sir Findlater Stewart, which in fact bore the greatest responsibility for the smoothness with which the Departments worked together. Far too much of this question of home defence has been bedevilled by the division of responsibility between the Defence Department and the Home Office.
My Lords, I have spoken too long, and I am quite conscious that I have not only been speaking to noble Lords opposite but have been making a plea, in faith and hope, to my noble friends about how they will approach some of these problems when they return to power; or, to put it more crudely, I have been behaving like a bad gunner, aiming my shots at the people opposite but sending some of them into tie rear of my own troops.
§ 7.8 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, we are still within the season of celebrations to mark the founding of the NATO Alliance twenty years ago. It is natural and appropriate that this debate should echo those celebrations, and my remarks will be entirely confined within that context. It would not be appropriate, or even permissible, if those echoes merely lulled us into a false sense of security, based either on a belief in the perfect readiness or adequacy of the Alliance to-day, or in a belief that a true détente 771 with Soviet Russia was just around the diplomatic corner. I believe that NATO is at least as vital to-day as on January 22, 1948, when Mr. Ernest Bevin, speaking in the House of Commons, proposed a form of Western defensive union, which led to the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty somewhat less than 15 months later. There is a certain telling, though largely ignored, coincidence in the fact that precisely a month after Mr. Bevin's speech, on February 27 a Communist coup d'état struck down and liquidated the democratic Government of Czechoslovakia.
That warning in 1948 was enough to draw together the free Governments on either side of the North Atlantic. The same kind of warning was repeated eight months ago, again on the soil of Czechoslovakia, and has been drummed home upon our political awareness ever since, with particular emphasis last week. The anxiety which I feel, and shall express this afternoon, is born of the doubt that this second, louder and more prolonged warning has been sufficiently heeded by the same nations which responded to the first. That doubt does not exist in my mind alone; nor does it depend on guesswork or any inborn pessimism. Optimism, to which I am far more naturally prone, is more likely to be the danger to-day. There is a kind of euphoria which envelopes the mind of the Free World when the possibility of a new treaty or détente is mentioned, so anxious are men and women to trust in its authenticity and certainty. I have even heard it said that the invasion of Czechoslovakia, because it created moral fissures in the Communist bloc, has debilitated and restricted the threat from Soviet Russia. I am afraid that I see it quite differently.
To an extent, the Communist world has been sundered from within. So far from decreasing the danger to Europe this could sharpen it. The philosophical command of Communism within its own territories has, at least for a time, been undermined. Military control takes over what part of the field it can. A weakening of this kind breeds fear, and fear which can lean on force breeds danger. Since the rulers in Moscow can no longer trust in the ineluctible passage, by evolution, of world society towards Commun 772 ism, they must think afresh. Thinking afresh could too easily mean switching back to the old, simply comprehended methods of naked strength. They cannot coast to victory as they once expected; so coasting is out. Power politics is the game that they have always understood.
NATO remains to guard us, and we may long have to depend upon it. I know that many thoughtful men, deeply engaged in the protection of peace and of freedom are far from sanguine as to the true strength and adequacy of the Alliance to-day, in material and psychological terms. They see a weakening, a fading of the sense of need of this Alliance to be maintained—maintained not simply as to surface appearance, but throughout its structure. I know it because I have read and listened to their words. There is some evidence visible to any who have eyes to see, and other evidence which has to be sought to reveal the inner picture.
Later in what I have to say I shall put forward some suggestions as to the way in which this country could itself more formidably contribute. At this moment, perhaps I might say that noble Lords opposite will not hear from me this evening any attempt to score off them, to lay blame or to imply that we differ in the sincerity of our motives—this despite the characteristically provocative remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, a few moments ago. We are speaking of matters affecting the survival of Britain and the survival of civilisation; and which of us has not a vested interest in both of those?
The argument that I am presenting is that the success so far of the NATO Alliance could be its undoing, unless all of us are alert to that possibility. It has kept Western Europe intact for twenty years. The Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall are physical proofs of the quality of life that is protected, which is the envy and yearning of those held back from it in the satellite countries. To those who believe that Communism and the Kremlin no longer represent a danger, I say, "Look hard and long, and even selfishly, at Czechoslovakia". If that is how the Soviet rulers interpret "peaceful co-existence" with their own allies, how would we in the bourgois democracies fare at their hands if we lay unprotected as well as uncompliant?
773 For twenty years we have been protected by NATO, and during the early years the chief instrument of our safety was the possession of the hydrogen bomb, mainly in American hands, with a destructive capability infinitely greater than that of our potential attacker. As we know, that ceased to be an effective or credible instrument when the Russians came closer to parity. Therefore the concept of massive retaliation gave place to the new concept of flexible response. More fully this is described, as it was described by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, to-day, as "a flexible and balanced range of appropriate responses, conventional and nuclear, to all levels of aggression or threats of aggression". In colloquial parlance, no longer the big bang as the answer to anything and everything.
Philosophically and practically, that had to be right, but the philosophy and the practice can be only as valid as the military backing we afford them. That is where the philosophy seems likely to collapse, in practice, at an early stage. I am not intending to exaggerate or dramatise if I paint the picture in this way. In the event of a conventional attack upon NATO territory, of uncertain size and purpose and ultimate direction, the NATO commanders on the spot would have to hold that attack with conventional weapons and without giving ground. Those are their orders. According to the seriousness of the attack and its development, they would have to decide whether and when to ask leave for the use of tactical nuclear weapons. This request would have to be submitted, first to SACEUR, then by him to the Council in Brussels, and by them, after processing, to each of the member Governments, in capitals perhaps nearly 3,000 miles from the action itself—in the case of Washington over 8,000 miles —each of them having to approve the use of even the smallest nuclear weapon. I have heard it reckoned that this approval might take 48 hours or even longer to obtain, during which time troops in the battlefield itself would almost certainly have to hold superior forces having the advantage of initial surprise.
As we were told by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, to-day, Mr. Denis Healey has no illusions regarding this. 774 In his speech at Munich on February 1, he emphasised that as the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia showed,no matter how long the political warning, Soviet Russia would probably"—I am quoting directly from Mr. Healey—be able to gain military surprise—the 'operational initiative', certainly as to time and possibly as to place, by skilful concentration of troops under cover of exercises. Her overall superiority in armour would therefore be greatly multiplied at the decisive point.In the same speech he had already pointed out most realistically that:The Warsaw Pact outnumbers NATO in tanks by more than two to one in peacetime, and by two and a half to one after mobilisation".Furthermore,NATO is outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact on the central front by more than two to one in infantry formations and nearly three to one in armoured formations; after mobilisation of first line reserves, this disparity is increased. The Warsaw Pact superiority in aircraft is nearly two to one.That is the end of my direct quotation from Mr. Denis Healey, who did not flinch from painting the picture in stark terms.
One other factor is pertinent. To-day a NATO brigade is given a front something like two and a half times broader than that of an infantry brigade in World War II. What stares a man in the face is that these facts of present co-existence and legitimate, convincing defence, require more conventional troops in the right place than could have been required by the discarded concept of massive and immediate nuclear retaliation. Yet the paradox (and I submit an absurd and perilous paradox) is that the very Council of Ministers which gave approval to the strategic concept of flexible response also accepted, tacitly and mutually, a scaling down of existing forces. That was in Brussels in December, 1967. Yet twenty months earlier, in March, 1966, France had ended the assignment of all French forces to NATO, drastically reducing the trained manpower and weapons available.
It is because it seems to me politically and militarily incomprehensible that the concept of flexible response should not be accompanied by adequate and faithfully guaranteed force levels, that I must labour this central argument further. I have heard it most eminently suggested that it is deceptive and even dishonest—a self-confidence trick—to refer to 775 flexible response as being a reality, until and unless we can provide the conditions that make it real. The current conditions fall short of that reality. The picture on the ground is fairly discouraging. If I refer to the British contribution, it is not to imply that ours is uniquely or exceptionally unsatisfactory; in certain ways the reverse is true. Only if one is to be critical of certain aspects of an Alliance, then I think it is right to spare one's own country least.
British divisions used to contain three brigades. The standard NATO division has three brigades. Ours, almost alone among member-forces, have two. In B.A.O.R. there are three divisions, with, theoretically, two brigades each. But one of those divisions has effectively only one brigade, because 6 Brigade has been withdrawn to the United Kingdom. Even to state that there are five brigades is a delusion, because it suggests that these are fully manned. The fact is otherwise. The average actual strength of British units in Germany is 80 per cent., and some. I have been told, are as low as 60 per cent. That is not a sensible, tangible, viable implementing of the new concept. It means that commanders on the ground have to fight without giving ground, without nuclear weapons, with fewer troops than are provided on paper, and on a wider front than under previous conditions of land warfare. The inevitable result of all these handicaps together would be the early requirement of nuclear weapons, the precipitate breaking of the "pause" and the defeat of the whole concept. That is more properly described as "inflexible" response.
By way of counter-balancing part of what I have said, it is right and satisfying proudly to state that the weapons and equipment of the British forces are better than almost any others, and their training is almost certainly better than that of any others. None the less, I submit that it is not fair or effective to expect commanders or their troops to operate the new concept with this reduced ability.
I would ask the Government to do three things, and I give my priorities for what they are worth. Send back 6 Brigade to Germany; complete the manning-up of the units in Germany so that they are the units as described, not 776 statistical shadows; and halt forthwith the whittling down of the Volunteer Reserves. I am convinced that all these measures are necessary. The return of 6 Brigade would be a heartening example to all other nations within the Alliance. The manning-up would mean that commanders could perform the task set to them with units as described, not partly consisting of ghost squadrons, ghost companies, and ghost platoons. A stop on the planned run-down of TAVR II would mean the availability of trained officers and men, quickly available in an emergency.
My noble friend before me has spoken of this but I would point out, as has been pointed out to me, that the portion of reinforcements which has to come from the General Reserve, ex-Regulars and ex-National Servicemen still liable for call-up, will be men who in many cases have not worn uniform or touched a weapon, or intended to, for many years. In distinction many of us know the quality of the T. and A.V.R.: the energy and the application which the members give to their own voluntary training throughout the year, and at least in one annual camp. I believe that, should there ever be an emergency, the present-day Ministers concerned—Mr. Healey as much as any—would find it impossible to forgive themselves, in the hour of sudden need, if they had forfeited a part of that fund of voluntary service and the pool of good, keen, up-to-date soldiers, as they intend under current proposals. Every Government makes mistakes. I appeal to Ministers to redeem this mistake in time; to cancel these proposals. To enable the T. and A.V.R. to retain and restore its strength will be an important means of giving reality to the new strategic concept being provided. In an emergency it will be able to reinforce the troops on the ground.
Again, I urge the Government to do these things as an example to other nations. Positive action is infectious, just as negative action is infectious. We serve under the cloud of the dismal example of France; and now, added to that, the announcement that Canada intends to reduce her commitment. It is the sort of occasion when our partners, including the Americans, look to us for reviving action, and we, the British nation, are bound to look to Her Majesty's Government.
777 My Lords, I have spoken already at some length without my feet leaving the ground. This House is rich in noble and articulate Admirals and former First Lords, and it would therefore hardly become me to embark in a separate vessel, or leave them sitting ashore. I would mention only the acute and deeply felt lack of a surface-to-surface guided missile, not possessed by any NATO Navy, and without which ships of those Navies, saving one factor, may find themselves sitting ducks in any exchange with Soviet ships which do possess them. I am thinking, naturally enough, of the Styx missile, with a range of 20 miles, which sank the Israeli destroyer "Eilat" in seconds on October 21, 1967, and of the Shaddock intermediate guidance weapon, with a range of 300 miles. The sinking of the "Eilat" was a turning point in the history of naval warfare, which seems to have been largely ignored. The saving factor is, of course, air strike provided from the aircraft carriers, now under sentence of scrap so far as our own Royal Navy is concerned.
I will speak in a little more detail of the R.A.F., in the NATO context, even if it may take the form of continuing the small and very friendly debate we had on aircraft procurement the week before last, wound up by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. Nothing I say will be intended to contradict what he has said, nor to undermine his basic assessments or his statement that the R.A.F. were satisfied with the aircraft position. I would merely qualify his words by saying that they were correct, so far as they went, and would try to carry the inquiry a little further, and widen it beyond the purely British role. The gravest considered opinion I have heard is that in the whole European theatre there is a shortage of between 400 and 500 aircraft. This shortage is shared between many countries and owed to factors additional to financial stringency. Be that as it may, it represents a serious weakness, and one which I should think Britain could help to rectify in part by positive example.
The British contribution to the Allied Tactical Air Forces is numerically unimpressive. Some would say—some do say—distressingly so. We have almost the smallest Air Force assigned to NATO and, at this day and hour, quite the most 778 outmoded. There is a total of eight squadrons, only two out of these being describable as relatively modern planes: they are the Lightnings. The Canberra, whatever well deserved compliments we pay it, dates, in prototype, from May, 1949—twenty years ago. Deliveries began to the R.A.F. in January, 1951. Yet the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, told us the other day:The Canberra, oddly enough, is carrying on for a long time in certain specialised roles." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17/4/69, col. 289.]I think "oddly enough" must be the operative phrase. I do not know what period the noble Lord had in mild, but if the Canberra should go into action the year after next it would be equivalent to using a First World War plane in the Battle of Britain—that is in terms purely of age.
However, he also told us that the present Canberras would have their role taken over, transitionally, by the Buccaneer. The first 20 Buccaneers were ordered for the Navy in mid-1955, and first flew in 1958. More cheeringly, the noble Lord confirmed that the R.A.F. would soon be receiving the Phantoms and Harriers, the former to last into the second half of the 1970s, while the Harrier, of course, will be the most up-to-date aircraft in service with any air force in the world. I wonder if the noble Lord the Leader of the House, in winding up, would say when the first Harrier Squadron, and the following two, will be assigned to NATO, and whether they will be stationed in Germany when that happens. The second factor is the greatest obvious importance, since if they were stationed in Britain that would eat into their useful range.
As the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, pointed out, the R.A.F. contribution to NATO will soon, or fairly soon, be qualitatively strengthened. But there are four less encouraging characteristics which I feel bound to mention. First, the contribution will still be only eight squadrons, including only three Harrier squadrons, which hardly measures up to Britain's potential, responsibilities, or traditions. Secondly, the Harrier is, as we know, just subsonic, whereas the P.1154, had it not been killed, would have been supersonic. Thirdly, even this mix of Harriers, Phantoms and Buccaneers does not fill the need for a 779 deep penetration, all-weather, ground attack, strike and reconnaissance aircraft, with an "edge" over the enemy's probable capabilities in the mid-'seventies.
Despite this, we still do not know what we shall have in that capacity in the mid-'seventies, and we cannot—I do not think the noble Lord will disagree—depend entirely by that time on the superb Phantom. I am not attempting to press him on this matter. I know that the Government are working hard on the M.R.C.A. and I do not expect an answer from him to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, was as explicit and forthcoming earlier as he possibly could be. I simply want to emphasise and re-emphasise our anxiety about this matter. Fourthly, the dispersal and protection of combat aircraft in the NATO area is in a far from satisfactory state. I shall also refer to a fifth anxiety more parenthetically.
I will not expatiate on the first anxiety, that of the low numerical effort, though the noble Lord may wish to comment on it in his winding up. However, there was a certain semantic misunderstanding between the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and myself the other night, when we were discussing the importance of degrees of sophistication, speed being only one of the factors involved; payload, range, contour-following and type of takeoff all being important capabilities, one of course reducing some others in certain instances. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, took me a trifle too literally when I spoke of the lack of speed meaning that they could overtake us but we could not catch them. I did not have a picture, as he understandably construed it, of aircraft "chasing each other about in splendid dog-fights". I was thinking of overtaking in performance, and specifically in terms of "target acquisition". Here speed does matter, perhaps critically. Target acquisition, if you are the target, can be the difference between life and death for you and your aircraft. Put in primitive terms, the faster and closer to the ground you are flying, the fewer will be the enemy's weapons with which he can hope to touch you, and the less likely will he be to bring you down even with his more sophisticated weapons.
780 Of course, this quality of "target acquisition" by flying lower and faster has another side to it. It renders the pilot's own target much more difficult to strike. It thus requires more sophisticated. more delicate and more expensive instrumentation. That expense has to be balanced against the pilot's life or death, the aircraft's survival or destruction, the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of its role. That is no simple equation and I would not pretend that it is.
Passing from the highly sophisticated to the basic, I have a question for the noble Lord who will wind up and I trust that he will be able to answer it reassuringly. Are the stocks of bombs, rockets and other stores kept in Germany entirely and immediately adequate, or are they below par as I have heard from some quarters? The agreed scales must exist. If he can say that they are adhered to in practice, or that where otherwise they will be promptly replenished, it will set my mind and some others at rest.
More difficult, because less susceptible to rapid correction, are the problems of aircraft dispersal, protection and concealment. The required dispersal pattern within NATO is one squadron per aerodrome. In no case, I am told, does this exist. The average is 2.6. The noble Lord will not claim that this is satisfactory and it must cause some concern. I understand that there are contradictory schools of thought within the R.A.F. on this subject. It is administratively more convenient in peace-time to have repair and maintenance carried out on a wing basis, rather than on a squadron basis, and the use of more aerodromes adds, of course, to the expense of installations. These are also factors which are hard to balance against the survivability of the squadrons themselves.
What cannot be questioned rationally is the need, on the aerodromes, for proper protection and concealment. The critical importance of this was revealed, if it needed revealing, by the fate of the Egyptian Air Force, destroyed almost in its entirety by a pre-emptive ground attack before a single plane took off. I hope that there is no complacency over this, because we are unlikely to have more political warning than the Egyptians had in the summer of 1967.
781 My information is that at present the R.A.F. planes in Germany are standing about on aerodromes as nakedly as were the Egyptians' in their hour of destruction.
To attempt to shelter every individual aircraft against a heavy direct hit would be not only costly, but ruinous. Simpler, cheaper shelters against rocket attack and blast, for instance, revetting and camouflage, are measures of an economical order which I should think are fundamental to the readiness and security of the squadrons on which one day so much could depend. I am told that here, as so often, the best has been the enemy of the good. In expectation of future expenditure on more impregnable shelters, member nations have tended to leave things as they are in a perilously vulnerable state. This strikes me as glaringly false economy.
Before closing, and in fairly natural sequence to what I have just been saying, I should like to refer to the truly remarkable way in which the Alliance survived the major blow of France's withdrawal Apart from the factor of large, brave and highly-skilled forces at one moment assigned to NATO and the next withdrawn, apart from the problem of moving several important headquarters established on the soil of France, including NATO and SHAPE themselves, there has been the exclusion of sheer space for deployment of 211,000 square miles, together with many well-equipped aerodromes, from the Alliance's already restricted zone.
On Sunday night and well into yesterday morning I was in Paris, watching on television a memorable and significant event. After the results of the Referendum were known, I could not find anyone among the acute observers with whom I spoke who would forecast what might be the effect, if any, on France's relationships with NATO. Certainly, this Referendum and its outcome could not have been foreseen when France withdrew upon the General's decision. Yet the basic integrity of purpose in the Alliance suffered little more than a shudder. That is not to say that it could stand another such blow. Moreover, the continuing reaffirmations of purpose among those who remain must be physical as well as moral.
782 America provides by far the largest element of manpower within NATO, 320,000 men at the moment; and of the total expenditure of 99 million dollars in 1967 the United States contributed 76 million. President Nixon, within weeks of taking up his new office, chose to come first to Europe; and the first of his calls was to NATO. In various European capitals during his visit he stated, clearly and firmly, that his Administration would stand by NATO and maintain force levels. It should be noted that the United States' divisions are the only ones maintained at 100 per cent. strength, despite the fact that on the other side of the world they are fighting a war in which they are losing 200 men a day. Mr. Nixon's assurance is heartening to a European o in itself; but no American President is going to find it easy to be so staunch to NATO if the American people consider that the Europeans are doing less than they should in their own immediate defence. That is the understandable suspicion never far below the surface in America to-day. The Mansfield amendment failed in the United States Senate, but it had powerful support, and that resolution would have reduced the American participation from its present 320,000 to 50,000 men. Under such opposite pressures, a President prepared to give such categorical undertakings as did Mr. Nixon needs and merits a realistic response from us, the peoples of Western Europe.
NATO is far from being sick or sorry. NATO is fundamentally healthy in mind, heart and body. In some respects, important respects, it is not as well-found as it deserves to be. It is under-nourished in certain essential vitamins. This means that full advantage is not being made of that robust condition of basic health. Governments of all democratic countries—we have to appreciate—are under pressure to retrench financially, crimped all too often by considerations of foreign exchange. This has led, largely unseen (though not by the enemy), to something resembling a conspiracy of self-deception. Governments have agreed, without difficulty or demur, on the total minimum needs of the Alliance in the rolling programme of force levels. They have then quietly, almost smugly, diluted or pared away at their own agreed quotas.
The problems of NATO are the directly interwoven problems of will and performance. Lip service is paid to both in a 783 new Esperanto. It covers a kind of protocol of pretence perilous pretence, in my submission. No Government in the past many years is blameless. Every Government can find and present excuses. Excuses cannot replace fighting men, or build up force levels which Governments have agreed upon but provided on a diminished scale. This is not the time for negative excuses: it is a time for positive, productive resolve—to keep the peace and to protect the human race. This must be a living, lasting part of the whole vocation of the Britain we know.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I shall be speaking this evening mostly, as is my wont, about the Navy, but I have already received a large torpedo from my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft because I intended to take as my text the first sentence of the Statement on the Defence Estimates. If I may re-read that sentence, itThe re-orientation of our defence policy is now completed, and the Armed Forces can look forward to a period of stability and progress".My Lords, this is not an inspired document, but it probably could not be expected to be. It has consolidated the controversial decisions of the last four years, but in my innocence I still take a crumb of comfort from the words of my text. It is my pious hope that, for the moment, the days of order, counter-order and disorder are over, and that so far as the Armed Forces are concerned we have reached rock bottom. As Arthur Bryant used to say to us at the staff college, "The British Army never fights better than when in that position of supreme advantage, the last ditch". From that position, perhaps, we can consolidate and then move forward.
In taking stock of the Royal Navy at this time I will start with the surface Fleet, which in my opinion has much to commend it. For its restricted and more humble task of defending Europe in conjunction with our Allies within the NATO Alliance, its shape and size are adequate. It has a small but efficient amphibious element, and a reasonable fleet of minesweepers, although we could always do with more of these. The County class destroyers and the new Leander type 784 frigates are very fine ships—probably as good as those in any Navy in the world. I was also interested in what I read and in what the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, told us to-day, that the successors to these ships are to be smaller. I thoroughly approve of this policy so long as we do not try to put too much equipment into a smaller hull and, more important still, so long as they are cheaper so that we can have more of them.
As regards numbers, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, gave your Lordships some of the details of ships in commission. If your Lordships will forgive me, I will give the figures again because I want to talk a little about them. The number of ships in commission in the Royal Navy in 1964 was 181. To-day, it is 144. Now this is perhaps understandable taking into account our economic situation and our reduced rôle in world affairs, but it makes a fairly complete nonsense of Mr. Healey's claim to be substantially improving our contribution to NATO. What I find not so reassuring is the state of the Reserve Fleet. Whereas in 1964 we had 170 ships in reserve or undergoing long refits, to-day we have 60. To take one example, H.M.S. "Maidstone", an old ship of mine, was converted between 1958 and 1962 at a cost of over £2 million to be a depot ship for nuclear submarines. She is now to be scrapped. A number of other ships, on many of which much money has been spent on refits and conversions, are going with her long before what would appear to be the end of their useful lives. Now there may be some very good reason for this, but I should be grateful if the noble Lord the Leader of the House would explain to me what it is.
Turning to submarines, again the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, gave us an extremely able and full explanation of the position there. Three of the four Polaris submarines will be in service before the end of this year. I still wish that Her Majesty's Government could be persuaded to order a fifth. From the operational point of view, there is a subtle difference between four and five, more so than between three and four or five and six, and I do not doubt that that was the reason why five was the number originally chosen. I would ask the Minister of Defence to take a look 785 at this again. Of the nuclear hunterkiller submarines, Mr. Mason declared in another place in December, 1967:We will continue to build up the growing force of Fleet submarines which will provide the main striking power of the Navy …" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 14/12/67, col. 231.]At that time there were in service some three submarines, three were building and a seventh had been ordered. In January, 1968, only a month later, the Prime Minister announced a slowing down in the rate of naval construction. In the present White Paper, which is dated February, 1969, we still have only three in service. The other three are still building, one becomes operational in January, 1970, and the eighth has not yet been ordered. I submit, my Lords, that when the carriers phase out in 1971 it does not seem as if the "main striking power of the Navy" is going to be very strong. May I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House whether any consideration has been given to speeding up the building programme in view of the fact that when the slowdown was ordered the carriers were planned to continue well into the 1970s?
I now turn to maritime strategy. I looked for a very long time at the White Paper to see whether Her Majesty's Government were considering any responsibilities at all outside Europe and NATO in the 1970s. In paragraph 26 of Chapter I I found the words:… we must ensure that we still have forces which can operate effectively outside Europe as required".My Lords, if "effectively" is the operative word, the Navy is desperately handicapped by the phasing out of the aircraft carriers, or, to put it another way, the failure to provide ships at sea with their own reconnaissance and strike capability. This is a very serious weakness which must one day be overcome if ships are ever to conduct even minor operations beyond the close range of an R.A.F. umbrella. I am most anxious that in their enthusiasm to disengage from everything outside Europe Her Majesty's Government should not be hoisted by their own petard. There is now a large Russian fleet in the Mediterranean, and there is increasing Russian naval activity in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. This has caused much alarm and despondency. I think it was 786 unfortunate that the Minister of Defence should have announced of the Mediterranean thatin the event of war we could sink all Soviet ships within minutes".He might have some trouble with the submarines. But even if it were true, it was a silly thing to say, because it was not the point. Russian naval activity is, of course, political. The Russians are ostensibly doing no more than exercising their right to the freedom of the seas—a principle for which the Royal Navy stood for 300 years.
The Russians are in fact showing the flag—a form of sport which I have commended to your Lordships on many previous occasions in this House. The only answer to this is for us and our allies to do the same, but to do it better. We should match them, ship for ship, with perhaps a slight edge in areas of the world which are especially important to us—the Persian Gulf, for example. This problem is taken care of in the North Sea and the North Atlantic, where we and our allies have sufficient ships and the Russians are of little more than nuisance value: also in the Mediterranean, thanks to the American Sixth Fleet. In the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, where we, the British, have special responsibilities, we should be playing a major part, instead of which it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw altogether. The Minister of Defence said the other day of the Mediterranean:We have provided a Naval presernce of our own as a counter to the political role of the Soviet Units.All he was, in fact, doing was replacing something in the Mediterranean which should never have been taken away. Why do the same arguments not apply to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf?
I must emphasise again that the first preoccupation of sea power is to prevent war. We can play our proper part in this only if we have a Naval presence ready and available to act when the first spark is lit. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I believe this to be more and not less important when a subsequent conflagration could end up with a nuclear exchange. The Prime Minister seemed to be more aware than some of his colleagues and supporters of the importance of a Naval presence when he ordered 787 "Fearless" to Lagos to back un his talks with the Federal Government of Nigeria. In doing so, he was removing half Mr. Healey's Naval presence in the Mediterranean; but who is to say that he was wrong?
My Lords, I now want to turn to what I consider to be much the most disquieting thing in the White Paper, and it was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne; that is, the shortfall in the recruiting. This is true of all three Services. The reasons given in paragraph 38—the fall in the birthrate in the middle-50s, the effects of the Industrial Training Act, and early marriage—may play a small part but are not convincing, although much play was made of them in the Defence debate in another place. The Minister of Defence was far more honest when he said in a speech on July 25:There is no doubt that the main reason for the fall-off in recruiting is the general image of the Services among the civilian population.In the same speech, he said:I think there is no doubt that one major reason for the worrying fall in recruiting over the last twelve months or so is the impression, current among a large section of the civilian population, that there is no future in the Services.The Government, and perhaps a hard core of their supporters in another place, must accept the responsibility for this impression and for the effect it has had on the image of the Services among the civilian population. We have now had seven Defence White Papers in under five years, each one informing us of abandoned commitments and reductions in the Services, with a smug pat on the back for the amount of money that has been saved. It is also a fact that the way in which pronouncements are phrased can affect the view taken by parents, school authorities and the young people themselves of the prospect of a career in the Forces. Too often the announcement of a cut in the Services has been made to coincide with some unpalatable piece of legislation on the home front. The modern Serviceman is no fool, and he dislikes the feeling that he and his Service are being used as a political pawn. It should be said more often that even after the declared reductions have taken place Britain will retain powerful, effective and indispensable 788 Armed Forces for as far ahead as anyone can foresee.
The Armed Forces are too readily associated with the "dirty" words of the 1960s—imperialism, colonialism, gunboat tactics and the rest. So much so that in every military operation, from Aden and Anguilla to Northern Ireland, Pressmen and politicians are constantly breathing down the necks of the soldiers in case one thug, be he Arab, West Indian or a member of the I.R.A., should get a British rifle butt on his chin. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are highly professional men and can well be left to get on with the job. The sort of attitude which I have described hampers commanders and is thoroughly bad for morale. But, worst of all, it lowers the standing of the Armed Forces in the eyes of the civilian population. Instead of constantly asking damn-fool questions about the alleged brutality of our Servicemen, Parliament should give our Armed Forces their confidence and support and make it clear to the country that they are doing so.
Finally, my Lords, there is one priceless asset which does not appear in this very cost-conscious document. It is not clear what proportion of the Defence Votes can be identified as devoted directly to the training of individuals in technical and administrative schools which in due course will add to the total skilled and trained manpower of the country. Training in the Armed Forces in technical and other skills is second to none. In the Navy we get their services for anything from five to fifteen years but even the oldest of them have a good twenty years left to devote to a civilian job. In addition to this, the voluntary nature of our Armed Forces means that in a permissive and turbulent world these young men have voluntarily placed themselves under discipline. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the social behaviour of young Servicemen, which formerly was apt to be a bit rough, now stands out as a model for their civilian contemporaries. Thank God! we still have them—and let us do all we can to persuade more to come forward.
As a third generation of sailors, I have always regarded the Royal Navy as the finest Service in the world. Perhaps the 789 other two are not too far behind. The time to buy shares in a good company is when they are at the bottom of the market. If I were a young man with a spirit of adventure and a desire to serve my country, I would join now
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, since 1965 those of us intimately connected with the Territorial Army have in your Lordships' House fought, first against the rumours of mutilation and later against the successive mutilations of what was once the cheapest voluntary part-time military service in the world. I can only suggest that those who would argue that the TAVR II is an adequate successor to what was there before or an adequate reserve for our Regular Army need their heads reading. I am the Honorary Colonel of the Devon Territorials—all eight men of them. What a Gilbertian situation! But they represent what used to be a dozen major and minor units, each with its history and traditions. As I noted in a letter to our local General recently, I reaccepted the position only in the hope and belief that our next set of rulers would do something to repair the well-nigh irreparable damage done to our Volunteer Reserve Forces. I also noted that the Ministry of Defence must still have a sense of humour, in that the date of reappointment was to be April 1. Colin Mitchell says in his recent book, after referring to two Territorial Army officers:At that time any citizen in the Territorials was living proof that the British race was still capable of giving voluntary service to the State despite the inherent apathy of socialism to national pride.The whole defence concept seems to be now to show our enemies that we are not too strong and our friends and relations how little help we can be in an emergency. Certainly Australia and New Zealand consider our proposal to withdraw from Singapore as the greatest niece of ingratitude ever. I may mention that for four years I happened to be a GM Intelligence in Australian Army headquarters and I think I know a little of the feeling. It may interest your Lordships to know that quite apart from the assistance they had given this country in the previous three wars, they had still, up to Korea, a corns commitment to come to our assistance in need. That is 790 a commitment on which we based our Intelligence at the time. One is tempted to say about the position in which the Government have put us to-day what Nelson said of the Neapolitans:God knows, they had little enough honour to lose; but what little they had, they lost.The decision to abolish the Fleet Air Arm just as the development of the V.T.O.L. aircraft was becoming a feasibility and therefore with small, cheap aircraft carriers just around the corner was short-sighted in the extreme. I should not like to be a soldier doing any of the normal peace-time operations—I was a Regular soldier for 15 years—with the nearest airfield 500 miles away. The Air Force has had some of its more promising aircraft cancelled; their nuclear capability is to go. But then, in abolishing the Civil Defence, the Government abolished the credibility of our nuclear deterrent. Was it not ironical that the Government got rid of the Civil Defence in the year when its members, in conjunction with the old Territorial Army, could have been most useful in coping with the floods that we had in the South-East and South-West of England? In Dc von we used to have a Sapper unit which every year built a Bailey bridge for our county show. They were mutilated, and when the bridge on our boundary with England was washed away they had to send to Essex for one.
One of the main reasons, to my mind, why recruiting is so bad—and we had all this last week—is that the Governments of this country (I use the word, in the plural) it seems have decided over the years to do away with the regimental system. To talk about the big regiment is, to my mind, so much intellectual poppycock. I think the position was summed up best in an article in the Evening News during the time of the Korean war. Talking about the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Major Muir the article stated:The theorists and those with a passion for administrative tidiness held that the infantry battalion, with its great simple prick of regimental tradition, was hoplessly out of date. Officers and men must be interchangeable like cogs. The social theorists with their fingers in the pie too; they particularly resented the idea of family connection with a regiment—it smelt of 'privilege' and 'reaction', of social snobbery. It is to be noted that Major Muir rallied and inspired his men, not with the code number of an anonymous group and not 791 with some such cry as, 'Citizen soldiers of the Social Democracies of the West' but with the name of their regiment, the Argylls.After pointing out that Major Muir was killed leading the counter attack on Hill 282 and was the son of a previous C.O. of the Regiment, the article went on:He represented and embodied the faith—so sneered at in progressive circles—that inheritance of this kind is a great privilege, linked inescapably with an austere duty.My Lords, with completely inadequate reserves, as I see it, with the abolition of most of the Territorial Army, I see no alternative to the reintroduction of National Service. In fact, I am one of those who believe it should never have been abolished. If, for those two years, developing young lives could have their energies directed once again to doing something for their country, I think that the hoodlums, vandalism and protesters for the sake of protesting would be largely banished and other forms of national indiscipline halved.
For hundreds of years, my Lords, it has been the strategic policy of this country to keep the Russians out of the Gulf and the Mediterranean. Now it seems we are practically inviting them in; and this at a time when we make a virtue of pretending to have an Army based on Europe. How can we make believe that we could protect the Falkland Islands against the Argentine; Guyana against Venezuela; British Honduras against Guatemala; Gibraltar against Spain; have a NATO commitment or anything else you like, with the reserveless, under-recruited forces which seem to have been dumped on us by our administrators to-day?
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
My Lords, at this time of night I shall try to cut my remarks to the minimum. In the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy for 1968—that is, last year—Cmnd. 3701, the following was said in paragraph 20:NATO defence planning must pay special attention to possible situations below the level which would provoke a strategic nuclear response.My Lords, if they have paid this special attention I do not think that the knowledge of it has yet reached the public. Last year, in our debate here, I tried to 792 extract some information on the subject of NATO'S conventional commitments. To-day's debate has produced a certain amount of light on the subject, but I still feel that it is not nearly as clear as it should be for the benefit of those people in the country who take an interest in defence and who are genuinely worried, I am sure, at the present very complicated situation in NATO; and who have grave difficulty in understanding what it is that is being done.
I do not think that they have much difficulty in understanding the main problem of the nuclear deterrent; that is to say, a deterrent in response to a major deliberate attack. People can understand that and realise that the horrible consequences might, in certain circumstances, have to he tolerated. On the other hand, I think that people, especially those who read Lord Wigg's article in The Times on February 20, would agree with much of what he said, in that they feel that the credibility of the nuclear deterrent is not nearly as absolute as some people make it out to be and that there must be a threshold below which no one would contemplate invoking the nuclear deterrent and no one would contemplate providing it.
In anything that I have seen it has never been made very clear what NATO's capability is to cope with emergencies which might arise and which were clearly below the level of nuclear response. We are told of NATO'S conventional commitment to hold the fort for a few days while people think whether to invoke the nuclear deterrent or not, but that is quite a different problem. What I think is worrying people is that, it is evident, on studying the attitude of Communist countries since the War, that obviously their most successful type of operation has always been based on subversion It would start with some unstable political situation, as indeed in Vietnam in the early days. There is a cry for help, probably wrapped up in camouflage to make it look like self-determination. You get a Communist country coming in to help, either with armed forces or volunteers, and there is your Vietnam situation.
Many people that I have spoken to cannot see why such a situation should not arise in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, referred to the unstable 793 situation which we all know exists in Greece. One does not want to mention other countries, but I think that Greece is perhaps an exception. It has had a Communist resolution before and it could have a Communist revolution again. Suppose it issues a cry for help; suppose the Bugarians come in to help; what is NATO's attitude going to be to that, bearing in mind that if Greece goes Communist and becomes part of what has now become known as the Communist Empire, Russia gets the use of Piraeus and the Mediterranean and our friends in Turkey are virtually cut off, landwise anyway, from the rest of NATO? I do not expect detailed answers on that kind of point, but it is an aspect which does not seem to me to have had any public discussion. I think it ought to have, because I believe that people who are interested in defence must know something of that commitment before they can judge whether the conventional resources of NATO and our own conventional contribution to NATO are sufficient.
As regards the efficiency of NATO'S resources, one hears a great many different opinions. Those noble Lords who read The Times Supplement on NATO, issued on April 10, will remember that it contained an article from a member of the Institute of Strategic Studies, in which he wrote:If countries only maintain small regular forces they must have a proper reserve strength to back them and to provide for the unforeseen. Britain has here been one of the weaker elements of the alliance.On the deployment of NATO, he said this:The deployment of NATO's forces is far from ideal. This deployment is a legacy of the last war. Peace-time barracks are there and changing would be costly. Movement across the front at a time of fighting would be hindered by congestion and lack of depth.I have no idea what weight should be placed on that particular gentleman's opinion but it is certainly very different from what Mr. Healey told us, for instance, in the debate in another place on March 4, when, dealing with NATO'S conventional forces, he said:I believe that the current level is entirely adequate to deter—or suppress—without the use of nuclear weapons anything short of a deliberate major attack."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/3/69, col. 242.]My Lords, one could not say fairer than that. It is a very big claim to make, but 794 one cannot of course say how big, because one does not know what level of danger he is contemplating. That, in turn, depends on this nuclear threshold about which we have heard so much.
I feel that the public are entitled to more information on this aspect of NATO'S policy. I think they are horrified at the idea suggested in the article by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, that there is a really low nuclear threshold. People to whom I have spoken, apart from being horrified, cannot believe that it is credible. In other words, they cannot believe that in anything short of a major all-out deliberate attack, where NATO would call for the nuclear deterrent, any American President would be foolish enough to use it. But there is, of course, the no-man's-land occupied by tactical nuclear weapons. All I can say on this is that no one I have heard seems to understand anything of it at all. It would be as well if at some time we were given at least some indication of the role they are sup-posed to play—whether these weapons are simply an automatic prelude to a nuclear exchange, or whether they have some viability in their own right.
To conclude, I want to give another reason why I think some of this information should be given, so far a8t it is consistent with security. We have heard a great deal about its being of no use having military strength if it is not backed up by economic strength. That is true, but it is not the whole truth. It is probably equally true to say that it is no good building up a high standard of living and a high standard of freedom if we do not have the military strength to defend not only our own standards but also those of our allies.
There is a third factor which is not always remembered but which I believe is of overriding importance—that is, moral strength, or as you may like to call it, morale. There is a danger, which I think perhaps Her Majesty's Government have not appreciated, that if they devote almost their entire public statements to proving how clever they are to have cut down the cost of defence, and if they spend all their time talking to the wishful thinkers, defeatists and pacifists, though in this House we understand why that is done, it makes a bad impression in public and has a cumulative effect which it is difficult perhaps for 795 its authors to appreciate. Therefore, it is vital that the public should be given an idea of what they would be in for in all the horrible alternatives that are open to us in NATO, so that, if the worst does happen, we can be sure of the support from public opinion which we have always had before. I would ask Her Majesty's Government to give this House all the information they can on this question of the conventional role of NATO and also to try to switch the emphasis in their public statements from pacifying the pacifists to encouraging those people who are interested in defence and who will undoubtedly rally round the country in any time of crisis
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY
My Lords, following the last speaker I would say: "Let justice be done though the heavens fall". Surely that is a foretaste of what nuclear warfare may be? Perhaps noble Lords remember the young pilot who was killed in the last war, who wrote to his girl friend:There is a fate, Elizabeth, For which we all must wait,And man and war can do no more Than try and change the date.We have to face it, otherwise it does not deter. There are armies from all the countries in NATO committed to realising that their duty is to be killed first, in order, one hopes, to prevent the Armageddon starting.
The NATO forces in Europe have to obtain options, to obtain time for sanity. They have to use their mobility and expertise to make sure of what is coming. What they have to do is to stop nonsense occurring, because nonsense in this case could be disastrous. The death of Ulbricht would cause an increase of tension and cause on both sides an awkward situation. If China came farther into the Soviet Union, the tension all along would be increased. It is this retention of control in an unstable political situation which is the duty of NATO forces in Europe, and that is why it is a pity at this present time that NATO itself is in danger. Where we have a vacuum—and there are so many around the world at present—there is always danger. The removal of forces and the threat of force reduces that time lag when the forces must ask for nuclear response. Every 796 time a brigade comes back to England or goes back to Canada, or a battalion goes back to Belgium proper, so much more dangerous is nuclear war. Of course, the forces there hope to use the tactical nuclear weapon first. That will depend largely on when we are going to get the new tactical nuclear weapon launcher, because unless we are mobile it is much more difficult to do and this itself reduces the time lag and therefore is much more dangerous. The tactical weapons are also used only to ensure that madness does not occur, and to leave open further options to canalise what is coming, and not to destroy everything that is coming and all the area round about it. It is to find out even more surely and certainly that it is a major planned aggression.
That is why it is a pity that the Sixth Brigade has come back as it has done. It is an even greater pity that it does not practise returning to B.A.O.R. in its operational role at operational speed. It goes down almost by civil line four or five days, gathering up as it goes, and goes back to Germany. Would it ever really go back when the crisis was on? Would not everybody say: "Look; if England sends that brigade back to Germany it is escalating the situation and making it even worse"? In the invasion of Czechoslovakia there was plenty of military and political warning. To hide it is to take the coward's way out. The fact was that nothing could be done because NATO is a purely defensive military alliance, and nothing more. All the trappings of music and of culture are irrelevant. It is a defensive military alliance for those who are in it, and Czechoslovakia was not in it. Of course the tension increased, and of course dangers could have come. Where was the Sixth Brigade? It did not budge from where it was in Yorkshire. Obviously, people thought then: "Do not send it. There is a danger of escalation". This is what one fears: that the more forces that are taken back and promised to go will never go when the real danger comes.
If you want the forces in Germany to hold up possible attacks conventionally for longer you have to be impossibly rich to provide the weapons and the men that they need. They must be at full strength. Because of recruiting difficulties, very few British Army units in 797 B.A.O.R. are up to full strength. The numbers, I am sure, are as the noble Lord opposite said this afternoon, something over 50,000; but the fighting units are not up to strength. Above all, I think more Chieftain tanks about which the noble Lord also spoke, would be needed; and it is important that when regiments come away from the tour of duty there they are not switched to other forms of tanks where they have no necessity for the expertise they have picked up on the Chieftains. So if you want a longer conventional pause you must have more conventional tanks and soldiers.
To get down to more pleasant matters, sport is a necessity in the Rhine Army. Only in that way can people be prevented from going stark, staring mad when they are thinking of the alternatives of atoms, tactical nuclear weapons, microbiological warfare, and, indeed, espionage, which is at present practised, particularly from the Soviet bloc countries, in all the towns where British soldiers live. Every form of pressure is put upon them—alcoholic, sexual and otherwise—to break them in this thing. It is only by sport, getting into the mountain air and away from the soldiering life, that this tension can be relaxed. I hope that the Government may consider the help that they would give by making some of the ski-ing events military training and adventure training, for which money is granted. Already, I believe, cross country ski-ing is considered necessary, and therefore adventure training, for which grants are made. But downhill ski-ing is not so considered. I suggest that this idea might be worth looking at, and one would hope later for a helpful answer.
Now that we are no longer fighting wars around the world, risks have to be found elsewhere, because soldiers must have risks. Here is a golden opportunity for risk-taking adventure. The Army championship in downhill ski-ing was won last year by three soldiers—by which I mean what we used to call "other ranks", but what we now call "soldiers". This shows what can be done. But they had to spend from their own pocket about £100 each. I should hope that this could become official adventure training. They would still have to spend something, because it is right that they should pay for what they 798 enjoy; but the Government could help them over some of the rest.
We have heard a lot to-day about whether trade follows the gun-barrel or the flag. What it does follow is stability. What it avoids is vacuum and danger. It has avoided where we have pulled out. The idea that it would cost more money to stay in some of the places where we are now is negligible compared with the money which could be invested there and lost. Nobody on this side thinks of enormous forces remaining in the Far East or the Persian Gulf. But one of the things that most of us on this side regret is the ending of the Commonwealth Brigade, that happy band of brothers. Those of us who have served in Commonwealth forces, as in Korea, know so well what good it does, apart from the purely military good. It was a real factor of stability and happiness, and a real Commonwealth feeling. It could have been so easily Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom at very little cost.
Coming back closer to home, to the place that I always mention, Malta, the Government have increased the Air Force to be stationed in Malta, and have reduced the Naval force, I think, to nil. Will they, therefore, not consider keeping a British battalion of soldiers in that country, if Malta so desires it, so as to ensure the security of the base fir the R.A.F. there? Could not a battalion be taken from the Third Division? Nothing would be more pleasing to the soldiers. The buildings and the barracks are there, and it is reasonably cheap and extremely pleasant.
Coming right back home, I would make a personal plea as regards Mill-bank Hospital. There has been much correspondence as to whether it should go to the Arts side or remain far the good of human beings recovering their physical health. If that hospital is moved outside the centre of London, the advantages that it has for soldiers now will go. Those advantages are that all the honorary specialists, the physicians and surgeons, the cancer experts, and every other expert, are here on the spot and are honoured and pleased to go to Mill-bank. They know that they are going to attend to soldiers who are, after all, subject to all the human diseases, except age, that we all are. One hopes 799 very much that an early answer can be given that the Royal Military Hospital will remain at Millbank.
I will not say more about recruiting, except that the Territorial Army cuts themselves affect recruiting, because so many people do not see soldiers any more. A young man walking in the Highlands would not know what a soldier looked like, except from a story book, and that would probably be a hundred years out of date. This is one real effect. Coming back to Germany, in relation to home defence, there is another odd effect. A soldier overseas, if he honestly believes that he may have to fight for his country, for his regiment—which is probably more true—likes to know that his family at home is properly looked after; that his mother and father and his own country are safe. He cannot feel that now. The idea, as some people have said, that the United Kingdom will be attacked only after the British troops in Germany have been defeated does not bear looking at. The enemy could so easily come straight here. By-passing the main defence is a classic tactic ever since history began.
We have cut military forces in all sorts of odd places. We have cut considerably the number of officers in the Ministry of Defence, yet at the same time (I say this without meaning any disrespect to the Civil Service) the number of civil servants has gone up. At some time it would be interesting to see the figures of the drop in serving officers and the increase in civil servants.
With this kind of thing one has to think years ahead, and not days. One must have the desire to serve and to do one's duty. These are terribly old-fashioned words, but they still mean much to the forces. Of precepts there have been many. I can remember three, of which one is relevant but I hope your Lordships will excuse the other two. Without a family you cannot have true love. Without property you cannot have true freedom. Without leadership you cannot have true authority. My Lords, there is plenty of leadership in the Services; there is plenty of authority in the Government. One only hopes that a little of the first can go to the last
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I should like first of all to apologise because I have not been able to attend the entire debate. That is all the more regrettable because I shall make one or two assumptions about the debate as a whole, and if they are invalid then of course somebody will tell me. I think it would be agreeable to your Lordships' House if I said that what is contained in this White Paper from page 9 onwards is consequential on what is set forward in the first nine pages of this document. The assumption that I will briefly record, if I may—and it is made, if I may say so, with all the authority of a ticket collector on an excursion train—is that the basic aim of our defence policy is toensure the security of Britain by concentrating our major effort on the Western Alliance"—because that has a unique value as a deterrent to war.This aim is sensible, stable and vital. It is sensible because it recognises the basic realities of our economic and political interests in the world to-day. It is stable because the task is irreducible.That, of course, semantically is nonsense. Because something cannot go lower, it does not necessarily mean that it cannot go up. But we will leave that.We can withdraw from East of Suez but not from our situation in Europe.…It is vital because, without the security which comes from the strength to deter aggression, we put at risk the achievement of all our other national purposes.My Lords, supposing this is agreed. Then it is, I think, consequential that most of the arguments to which your Lordships have listened, and which your Lordships have deployed, have only marginal differentiation. And as the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, and others reminded us, there is considerable consensus. If these propositions are agreed, then we have to work within a certain framework, and within that framework there are broad agreements to which your Lordships have already given notice in the debate hitherto. The extraordinary thing to me is that, so far as I know, the assumption has been made by every speaker that the fundamental nature of this White Paper is not in dispute; that in fact, whatever our differences may be in detail, there is no substantial difference that we are confronted 801 with an issue or a number of issues which require the deterrent, which can be provided only by the kind of proposals contained in the 109 pages of this document which follow the first nine.
This I am to contest because I believe it is fundamentally unsound. I do not say this with any relish, and I hope that no one will accuse me of being a defeatist just because I am a pacifist, as the noble Viscount assumed. What I have to say is that I should have thought it existential to begin with. I do not believe that all the people who might read this debate would assume that this is already a cut-and-dried case. I am persuaded that there are a great many young people who repudiate the whole thing. They may have reasons which are not particularly cogent; they may have arguments which are not finished or final. But they have deep instincts that this is a kind of moonbeam from a larger lunacy; and if we are to think in terms of recruiting it may be that the blandishments offered to those who would be invited to join the Forces may be insufficient. It may be that particular demographical conditions have reduced the number of intake. I would respectfully suggest that another reason is that there are a great many young people who will still have the vote who are utterly and completely antipathetic to the whole idea that the deterrent is the way to peace and that the programme in this White Paper is anything more than Bunker ideology.
I am surprised, if I may say so, that none of my ecclesiastical friends have felt that they ought to put in their oar on this particular issue, because I am persuaded from my knowledge of them that they hold views tantamount to those which I am now expressing. When I think of C.N.D., and Members on this side of the House and members of the Government who have stood up and walked round and sat down for C.N.D., I wonder: where are these flowers gone? Is it to be assumed that there is unanimity in your Lordships' House, and therefore the suggestion of unanimity in the country as a whole, that deterrents by the processes laid clown in this White Paper are not only valid, not only sensible, not only stable, but also justifiable in every other respect? I doubt it. In fact, I take the entirely opposite view.
802 I should have said that there are an increasing number of people, not unintelligent, who have come to the conclusion that we are living in the kind of world of this White Paper, which is basically unreal, increasingly irrelevant, and therefore in the strictest sense lunatic. It may well be that there is an internal consistency about the arguments. But then this is a purely imaginary analogy. A number of mental patients might congregate together and conduct a Cabinet meeting, and they might conduct their affairs with flawless logic, but that would not make them Cabinet Ministers and it would not validate any of the conclusions at which they might arrive. If you do not accept, as I do not, the basic assumption on pages 7 and 9 of this document, then you are bound to say that, in taking note of it, what you are taking note of is something that is internally relevant only provided that its positive and objective intentions are themselves valid.
For a number of reasons I believe that they are not. I do not subscribe to the idea that the deterrent is effective, and I repeat what I was venturesome enough to say to your Lordships on another occasion: that the Cuban crisis, which gave comfort to so many people as evidence of the deterrent's effect, was in my judgment no such thing. It is true that Mr. Khrushchev was deterred after due opportunities had been given to him in the 13 days we remember for "getting him off the hook". But Mr. Kennedy was not deterred. I do not know within how many hours or minutes Mr. Kennedy was, of a declaration of some kind of war which could quickly have escalated. When I am invited to believe in the deterrent, and at the same time invited to believe that in Europe our conventional weapons will be so inadequate to resist a conventional attack from Russia, shall we say—it is always Russia that is the enemy—I ask: what does that mean? Does it mean that we would in fact initiate the use of tactical nuclear weapons; we would use them first and feel the response necessary to the action of the enemy to use those weapons retaliatorily?
I do not believe in the deterrent, and for another reason. What bothers me about the whole of this debate, if I may say so, my Lords, is the conduct of our affairs as if we are pursuing some kind of logical process by the clear light of reason. If there be truth in Clausewitz's oft 803 repeated and much mutilated statement, that war is a continuation of policy or politics by other means, it is certainly true that those other means do not contain the elements of rationality that were present, or should be present, in the first processes. People do not go to war because they have carefully calculated the results of an action that they might be persuaded to take or not to take. People go to war from Jenkins's ear onwards, or backwards, because of human instincts and human emotions which at a certain stage are so inflamed that the logical consequences of their actions are no longer valid. I would suppose that those who have read, for instance, The Sword Bearers, and other documents relative to the two World Wars through which we have already passed, would not be unheedful of the argument that it is only within an irrational and therefore an unreal context that the deterrent could be guaranteed to work at all.
I am persuaded that we are in fact bemused by this internal consistency and therefore there is clouded from our eyes the sort of external idiocy of which I rather think some of our younger friends are already aware. I did not take part in your Lordships' debate last week on the students. If I had done I should have tried to say, with due modesty—because I do not reckon that I am au courant with students: I do not know enough about them and I think it is all too easy to sling a guitar around your neck and think you are "with it"—that if there is any truth in the general acerbations of students which they make in their more sober moments of revolutionary fervour, it is surely this: that we have become so conditioned to the mad world of violence that we do not see it with the immediacy and the sense of nausea which to them is catastrophic; and, without impudence, as I have listened to-day I have wondered what would be the impact of such a debate upon your Lordships if you were hearing it for the first time and had not been, if I may say so, conditioned over a period of years to regard this as a pis aller. But it would be futile just to make a number of comments and criticisms without endeavouring to say something positive. Again, if this is not impudence, I have sympathy with a Government which has to deal with a corn 804 munity which largely does not accept the propositions which I have laid down. I would only say that in this debate it is important that it should be recorded that there is an increasing number of people who are now looking at the world of violence so distastefully as to believe, as I do, that even Communist aggression would be preferable to the horrors of a third world war.
But what are the propositions? I believe in the unilateral action which was first sponsored by the C.N.D. movement. It is a half loaf that is better than no bread, as far as I am concerned. I look with horror at the proliferation of nuclear weapons; I wonder how long it will be before Israel gets them and the Arab States get them. I do not know how near China is to having them. Evidence can be drawn from the history book that this competition, the race in nuclear armaments, can do nothing more than finally to produce the inevitable cataclysm. I have been overwhelmingly impressed by my noble friend Lord Snow in his prediction that if sooner or later these things do not go off by intent they will go off by accident.
What is needed, as I see it, is to break into this vicious circle: not to ask America or Russia to do it, because as things are it seems unreasonable, but to ask ourselves to do it. We can contribute what small percentage to the total strike power we can. Our credibility in the world is heavily over-taxed by our dilatoriness and, what is more, our profession on the one hand to regard defence as a matter of life and death and then to equate it with our financial stability. What could make all the difference is to provide a non-aggressive and non-associated chairman for a kind of conference that has yet to be seen because no one as yet can be guaranteed to sit impartially in the chair. This, to me, is not some vague and unsubstantial project. It is surely of the very essence of the case. But what happens now is that you are on one side or the other, and whichever side you are on pollutes the evidence which however free and honest you seek to make it, is nevertheless evidence which is polluted as it reaches the other side.
I want to finish by saying that I believe in total and complete disarmament, phased, of course, which would require another economic system than the one 805 under which we now suffer if we were not to produce complete economic chaos in the process. I know this sounds almost like pacifying the pacifist, and I make no apology for claiming a pacifist faith. I do not make it in order to ease my soul only; I make it because, looking at it, if I may try to do, sub specie aeternitatis (and that is required of a parson) I am not at all sure that we are not embarking upon a more risky and perilous path by the processes advocated in this White Paper than would be ours if we were to take the role of complete and absolute disarmament. I know there are incalculable risks but I know also there are calculable risks; and just as the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, completed his speech by an appeal for a moral condition, I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether a great opportunity does not confront us now of looking out at this world, which is in the grip of nuclear power, and of saying to ourselves, "We, who have tasted power and still enjoy some of it—if we were to make this gesture, we might ourselves have to suffer many things, but might it not be the creative action by which a new kind of peaceful opportunity were made available to all men?"
That I believe, and that I would add to this debate, not as some kind of contentious objection to what has already been said but as part of the contribution to the full examination of this much perplexed, difficult and lethal issue. I believe that this is part of our responsibility, my Lords, in taking note of this White Paper; and I pray that it may ultimately be our policy
§ 8.46 p.m.
My Lords, I fully appreciate the views which have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, but I do not propose to follow his arguments, except to say that I am convinced that the nuclear deterrent has kept the world at peace for the last twenty years or so.
One of the most important matters which has been debated to-night, and I propose to add a little to it, is manpower. Of course it is a platitude to say that without men we should have no Air Force, no Navy and no Army; but it is perfectly true. I understand that last year Her Majesty's Government spent some £3 million in propaganda and advertising 806 for recruits, and all we got out of the expenditure of this large sum of money was a diminishing return. Why are we not getting the numbers we require? I believe that there are many reasons for this. First and foremost I believe that it is largely due to the second of the White Papers, indicating that our Forces are to be reduced, together with constant changes in policy, which we all know have occurred from time to time. Men already in the Forces have become dispirited by the constant changes, and I think they wonder what their future is going to be.
I would say that the old slogan, "Join the Navy and see the world", will shortly be a dead letter. I suspect that very soon we shall be faced with a shortage of suitable candidates for Commissions. This can be a very serious matter indeed, as once it has developed it takes a very much longer time to correct than in the case of the ratings in the Navy, and other ranks. I hope that Her Majesty's Govern-will tell your Lordships to-night what plans they have in mind to remedy this disturbing situation.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if everybody is so dissatisfied—and the noble Lord particularly referred to the Navy—how does he explain the fact that the re-engagement rate has steadily improved? I do not know whether he has read the White Paper.
My Lords, I fully appreciate that the re-engagements are very good—in fact better than they have been for some time. But it does not necessarily follow that there will be a great many new recruits; indeed, I fear that there will not be recruits unless we get a constant policy and do not keep making changes.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sorry to press this point. I fully concede the point on recruits, but the noble Lord did not only say that: he said that people were dissatisfied in the Services. Really, he ought not to make remarks of that kind without justification, in face of the re-engagement rates.
My Lords, I would say that is true among the younger men in the Services, but not among the older ones, who of course come on for re-engagement.
807 I should now like to turn for a few minutes to reserves for the Navy. It is obvious that as the size of the active Fleet is being reduced the need is for a greater and not a smaller number of reservists to deal with any unforeseen emergency that may arise. Where are the reservists who in time of emergency would be available to man the Reserve Fleet? I believe that the Fleet, Reserve numbers only about 8,000, apart from the volunteers. It is a very small number, and it would be difficult not only to man the Reserve Fleet but to bring the ships of the Active Fleet up to war-time complement. I regard this inadequacy of our reserves as a very serious matter, because properly trained men for the Navy cannot be produced in a hurry. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will indicate what plans they have in mind for remedying this disturbing situation.
To touch on another matter, in the past we used to debate the Services' Estimates on different days, and I suggest that it would perhaps he more useful if we were to return to this procedure. I suggest it is not very suitable to debate "nuts and bolts" lumped together in a Motion on defence as a whole. However, I feel that I must turn for a few minutes to Fleet armaments to-day. I would say that the greatest danger to the Fleet at the present time is from Soviet destroyers armed with surface-to-surface missiles having a range of some 30 to 40 miles. Indeed, it has been said, I believe, that the range is very much higher. Another danger is from mass attack by missile patrol boats controlled by long-range aircraft at ranges of up to 20 miles.
What do we have to protect the Fleet against these attacks? Are the Minister of Defence and the Admiralty Board relying on the vulnerable helicopter, fitted with missiles to provide this protection? Surely what we require is some form of fixed-wing aircraft carrier which can be produced at a reasonable price. I suggest that we could have a number of merchant ship hulls converted to a flat top for this purpose; and a considerable number could be provided for less than the cost of one sophisticated aircraft carrier. I hope that Her 808 Majesty's Minister who is to reply will deal with these matters this evening.
I should like to refer for a few minutes to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I suggest that with maritime forces the distinction drawn between the NATO area and the rest of the world is a false one. It is not possible to draw a line across the ocean to limit the area of maritime operations. In the early part of the last war, your Lordships will remember, the German Admiral Raeder caused us a great deal of trouble by attacking our merchant ships at widely dispersed points in the ocean. To-day, the threat posed by Russia is certainly not confined to North Atlantic and European waters. I suggest that it is high time NATO was reorganised and took account of these facts. Why not change the name of NATO to the Western Alliance Treaty Organisation, WATO? I maintain that it is vital to broaden the responsibilities of the Western Alliance in the maritime field to meet Soviet naval expansion.
May I just refer for a few minutes to the maritime position in the Mediterranean? The idea of creating a force specially for operation in the Mediterranean is not a very practicable one. No doubt it is a nice gesture put forward by the Minister of Defence to cover his doubtful idea of being able to sink the Russian Mediterranean fleet in a few hours, a pronouncement which I think would have been much better left unsaid. This NATO force would not be practicable, I would say, without prior political agreement of the countries concerned, and we all know what that would mean, in time alone. Some organised force is obviously better than no force at all, but I suggest that an "on call" naval force in the Mediterranean is not such an impressive gesture as it sounds, for the reasons I have given.
My Lords, I find the Statement on Defence document to be a very drab one indeed, and full of contradictions. Why not a few pictures in the book to brighten it up, as we used to have in the old days? In section II we are told that our naval forces are now deployed throughout the world, and at the same time we are pressing to withdraw from the Far East. I hope that we may have a full statement concerning the points I have raised which may help to relieve the gloom that I feel about the adequacy of our naval forces.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, no one who heard the noble Lord, Lord Soper, can fail to have been moved by his utter sincerity knowing the basic convictions upon which his speech was based, but I think that we have to bear in mind what arises from his logic. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, said that Communist aggression was preferable to the horrors of the Third World War. He is entitled to feel that, but I think that we are entitled, on this side of the House at any rate, to remember the effects in Czechoslovakia quite recently. The passive resistance which the Czechoslovakians put up so nobly, so vigorously, so independently, has unfortunately not been sustained, and Russia is drawing the noose tighter round that country than ever it was before, and another generation of Czechoslovakians is doomed to continue to live under the thraldom of Russia.
My Lords, I was much impressed by and much in sympathy with the speech of my noble friend Lord Bridgeman and his plea for the maintenance of the local defence of this country. I am not quite sure that I entirely agreed with him on one point, and on that I would rather incline to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said. I think that there is the possibility—and one which we should not exclude—of an invasion by enemy paratroops over this country as the first move in a non-nuclear war. The last man to realise that if you want to control Europe you must occupy the British Isles was Julius Caesar. He was the last man to put it into action and the Romans did it very successfully for 400 years or thereabouts.
It was not my intention to enter into the wider aspects of the Defence debate but to confine myself to quite a small section of the White Paper, that relating to the universities and defence. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this White Paper reports a very important development in the outlook of our theories in defence in this country. That is to be found in Chapter 1, paragraph 42, where it announces the establishment of lectureships by the Ministry of Defence at five of the British universities. These have now got going, and undoubtedly they have been accepted and welcomed by the universities and are already attracting students.
810 This development was a logical development of what had happened in the United States, for which we owe much to Mr. Paul Nitze, both before he became Secretary of the United States Navy and afterwards. This has been further developed in Canada, where certain professors of defence have been established. I heard on Thursday last a lecture by Professor Ayres of the University of Toronto on the defence of North America, and coming as it did from a pure civilian looking at the problem from that side it was most illuminating. The benefits to the Ministry of Defence of being able to get observation—shall we put it no higher than that?—on defence problems from other than the professional Service chiefs must be immense, and indeed that has been found to be the case by the United States Government. But I would also adil that the benefits to the universities themselves of having these defence lecturers and departments of defence within the universities is considerable.
From that one can go to the subject of the education of the officers of the Services. I want to submit to your Lordships the advantages of having graduates as officers in the Services, and especially that they should go to the universities before they take up their Service duties, because then they emerge more in line with and more understanding of the civil and national problems of the country. They are in contact with their contemporaries, and as they become more senior officers later on they are less likely either to be arrogant or to suffer from an inferiority complex.
In regard to I.Q. and intelligence, the universities are taking a much bigger slice of the population than they have been taking in the past. In consequence, a smaller proportion is left to draw upon from the schools for direct entry into officer training for the Services. There is also, of course, the advantage to the officer himself, that if he is a graduate of a university, when he ceases to be employed by the Service he is far more qualified to get a job. Perhaps the last and most important of these factors, at any rate to the Government, is that it reduces the budget for defence in that the greater part of the cost of the education of such officers will come from 811 Ministry of Education and Science funds and not out of the Defence budget.
We in the universities welcome wholeheartedly the decision that has been taken that the normal entry for officers for the Royal Air Force should in future be through the universities; that they should graduate at the university and then go for their Service training. This is not, as yet, to be universal, but I understand that it is hoped that this will be the normal mode of entry to the Service. I believe this is going to help the R.A.F. considerably, and I would draw your Lordships' attention to Chapter IX, paragraph 9, of the White Paper, dealing with the Army. That says:It is becoming more difficult to obtain the necessary numbers of young officers of the right quality for the various categoriesof the specialist corps. One might perhaps draw the attention of the Army to the action that the R.A.F. is taking.
I was impressed by what my noble friend Lord Teynham said about the shortage of officers. Here I would welcome what the Services are doing in the way of officer cadetships at the universities. We in the universities who have been taking an interest in this matter have for many years past been pressing for something of this sort. I remember in the early 'fifties drawing the attention of the Services to the fact that there would be an acute shortage of medical officers for the Services on the termination of National Service. Indeed, that was the case, and had medical cadetships not been instituted fairly quickly after the termination of National Service was announced there would have been a most lamentable shortage of doctors in the three Services.
The other types of commission have now all got cadetships at the universities. Again, it is interesting to notice that it is the R.A.F. that is going fastest and further in the award of these cadetships. I think that as regards the Army, and perhaps also the Navy, the examination of the boards is perhaps too severe and that they ought to be able to award more of these cadetships at the universities. They are well worth while for the impecunious student, because if one adds everything together I believe the figure amounts to something like £700 a year while the man is at the university.
812 Of course it carries the obligation for service in commissioned rank for a certain number of years after being commissioned.
In regard to these university cadetships there should be closer co-ordination with the universities, particularly by the military education committees, to make certain that the individuals who are awarded the cadetships are known by and identified to the universities even before they arrive, in order that they can be directed to appropriate courses of study. When we were listening to the debate on student participation a good deal was said about ineffectual lecturers at the universities. All of us who are connected with the universities know that there are some ineffectual lecturers, and we should like to manage to steer those who hold university cadetships away from these ineffectual lecturers. Therefore we want to know and to identify such students before they get pledged to any particular department in the university.
The Service units in the universities are an important part of the system. Quite rightly, economies have had to be effected in these Service units at the same time as economies have had to be effected in other branches in other parts of the Defence Budget; and in this connection it was quite reasonable to put several universities together in running one enlarged university squadron. That obviously cuts down the overheads. Certain of the economies that have been effected in the Officers' Training Corps and the numbers of the permanent staff can also be justified, but I believe that a mistake is being made in having further economies at the cost of the officer cadets themselves, at the cost of the students, either in cutting their remuneration and pay or in reducing their bounty. Unfortunately, students must earn money in the vacation, or at other times, in order that they can enjoy the full delights of the university during term time; and the present generation of students expect payment—and indeed need payment; and if they cannot get a reasonable amount of payment from the Service units in which they serve in the university they cannot be blamed if they go off and do bus conducting, which is a much more remunerative, though less useful, vacation service.
813 My Lords, I should like to make just one point about graduates who do become commissioned. Every endeavour should be made to see that they are given as purposive training as possible after they enter the Services. I think that, so far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, this is quite all right, and I would have no criticism to make of it. This probably goes also for the Royal Navy. But in the Army this is not always the case, and we sometimes hear instances of the energy, skill, and knowledge of a first-class honours graduate being quite unused in an infantry battalion, with the result that the man himself, having gone in full of enthusiasm, becomes frustrated. Intelligent young officers must be extended mentally as well as physically.
The future for officers who join the Services to-day is sometimes thought to be poor. For myself I would say that this is the very time that a young man of intelligence should seek a commission in the Services. I cannot see that our Forces can be further cut down than they are just now, and I would say that within the next ten years, possibly much less, expansion of the Forces is absolutely inevitable. I would agree with my noble friend Lord Carrington, and with other noble Lords who have spoken, that it is quite certain that the unexpected will happen—and when you have to cope suddenly with the unexpected, you must be very quick with it.
§ 9.12 p.m.
My Lords, in our discussions on Defence I have always confined my remarks to maritime affairs. The main theme of my speeches has generally been concerned with the protection of our merchant fleet in times of war, in dealing with all those many incidents that can and do occur at any time and with little warning—such, for instance as the Beira Patrol, Kuwait, fishery disputes off Iceland, and so on. Though these matters were once more or less second nature to me, I realise that times have changed and are still changing fast. Ships, aircraft, and weapons have become vastly more complicated and expensive, and their destructive power has been multiplied many times. Nevertheless I, rightly or wrongly, believe that up to the point where nuclear exchange takes place the main purpose of the 814 Royal Navy, in conjunction, of course, with the Royal Air Force, has been the protection of our merchant fleet. That, I have always thought, is what the Navy is for; and yet, strangely, I can find only one rather oblique reference to this all-important matter in the White Paper. The Navy has, of course, many other duties, such as putting the Army ashore wherever and whenever this is required, but its main duty has always been, and still I believe is, the protection of our merchant ships at sea.
Two speeches were made some months ago by noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite which make me wonder whether I am so out of date that my views and arguments are no longer valid. One of those speeches was made on April 3 last year by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, in a debate on the shipping industry In the course of his winding-up speech for the Government the noble Lord said:I do not think the Norwegians and Greeks have been specially bothered by the fact that they have not got a Navy safeguarding their growing shipping in many areas of the world.He continued a little later:It is appealing to feel the Royal Navy is there to help the Red Ensign whenever the need arises, but I fear very much that this is an image that will fade."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3/4/68, col. 1314.]Surely, the primary duty of the Royal Navy is to be there, or, at any rate, just around the corner, to help the Red Ensign whenever the need arises. It certainly was so in the past, and, if the Royal Navy is not now required, or is not going to be able to carry out its primary duty, then I think it should be explained very clearly, so that not only our great shipping interests but our people as a whole will understand what our Navy has been reduced to and in what peril our foreign interests and our merchant fleet will be in times of emergency.
There will be no policeman on the beat to come to their aid, especially in the Indian Ocean, for once we have withdrawn from there it will take weeks, rather than hours or days, for our warships to get there from home or Mediterranean waters, especially with the Canal closed; and when they get them there will be no base for them apart from Simonstown. It seems clear enough, if 815 I have interpreted the position correctly that the time is not far off when our merchant ships East of Suez will have to fend for themselves, unless it so happens that there is an allied friendly warship in the vicinity; and to me this does not seem a very sound proposition for the United Kingdom.
On this matter of the Greeks and the Norwegians, I should have thought that they were very bothered. They were certainly very bothered in the last war. It is true that both those countries have large merchant fleets for their size, but we have to remember that, so far as paying for a Navy is concerned, Greece has a population only one-seventh the size of ours, and Norway has one only one-fourteenth the size of ours. This is surely very relevant when the relative sizes of our navies is being discussed. But even supposing that the Norwegians and the Greeks are not specially bothered about the protection of their merchant fleets, that does not seem to me a very good or sensible line for us to follow.
We have enormous worldwide interests, and these are clearly reflected in the number and distribution of our merchant ships. A very few figures will illustrate this. Of all the world's ships at sea—that is, ships of over 100 tons—19 per cent. are British, and of all the world's ships in harbour 17 per cent. are British. To make the picture more convincing, we now have about 650 merchant ships East of Suez at any one time, and this number includes about 53 ships passing the Cape daily, another 36 in South African ports and another 13 in the Malacca Straits. If this is not convincing enough, British seaborne imports have roughly doubled in the last twenty years and they continue to rise at about this rate.
Surely these figures indicate the necessity for maintaining strong maritime forces, a proportion of them East of Suez. And yet we are told, rather glibly I think, on page 9 of the Defence White Paper, that… we can withdraw from East of Suez"—just like that. No reason is given. It goes on:but not from our situation in Europe, on which our national security depends.I think that is a pretty dangerous statement. I should have thought that our 816 national security depended substantially, though not of course solely, on our trade and therefore on our shipping East of Suez.
The other speech from the Front Bench opposite to which I referred, was made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on May 22 last in reply to a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. He said:I submit that in this kind of world it makes no sort of sense at all to suppose that the future of this or that part of the world, the Persian Gulf or anywhere else, can be prescribed and determined by the presence of men in tanks or aeroplanes, or even in ships.A sentence later he continued:… let us at least realise that military power in the nuclear age is a very different thing from the military power of the days of the Charge of the Light Brigade."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/5/65, col. 799.]Here, again, I get the strong impression that the Royal Navy is not in future necessarily to be employed as it always has been in the past, in guarding our interests abroad and in protecting our merchant ships wherever they may be. As I pointed out, there are plenty of them there to be protected, in the Indian Ocean from the Cape to the Persian Gulf and to Singapore. It would be so easy for an incident to arise in this vast area, particularly in times of strained relations, and I do not understand how it can be imagined that those incidents will not occur again and again. Nor do I understand why it should be supposed that naval action at sea should necessarily escalate rapidly into a nuclear exchange. For that is how, rightly or wrongly, I interpret the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
I ask once again: what can Russia have in view for her great submarine fleet, now rapidly being brought up to date by the addition of a substantial number of nuclear-powered submarines? Surely they are a force which could and would threaten our very existence, and in a war at sea squeeze the life out of us in the old, conventional way. If I were at the Russian Admiralty I do not think I should have much difficulty in working out where I should send some of those 400 submarines. Based perhaps on Aden, together of course with the necessary air reconnaissance, they could play havoc with our vital oil supplies from the Persian Gulf and our shipping in the Malacca Straits and round the Cape.
817 My Lords, if I may digress for a moment, I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate if he can tell us what the future holds for the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry. This important and advanced anti-submarine training school did vital work during the war and, as I understand it, has continued to do so ever since. A year or so ago we were told it had been decided to move it to Devonport—a step backwards, I thought, as Devonport is a good deal further from deep water than Londonderry. However, much better to have it there than to have it abolished, which I felt might have been the alternative. In the event, of course, the school, as I gather, is still at Londonderry, and I hope that perhaps it may be left there. I believe this school is of high importance to the Navy and the Royal Air Force in helping to ensure the efficient protection of our merchant fleet in war, and I hope the Minister will be able to assure us that, in spite of drastic cuts in defence spending, the Joint Anti-Submarine School will continue its vital work, preferably at Londonderry.
To continue my main argument, we all understand perfectly well that our financial resources are strictly limited, and that our Armed Forces must consequently have a strict limit also. But I, for one, simply do not understand this virtual complete withdrawal from East of Suez, certainly so far as the Navy and the Royal Air Force are concerned. I believe indeed that we have got our balances wrong. I agree, of course, that the Navy's most vital area of responsibility lies in the Atlantic; and I agree also that the Mediterranean is of great importance. With the closing of the Suez Canal, however, the importance of the Mediterranean has been diminished, since the through-traffic to and from the Indian Ocean no longer goes that way. We must remember, too, that at present the powerful American Sixth Fleet is stationed in the Mediterranean, not to speak of the Navies of Italy, Greece and Turkey; and from the point of view of time and distance it would not be too difficult for us to reinforce the NATO navies in the Mediterranean with some ships from our Western Fleet.
None of this, however, applies to the Indian Ocean, where I believe our respon 818 sibilities are as great as ever. Our trading interests there, in particular our supplies of oil from the Gulf, are of primary importance. There is very little there in the way of Allied naval strength; there will shortly be no naval base apart from Simonstown; and, with the Canal closed, naval reinforcements are a very long way off. It may be, my Lords, that I am wrong in the inferences I have drawn from the speeches of the two noble Lords and from the Defence White Paper, and if I am I shall be very glad if I can be told so. If, however, I am not wrong, then I say that already the Royal Navy has contracted to such an extent that it cannot properly carry out its traditional role in peace or in war, more particularly in the Indian Ocean; and that already we fall so far short of requirements, in ships, in aircraft and in trained crews, that it will take many years to build up to a safe level again, even if we start tomorrow.
My Lords, with our seaborne imports doubling themselves every twenty years, I do not believe this is the time to be reducing our maritime defences; and with 650 of our merchant ships East of Suez at any one time, I do not believe it is right for us to be planning a complete withdrawal from the area. On the contrary, I believe that it is highly dangerous.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, in common with many of your Lordships I have taken part in a number of Defence debates over the past ten years or so. For this reason and others, including my own defects as a speaker, it is becoming increasingly difficult for someone like me. basically a "spun yarn" major—a retired lieutenant commander, equivalent in rank to an Army major, to those who do not know the "lingo"—to make a worthwhile speech in a debate such as this without becoming repetitive to the point of boredom. The older we get the more inevitably we lose touch with our naval contacts, who retire and pass on, and the more it becomes less and less easy for us to keep au courant with naval affairs and to keep ourselves up to date.
However, I took some encouragement from this White Paper. because like my noble friends Lord Bridgeman and Lord Balerno I came upon paragraphs 41, 42 and 43 of Command Paper 3927 which 819 is before us. I read these with particular pleasure from a rather selfish angle for I thought that perhaps, if the measures described therein took effect, it might be of some help to us who have to debate these matters in Parliament. I refer to paragraph 42 of Chapter I which says:The increasing study of defence problems outside the Government is helping to create an awareness in the country as a whole of the value of the Armed Forces and a comprehension of the problems of defence and foreign policy.A wider comprehension is very necessary for the public who, after all, have to support the Government of the day with money and men for Defence policies. I personally can only hope that the awareness and comprehension referred to will sooner rather than later percolate through to the members of this Government and their followers; because there is as yet no sign—and certainly not in this White Paper—that they really understand the problems which face them in this field of defence.
The establishment of defence lectureships with Ministry of Defence support at five universities is in my view a step of the greatest value. My noble friend Lord Balerno referred to that in some detail. I shall not waste your Lordships' time with further comment. But because it was not mentioned either by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman or by Lord Balerno, I should like to refer to the Royal United Service Institution, which is referred to in paragraph 43. I have been a member of that Institution for many years. I have contributed my mite towards the fund which the Institution is now raising to help in its reorganisation to make it a public instead of a private body. I believe that an independent national institute of defence such as is envisaged, so far as I understand it, with the reorganised R.U.S.I., will prove of immense value to all those responsible for or interested in our defence and security. Therefore, I hope very much that not only will the necessary funds soon be available from industry and commerce, who are being approached, but also from the Government who have been given a special place on the Council. If there is time when the noble Lord comes to wind up perhaps he could give us some idea of how 820 matters are proceeding. These public lectures, discussions and seminars could in my opinion have a very beneficial effect and be of great assistance to those of us whose duty it is to debate Defence problems from time to time in Parliament.
I also feel that all these measures, described in the three paragraphs which I have mentioned, must, sooner or later, bring us back to the real fundamental truth which is, in my opinion, that our defence must be based on a maritime strategy to which more than one of my noble friends have referred to-night. I too have referred to it frequently in speeches on defence, and I do not propose to go over the details again to-night. But in my opinion this maritime strategy is essential to us and it is inevitable that the Royal Navy must play a leading part in it. There is a question whether the Royal Navy is adequate in strength, manpower, et cetera, to do just that.
My noble friend Lord Ashbourne has just told your Lordships of the problems involved in the protection of our trade. My Lords, our trade has always been a great problem to us throughout the ages. This is not the first time that Members of your Lordships' House have spoken with anxiety about the provision we are making to protect it. As a matter of fact, 250 years ago, on April 26, 1708, this House was concerned about just that matter, and your Lordships' predecessors took a very dim view of the lack of provision made in those far-off days by the then Government.
After a debate, which is on your Lordships' Records, they ordered that the whole House should attend on the Monarch. The Lords with White Staves were instructed to wait on Her Majesty herself to know when the Lords could be received—as in due course they were, or at any rate, their Address was. This Address, my Lords, opened with words, variations of which have been frequently used in this House and have sometimes appeared in the more enlightened White Papers which we have had before us from time to time. The words are:It is a most undoubted maxim that the honour, security and wealth of this Kingdom does depend upon the protection and encouragement of trade and of the improving and right managing of the Naval strength.Your Lordships' predecessors went on to discuss the dangers to be apprehended 821 from negligence and mismanagement resulting in loss of trade and our maritime strength entirely ruined, and then they beseeched Her Majesty in the most earnest manner:that the sea affairs may always be your first and most peculiar care.My Lords, it is the fear of my noble friends on this side of the House, and of many outside Parliament. that this Government are not giving "sea affairs" their "first and most peculiar care".
In 1969, with all the sophisticated hardware now available for warlike purposes, on the sea as well as on land or in the air, "sea affairs" cover a great deal more than purely Naval matters and notably in the air. Noble Lords who have spoken from these Benches have given plenty of examples to show that the Government are not giving peculiar care to the sea affairs. In the 1709 Address your Lordships' House ended with these words, addressed to Her Majesty's Counsellors, which I take to have been the Cabinet or the equivalent of that day:Every one of these should be made to know that it is a particular charge to take care that the seaman be encouraged, the trade protected, discipline restored and a new spirit and vigour put into the whole administration of the Navy.To-day, in 1969, there is no question about our having to restore discipline, either in the Navy or in the other Fighting Services. Our concern to-day is to restore a new spirit and vigour into the whole of our defence policy.
My noble friends and I are unhappy about the complacency shown in paragraph 45 of the White Paper, which claims that the basic aim of our defence policy, is now fully established; that it is sensible, stable and vital, and that it recognised the basic realities of our situation in the world to-day. I cannot accept that, as other noble Lords on this side have already said they cannot accept it. Nevertheless, I hope that the measures described in the earlier paragraphs, 41 to 43, which I have already mentioned, will rapidly cause a wider comprehension of the problems of defence and foreign policy. And the sooner the better. Then the public will realise the dangerous and perilous position into which the Government have got us and will decide to have no more of them. Let us hope that it will not be too late.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK
My Lords, I feel that it is incumbent on me to intervene briefly in to-day's debate even at this late hour, since I was the only Member of your Lordships' House to accompany the inter-Party delegation that visited the Gulf Command last September. I shall confine my remarks in the main to this area and to the problem the Government to-day are facing caused by the serious shortfall in recruiting. I should also stress that my contacts are not so much with high commands but rather with my own contemporaries in the Army, who are now at the level of commanding officers or brigade majors.
When I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House some 5½ years ago, I said that I believed we ware at that time faced with two fundamental problems. One was a shortage of manpower and the other was the delays in the delivery of military weapons and equipment. I believe that to-day the second point has been nearly overcome, due, I may say, in no small measure to the far-sightedness of previous Conservative Administrations; but at the same time the Government are to be congratulated, in my view, on—shall we say?—having maintained the momentum in this direction. I regret to say, however, that the first point is far more serious to-day than it was in 1963—but I will return to this in a minute.
First, may I say a few words about the Gulf Command: and here I agree with all that my noble friend Lord Selkirk has already said. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the manner in which Her Majesty's Government announced to the Arab rulers that Britain would pull out completely from the Gulf by 1971 has done great damage to our name in that area. As I ant sure many noble Lords on all sides of the House are aware, the Gulf is the exception to the rule in the Arab world. Our presence is most genuinely desired. When I was out there, it was put to me forcibly by one Ruler that all that they were asking for was time: and 1971 gives them too little time.
It is no secret that Russia is for the first time short of oil, and she has of late been showing more than a certain interest in that area. I cannot myself believe that 823 it will begin to be possible by 1971 for the local defence forces to be capable of meeting any external threat whatsoever, and it must, therefore, be possible that new protectors will move in to take our place. Do Her Majesty's Ministers really believe that when we are gone our oil concessions will remain undisturbed? When I asked the Secretary of State for Defence this question, he replied:I should not like to claim that I or anyone else can predict with assurance about events in this part of the world, but our military withdrawal does not mean an end of our interest or concern in this area.I would ask: What do these words actually mean? Is it eyewash, or do they mean something concrete? I should be grateful if the noble Lord the Leader of the House would give some clarification on this point, of which I have given him notice.
The next question that I should like to ask is this: Is it not both military and economic nonsense to pull out from our bases in the Gulf before we have completed our final withdrawal from the Far East? Is it not elementary that the Gulf bases should be retained, to be available as a staging post from the Far East? Can the Minister give the House an undertaking that this will be done? For, again, all the Secretary of State would tell me—admittedly, it was six months ago—was:It is too early to make final decisions on this yet.Surely, Socialist planning being what it is, it is not too early now. Many of us would have liked to see the United Kingdom maintaining a presence in the area at least until 1975. I firmly believe that the mere fact of our showing the flag is worth a very great deal indeed; and this is the more so when we are welcome. This, I fear, is where I strongly disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said earlier on in this debate.
The policy on this subject of the Party I support was most clearly stated by the Opposition Leader, Mr. Heath, in an article in the Sunday Times the day before yesterday. And, as was pointed out in Peterborough's column in the Daily Telegraph only yesterday, Mr. Wilson's own words to Congress in 1963 were:It is 100 times easier for Britain to remain there,"—824 he was referring to the Far East and the Gulf—even with a token force, than for us to seek to enter if trouble breaks out.Should unification—"federation" now being a dirty word—fail to work among the Gulf States, would this Government be prepared to maintain a naval force?
Turning southwards for one moment, I shall always believe that one of the greatest disservices that our present Government have done this country during their term of office is failing to reach a sensible agreement over the provision of external arms for the Republic of South Africa. It is the greatest tragedy that, because of what I consider to be this Administration's ineptitude, South Africa is now ordering submarines from France, her sea defences are being strengthened with fast patrol boats and spotter aircraft, and an enlarged helicopter force, equipped with guided missiles, is also being considered. What have we provided?
I was going to say a little about strategy in Europe and the nuclear threshold, but I feel that this matter has already been so well covered to-day, particularly by my noble friend and Leader Lord Carrington, and, if I may say so, in a highly sophisticated manner by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that I will skin it.
That brings me, my Lords, to my last point and the most important of all; namely, manpower. The current figures for recruiting are so bad that I have grave doubts as to whether even the greatly reduced ceilings will be attained. I have heard that the Secretary of State himself is worried as to whether he will be able to implement and carry through phase two of his proposed rundown. Can the Government deny this? Why are we experiencing this difficulty? Let us have no illusions about it, my Lords. It is because, and directly because, of the Defence policies of this Administration. It is a clear reflection of an incredible Defence policy and of what the Army, rightly or wrongly, believes to be a deliberate destruction of all the romantic and traditional incentives to military service.
Coming down to unit level, I am told that there is a very real sense of insecurity. I hear that many units have 825 recently been faced with an alarming number of resignations of junior majors and senior captains—the very officers whom we are going to need for command in about eight years' time. When asked why this is, the answer comes straight away: "There is a lack of faith in the future and the opportunity to travel is fast vanishing". The vast majority of soldiers do not want to be brought back to the United Kingdom where, apart from anything else, the training areas are so limited. One commanding officer recently told me that, because of restrictions placed upon him in this country when training, he could do little better with his battalion than give them gas rattles, since if he let off a thunderflash he was liable to receive a barrage of complaints. All right—this may be an exaggeration; but it is indicative of current feelings.
I understand that establishments are being made just to fit in with manpower ceilings. No one who understands these things expects a battalion with only three rifle companies to fight for any length of time successfully without a fourth company. Yet I am told that the infantry is now fixed to this reduced figure. Accordingly, any recruiting reduction below a full three company establishment—and this applies virtually to any kind of unit—quickly makes the Army a poor war-time organisation. I fear that in the past year in the Sixth Brigade alone over 200 men have purchased their discharge. I have also been told of units where up to 50 per cent. of soldiers completing their third year of service have bought themselves out. I should like to make a strong plea that if the Government must go on cutting down they should stop reducing units, but reduce still further some of the larger headquarters and the Ministry of Defence.
Here we are then, my Lords. faced with this plight and yet the new Forces' pay scales are held up by reference to the Prices and Incomes Board. As a leader in the Daily Telegraph so aptly said two months ago, "Can nonsense go further?" But, when the new scales are eventually announced, will the Government make sure that the revised rates compare favourably with the equivalent civilian rates, allowing for the incidence of overtime? For this is what the present-day soldier is interested in and it is where he makes comparisons. Can they also say when 826 the Prices and Incomes Board is likely to report? In conclusion, may I remind your Lordships of some words once spoken by Abraham Lincoln? They go like thisYou cannot escape the responsibility of to-morrow by evading it to-day".
§ 9.50 p.m.
My Lords, the debate this evening has so far lasted exactly seven hours, and I think I can say that all our apprehensions have been expressed and all our recommendations advanced. I intend to confine myself for a very short time to tabulating some of the main differences of opinion between our two sides and the various matters that give us serious worries. I think all of these have been expressed by my noble friends and by noble Lords on the Cross-Benches, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, on the Government side of the House. So it is quite unnecessary to do more than just mention them—to indicate from this Dispatch Box that we consider these are the important factors.
We accept the Europe and NATO strategy. We agree with the Government's nuclear policy but we are doubtful of our ability to respond to conventional aggression unless we have forces capable of expansion—and that we have not got. However, NATO should not be our sole interest. My noble Leader mentioned—and the point has been made by several other noble Lords—that we are seriously concerned about the future of the Gulf and East of Suez. This has been mentioned so many times this evening that I do not think I need say anything more about it. We feel there is a need for a continuing presence and we should consult with our allies how, perhaps by mainly maritime and air forces, we can come to their aid; and we must be able to safeguard our ability to reinforce if need be. That is my first point on our main differences.
My second point is this. We think that the Government show a lack of appreciation of what we can still do to engender confidence and stability throughout the world. This was well expressed by my noble friend. Lord Bourne and by other noble Lords, and I do not intend to say more than that.
827 My third point of difference is the lack of provision for home defence, civil defence and defence of strategic and vulnerable points, about which I shall have a little more to say later. These are large points and have been covered this evening, but there are a number of matters with which we are seriously concerned, and I intend merely to tabulate them. In the first place, as put forward by my noble friend Lord Glasgow and others, all the Services are in a bad way, owing to poor recruiting. In all Services there is general apprehension about the future, and fear of more cuts for political expediency. My noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick has already mentioned that a number of officers who ought to be full of enthusiasm, getting to the Staff College and with command of their units in sight, are looking over their shoulders to find jobs because they fear the future. Those two points, recruiting and apprehension about the future, cover all the Services.
Then, taking the Navy, we have heard from my noble friends who have served with distinction in the Navy—three of them here to-day—of the tremendous importance, as always, of safeguarding our trade routes. We feel that the Government show lack of appreciation of the vital importance of the Simonstown Agreement. We have heard stress put on the future of the hunter-killer submarine. We have heard mention of the lack of surface-to-surface capability. We know that the Russians have a very great lead on this and we hope that there will be a reappraisal of the Government's policy towards aircraft carriers.
So far as the Army is concerned, we have heard about the serious shortages in the British Army of the Rhine. Our allies rightly consider that our forces should be as near establishment as possible. As regards reserves, we know that the whole of the Territorial Army, the A.V.R., is required to bring the Rhine Army up to strength, and in addition we heard to-day from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that 15,000 reservists who left six years ago and have done no training since would also be required. This is a worry. I should like these reservists to be able to do some kind of training, though of course I appreciate that they have been out a long time.
828 Many of them, I am sure, are capable of doing a good military job, but I am always rather doubtful of reservists who have been out a long time really coming back willingly to do a useful job without a certain amount of re-training.
As regards the Royal Air Force, we have heard to-day of the shortage of combat aircraft for conventional operations, and I should like to stress the worry that has been expressed at the lack of dispersion of airfields and the lack of protection of airfields both here and in Europe.
Now a word on home defence. We are convinced that there is a requirement for a Territorial Army, and many of us have expressed that in the last two years. The existing Army Volunteer Reserve is working well, and we hope that they will recruit former members of TAVR III. Only yesterday I was delighted to hear that in my own part of the world, the North-East of the Highlands of Scotland, that is happening. There the men of the TAVR III are rushing to join the Highland Battalion, which in no time at all will be up to strength; and I hope that this will happen in the South. But all our reserves are earmarked for reinforcement of the Rhine Army. There are no Territorial Army units for home defence. The only basis for expansion in time of crisis is the cadres, up to 100 of which will be attached to the TAVR units. The formation of these cadres is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. It was a wise decision of the Government who, I think rightly, appreciated the serious fears in the country at the complete lack of any form of home defence.
But these cadres consist only of two officers and five N.C.Os. I understood originally that, as well as taking some of the load of peace-time administration off the officers and N.C.Os of the TAVR II units, and acting as rear parties, if those units go away, they would form the nuclei of new units, which could be raised if necessary, and for any sudden expansion of the reserves, and also to provide an organisation, after mobilisation, throughout the country to which Regular reserves not required to fill particular posts in the Regular Army can be posted and which can be used for any military purposes for which they might be required. That is what we hoped to see, but it has not yet been agreed by the Government.
829 We want to see more flesh on these bare bones of these men in the cadres. I understand that the original idea was to hold a ledger of names of willing volunteers who could be called out whenever necessary and who had already had a certain amount of military training, so that small units could quickly be found for the purposes that I have mentioned. But I understand that that has not yet been agreed, and I should like to ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House (I think I have given him notice of this) whether he can tell me what is planned in this connection. It is no good Ministers' reiterating, as they have done, that when all reservists and Territorials have been despatched to B.A.O.R. there will be plenty of trained men left. There will be plenty of trained men in the country, but they will have jobs to do, and at a time of crisis they will have twice as much work to do as they have at ordinary times. And who is to accept the hundreds of volunteers who will pour in at any time of crisis? Who is to train them? Much can be done at small cost by a little planning, earmarking, skeleton exercises and making use of the vast volunteer potential in the nation.
Our plans for the future of the home forces will cost a little more, and probably our plans in other directions will cost more; but it will be nothing like the large sum which was quoted ironically by Mr. Healey. Naturally, we cannot forecast the costs of what will be necessary when the Conservatives come into power, within, I hope, the next year. But that will soon be done, and I am sure that the cost will be repaid one hundred times by the return of confidence in us by our allies and our friends and in the security afforded to our vital interests abroad.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should first like to congratulate those of your Lordships who have remained with us. I am glad to see the Army and the Navy in strength, and the Air Force represented by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and of course my noble friends on these Benches. I am sorry that a number of noble Lords, most of whom have apologised, but not all, have had to go to the superior attractions provided by the President of Italy. I may say that that is no reflection on him; it is a great lure.
830 I think we have not had a very satisfactory debate. I believe most noble Lords would agree that once again we must try to think out how we should plan these debates. I know that certain noble Lords have suggested that we might well have taken NATO out of the debate and had a separate debate on that matter. I was against that because it seemed to me to be impossible to debate defence without talking about NATO. But before next year, having regard to certain issues raised by a number of noble Lords with deep interest and experience in the Royal Navy and upon which they would have liked to concentrate more fully, we might consider this matter again. I may say also that I have been rather depressed by the debate. When we were in Opposition, if ever we suggested that things were not always well with the Armed Forces we were repeatedly accused of a lack of patriotism. I remember how much my noble friend Lord Alexander resented this. I shall not accuse noble Lords opposite of lack of patriotism, but I must say that I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, was a characteristic dirge, un-costed quite markedly; we still do not know what the bill will be in this respect.
It is now obviously impossible for me to answer all the interesting points, but I think it also shows (and I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne) the; difficulty, however interested we may be, of establishing in debates a pure bipartisan approach. There is no doubt that for most of us the objectives are the same, but there are important differences. Of course, this is the stuff of politics, and although I think all of us would like defence to be outside Party politics, it is quite vain at this stage of our development to believe that it is possible, and I think we should blind ourselves to realities if we pretended very easily that it could be.
That does not mean that there may not, none the less, be an underlying objective and unity between us in regard to many of the main objectives. Indeed, the one note of total disagreement was from my noble friend Lord Soper, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, sought to answer him. I would myself hesitate to engage in a debate with so experienced, silver-tongued, sincere and knowledgeable an orator—indeed, almost the outstanding orator either at Hyde Park Corner or in 831 your Lordships' House. We acknowledge his sincerity. But he did refer almost to a "Cabinet of lunatics"—he was not referring to the present Cabinet, I know—and I wonder who is most closely in touch with reality. I believe that we are more closely in touch with reality. I believe that the course that successive Governments in broad outline have followed, without any feeling of desire to inflict aggression on others, has helped to achieve—not by particularly moral or noble means—peace; and I think it is particularly true of NATO.
I very much appreciate the fact that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, in the tributes he paid to NATO, very properly delivered the mildest speech I have ever heard him deliver in my life. Perhaps NATO has had a calming effect even on him. But I believe that most of your Lordships feel that at the present stage in the development of mankind the sort of policies that we are following are essential and contribute to the peace of the world.
I was disappointed that nobody paid a tribute—and I think a little more generosity from the other side might occasionally be fitting—to the comprehensiveness of the Statement on Defence Estimates. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, lamented that there were no photographs; but if your Lordships compare that document with the sort of papers that were produced in the days of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft—and I have a tribute to pay to him in a moment before I stir him into opposition—this represents an enormous improvement One may argue about what is in it, but it is a much more coherent and informative presentation. That comes about as a direct consequence of the reforms that the noble Lord—I was going to say "the right honourable Gentleman", because I still remember him much more in that capacity—introduced in the Ministry of Defence.
I am glad, if I have not been able to do so previously as a former Defence Minister, to pay tribute to what has been achieved. I believe that the grouping of the Services together in that one headquarters, the development, the introduction of programmed budgeting, which has certainly, perhaps unfortunately, made successive Defence reviews much 832 more possible than otherwise they would have been, owes a great deal to his work. Therefore, I am all the more regretful that he is really a bit out of date. He said that he has not been around lately and had not taken part in debates. Indeed, this has been characteristic of a number of speeches, in the extent to which they have harked back over old controversies. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, made much play with Mr. Chapman Pincher's blinding glimpse of the obvious: that the object of a loan is to defer expenditure to a later date.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
If the noble Lord will let me develop the sort of mess we inherited from noble Lords opposite, there were the aircraft that were not going to arrive—and this has been said time and again—and the vital necessity of filling the gap which is now being filled. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, was, I think, a little confused about what I said I had already made clear. Neither my right honourable friend, nor I, nor anyone else has ever made the slightest attempt to conceal the fact that the deferment of expenditure is the whole purpose of the American aircraft loan. Far from there being any concealment, Parliament in fact passed a special Act to authorise it—the Military Aircraft Loan Act 1966. It really is very difficult to conceal an Act of Parliament, and the whole matter was thoroughly discussed.
I should just like to explain this for the benefit of the noble Lord, and—who knows?—even Mr. Chapman Pincher, who I acknowledge is very well informed, may increase his fund of knowledge in this respect. Perhaps he will read the Record of your Lordships' debate to-day. We borrow to make progress payments on the aircraft, and we then pay interest on the loan and repay the capital by instalments. Even at this late hour. I think that this is a fairly simple mathematical proposition. The latter figures arc what we actually spend, and these are included in the Defence budget as they are incurred. The progress payments are equivalent to the sums we borrow. I really see nothing wrong with financing these purchases by a loan. I said that the R.A.F. was in sore need of aircraft—
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I wonder whether it is not the noble Lord the Leader of the House who is himself a trifle out of date. In my recollection, the Act to which he is addressing himself was chiefly concerned with the F 111.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite wrong. It was concerned with a large number of aircraft, including Phantoms, some of which had been ordered by the previous Government, and of course the amount has been reduced by not ordering the F111. The fact is that when the Government took office we were in need of new aircraft, and, in particular, the P 1154 which was a very fine aircraft. The only trouble was that it did not exist, and we did not know when it: was going to come into existence. I think the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, will confirm that this is an area where certainty is not easily attainable.
Every Government has been bitterly disappointed. Now and again, on the other hand, they have been encouraged by some rather striking results, and the most striking of the success stories is the Harrier; that very remarkable aircraft which was dismissed as a toy by certain people and which, so far from going up in cost, has actually declined in cost. I should like to claim that this was entirely due to the wisdom of the present Government, but we know perfectly well that there is a degree of uncertainty in this whole area of procurement of advanced equipment on which certainty is not possible. But it is a very remarkable aircraft and yesterday it flew the Atlantic for the first time. I think we can all be very proud of it.
I will try briefly to answer a very few points. If there are particular issues that have been raised which it has not been possible to answer, I or my noble friend Lord Winterbottom will, as always, try to supply answers, but I will give as much quick information as I can. The noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, asked for an assurance that the Anglo-French military staff talks were still in existence. I can assure the noble Lord that they are, and that there was a meeting last December. And, of course, similar talks take place with other Allies. There were talks with the Italians only last month.
I think perhaps that I will not take the time of your Lordships' 834 House to talk about NATO beyond saying this. I hope that noble Lords will not underestimate the size of the contribution. It is not only the forces, and particularly the air forces, that we actually have in Germany. It is the squadrons of our most modern aircraft that are based in this country, too, which are available in support of NATO. As I have said already, there are the Harriers. The first operational squadron will be formed this year and will be based in this country but will be assigned to NATO as part of the Ace Mobile Force—a role which will enable it to be deployed quickly to any part of the NATO front in an emergency—and all four squadrons will be operational and assigned to NATO by the end of 1971. Before leaving the subject of aircraft, I would say to the noble Lord. Lord St. Oswald, that we are not complacent on the subject of dispersal and protection of aircraft. It is a major problem, and the points to which he and other noble Lords have drawn attention have not escaped the notice, surprisingly enough, of the Chiefs of Staff.
My Lords, I should have liked to say something about the extent of operations and activities which have been going on even in this last year when, as we know, no British soldier lost his life in the course of military operations. There is a great deal of activity, and there has been a great deal of training abroad. Noble Lords who have had an opportunity to see something of training will, I think, if they have looked fairly at it, have found that morale and efficiency was very high indeed. There is one field of activity which is worth noting and that is the military aid to the civil community. If any noble Lord would like to know more about this, there is a pamphlet which is available (and if it is not already available in the Printed Paper Office I will certainly arrange for it to be put there) describing the extent to which military aid is going on. This is not a new thing, but it is being more clearly recognised, and it is worth noting the rather striking forms that it takes.
The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, who pleaded that downhill ski-ing should be counted as an adventure training, may be interested (and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, is already aware) that in fact the Royal Engineers built a road into one part of the Cairngorms, and 835 thereby opened up a very promising skiing area. I was up there only three weeks ago, but there was a blizzard blowing and I did not attempt to go down that particular corrie. But this was built by the Army as a direct contribution.
To the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, perhaps I may say that I should have thought that cross-country ski-ing, or Langlauf, or whatever it may be, would have been more relevant; but we should like to look again at this question of recognition for adventure training. It is sometimes rather difficult to say that such delightful sports, the most supreme sports of all, should be regarded as a form of adventure training, but I accept that this ought perhaps to qualify, and I think I shall have to leave this to be further considered. May I quickly say to the noble Viscount, on the question of the Royal Military Hospital, Millbank, that I have nothing more to say this evening. The matter is being very carefully considered. I am bound to say, out of Service loyalty, that I think the R.A.F. Hospital at Halton, outside London, does equally well for members and ex-members of the Royal Air Force.
My Lords, I do not think I have time to go into questions of military salaries, beyond recognising the importance that noble Lords attach to this subject, and to the studies by the National Board of Prices and Incomes, the N.B.P.I. Extensive inquiries are being made. We attach the greatest importance to this. I am particularly concerned, as I am sure are all noble Lords, that the Services should not drop behind in this particular matter. But we shall have to wait to see the outcome of this particular exercise.
Again, I think noble Lords were not really fair on the subject of the reserves. It is not unknown for reserves to be used for precisely the purposes for which we intend the reserves that we have. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, speaking of the position in Scotland and of the enthusiasm which is being shown in recruiting; for this is reflected also in other parts of the country. I have no figures to give but I am very hopeful about this. Everybody regrets the disappearance of particular units and the curtailment of institutions which we regard as intrinsically good 836 in themselves, regardless of the purpose for what they are intended. But I would ask noble Lords, whatever their feelings, to recognise that when it comes to weighing the cost and deciding how to allocate resources sometimes good things have to go. It is very sad to see a number of regiments disappear but from what I have seen of those who serve in it I believe that the British Army has resilience.
My Lords, one of the messages that I should like to see go out from this debate is that the standing of our Armed Forces is as high to-day as it has ever been. I believe this to be so not only in the estimation of those who know something about them but also in the estimation of the general public. I think we take it for granted that our Armed Services, the British Army, whenever it is called in to any situation—whether it be Anguilla or something more threatening—will do extremely well. I do not believe that people thought this of the Army 30 or 40 years ago. I believe there really is a change in our national outlook on this. I hope that we shall not damage this by being too depressed at particular shortages and particular cuts that may have to be made.
I believe that the capacities of our reserves—although one would like many more—are well adjusted to the particular purposes they are intended to fulfil. I do not see the inconsistency that some noble Lords have seen in the statement that our own defence expenditure, expressed as a proportion of the gross national product, has been reduced while at the same time attention is drawn to the size of the Communist countries' expenditure. This is, after all, a statement of the facts. We are still spending a greater proportion of our gross national product on defence than most other countries in the world. I think that these things should be properly exposed.
The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, and the noble Viscount Lord Bridgeman, both referred to the Royal United Service Institution. Knowing the interest that Lord Bridgeman has taken in this, I am delighted that the change in the attitude to defence studies on the part of the Ministry of Defence is so widely welcomed. There is a long-standing need for a forum such as the Royal United Service Institution. I think it is disappointing that 837 the appeal has not been more successful. It was hoped to raise a minimum of £50,000, but so far, in round figures, only something like £25,000 has been raised, and the Government have agreed to contribute two-fifths of the sum received. My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity earnestly to entreat anyone who has not yet responded to the appeal, and who is interested, to help the Royal United Service Institution in this matter. This is something to which the Government would like to give their fullest moral support along with the financial support that they have given.
I am glad that noble Lords have welcomed the defence studies. We heard some interesting remarks on this matter from the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. I very much appreciated his welcome to the new graduate entry policy adopted by the Royal Air Force. This is a revolutionary step forward, but it is one which the Royal Air Force—as the noble Lord himself recognised—regards as inevitable. I should like to make one point clear. The requirement for Royal Air Force officers in the future to have a degree applies only to officers taking up direct permanent commissions. We shall of course need a number of others. The noble Lord and I have co-operated, not to say "plotted", on the subject of the university air squadrons. Although we regret the abolition of pay for members of the squadrons, we have had to look at this matter very carefully. I have discussed this myself and have had contrary views from members of the squadrons.
To certain noble Lords who have raised important questions on the Navy, I would say that the Government believe that it is very important to maintain a strong Navy. I should like to suggest that although the Fleet may be smaller the re-equipment will give us a very high quality Navy. Nor will the activities of the Navy be confined purely to NATO waters. It will be possible, with the mobile fleet trains and all the other developments to-day, for the Navy to operate very widely throughout the world. It has already made important contributions in minor operations. The Government and the Chiefs of Staff (if I may mention them; perhaps I should not) attach continued importance to the protection by the Royal Navy of mer- 838 chant shipping wherever it may be threatened. This was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, and other noble Lords, including Lord Teynham. This is not the occasion to go into detail, but I can tell noble Lords that there are the most thorough plans in existence, including diversions from threatened areas. All the techniques necessary are being actively considered and instructions exist for the necessary action.
I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, about the Joint Anti-Sub-marine School at Londonderry. I must stress that this is a personal expression, but I was very sorry that the old A.U. school which I knew during the war at Maydown, and which went to Derry should be leaving there; but this was a decision taken only after the most thorough consideration. I assure the noble Lord that the school will be moved to Southwark Park near Portsmouth, where it can share facilities with other naval training establishments, and work is in progress on constructing the necessary integrated establishment.
I am conscious that points were raised by the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, who referred to the Reserve Fleet. To maintain a large number of ships in a state of preservation is expensive both in skilled manpower and in money The policy, therefore, is to keep in reserve on short notice only enough vessels to replace active Fleet ships which may break down. The strength of the Reserve Fleet is affected by reductions in the strength of the active Fleet. But, broadly, our policy remains the same as was stated in the Explanatory Review on the Navy Estimates of 1961–62.
The hour is late—and I have even lost that one piece which was fully prepared by way of a peroration, which is no doubt an advantage. It has been found—but I will spare your Lordships. I would end by saying only this. I think that the policy the Government are following and the Defence Services that are being created, maintained and re-equipped will give us first-class Defence Services and will do so at a price—and this, as we all know, is the real issue—that will not impose such a heavy burden on the economy. This is not just a question of choosing to trade and make money at the 839 expense of defence. We know that a strong economy is something just as essential to the survival and defence of this country. I believe that even in these difficult times the Services offer a first-class career to any young man who thinks of joining. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, on this subject. I believe this to be true. And I hope that noble Lords, whatever they may choose to say about the Government—and all Governments are entitled to be criticised—will recognise that we shall still have Services which will be second to none.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.