§ 3.29 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON rose to move. That this House takes note of the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970 (Cmnd. 4521). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Your Lordships will now have had time to study the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy which I presented to Parliament last week. I thought it would be for the convenience of your Lordships if there was an opportunity to debate it as soon as possible.
§ May I first of all say that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to produce Supplementary Defence White Papers? But on this occasion it seemed right so that we might at the first opportunity announce the steps which we are taking to fulfil some of the pledges and promises that we made while in Opposition and to remedy, so far as possible and as soon as possible, some of the gaps which on our return to office we found in the capability of the Armed Forces. I hope that at any rate most of your Lordships will feel that the measures outlined in this White Paper go some way to achieving both these objectives. To say that I was surprised or disappointed by the reaction of noble Lords on the Front 463 Bench opposite would, it must be confessed, be a sizeable exaggeration; but I hope that by now they will have decided on which basis they intend to attack the White Paper. Last week we were told by noble Lords opposite that it was impossible to do what we proposed on so little money; and at the same time that what we were proposing was so negligible as to be of no account. It will be interesting to hear later on this afternoon which of these two conflicting ideas has triumphed on the Front Bench opposite.
§ I do not intend to anticipate the usual Defence White Paper which will be published early next year, but shall deal only with the changes upon which we have already decided. I shall not speak at any great length now because, with the House's permission, I will reply at the end of the debate to any questions which have been raised.
§ May I first of all start in an area of policy on which I do not believe there is any difference between ourselves and the Opposition, and that is the priority which we give to our support for NATO. As I think I have said before in this House, in July, NATO is going through a difficult period—partly because of its very success. There has been no war in Europe for 25 years, and a generation has grown up which finds it almost impossible to believe either that a nuclear war could take place, or that a conventional attack on the Central Front in Europe is at all likely. I agree that that is so, so long as NATO exists as a credible deterrent to any such aggression, but to weaken NATO because there has not been a war, or to cut back NATO'S forces in the belief that no such aggression is possible, is one of the surest ways to make such aggression more likely. Britain's security depends upon maintaining the military strength of NATO.
§ I recently attended a meeting of European Defence Ministers in Brussels. We discussed the review which the Americans are now carrying out about the future level of their forces in Europe. There was general agreement not that America should do less but that Europe must now do more in her own defence. I must say that this seems to me a very reasonable view. The situation of Europe in 1949 was very different from that which 464 now exists. If we do more for ourselves—"burden-sharing" as it is now called—it will be more worth while to the extent that it contributes directly to improvement in Europe's own military effort. Those of your Lordships who follow American affairs will have seen the criticisms and questionings, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, about European countries and their defence policies, and the consequences which might follow are clear. Therefore it is important at the present time for all of us in Europe to show that we are really concerned about the maintenance of our own security and to match our words with action. This White Paper outlines measures which will enable us to make our contribution to this process, and I should like to explain them to your Lordships rather more fully this afternoon.
§ First, we are remedying a real weakness in our naval forces which would have resulted in the 1970s from the policy of the previous Government to phase out the aircraft carriers before providing the necessary alternative weapons. As long ago as 1966, when they announced their decision to phase out the carriers in the late 1970s, the previous Government said that they would provide the Fleet with a surface-to-surface missile system. When I took office in June, there were still no firm plans for this: we had lost three and a half years. And meanwhile the demise of the carriers had been brought forward to 1972.
§ We are now negotiating with France for the joint production of a surface-to-surface missile which we plan to fit widely in frigates and larger ships during the 1970s. The weapon will not have the range of the longest Russian surface-to-surface missiles, but will be an effective counter to any weapons of the Soviet Navy which are truly autonomous and do not rely on a vulnerable system of mid-course guidance. Meanwhile, as your Lordships know, we intend to keep the "Ark Royal". The Government of noble Lords Opposite spent £33 million on her less than two years ago, yet they planned to throw her away in 1972. We shall run her on until the late 1970s to help to tide the Royal Navy over until the new missiles and the new cruisers, perhaps with a V/STOL potentiality, come into service. 465 She will be the only British carrier left after 1972, and naturally, she will not be continuously available.
§ But we are not alone in confronting the Warsaw Pact navies. We will contribute "Ark Royal" to SACLANT'S forces and her availability will, whenever possible, be phased with that of the U.S. carriers in order to maintain an effective allied carrier strength. The Supreme Allied Commander in the Atlantic has repeatedly urged this on us, and he, at least, will have no doubts about the importance of what we are doing. The "Eagle" will pay off, as planned by the previous Government, in 1972. A great deal of money—something in the neighbourhood of £20 million—would have to be spent on her now to equip her to operate Phantoms, and to bring her up to the same standard generally as the "Ark Royal"; and the manpower penalties—and your Lordships know about the difficulties there—of running her on alongside the "Ark Royal" would also be extremely severe. No decision has yet been taken about the eventual disposal. We have, however, decided to convert the "Hermes"—which could not in any case be adapted to fly Phantoms—to the role of commando carrier; she will replace H.M.S. "Bulwark" in the middle 1970s.
§ The measures which we can take to strengthen the Army are limited by the present manpower situation. We are, however, doing what is necessary to preserve a basis for future expansion: that is the real significance of our plans to retain units at company strength. We are also increasing the size of the reserve—the T. & A.V.R. Group A—in order to produce an uncommitted reserve of forces which will, as I explained last week, wear the same uniform, have the same call-out liability, and carry arms which are as modern as those of the existing Group A reserve units. We are now, as the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, knows, discussing the details with the Council of Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Associations, and the Associations themselves. At the same time we are increasing our commitment of reserve forces to NATO by an additional armoured car regiment. Finally, we are retaining four or five battalions of Gurkhas, one of which will serve in the United Kingdom and help to 466 relieve the present strain on the Army and to free other units for essential training and other tasks.
§ One of the more depressing discoveries was the low level to which the previous Government had allowed our tactical air force contribution to fall, particularly in Germany—and this at a time when the strategy of NATO sharply underlined the need for dual capable tactical aircraft. This is not a situation that can be put right overnight, but we have already put in hand the major changes in our share of the Anglo-French Jaguar programme which will enable us to increase the planned Jaguar force by four squadrons. We shall not be buying more Jaguars than had been planned under the Anglo-French arrangements, but nearly twice as many of these aircraft will be of the operational combat version, and relatively few will be trainers. We plan to meet the flying training task with a less sophisticated and much less expensive aircraft without in any way sacrificing the high standard of training which the R.A.F. needs.
All this, my Lords, represents a major transfer of resources from "tail" to "teeth", so that we can make a welcome and substantial increase in our air contribution to NATO within the new Defence Budget targets. The "Ark Royal", the reserve armoured car regiment and the four squadrons of Jaguars really are very substantial extra military contributions to the Alliance, and I hope that our American and European Allies will take full note of them—and that noble Lords opposite will too. But while we plan in this way to increase our support for NATO we also plan, as the White Paper puts it,
to enable Britain to resume, within her resources, a proper share of responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world".
§ I cannot, as I told your Lordships last week, say more about our plans for the Persian Gulf as yet. Your Lordships will know that Sir William Luce has been discussing with local leaders what part we could or should continue to play in that area by maintaining a military presence and he will be reporting in due course to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. In the meantime discussions are continuing.
§ In the Far East, however, our broad plans are clear as are the reasons for 467 them. Whilst in Opposition we made it abundantly clear that though we had no intention of retaining a presence East of Suez on anything like the same scale as previously, we believed that it was in our interest and in those of our Allies in South-East Asia to maintain a physical presence. There is no nostalgia about this; we are simply taking a realistic and hard-headed view of what we believe to be in our interests. The previous Government planned to safeguard our interests there by keeping a general capability on this side of the world to whose use they would not automatically have been committed. I assume that they would in certain circumstances have been prepared to use that capability for otherwise what they proposed was a hollow sham.
§ We also plan to replace the automatic commitment under the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement by a consultative arrangement which our Commonwealth partners have accepted, but unlike the Opposition we believe that by stationing a small part of our general capability on the spot—a capability which will be complementary to the contributions of the other four partners—we will greatly lessen the likelihood that we will be called upon to use it. There is no doubt at all that this is the view of our Commonwealth allies and that they believe with us that a modest British presence in South-East Asia, as a positive token of our intentions, will make a contribution out of all proportion to its size to the deterrence of any potential aggressor and to the maintenance of confidence in the area.
§ I should just like to make two other points about these proposals. First, in the political commitment which we mean to undertake in place of the AMDA (that is, the Anglo Malaysian Defence Agreement) we would exclude involvement in the internal security of Malaysia and Singapore; we would consult with our Allies about other contingencies. Second, the battalion group will be stationed in Singapore, as will the Nimrods and Whirlwinds; and we are planning to integrate the support and logistic arrangements so far as possible with the Australian and New Zealand forces, since the last thing we want is to re-establish a large British base in Singapore. However, we have not yet settled 468 what the precise command arrangements for our forces will be, and we are discussing these at the moment.
§ It is not, of course, the slightest use comparing our present estimates of the cost of our military presence in South-East Asia with the figures which were bandied about just before the Election. After all, at Election time things tend to get a little exaggerated and figures such as the £300 million tend to get a little inflated. I do not think noble Lords opposite quite understood what I was saying. Perhaps they do now. We all recognise that, though perhaps in this case they got a little more than a little inflated. But nevertheless I think noble Lords opposite did—and I think probably genuinely—misconceive the purpose of our presence East of Suez. We never thought it necessary to station large forces in South-East Asia for this and our presence need not be very expensive.
§ We shall not be adding to our existing forces but only redeploying a fraction of them and, as your Lordships will have read in the White Paper, we estimate that this will cost between £5 million and £10 million annually. This estimate cannot be any more precise than that because we are still discussing with our four Commonwealth partners the exact form which the logistic backing and so on will take. We will reinforce our forces on the spot if necessary from our general capability, just as the previous Government would have sent forces to the area if necessary.
§ Of course, by stationing a battalion in South-East Asia we shall add somewhat to the strain on the Army—though this in turn will be mitigated by our decision to station a Gurkha battalion in Great Britain. And three of the frigates and the Nimrod aircraft will be less readily available for NATO than they would otherwise have been after 1971—though they will remain committed to the Alliance. And the artillery battery, of some 150 men, will cease to be available to NATO. But the effect of this on NATO will be very small, and will be greatly outweighed by the effect of the additions to our NATO contribution which I have described.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? He says that they will remain committed. Does this have a special significance? 469 Is this comparable, say, to the brigade that was in England, which was specifically allocated to NATO and could immediately go into reinforcement?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Yes; it is only a question of being committed in a different category. But the ships and the aircraft being in Singapore, they will be at a slightly lower level of availability to NATO than otherwise they would have been. In any case, NATO cannot be totally oblivious to threats of peace and stability in other parts of the world—especially at a time when we see Soviet feelers, in the shape of their developing naval strategy, stretching out across the Indian Octan. The United States has welcomed our decision to keep some forces in South East Asia, and I believe that our action will add indirectly to the general security of the Alliance.
Lastly, I should like to turn to the effects of all this on the Defence Budget, which so puzzled the noble Lord, Lord Byers, last week: how could we do all this and still reduce the defence budget in 1974–75? Of course, defence has had to be considered as part of the general economic picture, and it would have been quite wrong to exempt the defence programme from the exercise to reduce Government expenditure, especially when such painful cuts were being inflicted in other areas of the economy. We therefore subjected the programme which we inherited from the previous Administration to the most rigorous examination. We found, as the White Paper explains, that the costings of the previous Government were very much higher than the figures projected in their White Paper (Cmnd. 4234), which purported to set targets for expenditure up to 1973–74.
We took account of the fact that projections of expenditure four or five years ahead tend to be somewhat uncertain, and that, as the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, pointed out last week, the normal process of scrutiny nearer the time would have tended to narrow the gap between the costings and the targets. We made an allowance for realism which may very well be the same as the Labour Government would have done. But having been engaged on this scrutiny process myself over the last few months, and having looked at the Defence costings and the figures in Cmnd. 4234, I am bound to say that I cannot see how the 470 Labour Government could possibly have closed that great gap without very serious damage to the Forces' capability.
One is left to speculate about what the last Government would have done. Would they have allowed the Defence Budget to rise substantially above the provisional targets which they set or would they not? I do not know. Those tags of "provisional" and "simply carried forward" on the Cmnd. 4234 figures for 1972–73 and 1973–74 seem to me, at all events, to tell a tale, perhaps of indecision, or even, conceivably, of conflict. It was certainly some kind of muddle. It is, I suggest, for noble Lords opposite to say, not for me. But having examined the long-term costings very carefully, we identified certain areas, such as the works research and development and general production programmes of lesser priority where hard savings could be made which, although painful, would not prevent us from meeting our commitments.
We have decided not to pursue proposals for the introduction of the C5, with first deliveries in 1974–75, to replace the Britannias, because this is unnecessary in this particular time scale. This alone produced 25 per cent. or so of the savings we have been able to make in 1974–75. My Lords, I do not pretend, and did not pretend on the last occasion when we discussed this subject, that I would not rather have avoided having to defer any items in our defence programme, for defence has been hard hit in these last six years. Nevertheless, having regard to the need for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce public expenditure in order that there should be room for manœuvre for incentives and for a start once more on the road to an expanding economy, this was something which I felt had to be accepted. But I would not have accepted any saving which impaired the capability of the Forces to carry out their commitments, and I am certain that nothing which we have undertaken to do in the way of saving money will impair their efficiency. But by a mixture of realism, both in regard to the existing programme and to the way in which we planned to meet our new commitments, and of a revision of priorities within the defence programme, not only have we been able to make significant savings in the long-term costings but we have, at the same time, honoured our Election 471 pledges and made really worthwhile additions to the front line strength of the three Services.
My Lords, I do not wish to claim that this White Paper means, or indeed foreshadows, a fundamental change in our defence policy. The Armed Forces have had six years of chopping and changing, and what they need now is a little stability.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I just interrupt before the noble Lord continues? We are always in difficulty on numbers. Is he now telling us that so far as 1971–72 is concerned the Government have actually hit the defence allocation which was contained in the previous Government's Command Paper No. 4234, and that he has achieved this without major cuts, whereas we could have achieved it only with major cuts? I may not have understood that.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord misunderstood me. I was talking about the major cuts in 1974–75, 1973–74. I understand that the noble Lord is going to wind up for the Opposition, so I imagine he will have a lot of time to do his homework on what I have said. If at any time during the afternoon I can be of any service to him, I shall be very happy to help him with any of these figures.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, in that case perhaps the noble Lord would care to be of service to me now. I am really asking him to explain this point, because he is saying that the previous Government could have achieved this only by major cuts, whereas he has actually hit the figures, and indeed in certain cases further on has improved on them, and has managed it without major cuts. If necessary I shall ask these questions at the end, but he might explain it now.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord has not understood. Perhaps it is my fault that he has not understood what I have said. I said there were two targets: the targets in Command Paper 4234, which I said noble Lords opposite would have found it very difficult to achieve in 1973/74, 1974/75, without major cuts, because the long-term costings of their own Government showed that 472 they were hundreds of millions of pounds in excess of this. I have said that they would not have been able to do this without major cuts. We have not come down to the figures in Command Paper 4234, but we have come down on the long-term costings without major cuts. I promise the noble Lord, if he is still puzzled, that I will willing go outside the House and talk to him this afternoon before he makes his speech.
I was, in point of fact, just about to conclude what I was saying. What I do claim is that within the constraints of both money and manpower inherited from our predecessors, we are producing a better defence and a more sensible defence for this country; and I hope that your Lordships will endorse our decisions. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970 (Cmnd. 4521).—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, presented his Supplementary Statement to your Lordships' House last week, I said that it did not seem to contain much that is very new or dramatic; and, in spite of what he has said this afternoon, I see no reason to change that view. Listening to some of the grand designs being outlined before the Election—the plans for a complete reversal of Labour policies East of Suez; plans for the last-minute reprieve of doomed infantry regiments by bellicose lieutenant-colonels riding down to London on white chargers; plans for the reconstruction of the Territorial Army, and sundry other martial projects of very high promise to the electorate—one might really, I think, have expected something a little more exciting in the way of a Conservative defence policy. But let me make it clear that I am not complaining that the defence policy of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, turns out to be very much the mixture as before. He will be the first to admit, I know, that the loud noises of critics in Opposition sometimes begin to sound rather empty when the real facts are known and the real decisions have to be made. However, there are some new developments in this Statement, and we must ask ourselves what they really mean.
473 First of all, let me say that there is no very great argument between us on the subject of NATO, and on the proposition that, in the light of a possible withdrawal of American forces from Europe, the European countries must do more about their own defence. I think there is no need for us to argue about that. Although, as I have said, it is not possible to see any substantial change in the overall shape of defence policy, there are one or two new developments, both in weapons procurement and in the deployment of our Armed Forces, which in a moment or two I should like to examine a little more closely. I think it would probably suit your Lordships best if I were to follow fairly closely the lines of the Supplementary Statement itself. Perhaps I may say here that, whatever defects of content it may have, I congratulate the noble Lord on the fact that the Statement has the very great merit of being precise, and very clearly and lucidly presented. What I should like to do is to take the objectives which the Government have set themselves in the introduction to the Paper, and try to reach a conclusion about whether what is set out in the rest of the Paper seems likely to achieve those objectives; in other words, to judge the Government by their own standards rather than to engage in the sterile business of instant Opposition. The defence and security of this country is something to which all three political Parties are unequivocally committed, and it is too important a matter for the kind of debate that is devoted simply to the scoring of Party points.
So let us look at the first of the Government 's objectives:to enable Britain to resume, within her resources, a proper share of responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world;Apart from the tendentious use of the word "resume", which seems to suggest that before the noble Lord and his colleagues arrived on the scene we had abdicated from that responsibility, apart from that rather curious piece of semantics, I find this aim an unexceptionable one. Of course we must take our proper share of responsibility for these matters, and when my Party were in office we had exactly the same objective. The important matter at issue is what exactly 474 is that "proper share". As the Supplementary Statement says,Britain has long-standing associations with the Commonwealth countries of South East Asia …Perhaps I may say, in passing, that in the light of certain other plans which I understand Her Majesty's Government have in mind it is encouraging to learn that the Commonwealth still has a place in the calculations of the Party opposite. However, when we come to examine carefully how the Government intend to discharge these obligations, some very important questions indeed arise, and I think that the House has a right to know the answers to them.
First, what exactly does "a political commitment of a consultative nature" mean? How does it differ—and I should like specific answers to these questions—in terms of the obligations which it involves for this country from the Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement? Are we committed clearly and unequivocally to the defence of this area against external attack; or are we committed only to have consultations about what happens if there is an attack? This is a very important question, as we shall see when we come in a moment to the question of the deployment of ground and air forces ashore on Singapore Island.
Then what is to be the command structure of these forces? I asked this question last week and I am still no clearer about what the answer is. Will all Five Powers involved participate in the command arrangements, or only some of them; and if only some of them, which? We should not underestimate the importance of this question and of getting a very clear answer to it before we go very much further. I should have thought that the lesson of American involvement in Vietnam was vivid enough in the mind of everybody to convince Her Majesty's Government that it would be utterly irresponsible to commit British troops to operations of the kind that might arise in South-East Asia, without a very clear understanding of who will command them and through what machinery they will receive their political direction.
This leads me to the most important single difference between the approach of the present Government in South-East Asia and that of the Labour Government, whose policies the present Government 475 claim to be putting into reverse. I refer, of course, to the decision to station a battalion group of British troops, some maritime reconnaissance aircraft and a number of Whirlwind helicopters ashore on Singapore Island. Let us for a few minutes address ourselves to some questions about exactly what this particular deployment is meant to achieve.
We have been told, as I expected we should be told, that it is welcomed by the countries concerned. That is hardly surprising. If the British Government are prepared to maintain a presence of British troops on the ground in South-East Asia, we should hardly expect the Governments concerned to complain. Everybody likes the feeling of being helped. But what we ought to be asking ourselves, and what defence planners ought to be asking themselves, is a more profound question: is it in our national interest, and is it in the interest of the people in the area, that these troops should be there? It is not enough to say that they have welcomed it. What are the realities of the situation?
In offering an answer to this question, I make the assumption—and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has confirmed this—that these troops are not meant to support the Governments of the countries concerned if they are faced with internal difficulties. The noble Lord has assured us—and I accept that assurance—that they are not there in the traditional imperial policing role, to carry out duties in aid of the Civil Power in case of subversion or revolution. If that assumption is correct, my first question is: can the Government be really sure that, in the event, British troops will not become involved in internal security operations? If there are riots in the streets of Singapore, are the British troops really going to stay in barracks, and are the British Whirlwind helicopters really going to stay ostentatiously grounded on their airfields? What happens if the Government of Singapore asks for help? Will the Government say, "No; these troops are here to save you only if you are attacked from outside. Attack from within is nothing to do with us." Is that what the Government believe will happen? If it is, they have a confidence in their own firmness of purpose which I feel bound to say I find difficult to share.
476 But let us be generous about this, even if only in search of truth and intellectual clarity, and let us assume that British troops will be used only in the event of attack from outside; and that, even if their very presence causes internal unrest, as is quite likely, the Government will be resolute enough to keep them out of any involvement in it. That is a very charitable assumption, but let us make it. Do the Government believe that the presence of an infantry battalion and a handful of British aircraft is really going to deter anyone who decides to attack Malaya and Singapore? If they do, then I suggest that they are living in a dream world. The presence of British troops, of foreign troops, on the Asian mainland is far more likely to provoke interference than to prevent it.
And what if there is an attack? What if an attack takes place, in spite of the enormous deterrent capability of a battalion group and a number of Whirlwind helicopters? What will the infantry battalion do then? Will it plant its regimental colours on Bukit Timah and win another battle honour? No, my Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who knows a great deal more about military matters than a number of his more talkative colleagues, knows quite well what will happen. He knows that either the troops will have to be withdrawn in circumstances of maximum political humiliation—that is one alternative, and one that I should have thought would be unpalatable to a Government who seem to make such a virtue of not being pushed around by foreigners—or, which is the more likely course of action, the battalion group, if it is to have any military significance at all, will have to be reinforced on a massive scale.
Let us make no mistake, my Lords. This process of keeping troops ashore in Singapore is going to land us once again with the familiar obsessive nightmare of the military planner—the open-ended commitment, sucking in troops, weapons and money for which there is absolutely no provision in the Government's White Paper. This is a blunder which the Conservative Government, if they stay in office long enough, will bitterly regret.
Perhaps we should spare a few brief moments for the Persian Gulf. I have a natural reluctance to intrude upon private grief, so I will pass over this question 477 almost as hurriedly as the White Paper does. I believe the simple fact of the matter is that the Government have discovered, as I could easily have predicted they would, that we are not wanted in the Persian Gulf. Certainly, the Shah of Iran does not want us: he said so loud and clear; and it is, after all, the Persian Gulf. My guess is that we are simply not wanted there by anybody. The White Paper talks of continuing discussions with leaders in the area to see how Britain can best contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability, and so on. I think the answer is an easy one. The way that Britain can best contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Persian Gulf is by leaving the policy of the Government's predecessors unchanged. And I believe that, if they were honest, the Government would say that they have really decided, in effect, to do this. How else could they produce a White Paper which is apparently so precisely costed, if the future of this important military area remains unresolved?
But just in case the Government decide, as they may well do and as they are obviously doing in South-East Asia, to create the optical illusion of reversing Labour policies by establishing some symbolic presence in the Persian Gulf, I think they ought to realise the implications—not least the very real possibility of a clash with Iran over some territorial claim. If this is what the Government really want, an old-fashioned naval engagement in the Persian Gulf with one of the countries in the area whose goodwill is so important to us, then it might be better to draw a decent veil over all this, so that the Government can, as I hope, come to some sensible decisions about the Gulf without too much embarrassing advice from this side of the House.
To sum up on the first of the Government's stated objectives, my conclusion would be that there is nothing whatsoever in the White Paper to suggest that Britain's share of world responsibilities for peace and stability is likely to be any greater than it was under the Labour Government; and that in the matter of stationing ground troops in Singapore they have made an empty gesture that 478 may yet land us in another disastrous military adventure in South-East Asia.
What about the second objective:To improve the capabilities of the Armed Forces, to overcome their manpower difficulties, and to enhance their role in the community ",First of all, let me say, quite flatly, that there is nothing in the White Paper to indicate any solution to the chronic manpower difficulties of the Armed Forces, and there is nothing in the White Paper to show how they are going to enhance their role in the community. The White Paper states rather pathetically:Everything possible will be done to make life in the Services sufficiently attractive to compete successfully in all respects with civilian employment; and to enhance the status of military service in the national life.Yes: I dare say everything possible will be done. But, my Lords, that kind of statement of pious intention can hardly be dignified with the name of a plan, or of a defence policy. When the Government have decided precisely how they are going to solve the manpower problems and how they are going to enhance the status of the Armed Forces in society, perhaps they will let us know and then we shall have something concrete to consider, and perhaps even to criticise.
On the capabilities of the Armed Forces, I think it is possible to offer some tentative congratulations to the Government. The negotiations with the French Government to fit the EXOCET missile in surface ships of the Royal Navy sounds, to me at any rate, like a very good idea if it can be done at reasonable expense; so I shall pass over that particular proposition simply saying that I hope the plan will be successful. There will be arguments both ways about the military value of retaining the "Ark Royal", even if that can be done within the budget. I must confess that, to me, it looks like a fairly ineffective gesture. I cannot really believe that retaining this rather aged aircraft carrier will increase the naval capabilities of the Western Alliance to any spectacular extent. And perhaps when he comes to reply the noble Lord will answer again one specific question about this noble piece of maritime antiquity. As "Ark Royal" is now to remain in commission until the late 1970s, will the noble Lord tell the House how many major refits she will require in 479 that time, and how long these refits will require her to be taken away from sea service and therefore away from the defences of the Western Alliance?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would like me to answer that question now. She will have to have two further refits, each of under six months. I was wondering whether I might ask the noble Lord a question. He has made some very rude remarks about "Ark Royal" and her capabilities. Would he tell me why the previous Government spent £33 million refitting her?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I do not think I made any rude remarks about the "Ark Royal" and her capabilities. What I said was that she is an aged aircraft carrier. That is a statement of fact: that is not a value judgment. I am sorry if it has hurt the noble Lord. I know that his experience as First Lord of the Admiralty has made him susceptible to criticisms of bosun's pipes and bow-waves but he really must not take these things too seriously.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I have simply said that I doubt whether retaining this aircraft carrier will add very significantly to the defences of the West, and I stand by that judgment. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his information about the two refits. It means that in the course of the new service of "Ark Royal" she will in fact be out of commission for about a year undergoing major refits. Do I understand that correctly?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Yes, my Lords. She will be operational about two-thirds of the time—that is the actual figure—but, of course, the aircraft embarked in "Ark Royal" will be able to fly from land-based airfields.
§ LORD CHALFONT
Yes. I do not want to enter into an exchange with the noble Lord at this stage. I am sure that my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition will deal with this when he winds up. But this is of course a difference, not only of strategic concept but of organisational concept as well. It was the Royal Air Force which was to look after that capability in previous plans.
May I come now to the question of the Gurkhas? I think the decision about 480 retaining the Gurkhas is one with which anyone who has ever served with Gurkha troops will find it very difficult to quarrel. I should just like to make one point, in case there should be any misunderstanding either inside or outside your Lordships' House. The Labour Government had made and announced no decision at all about the future of the Gurkhas. So I hope—and I am sure nothing could be further from the noble Lord's mind—that no one will try to represent this as a last-minute reprieve in which the gallant Brigade of Gurkhas has been saved by the Conservatives from a fate worse than death under the Socialists. Axe we going to have another interruption?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord but, of course, I never said that there had been a decision. Indeed, I think one of the Ministers in the Ministry of Defence in the previous Administration had said that there was no decision to be taken until the end of 1971. But the fact remains that there was no provision in the long-term costings for the continuation of the Gurkhas.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I repeat that we had made and announced no decision. Therefore, although I am not in any way complaining about the decision to retain the Brigade of Gurkhas, I hope nobody is going to turn this into a great political steam-hammer, because it really is not one.
I should, however, like again to ask a specific question which I hope can be answered at the end of the debate. It is an important question, so perhaps the noble Lord will address himself to it specifically. What is this Gurkha battalion which is stationed in this country going to do? All that we know so far is that it is going to relieve other units to do other things. This is understandable. It will presumably be stationed somewhere in England, and this will allow a British battalion to go off to Northern Ireland or to Rhine Army or wherever it may be needed. But what is it going to do in England? Is it simply going to train, or has it some kind of operational role? If it has an operational role, could we be told what it is? Is it going to be used for duties in aid of the civil power? If not, where is it going to operate and what is it going to 481 do? This is a serious question, and not merely a debating point.
I think it would be ungracious, too, to cavil at the Government's decision to increase our reserves, provided they can do it within their estimated costs. Again, I do not want to say anything more about the plan for the reserves except that I wish the Government success in implementing their plan if they can do it within their financial ceiling. I think, too, that the increase in the front-line strength of close-support aircraft is a move in the right direction. There is, however, one important question which we must have answered before we on this side can give it an unqualified welcome and our support. Are the Government convinced that aircrew can be trained to fly the Jaguar, which is a highly sophisticated aircraft? Will they be fit to fly it operationally if the same aircraft is not available in fairly large numbers in the training role? What are the plans for advanced trainers? Are we going to modify some existing type of aircraft, or are we going to have a completely new trainer to replace the existing jet training aircraft? If so, is this included in the long-term costings? I should like some answers to these questions, because they are not answered in the White Paper.
I have been reasonably kind to the Government's plans in the last few minutes, but there is one aspect of them which I think must have been dreamed up by some music hall comedian temporarily attached to the Ministry of Defence. What I am talking about is this bizarre idea of pretending to keep regiments in existence by forming what has been rather inelegantly called mini-regiments or independent companies. In my own regiment, which was an infantry regiment, we once had an officer of somewhat languid tendencies who frequently gave it as his opinion that the ideal infantry regiment would consist of an officers' mess, a wine waiter, 22 batmen and a regimental band. This new Conservative brain-child seems to be coming somewhere near that specification.
May I ask for some factual information about what seems to me to be a blatantly political gesture? These are the questions. Is this new kind of mini-regiment 482 to be commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, with all the paraphernalia of battalion headquarters, the regimental colours, the mess and the silver on guest nights? If so, perhaps it was not a music hall comedian at work at all: perhaps it was Professor Parkinson. Is the company, then, to be commanded by a major, as companies should be? If so, can the Government say how they propose to attract officers into a regiment in which the ceiling of promotion is so low? As a certain honourable and gallant gentleman said in another place last week, there are at present no officers at Sandhurst ready to go into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, one of the regiments allegedly reprieved by this remarkable new policy. Will the Government tell the House how, having made this apparently simple political gesture, they intend to make military sense out of it?
These are serious questions, and the noble Lord will be well aware that the disquiet which we on this side of the House feel is shared by many officers and men in the Army. I find it hard to imagine what these companies are going to be used for, It is an axiom of military organisation, with which I am sure the noble Lord is familiar, that the smallest unit which can exist independently in operation is the battalion. One can only conclude that these strange new units have no military function at all, merely a political function. If they have a military use, it would be interesting to hear what it is. So I am afraid we must conclude that the Government have not been altogether successful in achieving their second objective. There is nothing but a pious statement of intent on manpower difficulties. There is nothing to tell us how they are to be overcome. There is nothing to tell us what the targets for manpower planning are. We must give the noble Lord credit for certain measures which, if they can be implemented within the defence budget, seem likely to improve the capabilities of the Armed Forces; but it seems to me a great pity that this should include a useless piece of window-dressing which is obviously designed to placate those who made such an extraordinary uproar about the much-needed reorganisation of the infantry.
My Lords, this brings me to the third and last of the objectives which the 483 Government have set for themselves in this White Paper;to establish and maintain a sound financial basis on which to develop and carry out defence policy and plans in the years ahead.Before we take a brief look at the way the Government think they are going to do this, I hope we can clear up one rather puzzling passage in the White Paper and in the noble Lord's speech. I refer to paragraph 37 in the last part of the White Paper, where it says:The costing of the defence programme which the Government had inherited considerably exceeded the provisional allocations for defence.That is in Cmnd. 234—I am paraphrasing a little in the interests of saving time.
Unless I am missing some abstruse point of semantics or philosophy, this seems to me to be no more than a statement of something that is obvious and commonplace to anybody familiar with the technique of long-term costings; namely, that actual projects sometimes cost more than it was estimated that they would cost in the long-term fore casts. When that happens, obviously, either more money has to be found or the projects have to be cut to fit the money available. Why go to the trouble of explaining such childishly simple concepts in the White Paper?—unless, of course, it was to suggest that the Labour Government had done their sums wrong. Fortunately the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, put the matter in proper perspective in your Lordships' House on October 27, when he said that he was making no accusations against the previous Government.
When the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke on the following day, and to-day, he was not disposed to be so frank and gracious. He indicated again to-day that it is up to us to explain the difference between long-term costings and actual costs, but he knows quite well that there is nothing for us to explain—the difference is a normal function in the process of long-term cost forecasting. It is up to him, on the other hand, if I may say so—and he may shake his head until it comes off—to explain why this tendentious statement was put into the White Paper at all. Will he, when he comes to answer—or he can do it now if he wants to interrupt me again—admit quite honestly that it does not mean that the previous Government produced mis- 484 leading figures? If the noble Lord is prepared simply to say that, I will leave the subject and, I hope, never refer to it again.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the position is this. The previous Government produced the White Paper, Cmnd. 4234, in which it was stated that a certain sum of money was provisionally allocated for defence. It was provisionally allocated for all the other spending Departments and the total was added up for the years 1972–73 and 1973–74. We were then told that the Government were going to spend in 1973–74 whatever it was—£22,000 million. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition shakes his head, but let him look at the White Paper. It says: "Public expenditure by programme: Provisional allocation, 1972–73, 1973–74 at 1969 survey prices"—total £22,170 million. And 1973–74, £22,950 million. What does that mean if it was not a forecast of what was going to be spent? At the same time there were long-term costings in the Ministry of Defence which did not bear out those figures. It would therefore have been necessary for the Government of the day to have reduced those long-term costings either to that figure, or raised that figure. As the long-term costings are more realistic than that figure in terms of what one is going to spend, you have to save the money somewhere.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, the noble Lord really is having a field day to-day—four speeches in one day! Perhaps the best way to handle this is that when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, takes the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, out behind the "gym", to explain these things to him, I will come along and explain a few things to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that clear and lucid explanation of the situation, which I find totally confusing. However, let us come to the Government's own long-term costing: that ought to be rather more interesting. Their policy, it seems to me, rests on two major propositions: first, that they intend to save by 1974–75 485 £132 million on the Labour Government's defence programme; and secondly, that no major projects now on order are to be cancelled. That is an admirable programme, one might say at first glance; but let us look a little closer than a first glance.
Let us remind ourselves, for example, of the way in which the Government plan to fulfil the second objective of improving the capabilities of the Armed Forces, and their first objective of taking a proper share of global responsibilities. The annual extra cost of deploying the forces in South-East Asia is, we are told, between £5 million and £10 million a year. But this is not quite such a simple figure as it appears. In fact, it is totally misleading, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, admitted when I asked him about it last week, it represents only the difference between keeping a given force in Singapore and keeping it at home. Your Lordships will note that this does not give any figure for the cost of producing or keeping in being the forces that will be needed to go to Singapore in the first place. He says that there will be no increase to existing forces needed for this purpose. But what about an increase to planned force level? How much will they cost? And as we were talking about the bandying around of figures, may we look a little closer at the figure of £100 million which the Prime Minister himself was bandying about at Election time? I should say it is rather nearer to that than the £10 million which we have been offered. In any case it is going to cost something, and the whole project is likely to cost substantially more, in my view, than the White Paper suggests.
What about the French EXOCET missile? I know that we shall not be told how much that is going to cost, but I can tell the noble Lord one thing, in case there is any doubt in his mind: the Government will not get it for nothing. It is an expensive, advanced guided missile system, and the French will ask a very high price for it. What about "Ark Royal"? The White Paper says that no changes will be needed in the manpower programme of the Royal Navy. Well, we will take his word for that. But will the noble Lord, in turn, accept that whatever he may say about the money already spent on "Ark Royal" 486 —and there may be two views about that—it will cost more to keep "Ark Royal" in service than to take her out of service? Presumably he will, because one of the reasons given for not maintaining H.M.S. "Eagle" is potential cost. How much are the "Ark Royal's" major refits going to cost between now and the late 1970s? Presumably, they will not be done for nothing.
But we have not finished yet. The rundown of major Army units is to be halted. Four or five Gurkha battalions are to be kept in the order of battle. A reserve force of 10,000 men equipped with modern weapons is to be created. All this costs money, and a great deal of money; because the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, knows better than anybody that it is Vote I that really runs away with the Defence Budget; the money actually needed to keep and pay all these extra soldiers—provided, of course, that they can be recruited. Finally, we are told that we are to have a new modern jet trainer. Whatever the choice of that is, I suppose eventually it will cost money. No one is going to give us new jet trainers for nothing, and I presume that they will not be run up by the R.A.F. on a "do it yourself" basis.
So now we have three propositions, and not two: no major projects are to be cut; a number of new and expensive commitments in manpower and equipment are to be taken on; but the Defence Budget is going to be reduced. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, is not the only Member of your Lordships' House who is amused by that kind of arithmetic. I have never been very good at mathematics myself, but even I know that if I start spending more money in the shops and do not cut down my expenses in other ways, it is very unlikely that I am going to reduce my overall expenditure. So how are Her Majesty's Government going to perform this small miracle?
The White Paper refers rather vaguely to the fact that a number of projects of lesser priority, mainly in building and equipment, will be cut or deferred. We have learned, my Lords, that one of these projects is no less than the C5 transport aircraft, and if noble Lords opposite think that a project of lesser priority they are very much mistaken. It represents a major change in strategic thinking and it is no good hiding it away and keeping 487 it out of the White Paper as though it were something of no consequence. The truth is that the Government know perfectly well that they cannot make their own arithmetic come right without further economies and further cuts of a very substantial kind, or without exceeding their long-term cost estimates—a procedure which they seem to think reflects some kind of moral turpitude. We on this side of the House shall wait with interest to see which course they choose.
The White Paper gives us a hint by referring toadverse consequences for the Services which the Government would have preferred to avoid.So the Armed Forces cannot say that they have not been warned. But what about the adverse consequences to the rest of us? It is not only our soldiers, sailors and airmen who are likely to feel the effect of this familiar brand of Conservative defence thinking. I am afraid that on the third of the Government's objectives we shall have to reserve judgment until we can see the detailed workings of the noble Lord's mathematics. On his present showing, I give him no more than a beta minus for some very eccentric calculations. I am prepared to make now the forecast that the Government will have to come back to Parliament before long and say they are very sorry but find that, after all, they need more money for defence than they thought they would.
My Lords, I am afraid that this just will not do. I am sorry to have to say this to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for whom I have a great personal admiration, and indeed affection; but his first Defence White Paper is not good enough. It smacks too much of the bad old days which used to lead me into expressions of sorrow and anger when I was Defence Correspondent of The Times. Those of you who have read in that paper this morning the revealing letter from the former Conservative Defence Minister, Lord Head, will, I think, have been reminded of the techniques. First, you work out how many recruits you are likely to get by means of an actuarial estimate and then you proudly announce that as your recruiting target. I had thought, my Lords, that the time of Sandys was running out. But evidently not.
488 Here we have a White Paper which sets out a policy which is designed to be ail things to all Conservative men. There is something here for the East of Suez brigade, something for the Infantry politicians, something for the Admirals and a little, although precious little, for the Air Marshals. But there is no real, serious attempt to tell us how the money or the men are to be found to put all this into practice. To me, one of the really bad things about this White Paper is that, if I may use a rare Americanism, the Government are taking our Armed Forces for a ride. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen deserve something much better than this. They have loyally served this country through, as the noble Lord said, a period of great change. I do not think that he should blame the Labour Government for the change; changes have taken place all over the world, and we have had to take account of them. The Armed Services have served this country loyally through this period, a period for them of great instability and uncertainty. The present Government pretend, with this White Paper and with the bland words of the noble Lord opposite, to put all this right. They know that these policies will only make it worse.
But an even worse aspect of this White Paper is that it takes the whole country for a ride. It promises better military forces for less money. That is simply not possible. It promises a new share in preserving peace and stability in the world; yet not once in the White Paper do we find mention of arms control, disarmament or peace-keeping operations—not once. All it does is to perpetuate the presence of British troops in South-East Asia—scarcely, I should have thought, a contribution to peace and stability.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I repeat: scarcely, I should have thought, a contribution to peace and stability in the world.
Finally, the White Paper pretends to be something new and dynamic when, to the extent that it differs from any previous policies, it is simply the old Tory stage army technique writ large. The Government are trying to take on too much with too few men and too little resources. The Government, the Armed Forces and the 489 people of this country will live to regret it bitterly.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will not continue to describe the "Ark Royal" as a Naval museum—otherwise we shall find the Government charging an admission fee. We have in the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, one of the most disarming Defence Ministers I have ever met. If anyone thinks that a disarming Defence Minister is a contradiction in terms, then I want to assure him there is no more a contradiction than the arithmetical part of what I thought was otherwise an excellent speech. I am still bemused, completely bewildered. As I understand it, the Government claim that while they will exceed the costs for defence set out in the previous Government's White Paper (Cmnd. 4234) they will not exceed the unpublished cost estimates prepared by the previous Administration before they left office. So we are dealing with two sets of books, one that the House has seen and one that the Government have seen. The one the Government have seen has never been approved by anyone.
This excess over Command 4234 is therefore claimed as a cut in public expenditure. This is pretty unusual arithmetic. It can amount to political sleight of hand in order to honour an Election pledge. Taking the Labour Government White Paper figure for 1972 (the year after next) of £2,230 million, compared with the Government's proposal of £2,270 million, the correct form of the announcement should have been, "We are delighted to be able to tell you that the cut in public expenditure for 1972 in Defence Estimates will be minus £40 million and may well be more." This is a cut in public expenditure, not compared with any of the figures which the public have seen but with the figure apparently left by the last Government. I do not understand how the Government now claim to be giving the country a better defence system than the Labour Government would have provided at less cost than they privately estimated. If I could join the seminar which is going to take place during the afternoon, I would say that if the noble Lord has achieved this then it is some achievement; but I am not convinced at the moment.
I do not believe—and this is what 490 Lord Chalfont also said—that the difference can be made up by deferring some projects of lesser priority. What was said in Command 4521 was:These savings will reflect … the results of the normal annual scrutiny of the long-term costing of the defence programme. …I think we are entitled to know what are the projects which are to come under the microscope. Certainly we ought to know by now what is likely for 1971–72. The Government say:These savings will reflect … partly the determination of the Government to make economies wherever possible within the priorities of its defence policy.Where are the Government now looking for these economies which they hope to make in 1971–72? They then say:No major projects now on order will be cancelled. …The Government must know exactly what projects are going to be affected otherwise they could not give a figure for the savings that they expect to make next year. If they do not know, then the figures can command no confidence. I should like to know what precise Labour policies are left in the unpublished set of books which the Government are discarding in order to make so-called savings. I believe that this White Paper is the result of a good deal of very odd guessword in order to redeem the pledges made in the Election of a cut in public expenditure. We all know how inaccurate long-term costing can be and how flexible it can be as you roll the years forward. I am desperately worried that while we may think we are getting better defence for less money, in fact we are merely concealing from ourselves the bill which will come in the next year or two.
So far as the presence East of Suez goes, I would say that it is not so much a presence as a small visiting card. In so far as it turns out to be a useful training area for troops, perhaps we cannot object, but if it were to distract attention and effort from our prime commitment to Europe, we on these Benches should be very worried. I hope that my noble friend Lord Gladwyn, who will be speaking later, will tell us something of what happened in Luxembourg over the last two or three days at the meeting he attended which was devoted to the defence of Europe. So far as East of Suez is concerned I hope, with the noble 491 Lord, Lord Chalfont, that we shall be told something of the different political structures which are likely to be discussed with the other Powers for implementing the Five-Power defence arrangements. As I understand it, this force will be used only after full political consultation where the threat of aggression is external. Presumably this means in circumstances where an attack is made from outside on either Malaysia or Singapore. I take it that it would not operate if the attack were on Indonesia.
Conversely, if there is an attack on Malaysia or Singapore, may I ask the noble Lord whether Five-Power action is subject to a veto by any one Power or is the decision to operate a unilateral one? Will the military and political command structure be such that if a majority is in favour of action everybody is committed? In this way Britain could find herself in a war of which she did not approve. I suspect that more and more the question will be asked, "What is this force really for?". It certainly is not adequate to deal with a Malaya-Indonesian type of confrontation, if that should ever happen. But it could act as the thin edge of a wedge to drag a great many more British troops into a war, the defensive character of which had not been properly conceived.
It now appears that, in addition to the role we are undertaking in Singapore, we are going to commit troops to some undefined task in the Gulf. What precisely is it that Her Majesty's Government hope to achieve in this area? Is it to act as a policeman, to keep law and order between the potentially hostile States in the area? If so, considerable manpower might be involved and considerable cost. Is it to counter the Russian penetration of the area—in which case, ought we to be taking on such a commitment on a unilateral basis? Or is it to protect the supplies of oil on which the West is dependent for its industrial growth? If this last is the reason, have Her Majesty's Government considered the dramatic difference which will occur, so far as Western dependence is concerned, if the oil potential of Nigeria and the North Sea is as great as some informed people think it may well be. If it is, it would transform the economic and political relationships of the West and the 492 Middle East, so far as dependence on oil is concerned, in a remarkable way. If this is so, would it not be wise to encourage the Persian Gulf States to come to terms with their own security now, rather than place them in a false position at a later date.
To revert once more to the small force committed in the Singapore area, would it not be far better for such a force to be dedicated to the United Nations for general peace-keeping purposes, rather than tied up on a permanent basis in a limited area of the world?
There are two other matters that need further thought. We welcome without reservation the expansion of the Territorial Army and of the Army Volunteer Reserve. We should like to know more about how it is proposed to recruit this force, and also what is proposed should be done about recruitment generally. Are the mass media being used in the best possible way? Something much more fundamental than television and magazine advertising is needed. Perhaps the noble Lord would consider having some specialised "think tank", which seems to be fashionable nowadays, to help to get the recruits we must get if the Armed Forces are to be properly manned.
Finally, may I ask the Government what is their policy concerning the Polaris force? I cannot see any mention of this in the White Paper. It is a crucial question and we have a right to know the Government's intentions. Are they contemplating going in for the next generation of submarine missiles? And, if so, how does this affect the costings we have been given. My Lords, if I have been critical of the way the Government have juggled with the figure, I do not wish to be thought ungenerous in any way to those who serve in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. One has only to look at the conduct of our troops in Northern Ireland, in the most distressing circumstances, to feel the strongest pride in the quality of our Armed Forces.
§ 4.44 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not think it discourteous if I make my remarks rather concisely to-day. After all, this is only an interim Report, and no doubt we 493 shall have a much fuller Report, as my noble friend Lord Carrington has said, probably next February. There seems to be a fair agreement, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, about the capability of improving on the suggestions in the Report—that is to say, having additional "teeth" in the Navy, additional reserves in the Army and increased operational aircraft in the Royal Air Force. I think that these are generally accepted as desirable.
I think it is fair to say that in the five months he has held office as Secretary of State my noble friend Lord Carrington has acted both with speed and with efficiency, in particular in laying the foundations of an agreement in South-East Asia. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that this is no contribution to peace. At all events, four other Commonwealth countries take the view that it is, and I think their judgment on this is probably better informed.
Why is this important? The first reason is one that I have mentioned from your Lordship's House before. We went back on our word to certain Asian countries—notably Singapore and Malaysia. It is true that we have done this before in our history, that we are called "perfidious Albion" by the French; and, for all I know, other European countries have similar adjectives. But to do this sort of thing to an Asian country with which we have been closely associated for 150 years, a country which has looked to us for almost the whole structure of its life, is unforgivable. And I regret very much that Members of the noble Lord's Party have found it difficult to understand how serious this is. I regret it profoundly, and importance that the noble Lord should for that reason I think it is of the utmost have gone back to that country.
Secondly, there is no doubt whatever that these new proposals would increase stability. But I think that the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, of a United Nations force would simply not create the sense of stability which a British force would give. It was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that this might provoke other countries. I should have thought that the people in the area were the best judges of whether or not there was likely to be provocation.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, may I correct the noble Earl? I did not suggest 494 that the force should be a United Nation-force in that area; I suggested that it should be dedicated to general peacekeeping throughout the world, instead of being tied up in that area.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, if a United Nations force went to Singapore it would not, I believe, have the stabilising effect that a British force would have. It is almost certain that in the course of a not too long period the Americans will withdraw from Vietnam. This will raise difficult questions in the whole area, and the question of the stability of neighbouring countries will become of increasing importance. For these reasons I think that the action which has been taken is correct.
I believe that SHAPE is just about right. It is all very well to talk as if we were alone. Our troops are there associated with local forces, and the local forces are not by any means negligible. I had the advantage of spending a day with the Singapore Army and I must say that they were an extremely vigorous and energetic body. I was impressed both with the quality of their training and with the weapons they were using. Any help that we gave would be a significant addition to the existing forces. Secondly, the cost would not be overwhelming. This is important because it is hoped, certainly by the people in the area, that this will be accepted, even if there is a Governmental change in this country.
When the Conservative Government were elected, there was cheering in public places in Singapore. May I say that I hope that that will never happen again? The people of Singapore should not worry about which Party is in power in this country. This should not be a matter on which there should be changes of policy fundamentally affecting the people in South-East Asia, and I hope that this will not happen again.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, dealt with a strategy which, frankly, I would regard as out of date. These are days when war is not declared, when war starts with guerrilla activities; and those who promote these activities take on a big responsibility. This is the main danger we have to deal with, and it goes back to the sort of stability which I believe these new proposals will give. The wars which start to-day apparently cannot be 495 ended, whether in Vietnam, in Nigeria or in the Middle East. It is extremely difficult to end a war. Curiously enough, the ending of the only war which was brought to an end in recent years was due to the civilised qualities of the Indian sub-continent; but the others have gone on. It is for that reason that we have a special duty to try to see how we can contribute to the preservation of peace. Here I should have thought that without the slightest doubt we are playing our full part in seeing that war does not occur. If I may add what I believe is a Chinese proverb, which is very much in my mind (I do not know if it is in the minds of other noble Lords), it is that the success of Armed Forces depends on not finding it necessary to use them. I believe that that will be the success of our presence in South-East Asia.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just resumed his seat has suggested, as I understand him, that this matter of Defence should be treated in a less partisan fashion and more objectively. I fully agree with him. But he should have addressed that observation to his noble friend Lord Carrington, who it seems was less concerned about developing a rational strategy of defence than indulging in mild criticism of the previous Labour Administration. I challenge this at once.
I detect not an iota of difference between the defence policy of the previous Government and the defence policy adumbrated in the White Paper published by the present Administration. There is a suggestion about some Jaguars that will be forthcoming in due course. There is to be a battalion of Ghurkas retained in the United Kingdom. For what reason they are to be here nobody is able to say, and certainly not the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. There is to be a presence—and no more than a presence—East of Suez. What does this presence consist of? Can we be furnished with specific information about the matter? How many battalions are there to be in Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand or Australia? These are the four Governments with which we are to be associated, and which are expected to furnish a contribution to provide something in the nature of a deterrent.
496 It was remarkable, I thought, when I listened to the noble Lord speaking from the Government Front Bench that he refrained from furnishing specific information about the manpower, the weapons, hardware and the like available to the four Governments with whom we are to be associated. Why should this be so? Is it because of security? Is it not in the public interest? If so, I can tell the noble Lord that what he should do, if he has not already availed himself of the opportunity, is to go into the Library and ask for a production issued from Chatham House connected with the Institute of Strategic Studies and he will get it all there. What does it amount to? Malaysia, one of the contributing nations, has actually only two battalions. The noble Lord shakes his head. Would he be good enough to furnish me with the actual number of divisions or battalions available to the Malaysian Government?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I thought it hardly necessary if the noble Lord could go and look it up in the Library.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I cannot follow the noble Lord. Surely when he speaks of a presence we are entitled to ask what it is. What does it actually represent? It is either a formidable presence or it is ineffective. I suggest to the noble Lord that on the figures that are available, with which as a member of the Government he must be familiar, the presence—and I would say this also to the noble Earl who has just resumed his seat—is derisory. I regret that. When in the other place the Secretary of State for Defence in the previous Government formulated proposals about withdrawal from East of Suez, I also expressed regret; but at the same time I ventured to point out that we were never expected to make a substantial contribution to the defence of that area.
In the Attlee Government, with which I was associated as Secretary for War and Minister of Defence, we were informed about the creation of a Pact between the United States of America and the Australian and New Zealand Governments, known as the ANZUS Pact, and we were to be excluded from that Pact. I protested at the time, but my protest was ignored. That Pact, so far as I understand it, is still in existence. 497 The noble Lord assents. When I asked a supplementary question the other day as to whether the United States, because of its association with the Pact to which I have referred, had been consulted, the noble Lord said that they had been, but offered no kind of information which could be regarded as satisfactory. What I think we are entitled to ask—and this is the question that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, should have asked—is what contribution will be furnished by the United States of America in that area: because without a substantial contribution from the United States of America, there can be no question of providing a deterrent against aggression, or, in the event of aggression, of being able to face it. There is no argument about that.
The position of the Singapore Government is one of helplessness. If we send a battalion out there it will not make any substantial difference. The position of the New Zealand Government is even worse. They have contributed a battalion to Malaysia, less two companies, and they have hardly any aircraft worth talking about. In the case of the Australian Government, while they have contributed a battalion, and I believe some combat aircraft, generally speaking, without going into further details (they are available at the source to which I have referred), the presence referred to is of very little value indeed, unless, as I say, we can rely in that area on a substantial contribution based on the ANZUS Pact in order to deal with any aggression.
I now come to what the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Defence said about the situation in Europe. What is the position in the European command? The noble Lord said that it had been suggested, not only because of the likely withdrawal of some American Forces from Europe (although I do not think that is likely; I doubt it very much; I think it is in the interests of the United States that we have a formidable presence in Europe), and not only for the purposes of defence of European countries, but in the interests of the United States itself—that goes without saying—that the European countries associated with NATO, the six countries, should step up their defence contribution.
What is the position in that area? The noble Lord, in his original speech, said that we had been able to maintain peace 498 for 25 to 30 years in Europe because of NATO, by which he meant that we were ready and able to resist anything in the nature of Soviet aggression. I think that that is purely fictitious. I do not believe that at any time the Soviet Union contemplated war in Europe. After all, there was no reason why she should, because the Soviet Union has been capable of obtaining all that she requires without going to war—as, for example, in the case of Czechoslovakia. There was no question of war in Europe. The idea that because we were maintaining a combined defence force in Europe under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation we were able to deter anything in the nature of aggression is simply a military nonsense. Moreover, what kind of contribution are we making in NATO? Again the noble Lord did not furnish any information, but I will furnish some information for him. The total contribution, in divisions, for the whole of NATO, apart from Turkey and Greece, which are in a different category, is about 21 divisions, and I doubt whether there is a single division up to strength. Of course there is a vast number of aircraft—much of it by this time practically obsolete. There is also a nuclear element ready to operate if and when it is necessary.
I should like to make a few observations about this. The fact of the matter is, whether noble Lords like it or not, whether defence experts, in or out of the Services, like it or not, the whole of our defence strategy and thinking has been bedevilled and confused because of paragraph 12 of the Defence White Paper submitted in another place by Duncan Sandys in 1958. What did it contain? It set aside any question of resisting aggression by means of conventional forces. In short, it postulated that nuclear weapons would be required to be used if and when conventional forces were found to be ineffective. Ever since then the whole of our defence thinking has been in a confused state because we are unable to divorce ourselves from the possibility of nuclear warfare. At the same time there is hardly any thinking person, either in the Soviet Union—if there are thinking persons in the Soviet Union—or in the United States, in this country, NATO or elsewhere who believes that any of the Powers will use nuclear weapons at any time. The use of nuclear 499 weapons will mean complete destruction, wholesale devastation; and that is most unlikely to occur, certainly as a result of any initial action by any of the Great Powers, who are undoubtedly the greatest of the nuclear Powers in the world.
I never could understand in the course of our defence debates in another place, and I cannot understand it here this afternoon, why we do not consider defence strategy in all its forms. What are we driving at? Where do we contemplate aggression? If it is East of Suez—and I repeat what I have already said—our presence there, and the total military contribution available from Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, with our contribution, is of little consequence without the aid of the United States of America. Without their aid it would be impossible to deal with any such aggression. Because of the situation in Vietnam, and the state of mind among the American public, it is extremely unlikely that the United States would contribute the kind of military strength which would be essential in that area in order to deal with aggression, if ever it should occur. Therefore, what I wish to discuss is not merely the increase in manpower, the presence of a Gurkha battalion in this country, and the likelihood of obtaining new missiles from the French Government—no doubt at a very high price—for these are minor considerations. What we have to consider is what our purpose is, and, if we have a purpose and a role in the world, how are we going to maintain it.
Our military strength must be associated with our commitments. What are our commitments? There is all this nonsense in the White Paper about our role in the world, and keeping peace in the world. It is quite impossible for the United Kingdom, with its alleged military strength and resources, and even the character of its people, to maintain peace in the world. We have not been able to maintain peace in the world for several centuries without the aid of allies, and we shall never be able to maintain peace in the world in the future without their help. This included our allies from the Commonwealth countries, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. We should never forget the contribution that they made in two great world wars. That is why I regretted very much the decision of the 500 previous Administration to withdraw from East of Suez, because in the absence of a definitive military contribution from the United States I felt that our friends in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and even such friends as we still have in Malaysia, would be left in the lurch.
What else remains? I should like to make reference to an increase in our reserves, our Territorial Auxiliary Reserves. One thing is certain: all the efforts of the noble Lord, the present Administration and the recruiting agencies will not increase our manpower to any considerable extent. It has been tried for several years now. It has nothing to do with unemployment. Sometimes it has been said that when there was vast unemployment men flocked to the Services, but it has nothing to do with it at all. Sometimes the recruiting figures go up, and then they go down. It has been oscillating over practically the whole period since the last war. If we cannot obtain manpower by voluntary means, what is the alternative? Some suggestions have been made about a return to National Service—to conscription. I have never accused the Conservative Party of wanting conscription—certainly the Labour Party does not want it. I believe it is far too costly, difficult to operate and, in the end, would be something of a military nonsense.
What we want is an abundance of reserves. The short service engagement, although it was rejected by military chiefs in the past, might have been resurrected. I would go so far as to suggest—although I do not suppose everybody would agree with me—that even a two-year short service engagement might be worth while if only for the purpose of training the younger men of this country, not in the arts of war—for we do not want another war—but in the functions that are associated with the Services. I think this would be an admirable thing to do. I believe that it would attract a very large number of men, and although a two-year service would not be very effective from a military standpoint, for various other reasons, even for social reasons, it might be a very desirable thing to try out. But whether that is done or not, I am convinced that the 10,000 men contemplated, the increase in the T. & A.V.R., would not be sufficient. I doubt very much whether the noble Lord will be able 501 to get 10,000 additional men. And if we are to get the men, what is to be done with them? Are they going to be effectively trained? If not, do not have them at all.
Then I want to say this. There are some of my colleagues in the other place, and in the country, who are friends of mine who are against defence and regard it as unnecessary. I have never accepted that view. Every country in the world—even the neutral countries—has some measure of defence: Sweden, which is neutral; Switzerland, which is neutral. There is not a single country in the world that rejects the need for some measure of defence, even if it seems unnecessary. It may never be used, but nevertheless they want it. We are in precisely that position. The idea of other countries in the world having a defence organisation, and the United Kingdom, a great country—still great, in spite of many defects—having no defence at all would be highly objectionable, certainly to myself, and I believe to the majority of people in this country.
If we are to have defence, it must be adequate. If it is not adequate, what is the use of it at all? For example, it has been suggested that there should be a reduction of manpower. What is the point in that? If we reduce manpower, is it going to be of any advantage to the military forces of the country? There is now a conference proceeding in Moscow between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, where they are discussing reduction in manpower and reduction in "hardware". That is not a contribution to peace in the world—not at all. I would much rather see the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union co-operating, despite their ideological differences, in order to bring some influence on other countries to come to terms, to co-operate, in order to prevent another conflict. So to me the White Paper means little or nothing. It is no contribution to a deterrent East of Suez. So far as the European Command is concerned, it makes no additional contribution.
Finally, I must say this. Nobody on the other side must imagine that, because of this White Paper or the efforts of the Government, we can maintain defence on a lower level of finance. It is impossible. If we want adequate 502 defence, we must pay for it. It is regrettable; maybe we cannot afford it. A letter appeared in The Times newspaper this morning from the noble Viscount, Lord Head, giving a remarkable disclosure of what happened when Mr. Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister. Eden had resigned; Harold Macmillan becomes Prime Minister. He sends for Lord Head who was Minister of Defence. And what does he say to him? He does not say to him, "Look here! What do you think we should do in the way of defence? What manpower do you want? What kind of 'hardware' do you want?" No. He says, "I have come to the conclusion that the maximum amount you are going to get for the whole of the forces is so-and-so. Come back at 4 o'clock and tell me whether you like it. If you don't, you can go out." And Lord Head, to his credit, went out.
And I should like to add this on behalf of Lord Head. Politically, we never agreed, but I think that the suggestions made by Harold Macmillan about Lord Head, which appeared in The Times newspaper—these derogatory suggestions about Lord Head—are wholly unjustified. Lord Head, in my opinion, although he was a Conservative, was one of the best Ministers of Defence this country ever had. I am generous enough to admit that.
My Lords, we are in precisely the same position now. I should not be at all surprised if the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, received instructions, perhaps from the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying, "This is all the money you are going to get. Work it out the best way you can. Not a penny more." The noble Lord is doing his best, but it is not defence; it is not the right kind of strategy. Perhaps we cannot afford any more. Then all right: admit it. But do not talk; do not boast; do not indulge in bombast about our ruling the world and about the contribution we are making to peace.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, because those of us who are sufficiently senior in the Services remember him as an excellent Secretary of State for War. We are lucky to have the benefit of his lively advice 503 now. This Supplementary Statement contains remarkably little except real decision. It does not contain a great deal of policy. We shall no doubt get that in the regular Defence Paper in February or March. So I do not think we ought to criticise the Supplementary Paper itself in detail.
I should like to make just a few comments—not to pose any questions—on the Paper. First of all, it is pleasant to have a Paper which contains no cuts. I have been standing up here pretty regularly complaining about cuts. Of course we all knew that there were very good reasons for them, but we reached a point where I said that the defence forces were no longer capable of defending this country. I could not help agreeing with the author of an article in the Royal United Service Institution Journal recently when he said:We have witnessed a game of unwilling striptease, as a result of which all three Services have been left naked and I hope a little ashamed.Well, no more of that, thank goodness!
In that connection, although the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is not in his place, perhaps I might tell him the value of the six independent companies. They are there in the "ready-use locker" for the time when we can recruit and fill them up to proper battalions. But in the meantime they are perfectly warlike companies, and many a battalion in the British Army would welcome the addition of a company. In fact, it has often had to be done before, and it is being done every day: add a company from another regiment, and off you go to war.
The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, complained about some of the platitudes written. I must say that I agree with one of them, that about Britain assuming her proper share in maintaining peace and stability throughout the world. Of course it is with allies—we all know that. It never has been suggested that we should do it alone. Almost exactly the same was written five years ago, in the Defence Review of February, 1966, when the previous Government said:Britain shares with other countries a general interest in seeing peace maintained. It is this interest above all which justifies our military presence outside Europe.We all know that, unfortunately, for perfectly good financial reasons, the pre- 504 vious Administration could not maintain that objective. I only hope that the brave decision now to remain outside Europe will be actually put into practice.
Although I was hoping not to mention East of Suez at all this afternoon (the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, covered it very well from the Commonwealth and the Singapore point of view), perhaps I ought to mention that our decision in that connection has given great encouragement outside the Commonwealth also. I was recently in Saigon talking to the Foreign Minister, and he quoted to me the different reactions to statements made at two international conferences which he was attending. At the first, the representative of the Government announced the British intention to withdraw from Singapore and Malaysia, and not one word was said. A year later, on another occasion, when a representative of the present Government said, "We are remaining, even if in rather small force", the whole international conference clapped. They were all foreigners, by the way, and not Commonwealth people. So I have departed from my own intention not to mention defence policy East of Suez.
I should now like to make one or two comments; and first a word about the Gurkhas. I asked a Question about the future content of the Gurkha contingent, and I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Harding, who asked me to make the following statement, for information, about his £1 million appeal for the Gurkhas. He will be putting it out in the Press fairly soon, I think, but this is what he said:This appeal is more important than ever, for two reasons. First, it is a continuing open-ended commitment, instead of a measurable closed one, and secondly there are more men, more Gurkhas and more Gurkha families to care for in the future".Perhaps I may now turn to recruitment, on which the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Defence said that the whole of the present Government's plan turned, and on which he expressed a certain amount of justifiable worry. I must say that I sympathise with the Government, and with the Services, faced with the formidable task of taking in 40,000 Regular other ranks every year in order to keep up to strength. If I 505 may offer one piece of advice on recruitment, I would say that I believe that we have been overdoing the easy part of recruitment. It may have been right (although I personally did not agree with it) to raise military salaries in a similar way to those in civil life; and certainly there was a need to raise Army and Navy pay. But to continue the allegory, and to say that membership of the three Services is somewhat like going in and out of a factory is quite the wrong way of putting it.
I believe that young men ought to be attracted by travel, of course; by the risks involved, and by the fact that service in the Armed Forces is an honourable profession, even if they adopt it only as young men. My experience as colonel of a parachute battalion bore this out. It was the fact that we could say there was a certain amount of risk and that we were joining an élite battalion—which incidentally was up to strength—which made people want to join it; and there we were alongside other battalions which were having great difficulty in maintaining their strength. In my view, the more difficult you make it, the more likely you are to attract recruits.
The other point I would mention about recruiting is that now we have this objective clearly in front of us we must help the Government in every possible way by ensuring that the Services now offer a worthwhile career and that there are no more cuts. It is an honourable profession, and it is not enough for the Secretary of State and his staff in the Ministry of Defence alone to say this. He must be supported not only by us, but also from the top of the Government—by the Prime Minister himself and the whole Cabinet, which in my view was not so in the case of the previous Administration.
I now come to a small point about the uncommitted Reserve, which we are all very pleased about. To my mind it was wrong to have a T. & A.V.R., however well equipped, just to "plug holes". I am sure that the idea of an uncommitted Reserve is right, and that it should start with the small figure of 10,000. Recruiting volunteers into the T. & A.V.R. is not the same as recruiting into the Regular Army, although in fact many of them do go on into the Regular forces. 506 But the damage which has been done to the voluntary spirit in destroying the old Territorial Army is considerable, and I think we must give the voluntary spirit time to recover.
Lastly, may I say a word about maritime strategy which has not received much attention this afternoon. I think perhaps it ought to be called "Defence of sea communications with our Allies". I mentioned in a recent speech in your Lordships' House that we have read Defence White Papers for six years on end without any mention of this subject. We all know that our daily bread and butter, our very existence, depends on it, and I sincerely hope that it will receive due attention and treatment in the Defence Estimates which we shall see in the new year. In other words, I believe that we have turned the corner at long last in these decisions. I admire very much the way in which the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Defence has achieved this in such a short time. It is fairly easy to make decisions, even if admirably quick ones; it is not so easy to put them into practice. It will not be easy at all, but I sincerely hope that they will be carried out.
§ 5.26 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, for reasons which all too shortly will become apparent, I take part in this debate this afternoon with the greatest diffidence. In the first place, it is a very long time since I have taken part in your Lordships' deliberations; worse, my knowledge of the subject of defence can best be described as minimal, and finally—and perhaps worst of all—I have an uneasy feeling that my few brief remarks are not really covered by the terms of this debate, so I ask for your Lordships' forbearance. However, it gives me the opportunity of saying something that I have wanted to say for some time. I want to talk briefly about the position of the Simonstown base and the possible sale of aeroplanes and frigates to South Africa, and the attitude to this possibility taken by certain of our Commonwealth partners, principally those in the Continent of Africa.
I like to regard my self as a Commonwealth man. I have been privileged to serve for four years in the Commonwealth Office. Since then I have been Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, 507 and at the moment I have the honour to be President of the Royal Commonwealth Society. So I hope that what I am saying will be taken in good faith as a man who genuinely believes in the Commonwealth and looks upon it as a good multi-racial force and something which should be encouraged.
We must remember that the modern Commonwealth, consisting of 28 or 29 nations as it does now, is a gathering of nations—call it what you like—of totally independent sovereign States and each of those States has a first duty to its own peoples, which is to look after its own national interests. It would be considered outrageous if we were to try to bring pressures to bear upon one of our Commonwealth partners who was taking action that they regarded was in their national interest but which we did not particularly like. There would be an outcry, and rightly so. And so with us. It is a truism to say that it is the duty of any elected Government of this country to look after the interest of our own nation first, and the whole basis of the modern Commonwealth—and this is the reason for my intervention—is that we respect each others' national interests and realise that we all have our own problems. We must look tolerantly on each other, even if we are acting as our partners might not wish us to. Our Commonwealth countries, particularly the ones which have more recently gained their independence, would not tolerate any interference by us in their national affairs. So what is sauce for the goose, my Lords, is sauce for the gander. It is quite wrong for any one country in the Commonwealth, or group of countries, to try to blackmail us into doing, or not doing, something that is in our own national interest.
As I have said, I have no knowledge of defence. I have no knowledge of the importance of the base at Simonstown. I have no knowledge of the importance of the Agreement. I simply do not know how great the threat to the Indian Ocean is of the increasing Russian naval presence there. These things are totally unknown to me. The point I wish to make is that if in the view of Her Majesty's Government it is in our interest to maintain the Simonstown Agreement, 508 it should be maintained, and our Commonwealth partners should appreciate that we are doing what the democratically elected Government of this country believes to be in our national interest. So, too, in the matter of sales of frigates and long-range reconnaissance aircraft, if it is in our national interest; if in order to combat the Russian presence this is what we should do, we must do it.
Of course apartheid is a loathsome doctrine. In recent years I have been helping to administer the turf, and in racing we have a phrase of which we are very proud—and I hope it is true—that on the turf and under it all men are equal. And so it should be with the human race, that all men, regardless of colour, creed or anything else, should be equal. That is certainly so. You can take a very logical and indeed honourable view that because of apartheid we should have no trade whatever with South Africa, a complete trade boycott; that is honourable and understandable, possibly even praiseworthy. It is not a view that I subscribe to myself. As a nation which exists on exports, if we ceased trading with all countries whose Governments we did not approve of we should soon have no customers at all. Your Lordships may think that that is a cynical view, but that is the view I hold. Certainly a total trade boycott is logical. But to say that it is quite all right for us to sell whisky and motor cars to South Africa and buy from them diamonds and sherry, thereby supporting the economy and the Government of the country, and to say that it is wrong to sell frigates and long-range aircraft, which could not possibly be used to enforce apartheid, is to my mind the sheerest hypocrisy.
I apologise that I have strayed from the subject of the debate, and I ask your Lordships' forbearance. I would only reiterate that Her Majesty's Government, whatever Government, must do what they believe to be in the interests of this country and must not be diverted by pressure groups from elsewhere. If anyone thinks that I am against the modern Commonwealth, they are wrong. If we start having one Commonwealth country trying to blackmail another, the whole edifice will collapse in a very short time. We must tolerate and understand each others' problems.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I should be less than true to myself if I did not say that I agree with the proposal in the White Paper to expand the Territorial Army. I have always believed that we have a duty to defend our homeland—and meet the cost—just as I have a feeling that we ought not to dissipate the taxpayers' money nor imperil the lives of our men by attempting to police the whole world; and that was why I opposed the British Government's rather foolish expedition into Suez ten or more years ago. This House has heard my views of the Territorial Army on many occasions, so there is very little indeed to say about it to-night. But I do feel that the Territorial Army provides us with a very economical auxiliary force and it is a very good thing for the young men and women who join it. It is for that reason that for more than twenty years I was a member of the Territorial Association for my county, and but for the imposition of a seventy-year age limit I would at present be serving on the Eastern Counties Territorial Association.
I was never a Territorial myself. In 1914, when I joined the Army, I was only sixteen, and so I was not old enough to be one of those Saturday afternoon soldiers. And then when I came back from Germany four and a half years later as a twenty-year old company sergeant major I had to sit down and face the stern task of trying to educate myself for the next stage of life that lay ahead. The fact that I was never a teenager may perhaps have had some effect upon me in later life, but that would be irrelevant to this discussion; it is probably more a matter for a psychiatrist.
Two or three years ago, when in your Lordships' House I criticised my own Government for making cuts in the Territorial Army, I said at the same time that I saw much merit in the proposal of reorganising the T. & A.V.R. in such a way that they would be a first line reserve for the Regular Army. I believe that this very constructive experiment has paid off. In fact we get testimony to this fact in the White Paper itself to-day. We know that last year its strength rose by 7,000, that its strength is now 47,000. The White Paper says that this force is entrusted with very important tasks; it says that it is "well organised, well equipped and well 510 trained." So I want to pay this tribute to the late Government for this very constructive step which they took in reorganising our Regular Army reserves.
If we were a conscript country we would not need a citizens' reserve army. But we are not a conscript country. I do not think anybody in this House or the other place wants us to be a conscript country; the professional soldiers certainly do not want it, and I am quite sure that the; electors do not want it. I think that, wisely, we have concentrated our policy on establishing a compact but highly trained and well-equipped professional army. But—and this is where the big "but" comes in—in the event of a war on the Continent of Europe the whole of that professional army, as well as with them nearly all the 47,000 trained reserves, would be committed to NATO, presumably in Europe, and where would we be then? We should be at the mercy of 50,000 ferocious paratroops who might descend on this country in a single night, and they would be assisted by some thousands of anarchists and Maoists and subversives of every kind who have made no secret of what their intentions are.
So the only criticism I have to make of this part of the White Paper is that I do not think that 10,000 extra Territorials is sufficient; I do not think it is sufficient to enable viable units or companies to be established in one district after another. I should like to ask whether it is proposed to set up territorial companies in various districts and what will be their link with the cadres that were established by the previous Government? What is to be the interpretation of the expression "light weapons" that has been used in connection with these units, and how are they to be organised geographically?—because my experience in the Territorial Associations has shown me that if men have to travel too great a distance recruiting will be hampered.
Finally, on this point, I should like to mention the consultations that are to take place. I hope that they will not take place merely with the national body of the Territorial Associations. I hope that they will go on, too, way down the line to company level, and that company officers and N.C.O.s will be given an opportunity of adding the wisdom of their own experience. As an afterthought, 511 I just wonder whether the title T. & A.V.R. is glamorous enough to attract the adventurous young men of to-day? What would be wrong in calling it "Resistance", not as the main nomenclature of a unit but as a subsidiary piece of the title, in brackets, after the normal nomenclature? I am quite sure that there are thousands of young people today fired with enthusiasm, finding no outlet for their adventurous spirit, who, while not wishing to join the T. & A.V.R. might be inclined to join what they would call "the Resistance".
A moment or two ago I referred to NATO. NATO is the first line of defence of our homeland, but to be an effective line of defence and to be able to ward off the necessity for nuclear war in Europe it should have the most formidable conventionally armed army. Is this the case? Quite honestly, I think that our own country is contributing all that it can sensibly be expected to contribute in men, materials and money. But is this the case with some of the other European countries? First of all, there is France. We know that France has contracted out. We also know that for years past France has been conducting intimate diplomatic flirtations with Soviet Russia. We know that France harbours a huge Communist Party which exercises influence not only in the public administration but also in the manufacturing industries and in the transport undertakings of the docks and the railways. Even if the soil of France were defiled by an invader from the East, I doubt whether we could rely much upon support from that quarter.
Then there is Belgium. Those spiteful quarrels that are always going on between the Flamands and the Walloons are growing more bitter every day, and the respect in which the Royal Family there is held is being reduced every day because of the lax moral mode of life being practised by some of its members. Then we have Italy. Italy is a country with a huge Communist Party which exercises far more authority below the ground than appears on the political surface; and I wonder whether, if the West were confronted with a war with the East, Italy could be relied upon to put up a solid front in defence of the West.
The German Army is under strength. It is said to be short of 40,000 trained 512 N.C.O.s. It is known that deferments there are far in excess of any of the deferments that were granted here in the days of the conscientious objectors' tribunals. I do not feel that the remaining countries of Europe are pulling their full weight, and if we look at the matter from a financial point of view there is no other country in Europe, with the minor exception of Portugal—and I do not suppose that Portugal would tip the result of a European war either way—which is paying to defence as big a proportion as we are of the gross national product. They are not pulling their weight. Of course NATO is not Europe alone. Canada is taking 10,000 troops out of Europe. The United States, the backbone of the Organisation, is thinking of taking a considerable number of troops out of Europe after next July; and Mr. Nixon himself has said in his Message to Congress, which is equivalent to our gracious Speech, that he feels that the time has come when Europe can itself bear the burden of the conventional forces that are required in Europe. So I hope that the present Government will continue to press upon the other countries in NATO the necessity for making a full contribution to this defence Organisation.
What is the order of battle in NATO to-day? The Eastern countries outnumber the Western countries in infantry by two to one. It may be that an Eastern infantry division is slightly smaller than a Western infantry division, but the preponderence is overwhelming all the same. In armoured units the preponderence is three to one. In aircraft the preponderence is two to one—a 50 per cent. superiority in tactical aircraft, but a 100 per cent. superiority in aircraft overall. Something else has happened in the last year or two. As a result of the invasion of Czechoslovakia there is a wide open window on to the Western countries of Europe, a wide open window that is backed with heavy armour. I sometimes wonder whether the real reason for the invasion of Czechoslovakia was in order to secure that window on to the West, and whether the liberalisation of the régime there merely provided a very convenient excuse.
What I have been trying to say with regard to the Territorial Army and NATO is that we ought, to concentrate all the money and men that we feel we can 513 afford—and there is a limit to that—on the task of defending our own homeland, and not on scattering our troops and undertaking responsibilities throughout the world. For that reason, I am against taking on this open-ended commitment in Malaysia and Singapore. I do not want to argue about the size of our contribution or the size of the Australian contribution. I do not want to argue about the extent to which trouble in that area can come from internal subversion. I want to get right to the heart of the problem, which is that if we were involved in a war there, what would we do? Would we retire or would we reinforce? If we retired, our standing in the world would go down to zero. If we reinforced, we should see an escalating and mounting magnitude of the war, with the result that we would be committed to a British Vietnam which might bleed us white for many years.
I apply that same attitude to our intervention in the Gulf, whether that intervention is to be by the stationing of troops or by some less specific method, as hinted at in the White Paper. Some of the sheikhs in the district are opposed to our presence there—at least, that is the information I get from my secret informants in some of the harems. But some of them do want us there. This fact alone is fraught with some danger. If one group of sheikhs are pro-British and another group of sheikhs are, let us say, non-British, the pacification of the area does not seem to me to be an easy task. If trouble breaks out there, what do we do? Do we retire or do we reinforce? If we reinforce, against whom do we ultimately find ourselves to be fighting? Surely, it is the Russian Army, and that is something I dare not contemplate.
Then there is South Africa. References to South Africa have evidently been written in invisible ink in this White Paper, but we have been assured by one Ministerial speech after another during the last few weeks that South Africa and Simonstown are matters of vital importance to our overall strategy. I am not going to talk about apartheid, but I am going to say that if we provide arms to South Africa the black nations of Africa would regard that as a ceremonial British salute to the South African Government. The result would be to 514 pitchfork them into the arms of Russia and probably of China, and probably to provoke some of them into providing naval bases, or even air bases, for use by Russia or China. I do not look forward to that with any degree of comfort.
I have contented myself with talking about defence and not about Party polemics, but I was rather sad to see in the White Paper a passage which referred to the "damage done to defence programmes" by previous defence reviews. That statement would have been a little more complete if it had also referred to the defence review carried out by Mr. Duncan Sandys about 13 years ago. Quite honestly, having regard to the mild nature of the proposals that are contained in the White Paper, I cannot see that the defence reviews of the last Government did very much damage at all. Anyhow, no one Party has a monopoly of military unprepared-ness in this country. I remember 1914, when I had to learn to slope arms with a broomstick, and then howl and charge at a sack of straw with that same broomstick as part of my bayonet training; I remember how I was trained as a machine gunner with an old Maxim that was a relic from the Boer War. No Party is quite pure in this matter, and it hardly behoves the present Government to attack the virtue of the Government which preceded it.
There is one more point about which a word should be said, and that relates to the costings on the last page but one of the White Paper. Long ago, about 45 years ago, I had charge of a costings system of a large public undertaking, and I would never have accepted from any of my assistants a statement of costings which consisted of a single line of totals and which did not examine some of the figures lower down. I am sure that we ought to be able to examine the figures lower down before we accept those bare totals given in the White Paper as being accurate. For example, do they allow for inflation? We know that inflation is going to continue, no matter what steps are taken to prevent it. Do they provide for the two-yearly increases in soldiers', sailors' and airmen's salaries? Do they provide for a continuation of the housing programme for the Forces, or is that going to be cut? Do they provide for all the new weapons and vehicles that will come 515 from the research and development committees?—because nothing can be static where defence is concerned. Do they provide for the new recruits it is expected will be obtained? Do they provide for all those unforeseeable contingencies that arise in connection with a defence programme?
The White Paper says that the figures provide only for those matters upon which decisions have already been taken, but we know there are whispers that the Government may order another Polaris for £50 million or £60 million. We know that the Prime Minister is very eager to have a joint nuclear programme with France. All these things are left out of the calculations which are presented to us in the table of costings. I have a feeling that as the estimates each year are placed before us they will rise and rise, and rise again, and will bear little resemblance to the figures that we have before us to-day. It looks to me as though in this White Paper the Government are deliberately playing it cool. I suppose that is one of the tactics that we should expect in the "quiet revolution", as it has been termed.
I have just noticed the clock; I have been on parade too long. It is time, as they say in military quarters, that I was "stood down". But I should just like to summarise the theme that has been running through what I have been trying to say. First I, and I think most citizens, will willingly pay for the defence of our homeland. What we do not want to see is the dissipation of our financial resources, the taxpayers' money, on policing parts of the world 5,000 and 10,000 miles away.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, before getting on to Europe, I should just like to say how warmly I support the arguments on what is known as "East of Suez" deployed by my noble Leader, Lord Byers, and by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Indeed, to a great extent I would share the views expressed in that connection by the noble Lord who has just sat down. I suppose this is not surprising, seeing that it is now over five years ago since I deployed very much these same arguments. At that time my attitude was not exactly appreciated on 516 either side of the House, but I think it is now supported at any rate on one side.
I feel that it is rather difficult to envisage the exact circumstances in which our commitment to consult in the area of Malaysia and Singapore would actually come into operation. I know that questions have been addressed to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on this point, and of course he will reply to them when he comes to wind up. But I should like to ask him whether he would agree with the following scenario, so to speak. Is it not extremely unlikely that in the next ten, or even twenty, years there will be any direct attack on Malaysia or Singapore by any great Power such as China, Russia, or even India? It seems to me to be almost out of the question for an attack to come across the mountains or by sea, given the fact that the United Nations will probably still go on, and given the fact that it would probably not be in the interest of any great Power to do any such thing. That possibility, therefore, seems to be most unlikely, and can probably be excluded.
What, then, is the external aggression in regard to which we are going to be committed? Well, I suppose it is quite possible to imagine that when, and if, the American Army leaves South Vietnam, the famous domino theory might come into operation, and that various countries in the area, including, of course, Siam, Indonesia, and, I suppose, Burma, might, as the saying is, "go Communist". Nobody quite knows what that means, but they might anyhow go into the other camp, leaving Malaysia and Singapore as a little island allied, in some way, to the West, and whose political régimes, in principle, it would be to our interest, and the interest of the Free World, to preserve. I put that as the scenario.
But if that is so, if these leftish Governments come into power in the countries concerned and prepare external aggression, surely they will not attack Malaysia or Singapore with armies; what they will do, surrounding Singapore and Malaysia as they do, will be to stir up internal discontent and conduct all kinds of subversive operations inside the country. That will be how they will try to get Malaysia and Singapore on to their side and out of our orbit: that is surely what is most likely to happen. If that 517 is so, technically it will not be a case of external aggression; it will be a question of subversion. Yet we hear from the noble Lord himself that in no circumstances would our commitment operate if it was a question of suppressing, or helping to suppress internal subversion by force of arms.
I think, therefore, we are in a dilemma, and I should like the noble Lord to explain, when he comes to wind up, how he faces this problem, and whether or not he agrees that it is a real one. I myself confess to great doubts whether our commitment to consult could ever operate, in the sense of being a guarantee for the independence of Malaysia and Singapore, unless we are prepared, as some noble Lords have already said, to have much larger forces there and to maintain their independence at all costs, whatever reinforcements may be necessary.
Turning away from the Indian Ocean, I suppose it may be to some slight purpose if, having just come back from a meeting of the W.E.U. General Affairs and Defence Committees with the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg, I tried to contribute to this debate a few thoughts on the important question of the defence of Europe. As it seems to me—and I think some noble Lords have already expressed this thought—the whole scene here is already overshadowed by the gloomy thought that in a few years from now, and whether there is a satisfactory détente or not, the bulk of the United States Armed Forces, and perhaps all of them, may have been withdrawn from the Continent. No doubt, in default of a perhaps unlikely European settlement, some American troops will remain in Berlin. No doubt, too, enough troops will remain in Western Germany to form, along with the great nuclear Power in the background, what might be deemed to be a sufficient deterrent to Soviet action. Let us hope so.
But the fact remains that, unless any withdrawal of American forces can be compensated by a corresponding increase in the strength and efficiency of European forces, we shall be in a potentially weak, or even very weak, position for resisting not perhaps direct aggression, but any pressure which the Soviet Union may in certain circumstances care to apply. I 518 think that is obvious. Even as matters are, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said, we are now outnumbered in the central area by about three to one in tanks and about two to one in aircraft; and in simple manpower terms we are sadly deficient, too. Nor, of course, are the French numbered among the so-called "integrated" forces. Finally—and this is the main point—there cannot, owing to the lack of standardisation and the consequent enormous number of individual and separate arms employed, be any interchange of weapons as between the various European contingents. Logistically, too, the whole set-up is, I am afraid, a fearful mess.
So, my Lords, it must be clear that in the event of any serious American withdrawal the present conventional defence of Western Europe could hardly be much more than a token one. For among other things the Americans would scarcely leave behind—indeed, I am sure they would not—their tactical nuclear weapons; and we are assured by those who are in a position to know—and notably by the recent Secretary for Defence, Mr. Healey—that any adequate defence of Western Europe would be quite impracticable without the use, or the threat of the use, of the tactical nuclears.
Therefore the real question is: How do we best prepare for such an eventuality? Are we, in effect, to sit back and do nothing, hoping, by one means or another, that the famous détente will have been achieved in the meantime, in which case we shall perhaps have no need ourselves to have any forces of our own on the Continent? Are we rather to put our trust in disarmament, believing that at long last, perhaps following on some agreement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the Russians and the Americans, we shall be able to proceed with the famous mutual and balanced reduction of armaments? Or do we assume, contrary to the apparently well-informed predictions of some, and despite the example of Vietnam, that there will during the coming years, and in default of a détente, be no substantial reduction of American forces in the Federal Republic? No doubt the Government have a clear idea of the contingency planning which will presumably soon become necessary, and, if they can tell us anything about the prospects as they see 519 them, that would be of the greatest interest and use.
But from the point of view of the necessarily rather uninformed Western European Parliamentarians, among whom I number myself, and from that of what I believe would be a large majority of the British Parliamentary delegation to the Western European Union, I have no doubt at all what the answer should be. It is that the Western European democracies, if they want to avoid subjecting themselves to pressure which in the long run might well change their whole way of life, must, in default of a still rather unlikely European settlement or meaningful disarmament, come of necessity nearer together and devise ways and means whereby their forces can be suitably combined and streamlined, thus not only greatly improving their capability, but even reducing their total cost.
This is not an impossible operation. To put it bluntly, the present system, under which we have a number of totally distinct and separate armed forces each complete with its own navy, army and air force, with its own varying and overlapping logistics, its separate command system and so on, is crazy. Indeed, a crazier system could hardly have been devised. If this had been put forward for Western Europe twenty years ago, everybody would have thought we were completely "nuts". In spite of the fact that some individual contingents, notably our own, are most efficient and provided with excellent weapons, you might just as well be trying to confront the great Russian steamroller with the armies of Frederick the Great. The whole arrangement is held together only by the containing power of the United States of America. What is obviously wanted soon, therefore, is some refashioning of the whole European defensive machine by common consent, and this with the object of creating—perhaps within the framework of W.E.U., which in its turn would mean within the framework of NATO or, if the French so prefer, of the Atlantic Alliance—a reasonably strong European contribution to the general forces of the West.
I repeat I do not believe that that is in the least an impossible operation and, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said, I doubt if the pressure of the great Communist Parties behind 520 the lines, so to speak, will make any difference. If we can get something streamlined and combined, with a common command and a common philosophy, we should have enough conventional forces to resist any possible Russian threat. After all, if you talk about enormous Communist Parties behind the lines in the West you must also remember the enormous forces of freedom behind the lines in the Soviet Union. Anything might happen if there were real trouble there; so we need not be too pessimistic.
To this end, it seems likely that during its session in a fortnight's time the General Assembly of the Western European Union in Paris will pass some resolution or resolutoins embodying a proposal—it is hoped as a result of some specially convened conference—for the establishment of what has been called a working group of high-level and independent personalities whose duty would be to prepare and submit for consideration to the Ministers a report on the whole question of Western European defence. The idea would be to give such persons access to all the necessary information, but not to subordinate them in any way to any particular governmental instruction. That would be the whole point. In other words, they would be told to write their report not from the angle of any particular country, but from the angle of the group as a whole. Clearly, they would also have to express a view on the future, in the event of Western Europe having one day to rely much more on its own defence and its own efforts, and less on the direct support of America, of the small and separate nuclear deterrents of Great Britain and France.
At the November meeting of the Western European Union Assembly, we are to have the honour and great pleasure of hearing our old friend and erstwhile colleague, Mr. Peter Kirk, the new Under-Secretary for the Navy. Nobody was, or is, a more convinced European than Mr. Kirk. So I sincerely hope that he will be able to convey to his friends at the Western European Union some encouraging message from Her Majesty's Government about the importance they attach to Western European defence and about the steps which they now propose to take—naturally, within the North Atlantic Alliance—to foster it. I hope, 521 also, that we shall not this time have the stock reply from the Government; namely, (hat they really cannot be expected to bother about the reform of Western European defence, still less to begin to lay the foundations of the European Defence Community of to-morrow, until Britain is a full member of the European Economic Community. Agitating for an autonomous Europe with an adequate defence of its own will not, in any case, delay our entry into the E.E.C.; on the contrary, it might well assist it.
May I say, in conclusion, my Lords, that nobody desires a general European settlement more than we who sit on these Benches. Nobody, moreover, could be keener on linking this with some real easing of the present mad arms race than we. But peace was never achieved by simply abandoning the struggle, and there is no doubt that, in the sad circumstances in which we live, the establishment in this part of the world of a coherent and democratic group of countries with a reasonable defence of its own would do more to ensure peace, in the sense of preserving a real balance between the super-Powers, than almost anything else. This is a thought which could surely be communicated, I should have thought, to the people of this country by any Government convinced of its validity. Indeed, it would be one obvious way, one would have thought, of raising the sights of the average voter above the level of his porridge bowl and thus getting him to focus the question of our possible entry into the European Economic Community in a wider perspective. These, in any case, my Lords, are a few thoughts I throw into the debate, and if the Government can discern any merit in them at all I am sure there will be much rejoicing among our friends on the other side of the Channel.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, I propose to deal solely with one or two aspects of defence with which the Royal Navy is particularly concerned, but may I, in the first place, tell my noble friend how very pleased and indeed relieved are those Members of your Lordships' House who have had the honour of serving in the Royal Navy that he has found ways and means of retaining the aircraft carriers, "Ark Royal" and "Eagle", for 522 a further period of years. The Navy will therefore have two fixed-wing carriers until the "Eagle" goes in 1972, and thereafter the "Ark Royal" until the late 'seventies, by which time, we are told in the White Paper, new cruisers capable of operating V/STOL aircraft will be becoming available. With the departure of the carriers, presumably these V/STOL aircraft, supported by shore-based aircraft, will be responsible for the defence of naval forces at sea against attack from the air. There may, however, well be occasions when naval forces at sea will be beyond the limits of endurance of land-based aircraft. Should such a force find itself in that situation, having no carrier in company, and make contact with an enemy force accompanied by a fixed-wing carrier—my noble friend will doubtless have considered such a situation and, I hope, have received assurances that the aircraft and the antiaircraft weapons carried by Her Majesty's ships will be well capable of holding off an attack by the planes of the enemy carrier.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Which country with a carrier does he envisage is likely to be an enemy?
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
There are a number of countries which have fixed-wing carriers in being. One never knows what is going to happen. We were told before the last war, "You do not need to think of anything for another ten years". Before that, we were told that there was never going to be another war. We have to prepare for all contingencies, and to have ships which are not so prepared is simply a waste of money and a waste of manpower.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I press the noble Lord a little further? One cannot in fact prepare for all contingencies, and nobody knows that better than the Government, or any Government. I still wonder which particular nation, of those which have carriers or could have carriers in the next ten years, the noble Lord expects to be an enemy. If he cannot think of one, then we may as well recognise that.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
Of course, my Lords, there are many. There is that great nation which has ships sailing all over the world to-day. The noble Lord does not know what they are going to do any more than I do. It is a great defect if the Government have not taken thought of these matters and have not prepared to meet them if the necessity should arise.
As I understand it, with the operation of all fixed-wing aircraft passing to the Royal Air Force, the Royal Naval Air Service, of which all of us who have served in the Royal Navy are very proud, is to be faded out. But is it to be retained in some form to operate helicopters in the naval service? In the war of 1939–45 the anti-submarine campaign in the North Atlantic surpassed in importance and indeed in violence that in all other theatres of war—that is, so far as this country was concerned—and in consequence the war against the submarine in the outer seas passed almost unnoticed. But in fact the submarine attack against our shipping, particularly on the route to the Cape and in the Indian Ocean, caused considerable anxiety from time to time. With the Mediterranean closed, reinforcements for our troops in North Africa and the Middle East and our trade with all the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean had to proceed round the Cape of Good Hope. In recent months persons prominent in many new Commonwealth countries, and indeed some eminent people here at home, have been expressing doubts as to the importance to us of Southern Africa for the protection of the lines of communication across the sea to the Indian Ocean and to the East. Indeed, their words seem to suggest that Southern Africa provides no real measure of defence and that our arguments to the contrary are a mere smoke-screen to cover our real purpose.
My Lords, having forgotten what actually happened in the Indian Ocean during the last war, I have been refreshing my memory, and if your Lordships will bear with me I will venture to give briefly the outcome of my researches. The first German attack on the Cape route took place in 1942, when mines were laid off the Cape of Good Hope—a very sensitive area, with our troopships and supply vessels for the Middle East having to 524 pass that way. These mines caused considerable dislocation to our trade and to our military traffic. In May, 1942, five Japanese submarines appeared in the Mozambique Channel and quickly sank 20 ships. The threat inherent in such incursions by enemy submarines and the dislocation of traffic they caused was very real and could be countered only by strengthening our anti-submarine forces. But in 1942 we also had to contend with both German and Japanese surface raiders in the Indian Ocean, which caused us to put as much of our shipping as we could supply with escorts into convoy.
The submarine attack continued, and in October, 1942, five U-boats were working in the focal area off Cape Town. They succeeded in sinking 24 ships, 3 of them being large liners employed as transports—a total of 161,000 tons. With the strengthening of our patrols and convoy escorts, they moved North to the Mozambique Channel where they found many easy targets, for we simply had not the vessels available to convoy all our shipping. Then, in May, 1943, another six U-boats arrived off South Africa, where over a period of three months they sank a quite disproportionately large amount of merchant shipping before they withdrew to the Japanese naval base in Penang to refit. In June of that year the Germans had seven U-boats working, and they sank ten ships off the south-east coast of Africa; and in July they accounted for 17 more. In Germany, evidently they were so pleased with these results that a further nine U-boats were ordered to the Indian Ocean, but only five of them reached that destination—that was the Cape of Good Hope, where they arrived in June and where they were joined by eight Japanese submarines.
Our losses of merchant ships continued throughout September and October, and in spite of more escort vessels and greatly improved air co-operation, and convoys over far more routes, June to December, 1943, saw 15 enemy submarines operating, which sank 57 merchant ships of 337,000 tons; while between January and March, 1944, nine enemy submarines sank 29 merchant ships of 188,000 tons. With more sea and air escorts we were gradually getting on top; and although they sank 17 more ships, by October, 1944, their successes had become so few and expensive that the surviving U-boats 525 were ordered home to Germany, where ultimately three arrived safely.
My Lords, we overcame the U-boats in the Indian Ocean, as we did elsewhere, by creating an efficient convoy system, by providing adequate sea and air escorts and support groups and by close co-operation between land-based aircraft and ships at sea. Such a system cannot operate without bases—bases for the assembly of convoys, for the repair and maintenance of ships and aircraft, for the replacement of munitions and stores and to provide for the refreshment of those men employed on this arduous service. Such bases in the battle with the U-boats in the Indian Ocean, and which were quite indispensable, were provided at Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. To claim, after our experience in the last war and in view of the enormous advance in size, speed, endurance and armament of the modern submarine, that South Africa is of no importance to us is a claim which I submit cannot possibly be substantiated. If we are ever engaged in war, our shipping to and from those countries which border the Indian Ocean will be vital to us. To protect it and to ensure its continuance we shall require all the help in ships, aircraft and men that we can ourselves provide and that we can obtain from our allies, with the use of their ports made available to us.
We only just escaped being starved out in the last two wars. In the last war, in 1942 alone, after more than two years of preparation, nearly 8 million tons of shipping was sunk by enemy action. In all, during the war of 1939 to 1945 over 5,000 ships and 21½ million tons of merchant shipping, British, Allied and neutral, were sunk by enemy action. We survived the resulting blockade, but Japan did not. One of the major causes that led her to surrender was the blockade of her homeland by submarines, aircraft and mines. With the loss of 8½ million tons her shipping was brought almost to a complete standstill, her industry was in chaos, her economy breaking down and her people starving. Let us, in this country, never forget that the strategy by which Germany hoped to bring us to our knees and which only narrowly failed was applied with complete success against Japan. My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has reminded us, the very 526 life of our people is dependent on trade. In these circumstances no offer which can help keep the trade routes open is to be despised. Indeed, I am in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed this afternoon as to the situation in Africa and elsewhere which were voiced by my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, my speech to-night is going to be on a narrow issue and will I hope be a short one. I shall not attempt to assess the significance of the change in direction of policy brought about by the new Administration; history will prove whether it has been right or wrong. What I am going to try to do is to assess the implications of those elements of the supplementary Defence White Paper in so far as they affect the R.A.F. and to try to draw some of the consequentials of the decisions that the Government have taken in this field. The four decisions relate first to the "Ark Royal", then to a change of role of the Jaguar, then to the movement of Nimrods to the Far East and lastly the cancellation, or the decision not to proceed with ordering the C5.
The first two relate to the actual contribution we are proposing to make to NATO and, as both Parties have agreed, the defence of Europe and the containment of Communism throughout the world by means of NATO is our first priority. Within the NATO defence structure the Second Tactical Air Force is of great importance, and within the Second Tactical Air Force the R.A.F. has an important role to play. But as was pointed out by the Secretary of State himself, the R.A.F. contingent in Germany, although extremely efficient, is small; it is smaller than, for instance, the German contribution to the Second Tactical Air Force. Yet, in spite of this small contribution, we receive some of the senior command appointments. One of the questions that I think we must ask is whether, unless the British contribution to the NATO air forces in the central front is maintained, the privileged position that the R.A.F. enjoys at the moment within the defence structure may not start to fade somewhat. We have a special role in the central front, that of patrolling the border between East and West Germany. 527 It is a special role; but that alone does not really guarantee us the somewhat preferential treatment within the command structure that we receive at the moment. We shall keep that only if we have an extremely efficient air force of the proper size for the role that we have to undertake.
I may have been somewhat obtuse, but I should be grateful if the Secretary of State when winding up could give me some reassurance about the strength of the British contribution to the Second Tactical Air Force under the new arrangements. He said, in reply to questions during the mini-debate that followed his Statement, that in so far as Buccaneers and Phantoms were being retained for the Navy, fewer of these aeroplanes would be transferred to the R.A.F. which as a result would have fewer of these type of aircraft to operate. The first question is whether the contribution proposed for Buccaneers and Phantoms in Germany will be retained and that aircraft that the R.A.F. will not now get will be, as it were, those that were earmarked for basing in the United Kingdom. The second question is this. Are the four squadrons of Jaguars to be in addition to the strength that was proposed by the late Administration? Are we, in fact, sending to West Germany four additional squadrons of close support aircraft? This is of first importance. This is a major contribution.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would mind if I were to answer him now, because there is often a lot to answer at the end of the debate. These are specific questions and it is easier to answer them now. The Buccaneers and Phantoms which will be embarked in "Ark Royal" are those which would have been part of the maritime force in the United Kingdom and not those which would go to Germany. The four additional squadrons will all be assigned to NATO, two of them stationed in Germany and two in this country; but assigned and earmarked to NATO. They will all be additional to what is now proposed.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. That is good news. It is also good news that 528 there will at least start to be some compatibility between our French Allies on our right in Germany and ourselves. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is of the first importance: that one of the great weaknesses of the NATO position in Europe at the moment is the lack of compatibility between the various national air forces. Every step we move towards having compatibility between the aircraft of the Allies is a major strengthening of the Alliance. At the moment, as most noble Lords will know, aircraft of different countries can refuel at each other's bases, but rearming has to be done at the home base, which is an obvious weakness of the Alliance. This again emphasises the great importance of the multi-role combat aircraft. It is mentioned in the Supplementary Statement, and I was very glad to see that the Italians have at last come in firmly into this project; because, with the multi-role combat aircraft, Britain, Germany and Italy will have a common aircraft with the ability to rearm as well as refuel at each other's bases and that is good news.
My Lords, may I turn for a moment to the Nimrod. There is no doubt that the Nimrod is a magnificent aeroplane and the crews are very pleased with it; but the numbers are not large. The Maritime Reconnaissance Force was, under the past Administration, being reduced to only two stations operating Nimrods. The Shackleton station at Ballykelly was going to close when the two Nimrod stations were fully operational. The number of aircraft allocated to maritime reconnaissance is comparatively small; although, of course, the productivity and efficiency of these aircraft is far higher than that of the old Shackleton. But I believe that this aircraft has a significance greater than its numbers, because the only certain sign that we shall get of the enemy's intentions will come when we spot the movement of the ships of the Warsaw Pact. Placed as they are in the centre of the front, it is impossible to tell, as I see it, whether or not movements detected by our various monitoring devices are simply exercises or whether they are the preparation for a military adventure. But the movements of ships are not so easy to conceal, and it is the Nimrod which will enable us to keep an eye on this 529 aspect of enemy activity and give us certain warning of their intentions.
For this reason I am wondering whether the move of a number of aircraft to Singapore, with, presumably, the consequential need to move spares and men, would not justify an increase in the Nimrod numbers; possibly not a large one, but would it perhaps justify an increase? Better still, perhaps, from my point of view, would it justify the retention of the station at Ballykelly? That is a large modern station lying in an area of great unemployment which, When the Shackletons go, will have only a small military garrison based within it. This is a battle that I have fought for many years without success, and I hope that perhaps one day it may be won.
Again referring to the Nimrod, I should like to ask the noble Lord one further question which he may or may not be able to answer. The Nimrod is a magnificent reconnaissance aircraft but at the moment its potential as a submarine killer is limited. I should like to know whether there is any development of a weapon capable of countering the fast and deep-diving Russian nuclear submarines that are now coming on the scene. The decision to introduce EXOCET as a surface-to-surface missile is right and welcome. My mind would be less concerned if a similar weapon were under consideration for countering the threat coming from below the surface. This type of weapon is one which would have to be used by Nimrod as well as in other anti-submarine vessels and helicopters.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to ask one question about the C5 replacement. Rightly or wrongly, the Government have decided to maintain a presence in the Far East and increase it slightly. The need, therefore, for proper lines of air communication is as great as ever. The Britannias are ageing and will phase out in the middle of the 1970s. Is it possible for the noble Lord to give the House any indication of what is to take the place of the C5? I do not weep about its going. The thought of having a battalion of troops in one of these vast machines, and it meeting with some accident or hazard of war, is unacceptable to me.
Regarding this question of strategic reinforcement, the question I ask myself is whether we base our plans sufficiently 530 upon the capacity of the national airlines. As the noble Lord knows, there is a point during a period of tension when the national airlines are requisitioned and brought into the strategic plan. I am wondering why we should wait until a crisis develops before such an action is taken. That is something I do not understand. I should have thought that the power to use the national airlines should be obtained now in preparation for any future crisis, rather than that we should wait until the time when a crisis arises. This thought has crossed my mind when considering attempts to provide strategic mobility for the Armed Forces without heavy expenditure on a type of aircraft such as the C5 or its replacement.
My Lords, that is all I wish to say to-day on this rather narrow field. I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was of great importance, and the sort of speech I hope to make myself when we debate the main White Paper to which I look forward with interest and curiosity.
§ 6.36 p.m.
My Lords, it will not surprise those of your Lordships who have heard me speak from the Dispatch Box opposite on defence matters during the last there years that I most warmly welcome the Supplementary Statement on Defence. And the appointment as Secretary of State of my noble friend who entrusted me with the task of expounding some aspects of Conservative Party criticism, fears and intentions, gives me immense pleasure and confidence. In my opinion he has only one disadvantage; it is that he is a former Grenadier. And not only my noble friend but also his Minister of State and one of his Under-Secretaries. It is well known that Grenadiers have a profound contempt for all other regiments and arms of the Service, and in particular for Generals. Perhaps I should not say "profound contempt", but rather that they have a deeply ingrained, if somewhat unjustified, sense of their own superiority.
The outstanding impression that I get from the Supplementary Statement is that it makes increases in our Forces where they are most needed, and emphasises the necessity for having an organisation capable of expansion to meet 531 the unexpected threats. I hope and believe that this will have a beneficial effect on recruitment. I most warmly welcome the words in paragraph 21 referring to the six infantry companies and other sub-units reprieved by the Government which are described as "a nucleus for potential expansion". The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was very scathing about this, but I need not say more because the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, pointed out how useful extra companies can be; and as is said in the Supplementary Statement, these are definitely the "nucleus for potential expansion" when manpower and money are available.
I very much welcome the reference to the Gurkhas because the depot and base organisation of the Gurkhas would be capable of raising and training more units if they were ever required.
Having spoken so often in your Lordships' House about the Territorial Army, I am delighted of course at the decision to establish more T. & A.V.R. units. I hope the Government will ensure that there will be real national coverage by the Territorial Army of the future, and that the units will be trained to fight as units and not looked on as just pools of military manpower. This is most important, as otherwise we shall not get the recruits to join these units; and we must remember always that the Territorial Army has always been a valuable source of recruits for the Regular Army. That is why national coverage is so important. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland (I have always agreed with him in his speeches about the Territorials) that a greater number would be preferable. But this is a good start.
I would ask the Secretary of Stale to look into two aspects, when his advisers on the Council of the Territorial Association report to him. One is the retention and increase of the Yeomanry. Even if, for the moment, they cannot be provided with armoured vehicles, they would prefer to remain as a cadre, so that their traditions and names can be preserved, in case they were ever needed in future. They would prefer this to vanishing altogether.
The other problem that will face my noble friend is the provision of drill halls, because, sadly enough, the former Gov- 532 ernment had time to dispose of a great many which are now badly needed. I hope that immediate steps will be taken to prevent any further disposals and to acquire premises where needed.
I welcome the addition of four squadrons from a soldier's point of view, because the Army is so lacking in close support aircraft. I should like to give credit where credit is due to the previous Government for the training that has been carried out by units abroad, and I hope that the present Government will carry on that excellent work and send out battalions to train in other countries, particularly Commonwealth countries. Such training has been immensely popular with the units concerned and has done them a great deal of good. I should also like to congratulate the previous Government on the excellent equipment that the Army has to-day, and I hope that this high standard will be maintained.
I would ask the Secretary of State to look favourably at the position of Malta; and if any request comes in from the Malta Government for the retention of the present garrison, I hope that this will be most favourably considered because, as my noble friend knows, it is an excellent and popular station.
Finally, on quite a small point, may I ask my noble friend to re-acquaint himself with the work and the needs of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Air Force Association. He well knows the importance of contented Service families. As a former commander of units and formations, now as President of the S.S.A.F.A. in my own county, I know well what invaluable work our staff do abroad among Service families, who are often left alone in strange places for long periods, as well as at home, where our nation-wide network of volunteers are always investigating problems of the Serviceman abroad. Will my noble friend ensure that units abroad get the service they ask for? We in S.S.A.F.A. will find the personnel, if more are needed, as I think they are. Indeed, both our Chairman, Sir Reginald Denning, and I feel that the time may shortly come when units stationed in this country, but frequently despatched temporarily abroad, leaving their families behind, will have need of S.S.A.F.A. sisters on their establishment to look after their families.
533 To conclude, I warmly wish my noble friend every success in his problems. After such an auspicious start, I am supremely confident that a new and happier chapter will open for all three Services under his energetic and experienced guidance.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I was in some doubt as to whether I should speak this afternoon, and after hesitation I decided not to do so, because I was doubtful whether it was correct to bring up in this debate on the White Paper the subject which was closest to my mind at the present time, and also because, unfortunately, I have an engagement that I cannot avoid and shall not be able to remain until the end of the debate. However, the subject in question—the Indian Ocean and the supply of arms to South Africa—has been raised by two noble Lords who have already spoken and I feel that I cannot let the matter rest there. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, for allowing me to retake my place in the list of speakers.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that we must not allow a naval or military threat in the Indian Ocean to become a reality of the sort it was in the last world war, and must do all we can to avoid that. I agree with the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, that we must not allow ourselves to be pushed around by other countries and diverted from our true duty of defending this country. But there my agreement ceases. I do not believe that we are being pushed around by other countries, whether in the Commonwealth or out of it.
I believe that the Commonwealth countries, almost all of them, and particularly Tanzania and Zambia, have done what all good friends should do, frankly and honestly to state what are likely to be the consequences of certain actions that we are contemplating. That is not being pushed around; that is honesty and friendship. Do not let us get emotive about this and say, "We refuse to be bullied by these people." There is here no question whatever of bullying any more than there is any question of the Government of South Africa bullying us when it talks to us about the supply of arms and the Simonstown Agreement.
534 The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to prove his point, quoted figures of how many ships we lost for many years during the war. I am sure that his figures are right. But while we were losing those ships we had, to all intents and purposes, the whole of the African Continent, including South Africa, working in the closest co-operation with us and we had full access to all the military and naval bases of that Continent that we wished to use. In spite of that, we suffered those great losses for many years. So that on that argument alone, if on no other, surely it cannot be asserted that just one base on the Eastern side of South Africa can possibly be a defence against the potential menace of Russian submarines.
But there is more to it than this. The next war, if it should ever come, will be a total war. Ships and submarines will be involved; land forces will be involved; aircraft will be involved. But so will strategic materials; so will the civilian populations of the countries. We must not fall into the mistake that most countries inevitably fall into, of planning to fight the next war as if nothing had changed since the last war. Surely the Maginot Line reminds us sufficiently vividly of that. What we must aim to do, if we are to avert a war, and if we are to avert this particular crisis in case there should be a war, is not merely to have one more base, or even one base in South Africa: it must be to rest our defence upon collective security and upon the good will and co-operation of as many of the countries in the area in question as we can possibly bring on to our side That is where our security lies; that is where the defence of this country lies, as well as the defence of the other countries concerned. There we start with an enormous advantage, because we have the Commonwealth—the Commonwealth which the noble Duke supports, but which I am afraid, if the policy which he advocates is carried out, will disappear overnight; and for that he and his honourable friends who advocate that policy will have to bear the responsibility.
From the point of view of defence alone—and there are many other aspects into which I will not go now—we must hold the Commonwealth together—particularly in this matter of the Indian Ocean, and we must ensure that the threat of Sino-Soviet penetration, about which 535 in the old days we heard so much but about which we now hear perhaps rather too little, does not once again become a reality. The Tanzan Railway is being built by the Chinese at the present time. Can your Lordships imagine what they must be thinking to-day in the Kremlin and Peking when they see what we are proposing to do with our proposed sale of arms to South Africa? Can your Lordships not imagine those people rubbing their hands in glee and saying: "This is just what we wanted them to do. It makes our task of penetration into these loyal member countries of the Commonwealth infinitely easier than it would otherwise be."
Collective security, particularly within the Commonwealth, must be the key to our defence in that area. We have already accepted that in Europe we must have collective security, and that is why we have NATO. We do not need such a formal organisation, but we should act on the same lines in the Indian Ocean. It should not be too difficult to achieve this, because, quite apart from any ties of Commonwealth, we have the same objectives as do those countries of Africa and of the Indian sub-continent which are most affected by all these matters that we are now discussing. After all, they wish to retain their independence—an independence which we gave them. They do not want to surrender their independence of any power bloc, whether it be a power bloc of the East or West, of China or Russia, of Europe or the United States. They want their independence, just as we want them to have their independence, and as we want our independence. There we have a community of interest.
They want to develop peacefully so that the standard of living of their people can rise. We want that as well. That is why we are giving them aid—insufficient aid, but aid all the same. Our objectives are the same there. They want to see apartheid abolished; we want to see apartheid abolished. We have identity of interests there. Above all, they want to avoid the risk of any race war in South Africa; and we want to avoid that, too. So in these vital matters we have complete community of interest.
Surely, my Lords, the way to achieve what they want and what we want is not for an edict to go out from West- 536 minster, as in the day of good Queen Victoria: "We, the British Government, have decided that we are going to do this. You may like it or you may not; it is of no concern to us. We are continuing with it. We are not going to be pushed around by a lot of other countries." That is not the way to do things in these days. The way to settle a problem of this sort, which affects directly the countries of the Indian subcontinent, and also of South and East Africa (it affects us also, I agree), is for a conference to be held: not a conference under the glare of spotlights, as with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, but a conference, in one of those countries, of (shall I say?) Ministers of Defence and Ministers of Development of those countries and of ourselves under the chairmanship of one of the leading statesmen of those countries—and they have great statesmen who are also in spite of the strains to which they are to-day being subjected, loyal members of the Commonwealth. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, might go in his capacity as Minister of Defence. He would be attended by his experts from the Ministry of Defence and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and also, I should hope, by experts in development. These matters could then be discussed.
If, as a result of these joint discussions, the best form of defence for the Indian Ocean area could be agreed upon, we should then have a very strong bulwark with which to protect ourselves. It is of course conceivable that, in spite of our community of interests, we might not be able to agree. In that event, I agree with the noble Duke, our prime responsibility would be for our own security. I find it hard to believe that we could best assure that by "going it alone"; but we should obviously have to reserve the right to do so. Nevertheless, the way I have suggested must surely, towards the end of the twentieth century, be the way in which the security of this country can be best preserved; the way in which the Commonwealth can be built up into an even more important factor, not only in world peace but in world development and in the development of the ideals for which we all stand, rather than the type of action that is now being proposed by noble Lords opposite.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK
My Lords, I am speaking in your Lordships' debate this afternoon only because, together with my noble friend Lord Crawshaw, I visited our forces in the Far East a little over a month ago. My few remarks therefore will be confined in the main to this theatre, although I should first like to give a very warm welcome to the Supplementary Statement which has been produced by my noble friend the Secretary of State in such a short space of time. That it has been so favourably received by the country at large is due, I believe, to the fact that people can now see that a start has been made in restoring confidence, and indeed credibility, in the United Kingdom's defence policy. I found it both revealing and encouraging that the additional costs of our contribution towards the new Five-Power Force in the Far East will be only some £5 to £10 million a year: and I can confirm to all your Lordships from my personal experience in September that our decision has been wholeheartedly welcomed both by Malaysia and by Singapore.
I had not myself been in Singapore for some twenty years, and in that time it has changed out of all recognition. Today it is positively clean and is developing at a truly astonishing rate. Incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred at some stage of his speech to Bukit Timah. I think I should point out that in all probability Bukit Timah in a short space of time will have disappeared. Its top will be chopped off and the spoil deposited in the sea, thus producing the reclaimed land for further development. It should not be ignored that we are still the largest stakeholders in the island, followed by the United States of America and then, some little way behind, but catching up, Japan. The problem that faces this part of the world in the foreseeable future is obviously one of stability. It is no good pretending that Communism is not very active just under the surface. It is. I do not believe that China presents a military threat, but she does present a political one. I therefore endorse the statement in the White Paper that our presence, along with that of our Commonwealth colleagues, which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, appeared 538 to ignore, will contribute towards stability.
May I draw my noble friend's attention to a few specific problems which we found? Due to the rundown of our forces currently in progress, families are returning to the United Kingdom several months ahead of their husbands and fathers. This is, I fully accept, unavoidable, but it must impose a heavy resettlement problem on the Ministry of Defence. Is the operation being carried out on the basis of "Last in, first out"? Is the Department doing all it can to give individuals as much prior notice as possible as regards their future postings? Whilst accepting that this is not perhaps a fair moment to criticise, it would be dishonest if I were not to say that some of my colleagues and I were appalled at the size of the administrative tail in Singapore. At the same time, we do foresee some difficulties with the proposed integration of some support services with those of the Singapore Government. I believe that there will be a strong case for presenting our Far East role more positively than it has perhaps been in the past, since it was borne out on us very forcibly that the gulf between public knowledge on the subject and the understanding that we were able to gain is very considerable.
I wonder if my noble friend, when he comes to wind up, will be able to comment on whether it is the plan, post-1971, that Servicemen serving in the Far East should, or should not, be accompanied by their families. Whilst obviously in some places it is unavoidable, I am certain from what I have heard that the nine-month unaccompanied tour is extremely unpopular. For example, I know of a regiment that is returning this month from such a tour, and yet within less than a year they will be proceeding on a further unaccompanied tour to Northern Ireland. The regiment is anticipating considerable discharges by purchase.
We were highly impressed by the efficiency of the Jungle Warfare School. It has done a magnificent job over the years, and it is the sort of organisation that we run superbly. It is excellent to see that the School is to be retained, although again there will obviously be difficulties with an integrated command structure. I can only express the hope 539 that we shall continue to find the bulk of the instructors. The news concerning the retention of the Brigade of Gurkhas is very gratifying, for, as we all know, they are a superb body of fighting men. There is one point here that I should like to ask my noble friend the Secretary of State: in view of this decision, is it still the intention to move the Gurkha depot to Hong Kong?
My Lords, may I now turn for a moment to Hong Kong? There is, I believe, considerable room for improvements, both in the married accommodation and the amenities for the families of our forces stationed there. Many live in high rise blocks; some have no air-conditioning; and, short of a lengthy car drive, there is absolutely nowhere for young children to play. It is perhaps difficult for those of your Lordships who have not been to Hong Kong to visualise the congestion of humanity in such places as Kowloon. I should like to put in a strong plea that all Servicemen on tours of two years or over—single Servicemen—should be allowed one free-leave journey to the United Kingdom in the middle of their tours. One is pretty restricted in Hong Kong, and in some ways I found it not unlike being stationed in Berlin without the opportunity of getting out through the Corridor. I was impressed by the efficiency of the co-operation between the military and the Hong Kong police. Although I have no personal knowledge of how similar cooperation is working in Northern Ireland, I am sure that any interchange of ideas must be worth while. Finally on Hong Kong, I should like to pay tribute to the outstanding job that has been done by our Governor, Sir David Trench.
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have already spoken, I welcome the Government's decision on the Territorial and Volunteer Reserve, but I believe (and this has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Thurlow) that as a direct result of the previous Administration's policy there is now a serious shortage of drill halls. It would be interesting to know whether my noble friend agrees with me and, if so, what plans he has to rectify the position.
I come now to the question of manpower—not recruiting, but the problem of the numbers of Servicemen and civil 540 servants employed in the various headquarters and in the Ministry of Defence. I know that Her Majesty's Government are presently giving most serious consideration to keeping the size of all headquarters to a minimum. They inherited from the outgoing Government a study of the command structure of the Army in the United Kingdom, and I believe that they can expect to produce considerable manpower savings. I have the highest opinion of the work done by our civil servants, having been one myself, but I do believe that if we can streamline the structure we shall make it even more efficient.
Finally, my Lords, a word about NATO—and this is my last point. We hear that there is an increasing complacency and apathy and, in some cases, a growing negative attitude towards NATO. There is a lack of willingness among some European countries to take their proper share of responsibility for collective security. Is it not, therefore, vital that from now on we should pay the utmost attention to the problem of giving effective information about NATO, looking always at the attitudes that the younger generation have towards the Alliance? I am sure that this aspect is of paramount importance.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ LORD CRAWSHAW
My Lords, I intervene in this debate this evening for the same reason as my noble friend who has just sat down, in that with him and eight Members of the other place I visited our Forces in the Far East in September. I found it a most interesting trip, and a most informative one. It was full of new experiences: on one occasion I was hoisted by a crane on to the flight deck of a converted aircraft carrier.
The appeal of seeing the Far East, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, is something which was a great opportunity for me, and I know Servicemen who take the same view. I shall say more about that in a moment. I was also anxious to find out more firsthand about the work of our current Forces, with whom I had been rather out of touch, and to make some assessment as to whether we were getting good value for money spent out of the Exchequer, and whether this was the right sort of 541 proportion. I hope that I went with a fairly open mind as to the significance of our presence in the Far East. We were able to discuss with all ranks of the Forces all sorts of problems and to gain their impressions of what they were doing. It was rather remarkable that we found few grievances in spite of the masses of conversations that we had, which reflected well on the men themselves and the quality of the administration.
I was impressed by the efficiency of a fine fighting force, and there is no doubt in my mind that this helps to create a stability and give confidence in an area where, as my noble friend has said, there are still enormous British interests. In Singapore, for instance, there is more British investment than that of the United States, Japan and Hong Kong combined. The Plessey Company have just invested £10 million there, and with this in mind I felt that our Forces produced a wonderful advertisement value. But they are not there to protect Japanese trade, and I hope that industry in this country will do more to try to exploit the situation.
I was also very struck by the alertness and enthusiasm of those serving in the Far East, and by their appreciation of being there. Some chief petty officers told me—and they said this out of earshot of their wives—that they would be quite willing to forgo the accompanied tours rather than not have the chance of serving in the Far East. To-day we have heard a little about the problems of recruitment. Brigadier Ovens, Commander of the Third Commando Brigade in Singapore, said that one good reason for serving in the Far East was that it provided a good reason for joining the Services. As I said in my opening remarks, that is an important point when you think of recruiting. As the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, there are training opportunities in that area which are unique, such as jungle warfare training, and opportunities for low flying.
Coming to the proposed Five-Power defence arrangements as set out in the White Paper, I was impressed by the honest realisation of our forces that the Singapore set-up is much too large; and, like my noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick, I was rather aghast at the size of the headquarters and the Army tail. I can see that there will be problems in deciding what real estate to keep for 542 the Commonwealth Force and what to dispose of, but I do not think that they will be insuperable. My previous view before I went, that total withdrawal would be a mistake because, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, it would mean leaving our friends—the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Malaysians and Singaporians—in the lurch, was confirmed when I saw how relieved the Australians and New Zealanders were that we were going to contribute to a force in the area. It was further confirmed when I saw the pleasure of the Singaporians and the Malaysians who, as your Lordships know, do conflict in certain ways and both of whom look to this country, above all, to provide some cement—cement which will help to prevent the clashes between the Malays and the Singaporians, or Chinese, which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was worrying about.
This was emphasised still further when we went to see Dr. Goh, the Deputy Prime Minister, who said that our forces with their experience and expertise were not only more than welcome, but vital. And when questioned about so-called outside troops on Singaporian soil by two Members of the other place, he said, "After all, you in Europe are only too glad to have the Americans on European soil. So why shouldn't we have British troops on our soil?" It was certainly my impression that all of our party—in spite of the misgivings of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—of Conservatives and Opposition concluded that we still have an important Far Eastern role, and that this token or gesture of a contribution to the Commonwealth Force will be, as my noble friend the Secretary of State said earlier on, an encouragement out of all proportion to its size; and that the Five Powers between them will make a viable force capable of showing an aggressor that we mean business. I am glad that the Government have made it clear from the outset what sort of size our contribution will be, as indeed the Australians also have done, because this will avoid the impression that we have an open-ended commitment. By adhering to the complementary pattern as set out in the White Paper we shall certainly produce a force that has to be reckoned with without further strengthening.
Obviously we must take account of what the people in the United States 543 think. It was no surprise to me that the Americans in the Far East, at any rate—I was not able to talk with their top officials, but the ordinary Americans—are delighted that we intend to resume a share of responsibility in the Far East. I do not think they can now quote our total withdrawal in the Far East as a reason for even partial withdrawal in Europe, with all the consequences that this might have.
May I say a word or two about the Command structure. One of the greatest impressions I had was the excellent co-operation and the understanding that already exists between the Australians, New Zealanders and ourselves. I expected the Australians to be more American-orientated, but I think Vietnam had given them some experiences and had taught them that we in fact still have the highest standards. I saw the Singaporian Army on exercises and I am certain that, with typical enthusiasm they will reach a high standard in a short time. But at the moment they lack specialists and technical men, and they quite freely admit it. Because of the rivalries that exist between the Malaysians and Singaporians, I am sure that the Malaysians will not want to be considered second best and will strive to reach a high standard, too. At the beginning my impression was that we, or possibly the Australians, would have to take the top command—I may be wrong about that but it was my impression—because I think we, above all, can fuse the Five Powers together.
As regards the composition of our contribution, my noble friend Lord Napier and Ettrick dealt with the Army and I will say just a word or two about the other two Services. As to the Navy, I see that we intend to send five frigates or destroyers on station East of Suez to include Hong Kong, and I think this will be a valuable contribution. How valuable it will be will depend on how long we have to keep the Beira patrol in being, because Vice-Admiral Empson and his officers emphasised to us that this is a considerable strain and restricts their other activities. So I hope the usefulness of this will be re-evaluated. A possible variation on our contribution in that area, which includes obviously a vast area of the Pacific and Indian Ocean, 544 might be, if not an aircraft carrier, at least one of the cruisers equipped with a vertical take-off aircraft, as mentioned in the White Paper; because the ghosts of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" lying on the bottom of the sea are too alive out there for anyone to forget what can happen to ships without adequate air support.
I do not know what the Government's intention is on the question of maintenance of the Fleet, but several chief petty officers were anxious to maintain a Fleet of this size with naval personnel, as is being done in Hong Kong at present. They thought they would compete with this and it would be a useful occupation for qualified men, instead of retiring them as early as they are retired at present.
As regards the Royal Air Force, I welcome the proposal for the Nimrod marine reconnaissance aircraft. I saw something of the value of the work the Shackletons are doing at present, and many of the photographs of the Russian ships that come through the Malacca Straits. I imagine that the Australians will provide the combat aircraft in the form of fighters. There is mention also of Whirlwind helicopters. I had several rides in these and found them very comfortable. I think there was a request for the twin-engine helicopter—called, I believe, the Wessex. We saw a most impressive exercise using this in support of the Army when they lifted guns and equipment on slings underneath the helicopter.
So much for South-East Asia; but one good reason to my mind for a presence there is that Hong Kong will not be in the same isolation as it would have been. My noble friend Lord Napier has already spoken about several problems in Hong Kong. There are clearly housing problems in Kowloon. I heard just the other day, from a friend of mine who is second-in-command of the Irish Guards who are due to go there this month, that they will be short of 60 married quarters. I understand that this is a problem which cannot easily be rectified. It is a problem and something which we shall have to come to grips with. I do not think there is much more that I can usefully say about Hong Kong. So far as I could see, all is well and it is really a matter of leaving well 545 alone. The Services were operating well with each other and sharing the various amenities.
My Lords, that concludes a short account of my impressions of the Far East. I still cannot quite understand the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he says that our presence there is provocative. It seems to me to be quite the opposite. I very much welcome the White Paper as setting the trend. It may not be complete, and there is obviously a lot more to thresh out so far as the Far East is concerned, but I believe that we are on the right lines.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, I believe that one of the advantages of sitting on this side of the House is that our Members are accorded a great deal more latitude in expressing views that are sometimes at variance with official Front Bench policy. I must say that I have never joined with those who have advocated that Britain should withdraw from East of Suez, though I know that there are many on this side of the House—though certainly not at this moment—who hold this view deeply and sincerely.
I believe that withdrawal was advocated on the grounds of economy alone; certainly it was never on the ground that any of our friendly partners in South East Asia had asked us to withdraw. Quite the contrary. When a Ministry of Defence delegation visited that part of the world just two years ago, whereever we went (and my noble friend Lord Beswick, who led that delegation, were he here, would bear me out) not one voice was raised in favour of our withdrawal. Many understood our views, many sympathised; but not a single voice did I hear raised in our support. In fact there was a chorus of voices raised against our recall from East of Suez, and by none more strongly or more vehemently than our best friends in this region.
And most vehemently of all by Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, whom many of us regard not only as one of the staunchest friends of this country but one of the great leaders of that part of the world. He is working not only on behalf of his own little island of Singapore, but also on behalf of the peace and prosperity of the whole of 546 that region of South-East Asia; and we in Britain, I think, would do well to take his advice and to heed his warnings. There may be no magic increase in the number of troops or naval units, according to the Government White Paper, but in my view, for what it is worth, it was a psychological error ever to use the word "withdrawal" in the first place. It was a highly emotive word, used in a highly emotive context, and I believe gave the impression of abandonment. Rightly or wrongly—I believe wrongly—the impression somehow got about that we were walking out on them; and once a wrong impression like that gets around it is very hard indeed to put matters right again.
My Lords, I welcome the decision that has been taken to stay on in Singapore. But I would ask the Government which of our valuable installations in Singapore it is now intending to hand over. Is the great naval base, one of the best equipped in the world, still to remain in our hands? What is to become of the magnificent R.A.F. installations—the airfields, service hospitals and schools; the vast housing estates that we have built up on the island and on the Malaysian peninsular? Which of these are now to be handed over to Singapore or to Malaysia, or will they be handed over to the joint Five-Power defence force? Or will they still be retained by us on a maintenance, or even possibly on an operational basis? Then what of Singapore's citizens and their dependants, numbering about 70,000, many of them faithful friends of Britain, who expected to lose their jobs as a result of our withdrawal? How many of these are still to remain in our employ, as the Singapore Government so anxiously hopes?
I welcome our decision to stay in Singapore mainly because I believe that it will strengthen our ties with Australia and New Zealand. The need for these will become even more important when we enter the Common Market; and it will help to forge more strongly our links with these two great members of the Commonwealth. They are already committed in Vietnam, and, to their everlasting credit, not from narrow national interests but for the sake of peace and stability in that area. And when their withdrawal from Vietnam takes place—which we all hope may be very soon— 547 these two great members of our Commonwealth will still remain as a stabilising force in South East Asia. That is why they welcome our active participation, jointly with Malaysia and Singapore, as a great unifying influence in the Far East.
But it is in the Persian Gulf that our chief anxieties East of Suez still remain to-day. I have mentioned before the danger of using the word "withdrawal" in a highly emotive context, but I notice that on this issue the Government are coy and non-committal. We are told in paragraph 6 of the White Paper thatDiscussions are still going on with the leaders in the Gulf and other interested countries".Let us face the position clearly. We simply cannot go on policing the Arab oil sheikhdoms to-day on our own. What is our main interest in the Persian Gulf? I submit that it is not to maintain our troops in the Gulf at the expense of the British taxpayer, but to keep out the Russians. If Russia's navy can ever establish itself in the Persian Gulf, she will control the world's largest reserves of oil, and will certainly show no sympathy for the Arab sheikhdoms who own them. In fact the recent tragic slaughter of innocent lives in Jordan would be completely overshadowed by the holocaust that could follow if Russia were to secure a foothold in the Persian Gulf.
The oil sheikhdoms are well aware of this, yet they are likely to remain, for some years to come, a possible stabilising influence upon our oil supplies in the Middle East. We have to recognise this plain fact, whether we like it or not, whether they federate or do not federate; and for a while at least we must help to protect them. But why must we do so wholly at the British taxpayer's expense? If they want us to stay on in the Gulf, let them help to pay for it, in part at least, if not in whole. They have indeed already offered to do so. Certainly they can afford to do so, out of the royalties they have already derived from oil. Why, then, not request them to do so? The Commonwealth countries made enormous contributions to our Exchequer when the mother country was in danger during two world wars. What, then, is so wrong in our inviting the wealthy sheikhdoms of the Gulf to make a contribution to the 548 British Exchequer for their own defence? If they want our protection they ought to help to pay for it, just as I believe Kuwait has already done for our R.A.F. instructors training its own squadrons.
My Lords, there is another way in which we can help to prevent not only a Russian presence in the Indian Ocean, but also a Russian foothold in the Gulf itself. That is by compelling Russia to maintain its naval supply lines around the Cape. If the Suez Canal were opened to-day the Russian fleet, now lying bottled up in the Eastern Mediterranean, could sail down the Canal to its base in Aden, a distance of over 1,200 miles, instead of having to undertake a present long haul of over 12,000 miles to Aden around the Cape. Think how the Russians must be waiting eagerly for that moment to arrive! And with an Israeli withdrawal from the East bank of the Canal, an Egyptian force will immediately occupy both banks. Then the reopening of the Suez Canal will be a certainty, and the passage of the Russian fleet to the Persian Gulf will follow as surely as night follows day.
When this happens it will be a black night indeed for the rich Arab States still living peacefully in the Gulf, and a black night for the safety and stability of the whole area, and for the peace of the world. So to-day we are faced with the anomaly that the little Israeli Army occupying the East bank of the Suez Canal is actually helping to protect the interests of the Arab States in the Persian Gulf, as well as the economy of Britain and of NATO and of the whole of western civilisation. How long are we going to persist in our present folly and to act against Britain's own interest by demanding Israeli withdrawal from the Canal?
How Russia, that lover of peace, that stalwart of the United Nations, must be laughing to-day at Britain's expense, and how, too, the Russians will soon be laughing at the expense of the peaceful Arab States in the Gulf, and at the expense of the whole of the freedom-loving world! And yet to-day here we are, in grave danger of committing this folly, and by a Conservative Government at that. And for what? I have already pointed out that the Arab States have nothing to gain but everything to lose by a Russian presence in the Persian 549 Gulf. We have to realise the dangers inherent in our withdrawal. The moment we left Aden the Russians moved in. The moment we leave the Persian Gulf the Russians will do the same, and exactly the same will happen at Suez.
So for what are we betraying Britain's interest? For a United Nations resolution, and an ambiguous one at that. What is there, I would ask, so sacrosanct about a United Nations resolution? Was the United Nations right about Gibraltar, and do we intend to obey that resolution about Gibraltar, and give Gibraltar back to Spain? Believe me, the betrayal of 25,000 Gibraltarians would be as nothing compared with the betrayal of British interests in allowing the Russian Fleet to sail down the Red Sea and replace us in the Persian Gulf. And here we are, ready to hand back Suez on a platter and to release the Russian Fleet from its present confinement to the Eastern Mediterranean.
So I will conclude. Is it not first the duty of a British Government, of any British Government, to put British interests first and Arab interests second? And where in the long term both those interests happen to coincide, as they certainly do in the Persian Gulf, is it not our duty to act boldly in the interests of peace and in the true interests of the United Nations as well? Ought we not to show the United Nations how best to maintain peace, despite the blindness and follies and prejudices of that cacophony of voices now being heard, by a strange irony of phrase, on the shores of Lake Success? There seems to be a malign fate that bedevils all our Western pronouncements on the Middle East. The very day that President Nixon and Mr. Gromyko met so affably to discuss the Middle East two American Generals landed on Russian soil, and are still being held in detention. Only a few days after the Foreign Secretary's speech in Harrogate on peace in the Middle East, fighting breaks out again in the streets of Amman, with the end of Jordan's hard-won truce and the loss of more innocent civilian lives. So with whom is Dr. Jarring to negotiate now?
We all recognise that the Foreign Secretary's speech was inspired by the highest of motives, but its timing could hardly have been more deplorable. Should we not be wise now, at least for the time 550 being, to concentrate on maintaining the cease-fire and give the Arab nations the chance to restore peace among themselves? If they cannot do this, there is little hope of their learning to live at peace with Israel and little hope for peace in the Middle East. But it will be a sad betrayal of Britain and the Middle East, the day the Russian Fleet is allowed to sail in triumph through the Suez Canal and down the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, and—folly of follies—a betrayal that could be committed by a Conservative Government. It would indeed be a long time before any Government, even any Conservative Government, could live down such a folly and such a betrayal.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord who has just sat down will excuse me if I do not follow him along the interesting lines on which he has spoken. I personally agree with a lot of what he said. I view with horror the Russian Fleet in the Red Sea. I am used to the days years ago when I served in the Eastern Mediterranean. There was only one Russian ship in the Eastern Mediterranean and she was known to our sailors as "a packet of Woodbines" because she was a cruiser called "Askold", with five very slender funnels. I wish to goodness it was the only Russian ship in the Eastern Mediterranean to-day.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I believe she was actually a Greek ship.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, she may have been a Greek ship originally, but she was flying Russian colours when I saw her. I can tell the noble Lord another story about a Russian battleship at Port Said which refused to follow the instructions she was given when she left harbour and so she ran on to a German minefield because she went out of the swept channel. She blew up and sank, but as she sank she opened fire with every gun on the escorting British ships. I leave the noble Lord to imagine that, and I will not waste more time on it.
I rise briefly to support the Motion placed on the Paper by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence, namely, to take note of the Supplementary 551 Statement on Defence Policy 1970, Cmnd. Paper 4521. In doing so I must say first how very pleased I am—and I have already told him this—to see my noble friend occupying the position he does now, and how much I congratulate him on having achieved so much in so short a time and in the face of such a frightening legacy. I am sure he will be an inspiration not only to us all in this House but also to all the officers and men in the Services.
Noble Lords will remember that on May 13 last we debated another Motion to take note of another White Paper on Defence, Cmnd. 4290, produced by the then Socialist Government. A few weeks earlier The Times newspaper described this White Paper in these words:The picture presented is one of almost wanton neglect of an real provision for defence. If an emergency now overtook us we should have little or no supplies of ammunition or vehicles, of tanks or guns or medical supplies or any other equipment.The Times prides itself on its correspondents, and indeed Lord Chalfont was once a well known Defence Correspondent of The Times. He was, of course, not on the staff when that was written. To-day your Lordships will no doubt have seen in the papers a series of advertisements run by The Times "cracking up" what marvellous correspondents they have. However, let that pass. That this comment was undoubtedly true was amply proven in the long debate that took place. I do not intend to follow the course of that debate. I wish only to say that when I left the Chamber on its conclusion I had never felt so unhappy, or so depressed and so anxious about our defences. This is true. I have attended a great many defence debates in your Lordships' House, and I found that feeling of depression very common among all my noble friends who had been taking part in the debate with me. I really felt that we were in a desperate situation.
Having regard to the course of that debate and the feelings which it engendered in me, I think it all the more remarkable that my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence has been able to produce this Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970, which demonstrates beyond all doubt that this Government have faced realities and taken note of the very real and serious dangers 552 which face the country to-day. I cannot pretend for one moment that I am 100 per cent. satisfied with the White Paper. There are several matters, particularly in the naval sphere, on which I should like to seek further information before I feel satisfied. However, I hope that there will be another opportunity to debate the Government's defence plans when they have taken shape even further. In fact, the noble Lord has said to-day that there will be another Defence White Paper in the spring.
There are, however, one or two points which I should like to mention before I sit down. The first refers to the Gurkhas. I cannot say how much I welcome the decision to keep the Gurkha Brigade going. Many years ago, when I was a little boy, in a certain situation, my father always had a Gurkha guard on his gate. I understand that one battalion will be coming to London and will do guard duty at Buckingham Palace, and so on. The Foot Guards have their traditional birthday parade on the Horse Guards. Even the Royal Marines get there somehow to beat Retreat. Many other functions take place there. Would it be possible to have a special parade on the Horse Guards for the Gurkhas, to show these gallant soldiers in what affection and esteem they are held by everybody in this country? I merely throw that out as a suggestion.
My second question refers to the Royal Air Force. In paragraph 17 of the White Paper it is stated thatThe Royal Air Force will still assume responsibility for providing … air support for the Royal Navy from shore bases …This statement of course provokes, as it has always provoked over the last year, the question: what aircraft, and which bases?
As I mentioned when I spoke in the debate in May last, I believe that it requires no less than a squadron of aircraft to keep just two aircraft over a Fleet in nearby waters. This is a highly specialised role. It requires special training not merely in pure flying but in air and naval staff collaboration. Special training will be necessary. It is quite clear from our debate in May last that the previous Government had not got to grips with this problem, and I still think that it needs most careful consideration.
553 Turning now to submarines, I believe that the Mark 24 torpedo has become what used to be called in naval circles in my days a very mouldy torpedo—in other words, it is not a good runner. Therefore, I think that the armament on all our submarines, particularly the Fleet submarines, requires looking at. So far as the latter are concerned, I am old and "square", but I would prefer to see a gun or two guns on board. However, this might upset the streamlining—I do not know. It might also be possible to fit them with some kind of guided weapon. At the moment I think they are under-armed.
Lastly, I would refer to helicopters, with which I include V/STOL. I hope that the decision to cease the fixed-wing flying training for the Navy will not mean that we shall in any way reduce the training in helicopters and V/STOL. I think that this is a most important aspect, particularly should war come. As your Lordships will know, in the last War we had what was called DEMS—Defence of the Equipped Merchant Ships Organisation. Among the ships we had were 29 MAC ships. These were merchant ships, grain carriers and oil tankers converted into small aircraft carriers. I think they carried one or two aircraft, and I may say that they were very popular with the merchant captains whom they successfully protected.
Finally, may I point out that there is no mention of the Naval Reserve in this White Paper. In the Socialist Government's White Paper there was a small paragraph which read:In war the R.N.R. would man their minesweepers, provide the manpower to back up the ships of the Fleet, shore headquarters, communications centres, and the Naval Control of Shipping organisation, and provide a nucleus of naval expertise within the ships of the Merchant Navy.That is a bare enough statement. But are we sure that we have the Naval Reserve backing that we need? We have heard a lot about the Territorials and the Army Reserve, and I thought it necessary to remind your Lordships that Naval Reserves are also necessary.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, it is with some trepidation that I, as a mere soldier, follow the Senior Service. But I 554 would join with the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in wishing our new Minister of Defence well; and I would express with the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, our admiration at the way in which he has tackled this not-too-easy problem that he found waiting for him. To my mind, the virtue of the White Paper lies in the fact that, among other things, it provides room for expansion and gives an urge to the possibility of expansion. It is a change of course in that direction. Further, it makes a determined effort to overcome manpower difficulties.
To my mind, the most important manpower difficulty confronting the Ministry of Defence is the question of officer supply for the Services. If there is to be (as in fact, given time, there will be) expansion of each of the three Services with modern technology and new devices, it will require men of the highest intellectual quality, well-educated and well-trained to operate the Services. Thus the universities are going to play, if not a more important part in defence, at any rate a more integrated part. This arises partly from the fact that a much bigger proportion of men aged 17 to 22 are now going to the universities and to colleges of higher education. In coming years, still more will be going to the universities, which are therefore not just taking some of the cream of that age group from which our future officers will be drawn but are milching it nearly dry.
The consequence of this is that if a sufficient supply of officers is to be secured there must be a steadily higher proportion coming from the universities than came heretofore from the schools. There is evidence of some success in the policy adopted by the late Government whereby the graduate entry for the R.A.F. is now the norm for permanent commissions, and it stands very greatly to the credit of the noble Lords, Lord Shackle-ton and Lord Winterbottom, that this is the case. By and large, I think that the universities are co-operating in this matter. Whether there is at present the same need for this policy for the other Services I cannot say, so long as a proportion of university students are encouraged towards the Services while they are at the universities. This encouragement requires not only the Service and university cadetships, but also an attractive military presence in the university.
555 The Service units, the O.T.C., the university air squadrons and the naval section, might well be adapted to provide more opportunity. The air squadrons are in danger of being swamped by the university cadets, leaving only a very few places for the uncommitted student. A moderate increase in the establishment of the university air squadrons might be quite productive in officer supply, and certainly will make ultimately for a better understanding of R.A.F. problems as former cadets achieve high positions in the Civil Service, industry and the universities; and, I would add, perhaps most importantly, in the schools. In this connection the new defence lectureships, which the late Administration established at certain universities, are doing a great deal to foster a general understanding of defence problems. The high quality of the serving officers who have been seconded to the universities as fellows for a year or so has had a most salutary and beneficial effect. I think it would be to the ultimate advantage, both of universities and of the Services, if the number of fellows were increased.
As an old Territorial, I welcome the enlargement of the T. & A.V.R. to produce an uncommitted reserve. I must say that I was rather attracted by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, that their role should be training for resistance. I think they would have to be organised as companies. I see no other way of doing it in the initial stages, when the strength is limited to 10,000.
I join with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, in not understanding why there is any opposition whatsoever to the idea of independent companies. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also has ridiculed this. But there always have been independent companies in the British Army; they date back to the beginning of the 18th century. It was a series of independent companies of Highlanders who dealt with minor matters of insurrection and rebellion in Scotland. Eventually, these independent companies were welded into the senior Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, but they were independent companies and they were used most efficiently by the English Army.
If your Lordships want other instances of the success of independent companies, 556 you have them in the use of the formation of the Commandos; and the Marines, too, are virtually the same in principle. There have always been some isolated garrisons in the old British Empire—at any rate in the old, so-called bad colonial days—and you have isolated companies in isolated places doing a very good job. Since 1914 the infantry have been always adding or subtracting companies to and from the infantry battalion. The machine gun company has been sometimes within the battalion and sometimes outside; on occasion it has been welded into a machine gun battalion. There are other instances.
The logistics of the independent company are very simple indeed: they are attached to existing battalions for the time they are needed there. Their great virtue is that they give us room and opportunity for expansion when it is necessary. That, to my mind, is the burden of the Statement on Defence Policy. I think it will be so regarded by many Servicemen, and this also will help to solve the manpower problem.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves this very interesting point (I do not know whether he has discussed it with his noble friend, the Secretary of State for Defence), may I intervene? I fully acknowledge the nature of specialised units of this kind and one has even had smaller ones for particular purposes. But all the recent examples, without exception, as I understand it, are not intended to be with specialised functions but are intended really to keep alive the existing regimental tradition with a view to further expansion. If, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, comes to reply, he can indicate specialised roles of a kind that one has seen, then the idea begins to make some rather additional sense.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I had the feeling that perhaps I was irritating the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this point. I used the machine gun companies as an illustration, but there are others that I gave where the equipment was no more than the ordinary infantry rifle company; and that is what has happened in the majority of cases. I agree that they have a purpose if they serve as a means of expanding into a battalion, should that be necessary, but it is not necessarily their only purpose. 557 They can be quite useful even if they are never expanded into a battalion but are there to meet any possible need to increase the number of battalions.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, can the noble Lord give us an example? There are special examples—for instance, the S.A.S. or the Commandos. I am very interested in this proposal.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, perhaps we had better leave it to the Minister of Defence to tidy up this argument.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I am quite convinced—and I would willingly concede to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—that the existence of these independent companies is a base for expansion as and when expansion may be required. Therefore, in so far as it is a well recognised fact that in defence problems the only certainty is that the unexpected is going to happen, I congratulate the Government on providing a policy that will enable us to deal better with the unexpected, when it comes, than was possible at the time they took office.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I must ask the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, to forgive me if I do not follow him in what he said. It has been my good fate to succeed him in Defence debates in the past, and he always tends to talk about subjects of which I know very little. I should like very much to endorse the remarks of earlier speakers, who congratulated my noble friend the Secretary of State on this splendid Supplementary Statement. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, it is essentially a Statement of action rather than of policy, but the action is all pointing in the right direction. It is a real pleasure now to have a Government who, from their actions and intentions, clearly understand the proper use of defence. One hopes that, in a judicious way, they will apply the defence capability in the way it should be applied; that is, to the best advantage.
I also endorse the remarks of noble Lords who spoke earlier, especially the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who said that the Government must have had the most appalling task in trying to sort out 558 this matter after the damage created by the previous Administration, not merely in regard to the planning of equipment and the policy that was being developed, but also in regard to the morale of the Services. What is most needed—and my noble friend is aware of this, because he has mentioned it on other occasions—is a renewal of the sense of purpose, and a renewal of justification for the use of the Services, which the people in them have sadly lacked in recent years.
Having said that, there is one point on which I should like to take issue with my noble friend Lord Carrington. That relates to setting an exact terminal date for the decline of H.M.S. "Eagle". I have no disagreement at all with the arguments which are put for the retention of H.M.S. "Ark Royal", in that it is required until such time as alternative means are available of providing the support to Naval forces which carriers supply. I refer to alternative means in the shape of surface-to-surface missiles, and in the shape of V/STOL aircraft working from new through-deck ships. The carrier is essential in any properly balanced Naval force.
I shall not bore your Lordships with a repetition of what I have said on many occasions, in both 1967 and 1968. But may I be allowed to remind your Lordships that if one has a Naval force at sea, to perform any worthwhile function in the peace-keeping role, it must be credible and it can be credible only if it is properly balanced. In addition to other facilities, it must have the means of reconnaissance, the means of strike and the means of air defence. In this day and age a Naval force can have proper balance, with the sort of elements which I have described, only if it has fixed-wing aircraft. This is clearly understood by my noble friend, because otherwise he would not have retained the "Ark Royal".
The point at issue is: when will these facilities be provided in another way? It is made quite clear in the Statement that they are not expected to be provided in sufficient quantity, or of an adequate type, until the end of this decade. That is the purpose of retaining H.M.S. "Ark Royal". But as my noble friend has said, there are to be at least two occasions when she is being refitted, as 559 she is expected to be operational for two-thirds of the next decade. On top of that, one must allow for the fact that aircraft carriers run into trouble, as indeed do other ships. The "Eagle" has recently run aground in Plymouth Sound, and the "Ark Royal" did the same about seven years ago.
As was mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, memories of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" are in everybody's mind in the Far East. It may be remembered by your Lordships that those ships were supposed to be accompanied by H.M.S. "Indomitable", but she had run aground, shortly before the occasion on which the ships were deployed to the Far East, when she was working up in the West Indies. Accidents occur at awkward moments, and if one accepts that an aircraft carrier is necessary, as the White Paper accepts and as we all agree, we must surely have some means of replacing a carrier if it is withdrawn from service according to plan or because of accident.
I therefore ask my noble friend to consider whether we can have the "Eagle" kept on a care-and-maintenance basis. There are great problems in doing this, but it could have a reduced crew and it could be kept in as good a state as is necessary, perhaps on varying lengths of notice. We should have to face the fact that a carrier would need a certain amount of docking and refitting, and if an operation was likely in which a carrier was needed there might have to be a shorter period of notice for the other vessel. I do not call for an answer now, because it is not the sort of question that can be answered quickly. But it seems to me that, notwithstanding its recent grounding, we have a splendid ship, in fine form and with modern equipment, though not perhaps the most modern equipment. Perhaps, too, it is not capable of operating all the aircraft that the "Ark Royal" can operate, but it could operate enough aircraft to fill a gap. It seems to me a tragedy that such a ship should be allowed to die in 1972. My noble friend has about six months in which to make up his mind, and I ask him to give special thought to that point.
Finally, I should like to welcome the I expansion of the T. & A.V.R., not only 560 for the military reasons which are expressed in the statement, which have been endorsed by noble Lords with greater military experience than I have, but also because it shows a resurgence of encouragement for voluntary service. One of the tragedies of the last Administration was not only the cutting down of the various reserves of the Armed Services, but also the cutting down of other forms of voluntary service such as Civil Defence. It was tragic that the preparations for the Civil Defence were wiped out. There are to-day very few voluntary tasks for people to do for which they are not required to have quite a lot of training.
If one had a reasonable sort of education, there was a time when one could teach in a nursery school, but one can not do that now. One was allowed to do all sorts of things, but to-day every thing is becoming professional. If people are stopped from giving voluntary service to their country, one of the best spirits in this country is being destroyed. So again I would press my noble friend to think of means of increasing these Reserves in a useful way. One does not want to have them increased just for the sake of it, and I would not really go with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, for a form of National Service. But the Reserves of this country—
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? I am afraid he misunderstood me. I did not advocate National Service at all. I mentioned a short-service engagement of two years, which would be voluntary, of course—not National Service.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, I must have missed the point when I was listening to him.
My Lords, I think that is all that I have to contribute, but again I thank my noble friend very much for a splendid resurgence of encouragement to the Armed Services of this great country.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, I should like to say what a privilege I consider it is for a person of my calibre to be able to make a contribution to this Defence debate this evening. I do not 561 think that in what has been said so far there has been much reference to the consequences of defence, or to the fact that the people who are affected by any of the decisions which are being taken are the individuals themselves. If I speak with some criticism of some of the speeches that have been made, that criticism is based only on my reactions to the statements in those speeches which, if they were followed, I feel would affect the people in certain areas for whom we now have responsibility, as we had responsibility in the past.
The debate tonight has ranged over a very wide field, but I want to confine my remarks to paragraphs 7 and 10 of the White Paper which contain the Government's proposals for South-East Asia. It will be for the Minister of Defence, my noble friend Lord Carrington, to answer the points made in the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but if I understood Lord Chalfont correctly in what he said he charged that the proposals made by the Government to station British forces in Malaysia would, by their very presence, be more likely to provoke external aggression than if they were not there. My Lords, I cannot anticipate, nor indeed would it be right for me to anticipate, what my noble friend Lord Carrington may say in reply. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who is now in the Chamber, was in Malaya during the Communist insurrection, but I can only say, having been there from the very start of the Malayan Communist insurrection, that it is my view, however much the noble Lord opposite may disagree with me, that the presence of British troops brings confidence, and that with the confidence of the population you get information.
May I refer to one incident? Information was badly wanted at the time of the murder in Malaya of the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney. That was the beginning of the Malayan insurrection. With lack of information it was impossible really to know what was going on and what were the intentions and motives of the people who had perpetrated that act. With lack of information you get lack of stability, and in consequence—and I think the noble Lord will probably agree with me if he follows what I am endeavouring to illustrate—military operations in an area three-quarters of 562 which is covered in jungle are very badly handicapped. It is impossible to bring many of your military operations to a successful conclusion.
As regards the political commitment which is mentioned in the White Paper, I cannot personally see anything sinister in the Government's proposals about this. It seems to me that all the White Paper envisaged in respect of the political commitment was to ensure that, if circumstances warranted it, it would be possible for whatever Government were in power at the time to proceed with consultations.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, would he agree that at the time of the instance which he has mentioned—namely, the assassination of the High Commissioner—there were something of the order of 3,000 British troops in Malaya? By the time the Communist insurrection had been defeated there were 40,000 troops deployed, of which I was one. The point I was trying to make—and I hope the noble Lord will accept this, because I followed what he said with great care—is that you start off with a few troops, but once the commitment begins it is open-ended; and I see nothing in the Government's White Paper, which the noble Lord apparently endorses so clearly, to indicate how, if this happens again, we are going to produce 40,000 troops to go and fight in the jungles of Malaya.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
All I would say in answer to the noble Lord is that at the beginning of the Communist insurrection we honestly did not know in what way we were to go about things. We could have had thousands of troops in Malaya, but we had no information. I honestly believe that the presence of British troops brings confidence to the public and enables them to pass on information. That was our experience in Malaya, and I firmly believe that that is the way to deal with it.
My Lords, with regard to the commitment to post British troops to that area, I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, to whose speech I listened with the greatest interest, who said that sizeable forces, amounting to those forces which are established by the people in those territories, are available in the 563 interests of their own defence, and that our commitment would mean our going to the assistance of those people in certain circumstances. I am of the opinion that from this really flows everything for which we have stood in connection with sound Commonwealth co-operation, and that it is a factor which ought to be encouraged at the present time, when this particular association is, I think, under a certain amount of strain. I therefore sincerely commend the Government and their proposals in this respect. I feel that they will do much in this area, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, to illustrate what can be done with a certain amount of imagination to further Commonwealth interests in this matter.
My Lords, I want to say no more than that. I have confined my remarks entirely to an area with which I am acquainted. But I feel that a great debt is owed to my noble friend Lord Carrington for the imaginative proposals that he has made for this Five-Power Defence Treaty for South-East Asia. It gives me the greatest happiness and leads me to the sincere belief that in these proposals the Government will achieve what they intend.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, doubtless you are familiar with those haunting lines:Yesterday upon the stairI met a man who wasn't there.He wasn't there again to-day;Oh! How I wish he'd go away."Haunting" is the word. All Defence White Papers for a long time now have been haunted by the man who "isn't there and won't go away": the phantom recruit. His manifestation in this Paper occurs on page 9 which deals with what paragraph 33 calls "the present serious deficiencies in manpower".
With your Lordships' permission I should like to speak briefly on that particular aspect, but from a point of view which has not I think been mentioned in this debate. So there is every chance of a short sharp speech. The difficulties of recruiting we know. The causes of those difficulties we know up to a point. But I question whether there is not one cause that is long overdue for attention; and that is the underrating by the people of the country of the usefulness and 564 importance of the Fighting Services themselves. The new Government are faced with an uphill task in trying to set this right, but I rejoice in the knowledge that they mean to try. The key words are to be found in the last sentence of paragraph 35:Everything possible will be done to … enhance the status of military service in the national life.Admirable! Napoleon had the same idea. "Soldiers", he said, "must be encouraged in all ways to remain with the Colours: this you will achieve by showing great esteem for soldiers."
My Lords, the Statement goes on:The Government recognises that there is no quick solution and that manpower constraints will remain a problem for some time to come: but it also believes that its policies will foster a fuller public understanding of defence and the rôle of the Forces, and thus help to create a climate of opinion favourable to recruitment.Admirable again—though, I confess that I find it a little vague. For I do not see defence policies in themselves doing much to foster public understanding of them. Unless you can first arouse the public's interest, the public will not even bother to find out what those policies are. How then do you set about arousing interest in defence and esteem for soldiers, and for sailors and airmen, and with them the self-esteem (for of course that follows) of the men and women themselves? It is a matter of public relations.
A great deal of money is spent on advertising in the papers—and very high-class advertising much of it is, particularly that part of it directed at potential officers. But I ask myself why all these compelling advertisements (at least I find them compelling, and I read them all) do not produce more results. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will answer by saying that nothing on earth will produce any results in the direction of increased recruiting. I have heard him say so this afternoon; but he will forgive me if I suggest that that is not an entirely necessary point of view. I have looked with the greatest of care at these advertisements. I have a collection of them here and I think that I find something missing from them.
But, first, what do we find? One thing that we can find is a pretty good idea of the kind of person at whom the advertising is directed. What kind of 565 person are the Government trying to recruit?—I am thinking of officer recruiting in particular, but not necessarily exclusively. He must be physically fit, mentally alert and of a certain standard of brain power. He must be attracted to, and have an aptitude for, the taking of responsibility at an early age—responsibility for men and for advanced and costly weapons and machines. He must be self-reliant and responsive to challenge. He has no wish—not yet, at any rate—for a repetitive, humdrum, indoor routine. When it is all over—and it seems to be taken for granted that he will not serve for long—he will have qualifications and will be just the kind of chap that employers are looking for. And what is wrong with that? Nothing, so far as it goes. Unfortunately, by stopping where it does it adds up to a picture of a young man who can be persuaded to wear the Queen's uniform simply for the advantages that it will bring him both during and after his Service life.
What, then, is missing from this synthetic young man that we have built up from these advertisements? The answer is: a wish to serve his country. I find in the advertisements appeals to various excellent qualities but it seems to me that the sum of these appeals is this: "Measure up to our standards, our exacting standards, and we will give you a good, varied, interesting and responsible job; look after you and pay you well and equip you with valuable qualifications for civilian life." I detect very little to suggest that the job offered is vital to the defence of the country. There is no appeal to the simple will to serve. My Lords, I suggest, with no great originality but perhaps more strongly than it has been suggested hitherto, that the will to serve is one of the ingredients that mans the Fighting Forces of the Crown.
Ask a second lieutenant why he joined the Army, or a schoolboy why he wants to go into the Navy, and I daresay he will not mention that he wants to serve his country. He may not consciously think of it and may be shy of mentioning it if he does. But look about you! Is it not plain to see that there exists among the young of to-day a greater will to unselfish service towards their fellows than has been evinced by any other generation? The numbers who offer themselves for anything, from Voluntary Service 566 Overseas to looking after old people in their homes, is ample and familiar evidence of this. Yet the Ministry of Defence, of all people, appear to be oblivious of it.
In times of peace, and what passes uneasily for peace, we rely for our defence on volunteers, and we might pause to reflect on what it is that the volunteer does. Of his own free will he assigns to others the right to expose him, without demur or even comment on his part, to the risk of injury or death. That may sound dramatic, and it is unlikely that he himself will think of it in quite those terms. None the less it is true; and if he thinks about it soberly he must know that it is true. Why then does he do it? Simply for the sake of the attractions and the advantages set out in the advertisements? In some cases, Yes, no doubt. But in every case or even most cases?—I do not believe it. I believe that the instinct of service, including military service, exists by reason of upbringing, education or tradition in many of those whom the Government wish to recruit but who nevertheless do not respond.
This then is my hope: that the Government will pursue the policy which the White Paper foreshadows, of fosteringa fuller public understanding of defence and the role of the Forces".They have made an admirable start, in a way almost a revolutionary start. For too long we have seen defence relegated to a lowly place in the order of national priorities. On Tuesday of last week, October 27, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his first statement on public spending and economic policy. And when he came to enumerate the actual measures that he proposed, how did he begin? With these historic words: "I start with defence …". So by this Government defence is regarded, as it ought to be, as the first responsibility of Government. I hope that we may look forward to a public relations operation directed to explaining to the electorate why it is, and must be, so regarded; encouraging people to show esteem for the soldier, and, in addressing the potential soldier himself, appealing to his will to serve, not for his own pleasure, satisfaction or advantage alone, but also for the safety and protection of his fellow men. When it is leadership you are looking for, my Lords, you might do 567 worse than transmit the motto of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. That motto might conceivably have been, "Serve by leading". It is not; it is exactly the opposite: "Serve to lead". The number of those for whom that notion has an appeal, whether consciously or only dimly apprehended, may be much higher than you think.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should first like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, not merely on being Secretary of State for Defence but also on the success he has had with his own Party. He has produced a White Paper and persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Gridley to say that it gives him the greatest happiness. I suggest that it does not take much to give the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, the greatest happiness. In the course of some fairly short remarks, as I hope, I shall deal with certain points about which we on this side of the House are not quite so happy.
I should like to start by stressing the basic agreement that I think exists on the main issues with regard to defence. In doing so, I am not trying to saddle the Government with our defence programme—although I think that they have kindly taken it on—but I think there is agreement on the basic principles. It goes without saying that the most important aspect of our defence effort (and it is the point at which the Supplementary Statement begins) is our loyalty and our commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. This is something which, in debate after debate, whether in Opposition or in Government, we have reiterated in your Lordships' House, but I see no harm in emphasising it again, and in stating that this is our first priority.
My Lords, this does not diminish our hope for some détente with the Warsaw Pact Powers. I do not blame the noble Lord for making no reference to this in such a short and necessarily rapidly prepared Supplementary Statement, but I hope that he will, now or on some other occasion, confirm his support for the initiative which the NATO Defence Ministers and in particular his predecessor, Mr. Denis Healey, took in this matter. There are the studies going on in NATO; and also, and in particular, I hope that your 568 Lordships will appreciate the importance of the talks that are going on in Helsinki at the moment between the Soviet Union and the United States on the limitation of strategic weapons. Although one could point immediately to the fact that this does not solve the problem, none the less the fact that such talks can take place—when we look back over ten or twenty years—is in itself a sign of remarkable changes. And now is the time to keep the initiative going, when one detects a willingness on the part of the Soviet Union and other countries in Eastern Europe to advance to co-operation in these matters.
This does not suggest that we should not keep up our defences and play our part, and if I have some critical remarks to make—as had my noble friend Lord Chalfont—it does not in any way diminish our desire, while in Opposition, to see that this country plays its proper part in contributing to international stability. I think that the speeches from noble Lords on this side of the House, from my noble friend Lord Shinwell and others, made clear that desire.
The fact that there are doubts and anxieties is not just an aspect of Party politics. I ask noble Lords to recognise that defence is a matter about which it is right and proper to have discussion. There are options; there are different ways of handling it. The Government have in certain areas chosen different solutions to the ones that we had chosen; and they appear to have I managed it (I shall come on in a moment to the price tag) at roughly the same price, or at slightly less than the previous Government had intended.
In his Statement the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, complained, anyway by implication, that he was glad to hear one generous statement. I am bound to say that the noble Lord himself has not always been very generous. I sometimes wonder whether in his next incarnation the noble Lord will not be a wasp. He stings, and let me say in fairness to him that his stings hurt. Equally, let me say to him that he leaves very little poison behind; I say this in a complimentary sense. But the noble Lord really has made a number of extraordinarily provocative remarks from time to time, and not only when in Opposition. I expect 569 that he will accuse me of lecturing him a bit on this. When the Opposition make points, some of which, the majority of which—I have to be careful about this; I was going to say some of which are serious; that is another Freudian slip of the kind that I am inclined to go in for—are serious, I hope the noble Lord will do us the credit of thinking that defence is something which can be the subject of the most detailed intellectual disputation. Anybody who has served in the Ministry of Defence knows just how much disputation there is between the Armed Services and their very able leaders.
Now that we have had a chance to study this White Paper I must say that I think some of our criticisms, indeed most of the criticisms which we made at very short notice before we had a chance to study it, are at least fair in the sense that they represent a reasonable point of view. I am perfectly prepared to agree that a number of noble Lords take a different view on certain points. As I say, I find it difficult to see the wild happiness in the eyes of the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, as a result of a White Paper which follows so closely on the policies of the previous Government. None the less, some sort of additional "sex appeal", or something, has been produced in this White Paper which has made noble Lords support it so enthusiastically.
I must take exception right at the beginning to the noble Lord's treatment of defence expenditure. He said it was up to us to explain the apparent discrepancies which are referred to in the White Paper. We have attempted to explain it to him and he has offered to meet me and explain it to me; but I think we might just try once again in your Lordships' House. The trouble about paragraphs 38 and 39 (quite a lot of play has been made about them) and about paragraph 37 is that they are extremely abbreviated and they fail to reveal the real facts. I trust the noble Lord has read the White Paper, Cmnd. 4234, to which reference has been made. It is a rather revolutionary document on public expenditure which, unfortunately, we did not debate in your Lordships' House. The purpose of that document was to give Parliament, and the country as a whole, some view extending over a num- 570 ber of years, and with a rolling programme, of how expenditure was divided, so that people could look at the total allocation of resources. In relation to 1972–73, the White Paper, Cmnd. 4234 states categorically:The Government have not yet taken decisions on the level for individual programmes in 1972 and 1973.If we look at the footnote, we see allocation on a provisional basis and allocation simply carried forward. But the decisions had not been taken, and the allocation made to the Defence Budget on this basis of £2,070 million in 1972–73 is simply carried forward at the same level for 1973–74. What makes comparison even more difficult is that the Government (I do not blame them for this because this is according to the convention) have updated the figures in terms of 1970 prices.
I am a little nervous about the Government's publishing their Defence Budget targets, because it is only too likely that these figures will change. Indeed, in the course of the summer, when noble Lords in the Cabinet were spending those long hours in the Public Expenditure Survey talks, which must have been very painful this year, changes and cuts would have been made in the programme, and even the figures for 1971–72 could not have been described as final. Furthermore, as there was going to be an over-run in 1971–72, there again, under the curious convention which I confess I have never completely understood, any increase in salaries and pay for public expenditure purposes are not taken into account. This is an important factor. Owing to the much better recruiting figures this year, expenditure has tended to go up, and provision to allow for the increases in military salaries and the big increases for single men, has knocked the figures a little sideways.
I say this because I hope that noble Lords will not now assume that there was some mysterious mistake on the part of the previous Government. The noble Lord opposite was given an opportunity to say that he was making a mistake. It is not for me to explain that he was making a mistake. He has left his simple and happy-minded supporters on the other side of the House under the belief that somehow they had caught out the previous Government. I think we can 571 regard this particular matter as disposed of. I will not go on further, because I see the noble Lord nodding his head, either in slight disgust or perhaps in agreement. I hope that it is agreement.
That brings me to the issue which has caused such uncertainty in the minds of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and others who have studied this White Paper. What sleight of hand, what miracle, has the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wrought that has enabled him to make major improvements and to avoid the major cuts in the programme which he says would have been necessary under the previous Government in order to meet the targets? How has he managed to avoid these cuts without doing serious damage to the Forces? Admittedly he has pointed out that there will be adverse consequences for the Services, which the Government would have preferred to avoid. I should like to know what these adverse consequences are.
If the money can be found, and the price is right, I wish him luck in his negotiations in this matter of buying EXOCET, as making some contribution towards meeting what I acknowledge is a real gap. This is an important development. I do not think this is sleight of hand on the part of the noble Lord. I admit that the increase in the potential strength of the Air Force by four squadrons of Jaguars is diminishing the gap in relation to the Phantoms and Buccaneers, which now will continue on the carrier, granted that these are allocated for a naval role. We shall want to know what expenditure he has in mind now for replacements. The Gnats will scarcely continue, even if they are appropriate. I do not know how this fits into the R.A.F.'s highly expensive training programme. When we realise that it costs something like £50,000 to convert a pilot on to a Lightning, and that these training costs mostly relate to the capital cost of the aircraft and their maintenance, we shall be interested to know what sort of aircraft are to be used for advanced flying training in this type of operation.
I welcome also the increase of the new T. & A.V.R. I am not quite clear why these 10,000 men, if we can recruit them, should not be fully up to the standards of T. & A.V.R. II. I cannot remember whether the existing 572 T. & A.V.R. II is fully recruited. Some noble Lords think that we abolished all our reserves in some way. In fact, although the numbers of the Territorial Army were diminished, we succeeded—and when I say "we", let me acknowledge that it was the men who undertook the duties of creating in the T. & A.V.R. II an infinitely more serviceable and valuable reserve—in improving the quality of T. & A.V.R. II.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for his tribute on equipment. I think it does no good for any Party to imply that the Armed Forces are not well equipped. I am sure that on this the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, who has been such an ally to the R.A.F., was able to acknowledge developments in that Service. I will not pursue with him the issue of the independent company. I am not sure that, in his attempt to find justification, he did not wax a little too enthusiastic in relation to both the 18th century and the individual companies proposed for to-day. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will answer the valid points made by my noble friend Lord Chalfont.
May I now deal with the question of the carrier? I am bound to say that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is entirely logical in the context of the Government's apparently declared policy. Although the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, was enthusiastic about one carrier, he knows probably better than anyone the limitations on one carrier, because he played an important part in the Indonesian confrontation, and while he was there, or shortly afterwards, there was a time, at the height of the confrontation, when an attack was almost hourly expected, when not a single serviceable carrier was in the Far East.
The difficulty comes back to numbers. I would acknowledge the retention of the "Ark Royal" and its contribution to the general NATO military strength, but it is really misleading ourselves to suggest that it contributes significantly to the protection of the Fleet by itself. The noble Lord honestly answered that it will spend only two-thirds of its time at sea; and even then, because of major refits, the time that the carrier will be able to remain at sea actually operational, without 573 having to have maintenance, even with Fleet Trains and so on, is limited. Numbers do count. This has always been the difficulty over the carrier. I admit that I may have certain prejudices on this from my own background, because I was in Coastal Command and always resented the attempts of the Navy to steal Coastal Command from us.
But, forgetting that, and looking at the various studies that have been made of this matter, the fact is that numbers do count. The idea of a Fleet of six or, preferably, ten carriers makes sense. But it is very arguable whether one carrier significantly adds to the security of the Fleet, as the chances of having it serviceable in the right place at the right time are slim. I shall be interested to hear what cogent reason has led the noble Lord to go on with "Ark Royal" but not to continue with "Eagle", or, for that matter, "Hermes", although I realise that there are difficulties of putting modern equipment into these.
On Malaysia a number of noble Lords have discussed this matter strongly and effectively. I think there is a general feeling in this House of personal commitment to Malaysia, and it is one that I acknowledge. But I believe there is an argument here. On the one hand, the noble Lord is going to station a battalion group. On the other, he appears, whether we like to see five or not, to be diminishing our capacity to reinforce that out of the general capability. All the exercises carried out by the previous Government were based on the ability to achieve a rapid movement of forces, and the recent exercises have been successful. The keeping of a presence there does give a hostage, and it does diminish our ability to decide whether or not to be involved. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred to certain moral responsibilities. But moral responsibilities, as we have seen too painfully, land countries in the most difficult situations. It is better, if one cannot fulfil them properly, to be honest about it. I make no reflection on the Government; I merely say that this is the real issue.
I have not time to join in with those who have argued the Simonstown situation beyond saying that the war in the Indian Ocean and the anti-submarine war was one that was fought in circumstances which I find it inconceivable will 574 be repeated in a future war. But even granted that this could happen, the important thing in those days was the availability of bases in East Africa. It was not just Simonstown: the maritime aircraft were operating from East Africa as much from anywhere else. It will not pay us to have friends in South Africa if we have enemies in the other parts of the African Continent. I will not go into the moral arguments on this subject, but I ask noble Lords to realise that there is a real issue as to what, quite apart from the moral issues, is in the best interests of our country.
My Lords, I am sorry to have taken so long. We shall have further opportunities. I wish the noble Lord luck. I found the reference to the fact that the Chancellor of the Echequer the other day said, "I will now begin with defence" one of the most worrying statements that I have heard for a long time.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I hope that I have the words right. May a generous, warm-hearted wasp, who in spite of the season is still fairly active, have the leave of the House to speak yet again in this debate? I should like to praise the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the Leader of the Opposition, for his generosity in acknowledging that what we have done in this White Paper really makes very worthwhile additions to the Forces—I think those were his words. I am glad that in the intervening period since last week he has thought better of his statement in Column 115 of Hansard that the Statement referred to major improvements in the capabilities which he had totally failed to detect. I am glad at any rate that the noble Lord has had second thoughts about that, and I am grateful to him. The noble Lord also said—and this is perfectly true—that the White Paper was confined to a certain number of subjects. I said at the beginning of the debate that this was really to announce what we are doing to remedy some of the gaps that we thought there were in the Services, and to carry out some of the promises that we made in Opposition. Of course, it does not deal with a whole host of subjects which a normal White Paper would deal with.
Several noble Lords have made interesting speeches which are, strictly speaking, outside the ambit of this debate, but, if 575 I may say so, were none the worse for that. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, fresh from Luxembourg, made an interesting speech about European defence which is well worth studying, but, if he will forgive me, I do not think that this is the right occasion this evening to comment on it. My noble friend the Duke of Devonshire and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, talked, by implication at any rate, about arms to South Africa. I do not think that this is the right occasion for me to discuss that. But I would just say about my noble friend's speech that those of us who know him well and who have known his interest in the Commonwealth and the hard work that he has done for the Commonwealth over these past many years, will certainly acquit him of any bias against that institution. Whatever views there may be in the House about his speech—and no doubt some noble Lords opposite will not agree with it—we all know that he is passionately keen on preserving the Commonwealth as an institution for good.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if the remarks that I make are rather scrappy. I shall try to answer some of the questions, though I do not think I could possibly answer all the questions that have been put to me. A number of your Lordships have asked about the representative companies. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was rather scathing, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, had some queries about this subject. My noble friend Lord Balerno, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and others of your Lordships thought that these were good ideas. But the particular question which noble Lords opposite wanted me to answer was what these companies were going to do. As regards their duties, the situation is that three of the infantry companies will become air-portable companies in a brigade, one in each of the three brigades of the Third Division; another will be responsible for demonstration duties at Sandhurst and the Mons Office Cadet School, and the other two will carry out recruiting duties within their own divisions of infantry and assist in training with the T. & A.V.R. and Cadets and with public duties.
We are examining other roles which we think these companies might play. They will be commanded, the noble 576 Lord, Lord Chalfont, will be relieved to hear, by majors, but the career implications are by no means as dreadful as the noble Lord has suggested. The companies remain part of their divisions of infantry, and, as he knows, personnel management is now conducted on a divisional basis: so promotion will be all right. I think they have a worthwhile job to do. They will be there, too, for any possible expansion of the Army. I think, if I may say so, it is a mistake that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, should dismiss, as I think he did rather lightly, the effect on morale of the retention of these regiments in their company position. I think all of us, whatever Service we were in, were proud of our regiments, squadrons or ships, and I do not think that those of us who are interested in the Services should underestimate the proper sentiment that they evoke.
A number of noble Lords asked me about the Gurkha battalion in the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Ampthill asked me about this. The Gurkha battalion in the United Kingdom will serve unaccompanied on a tour of about 18 months, and, as we have already said, it will be employed on similar tasks to British troops and be available to assist in meeting the many infantry commitments. So it will help to reduce the strain on British units. As a general statement of policy this is fairly clear and is something which will be readily understood, certainly by noble Lords opposite and those who know about the tasks which the infantry battalions undertake in this country.
The actual duties will be settled in due course, and they will change from time to time, but the examples are: taking part in public duties—and I will certainly look at my noble friend's suggestion about a special parade to commemorate this—and assisting in training exercises, demontrations, and Army displays throughout the country. I do not think we envisage that they would assist the civil power, and they will not be used in Northern Ireland. With this battalion in Britain we should, for example, be able to send another unit there with less serious repercussions on the rest of the Army because the Gurkha battalion would be in this country. The remainder of the Gurkhas would be either in Hong Kong or Brunei, 577 and I think it useful that there should be one battalion over here for the sake of morale in the Gurkha Brigade.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I ask for elucidation of that last sentence? What does the noble Lord suggest is good for their Gurkha morale in serving on Salisbury Plain? It was never good for my morale.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord is not a Gurkha. I believe that the last occasion on which a Gurkha battalion was here for some time was a great success, and the Gurkhas enjoyed it very much. If they are only going to serve in Hong Kong and in Brunei, probably they would welcome a period in which they can serve in the United Kingdom.
§ LORD CHALFONT
Yes, my Lords, I accept that. I should like to point: out that although I am not a Gurkha, being Welsh, I am a member of an oppressed minority, so I feel very strongly for the Gurkhas.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I should have thought that the noble Lord would feel very much at home on Salisbury Plain.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether this has been cleared with the Home Office? Will they be allowed to get into this country?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
So far as I know, my Lords, they will. I should like to mention one other area of the Ministry of Defence's business which my noble friend Lord Napier referred to, and that is the overheads of the Forces, especially in headquarters in this country. My predecessor began the task of streamlining, and if it will not upset noble Lords too much I should like to give him full credit for what he did. I believe that there is more to be done, and we have to make the greatest possible economies if our scarce resources of money and uniformed manpower are to be used to the best advantage.
The record of the Ministry of Defence in cutting down staff in recent years has been good, especially when it is contrasted with the expansion in Whitehall generally. Since 1964—a date which I remember very well—some thousand posts have been cut out of the Ministry itself, and others have been moved out 578 of London. Another 2,000 have been saved in (Command Headquarters and, taking the complete, global picture—and this is, of course, accounted for to some extent by the rundown around the world—some 70,000 civilian staff, including 28,000 United Kingdom staff, have been reduced. Even so, that is not the full story. With the shortage of uniformed manpower civilians have to carry out as many tasks as possible in order to concentrate Service people in fighting units. Since 1964 civilian staffs have taken over 6,000 posts that were previously filled by uniformed personnel. So the real reduction in United Kingdom staff has been about 34,000 over the past six years. I do not think that that is at all a bad story in a Ministry which very often gets blamed for having a grossly over-inflated headquarters.
We have to go on with this process of reducing overheads and increasing management efficiency, and the Committee which was set up last year under Sir James Dunnett to study the headquarters organisation both of the Ministry and the Commands has already done a great deal of useful work, and is still going on with that work. Several noble Lords talked about the Territorial Army, notably my noble friend Lord Thurlow, who accused me—rather surprisingly—of being "anti-Generals" and said that I despise them. I assure him that nothing is further from the truth. As an acting-temporary-unpaid major during the War I have nothing but admiration for Generals, and still have a distressing tendency—even at this late stage—to stand to attention when I see red tabs and a red hat.
The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, who I know is unable to be in his place at this hour, said a lot of useful things about the Territorial Army. I am anxious to listen to all that can be said about the expansion of the Territorial Army and now it should be carried out. All that we have done so far is to lay down the broad framework. I am only too keen to listen not only to the Territorial Council and to serving officers but to any of your Lordships, or anybody else, who feel they have something to offer in this respect. I note particularly the remarks of my noble friend behind me with regard to yeomanry and drill halls.
579 The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, asked me about the C5 aircraft and what we were proposing to do about its replacement. I do not think that there is any particular urgency at this moment about the replacement. The Britannia, as he said, will have to be replaced after 1975. We need not make up our minds at this moment what that particular replacement should be. It may well be, as he indicated in his speech, that it ought not to be an aircraft quite so large as the C5. We must see as the years go on what types of aircraft are available and then make up our minds how we should replace the Britannia.
My noble friend Lord Napier referred to the size of the tail in Singapore which he and my noble friend Lord Crawshaw were both rather shocked at. It is precisely for this reason that I am anxious that there should not grow up as a result of our much more modest presence in Singapore a very large tail. It is for that reason that I think we should examine very carefully with our Australian and our New Zealand colleagues ways and means of sharing the logistic burden and of cutting down the size of the headquarters there, because I agree with him that this is extremely important. I think the current trendy phrase is that "one must present a low profile". Well, we shall certainly try to do that. He also asked me whether or not the battalion in Singapore would be accompanied. What we intend is that all those who are actually stationed in Singapore, rather than visiting, passing through, should be accompanied, because the Australian and New Zealand troops will be accompanied, and I think it would be out of the question that British troops should be in a different situation from the Australians and the New Zealanders.
My noble friend Lord Ampthill—and I am grateful to him for what he said about me personally—spoke about what was to happen to the Phantoms and the Buccaneers when they were disembarked from "Ark Royal" and from "Eagle". They will be stationed in air bases round the United Kingdom, and the Royal Air Force are confident of their ability to do the job which they have been asked to do. I share with him, on another subject, his slight unease about torpedo develop- 580 ments. This is something we are looking into urgently in my Department.
My noble friend Lord Mottistone suggested that we should postpone the date of paying off "Eagle". But, of course, the difficulty here is that one really must have plans about manpower, and it is necessary to set a date when "Eagle" should be paid off. I will look more closely into the suggestion he has made about continuing "Eagle" as an alternative aircraft carrier, but I must tell him that this would really be a very expensive operation. Not only can she not at the present time fly Phantoms, but she needs a very extensive refit which we should have to take into account when making up our minds whether or not it was possible to do this.
Several noble Lords—the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Chalfont, and others—have asked me about the commitment in South-East Asia. I think noble Lords will know that under Article I of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement the United Kingdom undertakes to afford to the Government of the Federation of Malaya—now, of course, Malaysia; and the agreement is now also considered to be inclusive for Singapore—such assistance as that Government may require for the external defence of its territory. That is a very firm and bilateral commitment, to come to the assistance of Malaysia in the event of an external attack or threat of attack on the country. Our allies have accepted our view that this kind of commitment is no longer in line with present-day realities and that it must be replaced by one in which the three external Powers will have the same commitments towards Malaysia and Singapore, and in which all the five partners in the Alliance will consult together but will remain free to decide what action it would be appropriate for each one to take in the particular circumstances. There will be no veto and no majority vote. And, as I have said, the Command arrangements have still to be worked out in detail. Broadly, however, they will reflect the consultative nature of the new commitment as I have described it.
Incidentally, if I may say so, I really do not understand the insistence of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Selkirk, who knows more about that part of the 581 world than perhaps any other Member of your Lordships' House, and my noble friend Lord Gridley and the noble Lord, Lord Segal—on the idea that a British military presence in South-East Asia would somehow be provocative. That is certainly not the opinion of the leaders of the nations in South-East Asia, who take exactly the opposite point of view.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I make the point which I tried to make in my earlier remarks: that, although the views of the countries concerned in this agreement are interesting and even important, it is not they who are going to be provoked. What I have suggested—and I think it a perfectly valid argument to put forward—is that the presence of foreign troops in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, in areas like South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf, about which I make a similar argument, is more likely to be provocative of trouble than a deterrent to it. It may be that noble Lords opposite do not agree with that; I can understand their difference of view. But I ask the noble Lord to believe that it is a valid argument which is held by a great number of people both from the political and from the military point of view.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not for one moment suppose that the noble Lord does not hold that view sincerely—of course not; but from my point of view I would rather take the advice of those who live in that area and the Governments of the people in that area as to whether or not our presence was provocative. It seems to me that they are likely to be much better judges of what is provocative on their own soil than noble Lords who sit in this House. As I pointed out in July, I think, to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, he is really rather inconsistent, because if he carries that view to its logical conclusion there would be no Five-Power defence arrangements at all in the area, which my predecessor, and his Government, strove so hard to create in order to fill the gap which would have been left by their own decision to withdraw British forces. Indeed, they welcomed the fact that Australia and New Zealand were retaining forces in that area. So I think the noble Lord is, if I may say so with no kind of a sting, a little at odds with some of his own Party on this matter.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am sorry to keep interrupting and I will try to keep this intervention brief. I would also ask the noble Lord to remember that when wasps sting they die shortly afterwards.
§ LORD CHALFONT
I thought it was wasps as well. The point I am making is simply a point of physical presence. Five-Power agreements—yes. And even the ability to intervene in a certain situation from outside—yes. The point I am making, and I hope that the noble Lord will take it, is that it is the presence of troops on the ground, especially of foreign troops, in areas like South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf, which may be provocative.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
But, my Lords, the Australian and New Zealand troops were on the ground. I am afraid I do not understand the noble Lord's intervention. I hesitate to disappoint him, but I really am feeling remarkably well and as I understand that wasps do not die anyway, it is all right.
The noble Lord asked me a great many questions. I am sorry to concentrate on him, but I hope he wants the answers, and I apologise if I am taking rather a long time. He asked a number of questions about the revised plans for the Jaguar. It had been planned to use these aircraft to replace the Gnat and the Hunter for the advanced flying training of pilots going on to fly fast jet aircraft. As your Lordships know, the Jaguar is supersonic, and it has equipment representative of advanced frontline aircraft. Pilots would therefore have been introduced at a relatively early stage to an aircraft comparable with those in Squadron service. The essence of the new plans for advanced flying training is that pilots will in future graduate to the more advanced frontline aircraft, such as the M.R.C.A., through a first squadron tour on a less complicated aircraft, and the extra front line Jaguar squadrons which we are planning to form will provide greater opportunities for them to do this. We shall of course need a new trainer, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, for what can then be a less advanced stage of non-operational flying training. This will be very much less expensive than 583 the Jaguar and its cost has been fully taken into account in our calculations. There are a number of ways of meeting this requirement. Both the main British aircraft companies have projects and there are also a number of European projects, but we have not yet finally decided which of the alternatives to use.
My Lords, may I for one moment return to the Defence budget. I do not wonder that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, looks uneasy. I am sorry that noble Lords have had some difficulty in following what I have said. I do not wish to be in the least provocative about this but I wish to explain exactly what I mean. The long-term costings are an estimate of the costs over the years ahead of the actual plans of the Governments of the day. They are none the less real for not being published, and it is no good (if I may say so) the noble Lord, Lord Byers, accusing me of a sleight of hand because they do not appear in a White Paper published by the previous Government. The actual plans which I inherited from the Labour Government were estimated to cost several hundred million pounds more in the years ahead (and I am not talking about next year) than the allowances which the previous Administration made for them in their wider economic plans. There was a big gap between the plans of the previous Administration and the financial targets set for their fulfilment.
To reconcile the two would undoubtedly have posed the previous Government with a very great problem, and having studied that problem myself on taking office I am bound to say that I do not know how they would have overcome it. However, the estimated costs of the previous Government's defence programme were also considerably more than we thought it would be right to allow in our economic plans, for the reasons that I gave in my opening speech. We have therefore cut that programme, but we have not cut it back to what, if Cmnd. 4234 is to be believed, the Labour Government would have done. We have raised our sights compared with what I imagine theirs would have been. The plain fact is that all three Services will receive a substantial increase in their capability, which will also be of considerable benefit to NATO.
584 My Lords the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, suggested that there would be an addition, if not to our existing forces then to our planned forces, in order to support the military presence in South-East Asia. But this is not so. As I have said, we are not planning to add to the forces which we have inherited from the previous Administration, except in so far as the Jaguar squadrons and the Territorials are concerned. We shall be taking exactly the same forces in total as they would have had, but we shall be deploying a small part of them differently. And this will also apply to the Nimrods, about which the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, asked me.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue a little with this. I shall not be long, and then I will sit down and allow the noble Lord to interrupt. We are concerned only with the extra cost of that deployment, which is, as the White Paper says, between £5 million and £10 million—indeed, the only extra forces we have planned to raise are the 10,000 additional reservists in the T. & A.V.R. Group A and the new reserve armoured car regiment, and this will cost about £6 million a year.
Even the "Ark Royal" will be manned very largely by paying off H.M.S. "Lion", and the remainder of the men required for her will be found from elsewhere within the Navy's current manpower. Her aircraft will come from those which the Royal Navy would otherwise have handed over to the Royal Air Force. Again, therefore, we are talking only about an extra cost of about £3 million a year to keep on "Ark Royal". The extra Jaguar squadrons will be financed by using resources released by the changes in our flying training programme.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord is talking about hundreds of millions of pounds. I am not sure to which year he is referring. It cannot be 1974–75, because Cmnd. 4234 produces no figure for that year, although that is the only one where there is apparently a big saving on the original long-term costing. For the year 1973–74 the previous Government had arrived at 585 no figure at all; they had merely carried forward the previous years' figures. For the year 1972–73—and even then the Cmnd. 4234 figure is provisional—the difference is £70 million, and consequently the noble Lord has come down a bit below that. For 1971–72 they have in fact picked the precise figure that the previous Government had.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, if you project into 1974–75 the same figure in Cmnd. 4234, I think the difference between the long-term costings and Cmnd. 4234 over the years was something in the region of £350 million.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
But Cmnd. 4234 had no long-term figure at all for the year 1974–75. I think a little more "prep." would help the noble Lord.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
It is not a question of "prep." As the noble Lord's Government projected the same figure over and over again and called it provisional, I have done the same; and this seems a reasonable thing to do.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Perhaps the noble Lord would read paragraphs 32 and 33 again. I do think he is not being fair. However, I think we have probably taken it far enough, and the House can judge and do their own research.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords I have an idea that Members of another place will take it from here anyway, so perhaps we might leave it.
May I end by saying something about manpower? The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, referred to this, as indeed did several other noble Lords. There is no doubt that we face an unfavourable and very difficult recruiting situation. The main recruiting field for the Services consists of the 15 to 24-year-olds who are fit and available for employment. Generally speaking, we recruit more men from the younger age group, 15 to 19. As a man gets older he gets domestic commitments which may discourage him from undertaking the obligations, as well as the adventures, of a Service career. The size of this field is declining; and we shall lose an age group where it hurts us most, at the younger end of the scale, on the raising of the school-leaving age. As more and more young men go on to higher education, as my noble friend Lord Balerno said, they will cease to 586 be available to join the Services until they reach an age when they have married and have other responsibilities.
Over the last four years the proportion of these young men in the 15 to 24 age groups, fit and available for employment, who have been recruited to the Armed Forces has averaged 1.1 per cent. If we are to meet our average annual requirement in the long term for something over 40,000 male other rank recruits, we need to raise that percentage to 1.4. The increase may not sound very high, but it represents an improvement of a quarter. Moreover, since the age group from which we mainly recruit spans ten years, and we are seeking to recruit at the rate of 1.4 per cent. a year, this means that about 14 per cent. of each generation must join as recruits at some time between 15 and 24 if we are to make good our targets. We also have to bear in mind that in order to obtain a given number of recruits we need, in the light of experience, to obtain something like three times as many applications.
This is not the complete picture. I have been talking so far of other ranks. It would be quite wrong to say that all is well with officer recruitment. I listened to what my noble friend said and I was most interested in and will study his suggestions. But we are not getting enough engineers for the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force, Sandhurst is short, and in all the Services there are shortages in particular categories. There is, in addition, the question of the terms of engagement, and the Report of the Donaldson Committee will have a bearing on this. I do not believe there is any instant solution or brilliant new idea which is going to solve the problem.
As regards pay, unlike my noble friend Lord Bourne, I believe that the new Forces' pay structure, the military salary, is first rate, and I give the noble Lords opposite credit for that. We have to examine the whole body of conditions of Service life and try to eliminate those areas which tend to put Service life at a disadvantage compared to other careers. Above all, we must see that the Serviceman's job is properly recognised and that the importance of defence is understood by everyone in this country. I agree, too, with my noble friend Lord Bourne that it is not only comparable service but it is also adventure and excitement that the 587 young man wants. This is the sphere on which I think we ought to concentrate. May I say, too, that I have not exactly got a "think tank", but I have got a number of exercises going on, and I hope that some useful ideas will be produced. Examinations into the structure of engagement about which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, spoke may produce something helpful.
My Lords, as I have said before on many occasions, perhaps the most important of all the responsibilities of a Government and a nation is to ensure the safety and security of those who live in it, for without that security nothing else is possible—no social advancement, no increase in material prosperity. And it is on the competence and the wellbeing and the morale of the men and women in the Forces that we ultimately rely.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.