§ 2.44 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE (LORD CARRINGTON) rose to move, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1971. The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will perhaps have noticed on the list of speakers that I am, with your Lordships leave, proposing to wind up this debate as well as to open it. But I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I made it clear that I shall confine myself on the second occasion only to answering questions which noble Lords have put to me during the course of the debate, and not seek to make another speech or to reserve some part of my comments on the White Paper until the end of the debate.
§ This is the second White Paper on Defence that I have presented to Parliament in the last five months. Let me make it absolutely clear that, though I am in favour of increased productivity, I do not intend to maintain this rate of production. I might add, in passing, that this year's White Paper is 30 pages shorter' than its predecessors—that is about 25 per cent.—and it costs 7½p less than the 1971) edition. The information in it is as comprehensive, but is more concisely and briefly expressed. Altogether it is another good example of Conservative cost/effectiveness.
§ The White Paper of last October was designed to set out the Government's objectives in defence policy and the major decisions that we had taken to amend and reverse the defence programme we had inherited. I therefore make no apology for the lack of dramatic surprises in this White Paper—indeed, this is precisely what I intended. In the past six years the Armed Forces have had more than enough of chop and change, withdrawal, retrenchment and reduction. And the aim of the defence policy of the present Administration is one of consolidation and stability: consolidation in the sense that we are making solid progress with putting into effect decisions we have already announced; stability in the sense that, having set their Defence objectives, the Government aim to maintain a stable point in pursuit of them. I hope we shall never return to the situation 1063 where the Services apprehensively wait to see in the White Paper where the axe will next fall.
§ My Lords, it is of very great importance that we should remain steadfastly on our course and that we should reinforce the confidence of our Armed Forces. For I believe that the situation about us in the world to-day contains much which we should find worrying. I should like to start my remarks by saying why I take this view. There are of course many factors contributing to the prevailing instability of so much of the world. There are the tensions and strains in the Middle East; the continuing conflict and dangerous uncertainties about the future in the Far East; the growing power of China, slowly emerging from its cultural revolution, but also concerned to spread its influence more widely, particularly among the non-aligned countries (of which Tanzania provides perhaps the best example); and the sinister growth of urban terrorism and international lawlessness, with increasing resort to kidnapping and hijacking.
§ But the largest and most perilous single factor continues to be the military expansion of the Soviet Union. Coming back, as I have done to the defence world after eight years, and now that I have had a few months in office in which to see the position in some detail, I am more and more convinced that the dangers we face are greater and not less. If we look first at the field of strategic nuclear weapons we see that the Russians are aiming at parity with the Americans and are well on the road towards it. It may be argued that because they are so terrible these weapons will never be used by either side. But one does not have to disagree with that hypothesis in order to find the thought of a neck-and-neck nuclear arms race deeply disturbing. The strategic arms limitation talks offer hope of a check on this race; but they also mark a stage of development in the confrontation between the super-Powers which has significant implications for Western Europe.
§ The European members of NATO can no longer take comfort in the massive superiority in strategic nuclear weapons of the United States. The nuclear guarantee is still there but its credibility will 1064 depend increasingly on the maintenance by NATO of its capacity to deploy well-equipped conventional forces in adequate numbers. It is an essential part of the Soviet Union's policy to improve its conventional as well as its strategic nuclear forces. Over the last five years defence and defence-related expenditure of the Soviet Union has risen in real terms by about 6 per cent. a year, on average; and of this expenditure about half has been devoted to conventional forces.
§ Relative force capabilities are difficult to assess in a definitive way: but there can be no argument that the Warsaw Pact is numerically superior to NATO in several important areas, notably tanks and tactical aircraft. In NATO'S central region there are at present more than 60 Warsaw Pact divisions confronting about 23 divisions, or their equivalent, on the NATO side, and 3,500 Warsaw Pact tactical aircraft confronting 1,500 on the NATO side. The NATO forces provide a critically thin coverage over an 800 mile front, bearing in mind that the initiative would lie with the aggressor in choosing its point of attack, and that NATO is committed to a forward defence to avoid loss of territory.
§ In recent years NATO has become more and more aware of the threat to the flanks of the Alliance where both in the North and the South the NATO area has a common border with the Soviet Union. The most striking growth in recent Soviet activity has been in the Mediterranean. Five years ago the maximum number of Soviet naval vessels was 5 surface ships, 5 submarines and 10 auxiliaries. In 1970, on the latest assessment, this had risen to 30 surface ships—that is, warships—10 submarines and 25 auxiliaries. These forces have been deployed throughout the Mediterranean.
§ But it is not sufficient for NATO to extend its military concern merely from the central region to the flanks. The world-wide and increasing manifestations of Soviet military power compel the Alliance to take an even broader view. The Soviet activities are political as well as military: but a major factor has been the emergence of the Soviet Navy as a global force. The Soviet Fleet is now second in size only to that of the United States. Its outstanding features are the very large and modern submarine element (including about 70 1065 boats which have been built in the last five years), the sophisticated missile armament of its surface ships (over 25 of which have been built in the same period), and the very large number of intelligence-gathering vessels. The major fleet exercise which the Russians held in early 1970, carried out in the Atlantic and beyond, demonstrated in the fullest sense that the Soviet Navy had reached the status of a global sea Power. Moreover, the Soviet Navy is backed by what is now a huge merchant fleet.
§ This naval power has recently been extended into the Indian Ocean, where five years ago there were no Soviet vessels at all. In 1970 there were for a period 7 surface warships, at least 4 submarines and 9 auxiliaries. We as a nation, depend so heavily for our livelihood upon the shipping lanes across the Indian Ocean, as well as having such substantial interests around its shores, that we can watch this expansion only with growing concern. In short, my Lords, we are witnessing in many areas of the world, and in particular in the developing and hitherto non-aligned areas, an attempt by the Soviet Union to extend its influence—partly through that classic instrument of an expansionist diplomacy, a growing military presence in the areas concerned and in this case a growing naval presence. And this, a country which has appointed itself the great denouncer of imperialism!
§ My Lords, the Russians have not achieved this massive build-up of their fleet and their military strength generally without a vast expenditure of money and resources. Bearing in mind all the other heavy burdens which the Soviet economy has to bear they can hardly have gone in for such expenditure without the most careful reasoning. We are entitled to wonder what that reasoning is. They have certainly not been doing it for fun.
§ My Lords, I have painted a sombre background for our discussion to-day of British defence policy. I believe it is right to do so; for it is no good deluding ourselves that the strategic situation is other than what it is. I am not seeking to rattle any sabers: even less am I trying to justify an imperial role for Britain in the 1970s. My purpose is to set the 1066 current scene realistically, as the Government have had to view it for the purpose of determining how they should shape their own defence policy with the resources they have available. It is a scene of contrast. On the one hand we see a coherent Soviet policy composed of potentially aggressive strands: for example, their apparent intention to station naval units in Cuban waters; the rough tactics they follow in surveillance of Western naval activities; recent attempts to interfere with access in Berlin. On the other hand, we have the Western Alliance, exposed to political divisions which did not exist several years ago and with a downward trend in defence spending; in general unwilling to look outside the narrow confines of the NATO area, and subject to pressure in the social and economic fields which give defence a comparatively low priority in national policies.
§ In his last Defence White Paper, my predecessor concluded that NATO'S conventional forces at their current level were just sufficient for making sense of the Alliance's strategy of flexibility in response, although there was need for improvements in quality and equipment. This assessment still applies twelve months later, but I should not like to predict that it is a judgment that will remain valid in the years ahead. It will become open to question if the disparity continues between the upward trend in defence expenditure in real terms in the Warsaw Pact countries and the downward trend in the European NATO countries. The onus is on the European members of NATO not only to maintain and improve the present levels of their military contributions, but to prepare for the time—which may, and I think will, be some way off—when they will inevitably have to take over from the United States a bigger share of the common defence burden.
This, then, is the situation in which the Government decided to set the objective of
resuming, within her resources, a proper share of the responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world".
I shall say something later about that. First, just a word about resources. My Lords, it is obvious that in defence we cannot ignore the question of the resources likely to be available in making
our plans. Of our total defence expenditure in 1971–72, some 52 per cent. goes to provide manpower, 31 per cent. to provide equipment, and 17 per cent. the remaining smaller items (that is, works expenditure and so on). Both the major items, equipment and manpower, are subject to their own pressures: increasing complexity naturally forces up equipment costs. Very broadly, it costs between two and five times as much to re-equip an Army unit now as it did ten years ago, even discounting inflation. At the same time the G.N.P. has risen by only a little over a quarter. Manpower costs also rise, since pay rates, military and civil, must keep pace with their counterparts elsewhere. Of course, we seek higher productivity from our manpower where we can: the White Paper describes some of the areas and the work being done in this field, but that is necessarily limited. However, the scope for offsetting higher manpower costs in this way is, in defence, necessarily limited.
§ So there are pressures on the Defence Budget from within and without, and we have to try to steer the best middle course between them. I should say, in passing, that it is interesting to compare the course we have chosen with that of our allies. Despite the pressures I have mentioned, 1970 figures show that, whether measured by percentage of G.N.P. taken by defence (in this category the highest country being Portugal) or by defence expenditure per head, our effort is the second highest among the European members of NATO.
§ I should like now to go on to say something about what is being done to translate into positive action the Government's determination that Britain should assume, within her resources, her proper share of responsibility for preserving peace and stability around the world. As your Lordships can see from the section in Chapter I which I have called "Western Security", the Government have not followed their predecessor's practice of dividing the world into "Europe" and "outside Europe". That, in our view, is an illogical and unrealistic distinction in the light of the global character and the increasing scale of Soviet military expansion. As I have already suggested, we take the view that it is right that a global view should be 1068 taken of the threat and what is required by way of the Western response. In practical terms this means that we must be ready, in association with our allies, to deploy our forces outside Europe, as well as inside Europe, as part of the deterrent to aggression and as a contribution to stability.
§ We have made clear, both in the Supplementary White Paper and in this one, that NATO remains the first priority of our defence policy. Britain's security rests on the strength of the North Atlantic Alliance, and it is in recognition of this that we commit by far the greater part of our military forces to the Alliance. And, as your Lordships will remember, since this Government took office we have further increased our forces contribution to NATO. These forces are all directly relevant to NATO's most urgent requirements, and in addition they provide a major contribution to the European Defence Improvement Programme which was put together by the Euro Group within NATO at the end of last year. Valued at 1,000 million dollars over the next five years, this Programme will consist of a mixture of force improvements by member countries and an extra contribution to NATO infrastructure funds for two important projects: the NATO Integrated Communications System and the aircraft shelter programme.
§ As your Lordships will know, following discussions between the British and German Governments, we have now decided to contribute our full proportionate share—which is £32½ million—to the infrastructure part of the programme, which will amount in all to some £175 million over the next five years. That decision has been made possible by the satisfactory progress which has been made in negotiating a new agreement to replace the Anglo-German Offset Agreement due to expire at the end of March. As a result, Britain, in common with other major European countries, is making a very substantial contribution both of Forces and of money to the improvement programme. The European Defence Improvement Programme itself is, I think, an impressive first step towards showing that Europe is prepared to take its own defence seriously. Certainly Mr. Laird, the American Secretary 1069 for Defence, at the Defence Policy Committee in Brussels last December, welcomed it very warmly when he repeated President Nixon's undertaking to maintain and improve United States' forces in Europe and not to reduce them except in the context of reciprocal East/West action, provided that the European allies followed a similar course.
§ Britain's interests are worldwide, and I have already said that I do not think we can confine ourselves to the NATO area. In this respect, the Government differ from the policy which was pursued by our predecessors. The prime example of that is the establishment of Five-Power defence arrangements in the Malaysian and Singapore area. Our decision to keep British Forces in the area after the end of 1971 was announced in my Supplementary Defence White Paper, and it has been debated both in this House and in another place; and I do not want to repeat what was said on those occasions.
§ As the White Paper says, the five nations have made good progress towards the establishment of the new defence arrangements. A very useful meeting of senior officials was held in Singapore in January; and a meeting of Ministers will take place on April 15 and 16 in London. I am confident that we shall achieve our objective that Ministers at this meeting should set the seal on the new arrangements, which will then come into force towards the end of the year. The good progress we have made confirms my view of the welcome that was given to our proposals by the other four countries.
§ The British Jungle Warfare School will become a Malaysian establishment at the end of this year. There will be discussions between Malaysia and her partners about arrangements for our Forces and those of the other nations concerned to train at the School and elsewhere in Malaysia. The great importance of jungle training within the new defence arrangements is fully recognised by all concerned. Senior officials reached agreement on the proposals to be put to Ministers on the political framework for the new defence arrangements; on the establishment of an Air Defence Council, which will be responsible for the functioning of the future integrated air defence system; 1070 and on the outline of future arrangements for regular consultation between the five Governments. Until these proposals have been endorsed by Ministers of the five countries it would not be appropriate for me to give further details, but I think that very satisfactory progress is being made.
§ Two further new announcements were made in the White Paper, both concerning our Naval Forces: first, that we have decided that these Forces should include a sixth frigate or destroyer, and second, that the Australian Government have decided that the Royal Australian Navy should provide a submarine in the Singapore area for most of the year; and we have agreed to assist by contributing one submarine to the Australian squadron. Just before leaving the subject of the Far East and Forces in that area, I would remind your Lordships that our Forces on the spot will not be our only contribution to the new defence arrangements. From 1972 onwards there will be a very considerable number of visits by other combat units for maritime, jungle and air training, and we believe that that is an important part of our contribution. Lastly on this subject, your Lordship; will have noted the decision to set up an integrated command for British, Australian and New Zealand Forces. While the details of this command have to be finally settled it has Teen agreed that the Joint Force Commander should be at 2-star level and that the post should first be held by an Australian officer. Below him there will be Naval, land and air components, and we have been asked to provide the first land force commander.
§ As regards the Gulf, your Lordships will know that Sir William Luce has recently undertaken a new round of discussions with the Rulers. The Government are at present considering Sir William Luce's report. I hope that it will be possible to announce the Government's policy decision on the Gulf to your Lordships very soon. In the Indian Ocean we still have national responsibilities. Furthermore, as I suggested earlier, the area is one of great importance to Britain, both because of the trade routes and because of our lines of communication with the Far East: the important staging posts at Gan and Masirah, and the Naval communications station in Mauritius. To these will shortly be 1071 added the small communications facility which, by agreement with the Government, the United States will be building on the island of Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory. This should provide a useful addition to the facilities in the area; and the Royal Navy will be contributing some personnel towards the running of it.
§ My Lords, I have already spoken of the growing Russian presence in the Indian Ocean and of the concern with which we view it. The signs are clear enough. The Russians are increasing their options in the area at the expense of ourselves and other countries with vital interests there. To allow their presence to go completely unmarked will give them useful political, as well as strategic, benefits; and we must certainly maintain continued vigilance in the area. Our decision to continue to station Naval forces and long-range reconnaissance aircraft in the area after 1971 will enable us to do this; and the continued availability of the Naval facilities at Simonstown will, of course, be of considerable importance in this context.
§ As regards the supply of arms to South Africa, the Government have explained their legal obligations in the White Paper laid before another place and before your Lordships; and my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary announced on Monday that we are prepared to issue export licences for Wasp helicopters, should the South African Government wish to purchase them, as well as for certain spare parts. The question of further arms sales is one which we must reserve for consideration in the light of British interests at the time when it arises.
§ My Lords, sitting in Whitehall and trying to solve the multitude of problems which arrive on one's desk, it is easy to become detached from the human realities of defence and from the Servicemen upon whom the running of the machine depends. It is therefore very refreshing sometimes to be able to get out of Whitehall and to see the Services getting on with their day-to-day work. In the last nine months or so I have made a number of such visits. Service morale is not—and rightly not—a Party political issue. Noble Lords on both sides 1072 of the House have a very real interest in its preservation and, whenever possible, its improvement. But I do believe that the reassurance we have been able to give the Services during our first months in office, after the policy of retrenchment and withdrawal, has meant that they can come to expect some guarantee of stability; and this has been a valuable shot in the arm. It has enhanced their belief in what they are doing and in the significance of their role in the life of the nation.
§ Your Lordships need only look at Chapter II of the White Paper to see how extensively they have been used over this past year, but I wish to-day to pay particular tribute to the Servicemen in Northern Ireland. I visited that Province at the end of January, and during my stay I was able to visit a number of units and to talk to a number of men who have been undertaking, with great forbearance, what must be one of the most unpleasant tasks the British Army has been called upon to perform. There can be few prospects so utterly depressing and so potentially demoralising as to have to carry out one's duties in the face of intense hostility and provocation from some of one's own countrymen. Our soldiers in Northern Ireland are mainly very young men. As the need for emergency reinforcement has arisen, many of them have been separated from their families at short notice and have had to live in makeshift accommodation during their tours of duty of up to four months in Northern Ireland. For their own safety they have been placed under severe restrictions in their off-duty periods. They have been accused of partiality by members of both communities. They have been confronted by jeering women and stone-throwing children. And in spite of all this they have remained exemplary in their courage, their good humour and their patience and their restraint.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I have no qualms whatever about the quality of the men and women in our Armed Forces. But I wish I could say the same about their numerical strength. The manpower situation which the Government inherited is described in some detail in Chapter IV of Cmnd. Paper 1073 4592, the Statement on the Defence Estimates. The previous Government planned to reduce the Forces from a total of 417,000 Servicemen and women in 1967 to 350,000 in 1974. But their calculations left out of account the steep fall in recruiting which accompanied the successive announcements of cuts and which was, in my view, in large measure caused by them. Fortunately for the interests of the country, recruitment has taken an upturn. In the last calendar year, 38,000 male other ranks were recruited, compared with 34,300 in the financial year 1969–70, and the total for the year 1970–71 just ending will be close to the general level which prevailed before the cuts. But there is still a substantial backlog to be made up, and it is important that there should be a further improvement in the coming year. Did the noble Lord wish to interrupt?
§ LORD PARGITER
My Lords, if the noble Lord would like an intervention I wonder whether he would say what is the relationship between the rate of unemployment and recruitment.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not think it is very significant. I believe that it marginally affects the rate of recruiting, but if one studies the figures over the years, and even before the war, one finds that it did not have such a large effect on the rate of recruiting as one might expect.
My Lords, some people have dismissed our policy as a policy of general exhortations and pious hopes. But it is not; it is a policy of close attention to detail. We are well aware that we are competing for our recruits in the market place, and we shall not get them unless we can offer them terms which will bear favourable comparison with what they could obtain from other employers. Every aspect of Service conditions must be and is being studied to ensure that, so far as is possible, it is acceptable to the recruit whom we are hoping to attract or to the man or woman already in the Service whom we hope to retain. Whether we 1074 shall be fully successful remains to be seen. Much depends on recruiting and prolongation trends over the next year or so. But I believe our approach to be the right one, and we must now give it time to prove itself.
In passing, I should like to mention a valuable and sometimes overlooked source of manpower; namely, the Cadet Forces. It is estimated that between 17 and 20 per cent. of recruits to the three Services are former cadets, and because of the valuable link they provide between the Services and civilian society we are very much alive to their needs. Your Lordships will be aware from the Statement on the Defence Estimates that, with one exception, we have accepted the recommendations of the Committee which carried out a wide-ranging examination of the Army Cadet Force. But, my Lords, we can take advantage of our all-Regular Forces only if their skill and training, which I believe to be the best in the world, is matched by their equipment. But excellence in the field of equipment is very expensive. As I have already said, the complexity and technical sophistication of modern weapon systems has raised the cost of developing and manufacturing them to daunting proportions, and the greatest care and ingenuity are needed to ensure that the money available for equipment is spent to the best advantage. We shall certainly continue to pay very close attention to that aspect of defence planning.
My Lords, the problem of undertaking major re-equipment projects within limited budgets is not confined to this country. There is a strong incentive to share the costs of development and production of a weapons system with one or more Allies who have a similar operational requirement. In this context I would say—and noble Lords will probably expect me to say—something about the effect of the collapse of Rolls-Royce on collaboration with our Allies. We have already debated the general issues, and the intentions of the Government are clear. We are determined that there shall be no interruption of work in progress and that all defence contracts, including those related to collaborative projects, shall continue unchecked. Our partners know this, and I appreciate their ready acceptance of our assurances. I have no 1075 doubt that their confidence will be reinforced by the names of the directors of the new company which my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation Supply announced yesterday.
My Lords, I have spoken for long enough. I have tried to give you a picture—not, I fear, a very cheerful one—of how I see the world to-day, and to outline the defence policy of Her Majesty's Government. And in presenting to your Lordships the Statement on the Defence Estimates I have tried to give some account of my stewardship as Secretary of State during the past nine months. As I hope I have made clear, we are faced with numerous problems, not least the restraints of money and manpower within which we are obliged to work. But I think the Government can take credit for what they have done since last June: in improving our contribution to NATO: in enabling Britain to take a proper share in the maintenance of stability and of peace in the world generally; in increasing the size of our reserve forces, and in making it clear that in our view defence is something which is both respectable and important. My Lords, I believe that we have made a good start, and that is the way we shall continue. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1971.—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I should like to express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for the manner in which he has introduced his Motion this afternoon. Your Lordships' House has always taken a keen interest in defence, and defence debates are one of the occasions when noble Lords, particularly on the other side of the House, are able to remember some of their own experiences in the Services and try to seek to relate them to modern conditions. The fact that we have the Secretary of State in your Lordships' House is clearly our gain. On the other hand, I think it is fair to point out that where we gain the House of Commons loses, and they are, in the end, the paymasters and the senior House in terms of decision making.
Defence policy, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, clearly illustrated this afternoon, is a mixture of diplomacy, 1076 foreign affairs and the provision of forces. It is perhaps well to remind ourselves that defence forces broadly have three roles: first, there is the defence of the country and the protection of British interests overseas; secondly, the final fallback in an internal security position, maintaining law and order where the civil power is unable to do so; and, thirdly, the assistance given where there has been a natural disaster. There is another role, but not perhaps so well publicised, and that is rendering assistance to developing countries. I have specially in mind the services the Royal Engineers have given in Anguilla and in Thailand. In one respect I am glad to see that the force in Anguilla is being reduced. On the other hand, I cannot help but feel sorry that the amount of good the Royal Engineers are doing in Anguilla clearly will have to be less. I hope that the Secretary of State will always be anxious to see that where Royal Engineers can be made available they are made available in this type of work. The amount of good will the Royal Engineers have earned for this country overseas is truly remarkable.
In the past few weeks there have been a number of questions expressing deep concern at the position in Ulster. If one considers the long and tragic history of Ireland, one realises that the presence and the role of the Armed Forces in assisting the Civil Power could never have been an easy one. For us in England, so long free from the need for the Armed Services to assist the Civil Power except in time of natural disaster, the sight of soldiers patrolling the streets there in full battledress and carrying out house to house searches was most depressing. I have no doubt that the Labour Government were right to send troops into Northern Ireland, and I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that they must remain as long as they are needed. We on this side of the House wish to express our full confidence in the military leadership and the Forces as a whole and our belief that, despite provocation, intimidation and insult by a very small minority in Northern Ireland, they will remain compassionate and restrained in any action they may be called upon to make.
I have spoken of long memories, but how tragic that memories can also be so short! Would those who criticise 1077 our Forces in Northern Ireland remember the services rendered to the community during the floods of 1970, not only in Northern Ireland but in Pakistan, the relief work in Jordan, and again the floods in Malaysia? On any occasion when disaster strikes and the Forces are called upon to help they act with speed and efficiency, but, above all else, with compassion. Let us remember that these men are those who patrol the streets of Northern Ireland and search the houses; they are the same men, and the task they are called upon to undertake is deeply repugnant to them. Let us remember that the soldiers cannot solve the problems that underlie the situation; only the leaders of the communities in Northern Ireland, working together, can bring peace to Belfast. How that is achieved is not for to-day's debate; but let us be clear that any failure will not lie at the door of the Forces. They are there to buy time. It will be the political and religious leaders on whom the responsibilty will fall.
My Lords, we can look at the Statement on Defence from two points of view: first, what is the underlying strategy of the policy, and here one impinges on foreign affairs; and, secondly, the way in which the Government provide the manpower and the equipment. The broad thinking of policy by the new Conservative Administration towards the Alliances of NATO, CENTO and SEATO, and towards Singapore and Malaysia, seems to me to be very close to that of the previous Labour Government. In regard to the Gulf, we are still awaiting the Government decision, but here again I strongly suspect that when it is made it will be similar to the decision taken by the previous Labour Government.
The White Paper lays great stress on the continuing threat to Western security by the military growth of the Warsaw Pact countries. To provide for the security of Europe and to improve and increase the military efficiency of NATO forces is the policy that was pursued by the Labour Government. We are glad to see that the Government accept the changes in NATO strategy, for which great credit should be given to Denis Healey. The concept of flexible approach is far more credible than massive retaliation, which was once the policy of past Conservative Governments. Nuclear weapons 1078 still constitute, and will still constitute, a major part of NATO defence, but the flexible approach seeks to extend the period of conventional non-nuclear conflict before the use of nuclear weapons becomes necessary. But such a change depends upon the Alliance providing increased conventional forces. I am not certain whether the Secretary of State himself is satisfied with the progress made by NATO in the provision of conventional forces. Nor do I know whether he is yet entirely satisfied as to how our contribution in the years ahead will be made, bearing in mind the increasing difficulties I suspect the Government will face in providing manpower, and also taking into account the commitments in the Far East.
I have one serious criticism of the White Paper when it discusses Western security. It became very obvious, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in the course of his speech. It is the near complete absence of mention of disarmament or the seeking of a détente with the Warsaw Pact countries. It is true there is a paragraph on East/West negotiations. It outlines the difficulties, of which we are all too well aware, but it gives little or no indication how the Government view the future and what their policy will be. This is a serious omission from the first real White Paper on Defence from the new Administration.
The tone and presentation of the White Paper seem to me more directed to satisfying the views of Conservative Back-Benchers and grass roots opinion. It is as though "disarmament" were a dirty word, like "appeasement". Our effort, while maintaining our strength, should be to seek negotiation, the avoidance of war, and, above all else, relief from the burden of armaments. The Labour Government paid special attention to that effort. We were involved in a whole series of peace treaties seeking limitation of weapons. The Government had the privilege the other day of signing the Seabed Test Ban Treaty which was started during the period of the Labour Government. It seems to me that the present Government have not got the right priority. We had a senior Minister at the United Nations. We had a senior Minister responsible for disarmament. I do not criticise the fact that to-day at 1079 the United Nations there is a senior official, but I do question whether a Parliamentary Under-Secretary—a noble Lord for whom we have great respect, but a Minister of that rank—should be speaking for Britain at major disarmament conferences.
We on this side of the House believe that the key to progress in relations between East and West lies in Europe. We think that cautious feelers from one side to the other about the possibility of a multilateral European Security Conference offer us some prospect of a decisive change in the whole situation in Europe. It is vital that no opportunities are missed. NATO must start multilateral contacts with the Warsaw Pact and the neutral countries with a view to holding a European Security Conference before the end of 1971 or early in 1972.
We accept that any initiative has its risks. The White Paper questions whether the Russians are genuinely interested in a resolution of outstanding major problems. But the SALT negotiations are probably the most important and serious East/West negotiations that have ever taken place. There is a real impression that both America and the Soviet are deeply serious in seeking agreement on the limitation of strategic arms. If there is an initial or even a limited agreement, I strongly believe that these talks will be part of a continuing process, broadening in scope and deepening in penetration with each success. Such a rapprochement must be matched with one between Western and Eastern Europe. For this reason we must seek ways and means of bringing about a Security Conference. There are still some big differences between the Powers, but they are not incapable of being reconciled. We have already seen the initiative of Herr Willy Brandt with Poland, Eastern Germany and the Soviet Union.
Two things are important: first, that the Conference should be properly arranged and that both sides are fully prepared; and, secondly, that the NATO countries enter with a common policy, since the negotiations should be on a multilateral basis. We should not expect a short Conference. We should accept one clear lesson from SALT in our efforts to secure mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe. We must go into 1080 the talks with a solid position, maintaining our side of the military balance, otherwise we remove any incentive to make reciprocal reductions; and if we do not have confidence in our own security we shall not be prepared to contemplate concessions on our own side. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will not wish to commit the Government on a Security Conference, but we shall be glad to hear his views. However, I hope that he will confirm that Her Majesty's Government will continue the initiative of the Labour Government within NATO to prepare the ground, so that if such a Conference is possible the NATO countries will be prepared for a positive response. In brief, we must maintain the guard but be ever ready to seek the course of negotiation, however long and disheartening it may be.
My Lords, while the main commitment lies in Europe, the White Paper expresses the concern of the Government about the growing presence of Soviet naval forces in the Indian Ocean—and this was very much a part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. The White Paper stresses the threat in defence terms and the political implications on countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, and the possible consequences to our trade routes. But it must seem strange to the Government that only they and their Benches behind them believe that a major threat is involved. The credibility of the Government's case or argument is severely weakened by the suspicion, held not only in this country but also among our allies, that the reason is not military or naval necessity but the provision of an excuse for selling arms to South Africa.
The truth is that noble Lords opposite have always been consistent in their policy of supplying arms to South Africa. In the early days, in 1964, it was put in terms of trade: that if we did not supply arms it would grievously affect our trade—and this despite the fact that our trade expanded. Then came the Simonstown Agreement. This, too, was called in aid. Then, in the last twelve months or so, the reason advanced was the military or political threat in the Indian Ocean.
Let us assume that there is a military threat, my Lords. Is it really 1081 conceivable that a confrontation in the Indian Ocean would arise which had no bearing or effect on NATO or SEATO, and that in the end the United States would not be directly involved? If this threat were to occur, all the allies would be involved, and any contribution that the South Africans could make as a consequence of our arms supply would be like a fleabite on an elephant. And if there is a political threat, do noble Lords really believe that the presence of Soviet ships in the Indian Ocean will force independent countries which have recently emerged from one form of colonialism readily and easily to assume another? Let us assume for a moment that such a possibility exists. Do noble Lords opposite believe that British ships, supported by South African ships, would stop it? It may be said that South African ships are not involved; but in the eyes of Asia and Africa they will be, when Her Majesty's Government have recommenced the supply of arms to South Africa contrary to the United Nations resolution.
If there is a struggle—as there is between the Chinese, the Soviet and the West to win the hearts and minds of the countries and peoples of Asia and Africa, the outcome will not be through military pressure. If the squalor and hunger of Africa and Asia bring forth local Communist Parties no force of arms will stop that. The struggle will be won by raising the standards of the people through the outpouring of overseas aid, in greater volume than in the past, by the richer nations. This will take time. Of course these countries will take aid from China and from the Soviet—and who can blame them, when the West cannot supply that aid? Are they any different from ourselves when we welcomed the Soviet with open arms as an ally against Hitler Germany? Aid is important, my Lords. In order to win the struggle for the hearts and minds of Africa and Asia we must show that our way and our standards are better than the Communist or the Soviet or Chinese way.
If that is the situation, then the dominant issue of our time, of race and colour, has to be faced, and the issue of South Africa is the centre of the problem. I accept, and would never challenge, Lord Carrington's abhorrence of apartheid in 1082 South Africa. I think it is a good thing for a politician once in a while to place himself in the shoes of the other man. I ask noble Lords opposite to put themselves in the place of a black man in Africa. I ask them: would you view the supply of arms to South Africa as anything but support for the South African Government and their policies? And if you were a South African, would you not react as the South African Parliament and Press did and regard the announcement about recommencing the supply of arms as a diplomatic triumph for the South African Government? The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has announced the supply of seven Wasp helicopters. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whether they are being supplied under the undertaking given by the Prime Minister that they will not be used for internal security purposes?
My Lords, what is not resolved is the continued supply of arms to South Africa over and above what the British Government feel they must supply under the Simonstown Agreement. I do not know what is the reaction to the Secretary of State's Statement about the supply of helicopters; but the continued supply over and above this will have a profound effect not only in the Indian Ocean but throughout the world, and not only in terms of trade but also in the political balance. I would ask the Government, even at this late hour, to consider and to weigh up again, in purely military and political terms, the dire consequences of their policy against any marginal gain with South Africa.
I am glad to see the progress that is being made on the Five-Power defence talks in Singapore. So far as I know, they will be very similar to those which the Labour Government had in mind. It seems to me that the real difference concerns the provision of soldiers and frigates. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, what will be the position of our soldiers based in Singapore. I understand that a pledge has been given that they will not be used in an internal security role, but I am not certain whether they could be used in the event of (shall we say?) Communist groups that are now in South Thailand coming into Malaya, when one bears in mind that the majority of these terrorists are of Malayan origin. In a legal sense, one could regard that 1083 as internal security. I wonder whether the noble Lord could help me on that. In addition—and I am certain that noble Lords opposite would like to know this—do the Government intend in the next year or so to fulfil the pledge to build a fifth Polaris submarine? It seemed to me that the option quotation given by the noble Lord's Parliamentary Secretary in the other place has created a great deal of doubt.
There are two further points I wish to raise. First, there is the question of manpower. The noble Lord speaks as though he is the first Secretary of State to find a shortage of manpower. Perhaps he may remember the numbers game that noble Lords on this side of the House used to play with him when he was at the Admiralty in the Conservative Government leading up to 1964. I suspect that if it had not been for Northern Ireland he would have inherited a much easier position than did Denis Healey. That is not to say that there is no problem. If one looks at the graph on page 32 the problem, in my view, could get a good deal worse. Certainly the size of the field from which the Services are traditionally recruited is declining.
I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that on the present figures unemployment does not provide any major boost to recruiting. It is our view that the new pay structure of the Forces introduced by the Labour Government has provided the real incentive, and much of the 1970 improvement in recruitment is as a consequence. But what of the future? The Secretary of State says that improvement will come through restoring the Armed Forces to their rightful place in the life of the nation, and he speaks of confidence. Well, during the lifetime of the Labour Government we had only one Secretary of State, and I think he would be accepted as one of the best that we have had. During the previous Conservative Government I think there were some 10 or 11 in the 13 years. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will be better than average, although I must admit that I have some doubts, since I see it gossiped in the newspapers that he is being groomed for the Foreign Office.
1084 The chopping and changing of political heads of a Department can have disastrous consequences to the morale of the Department and the Services. I have no doubt at all that pay, conditions of service and a feeling that there is a real job to do will continue to be the main attraction to Service life. Here, if I may say so, I am glad that the Government have decided to proceed with giving the other ranks the balance of their increases under the military salary arrangements. This was a new and radical approach, and again a great credit to Denis Healey. I should have thought that on this point one or two words from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would have been appreciated.
I now come to the last point. I do not intend to get involved in the murky atmosphere of target figures and long-term costings, for the simple reason that I have no knowledge of what they were, and because the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has not yet published those of the present Administration. It seems that, if one takes the target figures for the four years 1971 to 1975, the present Administration targets are some £100 million higher than those of the Labour Government. This is a large figure in itself, but small when one considers the over-all figure. We have new commitments. There is this £140 million to NATO over 10 years; there is the provision of jet trainers; there is an enlarged Reserve; there will be the cost—or there may be the cost—of the Gulf on top of the forces in Singapore; there is a new ground-to-ground missile, and there is the continuation of the "Ark Royal". I think it is a reasonable guess that over-all this will amount to some £100 million a year.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said in November—and I must quote this—that he was bound to say that he could not see how the Labour Government could possibly close the gap without very serious damage to the forces' capability. That is the gap between targets and long term costings. I see from Hansard that Mr. Healey, having refreshed his memory, said in another place that the gap, so far as he was concerned, represented some £100 million. If the gap existed when Mr. Healey left office, it must, therefore, have existed on the day that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, became Secretary of State. In view of his charge, I think 1085 we are entitled to ask how the gap has been closed, if it has been closed, without endangering the forces' capability, while at the same time having accepted even heavier financial commitments. True, we had the decision not to proceed with the C.5 aircraft. I hope the noble Lord will tell us how the gap is being closed; how the economies have been made; and how it is possible, within the ceiling of public expenditure of the Labour Government, that the present Government have been able to increase their commitments.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, the principal duty of the Opposition, I have always heard, is to oppose. Therefore, we must naturally keep a very sharp look-out for any weak spots in the Defence Estimates submitted to us now by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for whom, as a person, we nevertheless all have the highest regard, and whose presence as Minister of Defence in this House we, on these Benches at any rate greatly welcome. Most of us too will, I believe, feel that the European convictions of the noble Lord will not allow him to depart substantially from the principle that Britain's main concern is, within NATO, the defence of our Continent, even though he may have political reasons for making it look as if he had at any rate partially reversed the policies of the previous Government in the area known as East of Suez.
As for the defence of Europe within NATO, we must all be happy, I am sure, that there was agreement last December on the document known as "AD 70", which we may note contemplates the use, among other things, in the event of aggression, of the so-called "theatre"—that is what use to be called tactical "—nuclear weapons. If you read it with attention, you will see that that is what the document says. I imagine that the order for the use of these weapons would be given by SACEUR, after having obtained the personal authorisation of the President of the United States. But would SACEUR be able to give this order over the declared objection of any other member, or rather any other major member, of the Alliance? It is, after all, important to be clear in what precise circumstances such weapons would be used. I should therefore be grateful if the Government would answer my two questions, because if the Russians 1086 believe that these weapons may not be used, I am afraid they might very well be tempted to go for what might be called a "nibbling-off" operation somewhere on the flanks of the Alliance—this has been suggested by one noble Lord already today—and to perform this "nibbling-off" operation with conventional weapons only.
It is also highly satisfactory that the United States Government, in the context of the paper known as "AD 70", gave a pledge—and here I quote from paragraph 14 of Chapter I—that:Given a similar approach by its allies it would maintain and improve its own forces in Europe and would not reduce them except in the context of reciprocal East-West action.I imagine that the phrase "a similar approach by its allies" means the action mentioned in the same paragraph which the ten European allies propose to take over the next five years; in other words, that this is all that the United States Administration expects in return for its pledge. But I should be grateful if that, too, could be confirmed. More importantly, however, does the American pledge—as it might appear from the context—relate to the year 1971 only, or is it of longer duration? After all, no Administration can pledge any action on the part of its successor. So is it only for 1971, or is it for some unspecified period? Here, also, I should welcome some precision on the Government's part.
Six years ago I led an assault on the Labour Government's East of Suez defence policy, maintaining that land bases in that area no longer made any sense, and asking for a substantial cut—I think I suggested much too large a cut, but that is neither here nor there—in the funds available for the maintenance of land bases. I had in mind primarily Aden and the Gulf; and I seem to recall that I admitted that, as regards Singapore, we might come to some arrangement for a common defence plan with our Commonwealth colleagues and possibly also with the Americans. We no longer have a base at Aden, and though we shall, it seems, have to wait before knowing whether we shall have any remaining presence in the Gulf, it looks very much—and here I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd—as if the correct decision of the Labour 1087 Government to clear out will not be substantially called in question. So far, so good.
But there remains Singapore and the apparent intention to activate staging facilities at Gan and Masirah—little islands in the middle of the ocean—to make use of a naval communications station in Mauritius and to help the Americans to develop what is called "a small facility" at Diego Garcia. As regards Singapore, the proposed arrangements seem on the whole sensible, though I must say it remains a little obscure against whom Malaysia is to be defended. Since our undertaking—which, as has been already mentioned, was a purely consultative one—is only as regards external aggression, we must presumably contemplate the possibility of an attack by all or any of the following countries: Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Indonesia—conceivably with the general encouragement of China in the background.
In other words, when the interesting exercise known as "Bersatu Padu"—I am afraid I do not know what that means—referred to in Chapter II, paragraph 65, was held last year, whom were the Royal Marine Commando and the Gurkha Battalion, who acted as "the enemy", meant to represent? I imagine they were supposed vaguely to be "Reds". But—and here I develop the thought of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd—might not coping with "Reds" of this sort come near to taking part in the repression of internal rebellion? And it is just this danger of being sucked into a jungle war that continues to worry us slightly in connection with the maintenance of the battalion group.
At the moment, of course, aggression by a neighbouring country seems highly unlikely; and even if some sort of communism should triumph in any of the countries mentioned, is it not probable that an offensive action would be much more likely—as I think the noble Lord Lord Shepherd, said—to take the form of an infiltration of guerrillas into Malaysia and the encouragement of internal subversion generally? Are we to assume that in such circumstances our forces would remain confined to barracks? I must say I find this rather difficult to believe. And, arising out of this point, 1088 what are the "support facilities" mentioned in Chapter I, paragraph 22, which states:British, Australian and New Zealand staffs are now planning together for the establishment of support facilities which will so far as practicable be provided on a joint basis.I should rather like to know what exactly they are, because the word "facilities" can mean anything or practically nothing.
During the last few years the strategic situation East of Suez has admittedly been changed by the arrival of a few Soviet warships, and if these can be based on, say, Aden or Socotra—or even, though I should certainly hope not, on the Seychelles or Mauritius—they might form a potential threat to our communications with the East. They will probably constitute a purely naval threat; the Russians will almost certainly not follow our example of putting land garrisons into the States in which they have these naval facilities. But it is also true that a considerable Russian presence in the Indian Ocean, if it is not countered by an equivalent Western presence, might in certain circumstances have an unfortunate effect in such places as Mogadiscio, Mombasa or Dar-es-Salaam. I do not deny that.
There may, therefore, be a case for another British frigate in the Indian Ocean, though, frankly, I do not quite see why we should not have held over the decision about another frigate until the Eight-Power Commission on the security of maritime trade routes has reported; if, indeed, after the rather unfortunate announcement last Monday, it ever manages to operate. Here we come up against the whole vexed question of arms for South Africa; and here may I just say that not only do I share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, but that, although we know that all political Parties are divided on many issues, this is an issue on which the Liberal Party, at any rate, is absolutely united. We think that even if there were a strategic reason for sending arms to South Africa, which we doubt, the arguments that any such action could be counter-productive are overwhelming. But no doubt we shall debate this issue when we come to it.
Generally speaking, I hope that we shall not be unduly alarmed by the arrival of these Soviet warships, which, 1089 as I see it, are primarily designed to show the flag and to keep the Soviet end up in what is obviously a global struggle for communist primacy between Moscow and Peking. If I were the Government I should be much more alarmed at the enormous increase in the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean, to say nothing of around these Islands and the Western approaches, than I should be about any build-up in the Indian Ocean. And since we can hardly contemplate the possibility of a conventional war—that is to say, a non-nuclear war—between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union—we must assume that our communications with the East will not be cut by a few Russian frigates and submarines in this vast area.
Let us face it, my Lords: if war does come it will be nuclear, and I fear that we should hardly be in a position to bother much about communications with anybody. All our energies would be bent on keeping some small proportion of our population alive. But even assuming per impossibile a conventional or nonnuclear war with the Soviet Union, would it not be evident that the blockade, whether of our oil or of our other supplies, would be exercised chiefly around these Islands, in the North Atlantic and the Western approaches, in which area would be assembled the whole great fleet of Soviet nuclear-powered submarines, based on the White Sea and even, if we were unlucky, on the Baltic? And since the giant tankers bringing the oil to our waters from the Gulf would be largely owned by countries other than Britain, would it not also be obvious that if the Soviet blockade were to be effective, or even if it were to be attempted, it would have to be generalised; in other words, that in such circumstances the Soviet Union would also be at war not only with America but with a great many of the countries in Western Europe and probably also with Japan?
No doubt all these possibilities have been worked out in the Ministry of Defence in war games based on computerised information. At least, I sincerely hope so. And I can only imagine that the conclusion reached is, broadly speaking, that war, if it ever did come, would be the final absurdity and would make absolutely no sense at all on the one side or the other. But, my Lords, 1090 if it really is necessary for us to increase our own Naval presence in the Indian Ocean (and I have said that I recognise that possibly another frigate might be desirable: it may be, for instance, that we fear instinctively that there might be an unheralded attack by the Soviet Union on our small force at Singapore), must we not ask ourselves whether the interests of the Free World are really best served by a continuing blockade of Beira, which does not on the face of it seem to be having any very serious effect on the rebel Government of Rhodesia?
My Lords, it is not that I or any member of the Liberal Party desires in any way to encourage Mr. Smith or do anything which would maintain him in power. If it can be shown that the blockade really does have an effect, then we should be unanimous in wishing to continue it—of course we should. But would the Government just remind us of how many British Naval vessels are now engaged on these duties, and say whether, if by any chance it were possible to relieve them of these duties, it would really be necessary to send another British frigate to the Indian Ocean at all? In any case, if the blockade were lifted—and, as I say, it would be lifted only in circumstances which would not aid Mr. Smith—might we not be able to persuade the Portuguese to give a binding undertaking that they would not send oil through Beira, through the pipeline or by other means, up into Rhodesia? I should have thought that a certain effort might have been made to persuade the Portuguese to agree, and that we might then lift the blockade.
My Lords, I have one final slight apprehension about our defence policy East of Suez; and I have given expression to it before. It is this. If things get really tense in that area and a warlike situation develops, more especially if one develops in which the super-Powers may be thought to be involved, is it certain that our air communications with Malaysia, on which we depend for reinforcing our defence contingent in accordance with our announced plan, could be maintained over a potentially hostile and, on the best assumption, neutral North Africa and Middle East? In other words, would the promised reinforcements ever be likely to arrive?
It may be said, I suppose, that Turkey would always grant us over-flying rights. 1091 I suppose they would. But could we always rely on Iran and on the Sudan so doing? I wonder. If they did not, I would ask the Government this question—it is not entirely a hypothetical question. How would they propose to reinforce any troops in Singapore? Perhaps the Government will let us know what they think would happen in those circumstances. Hardly by sending them by sea through the Suez Canal, even if the latter is ever open to military traffic. It is for this reason that I have always thought it might be in our interest (and I remember saying this in this House five or six years ago now) at least to arrange for a supplementary West-about system of air reinforcement which could be put into operation at short notice if required. Would not this be at least a wise precaution? And, in any case, should not certain supplies and stores be accumulated in, say, Darwin and in Northern Australia, just in case they were needed for use, not solely in Singapore, but perhaps elsewhere in the region where trouble might be expected?
My Lords, one final question. Somewhere in the Statement the Government say that British support for CENTO and SEATO Will continue. Now CENTO has presumably a useful role to play, if only because it is important for us to maintain direct military contact with Turkey, even though Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, and also of course with Iran, which is becoming more and more the dominant Power in the Persian Gulf. SEATO, however, does seem to be rather a shadow organisation in which the French, and even the Pakistanis, play absolutely no part—or so I am told. And how active the Filipinos are, I should not like to say.
As for ourselves, I observe from Appendix (VI) of the Estimates that our total representation in SEATO is now down to ten persons—presumably two or three junior officers and one or two clerks. Is it therefore really worth while pretending that something exists when it has effectively ceased to be? And might it not therefore be preferable for us to follow the French example and, without announcing it, not take any further part? After all, why should we run even what is a slight risk of being involved in local wars if we simply are not prepared to put 1092 our backs into the organisation? Of course, if the Government can tell me that our ten men do perform a valuable function in return for the £39,000 that they cost the taxpayer, I will take their word for it.
My Lords, it will be seen that we on these Benches do not have any fundamental objection to the Statement on Defence as such. In default of some disarmament or some mutual reduction of forces in Europe—and here may I say that I share entirely the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that greater emphasis might have been placed in the Defence Paper on the tremendous and overshadowing talks known as SALT—it is obvious that, apart from this criticism, we can proceed only on the broad lines suggested by the Minister of Defence. I myself have always believed that if only we could form some European political and defence community within the Western Alliance in which, apart from the enormous advantage of harmonising our defence policies, we could save a great deal of money by simply standardising our armaments and arranging for reciprocal facilities, it would solve many of our difficulties. I only wish we could do that, and perhaps we are now approaching a moment when these things may be possible.
Even if—which God forbid!—the present negotiations for the extension of the European Economic Community should fail, it would still be necessary—indeed, some people may say it would be even more necessary—for the Western European democracies to streamline their defensive effort. That is surely something which even the most butter-conscious of the anti-Marketeers could appreciate. If, contrary to their present apparent intention, the Americans should begin to withdraw in the next two or three years—and, after all, no Administration, as I said earlier in my speech, can bind its successor—such an effort will indeed be a condition of our survival as a free people. And even if such fell possibilities are regarded as remote, would it not be a good idea to begin to reinsure against them now? Some very sensible recommendations in this respect were made the other day in London by the Parliamentary Council of the European Movement, happily organised by Mr. Duncan Sandys, and I 1093 earnestly hope that these will not, as I am afraid is usually the case with the recommendations of Parliamentary bodies, be put straight into the wastepaper basket, but will be given serious consideration by Her Majesty's Government.
For all these reasons, my Lords, we on these Benches, while congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in whom, I repeat, we have much confidence, are only prepared to give what might be described as a qualified welcome to his Defence Estimates.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
My Lords, I am very conscious of the wealth of military experience to be found in your Lordships' House, and I therefore intervene in to-day's debate with very considerable trepidation. But I trust that your Lordships will allow me briefly to refer to those parts of Her Majesty's Government's defence effort which relate primarily to NATO, of which I have had certain recent experience. In the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970 issued, I think, in October last year, Her Majesty's Government, under the heading, "Strategic Priority", had this to say:The security of Britain rests on the strength of the North Atlantic Alliance. The maintenance and improvement of our military contribution to NATO remains the first priority of defence policy.In the 1971 Statement on the Defence Estimates which are before your Lord ships this afternoon, it is repeated in these words:Britain's basic security continues to depend on the strength of the North Atlantic Alliance.Had Lord Ismay, first Secretary General of NATO, been alive to-day he would, I am sure, have rejoiced to find 20 years later Her Majesty's Government in such forthright terms re-affirming exactly those principles for which he had fought so hard.
It is difficult in a period of détente, or so-called détente, for the people of this country and the peoples of our allies willingly to accept the burdens and sacrifices required of them in the cause of collective defence. Ideas as to future Soviet intentions may differ. Indeed, as we all know, they do differ. But whatever their future intentions may be, the hard 1094 fact remains, as is pointed out in the Paper before your Lordships this afternoon, that the Russians over the years have steadily and very significantly been increasing their military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional. While we can only guess at future Soviet intentions, their capabilities are all too clear.
These increases in Russian military capability are by no means confined to their land and air forces. The emergence of Russia as a major maritime power poses a threat, a considerable threat, to the naval forces and to the seaborne trade of the West in all the oceans of the world. And in this connectiton, let us not forget that some thirty years ago Germany so very nearly won the battle of the Atlantic—and Germany started the war in 1939 with no more than 73 submarines; whereas to-day the Soviet Union disposes, I believe, some 350 to 400 submarines, of which about a quarter are believed to be nuclear-powered.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, reminded us of Soviet naval expansion in the Mediterranean and he gave the House figures showing the significant increase between their numbers five years ago and to-day. I think that if your Lordships were to look back some ten years, it would be true to say that in the course of a year there might have been an occasional Soviet warship in the Mediterranean on passage between the Black Sea and the Baltic, and that would have been all; whereas in the year 1970, let me remind your Lordships, on any one day the number of Soviet vessels in the Mediterranean was something in the order of 40 and there were sometimes as many as 70. This is the modern equivalent of "gunboat diplomacy".
In the light of increasing Soviet military capabilities it is, I believe, important that the people of this country and of our allies, and particularly the youth of our countries, should learn to realise that in this period of détente while we search—and we are searching in the NATO context—for a just and durable peace with the East, it is essential that NATO'S military capability and its political unity should be maintained. We must negotiate from a position of strength and not from one of weakness. To do otherwise would be the height of folly.
1095 The noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Gladwyn, referred to President Nixon's recent message to the NATO Ministers gathered just before Christmas in Brussels. President Nixon felt able to reassure his partners in NATO that:Given a similar approach by her allies,"—this is the key to the pledge—the United States will maintain and improve her own forces in Europe.This pledge is of the greatest importance, since the withdrawal of any of the very considerable U.S. forces in Europe would leave a gap which European nations might well be unwilling, if not unable, to fill. But this pledge lays a very clear obligation on the European partners in the Alliance; and the response of the European partners to what is described as "AD 70" (Alliance Study on Defence Problem for the 1970s) is, I venture to suggest, of enormous importance.
It seems clear, my Lords, from what is before us in the White Paper and from what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said this afternoon, that the United Kingdom is making every effort to play its full part in the NATO military context. Not only is the percentage of gross national product devoted to defence by this country one of the highest in the Alliance, but we can, I am sure, be proud of the very high quality of the highly-professional forces, land, sea and air, which we are and have been contributing to the common defence effort. So we are, I believe, justified, if we continue our own efforts and—if that is the intention of Her Majesty's Government—if we improve our contribution to NATO, in urging our European partners to contribute in terms of manpower, in terms of money, in terms of equipment and, in particular, in terms of length of conscript service, to the maximum of their economic ability. I suggest that we are justified in urging France once more to integrate her forces with those of her allies in the common defence effort.
But while supporting to the hilt Her Majesty's Government's intention of maintaining and improving our contribution to NATO—and it would be very remiss of me if I did otherwise—there is a role, an important role, that the 1096 presence of British forces can play in other parts of the world, in particular in the Far East and in the Persian Gulf. It is in such areas as these that we, and we alone of the Western nations, can by our continuing military presence play a very important stabilising influence. The more forces that we can maintain in other parts of the world, the greater the contribution they will make not only to our own national economic and political interests but also to the cause of world peace—and, I would add, in parenthesis, also to the cause of army recruiting. So let us maintain and indeed strengthen our military contribution to NATO on which, as the White Paper says, the security of Britain rests. Let us retain in other parts of the world the maximum forces that our economy can support. And, finally, let us continually remind ourselves of what The Defence Estimates rightly describe as:The shadow of the present and potential threat of the vast military resources of the Soviet Union.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY
My Lords, it is good that it should fall to an ex-soldier to congratulate a sailor on his maiden speech. I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Coleridge. He has only just retired, and although he has been a Member of your Lordships' House he has not spoken because he was a serving sailor, serving as Executive Secretary of NATO, first working under Lord Ismay. It was good to hear, in that clear, naval voice, concise and factual information. May we hear him often again!
My Lords, I must first of all apologise. A long time ago I accepted an invitation to go out to dinner to-night, to a "regimental occasion" down in Kent, and I must be rude and leave you shortly after making this short speech. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has left the Chamber, because when he was talking about noble Lords on this side of the House who "have a go" each year on the Defence Estimates, because they themselves have served, he was wearing a fantastic tie. I do not know whether your Lordships noticed it. It was, in fact, the Hong Kong confrontation tie; Army badges in the front and a white pig—which is what he must have 1097 been known as out there—and yellow running dogs, which is what the Allies were known as out there; and so the noble Lord was wearing a good "regimental tie."
I cannot say that all the things said by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, were happily received by noble Lords on this side of the House, and in particular in this little corner of the Government Back Benches. He said that there were few differences between the Far Eastern policy of the last Government and that of the present Government, and particularly in the Malaysian part of it. He said that the real difference was that this Government were going to provide troops and some frigates. Some difference, my Lords! These are people on the ground and more likely to stop trouble, rather than a promise, and a promise pretty difficult to fulfil. Your Lordships will remember that last exercise, held just before the Election—a ghastly, dismal failure; an attempt to get people out in a hurry to a place that might be in trouble. No, my Lords, there is a real difference between the two policies.
I would refer shortly to the vexed subject of South Africa. Let us at least be clear militarily. Was Simonstown worth keeping? Who kept it during the last six years? Who supplied it with certain things and who continued exercises there? Presumably it was thought right to do so. Is it not still right to do so? Can you make use of a place if it is indefensible? Must its defence be continued? Even Churchill, when we "had a go" in the war, said that he would make friends with the devil to beat the Germans. When we made our alliance with Russia, we did not like what they had done then (and we do not like what they have done since) to Poles, Czechs, Jews and Hungarians. The South African question is not as bad as that. At least let us be honest. Is it right to have that place, or was it right in the last six years? If it is, then we must supply the necessary arms, or new troops and new forces for guarding it.
My Lords, it is good to see from the White Paper that there is a realisation that not only is NATO necessary for the defence of Europe—where so long as forces are kept wars are least likely to occur—but also that we British have a 1098 small but definite role to play in the world. It is our duty to help our Allies and our Commonwealth friends where wars are most likely to occur, in the Middle East; and where they are occurring in the Far East. I will not enlarge upon that because, first, I know that it has been said already; and secondly, it is the duty of a man who has made an apology to speak briefly. But may I go back to that spot at the crossroads of the world—Malta—and make one or two small points about it.
It was good to see that this Government are going to keep one British battalion in Malta. I am not sure whether that is really sufficient. Even with the excellent Malta land forces, I do not think that one British battalion is sufficient to guard Malta and do our duty there; to guard what is now a more dangerous place; to guard the naval facilities which are still used and the Royal Air Force squadrons which are still going to be there; to guard the United States Navy, which is still going to be there, and the NATO Naval Headquarters, which are still there. All that requires something more than the presence of one British battalion. There is danger, and not only from Soviet forces around there. Your Lordships will recall how close it came to Her Majesty's ship "Eagle" being sunk by the Russians in peace-time just off Malta. There are other countries equally dangerous which we have to watch and against which we must be on our guard. Malta is also a centre for intelligence, and a mass of information could be gained from that Island if the proper facilities were provided. In this respect one hopes that the rank of Brigadier will be kept for the Commander of the British Forces in Malta. It has already been reduced from Major-General to Brigadier. One star counts NATO-wise and liaison-wise in the surrounding country. Let us hope that the rank will stay at Brigadier.
In respect of the United Kingdom, my Lords, it is good to see that the Reserve Forces have been given a real boost of 10,000 men, and an extra Yeomanry regiment. If it is possible in the future to increase the number again, I suggest to my noble friend that it is the Yeomanry that should be increased, not necessarily as armoured troops—infantry would do just as well. It does not matter what role 1099 you give them, the Yeomanry will perform it. Above all, the Yeomanry are easy to recruit. There are still many Yeomanry regiments which are officially dead but which are kept going by the voluntary efforts of soldiers and officers, who pay for their camps and for their petrol. Surely that is the kind of spirit that the Government should seek to encourage, and I hope that, if all goes well, one day we shall see the Yeomanry restored. My Lords, this is a White Paper which has given confidence to the Forces. To be honest, there is a new sense of purpose that has been lacking for some time past. I only hope that this sense of purpose produces what it should: recruits to bring back the strength.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, the most exciting statement made in this debate so far was the declaration that fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to the effect that the Liberal Party was united. What relevance that declaration had to defence strategy I was unable to discover. But the OFFICIAL REPORT will be available tomorrow morning and I shall meticulously engage in an analysis of Lord Gladwyn's observations in order to illuminate my mind on that very intricate and recondite subject.
It was refreshing to listen this afternoon, for the first time for several years in the course of one of our innumerable defence debates—in almost all of which I have participated, not only as a Minister of Defence but also as a keen student of defence strategy—to a realistic speech (apart from certain passages to which I shall refer) from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I venture to say that it was a speech of which at any rate 70 per cent. was wholly realistic, and the remainder somewhat contradictory and unduly optimistic. The optimism was hardly consistent with the facts of the situation.
There is, however, one significant omission from the Statement on the Defence Estimates. In the course of one of the defence debates between 1958 and 1963, during a somewhat prolonged period of Conservative administration, reference was made to the inadequacy of conventional power, and to its decline, in contrast to the appearance of nuclear power. Indeed, one of Lord Carrington's predecessors—a notorious predecessor, still 1100 alive and kicking on a variety of subjects, including defence—ventured to make a most remarkable and striking observation on this subject. I venture, with your Lordships' permission, to quote what he said. It was this:The West"—meaning, of course, the NATO Alliance, to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred in the course of his realistic speech this afternoon—relies for its defence primarily upon the deterrent effect of its vast stockpile of nuclear weapons and its capacity to deliver them. The democratic Western nations will never start a war against Russia. But it must be well understood that if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. In fact, the strategy of NATO is based on the frank recognition that a full-scale Soviet attack cannot be repelled without resort to a massive nuclear bombardment. In that event, the role of the allied defence forces in Europe would be to hold the front for the time needed to allow the effects of the nuclear counter offensive to make themselves felt.What was meant by "holding back" was the trip-wire, the process of moderate counter-offensive conducted with conventional weapons and conventional manpower, supplemented (although there were qualifications and reservations on this issue) by tactical nuclear weapons.
The noble Lord's speech this afternoon, which I ventured to say (and I mean it) was refreshing and partly realistic, omitted to mention this concept. Indeed, it does not appear anywhere in the Defence Estimates. It has been abandoned; and rightly so. It ought never to have been promoted at any time, because it was precisely the decision of Mr. Sandys on that occasion, sponsored no doubt by a Conservative Cabinet, and backed by the claque on the Conservative Benches (I do not use the term "claque" offensively; I mean those who are expected to follow, or else!) that led to the so-called run-down in conventional forces to which the noble Lord referred. For remember that we had just shaken off the embrace of National Service. During the period of National Service after the war we had something like 800,000 men of all ranks in all Services, and in the Army over 400,000. They had become a bit of a burden. We were unable to find capabilities for them, although we had commitments in all parts of the world—more so than now. But it held up recruitment, 1101 and recruitment has been retarded ever since.
One of my noble friends, when reference was made to the subject of unemployment in relation to recruitment, ventured to observe that when there is unemployment recruitment increases. He is quite wrong. All the records go to show that unemployment makes no impact whatever on recruitment. This question has been studied over and over again, and has been debated on innumerable occasions in the other place, and that fact has never been seriously challenged.
When I come to the question of manpower, what I am concerned with, what your Lordships' House should be concerned with, and what the Government and the Opposition should be concerned with, is recognition that some measure of defence is necessary. It is important to say that because, while there are variations of opinion in Opposition ranks, generally speaking the Labour Party—the Opposition Party in this country, and also on occasion the Government—have taken the line that, because of international tension, and because what has been for many years an obvious threat to our security, some measure of defence is essential.
What is that measure of defence? Let us take a look at NATO. I was myself associated with NATO as Secretary for War and Minister of Defence with the late Ernest Bevin. I recall the Conference in Brussels when there was high tension in Europe and we were faced with the Korean war, in which this country played a prominent part. I myself had the privilege and honour to alert a British Brigade for Korea and to assist in the alerting of a Commonwealth Brigade; and some of our naval vessels operated offshore during the period of the war. In that period of tension we held this Conference in Brussels to consider precisely what the noble Lord. Lord Carrington, is now considering, and must consider; that is, how to step up the strength of NATO, to which we make a contribution.
When we met at Brussels we decided that we must ask for more support from the United States of America. President Truman agreed on one condition: that we increased our strength and made a more effective contribution financially, in 1102 weapons and in manpower. We succeeded in obtaining the services of General Eisenhower, as Supreme Commander in Europe, as a result. An almost similar situation exists now. Let us look at NATO. Of course the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is right: we are making an effective contribution to NATO in comparison to the contribution made by our Allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Let us analyse it for a moment. Take France. France has for many years contracted out. And even in the period when France was in, how often in negotiations did they present us on paper with 15 divisions, and the rest of it, only for it to be discovered that it was a façade and had no reality? Take the case of Belgium and the Netherlands. With great respect to them, and with due consideration of the financial and other difficulties that confront them (in Belgium, for example, the internecine dispute has existed for many years and inevitably affects the behaviour of the country) they have made a contribution that is almost derisory.
Then take Germany. Take the latest decision of Willy Brandt: indeed, the matter is, in a sense, brought into the Defence Estimates. To what do I refer? The Germans have now agreed to be more liberal, more generous on the offset costs—and about time! Let it not be forgotten—and I have in front of me a paragraph from that very reputable newspaper the Daily Telegraph (I do not expect payment for the gratuitous advertisement) of yesterday dealing with this matter of the offset cost arrangements now entered into between the German Government and the United Kingdom Government—that our foreign exchange costs are £147 million. I know that that figure can be broken down in various ways, but the sum is still far too high. But let us deal with it comparatively.
What do the Germans propose? Willy Brandt, quite rightly (and this bears on the speech of my noble friend Lord Shepherd), is prepared to enter into some kind of détente, some arrangement which would lead to greater security for the West and reduce the threat. It is precisely because he is engaged in Ost Politik at the present time, seeking to come to some arrangement, that to some extent he is meeting with success. But it is to some extent only. This is apart 1103 from the situation in Berlin, which remains a problem and will continue to be a problem for some time to come. He is more generous with us for the simple reason that he prefers not to strengthen German defence, and says so in effect.
Anyhow, what is NATO, apart from the United States Forces in Europe? There is the Canadian brigade, which they are talking about taking out. Even some of the American forces may be reduced. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in the course of his speech, said something which has not been taken up by succeeding speakers: that there might be a run down for various reasons. Who can tell what is going to happen? I am not suggesting there will be isolation in the United States, but something approaching that. The result would affect their military behaviour and their response to Western needs. I warn noble Lords on this issue—and it may be that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will concede my point, at any rate to some extent.
So what have we to rely on? It is the nuclear strength of the United States. Why not say so, and, having said so, face the issue realistically? Lord Carrington's disclosure in his narrative this afternoon about Soviet strength is familiar ground. We have been saying it for years. I would venture to put it in a sentence (with great respect to the noble Lord who had to speak at some length on this matter): the Soviet Union has now reached parity with the United States in nuclear strength. Let that not be forgotten. Of course they parade in the Mediterranean, and they reply in The Times with a remarkable article by the former London correspondent of Izvestia, Mr. Ossipov, who wrote: "Why should we not go to the Mediterranean? You go there. Why should we not go to the Indian Ocean? You go there." Of course they have a perfect right to sail in international waters—nobody can deny that.
But what is the game? Mr. Ossipov wrote with such charming simplicity and was so naïve. He said: "We have no ulterior designs on any country. We have no intention of being aggressive—it is the last thing we should think of doing." I suggest that noble Lords read 1104 the article. He wrote that you should forget about Czechoslovakia, for all that the Russians did was to inject tanks and let the population understand: "Either you obey, or else". But, apart from that, they have no ulterior designs. On the other hand, Mr. Ossipov wrote, they had to concern themselves with defence. But against what? Are we proposing to attack Russia? Is the Western alliance proposing to attack Russia? Is the United States, under Mr. Nixon, in a mood to attack Russia? Or is that so, even under any other President? Of course it is not. No, the Russians will penetrate everywhere and get away with it.
For many years I have not believed that Russia intended to engage in aggression in the West, for the simple reason that they secure everything they want without it. Consider the comparative position from a military sense of the NATO alliance alongside the East German strength—not the Soviet strength. I have been there, although not for many years, and for some reason I was permitted to look at the military installations and watch their manpower parading, to talk with Generals and the rest of them, and I conceived the notion that East Germany, from a military point of view, was as strong then as West Germany. I should not be at all surprised if they are stronger now. That is the situation.
In other words, we are up against it. We have to consider whether our defence is adequate. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his Defence Estimates, made it quite clear that prices are going up. I understand that Mr. Chapman Pincher said in the Daily Express the day before yesterday that if you find in the footnotes, in small print, in the Defence Estimates that prices are going up for defence, then obviously they are going up for other things. Of course they are going up. The noble Lord opposite, in what I understand was a maiden speech, to which I listened with attention, said that the British public must be apprised of this, must understand what we are up against, for they may have to pay for it. Pay what? It is costing £2,500 million at the present time, according to the Defence Estimates. It would cost ten times that amount to match the formidable military strength of the Soviet Union. Even then I doubt whether we 1105 should equal it. It simply cannot be done.
What are we to do? Some of my pacifist friends would say: "In that case, why bother about defence?". But you cannot go to the people of this country and say: "We are going to abandon defence". They will not have it. Even if you say: "Look at what you produced in the Caribbean", it is so derisory. There is Anguilla, or Ulster. Our Army are engaged there in a police role. Or take our presence—just a presence—in the Indian Ocean. Most of that, in my opinion, is derisory. I am not troubled about the proposed gift to South Africa of some Wasp helicopters. It may be morally wrong, but I am not going to enter into that question now. It does not make an impact on our defence strategy, or the world defence strategy. Even an additional submarine is not enough. So what are we to do?
We have to consider whether we should undertake all these worldwide commitments. It is commitments that determine the military situation. We cannot abandon our commitments in Hong Kong, and the Chinese Republic does not want us to do so, for it suits them very well. If we were to do so we should have five battalions available. They would probably not be up to strength—they never are up to strength, in any case. If we did not have this apprehension about trouble in the Indian Ocean, East of Suez, or, alternatively, if the combination of five Governments, of which we form a part, could put up a fight, it would be different. But let us remind ourselves that the Americans have a responsibility in that area. They are part of the so-called ANZAC Pact—Australia, the United States and New Zealand.
What conclusion do we reach? Do we abandon defence? Of course not. I have ventured on more than one occasion to propose to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that we should consider the Reserves position. I know some of my colleagues may not agree with this view, but I have the feeling that if we had here a measure of security, based broadly and individually (if I may put it in that fashion) on a vast number of men, and perhaps women, who had been trained and were ready to do occasional training, this would probably provide us 1106 with greater security than anything else. We have to make a stand of some kind. We have to retain NATO. It is weak; it is inadequate. It ought to be strengthened, and our allies should make a greater contribution. We ought to say so; be frank about it, and stand up to them. Well, let us make the best of the situation.
Finally, a word on the matter of disarmament. I listened to my noble friend Lord Shepherd. How often have heard these statements made! For sixty-odd years—you would hardly believe it. My right honourable friend Noel Baker has written innumerable treatises on the subject; became a Nobel Prize Winner on the subject. My noble friend Lord Chalfont was Minister for Disarmament. The father of my noble friend Lord Henderson, as Foreign Secretary, was Minister for Disarmament in my time. Ramsay MacDonald was also a Minister for Disarmament. I even shared in it myself. No, my Lords: that is not going to take a trick. Oh, yes: pass resolutions. Deceive yourselves about the strength of the United Nations and all the rest of it—not that I want to abandon it; we have to have ornaments, even on the mantelpiece sometimes.
There is a possible way out. Noble Lords may think I am indulging in fantastic and exaggerated talk when I make this proposition. There is a possibility—not a probability but a possibility. If the United States of America and the Soviet Union, despite their ideological differences, came together, it would make the greatest impact this world has ever encountered. That is what is needed. We ought to encourage them. I do not want to offend the Soviet Union. We just want to speak frankly to them. We want to encourage the United States to proceed with their talks: let them talk and talk. There is going to be no war in the immediate future, apart from a little bit of trouble here and there which we can tackle. Meanwhile, I say to the Government: carry on with NATO, build up your manpower, and let the people of this country understand that, if they want defence—if they really want defence—they must pay for it.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, it is always difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, because 1107 he has such a racy and pleasant style and we all like listening to him. I should like first of all to apologise to the noble Lord the Minister of Defence because I shall not be here when he winds up, owing to a long-standing engagement. I intend to be brief and to stick to my own part of the world. Just before I rose yesterday to speak on the Roskill debate I received a note from my noble friend Lord George-Brown saying, "Stick to your own part of the world." I could not possibly do that yesterday, when we were talking about a third London Airport, but I will to-day.
Until 1969 the number of troops stationed in Northern Ireland was about 2,000. It was a quiet backwater and, by and large, one seldom saw the Army any more than one does in any other part of the United Kingdom. In August, 1969, the Army was used in aid of the civil power during the serious rioting which took place at that time. Since then its strength has varied between 5,000 and approximately 12,000. It must be stated that, but for that 1969 intervention, a civil war could have broken out. The reverse is also true: that if their numbers were to be reduced to a pre-August, 1969, level then it would be impossible to maintain peace.
I agree with every word written in paragraph 37 of Chapter II, on page 21, of the Statement on the Defence Estimates. The debt which we owe to the Army is quite incalculable. There has perhaps been a certain amount of (shall we say?) euphoria or self-deception in Establishment circles, both in London and in Belfast. The song which is sung is very comforting and goes something like this:Every day, and in every way, everything gets better and better.I wish indeed that that were true, but personally I have my doubts. Too many people in too many places have a vested interest in keeping the pot boiling. Both fame and fortune would vanish if peace were to break out. So the Government would be wise to reckon on the necessity for maintaining a massive military presence for a long time to come. To look no further than this summer, the marching season is now upon us and will continue until the end of August.
1108 Moreover, there are so many ways of keeping the pot boiling. If rioting proves difficult, there is always the possibility of a well-placed bomb; or, alternatively, a little arson to vary the programme. Finally, of course, there are always assassinations, several of which appear to have taken place recently. It would then be realistic to assume that additional military strength must be maintained in the United Kingdom purely for use in Northern Ireland. I am only too conscious of the appalling burden which this imposes on the country; and certainly so far as I am concerned I should like to say. "Thank you very much indeed" to Her Majesty's Government and to the noble Lord, the Minister of Defence.
So, my Lords, my message, very briefly, is: There may be a long, hard slog in front of us. If, as I hope, I am proved wrong, then the troops will always be useful for some unexpected eventuality in some other part of the world. If I may finish on a wider note than the subject about which I have been speaking, may I congratulate the Minister on doing, or certainly appearing to do, so much with so little.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, I intend to confine myself to two points arising out of our decision not to withdraw East of Suez, and particularly to the deployment of our Forces in the Far East and in the Persian Gulf. I am sorry that the Statement on Defence did not lay greater emphasis on the extraordinarily humanitarian activities carried out by our Forces in the Far East, already referred to by my noble friend Lord Shepherd, especially after the East Pakistan flood disaster last November, and the floods that occurred in West Malaysia in January of this year. It is not always realised that our Forces there constitute no danger to anyone, and can exert a very valuable stabilising influence. But, even more, they can be the means of actually saving human life. This may be fully acknowledged at the time, but, unfortunately, it is all too readily forgotten once the emergency has ended. The resentment against even a benevolent force of occupation seems to break out immediately after its withdrawal. This is particularly so in Vietnam at the present time, and I am afraid it is already 1109 beginning to show signs of developing in Thailand.
I sometimes dread to think how much suffering would have ensued, and how many innocent civilian lives would have been lost, both in Pakistan and in Western Malaysia, had our total withdrawal from East of Suez already been an accomplished fact. Now I take it that the remainder of our defence Forces in the Far East will have to be pivoted on Hong Kong. Our small dockyard there has become an extremely valuable piece of property, facing as it does the mainland of China and being adjacent to the entrance to the new Hong Kong-Kowloon tunnel. Just as Kai Tak airport has had to be extended, so I believe that the dockyard must assume even greater importance in the future, and I would ask the Government to resist at all costs any temptation to dispose of even part of the existing dockyard, or to think of transferring it away from the centre of Hong Kong island. The presence of British naval ships right in the heart of the waterway, in full sight of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to Hong Kong every year, especially from Japan and the United States of America (and this year more than one million are expected), has had an enormous effect in adding to our prestige and drawing attention to the tremendous amount of good we have been able to achieve in that colony.
It is all the more important that the Five Power defence arrangements should be established on an effective basis, so that our advice and experience may be made readily available to all our Commonwealth partners in that region. It is rather sad to think that the British jungle warfare school in Johore is shortly to become a Malaysian establishment, but I suppose that in the nature of things this is inevitable. Anyone who has visited that school must retain the liveliest memories of its quite brilliantly outstanding work. I hope, however, that we shall continue to play an active part in maintaining the stability of the whole of that region of South-East Asia. As the American withdrawal gathers momentum, the nations of that area are looking more and more to Britain for advice and assistance, and it is good to know that our economic help under the 1110 Colombo Plan is to be increased rather than diminished.
I turn now to the Persian Gulf. It was rumoured when I was in the Far East earlier this month that Britain was contemplating a total withdrawal from the Gulf, and I can testify to what an appalling impression this rumour created, certainly in the Press, and in several countries which I visited in the Far East. I should like to ask the Government: how far is this true? I hold no brief whatever for ally of the oil Sheikdoms of the Gulf, any more than I did for the Sheikdoms of Aden when we evacuated that area. I can well understand the harsh conditions and the thankless task facing our troops who have to operate in that part of the world. But are the Government fully aware of the issues at stake?
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked what is the Soviet navy doing in the Indian Ocean at all. What is the reason for its presence in that part of the world? Surely it is not there for fun. My noble friend Lord Shepherd said that the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean are not likely to give up their new-found freedom in exchange for Soviet Communism. All this is very true, but I would submit that the Soviet navy is in the Indian Ocean for one reason, and for one reason only: it is simply heading for the Persian Gulf, waiting for the moment of our withdrawal. And what will happen then? Exactly the same as happened at Aden. There our magnificent scheme for the Federation of Southern Arabia, that brainchild of Whitehall, disappeared overnight when 16 Arab Sheikdoms were overthrown, and Southern Yemen became a new sphere of Soviet influence.
I believe that the word "federation" is anathema to so many countries outside our own Islands. It failed in the Caribbean, it failed in Central Africa, it failed in Aden, and I believe it is bound to fail in the Persian Gulf. What will happen then? We all know that the economy of all the Gulf States is utterly dependant on their export of oil. They may stand out for a higher price, they may cajole or exert pressure they may even threaten to withdraw their supply of oil. But only for a time. Without their sale of oil, we know that they cannot hope to survive. What if we withdraw from the Gulf and these Sheikdoms are overthrown? This is quite conceivable. What if Russia steps 1111 in and exerts her influence on the successor regimes in the Gulf States? What if Russia ever came to exert control over the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf? This, too, is quite within the realms of possibility. Russia does not need the Gulf oil—she herself is an exporter of oil.
I would say only this. If Russia were ever to control the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf, this Statement on the Defence Estimates would not be worth the paper it is printed on. The whole of the economy of this country could conceivably grind to a halt. That is the real significance of the presence of the Russian navy in the Indian Ocean. How far are the Government alive to this danger? I am not by temperament an alarmist—far from it—but there is no excuse whatever for any of us to fail to be realists in this matter. Many of us are awaiting the Government's decision after receiving Sir William Luce's report. I suppose it is too much to hope that this report is likely to be made public on a matter of such extreme gravity, but I wish that the Government would use it as a justification for their future course of action in the Persion Gulf. Can the Government tell us what is the reason for the objections of Iran to our continued presence in the Gulf? Is Iran itself fully alive to the dangers?
What should be the course of action of this Government? I would suggest that it ought to be to increase our naval patrols in the Gulf and, if need be, to increase our naval presence there. I would be reluctant to increase the strength of our military presence there; they have a gruelling enough time as it is, and the increase might be wrongly interpreted. But our naval patrols are constantly engaged in tracking down smugglers in the Gulf; smugglers of gold, pearls and opium. Why not add to the strength of our naval patrols? Why not repeat a little more often our perfectly innocent naval exercises in the Persian Gulf? Surely that would make the Russians more aware of our presence there, and of our determination to maintain our continued presence in the Gulf, if only to protect our vital oil supplies. So I would urge upon the Government to think hard—really hard—and to think again and again and again, before taking 1112 any decision to abandon the oil Sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf to the tender mercies of the Soviet Union.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I rise to welcome the White Paper as a possible turn in the tide of the affairs of our Armed Forces, of our security at home and the defence of our interests and commitments abroad. To those who say that this White Paper is much like the others, and that there is nothing new in it, I would simply say, as did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, "Thank God!" If there ever was a time when the Armed Forces wanted a period of stability to settle down and digest the ups and downs of the last six years it must be now; and let us remember that all important decisions were taken and announced in the Supplementary Statement published in October.
But, my Lords, the whole tone of this White Paper is quite different from its predecessor. As the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, has said, it has a sense of balance, and it also deals primarily with men and not with money. This new attitude of mind, I sincerely believe, is a very good start in dealing with the major problem that affects all our three Services to-day, the short-fall in recruitment. Added to that, a period of stability will encourage confidence, and improved Service conditions may well make a Service career more attractive to our young men.
On policy, too, I believe there is a very important change of emphasis. In paragraph 2, the first sentence repeats our previous policy when it says, quite correctly, that our basic security continues to depend on the NATO Alliance. With this statement I am in entire agreement. But I do not wish to-day, particularly in the presence of my noble friend Lord Coleridge, to talk about NATO or the defence of the NATO area. And before I come to the main part of my speech I want to say how much I enjoyed Lord Coleridge's maiden speech, how pleased I am to welcome another sailor into this House. I would remind your Lordships that he has an almost unrivalled knowledge of NATO, so he should bring enormous strength to our counsels, and I hope that we shall hear him frequently again.
1113 The next few sentences after the commitment to NATO are a very considerable change, I believe, from previous Defence White Papers, and, if I may, I will quote them in full:But the first of the Government's objectives recognises that British interests and responsibilities are not confined to the NATO area. Britain's political and trading interests are world-wide and they can flourish only in stable conditions. She must be willing, therefore, to play her part, though on a scale appropriate to her resources, in countering threats to stability outside Europe. For British territories overseas, and for those to whom Britain owes a special duty by treaty or otherwise, there is a direct responsibility to provide protection.It is on this aspect of policy that I should like to comment very briefly.
First a word about South-East Asia. I am quite sure that the concept of the Five-Power defence arrangements is right, and I have two particular reasons for saying this. I have sometimes over the last few years felt slightly ashamed that Australians and New Zealanders, who came to our aid so promptly and with such devastating effect in two world wars, are fighting alongside our American allies in Vietnam while we stand on the sidelines and criticise. The Five-Power arrangements do at least give solid proof of our solidarity with Australia and New Zealand in defence of an area vital to both of us. Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was in some doubt as to why we required defence in this area. I believe it is not impossible that after the withdrawal of the American troops from Vietnam there may be a very considerable deterioration in the military situation out there. I can see Cambodia and Laos swallowed up by advancing Communist armies and those armies then advancing further into Thailand. Our small force in Malaya would then find itself on the flank of a major Communist advance, and we might well have to play a very important part in checking that advance before it gets to the frontiers of India.
On the Persian Gulf, I find myself in almost complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Segal, who has just spoken. I believe that our presence there is vital. But I am persuaded, by those who know that part of the world better than I do, that, having committed ourselves to leaving, and having given ourselves a date of departure, it is not wise to reverse this 1114 decision. My hope is that when we do get the final report of policy towards the Persian Gulf we shall hear that arrangements are being made to retain at least minimal naval and air facilities there, and possibly a certain amount of Army on the ground in an advisory or instructional capacity. I believe that our presence there is vital, and perhaps the Navy has the largest part to play in that.
I come to the Indian Ocean and the Cape route. I have spoken in this House on a number of occasions, and sometimes with considerable vehemence, on this subject. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, I find it very hard to follow the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and other noble Lords on the other side, on the subject of arms to South Africa. We were always told, when the last Government were in power, that we could not fight anywhere without allies. Here in a vital strategic place we have an ally able and willing to fight our battles for us and to bear the brunt of keeping open the Cape route, which every single day that passes becomes more vital to us. You really cannot hit a black man over the head with a sophisticated frigate or a mercantile aircraft. We must keep a sense of proportion over this matter.
I turn to the Royal Navy. The present Government, in my opinion, inherited three major weaknesses from the previous Administration. The first was that we had no modern or effective torpedo. The second was that we had no surface-to-surface missile; and, thirdly, when the aircraft carriers, as was then intended, were phased out we had quite inadequate air cover for the Fleet. I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to visit Faslane and was taken over one of our new Fleet submarines. I can assure your Lordships that they are the most magnificent ships, and their seakeeping qualities, both on the surface and submerged, are second to none. But they have no weapon. They are using a torpedo which is completely out of date. My first question to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is to ask whether he can give us any information on the progress of the Mark 24 torpedo, which when I last heard of it was in trouble. I see that to solve the lack of surface-to-surface missile the Government propose to fill the gap with the Anglo-French version of EXOCET. Could 1115 the noble Lord tell me when he hopes to fit the first of these systems into one of Her Majesty's ships?
To bridge the gap until the Navy can procure vertical take-off aircraft, the Government intend to retain "Ark Royal" in commission to the end of the 1970s. I thoroughly approve, and I only wish we could keep on "Eagle" beyond 1972, but I understand the difficulties here. She would require an expensive refit; she has not such a long life as the "Ark Royal". The recruitment for fixed-wing flying for the Navy has ceased and cannot be reopened. Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, to keep "Eagle" in commission might well require paying off two, if not three, frigates. Regretfully, I think that the Government have taken the right decision. In connection with the fixed-wing flying, may I ask the noble Lord whether, when the Fleet is indeed equipped with vertical take-off aircraft, those aircraft will be flown by Naval or by Air Force crews?
Finally, may I end by reminding this House once again of something which is so obvious, but is too often forgotten by politicians and by public alike. The United Kingdom is an advanced and overpopulated nation with insufficient natural resources to ensure survival. We are utterly dependent on the sea and the arrival of our merchant ships. It is the duty of the Royal Navy to ensure that the freedom of the seas is preserved. Any Government of this country which neglects the Fleet does so at its peril.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, like the previous speaker, I welcome this Defence White Paper and I propose, after making three small comments on the Paper itself, to concentrate on the strategic side. My first comment is that I notice that finance is to be kept at 5½ per cent. of the gross national product. That is quite understandable, and I only hope that it is not to be reduced. My next comment concerns the Reserves. I am very glad that the role of the Reserves has been restated and that it now includes home defence or the defence of a secure United Kingdom land base, and is also to meet the unexpected. We can now, in my opinion, compare notes with our NATO allies, which we could not previously do. Lastly, 1116 manpower, which everybody is agreed remains the chief difficulty of the Secretary of State. Admittedly, this is a very difficult subject. Incidentally, it is not made any easier, speaking chiefly from the point of view of the Army, by the shuffling of troops between B.A.O.R. in Germany and Northern Ireland. Young men are having to go back for a second time to Northern Ireland. This is not a feature which attracts recruits.
On manpower I have only two suggestions to make. First of all, pay is not necessarily the whole answer; nor is likeness to civilian life. Once you begin to compare the Army, the Navy and the Air Force with civilian life, which is basically office or factory life, then I think you are making a mistake. You can perhaps compare the conditions but not the life itself. I think that the question of manpower is largely one of fashion. Women lower or heighten their skirts because of fashion. With the Army, the Navy and the Air Force it is fashionable to join the Services. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, when he said that this Paper gives one a sense of purpose, in that the Services have turned the corner. I should like to emphasise that particular point and to suggest that we concentrate the recruiting effort especially on those corps which are difficult to get into.
I should like to turn now to the policy on the strategic side of defence. It is only a year ago since the last Administration in their White Paper said:We look forward to the 'seventies as an era of negotiation.In my opinion, it is now more realistic in that the White Paper says:… the Soviet Union has shown itself willing to negotiate …".which is quite a different thing. I can distinctly remember taking part in 1950 in Four-Power Talks in Berlin, which were supposed to regularise and normalise Berlin. We did not get very far. Admittedly, things are better now, but I am not all that optimistic. In fact, I think the Communists are doing quite well in peace time.
I should like to illustrate that point. Peace equals advance in the Communist dialectic. Turning to the nuclear balance, the SALT talks are taking place because of the appalling cost to the two super-Powers of the anti-ballistic missile system. 1117 Even these two super-Powers want to reduce their weapons and so reduce their costs. This balance of nuclear power, which may have prevented World War III from taking place in the last 20 or 25 years, has certainly not stopped serious conventional wars, which are with us and which have been with us continuously; nor does it stop the advance of Communist influence by political methods—here I refer to the White Paper—backed up by "large and modern conventional forces", well described in the section on Western Security.
I agree entirely, and would like to refer to the Middle East as one example. We all know that the Arabs have been quarrelling for thousands of years. They have always been dominated by an outside Power. It has been the Turks, the French or the British, and now it is the Russians. Since we British withdrew 80,000 Army and Royal Air Force troops from the Suez Canal area, and also withdrew the Navy from North and South of the Suez Canal, we have been powerless to prevent war in the Middle East. I supervised on the mainland of the Middle East the evacuation from Akaba of the last 50 British tanks manned by the 10th Hussars. This was not a very pleasant exercise, nor was it very profitable.
Recently, not much has been made of our having to leave Libya. But it is more than an attractive training area, since it provides everything that one needs. It also possesses two first-class airfields in E1 Adam and Wheelers Field. I had to leave the Chamber for a short time, so I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if this matter has already been mentioned. To my mind this is a most important point. The Russians can move into E1 Adam and Wheelers Field at any time they like. If they do that, they will outflank the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean with land-based aircraft. It is an unfortunate fact of life that land-based aircraft have a better performance than carrier-borne aircraft: in other words, even if those U.S. carriers remain operational they will be faced by a land-based air force.
The Russians are not finding the Arabs easy partners; nor will they continue to do so. The fact remains that in 15 years, without firing a shot in anger, they have gained three things in the Middle East: first, they have gained access to the land 1118 bridge from Asia to the Continent of Africa; secondly, they could cut the established British air route to the Far East any time they like; and thirdly, they have now outflanked, or are in a position to outflank, NATO on its Southern flank. All this is in peace time. I personally think that the power vacuum has been filled with a vengeance.
Now may I turn to the Indian Ocean, which has already been referred to by previous speakers. I do not have to emphasise its importance. The White Paper refers to port and airfield facilities which can be exploited. There have already been quite a number of aggravations in the Indian Ocean. First of all, we withdrew from Aden. Aden may not be used very much now but the moment that the Suez Canal is opened it will be used as a small naval base, and as an air base, too. With regard to Bombay, we can no longer rely entirely on a friendly India. The Indian Navy, excellent as it is and based on British traditions, comprises not only ageing British ships, but also two Russian submarines and a Russian escort vessel. So that we cannot be absolutely certain that Bombay will be a friendly harbour. Simonstown is very much in our thoughts at the present time, but from the defence point of view it is absolutely essential. I will say no more than that. Mombasa and Mauritius are two excellent naval harbours and bases, now in the possession of independent Commonwealth countries. Both are friendly at the moment, but we must make quite sure that the Russians do not gain good peaceful relations with them and base facilities.
May I now turn to the Persian Gulf?—and here I agree entirely with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Segal. I should like to point out that if the Government's decision is to withdraw completely from the Gulf (which, incidentally, I was told when I went there last year ought to be called the Arabian Gulf; otherwise, they said, they would drop my letters into it), we lose Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, Sharjah, Muscat, Masira, and Salalah, all either Navy, Air Force or Army bases.
The recent negotiations over the price of oil, which is ostensibly the reason we stay in the Gulf, represented a commercial transaction: it was bargaining and not affected, I admit, by the large British 1119 domination in the Persian Gulf area. Here I differ slightly from the noble Lord, Lord Segal. The oil is only as important as the way by which it is got out—in other words, by the Indian Ocean. In a war of a general character all the pipelines from the Gulf would be shut and we should have to rely on tankers going round the Cape. The stability of the Gulf area, which incidentally is given its proper place in this White Paper, is very important not only from the oil point of view but also from the Indian Ocean point of view.
In conclusion, I should like to go back to page 1 of the White Paper, which says that if Britain is to take her proper share in the preservation of peace and stability in the world—and most of us agree about that—two things are required. The first is to improve the capabilities of our small Regular Forces and Reserves on a sound financial basis. I am personally quite content to leave that to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Defence, and to his Chiefs of Staff. I think they are making a very good "fist" of that.
The second thing that is needed is to keep our Forces—to put them and to keep them—in the right places. We have seen in the Middle East the results of leaving the area and withdrawing without any disturbance of the peace: the Soviets now dominate the area. We are not making the same mistake in the Far East, in South Asia. Our policy is to stay until the relatively weak countries of Malaysia and Singapore are able to stand on their own feet. Admittedly there is no outside threat at the moment, but, as the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, said, the situation in South Asia could easily get very much worse. If the Vietnam war went wrong by any chance, not only Thailand would have to worry, but Singapore and Malaysia as well.
The timing of this is the essential ingredient: the timing of our stay and the fact that we must be asked to stay. Both Labour and Conservative Governments are agreed on this. In other words, my Lords, the present policy on South Asia is much better, because a presence is better than a promise. To my mind, the same argument applies to the Gulf, and indeed to any other small British bases that we still possess, particularly 1120 in the Indian Ocean. If Britain continues to withdraw from important areas we must not be surprised if an unfriendly Power takes our place in peace time. I very much hope that the wish and intention to stay in those places which is expressed in the White Paper will continue.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I listened with great interest to the precise and clear description of the White Paper' given by the noble Lord the Secretary of State. I have listened to most of the debate, except for a short absence of 15 minutes, for which I apologise to the noble Lord who opened and to my noble friends on the Front Bench. I will try not to be provocative, but I must say that I have heard hardly a speech with which I agree. First of all, my noble friend Lord Shinwell seemed to get a great joke out of the failure of disarmament, and there seemed to be slight smiles. I was brought up to believe—perhaps it is old-fashioned—that we should still be trying for it. I am not a very good Christian, but I seem to remember that one Man was crucified when striving for peace some 2,000 years ago; and if people who may be sidesmen and members of churches and chapels feel they can have a slight grin at the faith of our young people in still trying to work for disarmament, and, in a serious debate like this, can pass over a remark that people have been trying to get disarmament for sixty years, then that is not the leadership that should be given to the nation.
Why, then, do the young despair? Why, then, do the young no longer listen to the voices of their Senates and Parliaments throughout the world? Like other noble Lords here, I have trod the footpaths of the world and sailed with some of the sailors on the seven seas. Again, I have heard more crackpot realism here in one hour than in six months anywhere else. It really is crackpot realism. This White Paper seems to have been written in 1910, when we were at the height of a great imperial range of power, when our ships sailed the seven seas. We seem to resent the fact that under-privileged people are now spreading their chests and wanting to govern themselves. But that does not mean that they are not our friends and do not want our help.
1121 I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Segal, on the Colombo Plan. That will be much more successful. I heard the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, say he was ashamed because we had not troops fighting in Vietnam, side by side with the New Zealanders and Australians. I am at the present time writing a book about Vietnam, and I have visited the country many times. I remember when General Gracie was in Saigon and we let the French in from Ceylon, although we had orders from over here not to. Noble Lords can read Lord Mountbatten's then secret papars—they are in the Library—on what happened in Saigon and how all the trouble started; how the Japanese prisoners of war were released and armed so that they could bring the French into South Vietnam, whereas Roosevelt—alack!, he died—wanted Indo-China to be neutral. That neutrality is what we should be striving for. But I had better not divert, because I promised to be brief; but there is enough material here to enable a man to speak for three years, if he wanted to go into the subject in depth.
My Lords, I beg of you to look at the White Paper. Let us take the three objectives:(1) to enable Britain to resume"—and these are the operative words—within her resources, a proper share of responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world.I agree 100 per cent. I have heard suggestions that we want new ships, new nuclear capabilities, new points of active contact throughout the world. I then take the third objective, not the second, which is:(3) to establish and maintain a sound financial basis on which to develop and carry out defence policy and plans in the year ahead.Well, we are creeping up to one million unemployed. Better give the postmen their increase in order to get a happier atmosphere in the economic system. The first thing, the base of strategy in getting the right fire-power in the right place at the right time and getting the logistics right, is to have a happy home base.
So far as the Middle East is concerned, why did Russia get success there? I was there when it happened. We were so foolish as to object to Nasser's objec 1122 tive of the Aswan Dam. The United States refused to give the money, so Nasser went to the Soviet Union to get the Aswan Dam built. That is absolutely correct. I do not want to be derogatory, but then we had the stupid Suez war in 1956. I happened to be in Cyprus a little later, and if you had looked at the logistics in Cyprus, and at its viability, you would have seen that we could not mount from Cyprus a procession for a carnival. Cyprus was not a viable point, and every trained military man knew it.
Now we come to a complete change. We saw in a little paragraph in The Times on February 3 that the British Petroleum Company, half owned by the British Government, agreed to refine Russian oil, 150,000 tons of it, in Britain. Nobody said anything about that. For 26 years the oil companies had an embargo on Soviet Union oil; why then bring it in now? The answer is as a pressure point on the Trucial States and the Shah of Iran in the oil struggle. We cannot expect to go on for ever in those areas. On the other hand, we must not break our hearts about it. There was a time when the Lancastrians married wenches in France, and we owned about three-quarters of France; and then we lost it. The English gained Scotland and Wales by trickery; but we lost France. If your Lordships go on at this rate and seek to take Welsh and Scottish soldiers into Vietnam in the name of democracy, Christianity, and peace, then you are living in a fool's paradise. I object completely to the cynical side laughs when my noble friend Lord Shinwell made a remark about the 60 years of effort to get peace, when every day we open this noble place with Prayers.
Finally, I took trouble to study in depth this business of the tactical nuclear weapon. It reaches a qualitative point which is controlled by the quantitive, where the difference between a tactical weapon and a strategic weapon does not matter very much. Now I see the Institute of Strategic Studies have been holding sessions to discuss five possibilities because of the problems of manpower; and so we refine our defence in order to have the nuclear weapon. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, contradicted himself once or twice, but so do we all in our lifetime, and there is nothing wrong in 1123 that. However, he contradicted himself on an important point here. Who has the right to use these weapons? We see from the AD.70 Studies and others that it is the United States of America who will have the say. That Study, I would point out, if noble Lords will bear with me a little, is 10 or 15 years old.
Let us get to the realities—not crackpot realities. Over 80 per cent. of British industry, and a quarter of our population, are in ten major towns. Take the industrial coffin between Liverpool and London; there, virtually in about six hours if we were involved in a nuclear holocaust, Britain would be almost driven back to where Laos is at the present moment. A surgeon friend of mine told me this weekend that a friend of his who is nursing in Vietnam and Laos had come back and told him that there are more children amputees in Vietnam than in any major country in Europe. Six times more bombs were dropped on Laos in the name of democracy and fighting Communism than were dropped on the whole of Europe during the war. This is the politics of hysteria. We could have solved this problem by giving the economic aid that was necessary, not by putting troops in the field.
I knew Ho Chi Minh personally, and to the best of the French philosophers and politicians he was not a rampaging Communist. He wanted the independence for his country to which it was entitled. When I heard the noble Lord say that the Communists will get to India, I thought, "In the name of heaven, has anybody looked at a map?" I have flown over that area, and up to Tibet, and seen the mountains. Even the Japanese failed to get beyond Rangoon. Who is going to get up there? The Thais? The three million Laotians? That is all there are, and they have only 750 miles of road in the country. For heaven's sake, let us look at this in reality.
Right through this Defence White Paper the word "détente" has been mentioned about twice. I beg of the noble Lord who spoke to-day for the Government to realise that talks between the Warsaw Pact Powers and the NATO Powers are now necessary. If we can take Russian oil in order to try to blackmail the Shah of Iran, we should have the courage to institute talks between 1124 the Warsaw and the NATO Powers. I apologise if I have spoken in this House with a little feeling. However, I know what I am speaking about, and I resented the flippancy with which the efforts for peace were scoffed at. That does not mean that I think that the noble Lord who led opposite is any less desirous of peace than I am. I apologise if he felt that in any way I meant to speak in a derogatory fashion of him.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, it is very kind of the noble Lord to say that. I thought he was referring in his speech to his noble friend Lord Shinwell, and not to me, because I was taken to task by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for not having referred to disarmament.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should rather like to start by throwing down the gauntlet to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and to say that it was no surprise to me that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in opening the debate, made no reference to disarmament. It struck me that there was no reason why he should have made any reference to disarmament. I appreciate intensely the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, in his belief in disarmament, and I too, to a very large measure, share his desire for it. But I believe that one has to be a little more realistic about things. It was tremendous to see the noble Lord in full sail, as he was this afternoon. It was a delightful experience, and I thank him for it.
I should like to give credit where I think that credit is due, and that is to the work that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, did as Minister for Disarmament. He undoubtedly worked hard for it. The relative lack of success that was achieved shows that we cannot put very great faith in any prospect of disarmament in the immediate future. That his success was limited was not his fault; circumstances were too much. If there is any reason why disarmament should have been left out of the White Paper and of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Carirngton, I think we received a very effective answer in the maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Coleridge. It was a most clear and concise speech, 1125 closely reasoned, and completely unemotional. When that was backed up by a similar speech, with additional facts, from the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, then the case for the Government in this respect was absolutely clear. However, if we accept the peroration of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and anticipate getting around the table—Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America—then I suggest that we shall have a good result only if, when Britain goes to that table, she is able to negotiate from strength. Let us hear no more about disarmament till we get around that table.
My original purpose in rising was to discuss the manpower situation and to draw your Lordships' attention to the diagram on page 32 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates showing the relative distribution of manpower. Under full-time education, comparing 1965 with 1975, there will be an increase of 400,000 young persons aged between 15 and 24 years. Over the same period there will be a decrease in those available for employment—that is, those available for other rank service, one might say—of 350,000. These are significant figures, and it is interesting to see how the decline in the population available for enlistment is going to get very much sharper. Therefore we must give the men who join the Services confidence that they can look upon their service as a profession.
Here I should like to give credit to the late Government for the improvement in the pay structure which they achieved. That seems to be having some material success both in retaining and in attracting. But it is absolutely essential that there should be stability in our defence policy, without talk of disarmament. In future we are going to be very dependent for our other ranks upon short-service enlistments converting to normal service, and they will not convert if there is constant denigration of the Services and threats of cuts. Confidence in the Government of the country is essential for recruiting to the Services.
My other point concerns the steady increase in the number of young men in full-time education. That is the "cut" out of which the Services get their officers. The reason why the Services, particularly Sandhurst, are so short of this type of entry is perhaps difficult to understand. 1126 There may be nothing positive on the side of the Services; merely the fact that a young man will prefer to go to a university with a grant, and hold off deciding whether to apply for a commission in one of the Services. But the shortage could in part be due to the education that is given to the young man who is training to become an officer. One should be watchful about what is happening.
But it roust be realised that we in this country cannot educate our officers in the same way as is done in other countries. The United States can support three Service colleges, with a four-year course at each college, where young men can receive both an academic education and the necessary Service training. In Canada, they have attempted to solve the problem by putting all the young men into one all-Services college. The late Government, I think rightly, rejected the idea of an all-Services college here, which would have been extremely costly and probably not wholly productive. Instead, a very interesting experiment is going on and it will be useful to see how each of the three Services compares.
Thanks to the inspiration and guidance of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, the R.A.F. have branched out with a graduate entry for the majority of their officers—that is, going to university before they are taken on for their final training to become competent officers—and most of their long-term engagements are likely to come from this source. That scheme is closely associated with the R.A.F. College at Cranwell, in order that the young men are never out of touch; and I understand that the Commandant at Cranwell is to become responsible for the University Air Squadron. This seems to me a most interesting development and it is one which the other Services will certainly watch closely.
The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst is working on a two-year course, one year of which is predominantly academic. Unfortunately, this scheme is starting off with a very short entry—little more than two-thirds of their entry in past years. One wonders how low in I.Q. level they have had to go to get their present entry into Sandhurst. It has been stated that the purpose of the academic education at Sandhurst is to enable a young man to convert five "O" levels into a sufficiency to help him get 1127 to university. I am not very keen on that argument, because if a boy of 17 or 18 does not have five "O" levels he gets bitten with the Army. However much his nose is put to the academic grindstone in his one year at Sandhurst, I very much doubt whether it will remain there when he gets out into the bigger and more adventurous life of the Army itself. Therefore the academic training at Sandhurst is of prime use for the young man who already has entrance qualifications for a university when he goes to Sandhurst. Then, having been commissioned, he is sent back by the Army for a three-year period at university.
My Lords, the other point about the officer supply to which I should like to refer concerns the military cadetships in the universities. The shortage at the present moment particularly relates to medical and dental officers and engineering officers. These university cadetships, which commission the young man in the lowest commissioned level while he is at the university and give him nearly £1,000 while he is there, plus his fees, are working well with the R.A.F. But they are not working so well with the Army or the Navy for their ordinary run of commissions, and they have not yet provided anything like a sufficient number in the engineers and medicals. I suggest that the Government should take a look at these medical cadetships. They are given, I think, only after the medical student has reached his second year. In other words, the ordinary university cadets can be awarded cadetships before they come up to the university, when it is known that they have their entrance qualifications and have selected their university. But not so with the medical. I believe that if some method could be devised to encourage the medicals from the beginning of their medical career, that would be quite a help. As regards getting more from the engineers, all I would say is that one has got to take off one's jacket in the universities and get down to letting engineering students of the right type have a better idea of what is open to them in the way of university cadetships.
There is one point about these university cadetships on which we have got to be rather careful. The Union of Students are at the present moment crying 1128 out for maximum grants for all students: that all students should get the maximum grant regardless of their parents' ability to pay. This campaign is on. Should it succeed, it will almost certainly put paid to the success of the university cadetships. It is unlikely that they will be working as well as they are at the present moment. Finally, on this subject, I would just say that for the success of the Service cadetships in the universities it is essential that there should be an effective presence of each Service in the universities. The presence of a small corps of men serving in the University Air Squadron, the O.T.C. or the R.N.R. is a remarkable leaven. Perhaps none of them, other than those who have the cadetships, intends himself to go full-time in the Service, but their presence there has a very great effect, and they should be reinforced. I regret that the very substantial increase in the university cadets, R.A.F., is leading to a diminution in the numbers of the non-university cadets who can get into the air squadrons despite the fact that there is an ample supply of young men wanting to join.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to intervene in this debate and to begin by welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Coleridge. I have had the good fortune to know something of the quality of the noble Lord's work over the last quarter of a century, and it is a happy thing that his eloquence should also have the same high quality as the great deal of planning, office and administration work that he did through all that period. I was particularly glad that he paid tribute in his speech to his preceptor—if I may call him such—that brave, wise and quiet soldier, Lord Ismay. I hope that we shall hear often from the noble Lord. Lord Coleridge.
The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, will, I know, forgive me for net following him in his expert remarks. I will concentrate more on the first 25 paragraphs of the White Paper, and I am sure that your Lordships will excuse me if I am too political and too little expert on defence. I will shield myself behind the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that defence consists of a mixture of foreign policy, diplomacy and armed force—and I shall concentrate somewhat on the first 1129 two. I have just one comment on the White Paper as a whole and on one geographical aspect other than the Indian Ocean, to which I shall come towards the end of my speech. It would seem to me, being a rather prosaic administrative character and not a prophetic character like the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that this is in fact a very balanced, moderate and clearly expressed White Paper, and it seems to suit the present situation quite admirably.
The geographical point that I would make is one simply on what I would advise the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, to call "the Gulf" even if he thereby evokes the displeasure of all other gulfs. The Government have wisely waited until they have had time to consider the advice of that notable public servant Sir William Luce. I would only add one warning, if I may, to what may be in the Government's mind. It is only too easy, in an area like that, to get a few reassuring words from a few people and then to hope that that represents what is going to happen in the future. I would just hope that the Government, having listened to whatever the words are that they may be given from local people, will then, as it were, sit back and think them over and make quite sure that they are satisfied that those words represent not the past and the present but the present and the future.
I do not propose to follow the line taken by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in moving ships, aircraft and armies around the world, because that is beyond me and, in any case, I would have some considerable doubts as to how this would be done in world conditions of conventional warfare covered by the threat of the absolute deterrent. I think it is very difficult to try to predict this, and I shall not, anyway, make the attempt. Nor shall I follow the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who seemed to me to have a very fast and mobile surface vessel at his command. I want to make rather a deeper submergence in my frail submarine, and to get into some of the depths of these questions. I think I shall find myself on the seabed in many respects somewhere near the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell.
I think it is right that in this debate somebody (and I take this upon myself) should consider for a moment the "why" of all this. Are we really worried that 1130 the Soviet Union should have developed this great naval strength? Should we worry about it? We most of us assume that we should. Why should we? The answer, I think, is a two-fold one. First, if you serve Her Majesty anywhere around the world, you will find that the Soviet effort is to a considerable and disquieting degree directed against the interests of this country as conceived by Government and Parliament. Secondly, let me put it in very much the way of a concrete example. The Soviet Union is a great and strong country in which, fifty years after its inception, tinder its present Constitution, the present-day Tolstoys are mute and the present-day Dostoevskys inglorious. In fact, Soviet citizens cannot read their works. That again might not matter, but this State and its ruling Party is dedicated to the proposition that this form of Government must be spread elsewhere, and this combination of Soviet national interest and a rigid doctrine makes a vast increase in Soviet arms and the expansionism or imperialism of Soviet policy something which we must worry about.
And this is also the reason why once again, with a slight note of despair in my voice, I must protest against the too facile use of the word "détente". Certainly, as some noble Lords have said, there are matters of mutual interest between the Soviet Union and the United States or between Communist countries and other countries in which there can be agreement. I thought that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, underestimated what was achieved by Lord Chalfont and others in achieving some agreement in those respects. But there are a great many respects in which the Communist party of the Soviet Union have not the slightest intention of finding a common view with the Western countries. We must not go on belabouring ourselves in masochistic fashion for failing to find points of agreement when they are not there. So, while we must hope for détente and find places where there can be détente—and above all, must pray for the success of the SALT talks—let us not just say that there must be more détentes where the premises for such détentes do not exist.
Having said that much, I hope that I have succeeded in proving, without having to prove it directly, that we have an 1131 interest in power in the Indian Ocean. We must have. The questions we must ask ourselves are: "Why us?"; "Why us now?", and, "What for?". First, "Why us?" The answer to that is simple: nobody else is going to volunteer to be there. Some noble Lords spoke of the inclination of the United States these days to withdraw. This is correct. The question is, the degree of withdrawal. But, surely, the very notion of withdrawal means that the United States would not be prepared, at any rate at this moment, to take on a new strategic field which they have not claimed or wanted to claim before.
"Why us now?" The only alternative which has been suggested is that nobody should make any strategic move of any kind in that area until it is far too late; then everybody would come in together in some kind of manifest confusion. This is clearly not a sensible way to approach it. If anybody is to interest themselves in the Indian Ocean it must be now—and possibly it should have been sooner.
Then the question is, "What for?". I think the question has been somewhat bedevilled by the use of words; and although the words "security of trade routes" are used in the conclusions of the Commonwealth Conference, I feel that that particular wording has a slight unreality about it because of the reason I mentioned before; namely, that we cannot predict how, if there were to be warfare in the future—which, pray Heaven, there will not be—it will be conducted.
I think I would describe the two main objects at this juncture as follows. The first is observation, something which we are, in a small way, doing already and something that we should do better with a little more naval or air strength. The second is the political effect of just being there. You do not have to be there in any very great strength to have some political effect in the sense that, even in these days when we have all forgotten about the more ruthless forms of gunboat diplomacy, the mere presence of one of Her Majesty's ships at least shows that Her Majesty's Government and the British people have not lost interest in the particular country. If they are not there; but there are only Soviet ships, 1132 then the moral is obvious: the Soviet Union is interested in us, a developing country, and others are not. In some cases it is as simple as that. Thus there is a reason for being anxious about that area, a reason for being anxious about it now, and in a concrete way.
This brings us to the complexities of the diplomacy of this situation. The Government, if I may say so, have played a difficult hand during this winter with a considerable degree of skill. I hope that I do not sound patronising in saying that. What the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary achieved at Singapore were two very important things. The first was that certain things were said frankly to many of our friends in the Commonwealth which needed saying and which can best be said in private. The second is that the Government succeeded in bringing about the formation of a group to consider the safety of the trade routes in the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. This is a much more notable success than it may appear in cold print; because some of those countries are countries whose policy has been roughly as follows: "This is a very tiresome question. We wish it were not there and we will therefore look in the other direction and pretend it does not exist." The formation of the group is, at least, an admission, with all the reservations, that a problem does exist and that it is a problem important enough to be discussed by a group of Commonwealth countries.
So far so good. Then comes the announcement of Monday about the sale of helicopters, or the readiness to sell helicopters, to South Africa. I think that the Government can argue that this is simply an announcement of the legal position. But I would urge Ministers, if I may, to realise that an announcement like that is not just what we think it is. In the highly sensitive atmosphere of Asia and Africa, people say, "Why make the announcement now? There must be something between the lines, something over the page, something in somebody's mind." And possibly an innocent intention of what is supposed to be a legal announcement will be construed differently in the countries which are sensitive to these things. I do not wish to be melodramatic about it, but we have had a news item from Nigeria to-day to this 1133 effect. I hope that if there is any slipping in the position about the group, it can be restored by the very able and experienced High Commissioner there.
But this is one of so many warnings on this matter. Unless the Government are prepared to concentrate, almost minute by minute, on sensitivities that are often unreasonable and which represent something which perhaps might not be believed in private but must be said and done in public, then the advantage gained in the Commonwealth Conference will be lost. The worst that could happen, if this is played carelessly or insensitively, is that we might get a ship or two more in the Indian Ocean and Communist-dominated Africa behind them. That is the extent of the risk. I beg the Government constantly to consider whether a little tidying up, a little crossing of a t here or a dotting of an i there, is really worth the risk that is taken when they do it. Because I am sure that our objectives are all the same: that we should be there in the Indian Ocean; that we should be a moderating, helpful influence; that we should keep our friends aware that we are interested in their future welfare. But if we play this carelessly, defiantly or rudely then we shall arrive at a position in which we shall have the means to do a little in favour of defence but shall find that the things we want to defend no longer want to be defended by us.
§ 6.20 p.m.
My Lords, first I should like to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Coleridge, on his admirable maiden speech. I shall certainly look forward to hearing from him again. When I first addressed your Lordships' House about 14 years ago I drew attention to the vital importance of the oil imports from the Persian Gulf. This certainly seems to me, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Segal, a matter of such great importance that I make no apology for bringing it up again this afternoon. It has, of course, a direct relevance to our maritime defence. Since that day 14 years ago Europe's oil needs have been multiplied three times; but, as before, this country has to import practically all its oil, and over 60 per cent. of it still comes from the Middle East. That represents an 1134 enormous figure. Our consumption is now so great that it is impossible to stockpile any useful percentage of our requirements. In consequence it has to come in a continuous stream of tankers; and, my Lords, I emphasise that word "continuous".
As your Lordships very well know, those tankers have at present to come round by the Cape. More and more is our oil coming in monster tankers, each one of which carries a highly important and valuable cargo. Indeed, each one is equivalent to many of the tankers which we used to convoy home in World War H. Each is a large and well worth while target for an enemy submarine or aircraft. To persuade your Lordships that I am not exaggerating and that ii is not just I who am seriously bothered by this position, I should like to remind you of what General Goodpaster, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said last autumn, when he was speaking to the German Foreign Policy Association. I cannot quote his exact words, but, in effect, he said that Russian submarines could now seriously threaten the Western Alliance, and that perhaps the most important Soviet maritime threat at present was to the flow of oil from the Middle East.
My own information on this important matter necessarily comes from non-confidential sources, such as the White Paper which we are discussing this evening, and from Press reports and so on, and it is therefore somewhat limited; but General Goodpaster's information is not. He has, I should imagine, a widespread and elaborate intelligence organisation, and I have little doubt that it provides hint with a pretty accurate and complete picture. As I see it, my Lords, that picture is a pretty black one; or perhaps I ought to say a pretty red one, for the Red Navy is now in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.
I should imagine that the U.S.S.R. could quite easily take control of the Suez Canal, if it wanted to. According to reliable estimates, the Russian Air Force has the use of six of Egypt's 30 operational airfields; and Alexandria, which, of course, was available to us and used by us as our main Fleet base in the Eastern Mediterranean in World War II, is now available to the Russian Navy. 1135 When the Canal is open again, Russian maritime flexibility will be greatly enhanced. She will then need only to get control of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus and she will have a clear run through to the Indian Ocean for her Black Sea fleet. At present her ships in the Indian Ocean must come either from a naval base in the Far East, which I understand is where most of them do come from, or from the Arctic or the Mediterranean via the Cape. She already has quite appreciable forces and facilities in the Indian Ocean. I do not wish to weary your Lordships by giving a list of these forces and facilities now; in any case they are given broadly in the White Paper.
Bearing in mind our impending withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and our partial withdrawal from Singapore, it is clear that Russia has already established herself across our vital oil supply lines from the Persian Gulf down to the Cape. We have been told in the White Paper that the backbone of our defence strategy is NATO; and that our main, though not our only concern, is in the NATO area. I think most of us would agree with that. But, my Lords, if we do not pay very particular attention to our oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, and if we do not make proper and essential provision for their protection in time of war and strained relations, we shall soon find ourselves short of oil, whatever we do in the NATO area. This would quickly bring our defence forces, and indeed most of NATO, to a grinding standstill, and then we should be in no position at all to conclude any satisfactory terms with those who are working against us.
My Lords, it is a long time now since the First World War, and of course times have changed. It is easy to forget that for a very awkward period in 1914 our trade in the Indian Ocean was paralysed by the presence of the "Emden" and the "Konigsberg", two rather ancient and not very powerful German cruisers. How much more awkward would it be for us now with, say, half a dozen nuclear submarines and a dozen or so Russian maritime aircraft based on Aden? When I first addressed your Lordships on this matter 14 years ago, I ventured to say, I hope quite clearly, that we must have this oil from 1136 the Persian Gulf, and an uninterrupted supply of it. In this respect I believe that the position is just the same now as it was 14 years ago.
That brings me to one other matter—I shall not keep your Lordships for very long. I am really delighted—I am sure that the whole Navy is delighted—that we are to keep "Ark Royal" for a few more years. Like the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, when he addressed your Lordships on November 5 last in the debate on the Supplementary Statement on Defence, I only wish that we could have kept "Eagle" too. Though one carrier is far better than none, with only one carrier in action, if she is in the NATO area obviously she cannot be in the Indian Ocean at the same time, and vice-versa. When "Ark Royal" is out of action for a refit or repairs, we shall be without a carrier altogether; and if a carrier is considered necessary at all—and of couse I agree that it is—she is necessary all the time. With our very limited base facilities in the Indian Ocean, and observing the vital importance of the oil flow from the Persian Gulf, I should have thought that that would normally be the most important area for "Ark Royal" to be stationed.
I realise, of course, that "Eagle" would be an expensive addition to our defence bill; but what an addition she would be to our maritime flexibility, with her mobile airfield which could be sent almost anywhere in the oceans of the world! If we had difficulty in manning and paying for her, as I am sure we should have, could we not possibly keep her for the time being in reserve with a reduced ship's company, so as to be available to man-up in times of strained relations? One last point, my Lords. Would not the retention of "Eagle" perhaps help to solve our present recruiting difficulties? Those difficulties, I believe, are no longer a consequence of low pay, because pay is no longer low. One seldom hears complaints on that score in the Services now. In the case of the Navy, anyway, I believe that recruiting difficulties are largely due to lack of foreign service. Nowadays (or at any rate it will be the case very shortly) it will be nearly all home service and NATO exercises—all work and too little play. I believe that more of the old peace-time foreign service cruises would 1137 both stimulate recruiting and also show the flag round the world. Keeping the "Eagle" might, in some way, help in these important matters.
The Americans are, of course, much richer than we are; but it is interesting to note that in a Press article, originating last year from the Office of the United States Chief of Naval Operations, who corresponds to our First Sea Lord, it was pointed out that since Korea the U.S. Navy has had a total of between 14 and 19 strike carriers, and one of their problems has been to decide how many carriers they should keep—unlike our problem, which has been, should we keep one carrier or none? It is clear from this same article that the U.S. Navy now wishes to keep a minimum peace-time total of 15 carriers. They say that, with the steady decline of air bases available to them round the world, even that number may have to be increased later.
My Lords, we, too, have experienced a steady decline in bases round the world; but, far from having declined, our vital imports from the Persian Gulf have increased and our essential seaborne trade around the world is as great as ever it was. With that in view, I should have thought that by the end of this year the maritime forces, particularly in the Indian Ocean, would be dangerously low; and that among other remedies the retention of "Eagle" would be amply justified. Apart from the comments I have just made, my Lords, I think that the White Paper is, on the whole, very good. So far as the Navy is concerned—and it is only the Navy that I have been talking about—it gives a clear and complete picture; and I am delighted to take note of it.
§ 6.30 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, this afternoon, as a break with a personal and unimportant tradition, I shall restrict myself to only one aspect of defence and no more than touch upon one other. In referring to the volunteer forces, to be totally scrupulous I suppose I should declare an interest, since I am the honorary colonel of the T.A.V.R. regiment which is, certainly through no virtue of mine, the largest manned-up unit in the British Army, Regular or volunteer. I mention this only as a kind of qualification for claiming to speak from the 1138 "inside" on the problems and enthusiasms and some of the anxieties of the officers and men of these units—the units both in existence and to be created or re-created.
The first fact to which I should bear witness is that to the eyes of all the horizon is brightening, and has been brightening for the past many months since the re-expansion of these volunteer forces was announced. The spirit had been shaken, but not uprooted, by earlier treatment—by the impression officially given that this kind of service and this kind of soldier were no longer required. What is most admirable—though in itself it raises a question which I shall presently pose—is that we shall now have a Reserve in fact as well as in name, able and ready, if required, to defend the homeland. As we all know, so far as concerns the present attenuated T.A.V.R., the "R" is silent, not to say deceptive. Every unit has been or would be assigned to make up existing deficiencies in the Order of Battle of Rhine Army. There would not be a man or a woman left, apart from the cadres remaining in existence from units dissolved in 1968. When I say that the whole of the existing T.A.V.R. is assigned to make up deficiencies in the Rhine Army, this also goes of course for the Regular Reserve. According to my mathematics, these cadres would have been 270 officers and 450 men, since the 90 cadres whose statutory birth was permitted on the morrow of the liquidation of T.A.V.R. III on December 31 were kept up to strength, and (with the exception of 15) have been given permission to double their strengths as from February I in preparation for the re-birth of these new units.
It is a fairly grim thought, my Lords, that even to-day the numbers available for home defence are a maximum of 540 officers and 900 men. All of them are no doubt energetically preparing for April 1, when enrolment of the new force officially begins. The danger of this total absence of home defence was frequently eloquently and accurately emphasised in the debates of 1965 and subsequent years.
From what I understand, the force now to be re-created will be kept separate from the existing T.A.V.R. The units to 1139 be brought into being are at present referred to as the "new" or the "expansion" units. This can clearly be only a temporary definition, and the only mnemonic which I have heard suggested so far—URSU, to stand for Uncommitted Reserve and Security Units—does not fall very musically upon my ear. What is more important than the name, or so I submit, is the role—the breadth of role—to be given to this new wing of the Reserve Forces, which, so far as I know, has not yet been fixed. There is a current, or perhaps an eddy, of opinion which favours limiting their role purely to home defence. I see two powerful handicaps being imposed by such a decision. It would inhibit recruiting, and it might prove a limiting and embarrassing factor in the light of possible events. It could tie the hands of a Secretary of State intolerably. I therefore ask my noble friend whether he can give some kind of assurance on this point, a fairly cardinal point in my own view. I believe that it is not the intention to re-create, as such, the T.A.V.R. III, but those of the same spirit may find an entirely rewarding task for their activities in the new sphere.
Although, as I hope I have made plain, I see the vital importance of home defence, I also hope that the whole incoming 10,000 will not be restricted to this over-exclusive role. It has, I believe, been a relief to the country at large that the Ministry of Defence should lately have amended the role of the T.A.V.R. as a whole, which is now—and I quote in full from page 29 of the White Paper, because I think it is important to my argument:All these objectives are entirely admirable, but they concern the present T.A.V.R. and the task of the new units has yet to be defined, so that its naming may be of rather more than academic interest. Perhaps my noble friend will offer a prize for the most inspiring suggestion. In that event, mine will not win 1140 the prize, but it might serve to spur more gifted contributors into action, and it is, at least, I affirm, more inspiring than URSU. Without any really painful period of mental labour, I have come up with STWRT, standing for Supplementary Territorial War Reserve Troops, the principal dividend being that they could be called the "Stalwarts", which would undoubtedly and aptly describe them. It also seems to me entirely felicitous that, although four years younger that the T.A.V.R., they will celebrate their birthdays together on April 1.
- "a. to complete the Army Order of Battle of our British forces committed to NATO and to provide certain units for the support of NATO headquarters;
- b. to assist in maintaining a secure United Kingdom base in support of forces deployed on the Continent of Europe;
- c to provide a framework for any future expansion of the Reserves."
One problem seems likely to arise as from that date, in a few weeks' time, and I should be grateful if my noble friend could give it sympathetic attention. As at present envisaged, combat dress will be issued to recruits on a personal basis after they have reported and their vital statistics have been recorded. The order for that week's recruits will then be sent to a central depot and the individual uniforms will be provided within a week or so. On the face of it this looks, and is, reasonable enough. In practice, it is not foreseen that the recruits themselves will feel deprived upon this first contact or revived contact with volunteer service. It is foreseen that when they go home, without a uniform, their brothers or friends who may be contemplating a similar, joyful and useful course may be put off by evidence that the Army cannot produce a uniform over the counter. I am told on good authority that this is a very real and thoughtful foreboding. It could be eliminated if mobilisation stocks were released to regimental depots. I concede that this would create additional carriage and bookkeeping, which would hardly seem worth while for the sake of a week or two's delay in delivery; but if psychology is taken into account, it may prove worth the unextravagant candle.
Inevitably the creation or re-creation of these new units of "Stalwarts" has impinged upon the interests of present T.A.V.R. units, as regards both barrack space and recruiting areas. There has been an instance of this in the case of one squadron of my own T.A.V.R. regiment in the North of England. It has been, in a sense, frustrating for those who have built up a squadron with purpose and patience to find that their accommodation and their territory must now 1141 be shared with a new and, in some eyes, more glamorous unit. It affects, in particular, the potential for expansion which, in practical terms, they had in mind.
The only reason I have for introducing this factor is to be able to say that in the correspondence which I have pursued with my noble friend on this relatively sensitive matter he and his Department have shown the greatest sympathy in search of alternative accommodation, and I am more than satisfied that in the circumstances they have done all they can. They were unable to help a great deal, but I know that they did all they could. I am in no doubt whatever that equal understanding has been shown towards the problems of other existing T.A.V.R. units. I am also clear that this cramping factor is the result of the hasty and often improvident disposal of existing drill halls, consequent upon the dark night of March 31, 1967, when the Terirtorial Army, as we knew it, was officially dissolved.
Up to that date there were 1,267 drill halls throughout the country. The following day about 800 were declared redundant, and orders for disposal were sent out. Out of those 800, about 100 remain in possession, either because nobody wanted them at any price for anything else or because the legal procedures of transfer have not been completed. There remain in use 462 drill halls. Within that compass my noble friend has to operate, unless he is to undertake the expense of buying back old drill halls or building new ones. It would be a poor service to the voluntary forces to undermine his efforts by complaints within the general endeavour.
The other separate matter on which I would have spoken, as many times in the past, was NATO. I was firmly and rightly deterred when I saw that my noble friend Lord Coleridge was to make his maiden speech in this debate. Having depended for many years so confidently upon his wisdom in that vital sphere, on successive annual visits to Brussels before defence debates, I knew that he would be making the second definitive speech to-day, and there would be no room for any contribution of mine. All I will attempt is a little modest embroidery, which is really part of the question I have concentrated upon to-day.
1142 I paid an habitual visit to Brussels last week, but not specifically in connection with NATO. However, in the course of my contacts, I had put to me a rather intriguing suggestion as regards the reserve forces. It was this. The participation of reserve units is a regular feature of the training year, and has been for many years, in B.A.O.R. It is valued, I believe, by the Regular forces, and certainly by the T.A.V.R. units. One squadron of my own unit will be going to Germany in July as their summer camp, and they are much looking forward to it, as is always the case. But they have known of this for months—for nearly a year. It is a training exercise, not a reinforcement exercise. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, rightly spoke of the need for credibility in NATO. Part of that credibility depends on our ability to reinforce, and I am thinking now of reinforcement from the Reserve. It was suggested to me that certain units of the T.A.V.R. might be called up from time to time at very short notice indeed and for a very short period, perhaps a long weekend, to take their place in Germany. It would cause personal inconvenience; at face value it would be opposed both by industry and by the unions, and without any doubt at all by the Treasury. It would be welcomed by NATO as a proof that very immediate, unrehearsed reinforcement is possible on a small scale. From what I know of the men involved, both officers and other ranks, if this could only happen to them at most once a year, they would meet the challenge with enthusiasm and an alert sense of purpose. It seems to me that these virtues should outweigh the objections. If Britain could set such an example, it is most likely that other European allies would follow it.
As I mentioned earlier, it had been among my alternative intentions to speak on NATO matters more widely—for good reasons I desisted in advance. That does not imply any decline in my interest, and before closing I feel compelled to mention one anxiety, expressed to me in NATO circles last year, and with the same emphasis this year. That was the place of Malta in the defence planning of NATO and the defence involvement of that Island on one side or the other. I am relieved of saying more than a word or two, thanks to the full way in which my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley dealt with it. It still seems worth 1143 repeating that with 70 Soviet ships in the Mediterranean, a force so easily reinforced at the will of the Soviet rulers, Malta becomes of critical importance—with no misuse of that often misused word "critical". Also, what I think has not been said, surveillance, if no more, at the other end of the Mediterranean, is a matter of intense import and advantage to one side or the other. Soviet bases already extend along part of the rim of the Mediterranean. There is talk of more such bases, possibly the use of the naval base at Mers el Kebir, being made available, which would threaten Gibraltar. In this context it makes sense, to state it no more strongly, that joint naval exercises with the Spanish navy should be resumed, because they may go hand in hand with an exchange of naval information. If this vital information can be obtained at no extra cost to ourselves, without any extension of effort by ourselves, such a bonus must commend itself.
I know that the new look at NATO by Her Majesty's Government and the new impulse which has been its consequences, is giving encouragement to the organisation as a whole, where fortunately our difficulties in Northern Ireland are understood, and the effect that they have on our manpower situation. Because my noble friend spoke himself so modestly of the influence he and his colleagues have had in persuading the United States Government at the very least to review and for the present to hold up their intended withdrawal from Europe, I feel it right for me to bear witness, recent witness, from Brussels. And I was frankly somewhat surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in his speech, when speaking of another area of the world, question what use limited forces might be in deterring Soviet Russia with its vastly superior forces.
Apart from their intrinsic, active military effectiveness, which is nowhere to be despised, the effect of our forces is to hearten allies and uncommitted countries, with interests in any particular area. It is as the author and designer of realistic British intentions, backed by action, that a British Government can serve the cause of world security which is, of course, the cause of peace. My noble friend has shown clearly enough that he is serving that cause in the fullest practical measure.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, before I launch myself into my speech, may I add my congratulations to those expressed by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Coleridge, on his maiden speech? He is an expert in the nuts and bolts of defence. Most of us, with too little knowledge, fly into the stratosphere of high strategy, but he really knows what it is all about. I am certain that the whole House awaits with interest his next speech when he is no longer affected by the rules which inhibit a maiden speaker. We look forward to the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, both at the beginning and at the end of his speech, injected a touch of acid—perhaps a squeeze of lemon over the smoked salmon. In claiming at the end of his speech one of the credits that should be granted to the present Administration, he said that the present Administration had restored the Armed Forces to a respected and important role within our society. If I were a man easily aroused I should take exception to this remark, because in the previous Administration, among my colleagues in this House, and honourable and right honourable Members in the other place, the Armed Forces never lacked respect, and their role had never been doubted. I hope that this was just a political flourish to the noble Lord's speech.
There are three main points that I wish to make to-day. The first is of major importance; the other two are secondary, but worthy of consideration. As has been said by everyone, the concern of the Western Alliance, the NATO Alliance, is with the intentions and power of the Warsaw Alliance; and of course the presence of Russians ships in the Indian Ocean is as much an indication of the intentions and policies of the Warsaw Alliance as is their presence in the Mediterranean or on the North Cape.
We are all concerned with this problem. But part of our problem when we discuss it is this. While intellectually we realise that we are part of an Alliance, and must face this threat as an Alliance, many of us feel emotionally that we in this country are "facing it alone". This is a mistake. But it is right that we should ask ourselves how long the United States will be the main cornerstone of 1145 the Western Alliance. How many American divisions will be in Europe in 1980? How many in 1990? I myself believe that the American presence in Europe must logically diminish over the years. Nevertheless, it is the presence of American forces in Europe—and substantial forces at that—which maintains the credibility of the NATO Alliance.
We cannot, however, take this presence for granted. Europe must redouble its efforts in its contribution to its own defence, partly to persuade the Americans to continue here for longer than might otherwise be the case, and partly to prepare for the day when, I believe, they must reduce their direct interest in this part of the world. This is one important reason why we must enter Europe—because I share the view of the former Secretary of State, Mr. Denis Healey, that Europe can be defended only by Europe, and not, as now, by an Alliance of nation States. This particular fragmentation of effort which exists at the moment was touched upon by the noble Lord. Lord Gladwyn, in his speech to-day, and dealt with at greater length in an earlier speech. The situation is that all the Powers in the Western Alliance are trying to build up for themselves balanced forces: however great or however small our economy, we are trying to build up balanced forces, and trying to perform every military role, which is in fact a course open only to the super-Powers.
NATO is not a paper tiger; it is still a very powerful military force. But it is really a wolf pack rather than a single dangerous animal. We are running together; but we are not sharing the burden so that we can minimise the load that comes on each of us. As has been pointed out, this country is in fact contributing more to the defence of the West than any other member of the NATO Alliance, apart from the United States and Portugal. I think we shall also agree that it will be impossible at the moment to ask our own nation, or other nations in Western Europe, for more money and more men because in the short run politically this is not possible. But what we can do is to use much more effectively the resources that we have. Before anything else, we must create for ourselves a common logistic base. This is the great strength of the 1146 Warsaw Pact Powers: they have a unified command, unified weapons, a commonality throughout the whole of the Armed Forces of the Alliance which faces them. We do not have this advantage. Noble Lords, I am certain (it has been touched on), will realise that a German aircraft landing on a British base can do no more than refuel itself. It cannot rearm. This is the weakness that comes from the fact that each member nation of the NATO Alliance is trying to create for itself balanced forces—with the result that the Alliance as a whole is in imbalance.
We must prepare ourselves for specialising in the production of certain military weapons and performing certain special roles within the Alliance. We must not try to do everything. We must trust our Allies to do something for us, as they must trust us. I believe that Europe should entrust to us the role of building and maintaining a nuclear submarine force, whereas perhaps we should entrust to the Germans the role of creating and maintaining our tank forces. This., in engineering terms, would bring about a very much greater return on the investment we are all putting into the very expensive military equipment that we are buying—50 per cent. of the total budget, a great deal of the value of which is frittered away simply because it is not universally usable throughout the whole of the fronts which face the enemy. But, again, the commonality of weapons must depend upon a common strategic doctrine. Not all of us yet have a strategic doctrine, and of course weapons spring from such a doctrine. I believe that only a united Europe can have a common strategic doctrine. This again is another argument for our entry into a larger, international organisation.
We are, of course, doing several good things. The multi-role combat aircraft is the most important of the shared operations which we are undertaking with our Allies. There are many other projects listed in this White Paper. This is of the first importance. May I say how much I welcome the agreement that we seem to have reached with Germany on the maintenance of Occupation costs. We seem at last to be able to discuss this matter in an adult manner, arising perhaps from the fact that the present Administration have inherited a strong 1147 balance-of-payments position: it makes discussion with the Germans a great deal easier. But I welcome it.
I welcome also the reassurance we have given our allies that work on the joint projects involving Rolls-Royce will continue and will have the full support of this Government. I should like to say to the Secretary of State, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee studying the future of the RB.211, that I believe that the death of the RB.211 would jeopardise many of these projects: because we must not forget that the RB.211 is not a "one-off" concept, but the first engine in a whole family of engines. Its survival is essential to the credibility of the British contribution to the military technology of Western Europe.
The second point to which I should like to turn is the problem of manpower in the Armed Forces. May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, for his kind remarks about the small part I played in the revised system of training for Royal Air Forces officers? I am certain that the present Secretary of State is as grateful to the noble Lord as I was for the work he has done in the Military Committees of Scotland. There he is a power to be reckoned with.
Reading the Statement on the Defence Estimates one can say that the manpower position is patchy. It is unsatisfactory, but not without hope. The encouraging figure is the rise in the percentage of steady enrolment. These figures are moving steadily in the right direction. The improvement is, I think, in the main, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd has said, due to the better pay and conditions that have been given to the Armed Forces, and particularly the impact of the military salary. I believe that when single men receive the full increment in April of this year it should have a further significant effect in the drawing power of the Armed Forces on the interest of the declining number of young men who are available for commissioning and service in the three Forces.
But, of course, in the long run what we want is a high rate of re-engagement. The concept of shorter engagements to start with, and letting the Services speak for themselves to the young men who 1148 come into them, is the right way to tackle the problem. Re-engagement rates are encouragingly high and we must be prepared to take a calculated risk on not tying young men for too long, so that they come in and learn what the Services have to offer.
However, the point I want to make is one that I think is too little considered; it is the role of women in the Armed Forces. I am not pleading that a wider employment of women in the Armed Forces is a universal panacea, but I do believe that they have a much larger role to play in the Armed Forces than is the case at present. As is known, in preparation for the review of the military salary scales we carried out a job evaluation of all the work within the Royal Air Force, including the work of women. This showed that women could perform almost all the jobs performed by men in the Royal Air Force. Why the evaluators were not able to give them the equivalent of 100 per cent. in that evaluation was the fact that they were not universally postable—that they could not be sent to Gan or Masirah, for instance. That, of course, has nothing to do with their competence; it is due simply to social attitudes. I believe that if we can accept the fact that a group of young women among a thousand men in Gan will be exactly the same as a group of 20 young women among a thousand men in Godalming, that inhibition disappears. The moral standards of the Armed Forces are higher than those of civilian life and there is no reason at all why the usefulness of women should be limited by the areas to which it is considered they may be posted. I believe that as far as is possible we should try to treat women as being interchangeable with men, as is the case in the Israeli armed forces.
During the evaluation there was an argument about whether or not women bore weapons. It was said that one could not treat women the same as men because they were not used to bearing arms. In point of fact they are perfectly used to operating weapons systems. They can and do, and they do it now. In fact, the White Paper itself shows that in many areas they are the equivalent of men. There is a note in the White Paper of the shortage of wireless operators in the Royal Air Force. There is a shortage of both men and women operators, and 1149 wireless operators of either sex are absolutely interchangeable. What I am arguing, my Lords, is that we should take advantage of the rest of the economy by implementing equal pay now and paying the x factor to women now instead of waiting for 1975, when I believe this state of affairs will come about. We shall then get the cream of the generation of young women who are coming forward, who could in fact fill a very wide range of the gaps which now exist within our defence establishment. Anyone who has seen, let us say, a woman officer of the Royal Air Force operating radar control and guiding fighter aircraft to intercept possible enemy aircraft will realise the skill with which an important control of a weapons system is being exercised by a woman.
So I believe attitudes will change. They change too slowly, as is indicated by the fact that in the attempt to recruit mature engineers and administrators into the Royal Air Force the men are recruited with the rank of squadron leader and the women with the rank of flying officer. This strikes me as being unwise. If a woman is good enough to be an engineer in the Royal Air Force, after experience in civilian life, she is worthy of the same rank, and I contend that this particular source of skilled human power should be considered and tapped more quickly.
The last point I want to make is the question of the better use of the manpower resources that we have in this country. I welcome the fact that the work of the Headquarters Organisation Committee is going on; I think it is an important operation. I welcome in particular the by-product of that Committee—or a linked operation—which is described at page 47 of the White Paper, namely, the decentralisation of two Commands of various activities within the Royal Air Force, engineering in particular, and the power that gives the commander in chief, or the staff of a commander in chief, to deal directly with an aircraft company for spares for, say, the VC.10, rather than having to go up to the centre, out into the company and back into the Command. This measure of decentralisation, giving the very able men who are in charge of the various 1150 Commands of the Royal Air Force the right to make decisions at that level and thus save them from the burden of going up to the centre for every quite minor thing that they want, is right, and it should become general practice throughout the Armed Forces. It would, of course, be welcomed by them.
But in this we must not forget the role of the Treasury, because whereas it is possible for the Royal Air Force to decentralise its administration, to make it effective I believe we must decentralise the financial control. This is a long subject, worthy of a debate in itself. All I can say is that the Treasury is still operating its controls as they were devised a hundred years ago, and it really must be altered if this decentralisation of functions is to succeed. There is one particular area I should like to mention where Treasury short-sightedness is still throwing a shadow over a most important organisation, and that is the future of the air squadrons. I had the pleasure of being with the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, at an air squadron dinner in Edinburgh quite recently, and I am sure he will support me when I say that the future of the air squadrons themselves seems to be uncertain. In spite of the fact that the number of air cadets has risen from 266 to 350, no one, so far as I know, has yet said that the future of these air squadrons in the foreseeable future is secure. If the Secretary of State could give that assurance this evening, I am certain that all the air squadrons of this country would feel a great sense of relief.
My Lords, those are the only constructive points that I have to add to this debate. However, I would say that in my view the noble Lord. Lord Gore-Booth, asked the key question: what is all this about? Why do we take so much trouble? Why do we spend so much money? I share his pessimism. I believe that until the Russians have Socialism with a human face we must not trust them. There is no reason for hope at all in the good of Russian intentions. Whenever men like Dubcek have tried to bring about a change in the nature of Communist society, we have seen that they have reached a nasty, brutish end. And that is what all this discussion is about.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I must say that I do not find myself too cast down by this debate. Generally speaking, I think there has been very little criticism, either of the Government's defence policy or of the White Paper, although I recognise that on various sides of the House some anxieties have been expressed—anxieties which in some cases I myself share and which I recognise, and to which it will be the concern of myself and my Ministry to try to find solutions. I think I agree with almost all the speech which has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and I shall certainly look into some of the very interesting suggestions that he made about manpower.
In my opening remarks I said that I should devote my closing speech to answering questions, and I will now try to deal with as many of the points raised as I can. Before doing so, I would join with others of your Lordships who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Coleridge on his maiden speech. I think it was to be expected that if the noble Lord spoke about NATO he would be speaking about a subject of which he knows probably more than anybody else in your Lordships' House. And of course he did, and we listened to it and profited greatly from it. I agree entirely with what he said about security and the strength of NATO. I was very encouraged, if I may say so, coming from so died-in-the-wool a NATO figure as my noble friend, by his going out of his way to say that we should also look further afield than NATO and that there were other parts of the world in which we had British interests and to which we should have regard. I hope my noble friend will also try further afield and intervene in debates in your Lordships' House on matters other than defence.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, took me to task a little, saying that I and the White Paper should have paid more attention to disarmament; and what was the position of the Government over the European Security Conference. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, in a splendid speech—with which I did not necessarily agree, but he expresses himself with such sincerity that one must always admire it—also took me to task. I believe in all sorts of things. I believe 1152 in truth and beauty and the inevitability of death, but I do not mention them in every speech I make; and therefore on this occasion I did not mention disarmament, but it does not mean to say that I do not think it a splendid ideal. It takes two sides to reach agreement, and I am sure that neither of the two noble Lords who spoke about this wished to advocate unilateral disarmament. As I indicated in my speech, and as the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, indicated in his speech just before he finished, there is little sign of disarmament on the part of the Soviet Union—quite the reverse; though I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, when he says that there might very well be specific issues on which it would be possible to reach agreement with the Soviet Union.
A European Security Conference sounds attractive, but I think we would really need to ask what subjects it would discuss if it was to be something more serious than a propaganda exercise. The only major topics which have so far been suggested have been the mutual balanced force reductions, and in spite of repeated invitations by the NATO countries there has been no real sign that the Warsaw Pact countries are ready to go to the conference table and discuss that subject I think we must be realistic as well as hopeful about these matters.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked me whether the sale of Wasp helicopters announced on Monday would be covered by the assurance that these would not be used for the purposes of apartheid. As your Lordships know, the Prime Minister, in agreeing to Britain participating in the study group on the Indian Ocean, said that he had received an assurance from the South African Government that it has no aggressive intentions and will not use any items of maritime equipment supplied by the British Government for purposes other than those for which they were supplied. I think that answers the noble Lord's point.
I know the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has had to leave because he has a bad attack of laryngitis. I think he did rather well in the circumstances; he did threaten at one moment that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, would read his peroration, but he managed to survive. Not unexpectedly, the noble Lord emphasised the importance to Europe of NATO in our defence policy, 1153 and I think I have made it very clear in the White Paper that we take that view as well. But I also take the view that security is indivisible, and while reiterating our support for NATO we should not turn a blind eye to what is happening in the rest of the world outside the totally artificial boundaries of NATO. There is no particular magic, for example, in the Tropic of Cancer as a line below which NATO will not operate. I am glad, and a little surprised, that the noble Lord thought that in Singapore and the Far East we were being sensible. I can assure him that our forces there can be reinforced not only through the routes he mentioned but by oilier routes, and also on the Westabout route; though I must say that I was a Idle puzzled to understand why he was so worried about that when he denied the existence of any enemy that our troops there could conceivably oppose.
I can also assure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that the Beira patrol involves only one, or at the most two, ships, which would, of course, be available for other tasks in emergency. The only thing that bothered me about Lord Gladwyn's speech was that he said that he did not think there was any point in having ships in the Indian Ocean because any war would inevitably be nuclear. It seems to me that if you carry that argument to a logical conclusion, there is no object in having conventional forces anywhere, and I think that the noble Lord may, on reflection, feel that he went a little too far in suggesting that.
He also asked me about the position of United States forces in Europe, and I can confirm that the improvements made by the European members in the European Defence Improvement Programme are the counterpart of the American pledge not to make unilateral reductions of forces until at least the middle of 1972. He also asked about nuclear weapons in NATO. The answer is that the order to fire the weapons would be given either by SACLANT or SACEUR after release had been authorised by the nuclear Powers concerned, Britain and the United States, and in reaching their decision the President or Prime Minister would, in so far as time permitted, take account of the views expressed by other members of the Alliance. I do not think one should go into further detail on that sort of matter.
1154 The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell was good enough to say that he thought 70 per cent. of my speech was—I am not quite sure whether he said common-sense or realistic. I would in return give him even higher marks. I thought that almost the whole of his speech was common sense and realistic. I have really no quarrel with anything he said, though perhaps I might have expressed some of the points rather differently. I have only one slight reservation. I think he was a little unfair to my right honourable friend Mr. Duncan Sandys when he said that the 1957 White Paper—I think that was the White Paper he was referring to—
§ LORD CARRINGTON
—the 1958 White Paper—was the basic cause of our manpower troubles. I think in 1958 the "trip-wire" strategy, which was in effect outlined in that White Paper, was a credible strategy, because there was an overwhelming nuclear superiority on the side of the West because of the American nuclear superiority; but of course that superiority, as we have all said this afternoon, very largely disappeared. There is now parity, and a "trip-wire" strategy when there is nuclear parity is obviously no longer as credible as it was before. I think perhaps Mr. Duncan Sandys was being a little more logical than the noble Lord would give him credit for.
The noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Shepherd, asked me to explain more precisely the circumstances in which British troops would take part in operations in the defence of Malaysia and Singapore. Of course, ours are not the only forces there. There are Australian and New Zealand forces, as well as the Malaysians and Singaporeans. I do not think it right that one should try to forecast the sort of contingencies which might arise. We should have to decide each situation on its own merits and, of course, in consultation with our partners. But I confirm that the Five-Power arrangements will be concerned with the external defence of Malaysia and Singapore and not with internal security; and during our consultations we should all of us have to decide whether any particular situation involved the external defence of Malaysia and Singapore or was purely an internal matter. I think 1155 it would be quite wrong to lay down too precise guidelines at this stage.
My noble friend, Lord Balerno spoke, as did some other noble Lords, about the manpower situation, and I will study what he and others have said about it. There have been some valuable suggestions. I should like to associate myself with what Lord Winterbottom said about Lord Balerno and the efforts he makes in Scotland on behalf of the Forces. I myself have seen at first hand what he does at Edinburgh University with the cadets, and I think everybody should be very grateful to those public-spirited people like my noble friend who takes such an infinity of trouble to help the Services.
Several noble Lords have talked about the Gulf, and I have explained that at this present time I am not in a position to announce the Government's policy. The noble Lords, Lord Bourne and Lord Segal, and my noble friend Lord Glasgow and several other noble Lords, spoke on this matter. I will study what they have said, and I assure them that the points of view which they have expressed are obviously being taken into account in the discussions which are leading up to the Government's decisions. I would also assure my noble friend Lord Ashbourne that we went carefully into the question of whether or not it would be possible to retain H.M.S. "Eagle" as well as H.M.S. "Ark Royal", but we regretfully came to the conclusion that the cost, both in money and in manpower, would have been too high.
My noble friend Lord Glasgow asked me three questions. He asked me when EXOCET would come into service. The answer is that it will come into service as soon as we can possibly get it into service; but I should not like to be more precise than that at this moment. He also asked whether the vertical take-off aircraft which he said would be serving in the Royal Navy would be manned by the Royal Navy or by the Royal Air Force. I must make it plain to my noble friend that there has been no decision to equip the Royal Navy with vertical takeoff aircraft. What is happening is that evaluation trials are taking place with the Harrier aircraft on board several types of ships in the Royal Navy, and we must see how these trials go before 1156 we make any decision. It has not therefore been decided who would fly these aircraft. But so far as both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are concerned, so long as they want the aircraft, the aircraft work and they get them, I doubt whether either of them would mind very much who flew them. The Mark 24 torpedo, which was the subject of the noble Lord's last question, did run into some troubles but we hope that it is now through the troubles and the development is proceeding quite satisfactorily. I hope that it will come into service some time in the early 'seventies.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, endorsed the tribute which a great many of your Lordships have paid to the troops in Northern Ireland. Of course he speaks with great authority. I agree with him that we should make it absolutely clear that the Army will remain in Northern Ireland in strength for as long as is necessary, and that it would be unrealistic to suppose that this will be for only a short time more. But it must be said equally clearly, and I certainly say it as Secretary of State for Defence, that this commitment places the most grievous strain on the Army's manpower, and especially on the discharge of our obligations to NATO. So we shall maintain the Northern Ireland force level only at the level at which the security situation demands, and we shall encourage the civil arm of the security forces to play their full part in the maintenance of law and order.
My noble friend Lord St. Oswald asked me three questions. First, he asked me whether or not the new volunteer units would be restricted to home defence. There is no question whatever of these units being tied to an inferior role or inferior status. Far from it. As I have said, their equipment will be on a lighter scale, but their training will prepare them for a variety and a full range of roles. One particular unit, the extra Armoured Car Regiment is being formed specifically for the purpose of reinforcing NATO, and the remainder will provide that most essential of all forces to which the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, referred—an uncommitted reserve.
My noble friend asked me about uniforms. Certainly it is our aim to provide the new units with their uniforms 1157 as soon as possible, but I hope he will appreciate that there are some administrative difficulties about this. However, we shall do what we can. Lastly, he asked me whether it would be possible for there to be some practice of rapid reinforcement exercises to Germany—for example, that one unit or another might fly out for the week-end. This is an interesting idea, because I am sure that reinforcement is one of the most important problems that we have to face. I should like to look at the suggestion my noble friend has made, and I will communicate with him later on.
My Lords, I do not suppose for one moment that I have answered all the questions your Lordships have asked me, but I have had a fair shot at doing so. If on reading through the debate I find that your Lordships have asked other questions that I have not answered, I will write to noble Lords individually. In the meantime, perhaps I may thank your Lordships for the most agreeable atmosphere in which this debate has taken place, and say that I think it has been a constructive debate and that we in your Lordships' House at any rate may feel that we have done something constructive for the Forces as a result of this debate.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.