§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, we can surely all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that, on the whole, the White Paper is a reasonable and work-manlike document and that, generally speaking, the policy statement corresponds to our present role as what I believe is nowadays known as an important Power of the second rank. We have in fact now largely shed our imperial and world-wide commitments and, as everybody knows, we are concentrating primarily on the defence of Western Europe, within the general framework, of course, of the Atlantic Alliance. Before considering how this general posture might be reinforced and developed and what seems to me to be one major flaw in the whole exposé in Chapter I, I should like to put one or two questions of detail, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, did, to which I should be grateful if the Government could reply.
First, with regard to recruitment. Of course it is a good thing that the recruitment figures have gone up so well, and I congratulate the Government on it. The new flexible system described in Chapter IV, paragraph 14, also seems to us to be excellent, as such, if long overdue. But it is surely regrettable that the men who opt for this new type of engagement should be penalised by a lower rate of 426 pay. It is true, of course, that the penalisation is disguised by the provision that men on notice-engagements will receive what are called "normal" pay rates, while those on long service engagements are rewarded by higher rates. But is not this really only the equivalent of the well-known Treasury cheese-paring? Would it result in any great additional expenditure if both categories were on the higher rate? In any case, could the Minister perhaps tell us what the additional expenditure would be likely to be if there were no financial distinction between the two categories of recruits? No doubt the ability to give notice will give rise to some manpower problems and these will have to be accented in the modern context of fluidity of labour, from which not even the Service Departments can be immune. But if there were no invidious distinction in the rates of pay between the two categories of recruits might there not be rather less prospect of men on notice-engagements terminating their engagements than would otherwise be the case?
In Chapter II, paragraph 7(a), we are told that work on the design of a through-deck cruiser is proceeding satisfactorily. This is good news so far as it goes, but in paragraph 7(c) we learn that, unhappily, the Harrier VSTOL aircraft is now considered unsuitable for maritime operations. It is certainly to be hoped, as I think the White Paper points out, that a new version of the Harrier can be developed or indeed that a completely new aircraft can be designed and produced. But neither of these things appears to be certain and both would presumably take a long time to accomplish. Therefore is there not some risk that the through-deck cruiser will be produced before there are any suitable aircraft that can operate from it?
Lastly, we note from Chapter II, paragraph 7(e) that we have had to invest in the French Exocet surface-to-surface missile. Could the Minister let us know how much this contract will cost? Like-wise, the Mark 46 lightweight torpedoes which apparently we have had to purchase from the United States of America? Is it not a fact that these are not, so to speak, exotic weapons but just ordinary naval hardware? And does it not reflect unfavourably on our R. and D. programme that we have not been able to 427 produce them ourselves with all the benefit that would consequently accrue to British industry and exports, always supposing, which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, doubted, that these are desirable, to say nothing of some relief to our balance of payments?
I turn now to the general question of Western European defence, in respect of which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made such an interesting speech. With a good deal of it I agreed, though not all. The White Paper rightly draws attention to the tremendous and, qualitatively, ever-increasing conventional power of the Soviet Government and its Allies now deployed in Europe, that probably out-classes the NATO power by at least 2½ and perhaps even 3 to 1, taking everything into consideration. At least I believe that is the view of the Institute of Strategic Studies. It also draws attention to what is called the potent Soviet naval capability in the Mediterranean; to its naval deployments that are believed to be a potential threat to Western European trade routes and, of course, not least, to its immense nuclear capacity which is now, broadly speaking, at least the equal of that of the United States.
I suggest that nobody can read paragraph 5 of Chapter I of the White Paper without at least some apprehension. Most people will probably read it with considerable alarm. There is no justification for the complacent, if widely held view, that preoccupation with China will diminish the great military predominance of Russia in Europe and her growing strength in the Mediterranean. There is every reason to think that Moscow believes that with its present force in the Far East and in Asia, to say nothing of its own tactical nuclear weapons, it can easily contain any Chinese threat, and that this situation is likely to endure for a number of years.
Our response to this great potential menace is described in paragraphs 6 to 9 of the White Paper. It must surely be so to reinforce our conventional forces in order that they may have at least some prospect of successfully resisting a conventional Russian attack—that is, a Russian attack using conventional means only. I hope I did not misunderstand 428 what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said in this respect, but it seemed to me that he came rather near to asserting that the conventional defence of Western Europe was now almost impossible and that the only hope, or practically the only hope, lay in our trying to arrive at some form of disarmament. I trust he did not mean any form of unilateral disarmament.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, since the noble Lord has referred to what I said, may I say that I was certainly not referring to unilateral disarmament but to the possibility of nuclear and balanced force reductions in Central Europe. On the question of the conventional defence of Europe, my point was that the present strategy, and tactical doctrine of the NATO forces relies upon the early use of nuclear weapons. It is not positioned on a conventional defence of Europe.
§ LORD GLADWYN
That comes very close to the point I was making. As I understand the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, he surely does think that the purely conventional defence of Western Europe is virtually impossible, and that if there is anything like a major incident we should have to revert to nuclear weapons.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I do not want to prolong the exchange too much. What I was saying was that with the present conventional forces in Europe the defence of Europe is ineffective, not that the conventional defence of Europe is impossible. It would be possible with more and better conventional forces.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I now agree with the noble Lord. We are at one, always assuming that what we have to aim at is the conventional defence of Western Europe, irrespective of the element of nuclear power. So far as they go the proposals in the White Paper are therefore good. The work of the so-called "Eurogroup" and the expanded collective and individual programmes of the European NATO countries are to be highly commended, as is the intention of the United States to improve the capacity of their own forces which, at any rate if Mr. Nixon wins the Election, are also quite unlikely to be withdrawn, even though such a decision would perhaps rest less with Mr. Nixon than with Congress 429 But surely it is the presence of United States troops in Europe that is still the most important thing. If they are involved in fighting, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, the Russians can hardly take it for granted that the President of the United States will not press the button after all.
However, to be frank, there is one evident flaw in all these, so to speak, conventional activities; it is the rather ambiguous position of France. In paragraph 9, entitled "European Defence Co-operation", France is not mentioned at all. She is referred to only indirectly in the statement that:Within the Atlantic Alliance the European countries should seek to co-operate more closely on defence and to establish a greater identity of view.That is an impeccable statement. Perhaps France is also referred to in the references to bilateral staff talks, collaborative projects for arms procurement, and the desirability of extending existing forms of co-operation both in scope and in depth. It may be, therefore, that France is cooperating in the general defence effort of the West more than is commonly thought. But on the face of it, though she says she is still a party to the North Atlantic Treaty and therefore under a formal obligation to regard an armed attack on any member of the Alliance as an attack on herself, she is not at present, apparently, prepared to integrate any of her forces even in a European context, thus necessarily, I am afraid, casting some doubt on her ability, even if not on her intention, to combine with her Allies in any military effort to resist such an attack.
It is in such circumstances that we hear that the French Government would like to equip its two divisions in Baden with the new French tactical weapon called "Pluton" that may become operative during the next couple of years, in which case they could not, as is the case with tactical nuclear missiles in the hands of other members of the Alliance in Europe, come under the general authority of SACEUR. Whether the German Government could agree that French troops could in such circumstances remain on German soil is open to considerable doubt. And now we read that, apparently irrespective of this difficulty, no less a person than the President of the National Defence Commission of the French Parliament 430 has declared that the two divisions should be withdrawn from Germany straight away. Only so, says M. Sanguinetti, can France assert her total independence of NATO—the reference is the Le Monde newspaper for February 17, last.
My Lords, this is serious, for any withdrawal of French troops from Germany, for whatever reason, would be taken, rightly or wrongly, as implying that, in practice, France was no longer an effective member of the North Atlantic Alliance, or was, to say the least, asserting her right to contract out, should she so desire, in the event of real trouble with the Soviet Union. A considerable hole would thus be blown in the conventional defence of the West, and the only apparent beneficiary would be Russia. Apart from anything else—and I am told by those who know—the whole conventional defence of Western Europe is hardly possible in any case unless certain communications are allowed to pass through France. I can hardly believe that things will come to such a pass as this, but at least we ought to know what the real intentions of the French Government are; and we must hope that this will be item No. 1 in the deferred talks between Mr. Heath and President Pompidou. Anyhow, it is no good thinking that we can make a great success of the extended European Economic Community until this major question is out of the way, or at least seriously tackled.
One way out, which I have not the time to dwell on now but which I developed fully in my report on the future of Western European Union which was unanimously approved by the Assembly of that body last December—that is to say also approved by the French delegation—would be to extend the so-called "Davignon" procedure for political consultation among the Six (to which group we have, I am glad to say, now been formally admitted) so as to include defence and thus gradually build up, with France and, it is to be hoped, with the other candidates for admission to the Six, a Western European element which would function as such within the Alliance, the North Atlantic Council being the body in which preconcerted views should be harmonised with those of the United States. If we go along 431 this path we may arrive, after a time, at a point at which there could be a Western European Chiefs of Staff organisation, and even, if the Americans should agree—why not?—a European SACEUR. It would be in such a body, too, that the future of the nuclear deterrents of the French and the British would be determined, though that, admittedly, will probably take a considerable time.
One hopeful sign is that the French and the Germans have now agreed that there should at least be a secretariat to prepare the agenda for the Ministers. There seems to be no reason why, in time, such a secretariat should not incorporate the present small secretariat of the Western European Union. What, of course, will soon be necessary, if we proceed on this line at all, is a Secretary-General who, as in NATO, will sit in at Ministerial meetings and even, perhaps, one day preside over them. Always supposing that the Six would agree that such a Secretary-General might be British and that the secretariat would in any case be quite separate from the Quai d'Orsay, I should myself see considerable advantage in situating the new body in Paris.
It must, therefore, be hoped that, first of all in his talks with M. Pompidou, and thereafter at the proposed Western European "Summit" meeting, the Prime Minister will put forward and make his own proposals at least tending in this general direction. He might not be able to induce our French friends to accept all of them—perhaps there might be rather more chance of reaching agreement in a year or so from now—but in any event the effect on the remainder of the Six would surely be good as an indication of the firm intention of Britain, so far as lies in her power, to make the enlarged Community work in all spheres and not only in the context of Brussels and the Treaty of Rome.
I do not expect the Government to comment tonight on all these possibilities. The position as regards the French is no doubt too delicate at the moment for them to give any public indication of the way their minds are working. But I do trust that they realise that if the old Gaullist formula of "free hands"—that is to say, complete national liberty of action and no effective distinction 432 to be made between the super-Powers—by any chance prevails, we can say goodbye to all the long-term political hopes that we are at present placing in the Common Market. If this is what a "European Europe" means then it is something to which we cannot possibly subscribe. And, as a lifelong friend of France, I am more than ever convinced that her whole future, and indeed our own, depends on the possibility of our together building up in Western Europe, and within the Atlantic Alliance, some valid political entity that alone will enable the voice of Europe to be heard.
The possibility of our doing so is indeed, as I think, the one substantial long-term barrier to the eventual political extension Westwards of the Soviet Power. The Russians undoubtedly recognise this, and it accounts for their consistent and undisguised hostility to the enlargement of the European Economic Community, to say nothing, I am afraid, of their evident intention to use any European Security Conference for the chief purpose of playing off the European allies one against the other and, if possible, separating them from the United States. Of course we must use such a security conference, if it comes about, for our own purposes which, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, include some sensible arrangement on balanced reduction of forces. We must not abandon that but must do our best to use the conference for that purpose. We cannot assume that we shall be successful, but if we lower our guard we have "had it" both ways; we shall not be able to get any advance in disarmament, and we shall also be at the mercy of our greatest adversary.
Naturally, if our own internal dissensions should by any chance prevent the Government from giving effect to their signature of the Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community, the Russians will have achieved their ends straight away. For the ball will then be at their feet. It is perhaps strange that such considerations did not apparently occur to many undoubtedly sincere and patriotic persons who recently registered their vote against the passing of the legislation necessary to enable us to become members of the European Community.
My Lords, as I see it, such are in any case the unpleasant realities behind the calm phraseology of the White Paper and 433 it is towards them, as I believe, that we should from now on increasingly bend our minds.
§ House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, may I associate myself with the sympathy which has been expressed about the Parachute Regiment disaster. I see one or two other noble Lords in this House who are members of that regiment and they, like myself, will be specially saddened.
To return to the subject of our debate, I did not find this White Paper at all dull. It was rather a relief not to have to see the objectives all spelled out again rather differently each time. My reasons for saying that are three. First, the improved atmosphere. Naturally I keep in touch with the Army more than with the other Services, but it is quite clear to me that the men's feeling that they belong to Services which are actually going up, instead of just not going down and suffering incessant reviews, is a very important factor in their morale. The improvement in recruiting is also, I believe, due to this new atmosphere. Although the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, listed pay as one of the items—and there are quite a number of them—responsible, I believe that the most important is stability. Anybody who has commanded a good unit, or a good formation, knows perfectly well that to this is due the improvement in morale; and this again makes recruits want to join.
Active service, of course, is a great attraction, and always has been—even, as we have heard this afternoon, in Northern Ireland, although I cannot see why people should be enthusiastic to go back there even four times, which is what they are doing now. The new 18 months' notice engagement seems to be an excellent idea, and the White Paper faces the difficulties in front of us. Lastly, there are the improved weapons. The Navy must have good ships, and we have seen them referred to in this Paper. The R.A.F. must have the most modern aircraft. In my opinion it was a tragedy that TSR.2 was scrapped, because buying overseas means, I am afraid, that we do not necessarily get the best. In any case, supplies might be cut off in an emergency.
434 I think the Secretary of State is to be congratulated on the Paper, and I hope he will forgive me if I make a couple of comments. I also have two questions and a suggestion. The first comment is about these objectives. They were spelled out in the original October, 1970, Supplementary Statement, and although we are achieving Nos. 2 and 3 I am not convinced that we are achieving No. 1, which was, within our resources, to resume:a proper share of responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world.Let me give my reasons for saying this. In South-East Asia, for example, although there is the present Five-Power Agreement, and the stationing of the Brigade Group in Singapore is much better than complete withdrawal, I am not convinced that this will necessarily be up to the job. I know that under the Agreement we are bound only to consult, and not to assist; but the fact remains that, while the threat at the moment is zero, there are two unpleasant possibilities looming up.
The first is that the Vietnam war could go wrong. The Communists could win and could take over Saigon. In that event, it would not be long before Bangkok fell, so that Singapore and Malaysia would be very much on their own. The other possibility is that the Indonesians could start the war all over again—after all, they are a country of 100 million people—although they are closely related to the Malays. In my opinion, we are very lucky that the confrontation, which took 50,000 British sailors, soldiers and airmen, did not coincide as to time with the trouble in Northern Ireland, which I believe has taken 20,000. The result of this state of affairs is that without further depleting B.A.O.R., which has already given up to Northern Ireland the equivalent of five units of infantry, and without cutting it practically in half we could not honour our agreements in that part of the world.
I must also refer to the Gulf because, although I realise that it is probably very difficult to go back on a firm statement that the British are going to withdraw, and although Sir William Luce has done marvels in forming the Trucial States into the United Arab Emirates, the fact remains that Arabs do not necessarily 435 agree with each other for very long. They are accustomed to having a dominant Power over them, or present with them, and our experience in withdrawing from Egypt and the Canal in 1956 is not a good augury. Since that time, there have been Arab/Israel wars and constant disagreement, partly due to the fact that we withdrew. So I am not convinced that there will not necessarily be trouble in the Gulf. I very much hope that regular visits from naval units and R.A.F. aircraft, to which reference is made in the White Paper, will suffice.
My conclusion is that we simply do not have enough infantry. I have said this before, and it must be a little tiring for your Lordships to have to listen to it again to-day. But the fact remains that in every emergency we have to have infantry battalions, and I do not think 53 battalions—which is the figure I have worked out, although I may be wrong by a battalion or two—is enough. As soon as the recruiting situation allows, I recommend strongly that we raise another six or seven battalions and make the number up to 60. I still believe that a presence is better than a promise. The Government have carried out this policy in South-East Asia, but they have not done so in the Gulf.
My other comment is about Malta, and in view of what the noble Lord the Secretary of State has said about the delicacy of the negotiations, I shall make only one non-controversial remark. We must not forget that Malta is turning over from a Government-based economy. There are 70,000 out of 100,000 employable men who until recently have been employed by the Government or by the Defence forces and who are turning over to a trade economy. In future they will rely on pure trade, tourism, light factories and the like. We know what it is to do that, and they are finding it very difficult indeed. From the strategic point of view, Malta is a complete washout from the moment a war is declared, and we all know that. It is not big enough to defend. Even in war time it was hardly big enough and was a liability; but now it is quite hopeless. But if, by any chance, we allow the Communists to take over Malta in peace time, they will use it as a base for peaceful penetration. So that if we can 436 possibly do it, we ought to retain the earned friendship of the Maltese people.
My two questions are very simple ones. We have handed over the Trucial Oman Scouts as a very good nucleus of the Army for the United Arab Emirates. I know that Abu Dhabi has a small army as I have seen it. But I am not quite clear (and this does not appear to be mentioned in the White Paper) whether the United Arab Emirates have an air component to go with those forces. I think they will need it. If they have a small air component, may I ask whether Britain has contributed to it? The force alongside in Oman has a quite respectable air component. My second question is about the T.A.V.R., which has been restored to its proper role. According to the last White Paper, it was to be increased by a force of 10,000 infantry, and the present White Paper indicates that 20 infantry units have been activated for that purpose. Is this an infantry formation or a balanced formation, under an H.Q.? If so, what is it called? Finally, may I suggest this? The T.A.V.R. is a very poor title, and I have always thought so. It had to be explained two or three years ago when the reorganisation was taking place. But it is an unappealing title, and I know from experience in the Territorial Army that the men and the officers are really quite proud of the letters "T.A." on their shoulders. I only hope that the old title will be revived, like the other one. I am sure that the men will be proud of it.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bourne, because I agreed with so much of what he said. It is very satisfactory to have a White Paper which shows stability and exactly the sort of results which, in many ways, we in this House desire. I was delighted to see that the Far East Five-Power Agreement has been made absolute, although I would agree with the last speaker that perhaps it ought to be a little stronger. But it is pleasing to see from Annex D that this will cost us £9 million, instead of the £300 million which was being bandied around two years ago, not only in another place but all over the country, by the then Defence Secretary. These figures are rather different, as we 437 expected at the time. I am equally pleased to see that recruiting has so markedly increased, because I remember the country being stumped when it was said by the then Defence Secretary that what we desired to do would inevitably mean conscription for the whole nation. It has not meant conscription for the whole nation, and because of the stability and the challenge, which our forces have to meet in every part, we have been able to recruit the people we so badly need. Therefore, I congratulate my noble friend on all these scores.
I thought the arguments put from the Opposition Front Bench by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, were in every way devastating. I have never heard them better put from a Labour Front Bench speaker in the 22 years that I have taken part in Defence debates in another place and here. He advocated—and I understand for political reasons—a two-fisted approach to the problem: detente and a strengthening of NATO and our conventional forces therein. I think the second is in many ways quite as important as the first. I would remind noble Lords that what we now call "détente" came to be called "appeasement" in the 1930s. If détente does not work, one must rely on the forces and equipment at one's disposal and on those of one's allies. I think the Government's White Paper, quite correctly—and this has been the theme of this debate—stresses the alarming growth in strength of the U.S.S.R. and the Warsaw Pact countries. I take much of my information from the Institute of Strategic Studies magazine, The Military Balance 1971–72. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the annexes to that publication repay exhaustive study. They show that France, Western Germany and ourselves are all spending about the same percentage of our gross national product. In actual money, West Germany is spending rather more and France is spending a little bit more, but we are about the same. It is interesting, too, that the U.S.S.R. is spending ten times as much as any of those three nations.
When you look at the number of men in uniform—and here I concede that the picture is somewhat distorted because of conscription, which is prevalent in every NATO country except this—you see that I West Germany has 466,000 men, France 506,000 men and the United Kingdom in 438 these Estimates has 373,000. What is perhaps more significant is that those Continental countries are increasing the strength of their uniformed manpower year by year, whereas we in this country are decreasing the strength of our uniformed manpower. It is a little alarming to think that, whereas since 1967 we have shed 44,000 from our military strength in all three Services, the other nations have found it necessary to increase theirs. I see from Annex A, too, that we are going to decrease our military strength by another 10,000 during the current year, so I would add my voice to the voices from the Labour Benches, from the Liberal Benches and from the Cross-Benches in saying that surely the time has come to see whether we cannot get back to spending rather more of our gross national product on the defence of our country and on the security of our alliances.
I was amused by my noble friend when, with his usual humour, he talked about the accounts. He said there was a complicated and technical matter of accounting procedure which, if your Lordships did not press him, he would not attempt to explain. Your Lordships did not press him, and I am glad, because it is certainly beyond me to understand these accounts. I went to the other place and collected from the Vote Office all the Supplementary Estimates, and it is extremely difficult to find your way through these Estimates and discover what is likely to be the out-turn in the year we are just finishing and what is likely to be the expenditure in the year which we are about to start. We have seen that last year we were spending (and this comes in Annex B, on page 53, if your Lordships wish to follow it) £2,536 million; and then it is said that, for inflationary reasons, £256 million, about 10 per cent., should be added to this sum. I understand from perusing all the papers I could get hold of that we have had Supplementary Estimates of £227 million, part of which, of course, have themselves suffered from greater or less inflation, according to the date in the year when they came into effect. I do not know whether these figures confuse our enemies, but they certainly confuse me, and I hope that perhaps my noble friend will try to make them a little clearer in his future White Papers.
439 Now I wonder whether this run-down in our manpower, for reasons which I will talk about later, and this static defence expenditure—because it is not increasing in real terms—makes sense when our defence industry is continuing to lay off men in every part of the country and much of it in development areas. Does this make sense when unemployment is so incredibly high, and disastrously so; and when the threat to our survival and our alliances is increasing all the time? This, to me, does not make any sense at all, and in this I was glad to have the support of the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench. Our shipyards are desperately short of orders. Could we not order yet more standard ships? I realise that to get early production they must be ships which are already designed, but I cannot help feeling that we have some very good designs which are ready and which could make a very useful contribution to employment—and thereby, also, of course, to our defence.
In the aero-space industry we are equally short of orders. I appreciate the Nimrod order and the Buccaneer order, but could we not order some more Harriers now, and other aircraft which would be very useful? Surely it is better to employ men on useful defence work than to go on paying them social service benefits for doing nothing. I recognise that early production is the key to this question. I was delighted to see how much we are now going to spend on the environment. In another place it was announced that for purer water in our rivers and for improved sewerage—both very important—we are now going to spend another £1,300 million in the next five years. These are staggering figures. I was pleased to see that we have raised building expenditure on the primary schools from £50 million in the Labour Government's time to £190 million a year. I was equally pleased to see that on further education building we are going to spend an extra £140 million in the year 1973–74. So in all these areas one sees increased expenditure. But one does not see it in defence, at a time when I believe we should now see our defence expenditure turning up.
Anther significant fact, as I think my noble friend said in his opening speech, is that if you compare the Free World's 440 expenditure with the Communist countries' expenditure on defence you come across a very important difference—and, incidentally, this was brought out in the North Atlantic Assembly in 1971. In NATO countries, an average of 60 per cent. of all defence expenditure goes on pay, housing and welfare of the personnel. In the United Kingdom, 50 per cent. goes on the pay of our personnel and another 16 per cent. on their housing and their welfare. So here we are with a defence budget, 66 per cent. of which is spent on the personnel and their wellbeing, and only 33 per cent. of which is left for all the hardware, for all the R. and D., for all the equipment, for all the spares and for all three Services—this of course is the dilemma in which every democracy is caught.
The Warsaw Pact position is so noticeably different. If one looks at their figures—and, for reasons one can understand, in a Communist country, with centralised control, you can make people do anything you want them to do; and anyone who has seen a Soviet warship will know that we could never ask our sailors or the sailors of any NATO country to serve in the conditions which exist in those warships—one sees that they spend only 25 per cent. of their enormous defence budget on their personnel, and the other 75 per cent. is left for the hardware. This is why it is alarming—and I underline what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said in his speech—to see the parades of these massive missiles and this modern equipment which the Warsaw Pact countries can now deploy through Moscow in their annual celebrations. We should not forget that the U.S.S.R. has now 3.3 million men under arms and is therefore able to defend both their Western front, with the Warsaw Pact, and their Eastern front against China.
It is with all these facts in mind—and they are set out in the White Paper and have been underlined in speeches to-day from every Bench—that I say that surely the time must have come, not to pride ourselves that our defence expenditure is only 5½ per cent. of our G.N.P. but to raise it, perhaps to 6½ per cent. When the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, was Minister of Defence, and during 13 years of Conservative rule, we had no difficulty as a result of spending 6½ per cent. of our G.N.P., and I may 441 say that under Lord Attlee's Administration, when the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was Minister of Defence, the figure got as high as 10 per cent., and even that did not wreck our country. So it is possible to spend more, and I think that, in a period when we have unemployment and slack in our economy, and when the threat is so great, this is exactly the time.
Now I want to turn to one or two points concerning our equipment. I believe that my noble friend is trying gallantly to buy British equipment, and I am sure that this is right. In our air-to-air missiles we had some first-rate equipment. First, there was Fire Streak, which was succeeded by Red Top; and Red Top was to be succeeded by Tail Dog. These were pre-eminent in their generation. I read now in the Daily Express—and anyone who has served in the Defence Ministry always reads Mr. Chapman Pincher with assiduity, because he seems to get his facts extremely accurate—that we are about to sign a contract to buy, not a British air-to-air missible but Sparrow from the United States. I may say that this missile is not yet ready. The shiny brochures which our competitors produce are very impressive and seem even to impress serving men and people in the Ministry of Defence. Their prices escalate; their delivery time goes out; and their results are no better than ours. So I would ask my noble friend to look again to see whether we must abandon a whole generation of air-to-air missiles and whether we may not press on with our own short range air-to-air missile known as SHRAAM 75.
I turn to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his speech: the expenditure on Exocet, a surface-to-surface missile. I read from my Daily Express that it is reported as likely to cost us £70 million. It may be that this had to be ordered from France because when the programme to continue the carriers was cancelled and announced, on January 16, 1968, by the then Prime Minister we were promised a missile. We were then promised that there would be a missile with surface-to-surface capability to take the place of organic air. But that missile was never ordered; discussions took place, but no orders were placed. It may have been necessary to 442 buy some Exocet, but do not let us forget there is at stake a considerable sum of money. In addition, it will take an enormous refitting programme and even then we are buying a missile with a range of only just over 20 miles, a weight of a quarter of a ton and a cost which is very considerable indeed. I still believe that it will be a long time—although it is coming into service in this year according to the White Paper—before ships can be spared and before a dockyard fitting programme can be arranged. Even then this is such a large missile (it is 18 ft. long) that there will not be room for it on many of our smaller ships, like frigates; only the bigger ships can carry it. Therefore this is no replacement at all for our aircraft carriers.
I implore my noble friend to think again about the scrapping of "Eagle". In 1964 we spent £31 million on the refit and modernisation of "Eagle". Here is a sister ship of "Ark Royal", probably the only carrier from the Western European countries which can operate in the very heavy North Atlantic weather. It is fitted with 3D radar, an automatic control room, steam catapults, fully-angled decks—it can do everything. But it is not "Phantomised"; I concede that. I ask my noble friend to find a way of spending money, if not to have it in fully-maintained reserve, to have it in unmaintained reserve. I reflect that in his day and in mine at the Admiralty, "Triumph" lay off Portsmouth for a decade and they still were able to take her hull and turn her into a heavy store ship now on operational strength. She was lying for ten years unmaintained. If we cannot afford to keep "Eagle" in unmaintained reserve, have we asked our U.S. friends—for it is a valuable contribution to the Alliance, particularly for policing of the Northern areas of NATO—whether they will look after her. I believe that we might get a favourable answer.
I am told that there is no room in our dockyards. Surely there is room to keep her offshore in some of our shipbuilding areas like the Clyde; and there should be no difficulty in finding men to do some maintenance to keep her in reasonable condition. It is said that we can rely on "Ark Royal"—but accidents happen at sea and even in dockyards. Sabotage, I 443 regret to say, also happens in dockyards and refits are necessary from time to time. Surely it does not make sense with what is meant to be a balanced Navy to keep one aircraft carrier alone in operation. It was the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten, who said that you must either have one and a half aircraft carriers or none at all. I am making the plea that we should have the extra half.
It could be argued that there are no aircraft for this carrier. But let us remember that the French are maintaining two aircraft carriers, "Clemenceau" and "Foch", in operational service. I checked this with the French Embassy. They carry 30 aircraft each. If we do not have the aircraft, perhaps we could buy the French naval "Jaguar". This is going into operational service on their aircraft carriers in 1974. Please do not let this carrier, reasonably modern and very substantial, go to the scrapyard. Let us try to find some way of keeping her in reserve. I am told that the Lords of the Admiralty do not want her. The Lords of the Admiralty—God bless them!—are very wise; but no one is always right. The professionals in any area are not always right. We may remember this whenever we fly in a VC 10, for B.O.A.C. said that that aircraft was no good at all; that we should buy American aircraft. But B.O.A.C. was wrong and the Government of the day in that case were right.
I make one further plea. We are told—the noble Lord said this in his remarks—that there is little further work to be done on the Harriers. I think Lord Gladwyn queried this. This is a great pity. Here is an aircraft to which we have devoted a great deal of attention and a great deal of money and it really is in the forefront of world thinking. The U.S. Marines want to buy it; and they are buying ours, built here. The U.S. Navy wants to buy it and are negotiating for a Super-Harrier. We are told that we cannot afford to develop the 24,500 lbs. thrust engine for the Super-Harrier and now are told that this may be developed with the co-operation of Rolls-Royce by Pratt and Whitney in the U.S.A. to equip the 100-plus aircraft that they want. It is shameful to think that here is another idea started in this country, vertical take-off, which other nations 444 acclaim. If we do not carry on with this, in a few years' time when through-deck carriers come into being—though that will not be for at least seven years—we shall be buying back with valuable dollars Harriers made in the U.S.A. Do not let this opportunity go.
I turn now to West Germany. We find from the White Paper that the cost of our Forces in West Germany has escalated enormously. In the 1970–71 White Paper it was given as £113 million; in the 1971–72 White Paper, last year, it was given as £137 million. We are told in this year's White Paper that that £137 million has escalated to £169 million. The figure in this year's White Paper is £178 million. There has thus been an increase of 50 per cent. in the cost of our Forces in Germany in a period of 2½ years. Perhaps my noble friend in winding up can say how this has come about. Perhaps he can also tell us something about the offset agreement. This used to figure largely in discussions and in White Papers; but now we are told little about it. The new offset agreement was announced in March, 1971, in another place under which the Federal Government would pay us £62½ million over five years. This is at a rate of £12½ million a year, which is a minute contribution compared with the £178 million which represents the cost of our Forces there. Of course, we have strengthened our Forces and I am delighted at that announcement; but that cannot account for that enormous increase. We were told too that the West Germans were going to buy a considerable amount of equipment and services from us to offset this. May we have some details of this?
Lastly, I turn to the question of personnel. I congratulate my noble friend on the much better recruiting figures. I think the alarming state of affairs—and he touched on this—is that 20 per cent. of our recruits come from the 15-year-olds and 23 per cent. from the 17-year-olds. May I urge that those young men who want to join the Services be allowed to opt for their last year's schooling to be taken in the Services as part of their service? They are the type of young men who already are restless at school and may cause trouble. If they were in the Services they would probably meet the challenge of Service 445 life. We could teach them just as well in the Services, and there they would learn just as much as they would if they stayed on at school after we raise the school-leaving age. I feel that the Services should find something for the youngsters who do not take apprenticeships. If they are taking an apprenticeship, well and good. But so many youngsters go into part-time or dead-end jobs between the ages of 15 and 18. For them a short Service career would he admirable. It might also reduce the number of hooligans and other wrongdoers that we have in our midst.
For this engagement I should like to see one year of schooling and then Service training; two years with the Colours, which would take them to 18, and then perhaps a commitment to serve in the Reserve, with annual summer training, during a period of, say, five years. Then, when they were 23, I would give them a generous bounty, at the time when they were leaving the Services probably with some continuing commitment to the Reserve. When they came to a marrying age they would then have a substantial sum of money, free of tax, which they could put down as a deposit on a house. I feel that in this way we could make better use of part of our manpower, and also build up our reserves. Had I the time, my Lords, I should like to discuss extending this sort of voluntary service over a much wider field, such as the cleaning up of our environment and young people as visitors to the sick. There are a whole host of things which I should like to see organised. In place of National Service I should like to see a form of civil service in our community. I believe that this would form a challenge for many young people and channel off their energy which so often goes awry in these days.
To summarise, these are the points that I am trying to put before your Lordships. I see a growing threat to, and particularly a growing imbalance in, NATO. I think the time has come to spend rather more of the gross national product on the internal and external defence of our country, and on the security of our alliances. In the 1930s "defence" was a dirty word. Do not let us make it a dirty word in the 1970s, or we shall be in just the same disastrous position as we were in 1939.
446 Secondly, I urge my noble friend to buy British missiles when he can and to remember that we can make our own aircraft. The Harrier is a good example. I ask him to recall that Sweden, a small country, continues to build its own aircraft. The Viggen is one of the best anywhere in Western Europe. So the idea that because we are a country of only 55 million people we cannot afford to build our own aircraft is just not true, when we look at what other countries are doing. When we do buy abroad, as we did with exocet, let us make sure that there is tough horse trading—"We will buy this from you if you buy that from us." This is a far better and, I believe, a far more effective policy than even international co-operation which is essential only on very large and expensive projects.
My third point to the Government is: please look at the desirability of keeping "Eagle" in some sort of reserve until we see our way through the period till the through-deck cruisers are available with the aircraft to equip them. I believe that that period may well be five years; it could be seven, or even longer still. Lastly, could my noble friend think out a programme to attract the young men and make sure that we get the 15-yearolds, who are such an important part of the recruiting pattern as revealed in this White Paper.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, the Secretary for Defence, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, may rest on his laurels. Criticism of the White Paper has been of an unusually mild character. There was not even a murmur about the remarkable achievement of spending more this year on Defence than ever we have done, except in time of war. Indeed the most severe criticism contained in the White Paper, or at any rate in one aspect of the White Paper came from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, himself. If noble Lords will turn to paragraphs 8 and 9 of the White Paper they will detect an implied rebuke of the defence organisation associated with NATO. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, uses a term in paragraph 9 which is even more than a rebuke. Referring to the Western Alliance contribution he says:Within the Western Alliance the European countries should seek to co-operate more 447 closely on defence and to establish a greater identity of view.I should have thought the noble Lord might have said that they are establishing an identity of view, but what he has implied in paragraph 9 has been well known to many of us for a long time. It was exemplified in the speech of my noble friend Lord Chalfont. It has been referred to repeatedly in defence debates; namely, the weakness of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
May I indulge in a personal note? In this respect I have referred to it myself over and over again and even asked questions about it. On one occasion in your Lordships' House, when I ventured to ask a Question about the defence organisation associated with NATO, the reply was that this was not a matter for the United Kingdom Government but for other countries associated with NATO. This I cannot understand. It is impossible to comprehend the sense of it. After all, my Lords, what is our purpose in creating a defence organisation? It is to promote our security. What we must realise, what in fact we do realise though we are sometimes inclined to bypass the concept, is that without the co-operation of allies in Europe and of the United States, all our defence organisation utilised for the purpose of maintaining law and order as in the case of Ulster, perhaps in Cyprus and probably elsewhere, is itself no substantial contribution to defence in so far as it promotes security. That ought to be established.
What are we to do about it? The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, had a solution, or at any rate what might appear to be an approach to a solution. He did not object to expenditure on defence; he asked for more to maintain the aircraft carriers. He said that we should engage in more naval shipbuilding. The Clyde could do with more employment, and the Mersey also, but we should not produce naval vessels just for the purpose of promoting employment. There might be a case for constructing more naval vessels. I do not dispute the contention that at sea, compared with the vast array of vessels at the disposal of the Soviet Union, we are in a very weak position. But if we are to construct naval vessels let it be in the context of defence and 448 not merely for the purpose of providing employment.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, I did try to put the threat first and then I said that an added reason was the unemployment.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am grateful to the noble Lord, because that is exactly the point to which I wish to address myself. I beg of your Lordships to be realistic about this matter of defence. Whatever is done, let us not indulge in self-deception. Why do I say that? I have the greatest respect for the integrity and honest convictions of those who seek to promote disarmament. Of course we all want disarmament: a reduction of forces to begin with, and conferences on the subject of security. But we have had 50 years and more of disarmament conferences. We have had security conferences under the auspices of the United Nations, and previously under the auspices of the old League of Nations. We have conferences on disarmament at Geneva still in process. But we have reached no solution. I repeat, let us not indulge in self-deception. It is something to which well-meaning people—and I can understand their purpose and motivation—turn to when they are on the horns of a dilemma—"Let us have another security conference". When my noble friend Lord Chalfont speaks about this, I understand the sentiment behind it. But if we have a conference on the subject of a reduction of forces, at the end, even if we succeed in reaching a satisfactory conclusion, what would it mean? It would mean that we should find ourselves proportionately in the same position after that conclusion had been reached as we are now: in other words, the Soviet Union would still be powerful and we should still be weak. That is the situation. Let us have our conferences; let people talk if they will; let them have faith and hope. But at the same time, let Members of your Lordships' House face the facts of life; namely, that the Soviet Union is not only in a condition of parity, military speaking, with the United States of America, but constitutes a threat, even if it is not their intention to engage in conflict anywhere, that hangs over us like a shadow and creates a dilemma for men like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as Secretary of 449 State for Defence, and equally for Governments.
What are we to do about that? I dismiss for the time being this prospect of disarmament. I wish it could be otherwise, but for the time being I dismiss it. We have to concentrate on defence. It may be that we need to spend more; and if we spend more, let us spend wisely. But I believe that we are already making a vast contribution in the circumstances of our economic situation. I doubt whether we can spare this expenditure, but that is a matter for the Government of the day. What we are entitled to do is, as is implied in paragraph 9 of the White Paper, to rebuke other countries associated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
I approach the subject in this fashion. We are told that the countries associated with NATO have a population of probably 800 million—it may be more if we take into account those countries on the periphery of what are called the countries of the Six, such as Turkey, Greece and Portugal. Yet the manpower that we have ready to put into the field in the event of a conflict (I do not want to dispute with my noble friend Lord Chalfont) is, I suggest, only a quarter of the manpower that the Soviet Union and the other countries behind the Iron Curtain could put into the field. Another fact is that when we speak of Soviet strength we disregard the strength of the German Democratic Republic. I venture the assertion that the military strength in manpower and modern equipment of the German Democratic Republic is in excess of what West Germany can claim. That is a powerful and formidable threat that could be used at any time in Europe to create a situation which would make it impossible to mount adequate defence. That is the situation.
What are we to do? We should bring all possible pressure to bear on our Allies associated with NATO. I regret to have to say this, and it seems like harsh language, but they are not pulling their weight. Take the case of France. France, as the Secretary of State for Defence told me the other day in reply to a Question, although not an integral part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is associated with the North Atlantic Alliance. It is a very vague affair. The question is: would France in the event of a conflict 450 associate herself with the other countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in order to resist aggression? The answer to that is perhaps not a negative—it is not for me to speak on behalf of the French Government—but certainly it is very doubtful: indeed, there is a suspicion that the French Government have entered into some kind of Treaty with the Soviet Union; that has been rumoured on frequent occasions. But whether that be so or not, France cannot be depended upon in the event of aggression.
It might be argued that at present there is no evidence of imminent aggression. That may well be the case; but the threat is there. In the opinion of some military experts (perhaps I may be forgiven for not mentioning names, but they include people of high rank and some authority in military circles), if there was a conflict in Europe, with the present manpower at our disposal, our forces would be liquidated. Is there an alternative in the use of tactical weapons? My noble friend Lord Chalfont was only too right in saying that you cannot dissociate tactical weapons from nuclear weapons. In any case, if they are going to be used what will happen? Use a tactical weapon and what is the reaction? Even if our tactical weapons are capable of inflicting high casualties on an aggressor, retaliation would be of such a formidable and destructive character that we should be compelled to use the full-blooded nuclear weapon. It is true, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont said, that the power resides in the President of the United States. I do not believe, as my noble friend refused to believe, that the President of the United States would give his consent to the use of nuclear weapons on a formidable scale. Nor do I believe that the Russians want to use the nuclear weapon, because there is bound to be retaliation and both sides would suffer the effect of devastation and destruction. But the threat is there all the same.
I turn, therefore, to what seems to me the right course of conduct for the Government of the day in our own country. Continue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and use what pressure we can exert on our allies to increase their strength through more manpower and more expenditure. I do 451 not want to go into details on this occasion. It might weary your Lordships if I gave the details of the actual expenditure, leaving aside percentages, incurred by some of the NATO countries and the strength of their manpower, particularly when we speak of establishment and strength. What should we do in the United Kingdom? The answer that I venture to give to your Lordships is this: we may have to provide aircraft carriers and create the greatest possible number of trained reservists, so that we can meet any emergency, for our protection and our own security.
This brings me to the subject of the T.A.V.R. We were told more than a year ago that it was the intention of the Government to create a force of about 10,000 units. I understand that the force is no more than about 5,000 or 6.000. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will correct me if I am wrong. I should be glad to know that I am wrong and that the 10,000 target has been achieved; but I doubt whether that is so. However, entirely apart from the T.A.V.R. target and the possibility of reaching it—or even if it has been reached—I believe that we must build a huge and formidable body of trained reservists. We have of course the reserves associated with the old National Service scheme; we also have the voluntary reserves, the ex-Regulars and the rest of them. My complaint is that hardly any of them undergo training. We rely on their past experience.
It is perfectly true, as regards the Territorial Force, that annual exercises take place, but they are of a perfunctory character. I am not complaining about that, but it is hardly satisfactory in the context of military training because of the possibility of an emergency. Therefore we have to find some device which will enable us to keep men, not in constant training—I do not expect that because it would interrupt employment and disturb industry, which is hardly acceptable—but doing occasional training, perhaps week-end training, so that at any rate we have a body of men who can be relied upon in an emergency and who help to promote the security that we may need. That is what I ask the Government to do.
452 As regards the rest, recruitment has gone up: very good! As to whether the new three-year Service engagement will be effective, I am not certain. It was tried before, and disclosed defects. It may be more successful on this occasion. The idea of men being allowed to leave the Service after a period of 18 months is excellent from a humanitarian standpoint, but it is a very expensive business to train men and then allow them to go out and to decide whether or not they will come back again. It is hardly conducive to the creation of an effective military force. But at any rate it is worth trying. As regards the rest, I doubt whether the country can afford to spend more. What I do feel, however, is that we are entitled to call upon our allies to spend more.
Finally, I venture this proposition. At the end of the day we shall have to rely for our security, regrettable though it may be, on the United States of America. Sometimes there is talk about the cessation of our friendship with the United States. That would be deplorable, even disastrous, when there is talk about the withdrawal of forces from Western Europe—and incidentally I notice that Dr. Luns, the new Director-General of NATO. was reported in the columns of The Times, either yesterday or to-day, as saying that it would be a dangerous situation for NATO and for Europe if the United States withdraw their forces. I beg the noble Lord to take this point into consideration. The United States may not withdraw their forces immediately, but after their experiences in Vietnam it is very doubtful whether, if there were a conflict in Europe of what we might call a medium character, the United States would be prepared to allow their troops to intervene. We cannot rely on the United States so far as ground forces are concerned: nor should we expect them to come to our aid with ground forces except in the event of full-blooded war. We have to rely on them in the context of the nuclear weapon. It may never be used. But just as the Soviet Union constitutes a threat to us, to Europe and to many of the non-aligned nations, so the United States, with its nuclear strength, constitutes the possibility of retaliation if that threat should ever be implemented.
§ 5.26 p.m.
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely in his interesting speech. In the middle of last December there was an important announcement in the Press concerning British Petroleum's production plans for its Forties oilfield, off the East Coast of Scotland. As your Lordships will know, B.P. is not the only company that has been prospecting for North Sea oil, and though it will take some time for prospecting to lead on to production it is possible to see now that by 1980 this country could perhaps be producing one-third or even one-half of its total oil needs from the North Sea. This is a highly important development, not only from the economic point of view but also from the defence angle. Indeed, it is so important that it seems to me it should be given every possible encouragement and help by Her Majesty's Government. It is of course the Defence side of this problem to which I want to refer for the next few moments. The economic aspect will no doubt be dealt with in any discussion that may take place on the diversification of fuel supplies as a result of the recent coal strike. As your Lordships will appreciate, if we can produce a third of our total oil requirements from the North Sea we shall he able to reduce considerably the percentage of our exports from the Persian Gulf, which for many years now has been our main source of supply.
Some of your Lordships may remember that whenever I have addressed your Lordships' House in our Defence debates I have nearly always made some reference to the great importance of these oil imports from the Persian Gulf and their adequate protection by our maritime forces in times of war. If by 1980 we are going to be able substantially to reduce our imports from the Persian Gulf, this will have a considerable effect on our maritime strategy and naval dispositions. Of course I do not for one moment wish to suggest that from 1980 onwards all will be plain sailing for our great tanker traffic round the Cape; it can only be a guess which is far ahead. But I should imagine that in 1980 we shall still want more maritime forces in the Indian Ocean than we shall be able to deploy there, for although 454 the percentage of our oil imports from the Gulf will be reduced, the total Gulf imports may be nearly as high as ever, since our total requirements continue to increase year by year.
But if, by any means, we are able to reduce the tanker traffic round the Cape we should at least be in a better position than we are to-day to protect that traffic. The recent arrival of a powerful American squadron and a smaller French squadron in the Indian Ocean will have had a favourable bearing on this problem, even though the American squadron has since been withdrawn. But our tanker traffic that is left in the Indian Ocean and Cape areas—and it will be considerable—must assuredly be properly protected if we are to survive in another war. When I say "properly protected" this includes provision of sufficient maritime air forces, either by the Royal Air Force from shore airfields, or by through-deck command cruisers operating V/STOL, aircraft and Sea King helicopters, or by a combination of the two. I see from articles in the Press that in maritime exercises carried out last December there were mixed views as to the effectiveness of R.A.F. maritime aircraft operating from shore airfields. But whatever the analysis of these exercises may have shown, it is certain that outside the range of allied airfields—and worldwide these are getting fewer and fewer—through-deck command cruisers will be essential. And all the more will this be so if the reported building of a fixed-wing carrier by the Russians is correct, for it seems to me that the Indian Ocean would be a likely place for this carrier to be stationed when she comes into commission.
While on the subject of through-deck command cruisers, like the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I cannot help being disturbed at the slow start they seem to be making. So far as I know—and I believe this is borne out by the White Paper—the first one of them has not even yet been laid down. In my view we do not just need one or two of them. I do not wish to suggest a figure, for although once I might perhaps have been regarded as a modest expert on submarine and anti-submarine warfare, those days are well past and I am now getting out of date. Certainly I should have thought that we would need a number of these 455 through-deck command cruisers. Whatever that number may be it is certain to be more than we can afford, and I would therefore suggest that we should limit these ships to a simple, unsophisticated design. Let us in fact go in for Fords and not for Rolls-Royces, for numbers are all-important where the protection of our worldwide trade is concerned. Do not let us forget that we still have to plan on the assumption that we and our NATO allies will have to meet and beat off the full weight of attack that can be delivered by Russia's great and up-to-date submarine fleet. While we have through-deck command cruisers in mind, could we possibly have a less cumbersome class name for them, and perhaps revert to the good old class of cruiser or even, preferably, carrier?
Now to return to North Sea oil. The delivery of this oil by pipeline to the coast of Scotland will naturally, in wartime, require protection against enemy attack. I imagine that the wellheads and pipelines may not be difficult targets for a skilful and determined enemy. They could, I suppose, be put out of action by nuclear warheads delivered by submarines. And as this could be done without any appreciable number of civilian casualties it might for this reason be an attractive proposition. But even without nuclear warheads, it might be done by submarine sabotage operations, or by the midget submarines that we used against the "Tirpitz" with such success in the last war. It could also be done by air attack. The rigs and the pipelines are "sitting ducks" and their positions will certainly be accurately known by our potential enemies. I believe that we may well find it very difficult to protect our North Sea oil rigs and pipelines even if, as has been suggested by the Dutch, we can build artificial islands from which to operate them; and I cannot help feeling that we would therefore be very well advised to get large quantities of oil safely ashore into this country now, in peace time, and store it in great underground reservoirs dispersed around the country. Disused coal mines come to mind; but I understand that they are in fact unsuited, partly owing to seepage and partly owing to the great expense of pumping oil up from such depths. The disused salt mines in Cheshire would be 456 a more practical solution, and also reservoirs cut out of hard rock such as the granite around Aberdeen, near where the oil will come ashore; or the granite of Lundy Island, at the other end of the country, a few miles outside Milford Haven where we already have great oil installations and pipelines.
To sum up, it seems to me that the successful development of North Sea oil is so important and so urgent, both from the economic and the defence points of view, that it should be given every possible encouragement and assistance by Her Majesty's Government. I believe that now, while we are at peace, we should take steps to stockpile oil in great underground reservoirs. We should take comprehensive steps to protect our North Sea wellheads and pipelines against sabotage in peace time and against direct attack by the enemy in war. This will be a large and expensive item in our Defence bill, but unless we pay for it now we will assuredly pay for it many times over in another war.
My Lords, I have one other thing to say. Last September retired officers in the three Services were granted a substantial rise in their pension rates. The announcement of these higher rates received favourable comment in your Lordships' House at the time, and I only want now to add my own thanks to those of hundreds of other officers who have benefited as a result. I am still in close touch with many retired officers, and over the months since last September I have heard nothing but gratitude from them for this just treatment by Her Majesty's Government.
§ 5.38 p.m.
LORD DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments as I do not consider myself an expert in world-wide defence by this country. I propose to confine my remarks to the subject of manpower. I was most impressed by the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing that the recruitment of the 15-year olds might be assisted if we could evolve some scheme by which, if they join the Army, the additional year which they should have spent in school could be accounted for by the training that they would get in the Army. The 457 Army has magnificent educational facilities and I feel that some scheme might be worked out so that this 20 per cent. of recruitment is not lost. When one looks at the increased figures of entry and re-engagement shown in the Defence White Paper, they seem to stem from the time when unemployment began to rise. When I was in the Army this always seemed to be the fact; we had greater recruitment as unemployment rose and we lost more people as unemployment declined.
For the young man, the prospect of learning a trade and earning good money appeals to him enormously. Also, young men learn far more than just a trade in the Army—they learn discipline and I think that they also learn to enjoy themselves. A soldier who is in a technical service will not willingly relinquish an engagement at this moment when he has a good career in front of him and as he sees the trade in which he is engaged declining in outside industry. Nor do I think that his civilian counterpart, who is facing unemployment and the threat of unemployment, would be liable to put "Welcome" on the mat for him. While we must make our engagement policies attractive and not retain dissatisfied personnel, who in the Service are, to put it mildly, a nuisance to any unit, the Services must never be put in the position that they are training at great expense to the very highest standards men who are merely there till they judge the time is right to go into civilian life. There must be obligations on both sides.
When it comes to officers and to the future of officers in the Service, I do not think the situation is all that happy. One of the matters which disturbed me in reading this White Paper was the incredibly high failure rate at the Regular Commissions Board. It would be most interesting to know why there is this high failure rate. Again, I am not too happy at the increase in the university entrants. Are we getting into the Service the university graduate who cannot see a future for himself at the moment outside, or are we getting in a man who genuinely wants to make a career in the Army? The training in the Army is magnificent—it always has been—and the technical training is equalled by none. One of the things which the Army teach, particularly 458 in their technical course, is man-management in workshops and so forth, and something which most officers and other ranks in the Army could teach in civilian life is a great lesson in the subject of man-management.
Another matter which rather disturbs me about the officer situation, and about whether we are going to be able to keep our officers, particularly in technical arms, is that their career prospects have been dwindling. In reading the Defence White Paper, one sees that headquarters and formation headquarters are being disposed of in this country and all over the world. This must mean that some of the ranks of promotion for officers are being closed. The reduction in establishments for senior ranks must be considerable, and I feel that, for an officer to be satisfied with his place in the Army, he should see a future in front of him and know that lie can rise to the highest point if he has the ability.
I should also like to say how welcome it is to see the expansion of the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve. The volunteer has always been the backbone of our Forces in an emergency. I must congratulate the Government on the steps that they have taken to expand the T.A.V.R. One of the questions which always interested me when I was in the Services—and it still interests me—is the statement, repeated in the White Paper, that on an outbreak of hostilities B.A.O.R. could be doubled in strength. I wonder how this can be done. We should probably have the men, but how should we move them? It might be comparatively easy in a simple peacetime atmosphere to move large numbers of men from place to place, but in war time it becomes very different. Where is their equipment to come from? Are they to take it with them, which would double the burden which is put on movement, or are we to find it is already in Europe and that the man is merely to be attached to the weapon on his arrival? My Lords, I think this is a most excellent White Paper. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and thoroughly approve of the continuity we see from year to year. I hope that the Government will press on with this continuity, which is most vital to our Services.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, the House will be pleased, and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, will be pleased, to hear what I have to say. First of all, after many years of following these debates I want to apologise to the noble Lord the Secretary of Defence and to my noble friend who spoke earlier on our side of the House because I did not hear their speeches. I did not hear those two speeches because I was performing a détente operation on my own at the Chinese Embassy, and I decided that it would be wrong and remiss of me to enter into speaking on my constructive or destructive criticisms on this White Paper. Consequently, after putting only two small questions I will sit down and keep my firing power dry, if the gods are kind to me, for another day.
One of two questions I have to put is a tribute. If it has not been paid while I have not been in the Chamber, I would pay a tribute to our troops in the Far East and to the Ministry of Defence, who did such marvellous humanitarian work in Pakistan and nearby to rescue thousands and thousands of ordinary civilians. My second point is this. At one time I was Vice-Chairman of an Estimates Committee that examined military expense right across the world. While I found that the Army and the Royal Air Force were looked after, when I saw the conditions of some of our ratings in ships I realised what many of those boys had to put up with. Consequently, I should like to know (and I will try to return to the Chamber at the end of the debate to hear the reply) what has happened to the Seebohm Report on the welfare of the Navy. With those brief remarks, and asking to be excused, I will sit down and give the Chamber to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, it would appear that we have departed from the list of speakers as printed, and I was therefore rather surprised by the customary ebullience of the noble Lord whom I am following.
§ LORD BALERNO
I bear him no grudge for it whatsoever.
460 I should like to begin my speech by congratulating the Government on the decisions they have made. There has been some pressure from those who sit on the Back Benches to increase the number of the infantry and to increase infantry battalions. I think we are really giving ourselves too much credit and that the incoming Government realised the importance of this. In fact, the infantry was increased—but only just in the nick of time; and I imagine that, in view of all its commitments at the present moment, it is very greatly stretched. I would endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said about the possibility of still further increasing the infantry from 53 to 60 battalions. But I would do so with this proviso: that we are better with 53 battalions recruited up to establishment than 60 battalions of which a large number are only three-quarters up to establishment. That is a waste of money, so we must keep an eye on the future of recruiting. If recruiting continues as it is at the moment, then the suggested increase should be all right. But my noble friend, in his speech opening this debate, made some points which indicate that recruiting may not remain at the same rate as it has been at recently.
I note with satisfaction, as do other Peers, recruiting for T.A.V.R. I am not sure that I would not take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, when he wants to get back to the old T.A., and using the name "T.A.". I personally should very much like that. I would not even object to going back to the old "T.F."—which is about where I started. But speaking to the young officers of the force of the present day, and particularly the ones I meet in Scotland, I find that among themselves they seem to prefer to use the word "volunteers" colloquially: it is creeping into the official language It is a long time since the T.A. was valiant in war and I think the young men are trying to start up a new tradition of their own. If they prefer to be called "volunteers" I should not be too sad at dropping the old "T.A.", especially now that the reserve forces of the Army do not seem to have formations so that the word "Army" is not so appropriate. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, asked for clarification of this point.
I should like now to come to the question touched upon by the noble 461 Lord, Lord Ashbourne, in regard to officer supply. For the Army the decline in officer recruitment is quite serious. For the period of nine months prior to December 31 last the officer recruitment was somewhat lower than the comparable period ended December 31, 1970; and this despite an increase in the number of applicants, which was offset by an increase in the failure rate at the Regular Commissions Board. In consequence, one sees from the White Paper that the Sandhurst entry, which was 237, fell very substantially short of the requirement of 450. This point was touched upon by my noble friend Lord Ashbourne. Having myself had some experience of the functioning of the officer selection boards in the Army I have always viewed with suspicion any increase in the rejection rate. Army selection boards are apt to exaggerate their ability to discern leadership qualities. A selection board can say that a man has the qualities of leadership but it cannot say that a specific man has no potential for leadership; and this is where I believe the boards occasionally err. It is far more difficult to spot leadership as a result of the selection board procedure than it is to determine the qualities of motivation and intellectual potential.
To my mind this accounted for the greater failure rate in the Army selection boards some years ago among young applicants from the northern counties and from Scotland. I am not sure whether this difference still persists at the present time, but when we run short of applicants a selection board must be prepared to take risks; and when a poor risk is taken on for training in the Army the cost to the Army is much smaller than the cost of the wastage when that occurs in the R.A.F. The R.A.F. can less afford to take on a poor risk than can the Army. The Army will discover him probably within six months of taking him on for training. If motivation and intellect are right, then it is wonderful how Army training can develop the leadership potential or discover a complete absence of leadership potential.
My Lords, I come now to graduate entry. My noble friend Lord Ashbourne asked whether we were getting the right men from the universities. I think the answer is that on the whole all three Services are getting the right men, but at the present moment we have to guard 462 against a phenomenon which has arisen within the last 18 months, namely, unemployment among graduates. Large numbers of people are now making interesting noises about Service careers merely because they have not been able to get jobs elsewhere. That is why I say that in assessing applicants for commissions we must watch their motivation, and if it is found that it is only within the last year before graduation that they have suddenly become interested in the Services there is every reason to doubt their motivation; and in such cases, to my mind, the selection boards would have every right to reject them.
I can support my argument, at any rate so far as the R.A.F. is concerned, and it might console my noble friend, if we judge the success of the R.A.F. graduate entry scheme. That was undertaken with perhaps some hesitation, some doubt, and I think we owe a great deal to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for having got it through, in spite of certain Service difficulties at the time while he was in charge of the R.A.F. There has been extraordinarily little wastage in training, and when the scheme has been in operation for a few more years we shall see whether it is able to maintain its present promise. An important by-product of this is that. because the policy is in existence, there is much greater encouragement to the young men to take an interest in it, especially now that it is linked with the university cadetships and, still further, with the deferred university cadet entry. Going through the Service units at the universities one gets a pretty sure test of the motivation of the applicants for commissions. They go into the Service units at the universities in the face of great hostility—and I think "hostility" is not too strong a word. They have to stand up to a good deal of something more than chaff from certain types of their fellow students. So that to my mind any young man who is in the Service unit at the university, who sticks in it and then decides to apply for a commission, is a man who must be motivated well for the Services. That is why I would make a plea for the Service units in the universities, and more particularly for the university air squadrons.
I think I have mentioned before to your Lordships that university air squadrons are now running with about 50 per 463 cent. of the cadets holding the university cadetships. That leaves very little room for the student who comes up to the university uncertain whether he wants to make the Services his career, he being an honest chap and not wanting to take a university cadetship. At the university he joins the Service unit. I am talking more particularly of the university air squadrons. He has his taste of flying and he has his taste of discipline. He decides whether or not he likes it. If he decides he likes it and wants a Service career then in the end you get a young officer who will go through without any risk whatsoever of failure. If you want a "dead cert" at training an R.A.F. officer, take the chap who has come to university without being committed to the air squadron, but who joins the air squadron, does his time and is checked out by the air squadron commander; he will go on to prove an absolutely superb officer for the R.A.F. I therefore hope that consideration will be given to increasing the establishment of the university air squadrons to offer more opportunities to that type of man. It does not cost much to keep a student in the university air squadron, and if only one in four of the hitherto uncommitted students who join goes on to a permanent commission—and that is about the figure just now—you are getting real value for your money. There has been a rumour circulating among the universities that for some reason or another certain air squadrons of certain older universities in the South are likely to be increased at the expense of other university air squadrons in more provincial parts and in the fringes of the North.
The shortage of doctors in all three Services is also a serious matter. This has been continuing for about 20 years, at any rate ever since National Service came to an end. I therefore welcome very much the setting up of the committee of inquiry to examine the provision of medical, dental and nursing services. Can my noble friend say whether consideration of the fusion of the three Services in this respect—common medical services for the Army, Navy and Air Force—is within the ambit of this inquiry which is being conducted under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Clifford Jarrett? I hope it will not be too long before we may expect the committee to report.
464 The close association between the Ministry of Defence and the universities is going very well. It started tentatively, as an experiment. I think that one can get a measure of its successs from the fact that, while the Ministry of Defence pays for certain lectureships, in most of the universities the departments have been increased and many universities are putting more into the studies of defence than is coming from the Ministry of Defence at the present moment. That is a very interesting development. The Ministry of Defence decision has ceded far more than merely what has been supplied by the lectureships established in, I think, seven universities. My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne; I certainly did not find this a dull Paper.
§ 6.8 p.m.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, I wish first to say a few words concerning the Navy and then to move on to make a few remarks about the Army. I think that anybody who has been on Parliamentary visits to the Navy over the last few years will have been deeply impressed, not only by the Navy but by the increased problems of the Fleet Auxiliary, for which I have the greatest admiration. There is a question that I should like to put to the noble Lord the Secretary of State concerning the seamanship branch of the Fleet Auxiliary. They appear to be mostly Chinese drawn from the Hong Kong area. I am told they make superb seamen, and of course are very clean in personal habits, and that they are prepared to put in enormously long hours, which is very often necessary for the work that has to be done in supplying the Fleet. I would also, in passing, say that I very much support what the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, said concerning H.M.S. "Eagle". I thought his last suggestion was one that might offer some hope that if we ourselves cannot keep this magnificent ship, possibly the Americans might be called in to help in some form.
Passing to the Army, I would warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on raising to full strength the four battalions at present at company strength. If I may say so, as an old Rifleman, it was the greatest pleasure to the Rifle Brigade, now the Third Royal Greenjackets, to be 465 now coming up to full battalion strength. It should not be forgotten that this process by which battalions of the British Army are raised and dropped, disbanded and then raised again, produces the most appalling complications within the regiments concerned, as I am sure the noble Lord appreciates only too well. Once a regiment is disbanded all the officers go off to staff appointments, or abroad on other Army appointments; the same happens with the warrant officers, and it goes right down through the line. And even when the battalion is reinstated it takes a very long time before anything of a battalion in operational strength can come into being.
Perhaps I may pass from that, although my next point does very much tie in with it, because those magnificent fighting men, the Gurkhas, have always been attached to my regiment, which is now the Second Royal Greenjackets. To digress for a few moments, I was somewhat interested a short time ago, when I went to the Royal Tournament. The great doors were thrown open and there was the band of the Gurkhas coming in to the regimental march of my regiment, which I am delighted they should play, because of attachment. These soldiers from the hills of Nepal claim a regimental march that comes from Germany, a march that was originally, I believe, written for the German mercenaries. It is an interesting historical fact how these things tie in.
But, my Lords, what is the position? I must say that I am getting slightly confused. I know that the Gurkhas are now part of the British Army. Are they a brigade in strength, or more? I quite understand that it may not be a very tactful moment to pursue this point, but when the Indian Army went into what was then East Pakistan there seemed to be an enormous number of Gurkha troops fighting for the Indian Army. There is no reason why they should not. Putting it bluntly, they are cercenary troops, and they are also the most superb fighting men. I wonder whether there is any idea of the number of Gurkhas serving at the moment in India.
My Lords, I should like to end by repeating what has already been said before about the Territorial Army. At the moment we all realise that the Regular Army is strained to its fullest capacity 466 in the situation which exists at the moment, and there is no doubt that the Army, from the staff angle, must fall back on the T.A.V.R. I hope that this fact will be brought home to all officers and men of the Territorial Army. What is important is that they realise they are in fact the first reserve in these islands and this should help towards their morale and future expansion.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I was very much looking forward to following the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. I am well aware of his admiration and concern for the Royal Navy, and I hope there will be another occasion. I, like many other noble Lords, welcome this White Paper and for the same reason which has been explained to us on a number of occasions to-day: that it is allowing the Armed Forces a period of stability and consolidation, after the ups and downs of the last six years. This is absolutely right, and I am sure it has had its effect on the greatly improved recruiting figures of the last 18 months. There are parts of the White Paper on which I believe the Government are to be congratulated. I studied paragraph 8, dealing with NATO Force improvements, with some interest. These must be welcomed: the restoration of the four infantry battalions, the acceleration of the naval building programme and the additional orders for Buccaneers and Nimrods are a happy start in repairing the gaps in our defences. The withdrawal of our forces from Singapore and the setting up of the ANZUK force has gone smoothly; so has the withdrawal of our forces from the Persian Gulf, much as many of us regret this step on policy grounds. There appears to be a steady build-up of military hardware, though nothing very spectacular, with more modern equipment replacing the old. This can only be of great importance to all three Services.
I shall not speak to-day of Northern Ireland except to add my admiration to that of other noble Lords for the magnificent way in which our men are carrying out a dangerous and thankless task. I want to concentrate briefly on four other aspects of our defence. The first is our maritime strategy. Though the present Government are much more outward-looking than their predecessor, I 467 am still conscious of a slight obsession with the NATO area and the Tropic of Cancer in the Atlantic. The seaborne trade on which we depend in war is worldwide and its protection cannot be confined within boundaries. This applies also to the majority of our NATO allies, most of whom are seafaring nations who depend on imports of oil and raw materials for survival.
I am aware that our membership of E.E.C. is not concerned with defence, but as the nations of Western Europe come closer together our defence policies should do likewise. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, quoted paragraph 9 of the White Paper referring to the need for closer co-operation and identity of view within the Western Alliance. This is very important in the sea area. Can we not persuade our allies of the importance of a worldwide maritime policy in defence of the trade routes, and enlist their aid in helping us to extend a NATO presence in the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific? I believe, if I heard him aright, that I had a most unexpected ally in this concept in the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Perhaps he will confirm that that is what he meant when he told us that he thought that the Western Allies ought to get together on a maritime policy.
We have our own responsibilities in Singapore and Malaysia. The French, like us, still have dependencies in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, and the Portuguese, besides their African provinces, still hold half of Timor and Macao. For our own part, paragraph 14 of the White Paper starts as follows:A continuing British maritime presence in the Indian Ocean helps to maintain vigilance in that area of strategic importance.I turn to Chapter II, paragraph 6(a), which gives in a little more detail what this means. Part of the paragraph reads:A force of six ships will be on station East of Suez contributing to the Five-Power defence arrangements and the ANZUK Force, visiting the Gulf, maintaining the Beira Patrol and guardship at Hong Kong and providing a presence in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia areas … It is expected that larger ships, such as a cruiser, will also visit the area occasionally.My Lords, with the concentration of the Russian Navy in all these vital areas, are six ships really enough for all these 468 tasks? It would be my hope that in time we could increase our naval presence worldwide and persuade other nations of NATO to support us and do likewise.
In the South Atlantic and round the Cape we have the thorny problem of South Africa. Here is a rich and increasingly powerful nation, bound to us by the Simonstown Treaty, willing and able to undertake the defence of the Cape route on behalf of the Free World. All she needs is a little assistance and encouragement. There is probably not a noble Lord in this House who approves of her internal policies, but is this a good reason for not co-operating with her in mutual defence against a far more dangerous enemy? Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I regard it as a tragedy that South Africa has had to buy her submarines from France and her frigates from Portugal. Vickers, Yarrows, Swan Hunter and others would have been very grateful for those orders. I read in my paper the other day that South Africa now wants a surface-to-air missile system for her frigates, and has asked for it from us. I sincerely hope she will not be disappointed.
May I now turn to something quite different, Malta? I should like to start by offering a very personal congratulation to my noble friend Lord Carrington on the firmness and patience he has shown in these diabolical discussions with Mintoff. As Flag Officer, Malta, I spent two years dealing with the Maltese trade unions representing the 6,000 workers who were then employed in the Naval Base. It was hard going, but between the British and Maltese there was always a sort of competitive camaraderie and a degree of mutual respect which excluded bitterness. I was reminded the other day of a Home Office Report, on civilian morale in this country which came out in the dark days of 1940–41. The Report contained one sentence which has always remained in my memory. It went something like this: "The British have a strong sense of fair play and of playing for the team, but dirty tricks against the enemy arc considered highly desirable and very funny." I think the Maltese have acquired something of that attitude from us.
The Government were absolutely right to refuse to be blackmailed, but I can 469 also understand the anxieties of some of our allies—particularly Italy and the United States. Malta may have lost much of its strategic importance, but in hostile hands it could be a considerable thorn in the side of the Mediterranean NATO countries and the American Sixth Fleet. Apart from the large majority of moderate and friendly Maltese, perhaps our greatest indirect ally may be the deeply devout Roman Catholic Church of Malta, led by that stout-hearted little man, Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi. The Church in Malta has learned over 170 years to live with the heretic British, but I do not believe that even Mintoff could foist on them either Communist Russia or Muslim Libya. Economically the Island is in a mess and has got to be rescued by somebody. Even at this late hour it is my fervent hope that agreement can be reached, and that an ancient friendship, which means so much to so many of us in this House, will not be lost for ever.
Thirdly I come to the Fleet. The acceleration of the naval construction programme and the improved recruiting will have given a considerable fillip to the Fleet. The guided-missile destroyer Bristol and the last of the "Leander" type frigates come into service this year. These were fine ships, and I hope that the Type 42 destroyers and the Type 21 frigates will prove worthy successors. I am still concerned, as I was last year, about our lack of modern torpedoes and our lack of a surface-to-surface missile. I should be very grateful if my noble friend Lord Carrington could tell us exactly what is happening about those two problems. I assume that the Mark 46, which we are buying from the U.S.A., and the Exocet are stopgaps. What is the ultimate policy for the Fleet in these two important aspects?
But our greatest weekness lies in the air defence of the Fleet—combining, as it does, reconnaissance, strike and fighter defence. The through-deck cruisers which will have to assume the role of conventional cruiser and aircraft carrier are still over the horizon. We have "Ark Royal" until 1978. "Eagle" is to be scrapped. I know that many people feel strongly about this. I myself am torn. If it were merely a matter of money I think I should be in there fighting for her, but there is also 470 the problem of manpower. If, as I am told, "Eagle" in reserve might well put out of commission two frigates, and "Eagle" in commission and unmodernised four or five, I am not sure that, on balance, I would not rather have the frigates. With the best will in the world, the R.A.F. cannot provide an adequate substitute for seaborne airpower. They have insufficient aircraft—and from distant shore bases it is impossible to produce that split-second timing which can make the whole difference between success and disaster at sea. This is a problem that must be solved, and I do not doubt that some of our best brains are being applied to it at this moment. I can only wish them all the best of British luck.
Finally, I come to the men who man the Fleet—the most important element of all. It is my belief that the pay and conditions of service are now as good as they have ever been and should be able to attract young men of the highest quality. Turning to the officer entry, I share some of the concern expressed by my noble friend Lord Balerno, but I think that my worries are almost opposite to his. It is my hope that in selecting naval officers too much attention is not put on academic qualifications at the expense of the old-fashioned virtues of leadership, initiative, and lore of the sea. There are some splendid young men who simply cannot pass exams but who in every other respect would make admirable naval officers. I hope that they will not be allowed to slip through the net. In fact, one wonders how many A-levels Drake, Rodney or Nelson would have got. It is the men and not the machines that make a Service, and it is the leaders who set the example.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, this evening I wish to deal with three subjects only, and as shortly as possible. One is reserves; the second is the use of the Army in Northern Ireland; and the last a local problem. Since the first rumours in 1964 of the abolishment of the Territorial Army started, concern with the country's lack of reserves has been one of my main excuses for intervening in these debates. The White Paper to-day does little to reassure me. For example, before 1964 in the County of Devon we had eight major and minor 471 units, plus a brigade headquarters. We were then left with one company of T.A.V.R. 2 and eight men of T.A.V.R. 3—of which I was, and am, the honorary colonel. Now the present Government have permitted us to expand the eight men to a company/squadron strength. But once you abolish these long and traditional methods of voluntarily arranging your reserves, it is very hard to build them up again: the spirit of service depends very much on continuity. And the blow was so thorough and ruthless in my county that I doubt whether adequate reserves of that nature will ever again be achieved on a voluntary basis.
Added to that, the knocking out of the Civil Defence organisation was stupidity itself. Time and time again since that occurred their need has been seen in normal day-to-day disasters. As an ex-graduate of the Civil Defence Staff College, I must say I cannot see how we can afford to exist in this dangerous world without the training that it gave. It is now a school for civil servants—attacking the population, I presume; not defending them. Perhaps your Lordships will remember the debate in which the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, attacked, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, defended that decision—with, I thought, the most effective smoke screen ever produced by an ex-Regular officer who should have known, and I believe did know, better and does know better. I refer to his recent article—on which I should like to congratulate him—in The Times.
Then they were getting rid of 14 infantry battalions; now we are getting four of them back, but not much is done to increase your reserves there. Perhaps it might, with extra short service coming in under that plan, but I still do not see its ever being as effective as it was in the past on a voluntary basis; which leads me to the conclusion that the only answer is a reintroduction of National Service. Briefly, about the Navy, it is obvious to all except the moronically anti-national that they must have their own air power. By all means scrap your expensive carriers, but not before each frigate can carry four jump-jet aircraft to fulfil the fixed-wing role. Articles in the Sunday Telegraph two days ago pointed out the relative weakness of the Navy compared 472 with what is claimed in the White Paper. With strategic bombing about to be taken over by advanced rocketry, one is told. it seems to me that the R.A.F. could be split between an Army Corps and a Fleet Air Arm, as in America.
A short paragraph 2 states that the Army will remain in Northern Ireland for so long as they are needed. From a political point of view, my views on what the Army should do in Northern Ireland are fairly well-known and I do not propose to repeat them. What I wish to do is to criticise the way the politicians and the High Command between them use the Army. First, the Army is supposed to be used in aid of civil power; but it has not been, and is not being, used in that way. It is in fact the only "civil power" and that situation should never have been allowed to occur. The Army should shoot to kill only after the police have failed to disperse a crowd. We have had plenty of practice in that. But rubber bullets and water cannon are not Army weapons; they are riot police weapons. If the Army are used they should be used for war, not with hands tied behind their backs.
It is stupid to say that there can be no military solution. Tanks, mortars and artillery could ensure a military solution, but that is not politically feasible. Personally, I think the withdrawal of the Army is the only way the blockheads of both sides can be made to see sense. Meanwhile, with the yellow cards, the water pistols and the water cannons, the politicians are just making the Army "sitting ducks" for the gunmen. I think that January 30 was the result of this policy. Why, for example, does a crowd of 50 to 100 create a disturbance every afternoon between 3.30 p.m. and dusk in William Street in Londonderry? It is to draw the military on to the street to protect property, so that they can then be sniped at. If when that first occurred bullets had been used, there would not have been this trouble since, and the Creggan and Bogside would not be ruled by the gunmen. If, as the White Paper states, the Army are going to stay in Northern Ireland, then the police should do the police work and the Army should be used in reserve, as at Newry. Give them the flak jackets and the water cannon, but leave the Army to do the shooting and then only when necessary; that 473 is, in aid of the civil power. That is not what is happening at the moment.
Why, when soldiers are shot at from churches, as, for example, from St. Mary's Church in the Creggan, when a soldier called Firth was badly wounded, are they told to be hesitant and are not allowed to shoot back? This to me is being far too careful. If I may quote from my experience in Italy during the war with the partisans, we had lots of churches in which we stored our arms and we asked the local padres to help us as much as possible. If I had been on the other side I should very willingly have blown the places to bits. I think this should be done in cases where churches are used for sniping purposes. I personally know of two such incidents. We now know that there have been 58 soldiers killed, with seven more in Aldershot to-day. How many more are scarcely living cabbages as a result of their wounds? How many more will be needed to make an emergency into a war? I must say my feelings are that we should declare war or get out and let them murder each other, and that we should refuse to allow these murderers to enter and stay in this country while keeping out friendly people. How many more Post Office Towers and Aldershots do we need to bring us to that conclusion?
If I may now turn to my little local problem, or go from the general to the particular, when the powers-that-be got rid of the Army Brigade at Plymouth the County of Devon was left with only one Regular Army base; namely, the Wessex Brigade training centre at Wyvern Barracks in Exeter. The whole of Wessex then heard with alarm that some little man with a computer had decided to move the brigade training centre to, of all places, Lichfield. Of all the Services the Army in particular, to my way of thinking, has local roots and, to us in Wessex, Lichfield is very nearly a foreign country. The British Legion, of which I am County President, the Old Comrades' Associations, the Regimental Associations, the County Councils, the Lord Lieutenants—everyone has deplored this move. Though we in the West Country produce the best sailors, our soldiers are also second to none, and the West Country regiments have the reputation of being the steadiest and most reliable in 474 the United Kingdom. Semper Fidelis is the motto of the best of these.
If the Ministry pushes through this move, it will strike a blow at recruiting and at local associations with local people. Dads and Mums can get down to young Tommy's passing-out parade in Exeter, whereas to go to Lichfield would be out of the question. The only permanent Regular forces in the area would then be the Navy and its subsidiary; and of course, with due respect to the noble Earl who spoke before me, every so often the Navy has a mutiny, so it would be a very serious state of affairs to leave the West Country in that position. Lastly, in the new divisional concept, the Welsh Brigade has already opted out and is being allowed to remain in Brecon. We in Wessex demand to stay in our own county. I trust that the noble Lord will put our minds at rest when he comes to wind up this debate.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I was going to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for not following him, but in his closing remarks he rather implied that mutiny in the West Country is something which might happen to the Navy. The last mutiny with which I was in any way closely in touch was in the Army. I shall not go into details, because I should hate to embarrass any noble Lord. I do not wish to detain your Lordships and I shall not be following the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I have one plea to make, and that is for the salvation of the "Eagle". I told my noble friend the Secretary of State that I would say this.
I, too, have had the same great difficulty in deciding on priorities as my noble friend Lord Glasgow has had. He plumped for the frigates, but I plump for the carriers. And why, my Lords? We have a reason to have carriers. I shall not bore your Lordships with the many stories that there are about that, but if you care to read past speeches of mine, not to mention those of more erudite noble Lords, you will find ample evidence to show that this is so. The Government know the reason, because they have the "Ark Royal" in commission, and they therefore recognise the need for carriers. They probably recognise it even more now, as a result of the exercises which took place towards 475 the end of last year. They must have shown them even more clearly than before that shore-based support of naval forces at sea has an extraordinarily limited range. It would not be proper to give an idea of what that is, but it has an extraordinarily limited range if the full support that is required is provided.
We are told in Chapter I of this document that the Russians have a really quite staggering capability in guided missiles and other types of weaponry. They also have many aeroplanes of all sorts, shapes and sizes. They must surely have targeted all the shore bases of NATO in one form or another, and surely our only hope to have a credible resistance to them over and above the nuclear weaponry, which was referred to earlier, is to have elements at sea which can of themselves present a threat. I will not say that we can totally damage on our own: of course we cannot. I will not say that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was not right to press us to try and try again to get some form of mutual disarmament. But I would say that in this NATO area—forgetting for the moment the wider world, for which the carrier is even more necessary—we should surely be unwise, to put it mildly, to throw away the only spare carrier that we have.
When we debated this when the Supplementary or Interim Statement, or whatever it was called, was put out, it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, from the Opposition Front Bench who said that, if you want one carrier, surely it is illogical not to back it up. There are two reasons why it needs backing up, and one (which is why I am speaking now, although I had not planned to) is because of a particular sentence in paragraph 7(c) in Chapter II of this Statement, which says that the V/STOL aircraft is not suitable for maritime operations and that a considerable amount of development would be required in order to make it so. My Lords, the first lecture that I attended on what ultimately became the Naval surface-to-air guided missile was in 1945, and it was just about twenty years later that the weapon came into service. This is what worries me. If the Harrier is not suitable for maritime operations, if development is required, heaven knows when we shall get it!
476 The Government know that we want carriers because they are keeping the "Ark Royal". Why, therefore, are they risking being left without one? It may be said, "Well, this will not happen; we will have a planned refit; everybody will be nice and docile then and there will be no threats." Admitedly, if a refit was happening to-morrow this would be so from a maritime point of view. But who can be sure that in the late 'seventies the picture will look as it does now? Who could have been sure in 1931 that in 1938 we should have been on the brink of war? I do not suppose it will happen that way, but there is a chance. Here we have this ship, whatever the penalty of keeping it going, which could replace the "Ark Royal", not only when it is refitting at an awkward moment but also if it has some unforeseen disaster, which I mentioned to your Lordships the last time I spoke on this matter. It is only about a fortnight ago that the "Ark Royal" herself got into trouble in New York harbour. It is possible that she was not really in trouble at all and that it was only the journalists, who were deprived of a party they were going to, who brushed it up to make it look like that. But it could have been a disaster. It could be a very awkward place to anchor; it is a very confined harbour. I do not know whether they were in the Hudson River or the other side, but it is not an easy harbour in which to control a large ship; and this sort of thing goes on. All kinds of things happen. That ship alone has had minor disasters over the years as have other ships. It is not obvious when it is a frigate because there are many of them and it does not hit the headlines. But if you have only one such ship it is vulnerable.
I have been searching for three days for some argument to try to get through to the Government what I am talking about. I am not getting only at the Government, because their advisers—and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Glasgow was right in saying so—are behind them in this approach. Surely, throwing away the "Eagle" is rather like any of us, now that the coal strike has been, I hope, solved and the lights are coming back again, saying: "We laid in our small cooker because we had only electrics; we laid in a special oil lamp and we laid in a whole lot of candles. Now we are going to throw these away 477 because they get in the way; there is not room in our cupboards and there is a possibility that they might catch fire because they have paraffin inside them, or whatever it is. They are difficult to maintain; they will not be useful; the disaster will never occur again". This is the kind of thing we are doing. I know that it will be said that by this process we are using up manpower which could well be used better at sea in frigates. I would question whether one frigate, which my noble friend mentioned, is worth keeping instead of this absolutely essential alternative means of defence power. I would therefore implore my noble friend the Secretary of State to give very serious thought to this point and to give particular thought to whether this firmness of view is not perhaps mistaken. I am not the only one who thinks like this: there are many people who, with the greatest respect, have as much knowledge and experience as the noble Lord's advisers in the wider sense. They may not be so capable but they have quite as much experience. There are many people who have put this viewpoint. and surely it requires consideration.
I will not bother your Lordships with any other points except one, and that is to say that I believe that the White Paper, apart from this one issue, represents a splendid picture. The most heartening part about it is the improvement, not only in recruiting but in re-engagement. If you look at it. this is probably not due, as some people have suggested, to the unemployment situation. It is not perhaps due only to the fact that there is a bit of strife going on around the world to encourage people to join. I think it is due to better management and greatly improved morale, and I think my noble friend the Secretary of State can himself be greatly congratulated on the improved morale.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, may I join my noble friend Lord Chalfont in congratulating the Secretary of State on the clarity of his Statement? May I also, with somewhat rueful memories of the past, congratulate him on its shortness; because I remember that my own contributions to earlier debates were distinguished rather by their excessive length than by anything else. May I also say that I am glad to see that as time 478 passes he is, I think, lessening his attempts to differentiate between the defence policy followed by the present Administration and the one followed by their predecessors. As he well knows, policy in defence or in any great Department is really a continuum: it runs in a steady stream. with minor fluctuations, from one Government to another. Without knowing precise details, let me take the Jaguar programme as an example. The operational requirements for the Jaguar were conceived under a Conservative Administration; the joint Anglo-French agreement to manufacture it was also a Conservative concept. Production went on throughout the period of the Labour Administration; but towards the end of that Administration, it was felt that the sophistication of this craft made it too expensive to be a training aeroplane, and that it should be used purely for operational purposes. And that decision was carried into effect as policy by the present Administration. That is really how things happen.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive me for stopping him in midstream, I hope, but is not that splendid story of what happened to the Jaguar the likely story of what is going to happen to the improved Harrier?
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
. My Lords, I hope that it happens a little more quickly than for the Jaguar, because I believe we are further along the road with the Harrier than we were with the Jaguar at its beginnings. As the noble Lord well knows, the development period for an aircraft of this sophistication is from seven to ten years, at least. But at any rate we have the aeroplane, and know that it has a development potential.
However, I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State on three, as I think, distinctive new elements in this present White Paper. First, there is the new form of engagement. The flexibility that is built into the soldier's career is entirely welcome and is made possible by the excellent recruiting figures we have seen. Secondly. I should like to congratulate him on the very sensible decision to use the present slack in the economy to order additional Buccaneers and Nimrods. These aircraft, which are good aircraft, are replacing other good aircraft which by now are rather old. 479 While talking about Nimrod, I would ask where the new Nimrod squadron is to be stationed, because I have the hope that it might be at Ballykelly. I do not know whether the future of Ballykelly has been decided, but a decision that this important Northern Irish base should house the Nimrods would be welcomed by many people here and in Ulster. Lastly, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord on the new machinery of defence procurement—and about that I am going to say more later.
My Lords, it is perhaps not inappropriate that we should debate Defence in this Chamber following shortly after another place opened its discussions on the Common Market Bill. The predecessor of the Secretary of State said (and I believe this to be true, and hope that he still holds to it) that Europe can be defended only by Europe. The Americans have protected Europe since 1945. They have done great things during that period, but now, quite rightly, as they see the growing economic strength of Europe and Japan they are feeling strongly that we should hear more of the burden of our own defence. This, I believe, is justified and entirely reasonable and we must accept it—even if we see the Russian strength or the strength of the COMECON Powers growing, as it has been growing, as it has been described as growing, by the White Paper, by the Secretary of State, by my noble friend and by other speakers. Russian military strength is growing at a remarkable rate because of a ruthless determination to follow a straight line in their policies. We must not be hypnotised by the situation. Even on conventional present lines we are doing a great deal to counter it.
If one reads the communiqué following upon the Eurogroup conference in December, 1971, one sees that the European Powers as a group are not simply sitting still and watching Russian growth without doing anything about it. A substantial amount is being done, as the noble Lord mentioned. If we take only one simple element in defence, Europe is providing itself with 1,100 new main battle tanks. What is really important is that the armies are receiving some 8,500 anti-tank weapons. I agree with my noble friend that tanks are best 480 countered by tanks, but they are important and expensive pieces of equipment, and a very large supply of anti-tank weapons, to be operated by the infantry. is good for the morale of the infantrymen and will partially counter the very great Russian superiority in tank forces.
But we can do more than this, without increasing to any marked degree our own expenditure on our own defence. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. that 5½ per cent. of our gross national product is not enough; but we have done more and could do more. Let us take the 5½ per cent. of the gross national product and see what we could do with it. What we must achieve is the optimum use of Europe's resources. The first thing we must do is to try to achieve a common infrastructure for NATO forces in Europe. It has been said before, and I think it must be said continually, that one of the nonsenses of the situation is that, say, a German aircraft landing on a British base, cannot do more than refuel. It cannot rearm; cannot refit; it can just take in fuel and, if it is lucky, fly away. This is the basic importance of the multi-role combat aircraft. When this comes into operation, we shall have a common front-line aircraft for the British, the Germans and the Italians. Let us hope that perhaps the Dutch, the Danes and other NATO Powers may also buy this aircraft, the future of which is now, I hope, assured.
Also may I say in relation to a common infra-structure that I am delighted to read in the White Paper that the French and British are preparing a common infrastructure organisation for the Jaguar and for the three helicopters which are building in common. This can only strengthen the effectiveness of the new equipment we are providing for our Armed Forces. But we must also think beyond an act of policy creating a common infrastructure. We must be prepared to move towards national specialisation. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, spoke, I thought rather surprisingly strongly, against the British purchase of EXOCET.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I merely asked the Minister for a reply to the question whether it was necessary for us to order these weapons and why we could not produce them ourselves.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I think the answer is simple. It is a major nonsense for all of us to produce surface-to-surface missiles; for the French to produce one, and for the Germans to produce one, when if one of us produces a good missile, we can all buy it. We should thereby save substantial expenditure on research and development. That is what I mean by national specialisation. One of my hopes is that out of the Eurogroup—which now has a respectful name after its earlier frivolous appellation—we shall get a series of national weapons that will become internationally used; because confidence between members of Europe grows as the European Community develops into a real harmony of understanding. Eurogroup might one day become the European defence community. This I am certain would be the ultimate end of a move towards national specialisation leading to the most economically possible production of weapons for the allied forces of Western Europe.
One can ask what specific British contribution towards this there might be. I must say that the through-deck cruiser fitted with the developed Harrier might be one such contribution, built in series in British dockyards or perhaps a British hunter-killer built in series in British dockyards. This is a direction in which I think we should be moving. The other area where I think we can get better value for money is in the whole area of devolution of financial responsibility in our expenditure. Here I come back to the point I made in my opening remarks where I congratulated the Secretary of State on the new organisation of defence procurement. I have always been as firm an enemy of the Treasury as I have been of the Warsaw Pact Powers.
I collected the other day a cutting which satisfied me very much. I am afraid that I have misplaced it in the course of my speech. Nevertheless I can remember it accurately. It is to the effect that the Department of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has made a study of the checking of cash payments by Army units. They found that the cost of checking these payments was half a million pounds more than the actual cost of the petty cash payments. As a result they have, very wisely, cancelled this particular procedure. But in fact it goes a great deal further. I believe that the whole re- 482 organisation of defence procurement is of the first importance. It is something for which I have argued for a long time. Noble Lords who have suffered under Treasury control will read paragraph 22 with interest. In the past, the Permanent Secretary was the accounting officer and was accountable for the whole expenditure of his Department. With the new arrangement we see that under the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency there will be four systems controllers responsible for development and production, one for each of the main areas, land, sea and air, and one for guided weapons. It is important that each will be an accounting officer for his own area and directly accountable for the research and development for which he is responsible. This is pushing responsibility down the line.
I am delighted that the Controller Air is also the Controller for the Royal Air Force. Each of the Armed Forces has its on Controller, although I believe that the Army still calls him the Master General of Ordnance. This is something for which I have argued for a long time. It is part of the whole business of devolving responsibiltity to the point where responsibility lies, and not letting the nonsense of spending half a million pounds on checking petty cash multiply up in the manufacture and production of weapons and weapon systems.
My Lords, may I turn for a moment to the question of recruiting. I must say that the figures are a weight off all our minds. I think that everyone connected with recruiting for the Armed Forces deserves the congratulations of your Lordships' House. Up to a point I agree with the Secretary of State that past uncertainties have had an adverse effect on recruiting. I do not believe that unemployment is a major factor. A lot of research has been done on this matter, and although unemployment is a factor, it is of only marginal importance. Pay, in an understandable form, is of great importance. Perhaps most important of all is a sense of purpose, the realisation that if you join the Armed Forces you are not going to kick your heels in some remote barracks for a period of your life but that there is a specific, understood social need for your presence there. I think this is clear to-day, and that, in my view, taken together with proper pay for the job, is 483 the main reason for the upswing in recruiting.
Reading this White Paper I was surprised to see the large proportion of young males enlisted at the age of 15. I thought I knew something about the subject, but that is a statistic about which I did not know. I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, and the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, in urging the Secretary of State to consider the possibility of treating a first year at one of the military training schools as the equivalent of a last year at a secondary school. The only training establishment which I know intimately is Halton. There is no better training for a young man anywhere than is provided at that establishment. It is education in its highest sense. The one point on which I would not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, is on the question of individuals who are considering an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship training at those Ministry establishments which I have visited and about which I know is of the highest order. When you remember that Whittle is a product of Halton, he came through the whole apprenticeship training scheme—
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord and I am grateful to him for giving way, but perhaps I did not make myself clear. I was referring to apprenticeships in industry and comparing them with deadend jobs. I was not comparing them with apprenticeships in the Services.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord; I misunderstood him. I think we are all in accord that we should like to see permission granted to a boy who wishes to go on to one of the military training establishments to do so and for the first year's training to be treated as the equivalent of a last year at school.
May I refer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, about the problems and virtues of a university training for officers. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, was far too kind to me. I was only a member of a Service Board which reached decisions on the graduate entry to the Royal Air Force, but that Service Board was deep-thinking and 484 long-sighted. I am certain that the policies that we jointly produced have proved effective, although, as he said, those decisions were taken with some misgivings. One of the reasons why we wanted the officers' recruitment for the ultimate command stream, or the major proportion of it, to come from the universities after graduation was the reason the noble Lord has given: that the young men who one day would be our Air Marshals would have been exposed, at a formative period in their lives, to all the tensions and debates going on in a modern university and the modern world in which they would have to operate. It is of the greatest importance that soldiers are good politicians, in the best sense that they understand policies and politics. If Northern Ireland did not exist to prove this point I think that we should have to invent something else. The hard fact of life is that the use of military power is a political act of profound importance. and officers have to understand what politics are all about. We are all delighted that, at least so far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, the university entry scheme is proving so successful.
My Lords, may I make one final point in relation to this subject in the form of a direct question to the Secretary of State. Is he, this evening, able to say that the future of the air squadrons is secure? Or may I read between the lines and assume that if he is buying Bulldogs for them they are likely to be there for some little time yet? May I make an interpolation, as did my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek. I should like to add my thanks to those which he expressed to the Royal Air Force and the Armed Forces for what they did in East Pakistan. Someone I know very well was in the last Hercules out of Dacca and it was a most interesting first-hand story. The R.A.F. Hercules were on the Indian Army Command network and the pilots were able to talk to the Indian pilots. The last pilot had the rather interesting message: "Would you please hurry up, as I have some unfinished business to complete" What struck my acquaintance so strongly was not only the technical skill and courage of the R.A.F. pilots who brought them out, but also the wonderful reception which was given to them when they came to Singapore. An absolutely splendid job was done and I 485 do not think that "Thank you" has been said often enough.
I should like to copy the Secretary of State and close quickly after making a short speech. The speech of my noble friend Lord Shinwell struck a deep chord in me. He spoke with a stoical disenchantment which can come only from an elder statesman. I believe, with my noble friend Lord Chalfont, that we must negotiate. I also fear that within the period of the next year these negotiations will not be of particular significance or success. Nevertheless, I believe that, for the hope of mankind and for our electorate, we must continue to negotiate and never relax our efforts, in the belief that our negotiations must be successful. We must continue to act as if the barbarian were always at the gate—as at the moment he is. We demand from our troops in Northern Ireland, where they are under quite exceptional stresses, a high degree of steadfastness, to which the Secretary of State has paid tribute. I believe that we must demand the same steadfastness from people at home, in the fact both of the threat from the Warsaw Pact Powers and also of the continual stresses of our situation in Northern Ireland, which I believe will continue for some time. Steadines at home is the basis of steadiness of our troops abroad. I would put to your Lordships a simple proposition which I believe to be a true one: that sentimentality about the use of armed forces is as dangerous as brutality; both can lead to disaster.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, is much too modest about his achievements when he was in the Ministry of Defence. I know something about them and how much the Forces owe to what he did. He always recalls the occasion when he made rather a long speech in your Lordships' House. I also recall it, because I happen to know that the noble Lord threw away five-sixths of the material provided for him by his Department. Even so, when he had been going for some time he felt that he had been going too long. It has happened to all of us, but the noble Lord is one of the few people who would actually admit it. I am also grateful to the noble Lord for the support that he has given to the Procurement Executive, 486 and for what he said about it. Indeed, generally speaking, I think I agree with almost everything the noble Lord said in his speech, and in particular the way in which he allied himself to Lord Davies of Leek's tribute to the Forces for what they did in East Pakistan and Bangladesh. I think we should all be proud of the way the Royal Air Force carried out their job.
As usual when defence is discussed in this House, we have had a comprehensive debate. I think, in general, that I am grateful for the way in which this White Paper has been received. But, of course. everybody who spoke without exception wanted something more, whether it be 10 extra battalions, a number of extra ships or even instant disarmament. My Lords, I should like all these things. but my job is to get a proper share of our resources for defence and to allocate that share in a sensible manner. I cannot, and I clearly do not, please everybody.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and also the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Shinwell, in three most interesting speeches, gave between them a sobering account of Soviet military strength and the problems of European collaboration. I agree with much of what they all said. I must warn the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that when in the Defence debate in this House last year I quoted approximately the same facts and figures that he quoted, I was branded as a warmonger by some of the noble Lord's friends in another place. I hope that he will not suffer a similar fate. I can assure him that if he does I shall willingly come to his defence and protect him as best I may.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I hope the noble Lord does not think that I meant that. I was also told that I was reactionary and an imperialist by the Soviet Press. But perhaps the noble Lord will not mind sharing that description with me. I need no convincing, any more than he does or anybody in your Lordships' House, that in Europe the military balance is heavily weighted against the West. I said so last year and I repeated it to-day. Where I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is not in 487 his analysis of the problem, but in the practicability of his solutions. One possibility would indeed be a massive increase of conventional forces. But the noble Lord knows, as do the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Shinwell, as well as I do, that it is simply not practical politics to suppose that the countries of Europe would be prepared to double their level of defence expenditure save in the face of imminent war.
What does the noble Lord propose if that is not possible? Détente and a European Security Conference to agree upon a reduction of forces in Europe. These are admirable sentiments and I have no quarrel with them. But it takes two to achieve a détente. It is now nearly four years since NATO first issued its invitation to the Warsaw Pact Powers to talk about mutual and balanced forces reductions, and so far, as I said in my opening remarks, the other side have not responded. Nor indeed do I accept that we in this country have dragged our feet in other directions.
It seems to me in these circumstances that NATO has no alternative but to maintain its defences: and because we cannot match the Warsaw Pact man for man and tank for tank, we must continue to rely on a spectrum of deterrence, extending from conventional forces at one end, through tactical nuclear weapons to the ultimate strategic deterrent. But because we rely on nuclear weapons, it does not mean that NATO is neglecting its conventional forces. I referred earlier on to some of the expenditure that was taking place in NATO, and I might add that the Eurogroup countries announced during 1971 and 1972 that their forces would take into service 1,100 new battle tanks, 400 modern combat aircraft, 50 fleet units and many other items of equipment: and the Americans have given a reciprocal undertaking to maintain and improve their forces in Europe. I am not saying—and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would pick me up if I were—that a great deal more does not need to be done; but I assure the House that, within realistic budgetary limitations, NATO is making a serious effort to strengthen its conventional forces. Perhaps we are not doing as much as we should, but it seems to me that for the first time this year we in Europe are 488 becoming aware of the need to do more. I must say that I share the conclusions at the end of Lord Shinwell's speech rather more than I share the conclusions at the end of Lord Chalfont's speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested, if I understood him aright, that it was invidious to pay men serving under the notice scheme less than those on long-term engagements. But this is already the position. Men serving on long engagements receive higher rates of pay than those on short engagements, and no change of principle is involved in this. Indeed, I should have thought that there was some sound sense in this from the point of view of the Services. A man who is prepared to engage for a length of time is worth more to the Services, because the Services can plan on his being in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force for that length of time. And there is nothing of course to stop the man on the notice engagement from re-engaging on a long-term service engagement.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, referred to some cases where we are purchasing defence equipment from abroad—Exocet and the Mark 46 torpedo. Of course I share their concern that foreign purchase was necessary in these cases, as opposed to collaboration, and I assure noble Lords that I am fully aware of the importance of maintaining a proper industrial base for defence. But I think that in the very nature of things there are bound to be occasions and cases where We shall find it necessary to buy from abroad. We have to find the right balance in each case between operational, budgetary, technological and industrial factors, and I am sure that there will be cases when it will be right that the former should override the latter. But, as I said in my opening remarks—and I think it is worth saying it again—I do not believe that we should be put in the position that we were, for example, with Exocet, where because there was a change of policy there was no alternative but to buy from abroad. It was because of the time scale in this case that it proved to be necessary.
There is just one thing I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, who suggested that because of the unemployment situation and the industrial 489 position we ought to order a great many more pieces of military equipment. At first sight this seems to be very sensible, and indeed we have done it in some instances in the past; but I would ask noble Lords to remember that the time-scale of most pieces of sophisticated equipment is rather a long one and the employment generated, and the expenditure, probably does not occur until some three or four years later. One has to take into account clearly the results on the economy of ordering large amounts and large pieces of equipment which is not going to have its effect until three or four years later, when it is not so certain what the economic situation of the country will be.
Many noble Lords—my noble friends mostly—have mentioned the disposal of H.M.S. "Eagle". I know that they speak with great sincerity and concern about this. I hope none of my noble friends will accuse me, as a former First Lord of the Admiralty who spent quite a long time trying to retain a carrier force, of being against carriers as such. I appreciate as well as they do that it is a sad occasion when a ship such as "Eagle" reaches the end of her life after 20 years' service with the Fleet; and I share the sense of regret which noble Lords have expressed. But the situation is that in 1970 the present Government stated that it was not their intention to build another aircraft carrier. This was when we came into office, and of course it was then too late to reverse the decision which had been taken by the previous Government. In any case, it was too expensive to do so. One has only to look at the cost of the new American carriers to realise that this would not have been a practicality.
Our plan has been to re-provide for the capability of aircraft carriers in other ways—as indeed was reflected to some extent in the proposals of the previous Government. The Royal Air Force will assume responsibility for providing fixed-wing air support for the Royal Navy from shore bases. We are building up a fleet of nuclear submarines, and new weapons systems will be introduced—for example, the surface-to-air guided weapons Sea Dart, Seawolf and Exocet, which we have just spoken about. The Sea Kings now carried by "Eagle" will be deployed on "Tiger" and "Blake" and later on the new cruisers which will start entering service at the end of the decade. We are 490 considering whether it would be right to supplement all these weapons system with V/STOL, aircraft embarked in ships. In these circumstances the question which the Government had to decide in 1970 was whether, and if so for how long, the aircraft carriers already in service ("Ark Royal" and "Eagle") could be run on while all these measures were achieving their full effect. We announced the decision in the autumn of 1970. So the disposal of H.M.S. "Eagle" should have come as no surprise to your Lordships now, because it was announced at that time. Our decision was that "Ark Royal" could, and should, be run on until the late 1970s. She had just then completed a major modernisation; she could operate Phantom aircraft which had been purchased for her; and the money and manpower needed to retain her in service could be found without unacceptable sacrifice from the rest of the Fleet.
But "Eagle" was a different matter. She had not received a major refit since her modernisation in the early 1960s. Unlike "Ark Royal", she could not operate Phantoms and, like "Ark Royal", she had a large ship's company. If we were to run her on beyond 1972 she would have had to have a big and costly refit. If we wished her to operate Phantoms—and this really was the only sensible course—we should have had to adapt her specially during her refit, accepting the increase in cost, which would have been something between £25 million and £30 million. We should have needed to provide aircraft for her and, possibly most important of all, we should have had to lay up other operational units in order to provide manpower for the ship's company. I believe that this would have been the equivalent of the ships' companies of about five frigates. So the Government's view was that, all in all, the sacrifices were too big. Even had we chosen to accept them, "Eagle" would not have been in service long enough, before the deployment of the new cruisers and other new naval weapons systems, to make the cost of her refit truly effective.
We also looked—and I hope my noble friends will accept this from me—at the possibility of keeping "Eagle" in reserve after 1972; but this option was open to the same difficulties in manpower and I money and raised the same doubts as to 491 the value we should get from it. We could have kept "Eagle" in reserve, as she now is, with some refitting; but this would have locked up 350 to 400 men, the equivalent of a ship's company of one and a half frigates. The cost, including the cost of the manpower, would have been between £1½ million and £2 million a year, and also we should have had to refurbish and maintain the Sea Vixen aircraft, which otherwise would have no use. Had we brought "Eagle" out of reserve in the 1970's, her operational capability would be no better than it is to-day. In particular, the Sea Vixens would not be a proper match for the threat which we must expect to confront us. They are old aircraft, even now.
For all these reasons, my Lords, the Government's conclusion was that the right course was to withdraw "Eagle" from service, as previously planned. I must say, with great regret, that all these arguments, and the conclusions to which they led, in my view, hold good to-day. Basically the question is one of priorities. The Defence budget is limited, and we must spend our money in the most effective way we can.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, would the noble Lord permit me to intervene? I realise that he had perhaps a pressing engagement, but would he read the arguments and points put forward in this debate during the period when he was not able to be present? And would he listen to the arguments put forward in another place, because there are people who feel very strongly, not that "Eagle" should he kept in commission—the difficulties of that are recognised—and not that she should be kept in the maintained reserve, but that she should not be sent to the scrapyard to be broken up. If the noble Lord would agree to keep an open mind until after the debate in another place, it would he some comfort.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, of course I will read the debate in another place. I will read anything that I have missed in your Lordships' House: I think I heard every speech in this debate. But I must tell the noble Lord quite frankly that I do not think that there is anything about H.M.S. "Eagle" which I have not heard. I have listened to this argument 492 over a period of years now, but of course I will willingly give my noble friend an undertaking to read and ponder again.
My noble friend referred to guided-weapon projects. I must tell him that it is the Government's intention to equip the Royal Navy with new air-to-ship guided weapon systems for use in the naval Lynx helicopter. This is one of the projects that is listed in Chapter VI of the White Paper. Also the Royal Air Force has requirements for both medium and short-range air-to-air missiles to supplement those in service at present. We are studying ways of satisfying these requirements, and I hope that it will not be long before I am able to announce our plans.
My noble friends, Lord Ashbourne and Lord Glasgow, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, raised the question of the new through-deck cruiser. Perhaps I might say one word about this. The main role of the new cruiser will be to deploy at sea the capabilities which are not available in destroyers and frigates; namely, the deployment of the large Sea King helicopter and full facilities for command and control of naval and maritime forces. The cruiser will contribute to area air defence with its Sea Dart medium-range surface-to-air guided weapon, and the design of the cruiser will also allow for the option of operating V/STOL, aircraft, should we take the decision to do so.
The through-deck, which is the distinctive feature of this design, will be needed to allow the most effective operation of the cruiser's complement of anti-sub-marine helicopters irrespective of whether V/STOL is adopted or not. Obviously, in designing we try to look ahead and take account of possible developments that may take place. The present position is that a design assistance contract is shortly to be placed with Vickers, as the lead shipbuilders, to cover all the remaining preparatory work of the design of the cruiser. I expect that the order for the first cruiser will be placed in about a year's time, and she is planned to come into service in the late 1970s. As to the name, I share my noble friend Lord Ashbourne's dislike of the title "through-deck cruiser". There have been some unworthy suggestions in some parts of my Ministry that it is meant as a disguise for something which is a little different.
493 The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, also urged on me the value of reserve forces. I agree with him that reserve forces are valuable. We must see them in the context of our strategic concept and policy. We are no longer in the days of massive mobilisation and expeditionary forces. Within our general concept there is room for discussion on the precise size of the reserves. In this respect we decided in October, 1970, that the T.A.V.R. should be expanded by over 10,000 men. Recruiting for the new units began in April of last year and it has gone very well. The strength of these units is now well past the halfway mark. I think that is very encouraging. I have been interested in what has been said about manpower by a number of my noble friends—among them Lord de Clifford, Lord St. Just and Lord Balerno, who, as all of us know, takes a great interest in this subject and does a great deal of work in Scotland on behalf of the Services. I note what he and the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, said about the establishment of the university air squadrons, and I acknowledge their importance. I hope that will do for the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, to-night.
My noble friend Lord Balerno asked me when Sir Clifford Jarrett's Committee would report. I am able to tell him that it will be early in 1973. Several noble Lords asked on the question of the school leaving age, whether it will be possible to recruit boys aged 15 and teach them in the Service schools. That is an attractive suggestion but one which requires careful examination because I believe there might be some difficulties with other people who may not regard this one exception as being quite so acceptable as those of your Lordships who have stayed behind to listen to the end of a Defence debate. I will undertake to examine that question.
The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, spoke about the United Arab Emirates, and asked whether there is an air component that the U.A.E. can call upon. The U.A.E. as such has no air component; its only force is the old Trucial Oman Scouts. The Abu Dhabi Defence Force has an air wing with Hunters and other aircraft which are available to the U.A.E. in the sense that national forces are generally available to the union. The 494 noble Lord also asked me about the organisation of the T.A.V.R. Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to refer him to Chapter III of the last year's White Paper which describes in detail the organisation of the new force. Both he and my noble friend Lord Balerno remarked upon the title which they did not like very much they wished to revert to "Territorial Army" or "Territorial Forces". From inquiries that I have made these suggestions would not be universally popular, although they would be popular with some people. In a situation like this it is best that the idea for any change of name should come from the members of the force in the first place. Of course if they so felt I should be very willing to consider any change of name if it were the overwhelming wish of those in the T.A.V.R.
My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, who as I remember from his days as Civil Lord when I was at the Admiralty was always very inquisitive, asked a number of other questions. He mentioned the foreign exchange cost of B.A.O.R. and referred to the absence of comment in this White Paper on arrangements to offset the cost. As to the latter I can assure him that nothing sinister is involved. We negotiated a new 5-year agreement, the details of which were published on March 18 last year. Briefly, in addition to a cash payment of 550 million D-marks over five years, the Federal Government undertook to continue with military purchases on the lines of those in previous agreements. If you take them together these two elements represent a significant improvement on the previous arrangements that have been made. As to B.A.O.R. it is quite true that the foreign exchange costs are going up, but that is due to inflationary pressures in other countries than ours. Perhaps I could remind the noble Lord that the period he is concerned with also saw the return to B.A.O.R. of 6 Brigade which has raised the overseas expenditure.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, in one of his shorter but none the less trenchant speeches, asked about the Report of Sir Frederick Seebohm. That Committee, too, will report in early 1973. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and my 495 noble friend Lord Glasgow asked about Malta. The first time I met my noble friend was when he was Flag Officer, Malta, and I know what an interest he has in that place. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked whether there was a point of no return. I do not think so; what you take away you can always put back. Obviously the sooner an agreement is signed the less you will have taken away and the less therefore you will have to put back. I do not think there is any particular point at which one would say that it was impossible. My noble friend Lord Glasgow quoted what he thought the Maltese had picked up from us about the British. I am reminded of a rhyme—I think it was one of Flanders' and Swann's:The English are moral,The English are good,And clever and modest;And misunderstood.It seems to me that this in some way denotes what has been happening in Malta. I assure the House and my noble friends that we in this country believe that the offer that has been made to the Maltese Government is fair and just, and there is, as there always has been, enormous good will in this country for the Maltese. We hope very much that it will be possible, even at this late stage, to sign an agreement with them.
My Lords, I am conscious that I have not answered every point, but I have done my best. I shall certainly look through the debate, read it again and answer any noble Lord whose questions I have not answered. I end by thanking those of your Lordships who have taken part in the debate and by saying that even
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§ if your Lordships are dissatisfied with me, I am not too dissatisfied with the way in which your Lordships have received this White Paper.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.