HL Deb 03 December 1974 vol 355 cc81-99

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The Statement is as follows:

"Mr. Speaker, this Statement will be somewhat longer than is normal at this hour. I apologise for this but I am sure that the House will acknowledge the importance of the issue.

"On 21st March I announced the start of the most extensive and thorough review of our system of defence ever undertaken by a British Government in peace time. The proposals which I will now outline are the result of a careful study of all the relevant considerations—defence, political, industrial and financial. They are designed for the circumstances which we must expect over the next ten years. They take account on the one hand of our economic situation and on the other of the threat to our national security, the overriding importance of NATO, our position as a leading European Power and our responsibilities overseas. They will provide for a modern and effective defence structure and will make a significant contribution to establishing our economic health and thus to strengthening the Alliance.

"The Government have decided that they should reduce defence expenditure as a proportion of the gross national product from its present level of 5½ per cent. to 4½ per cent. over the next ten years. The long-range estimates of defence expenditure as they stood in March, 1974, would have amounted to 6 per cent. of the gross national product in 1978–79 and 5½ per cent. in 1983–84. By comparison with those plans, our decision will save £300 million in 1975–76, about £500 million a year by 1978–79, and some £750 million a year by 1983–84—or a total over the whole period up to that date of about £4,700 million. This is fully consistent with our repeated pledges to reduce the cost of defence as a proportion of our national resources.

"In addition to deciding the general scale of the programme needed to meet our future defence requirements and the level of resources we can devote to defence, the Government have reached provisional conclusions about the force levels involved and the implications for our commitments, for the Armed Forces, and for industry. We are today beginning our consultations with our allies in NATO. These consultations will be thorough and genuine. They are likely to last into the New Year. We are also consulting our Commonmonwealth partners concerned and the other Governments in other parts of the world who will or might be affected. We shall also now consult both sides of industry.

"First I will describe the general principles that we have followed in conducting the Review. NATO is the linchpin of British security and will remain the first charge on the resources available for defence. We therefore propose to concentrate as a first priority upon those areas in which we believe that we can most effectively contribute to the security of the Alliance and of the United Kingdom itself. These consist of our contributions of land and air forces in the central region of Europe; of sea and air forces to the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas; and in the defence of the United Kingdom and its immediate approaches. We shall also maintain the effectiveness of our Polaris force.

"We shall, however, be discussing with our NATO Allies all aspects of our contribution, including particularly our force declarations to NATO in the Mediterranean and the specialist reinforcement forces that we committed to the Alliance in 1968. In the NATO area we propose to maintain our land and air contribution to the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force but to reduce our other NATO declarations of specialised reinforcement forces to an airportable Brigade Group and a Royal Marine Commando Group, with the necessary accompanying sea and air elements. These latter declarations would be available for the central region or the Northern flank of NATO, with the Commando Group specially trained and equipped for Arctic warfare.

"The priority we are giving to our NATO contribution necessarily requires a contraction in our commitments outside the Alliance. We have reviewed these commitments case by case, bearing particularly in mind the decisions taken by the Labour Government in 1968 about the reduction of the British presence East of Suez. We have concluded that substantial reductions in our forces and defence facilities can be made. But we shall not act precipitately and we shall discuss our proposals in detail with our allies and partners in the Commonwealth and elsewhere before taking final decisions, recognising that the timing and method of the changes we propose may be of particular importance.

"Subject to these provisos I wish to tell the House what we have in mind. We shall, of course, maintain our obligations towards our remaining dependent territories. We intend to keep our forces in Hong Kong, although we propose to make some reductions in them and to seek from the Hong Kong Government a larger percentage of their cost when the present cost-sharing agreement runs out in 1976. In accordance with the military facilities agreement concluded in 1972 with the Government of Malta, we shall remain there until 1979. In Cyprus, we propose to make some early reductions, particularly in our air forces stationed there. We propose to withdraw our forces stationed under the Five Power Defence Arrangements in South East Asia, with the exception of a small group which we shall continue to contribute to the Integrated Air Defence System. The consultative provisions of the Five Power Defence Arrangements would, however, remain in force and it would certainly be our intention to maintain close links with the armed forces and defence authorities of our partners. We would, of course, maintain our membership of CENTO and SEATO but without declaring specific forces to either. We propose to withdraw from Brunei the Gurkha battalion at present stationed there. We would withdraw our forces from Gan and Mauritius. We do not think it would be right in present circumstances to make any changes in the arrangements we have with the Sultan of Oman. We intend to enter into negotiations with the South African Government with a view to terminating the Simonstown Agreement.

"Given the effects of these decisions in the Indian Ocean area and the Soviet naval presence there, we have decided to agree to proposals from the United States Government for a relatively modest expansion of the facilities on the island of Diego Garcia which they enjoy, jointly with us, under an existing agreement with Her Majesty's Government. Their use of the facilities other than for routine purposes would, however, be a matter for joint decision of the two Governments. We and the United States Government have also agreed to pursue consultations with the aim of developing realistic progress towards arms limitation in the Indian Ocean.

"In working out the implications of these principles in terms of force levels and their effects on the three Services, priority has been given to maintaining as far as possible the level and quality of our front line forces. We shall equip them in a manner commensurate with their roles and responsibilities, and restructure and reduce the support area to match the new size and shape of the front line. The effects of our proposals on the forward plans of the three Services as they stood in March 1974 would be broadly as follows.

"The Royal Navy's planned numbers of frigates, destroyers and mine countermeasures vessels would be reduced by about one-seventh; of conventional submarines by a quarter; and of afloat support by one-third. Planned new ship construction would be reduced accordingly, including the abandonment of plans to replace our amphibious ships with new purpose-built vessels; and ship refitting would be concentrated on the Royal Dockyards, all of which will be retained. The nuclear powered submarine and the cruiser programmes would be continued. We would reduce the numbers of the Royal Marines by one-seventh, disbanding one Commando in due course.

"The Army's re-equipment plans would be substantially modified to reduce the growth of their cost. Measures would include the cancellation of the Vixen wheeled reconnaissance vehicle; withdrawal from the collaborative RS 80 project for long-range rocket artillery; and reductions in the planned purchases of light helicopters and reconnaissance vehicles.

"The Government attach great importance to the negotiations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries on the mutual reduction of forces and armaments in Central Europe. We are committed to seeking an outcome which, while preserving undiminished security for all the countries concerned, would help to create a more stable relationship in the area at a lower level of forces. We hope that the negotiations will be successful in achieving this objective. We do not propose, however, in advance of mutual and balanced force reductions, to reduce the forces which we maintain in Germany in accordance with our Brussels Treaty obligations. In adjusting the size and shape of the Army to meet the framework of priorities I have described and the demands of economy, the Government will make every effort to avoid a significant impact on the regimental system with its historic loyalties and traditions. The Brigade of Gurkhas will be retained, mainly serving in Hong Kong. We shall maintain the size and roles of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve.

"In the case of the Royal Air Force, we intend to preserve, and in some instances improve, the combat air forces committed to NATO on the Continent and in the United Kingdom, and to continue with the multi-rôle combat aircraft collaborative programme, though we may have to make a reduction in the planned rate of deliveries over the period. However, in accordance with the revised tasks envisaged, there would be some reduction in maritime patrol aircraft, the RAF transport force would be progressively reduced by a half and the planned helicopter force by a quarter. There would also be some reduction in the RAF Regiment; and some 12 Royal Air Force stations in the United Kingdom would be closed. We shall reduce planned expenditure on research and development by some 10 per cent. and continue vigorously to support the efforts being made within the Alliance to increase standardisation in equipment and eliminate duplication in research and development.

"Our proposals would involve reducing manpower by about 35,000

Servicemen, as compared with the strength in April this year, and by about 30,000 directly employed civilians, about half of whom would be civilians locally entered abroad. In the interests of efficiency, and equally of the well-being and morale of the forces themselves, the changes we propose will be carefully planned and introduced progressively over the next few years. Reductions will be achieved by normal wastage as far as possible; but some redundancies, both Service and civilian, will be unavoidable if the Services and the headquarters and out-stations of the Ministry of Defence are to be adapted to the new range of commitments, and if the balance of ranks and ages necessary for a satisfactory career structure is to be preserved. Those who have to be made redundant will be offered fair terms, and time in which to plan their future employment. We shall be examining ways in which the Government can help with resettlement into civilian life.

"The reductions in the planned defence programme are likely to reduce employment in the defence industries by only some 10,000, or 4 per cent., over the period up to 1978–79, but there will be problems in certain areas and for certain firms. But the changes in our equipment programme will be made as smoothly as possible and with the maximum of notice to enable industry to adjust its plans. I am confident that these problems are manageable; and I am in close touch with my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for Industry, on these aspects of the review. The views of both sides of industry will of course be taken fully into consideration.

"Our decisions will, I repeat, save £300 million in 1975–76, about £500 million a year by 1978–79 and some £750 million a year by 1983–84. But in conclusion I wish to emphasise one point. No such process of adaptation by the Armed Forces, or any other organisation, to a modified range of commitments and capabilities with a lower level of resources can be made without difficulty. But after we have completed the process of consultations on this thorough and wide-ranging review and taken our final decisions, I am confident that Britain will continue to play her full part in preserving the strategy and cohesion of the NATO Alliance, and in meeting effectively her remaining commitments outside NATO. The Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force will remain highly effective forces, equipped to the highest standards as required by their frontline NATO tasks; and the Services and the Ministry of Defence, despite the changes we will be making, will continue to offer a wide range of fine career opportunities in the years ahead.

"Early next year, when our consultations with our allies and with industry have been concluded, I will publish for Parliamentary consideration a White Paper setting out our decisions in detail and saying how they are to be put into effect. But before this we wish not only to consult our allies and partners but to learn the views of right honourable and honourable Members upon these matters; and the Government will be ready to arrange through the usual channels for an early debate."

My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, the House will wish me to thank the noble Lord for repeating that Statement, if for nothing else. I cannot even thank him for having given me an advance copy of the Statement, because two pages are missing. But I suppose that we must be thankful for small mercies. In the opening sentences of the Statement, the Government say that this has been the most extensive and thorough Review of our system of defences ever undertaken by a British Government in peacetime. I have heard that phrase so often now that I should like to put it on record that it is totally untrue. I have been present, once at the Ministry of Defence and once at the Admiralty, when a Review just as extensive and just as important was undertaken by the Government of the day. What the Government are really doing is seeking to clothe with respectability a decision taken in advance to reduce the Forces. We shall have an opportunity to debate the subject, and the Statement which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, has repeated is a long one which we shall have to study.

A lot of it seems to be vague and fairly meaningless. For example, it is totally meaningless to talk about a saving of £750 million annually in ten years from now, or about a total saving of £4,500 million. Long before that, I hope that we shall have had a change of Government with a different set of priorities. However, what is important is the statement which the noble Lord has made that next year the Government intend to save £300 million, and I shall seek to discover from him how it is proposed that that shall be done. Maybe it would be better to do that in debate on 17th December, but certainly it is something which the House will want to know. However, I have a number of questions of a more general nature which I want to ask the noble Lord this afternoon.

May I ask whether, in the noble Lord's opinion and in that of the Government, the proposals which he has outlined this afternoon will make Britain more or less secure? In his opinion, and in that of the Government, will the proposals that have been made make our contribution to Western defence less or more considerable? In his opinion, and in that of the Government, will the proposals mean that the Services will be better or less well equipped? My Lords, the answer to those three questions, if the noble Lord will answer them honestly, is, less. May I ask him, then, what encouraging factor in the international scene has suggested to the Government that it is sensible or safe to cut the Navy by one-seventh, considerably to reduce the Royal Air Force front line and to postpone or cancel the re-equipment of the Army at the same time as cutting the total numbers of the Services by 35,000? May I further ask him why the Government have singled out defence for these cuts, while no comparable savings were announced by Mr. Healey in his Budget in another place three weeks ago on any other civilian Vote? Is there a rational sense of priority in a Government which for six months specialised in hand-outs to all and sundry in order to secure its re-election, but which is prepared as its first and, seemingly, its only economy to weaken our security?

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I should like also to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, because I seem to have one of his missing pages. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, three questions. First, why have the Government calculated these reductions on the basis of GNP when we know that, so far as GNP is concerned, we appear to be spending more than our allies, but when we take it on a per capita basis we are in fact spending less? Secondly, could not we save much more money more effectively by embarking on a genuine programme of true standardisation of equipment? A slight reference is made to this but no quantification. It must be possible to save a very considerable amount of money if we adopt that course. Finally, may I ask what will be our total troop withdrawals from NATO? There is no indication as to what this amounts to in terms of quantity or manpower. Arising out of that, do these withdrawals include 3 Division and 38 Group RAF? If so, this is quite an important factor.


My Lords, may I begin by apologising for confusion in the Department for which I am answering, which seems to have caused the noble Lord, Lord Byers, to have two of everything while the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is minus two. I shall try to find out why this mistake was made. I apologise for the confusion involved.

I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has quite grasped the significance of the Statement. This is not a Statement from on high. He mentioned that it was vague and meaningless. In point of fact, it is in a sense a document that we hope both Houses of Parliament will discuss and which we shall discuss with our allies, and with all the members of national groups and alliances which are affected by this Statement of Intent. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will, I hope, apply his respected intelligence to dissecting this document and, when we come to debate it in the near future—I believe this will be before Christmas, though I must not pre-empt my noble friend's ruling on this matter—then we can get down to analysing the implications of our proposals. The hard core is, of course, firm, but around it is a wide area which we are discussing not only in your Lordships' House and in another place but also with our allies. So this is not a proposal laying down the last word. It is not the last word but the beginning of a discussion.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked me three basic questions. First, as a result of these proposals, will Great Britain be more or less secure? I should imagine that the least secure Britain is a Britain that is financially "broke". Therefore, such a bankrupt Britain could not plan rationally ahead for any time at all, let alone for 10 years, which is the basis of the present document. The second question was: will our capacity be less or more considerable? Let us remember that we are not fighting the Warsaw Pact alone but as a member of NATO, and what we are doing is making to NATO that contribution which we can in fact most effectively and skilfully bring about. The final question—an important one—was: will the Services be better or less well equipped? These are value judgments. They will certainly not be less well equipped, because every major programme lying ahead—for instance, the new cruiser, the improved tanks and a whole number of other projects which I will list when I make my speech later in the month—are in fact retained. What we shall lose will be a number of obsolete ships and aircraft, but the hard core and the advanced weaponry will be retained. As regards the noble Lord's last question, as to why defence was singled out, I can only agree with him and I say I wish the cost benefit analysis that was applied to defence could also be applied to all Departments.

Turning now to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Byers—and I thought his questions were quite pertinent—he first asked: why is the calculation made on the basis of the gross national product? The answer is that I suppose it is the only tool we have to work with. A yard, in terms of gross national product, is not a yard: it is a very flexible instrument of measurement. But it is all we have to use, and I may say that all the forward estimates are made on the basis of constant prices. Turning to the second point, I could not agree more as regards standardisation. It is estimated that the effectiveness of our NATO Alliance would be increased by 30 per cent. if we could have standard equipment. As for total troop withdrawals from significant areas, the answer is, nil.


My Lords, my noble friend in fact said that this is not the last word, and he added in the course of his observations that there were to be consultations across the board. In the light of these two statements, can he explain why his right honourable friend has injected into this Review definite and specific figures of reductions—£300 million next year, £500 million in the subsequent year, and £700 million later on? If he has made up his mind about specific figures, then why are we talking about this not being the last word? Are we to understand that these figures are subject to reconsideration and possible reduction?

May I further ask him whether his right honourable friend has taken into consideration these two possibilities: first, that before 1978–79 the GNP will have increased to our advantage, instead of having weakened. Secondly, taking the cost in manpower, even if reduced, and the cost of equipment, taking into consideration the need for more modern equipment particularly in the nuclear field, then why this Review and why specific figures? Ought not the noble Lord to ask his right honourable friend to arrange for further consultations across the board, before coming to a definite decision?


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, has a very great deal of experience. I recall that he was Secretary of State for the Army and has in fact a few more years' experience in these matters than I have.


My Lords, may I remind my noble friend that I also undertook a Review, not when I was Secretary of State for War but when I was Minister of Defence. I undertook a Review which resulted in an increase in our expenditure, but the subsequent Government, under the late Winston Churchill, reconsidered the matter and reduced that expenditure.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, needs no defence from me! I am grateful for his intervention. He asked me about the precision of this Statement. As we all know, this is, in a sense, an act of faith. We do our best to peer into the future, but who knows what will happen? We might very well find ourselves with an extension of the Northern Ireland crisis in this country, which might very well cause us to reconsider all our defence plans. He is quite right in mentioning the growing national product.

I hope that I shall not be shot down if, in answer to my noble friend, I just tell your Lordships of a little calculation that I did when studying my brief. Of course we shall get out of the problems that we are in, and of course our national product will grow. In fact, the whole calculations are based on the assumption of the 3 per cent. per annum growth of our gross national product, which means that in 10 years' time we shall be having a 1 per cent. reduction of the 30 per cent. greater gross national product.


My Lords, inadvertently the noble Lord did not answer a question that I posed. I asked him what encouraging factors in the international situation the Government saw which made them think it sensible or prudent to do this.


Not encouraging factors, my Lords, but discouraging factors at home with our present economic problems.


My Lords, I have three small questions. First, is the Sultan of Brunei paying for the Gurkha battalion there? If so, why pull out? Secondly, does the noble Lord think the career of the soldier 'twixt Belfast and München-Gladbach will be glamorous enough to get recruits? Thirdly, is the noble Lord really saying that there is morality in defence, and that is why we are going from Simonstown? There is no morality in defence, my Lords.


My Lords, I will write to the noble Lord about his question on the Sultan of Brunei. I do not know whether we pay or not.


He is paying.


Is he? He may be feeling short of money at the moment, too. The second point was glamour. I know that a nice posting in the sun is fine, but most individuals who undertake the service of the nation in the Armed Forces—although one likes a little jam on the bread—will accept the rigours of military life out of a sense of duty. If the jam is the sun and the sun disappears, we at least have the opportunity of offering money. That is the function of the "X" factor.


My Lords, could my noble friend clear my mind? I am not a defence expert. On both sides of the House we have people who claim to be defence experts, as other people claim to be foreign affairs experts. Did my noble friend say that 35,000 people engaged in Her Majesty's Armed Forces are to be dispensed with? If that is so, how many of these people will be discharged due to wastage? Secondly, could he explain the position of any members of the Armed Forces who have signed on for periods of 5, 10, 15 and 20 years who are so affected? My last question to my noble friend is this. This is a most serious Statement—and I am not a pacifist because I believe in the security of this great country—but what effect will this have on recruiting? Through the mass media advertisements have constantly been encouraging young people to join the Forces of the Crown, to make it their career, to travel the world and so on.


My Lords, I said in the Statement that a reduction in the Armed Forces over a ten-year period of 35,000 and a reduction of civilian personnel of 30,000 would, in the main, be brought about by wastage. We all know that if a man's contract of service is broken, if he is of that element that cannot be dealt with by wastage and has to leave prematurely, he will be well looked after. That has been done in the past and will be done again. The reason why we cannot let wastage cover the whole of the need to reduce the Armed Forces, as my noble friend has said, is that there is the question of the age structure of the Armed Forces. We may have too many people of middle rank who have not reached the point of retirement, and they will have to retire prematurely so that young people can come in. The career which the media offer may be somewhat different in four or five years from now. But, as I said earlier, the career is still a good one.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord opposite to thank his right honourable friend and the Government for having said that they will consult South Africa about Simons-town, and for not having arbitrarily arrived at a decision already? I hope I am right there. When they consult South Africa about this important lifeline, will they bear in mind that it is not so much the legal terms of an agreement about the base that matter, but the use in practice of this base—one of the very few in the Southern Seas—by ships of America, France and Britain, when they require a rest from their important duties watching the Communists?


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, is correct. Consultations are starting and they are consultations, not a diktat. The facilities of Simonstown, and of course other ports on the Southern African coast, will be available to the Royal Navy when circumstances are appropriate. But no decisions have yet been reached on the so-called Simonstown Agreement.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether there is something missing from the Statement that he has repeated; that is, a mention of the threat to the security which any defence policy is meant to meet. May I ask a serious question about this? May I have an assurance that if the forces of the Warsaw Pact, which the noble Lord mentioned in one of his supplementary answers, continue to increase over the coming years, as they have increased in the past three or four years, and if there is no agreement with the Soviet Union on mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe, the Government will reconsider this proposal to reduce our defences?


My Lords, this is a sophisticated House; we have all heard of the Warsaw Pact and know what it is up to. The whole of this policy predicates that the threat continues. We are not going to make any fundamental changes until—should it so happen—there is some agreement about mutual and balanced force reductions. I should not think that that would happen tomorrow. We are not doing anything precipitate or final; this is a gradual shift in equipment and policies. If the situation vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact countries, or within any of our allied countries, altered there would be time for it to be reviewed. This is a very slow, deliberate process of readjusting ourselves to what we believe is a new situation.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Statement he has made is another chicken that has come home to roost? The label on the chicken's leg is the 1957 White Paper which presents any Government—it presented this to the previous Government and will do so to any Government that may succeed this one—with a proportion of expenditure on pay and allowances in non-effective Services of between 55 per cent. and 60 per cent., the consequence being that the Government do not have the resources to buy equipment. The result is that we enter into a phase of increasing weakness. If we were truthful about it we would say that the Government were committed—although they do not admit it—to following a policy of unilateral disarmament, without making any serious attempt to secure the political advantages that could be obtained if that were a deliberate and conscious policy. Is the noble Lord sure, when he forecasts the savings in any particular year, that he will be able to offer the pay, allowances and amenities which will enable him to recruit on a sufficient basis to maintain the target figures that he has laid down?

I was staggered that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not pick up this point. As I understand it, the Government—I presume as part of the price they had to pay for the First Sea Lord's not resigning—are going to continue with the through-deck cruiser. But will the noble Lord be good enough to tell us what is to be on it? One of the problems which faced the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—and he, with his outstanding courage, never really faced up to it—was what they were going to do about the maritime area. This involves an expenditure of vast sums of money. Do we take it that the through-deck cruiser is to sail around the seas with no effective aircraft to place on it?


My Lords, the House knows the views of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, which he has forcefully expressed and which are carefully thought through. But my role today has been to make the preliminary Statement and to answer a few concrete questions. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, will extend and expand his views in the debate which will take place shortly before Christmas.

Lord HOY

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend two questions? May I return to the question of standardisation of equipment raised by the noble Lord, Lord Byers. Is my noble friend aware that only ten days or a fortnight ago, when the North Atlantic Assembly was meeting in London, this question was raised very acutely, and, indeed, the estimates of savings for all countries inside the Assembly would have been so great that one could hardly believe them. If in fact the Secretary General of NATO is correct, I should like an assurance from my noble friend that something positive is being done to meet this situation. Secondly may I ask my noble friend this question. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that he had been associated with two Statements in which decisions had been made——


Two Reviews, my Lords.

Lord HOY

Two Reviews. But the noble Lord went on to say that decisions had been made to cut the troops and this was a kind of apologetic Statement—the consultations were not really taking place. All I want to ask my noble friend for is an assurance that this Statement is different from the two for which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was responsible; that when he comes to this House, as his right honourable friend went to another place, he really seeks consultation; and that we shall be allowed to put our points of view—and we do have points of view—and they will be taken into consideration.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend Lord Hoy for the second part of his contribution which underlined what I said. I hope that noble Lords opposite have something positive to contribute before Christmas. On standardisation, I can only repeat what I said regarding an estimated 30 per cent. increase in efficiency by stand- ardisation if we could have the same common infrastructure as have the Warsaw Pact countries.


My Lords, the Minister has made a very comprehensive Statement and quite clearly we cannot deal with it before the debate. He will not be surprised that many of us, while welcoming some of his proposals, are deeply disappointed by others. Did I hear him correctly to say that there was no intention at all of ending the nuclear submarines with their warheads which this Government now possess? Is he aware that many of us regard these nuclear submarines as ineffective in defence, as insignificant in attack, and inviting the destruction of our whole population if war should occur?


My Lords, I am well aware that certain individuals hold the views expressed by my noble friend; but others hold different views.


My Lords, is the Minister aware, as an old submariner, that if we do not develop our submarine force with nuclear submarines then we may as well give up trying to safeguard ourselves at sea?


My Lords, I suspect that my noble friend Lord Wigg has been trying to get in a second supplementary. For my own protection I suggest that we allow him to do so, and then move to next business.


My Lords, if we are to have a realistic debate before Christmas, would it be possible for the Government to produce an abridged White Paper so that we might know their mind on such matters as the one I have raised about the maritime Harrier? There is a further point which to my mind goes to the heart of not only our military problems but many of our social problems. We are now members of the EEC. All the other countries in the EEC have compulsory military service. I should very much like the Government to introduce a Paper outlining what the effect would be, in terms of both cost and military consequences, if they introduced a policy of military service.


My Lords, I understand that through the usual channels it has been arranged that we should have a debate by 17th December, and by then, quite clearly, it would not be possible to produce a Paper of the kind my noble friend has in mind. But if there is any other information that is not classified which we can give the noble Lord, I will certainly see what steps can be taken to help.


My Lords, I am much obliged for that. The noble Lord the Leader of the House could use his influence here, using what channels of communication he wants. He can write to me as a dummy and publish the letter giving the answers to the questions I have raised. But if the Government are profoundly sincere in wanting to take account of the opinion of the House—and I am sure they are—we must be given the information upon which we can put forward opinions. I realise they are somewhat politically awkward, but we need to know the Government's mind on these points.


My Lords, I will see what can be done, but clearly, taking into account the date of the debate, I cannot give any promise.


My Lords, I am much obliged.