HL Deb 21 May 1975 vol 360 cc1287-395

2.55 p.m.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd) rose to move, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1975 (Cmnd. 5976). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper. In a sense this must be a difficult debate for the Government in your Lordships' House. We have in all quarters noble Lords who have had responsibility for one or more of the various Defence Departments stretching back to 1929. Many noble Lords remember with a sense of nostalgia their service in the Forces, and have maintained their interest in defence matters.

I suppose the House, except for those who are devoted conscientious objectors will share a common concern that, with the world as it is, the ability of the West to defend itself appears at a disadvantage compared with the growing strength of the Eastern bloc. This is demonstrated by the comparison of the various force levels between NATO and the Warsaw Pact which is set out in Chapter II of the White Paper. Recent events in South-East Asia and the at present unknown consequences they will have for Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, can only add to our concern. Therefore, to commend a Statement on the Defence Estimates when it outlines any contraction of commitment and a reduced contribution to the Defence Budget presents difficulties.

Last week, as I was considering how best to approach this task, I had the good fortune, following my return from Japan, to pay a short visit to Austria to join with representatives of the Soviet Union, the United States and France in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Austria's attainment, after many years, of full sovereign independence. I could not help but reflect that there are some good achievements to balance the sombre news of recent days. In 1943 the three major Powers declared that the Anschluss was null and void. The war ended in 1945; but it was some 10 years later that Austria obtained its independence, but only after a decade of difficult, frustrating negotiation. Today Austria is free—a neutral and prosperous country sharing boundaries with Eastern European countries. This should give us hope and confidence that a détente—however protracted the negotiations may be—can be achieved.

In the meantime, we must, through our alliances maintain our guard to the best of our ability. And what is of equal importance is to maintain and declare our confidence in our allies. The United States has gone through a bruising experience in Vietnam. It would be natural if, as a result, the people of the United States were to question the wisdom of maintaining such overseas commitments as NATO. Whatever their immediate reaction may be, the truth remains the same as in 1949. The security of the United States remains bound up with a free and independent Europe. To the best of our ability we must share the burden; we must work for the common interest through co-operation in Europe, through NATO and the EEC to ease the burden, if we can. Let us not question, either, the ability or the will of the United States to remain a true ally to us Europeans. No one, I hope, will question Her Majesty's Government's decision on assuming Office in March of last year to seek and to achieve a closer understanding between our two countries.

My Lords, it is customary to have a debate on the Statement on the Defence Estimates. It is also customary that this debate should be one of the most stimulating and well-informed of those which take place in your Lordships' House. Our debate this year, however, is of particular importance, not only because this is the first Statement for two years, but also because it takes place against the background of an exceptionally sombre economic environment. The Statement which I now commend to your Lordships' House sets out the definitive decisions which the Government have taken on their thorough-going and exhaustive Defence Review, following the debates in this House and in another place in December last year, extensive consultations with our allies and partners, with both sides of industry, and with Ministry of Defence staff.

The Statement also reports on the state of Britain's Defence Forces, their deployment, their equipment and their activities over the past two years. These later chapters present the fullest amount of information, and demonstrate the continuing debt we owe to our Armed Forces in their single-mindedness, loyalty and efficiency in carrying out the tasks, both military and in aid of the civil community, which we require of them. Most notably, of course, there is the achievement of our forces in Northern Ireland. It is customary, in debates such as this, to commend them for the zeal and devotion with which they undertake their dangerous and arduous duties there. I am glad to adhere to this custom and to be able to assure your Lordships' House that, so far as the Government are concerned, this is no empty compliment but is sincere and heartfelt.

My Lords, on the political front, our efforts are bent on increasing the measure of real and lasting détente between East and West. It is our hope that the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe will result in concrete measures to increase trust and understanding between East and West. I am pleased to report that useful progress is being made in the Conference. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear in another place on 18th February, Her Majesty's Government would be willing to participate in the final stage of the Conference at the level of Heads of State or Government, provided balanced and satisfactory results are achieved in the current Stage Two negotiations in Geneva.

The negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions in Central Europe continue in a constructive and business-like atmosphere, although there has, sadly, been little substantive progress so far. We and our allies have made various suggestions designed to meet Warsaw Pact concerns. We believe that these offer a basis for progress, and hope they will be carefully considered. We are, however, under no illusions about the current strength of Warsaw Pact forces. These consist in the first place of a massive conventional capability in Europe, while in addition to the Soviet Union's strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, she has emerged as a very great maritime Power. In the face of this, to fulfil its basic purpose of deterring aggression in Europe, NATO must maintain the firmest resolution. It is accordingly upon those areas in which we can best contribute to the security of the NATO Alliance that we must concentrate as a first priority, together with the direct defence of these islands and the seas surrounding them.

My Lords, following the Statement on the Defence Review made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 3rd December, full consultations have been undertaken with NATO. Our allies have made an extensive military and political assessment of our proposals, and the Government, in turn, have taken full account of their views. As a result, they have made certain changes in the details of our original proposals, on the clear understanding that the total of our resources allocated to defence will be no greater than originally proposed. On the same understanding, we are studying with our allies further measures which would be aimed at mitigating the effects of our reductions. In commending this Motion to the House, I cannot avoid stressing the state of the economy. As I said in your Lordships' House on 17th December, defence, even on the most grandiose scale, has no point if society and the economy destroy themselves from within.

Noble Lords on the other side, and many on this, are naturally concerned about the changes which have been determined in the light of the Defence Review. As I prepared for this debate, I could not help but reflect how different our position might have been if we had been able to build on our growing economic strength in 1970, instead of sacrificing, as a nation, the efforts which had been made to achieve that position. No one but a fool would say that, even given the spirit and co-operation so vitally necessary by all our community, the road to economic strength will not now be hard and long.

Public expenditure must be restrained over the medium term to free resources for exports, for import saving and for productive investment, in order to achieve a healthy basis for the economy. Defence expenditure must surely make its due contribution to this process. Noble Lords opposite must make up their minds whether they are now calling for an increase or a reduction in expenditure. If an increase, the House must be told from where the necessary resources are to come. From taxation? Noble Lords opposite already complain at the level of taxation. From an increase in the borrowing requirement? This is already dangerously high. By a switch from other public expenditure? Our education and housing programmes and the social services are already under pressure because of the need to control public expenditure. Within the limited resources available for the public sector over the next few years, the Government's view is that the protection of the poor, the handicapped, the old and the under-privileged must be a priority claim.

If, on the other hand, noble Lords opposite are calling for a reduction in expenditure, following the speech of the right honourable lady, the Leader of the Opposition, last weekend, defence expenditure, again, must surely make its due contribution. To call for expenditure cuts is easy: to achieve them is difficult. Indeed, since the White Paper on the Defence Estimates was published, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced in his Budget Statement that the defence budget will be cut by £110 million, at 1974 Survey Prices, or about 3 per cent. So that these and accompanying reductions in other sectors may cause the least possible damage, they will not, however, take place until 1976–77. As my right honourable friend explained, the economic prospects have deteriorated since January, and cuts in public expenditure have become inevitable.

The alternative would have been increases in taxation over and above those made in the Budget, to an extent which would have had an impact on personal consumption so large as to generate new inflationary pressures. However regrettable the cuts are from a defence point of view, no one can deny that defence should accept a fair proportion of the cuts of over £900 million. Our aim is, nevertheless, to maintain the Defence Review programme by seeking adjustments, in particular on equipment and works, which will be compatible with achieving our Review capabilities and, in particular, our contribution to NATO.

My Lords, it is all too easy to look at and approve proposals for greater expenditure on military equipment and manpower on their individual merits. But responsible Governments have to draw the line somewhere, to balance claims against one another and to weigh cost against advantage. Thus, they have to strike the right balance between the needs of the economy and the needs of defence.

Let it not be thought, however, that the effects of our decisions are to leave the United Kingdom defenceless or to fail to provide our fair share of NATO capability. We have reduced our commitments to the proper level for those of an advanced but a medium-ranking Western European Power, and have taken the necessary steps to meet those commitments fully and effectively and to a level which we can reasonably hope to maintain. Thus, there will be no reduction in the forces which we maintain in Germany in accordance with our Brussels Treaty obligations, in advance of mutual and balanced force reductions, nor in the forces committed to the direct defence of the United Kingdom and the neighbouring seas.

The Defence Review has demonstrated the crucial importance for the United Kingdom and NATO as a whole of maintaining the freedom of use of the Atlantic and Channel for such purposes as the passage of United States reinforcements to Europe in a time of tension or war. The United Kingdom currently provides 70 per cent. of the NATO forces immediately available to deal with aggression in the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas. These are the forward sea areas of NATO corresponding to the forward areas on land, and we will continue to provide strong maritime forces there.

The main threat to the freedom of sea use is the vast Soviet submarine force. This already outnumbers NATO by over two to one. Accordingly, it was decided in the Defence Review to continue the anti-submarine cruiser and nuclear-powered submarine programme. These will provide the Royal Navy with equipment of the necessary quality for it to be able to counter the Soviet threat effectively. The effectiveness of the antisubmarine cruisers will be enhanced by our decision to develop the Maritime Harrier. This aircraft will provide a quick reaction capability for use against enemy aircraft and ships, and will considerably increase the flexibility with which we shall be able to deploy our anti-submarine task forces.

But the Soviet threat is not confined to the submarine. The Soviet Union has a large and up-to-date navy and a powerful naval air arm. It is essential to provide a balanced range of forces to combat these. As well as the land-based aircraft of the Royal Air Force and the Maritime Harrier, and our nuclear-powered submarines, we are, therefore, continuing the programme of new destroyers and frigates to improve our ability to deal with the future air and surface threats.

The fighting capability of BAOR will be fully preserved, and the ratio of men to weapons will be improved. Changes in the structure of the Army will be introduced which will make better use of manpower throughout the Army. Major re-equipment programmes in the RAF will go ahead, including planned improvements in RAF Germany, with greater numbers of Jaguars in the strike/attack and reconnaisance roles in place of existing Phantoms, and the defence of RAF airfields by the Rapier missile system. The Phantoms of RAF Germany will be redeployed to the United Kingdom as they are replaced. Together with the modernised tanker force, the planned new airborne early warning aircraft and improvements to the ground environment, they will lead to a much improved air defence of the United Kingdom and its surrounding sea areas. In addition, the major refitting of the Nimrod long-range maritime patrol aircraft will ensure that its unique antisubmarine capabilities are maintained. Further, our planned requirement for a total of 385 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft is unaffected.

In apportioning our cuts between manpower and equipment, our aim has been to retain forces of a size sufficient for their tasks and equipped accordingly. As with the balance between defence expenditure and public expenditure as a whole, so the Government believe they have struck the right balance within the defence budget on expenditure between equipment and manpower. Overall, the proportion of the Defence budget spent on equipment will rise broadly from 35 per cent. to 40 per cent. There will be more "teeth" and less "tail".

It is also essential that the organisation of the Ministry of Defence is adapted to meet the changing requirements of the Services following the Defence Review. A management review of the Ministry of Defence will therefore be undertaken as one of a series of such reviews in which my Department plays a full part with the Departments concerned. This review will look very carefully at the Ministry's work with the aim of distinguishing essential activities from the merely desirable, so as to ensure that the agreed purposes of the Ministry of Defence can be carried out at reduced cost in money and manpower.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I pick up three points from our debate last December. We are fully aware of the savings and the military benefits which can be made from standardisation of equipment. I know that this is an object dear to the hearts of many noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Byers. We shall be looking for collaborative possibilities of one or another kind to meet most of our future major requirements.

Ministers of the Eurogroup of countries at their meeting in London on 7th May agreed on the need to develop a constructive dialogue between Europe and the United States on the "two-way street" concept; officials are now preparing the ground. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence, as current Chairman of the Eurogroup, will be introducing a discussion on this very important topic at the NATO Ministerial Defence Planning Committee meeting which is to be held in Brussels tomorrow and Friday, when we hope for a positive response from Mr. Schlesinger and from the Defence Ministers of other non-Euro-group countries. We see a freer flow of traffic across the Atlantic in both directions along the two-way street, properly balanced, as a key element in the achievement of greater standardisation and greater economy of effort in the Alliance.

Secondly, there is recruitment. There are no indications so far that the Defence Review has affected the flow of recruits. In the year ended 31st March 1975, the number of Servicemen recruited to all three Services totalled slightly under 35,000. This a 36 per cent. increase on 1973–74 when, of course, the raising of the school-leaving age cut off a good proportion of the supply of potential recruits. The recovery in the recruitment of juniors is very heartening. What is certain is that potential recruits to the Services should not feel discouraged from enlisting. Despite the changes in the Defence Programme, the Services will continue to offer a wide range of fine career opportunities. And, as a result of the Government's acceptance of the Fourth Report of the Review Body on Armed Forces Pay, an equitable relationship has been restored between pay in the Armed Forces and in the rest of the community. This has ensured a fair reward for the vital duties our Servicemen perform.

Finally, I should like to reaffirm that we are fully seized of the need for the fullest protection of our offshore interests. So far as defence against possible external attack is concerned, this is, of course, part and parcel of the defence of the United Kingdom. There is no essential difference between any threat of attack on our offshore installations by some foreign Power and any threat of attack on the territory of the United Kingdom, to which I have already referred in the context of NATO strategy generally.

Matters relating to the peacetime protection of our offshore interests were the subject of a Statement by my honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence in another place on 11th February. There has been some misinterpretation of this Statement by those who have suggested that what the Government are doing is not enough. The Statement explained that, in the past, it had generally been possible for the resources provided primarily for external defence to be used in the peacetime protection of offshore interests, such as fishery protection and the safety of shipping. With the growth of our offshore interests, however, we must provide, as one part of the requirement for peacetime protection, additional ships and aircraft not primarily needed for external defence.

Five new vessels will be built and up to four aircraft modified: these will be operational by 1977. Meanwhile, HMS "Jura" is on patrol now. HMS "Reward" will be recommissioned in a few weeks' time. Regular patrols are flown by Nimrod, Shackleton, Vulcan and Buccaneer aircraft. But the peacetime protection of the installations does not depend on these ships and aircraft alone. Their patrolling effort will be supplemented by routeing other aircraft through the areas of installations from time to time and, in any emergency, they will be backed up by the full range of capability of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Response can thus be matched to need within the capabilities of the Armed Services as a whole.

In the international field, quite apart from the NATO responsibilities over external defence, there are matters of peacetime co-operation which need to be dealt with on an international footing. Following a Dutch initiative, there will be a meeting of experts in the Hague on 5th June from countries with interests in the North Sea to look at methods of mutual assistance and common support.

My Lords, I believe that our decisions as a result of the Defence Review can stand on their merits, given the economic circumstances of this country. It is a characteristic of our Party system to place the entire blame when things go wrong upon the Government of the day. The fact of the matter is that, in the early months of a new Administration, it enjoys, or suffers from, the underlying trends established by the previous Administration, and I have to say to noble Lords opposite that they are not yet free of their responsibilities.

It is well that they should be reminded that in 1970, although there were problems of rising prices, the external trade situation was strong and gathering strength. They should also be reminded that, in the fourth quarter of 1973, by contrast our total visible trade deficit was running at an annual rate of £3,900 million. The effect of the increase in oil prices had hardly been felt by that time. Some improvement has only recently been made. In February to April of this year, the total current account deficit was running at an annual rate of £1,360 million, less than 40 per cent. of the rate of deficit in the previous three months. The non-oil deficit declined from the annual rate of £1,320 million to one of £60 million.

Much has still to be done. Resources must be moved into exports; the rate of inflation reduced; public expenditure controlled. It is against the economic background that the House must consider the Defence Statement. None the less, in the final analysis, security can be achieved only through the attainments of our foreign policies. Continued membership of the European Economic Community will undoubtedly assist in this, and we must persist with tenacity and resolution in negotiation for détente.

But NATO remains the cornerstone of our security and we must support it to the full, and this we shall do. At the same time, we must maintain a realistic and credible defence effort. We have sought to match our needs to our capacity. It is for those who think otherwise to argue that there are identifiably essential defence tasks for which the resources can be obtained without correspondingly greater detriment to the continuing economic and social survival of our country. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House take[...], note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1975 (Cmnd. 5976).—(Lord Shepherd.)

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, as expected the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal has given a most interesting and thoughtful speech on the subject of defence, and I think that all your Lordships who are interested in defence as a subject of study share with me the feeling, if it is not presumptuous of me to say so, that the noble Lord's heart is in the right place. I am sure that he is most anxious to ensure that this country has a strong defence. However, he began by saying that he found himself in sonic difficulty in looking, on the one hand, at the increased forces available to the Warsaw Pact and the growing disparity between the forces of the Warsaw Pact and NATO, and, on the other hand, in recommending and commending to your Lordships' House a Defence White Paper which advocates reductions in defence spending. I am bound to say that I felt that even the noble Lord, with all his skill, was not entirely able to reconcile this difficulty. His attempt to do so—and he displayed the great strategic and tactical skill that one would expect of anybody speaking on defence—was to go into remarkably little detail about the cuts which are involved in the Defence White Paper. He said in his concluding remarks that he would expect us to identify where increased resources should be placed, and I shall try to do that in the course of my remarks.

The defence of our country is, of course, the most important responsibility of any Government. It is the price we have to pay to ensure that we and our children can continue to live in freedom. As the noble Lord said, this is a particularly important White Paper. It is the first White Paper on Defence which has been produced by the present Government and, indeed, I agree with many aspects of the White Paper, particularly the emphasis which is placed on the growing imbalance between the Warsaw Pact and the NATO Alliance. But the conclusion of the White Paper is quite simply—and sadly of course; and everyone feels the sadness, including the noble Lord I am sure—that the Government are going to reduce their defence efforts. Inevitably, Britain's defence capability will be reduced. One of the worrying features is that, although it is an extremely important White Paper with major consequences for this country, among the public it has hardly raised even a ripple of interest. This is of course partially because people's minds are occupied with ordinary everyday life—the education of their children, housing and soaring prices—and partially because political discussion inevitably reflects public interest and therefore concentrates on inflation, the Common Market, the headaches of industry and all the problems of general political discussion, and defence hardly features in political discussion outside both Houses of Parliament.

Indeed, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that defence has now really ceased to be a matter of interest to many people, even of middle age, who have only the faintest memories of the events of the last war. For many people the last war is only a series of romanticised stories on television. Even the real wars which go on and which are seen on television are many miles away in Asia or the Middle East. People in Europe have grown up in peace. There seems to be no immediate threat. Of course, military forces are all around us but they are out of sight, under the seas or in the skies, and even the military forces which are ranged against us are not ranged along our own coastline but along the Eastern frontier of Europe, many miles aways.

We in this House cannot look at the Government's defence policy with illusions of this kind in mind. We have to judge the Government's defence policy against the harsh reality of the situation. To their credit—and I give full marks to the Government for this—the Defence White Paper has spelt out in considerable detail some of the harsh reality; the massive build-up—there is no other adjective one can use—of the Navy and the Air Force and the entire military might of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. For example, the White Paper refers to the fact that the military balance has shifted and is continuing to shift markedly in favour of the Warsaw Pact, and this is true. The noble Lord mentioned, for example, the naval development. It is no wonder that the military balance in naval forces is shifting markedly in favour of the Warsaw Pact, if only for the reason that now the rate of submarine building by the Warsaw Pact is double what is being undertaken by the entirety of NATO.

However, while they have emphasised the reality of the situation, the Government, before they came to Office, have committed themselves to achieve annual savings of several hundred million pounds so as to reduce the proportion of the gross national product which is spent on defence—not to reduce it in relation to the threat to our security, but to reduce our defence burden for the unique purpose of bringing it into line with the proportion of the gross national product which is spent on defence by our allies. The Defence White Paper says: The burden of defence expenditure should be brought more into line with that of our major European allies. I do not want to spend long on this, but it seems to be an extraordinary criterion by which to judge and decide the level of defence expenditure. My natural instinct would be not to draw comparisons with our allies but to compare our effort with the military effort of any potential enemy.

One would not, one would have thought, in a struggle, look around and say "our allies are weak and and therefore we can do less." It seems to me that not only have the Government chosen the wrong yardstick by which to assess the level of defence expenditure, but they have chosen a yardstick which is extremely misleading. Comparisons with our allies are valid only if our Defence Votes are comparable, but they are not. For example, Britain has a very highly paid professional all-volunteer military force, and it is very expensive. Other countries on the Continent of Europe have conscript forces. It is estimated, for example, that, if Germany had a professional force such as ours, the proportion of their gross national product which would be spent on defence would be not 4.7 per cent. but 6.2 per cent. Further, our Defence Budgets when compared with our allies do not contain the same elements.

For example, we in our Defence Budget include the pensions available for retired Servicemen. If France included pensions for their retired Servicemen in their Defence Budget, it would be 20 per cent. greater than it is. Another dramatic example of how different our Defence Votes are is that we have large numbers of wives and children living in Germany—in fact, there are 68,000 dependants living there, a greater number than actual troops in Germany—and all the education and housing costs of those persons are borne in our Defence Budget. It seems to me that this as a yardstick is a very dangerous and misleading one. Indeed, if one is to take—and I would not—as a yardstick as to how much we should do in comparison with our allies, I think that most people would reach the conclusion that probably we should be doing rather more.

Both France and Germany have an absolute expenditure on defence which is greater than that borne by this country. Both France and Germany, and indeed Italy, maintain higher force levels than we do. If one is going to take this kind of yardstick, then surely it ought to be not the proportion of the GNP but the per capita expediture on defence. I agree that the position of the United States is different but there the expenditure per head on defence is £152. France and Germany have roughly the same populations as this country. In Germany the expenditure per head of population on defence is £81; in France it is £76, and we in the United Kingdom, before any of these cuts come into operation—before the extra £110 million cut announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—spend £63 per head on defence. I accept that the decision as to how much one should spend on defence is always going to be a fairly arbitrary one. As the noble Lord said, one certainly has to take into account the economic situation of the country.


My Lords, the noble Lord is seeking for a yardstick; we are all seeking for a yardstick. May I offer one? Population in the NATO countries exceeds 250 million persons; in the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, no more than 250 million. Is that not enough of a yardstick? Therefore, why is it that the NATO countries, with a population equivalent to that of the Warsaw Pact countries, are in an inferior military position to the Warsaw Pact?


The noble Lord, as always, is extremely alert in these matters. He has taken the very words of my next sentence and expressed the idea much better than I should have done. I had said that I felt a decision as to the level of defence expenditure was always going to be rather arbitrary, but my next sentence was going to be that it ought to be related to the threat which Western Europe faces. As he has righly pointed out, the expenditure of the Warsaw Pact on defence, whether per head of population or as a proportion of the GNP, is substantially higher than we are spending in NATO. I entirely concur and am glad to have his experience supporting the argument which I am developing.

I find this reduction of defence expenditure (followed up by a further £110 million even before that has been debated in this House) very difficult to swallow at a time when there is an outpouring of public expenditure for purposes which I am sure noble Lords feel are enormously important, but which to me are undesirable—nationalisation of oil, nationalisation of the aircraft industry and of the shipbuilding industry. I agree that there is a difference of view between us as to how important, or how undesirable, those things are; but as one interested in defence I find it very difficult to swallow a unilateral reduction in defence expenditure. I do not delude myself that however strongly we might speak in this House, or however strong our feelings might be, we are going to persuade the Government to increase expenditure on defence beyond what they believe to be right.

I should like to say a word about the timing of these cuts and then turn to the deployment of the forces to which the noble Lord asked me to refer. The reductions which are announced in the White Paper are taking place when the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks are going on in Vienna. We all want to see a reduction of defence expenditure but it must be balanced on both sides of the Warsaw Pact and of NATO, and it must be policed and inspected. We have seen in Czechoslovakia, and more recently in Sinai, how it is still possible, in spite of all the technological advances, for a massive military surprise attack to be launched against even a highly sophisticated army such as that which exists in Israel. But these MBFR talks are not making progress.

The noble Lord says that they are being conducted in a businesslike way—I should be horrified if they were not—but absolutely nothing has been achieved. Indeed, Soviet expenditure on defence over the past 10 years or so has been increasing, at constant prices, by 3 per cent. per annum. In the last three years, however, the expenditure has been accelerated. While the MBFR talks have been going on, Soviet expenditure on defence at constant prices has been accelerated to an increase of 5 per cent. per annum. The balance is tilting in favour of the Warsaw Pact. No progress is being made at the MBFR talks. Indeed, why should they make progress? All they have to do is to sit back and watch one of the major European countries to some extent unlaterally disarming itself. Personally I cannot think of a worse preparation for the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks or a worse background against which our negotiators have to work.

Also, I think we should consider for a moment the impact of these cuts on our allies in the United States. As the noble Lord said, they are going through a great crisis. They have been humiliated in Vietnam. They have had Watergate. Questions are being asked about the strength of their commitment to other Asian countries, and there must surely be a strong and growing body of opinion in the United States which asks itself, "Why, if Europe is doing less and less for herself, should Americans continue to be deployed in Europe?".

I understand the Congressmen who ask, "Why should we send our young men out to be stationed at Dusseldorf, while the British Army is being cut down by 15,000 men and the British Air Forces cut by 18,000 men?" The views of Senator Mansfield have steadily gained strength in the past. But it seems to me that the kind of arguments which the Government now deploy in defence of their own cuts are going to bring even greater pressure to bear on the American Administration to withdraw their presence. If it is withdrawn, the credibility of the nuclear defence of Europe provided by America is seriously brought into question.

My Lords, if one accepts—and I do not accept—that the Government are right in reducing expenditure to this extent and that it is vitally necessary to save the economy, then within that context I think they are right to have made the cuts on the periphery of our defence commitments and to have concentrated on NATO. They are right, in particular, not to reduce our commitments to the central front. I am, however, going to ask in a moment whether this is actually true. Perhaps the noble Lord in winding up will comment on it.

I wish to be brief, because so many other noble Lords wish to speak, so I will not discuss—though other noble Lords will—the withdrawals from the Far East and the Indian Ocean, the reduction of our Forces in Hong Kong, the withdrawal of all our Forces from the Five Power defence arrangement, the ANZUC agreement, at a time when that part of the world is in turmoil as a result of the events in Vietnam. Nor will I discuss the decision to terminate the Simonstown agreement which provides for the defence of an area through which is carried three-fifths of the oil imports of Europe. Nor will I discuss—although other noble Lords will—what seems to me the extraordinary decision to withdraw the Gurkha Battalion from Brunei—a Gurkha Battalion which does not cost this country one penny—at a time when anyone can anticipate that internal insurgency is going to arise in that part of the world, and indeed is already doing so in Malaysia.

I should simply like to ask one question about the Indian Ocean. Who is to occupy our defence installations in Gan and Mauritius when we leave? By leaving them we shall be saving £4 million. The administrative cost alone of the Land Bill which is soon to be introduced will amount to £4 million in four weeks. I wonder whether the abandonment of surveillance over an enormous area of the Indian Ocean is worth what is, relatively, a fairly small saving in money.

I shall concentrate briefly on NATO. The defence of Central Europe must be kept strong and our defence in Germany—in the central area—is impressive. But we simply must not delude ourselves as to what we are standing up against. I welcome the decision not to reduce BAOR or RAF Germany, but in Central Europe NATO is outnumbered in main battle tanks by two and a half to one. It is outnumbered by two divisions to one, and by two aircraft to one. The Warsaw Pact has 40 per cent. more soldiers in fighting formation than the NATO Alliance organisation. These are the Government's own figures. Every impression I received when working in this field was that the Warsaw Pact orientation was attack orientation. The Warsaw Pact is aggressive in its deployment, whereas NATO is overwhelmingly defensive in its deployment.

This shield must be kept strong in Central Europe. The wall must not be allowed to crumble away. But, while we are guarding the front door, they are climbing in through the windows and up the back stairs. The pressure is being kept on us on the central front and we are increasingly being locked into a static position. We are frozen in an area which is least likely to be attacked. While we are strong in Central Europe, we are being steadily outflanked on the Southern and Northern flanks. Yet it is in those areas that the big question marks arise.

If one looks at the Southern Mediterranean flank, NATO is in disarray. Greece and Turkey almost went to war; Turkey almost left NATO; Cyprus is a cause of great tension. What will happen to Yugoslavia when Tito dies? The Arab-Israel dispute could easily trigger off a major convulsion which would affect our security. At the other end of the Mediterranean, Portugal is increasingly slipping under the influence of the Soviet Union. The Soviet fleet which, five years ago, hardly ventured into the Mediterranean now has a permanent and substantially deployed fleet in the Mediterranean.

On the Northern flank, the same kind of picture is being created. I mentioned the disparity of the Forces on the central front. The disparity on the Northern flank is greater than in the centre. As the noble Lord said, in the Eastern Atlantic, which is the area washing around our shores and those of Norway and Iceland, the Soviet Navy, permanently deployed, is already larger in force than the navy of NATO. To me, this is an area fully as important as the central region. I believe that there is fundamental evidence that, in the last few years, the Soviet Union has been changing its deployment pattern and is doing so at sea. What it is doing is improving its flexibility. It is developing its power to use force in a whole range of situations, none of which will bring it quickly to the nuclear level as it would be brought quickly to a nuclear level in any exchange on the central front. It is developing flexibility. It is widening its options. It is, in fact, doing the exact opposite of what the British Government are doing. Not only are we reducing expenditure, but we are reducing our flexibility very markedly indeed.

I do not visualise serious trouble on the central front. I certainly do not visualise the Russians marching left, right, left, right, across the central plains, but I do see real possibilities of major trouble, for instance, in the Middle East. Or alternatively, for example, I can well imagine the Russians bringing political and physical pressure to bear on Portugal. On the other flank, it would not surprise me if they brought political pressure to bear on Norway through the force of arms. One can easily visualise a fishing or an oil incident in the North Sea escalating into major trouble.

The reductions which the Government are making on these flanks are very real. Although they were not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, our conventional submarines are being cut by 25 per cent. Our frigates and destroyers are being cut by 15 per cent. Our Nimrods, which provide the surveillance for the Navy, are being cut by 25 per cent. While the catalogue is long and unhappy, may I, however, expressly welcome the Government's decision to embark on a small order for the Sea Harrier? When my noble friend Lord Carrington and I were in Office. I rather hoped to be able to announce that decision in 1972. It has taken some time, but, it is nonetheless, very welcome.

On the Southern flank, the Government have decided no longer to commit any maritime presence into the Mediterranean. The Air Force in Cyprus is being reduced. The Lightning Squadron and the Hercules Squadron are going. The Vulcan Squadron, which provides the only nuclear commitment to CENTO, is being withdrawn. The Nimrod squadron and the Canberra squadron from Malta are also being withdrawn. I mention these things in order to impress upon your Lordships' House a full realisation of what the White Paper is doing. Britain is, for all serious purposes, entirely removing her influence from the Southern flank of NATO.

The same picture emerges with our reinforcement capability. The Marines are being reduced. It is very sad to see the end of No. 41 Commando. That is going. The Joint Airborne Force with its parachute battalions is being abolished, though they are keeping a parachuting capacity. Most seriously of all, the United Kingdom Mobile Force of three air portable brigades is being reduced to one. Our reinforcement capability is being slashed. This is the question that I wanted to ask the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. Am I not right in believing that the UKLMF was a reinforcement not only for the flanks but for the central front? I do not think it is entirely correct to say that we have not weakened ourselves on the central front. Overall, a picture is being created in which British Forces will have less flexibility and markedly less reinforcement capability. I do not for one moment say that we should do less on the centre, but I believe that a major mistake is being made by failing to deploy Forces on the flanks of NATO.

My Lords, I have spoken for too long and I apologise. The White Paper deals with a vast range of subjects and it is out of kindness to the House that I do not refer to them. It cuts industrial jobs by 10,000. It comments on the failure to achieve standardisation within NATO. It cuts—and I believe that this is a very significant fact—research and development by 10 per cent. That will affect our troops five or 10 years hence. Certainly, there is a serious difference of view between the Front Benches as to how much we should do for defence. However, I end on a happier note by saying that there is also a major common denominator between all of us in your Lordships' House. When the Lord Privy Seal speaks of respect and admiration for our troops, he carries the whole House with him. I believe that we are all struck by the dignity and courage of our troops in Ireland, and that we are impressed by the training of the troops in Germany and by the assistance they are giving in difficult conditions in Muscat and Oman. Anyone who flies with the RAF or visits the Navy must be enormously impressed by their professional standards. So while there is perhaps disagreement between us on the policy to be followed, we should all like to join with the Minister in extending our very best wishes to those who serve the Crown.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin with an apology. Although I expect to be present for the major part of the debate, I may, unfortunately, miss the concluding speech. Normally nothing, save a Royal Command or force majeure, would prevent me from attending the concluding speech of a debate in which I had myself participated. But since it is the Government's view that an issue of supreme importance must now be decided not by Parliament so much as by the sovereign people, I am sure they will understand when I say that I have come to the conclusion that an obligation in respect of the referendum campaign must take precedence over any Parliamentary obligation.

My Lords, once again we discuss a defence White Paper which justifies a very substantial reduction in the defensive capacity of this country, while maintaining in a general way that, in the first place, this is not necessarily dangerous, despite the real dangers to which the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, has just drawn attention in his very powerful and eloquent speech; and, in the second place, that since we are now much poorer than our allies, we cannot contribute to defence anything like as much per head, for the most part, as they, for the most part, contribute. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, that it is inherently wrong to take the GNP as a criterion for our defence expenditure. But of course there is an argument to the effect that since our income per head is, unfortunately—largely owing to the mis-management of our own affairs—now not more than half that of our wealthier neighbours on the Continent, we cannot afford to spend so much, particularly in this time of crisis, as we should normally do and indeed as we ought to do, for the reasons which the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, has advanced so well.

It is true that in the White Paper the enormous increase in the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union is duly noted. The "harsh realities" was the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, to draw attention to this. Indeed, this increase is even noted with a certain alarm. I would not deny that. But the general impression we are left with is that since, after all, there is no real danger of war, and since detente is now the order of the day, we have no option but to cut our cloth according to our means. That is the general message which the White Paper conveys to us, rightly or wrongly. As has just been pointed out, we are now to shave an additional £110 million off our defence estimates as well, involving presumably an additional manpower cut. The reduction already decided was, I think, about 12,000, and now with this additional cut there is to be something like a cut of 16,000 in the manpower in the Western Front. This will naturally have a most unfavourable effect on NATO.

It cannot be denied that if the criterion that we are so poor that we cannot afford defence—or such defence as we ought to have—is applied logically, and if things go on as they are at present, we may not be able to pay for our essential imports; in which case, presumably, we should not be economically justified in spending any money at all on defence! That would be the logical extension of the present policy. Surely that must be wrong. But the sad fact, which we Liberals would not dispute in a general way, is that we have been driven by economic necessity to make considerable and, in the circumstances, no doubt necessary cuts in our detence expenditure. Nor, this being so, would we dispute that, broadly speaking, the Government were right to make the cuts in what might be described as overseas expenditure and to concentrate such remaining strength as we have for the most part in Western Europe. In a sense, these last measures complete our withdrawal from East of Suez which, alone among the Parties, we Liberals, as some of your Lordships may recollect, urged in this House as long ago as March 1965. We did not then propose that the Government should go so far as they have now gone.

I suppose there is an argument—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, said—for maintaining a presence in Gan and Mauritius in order to prevent anybody else moving in. We know that if a certain devil goes out of the house other devils may walk in, and if we had a presence there perhaps they would not. Therefore there may be a case for maintaining a presence there if it only costs very little money. But in 1965 we did not propose that we should go as far as we have now done. We proposed, broadly speaking, that we should abandon our bases in the Indian Ocean. We cannot therefore object, generally speaking, to the new way of disposing of our available forces, things being so regrettably what they are. The tremendous efforts which the Soviet Union is making to establish itself in the Indian Ocean are known to your Lordships and are undeniable. But apart from the possibility of maintaining a presence somewhere, there is very little we can do about it, except that we should do all in our power to encourage the Americans to do something towards filling the vacuum.

Nevertheless, certain doubts and apprehensions remain, notably regarding the whole Governmental attitude towards defence, which strikes us as being rather unimaginative and complacent. I shall try, as best I can, to explain why. First, let us turn from the White Paper to the last number of a magazine called Nato Review—I believe it is an authoritative magazine. Here, again, we find the Secretary of State in a moderately confident mood. Again, he rightly draws attention to the growing power of the Soviet Union and alludes to the possibility that the Russians may be prepared to use détente as a means to induce the Western Powers to "lower their guard". This leads him to the very welcome assertion that all the Defence Ministers in the alliance believe, as he says, that: We must keep our efforts at a proper level. That is all very good. This is followed by a justification of the substantial cuts in the defence budget of the United Kingdom, which he nevertheless considers will leave, our contribution to Allied defence at a very high level. I should have though that this was a statement which, given the presence of so large a proportion of the BAOR in Northern Ireland, is possibly open to some doubt. The rest of the article deals with the Eurogroup, which we learn is functioning extremely well and has just decided on a new "Europackage". It would be interesting to know of what exactly this package consists. I do not see why we should not be told. Again, perhaps the Minister will tell us. It would seem also that at long last the sub-committee known as "Euronad"—which is a committee consisting of directors of armaments in various countries concerned—may be getting down to a consideration of practical means for harmonising the production of European weapons. Anyway, as a first step, they appear to have induced the Americans to buy one or two European models—the "two way street", to which the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, referred—which is certainly all to the good.

But, my Lords, if we turn to the immediately following article by the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Hill-Norton, we read: We have the paradox that officers and officials drawn from all member countries of the Alliance, who have thrown away their national hats to produce the best alliance solution, frequently find their efforts frustrated by Council or Committee members speaking on instructions which are national and come from capitals. Do such regrettable conditions prevail in the Eurogroup, I wonder? Here again it might be interesting to know. Sir Peter also tells us that what we have always been led to suppose was the great achievement of the Eurogroup: namely, the European Defence Improvement Programme, or EDIP, calling for the injection of an additional 1,000 million dollars over a five-year period, is in arrears; and, it would appear, increasingly so.

We are also told that though, happily, "Ministers, industrialists and scientists" have now acknowledged that: within the NATO nations we are probably losing something in the region of 2,000 million dollars a year by duplication of Research and Development", and that the possible eventual monetary gain by simply standardising some of the more basic gear would far surpass even this huge sum, no means have yet been found of overcoming the obstacles of national pride, national economic considerations, industrial vested interests, and an understandable reluctance to make temporary sacrifices for benefits that can only be achieved in the long term as a consequence of genuine international co-operation within the Alliance. Those are the words of the chairman of the Military Committee of NATO. I do not know what your Lordships think, but I find them frankly alarming and I strongly suspect that this alarm is widespread in the country in spite of the apparent apathy in regard to defence to Which the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, alluded in his speech.

It is all very well to say that we are forced to reduce our defence expenditure to a point at which, given the vast Soviet superiority in almost all spheres, the general defensive posture of the West may be becoming, as the experts say, largely "incredible": but that is what is happening. It is quite another thing to suggest by implication, as the White Paper does, that we cannot, even so—even given this—improve our situation to an enormous extent by taking purely political decisions regarding the standardisation of weapons, or to lead us to suppose that at least everything possible is being done in this direction when it is obvious, from the passages that I have read out, that this is just not so.

Sir Peter goes on to make this very point. What we want, among other things, he says, are: effective armour and anti-tank units within our ground forces; mobile ground-based air defence systems; more sophisticated air munitions, better management of air resources by improved command and control systems; improved electronic warfare capabilities; and timely replacement of obsolete aircraft and ships. It seems that we have not got any of these essential things at the moment; and it is pretty obvious that without standardisation we shall never get them at all.

What shall be done? We shall no doubt have to wait until the referendum is over—a referendum forced on an unwilling nation as a result of desperate internal battles in the Labour Party. Assuming that the answer is "Yes", one of the first things the Government should do is to make a great effort to get agreement on some method of standardising the production of arms destined for the European theatre. This means setting on foot, in the first place and within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance, some European machinery for this precise purpose. Clearly, for so long as the Americans are present in Western Europe—and long may they remain there!—American arms will be employed, not only by the American ground and air forces but also, to some extent, by the European forces as well, because it will be the most economic thing to do so. But it is absurd and most dangerous if the new specialised arms which Sir Peter is anxious to have and that are now so necessary are produced on the European side in an infinite variety. Something really must be done to formulate and impose a common European policy.

That means, in the first place, getting together with France. Soon after the referendum we shall probably know what has happened as regards the choice of the new fighter for the air forces of Germany, Holland, Belgium and Norway. If it should be the Mirage, by any chance, then things from the European point of view obviously will be easier. If not, it will still be necessary, even from the point of view of France, to devise some common policy as regards the production of the new "sophisticated" weapons that are required. I have no doubt that that great stateman, as I think, M. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, would respond favourably to any really constructive démarche that his Government might make. But if we merely go on repeating that "We have our Eurogroup which is functioning very well and if the French just will not join it nothing further can be done", we are unlikely to get very far.

We must, if we can, now rise above the old conceptions and try to create a valid European partner for America. Certainly the Americans, anxious though they always are to sell us as many American arms as possible would welcome such a development, if only for the reason that, unless it occurs, the whole prospect of organising any credible conventional defence of Western Europe may collapse over the years—in which case the famous "nuclear umbrella" may prove to be no umbrella at all.

I assume that all noble Lords interested in defence will have read the Strategic Survey for 1974 issued by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which has just come out. There is a highly interesting chapter on "New Conventional Weapons" It says: A new range of weapons employing a wide selection of new guidance, target-acquisition and command-and-control techniques, promises to give conventional forces vastly increased fire power. The United States, Soviet Union and the Western European powers are moving quickly to deploy the new systems. The United States alone is funding 30 new programmes which incorporate new guidance and command technologies. It is later stated that these technologies may possibly imply that conventional war is on the verge of a major qualitative change, battle tanks and aircraft becoming increasingly vulnerable to far less expensive weapons carried by small units. The arguments against such a development—which, as your Lordships know, have been consistently advanced from these Benches over the last few years—are then, rightly, examined; but the possibility that the whole theory of our defensive strategy may have to be reexamined in the light of it clearly remains. It is the message that you must get if you read the article. It certainly seems a most profitable field for discussion with our French allies in the context of any European defence scheme that may be contemplated "within the framework" as they say, of the North Atlantic Alliance.

There are naturally other reasons for finding the White Paper unsatisfactory which will be developed by my noble friend Lord Kimberley, later. There are, for instance, such matters as the defence of oil rigs in the North Sea, not so much in the event of a "conventional" war with the Soviet Union, though clearly that cannot be ignored, as in the event of sabotage by vessel or by helicopter. There is the continued failure on our part to deploy properly even such anti-tank weapons as we have at present. And what about the so-called "enemy within"? Both the French and the Germans have reasonably effective means of meeting such an emergency. We, I rather think, have none.

All things considered, and given the necessity of the cuts with which we agree that are now suggested, we find the White Paper both limited in its outlook and un-imaginative. Perhaps the Government are so overwrought by their economic and social difficulties that they have not been able to bend their minds to the best way to protect this country from the very real dangers, and I entirely agree with Lord Balniel's graphic description of those dangers. Let us hope that they will do better next time, always assuming, which is far from certain, that they will still be in power in the Spring of 1976.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, in a recent debate in your Lordships' House on the security problems of the Free World, which was opened in so penetrating a way by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, the noble Lord. Lord Carrington, invited us to focus our attention on three issues. The first was the fact that we had to continue to be armed. The second was that we had to learn to co-operate with our allies—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has just been developing. The third point was that we must continue to seek détente and peace. It is to the particular issue of co-operation, and its relation to co-operation in research and development in particular, in the environment of an arms race in which, willy-nilly, we are involved, that I wish to direct my remarks in the present debate. I was unfortunately late in arriving at your Lordships' House and did not hear the Lord Privy Seal's opening remarks, and I apologise to your Lordships' House for the fact that I am unable to hear the end of the debate.

We have all learned over the years to accept that discussions about disarmament go on in parallel with an arms race which every year is gathering force. In the early 1960s the world as a whole was spending every year, on a United Nations estimate, about 150 billion dollars, which is equivalent to £60,000 million, for military purposes. But this was also a period when there was real hope that negotiations would lead to significant disarmament. Negotiations led to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, and then the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968—two Treaties in whose successful conclusion our Prime Ministers of the day played a very significant part. But by the beginning of the 1970s, the 150 billion dollars of 1960 had become 200 billion dollars at the same value. I have no doubt at all that the figures are very much higher today.

The United Kingdom is neither responsible for the arms race nor, in my view, have we any longer the power to affect its pace. Regrettably, we no longer have the leverage. We can hardly assume today the kind of lead that we had in the disarmament talks at the beginning of the 1960s when Mr. Harold Macmillan, our Prime Minister of the day, was largely responsible for setting their pace. We are simply caught up in the arms race of the super-Powers. It is a race which is both one of quantity and quality—particularly quality. That is the unchanging nature of the arms race at all times. There is an unending competition to build on the latest scientific and technological knowledge in the effort to have weapons systems which will not be outmatched by those of a potential enemy. The past five years have seen enormous developments in the range of weapons, in the precision with which they can be guided to their targets—whether on the field of battle or across intercontinental space. There have been enormous developments in techniques for short range and distance surveillance.

But this is the point. Every step that is taken in the arms race becomes more demanding technologically than the one that went before, and each unit of equipment, regardless of something I heard implied this afternoon, consequently costs more than the one it replaces. This is as true today as it was 15 or 20 years ago. With the possible exception of standard items, there are no examples that I know of where the application of more science and more technology leads to a reduction in the cost of individual weapons. It is also clearer today than it ever was during the Second World War that significant changes in weapons systems necessarily induce major changes in tactics, and that these in turn lead to revolutions in strategy. And then the political environment inevitably becomes transformed. We have only to consider the present situation in the Middle East to realise the extent to which new weapons have brought about vast changes in the political realities of the region, and also in the world as a whole.

So long as nations arm against each other, it will be impossible to curb the progress or the process whereby new technology is applied in the effort either to counter a potential enemy's existing weapons or to improve one's own. It is not the wise statesman, it is not the wise general, who is the moster in the arms race; it is technology itself. This is seen nowhere better than in the nuclear field. Years ago, when I was an official, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence, I was given permission by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Harold Macmillan, who wanted all views ventilated, to challenge publicly the belief that a category of tactical nuclear weapons could be logically separated from one called strategic. The view I stated then was novel, at any rate in official circles. It was not popular; and it hardly seems so today because the White Paper which we are discussing now talks of our own NATO troops being equipped with nuclear equipment to allow them to fight, "a mobile and intense armoured battle".

Of course we are not alone in thoughts like these. The Americans, the Russians and the French state them as official policy. But I still believe, in spite of having heard contrary views over the years, that the scenario of a tactical nuclear battle is no more than a horribly dangerous and utterly superficial illusion. The words "tactical" and "strategic" are meaningless in relation to nuclear armaments. What might be regarded as a few tactical nuclear explosions on a European battlefield could end for ever the existence of one or more of the member European States in NATO. Would this be a tactical military effort? How could escalation then be prevented? Dr. Kissinger once wrote as if he believed in the possibilities of a tactical nuclear battle. But he, too, has since joined the ranks of the doubters. And if any of your Lordships need to be convinced by the argument, I would refer you to the April 1975 number of Foreign Affairs, the journal in which I was permitted to publish my critique of the concept of Tactical Nuclear Warfare in I think, 1962.

This number includes an article by Dr. Alain Enthoven entitled "US Forces in Europe". It does not agree with all the statements which have been made in your Lordships' House about the balance of Forces between the Warsaw Pact and our own NATO Forces. But it is important, because Dr. Enthoven was once the American Assistant Secretary of Defence for Systems Analysis, and has continued to be interested in the subject. I never thought that his name would ever be found in a company of nuclear heretics such as myself. He now writes that there are logical reasons for having a force of nuclear weapons in Europe. I agree with that. He tries to spell them out before he recommends a major reduction in NATO's present nuclear arsenal. I do not agree with all his reasons, but I do agree—and here I quote him—that tactical nuclear weapons cannot defend Europe; they can only destroy it. This is precisely what I said many years ago.

He talks about numerous studies being made in intervening years, various scenarios which have been analysed, all pointing to the fact that were there ever to be a nuclear exchange in Europe we would end up with millions and tens of millions of deaths. Finally, he writes: There is no such thing as a two-sided tactical nuclear war in the sense of sustained purposive military operations. … Nobody knows how to fight a tactical nuclear war. Twenty years of effort by many military experts have failed to produce a believable doctrine for tactical nuclear warfare. To this I would add—and I say this in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said at the end of his remarks when quoting a recent article about new developments in conventional weapons—that it is pure illusion to suppose that the argument changes because we now have available, or can make available, nuclear field weapons which are low in yield and more precise in target delivery. There is no time to develop this point, I fear, and anyhow, what does reason matter here? Despite all argument, the race to improve the armoury of so-called tactical nuclear weapons still goes on. It has not been checked by any argument or any reason and it is still stated in the White Paper.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might intervene for one moment? I am following the noble Lord's argument with passionate interest and, generally speaking, I agree with it. But would he not say that in Western Europe there is a case for having some tactical nuclear weapons for use only on a second strike, rather as a deterrent of first use by the Russians of such weapons?


My Lords, I should like to develop the point which the noble Lord has raised, but fear there would not be time. I myself see other reasons for having tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, but not that particular one. As I said, I do not know, and I cannot be persuaded to appreciate, a conceptual difference between "tactical" and "strategic", when it comes to nuclear weapons. It is not a case of saying that new developments in conventional weapons will bring about a quantum change in the nature of warfare. The fact is that there is a vast gulf between warfare of the conceptual kind in which nuclear weapons are used, and warfare in which they are not used.


My Lords, might I invite my noble friend to explain one point which I have not quite understood? Is he recommending to this House that we should abolish our tactical or other nuclear weapons unilaterally?


My Lords, I fear I must say to your Lordships that I am being led into arguments which I did not wish to touch upon. I see a smile on the face of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, who has heard me on this subject before. I would rather not expose my vulnerability to your tactical nuclear weapons on this occasion?

If I may continue with my previous argument, what ever their nature nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence and not weapons of offence or defence. Whatever balance between numbers, throw-weight or range of weapons that prevailed 15 years ago in the nuclear arsenal of the Western Powers and the USSR, they still at that time sustained a stable state of deterrence. No-one could risk the physical destruction or annihilation of his homeland—and these are not mere words, my Lords, Nevertheless, nuclear weapons have since multiplied perhaps by 50 times in destructive power, in range, targeting capacity and in invulnerability. The USSR and the United States now have enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other and the rest of the world as well, time and time again. Everyone knows this. Mr. Brezhnev repeated the point only a few weeks ago. There is no rational basis for the continued improvement of nuclear arms or of nuclear counter-measures. All that the nuclear increment does is to increase the background of peril of our modern world. But the nuclear arms race still goes on.

The logic which drives it, and the consequences to which it leads, are the same today as they have always been in this fast-moving technological age. The argument is simple. If a country wishes its Forces to live up to the latest standards, it has to re-equip them at frequent intervals with weapons which are more sophisticated and therefore much more expensive than those they replace. It is sheer illusion to think that the new conventional weapons to which reference has been made are going to cheapen the cost of defence.

Let us suppose that the gross national product rises through the greater productivity of a more or less static working population—a picture rather remote from the one in which we are now living—and let us suppose that defence is allowed to draw off the same proportion each year. Would we be able to use the American term, to "buy more defence" because of the greater absolute amount of money that would be going to the Armed Forces as the GNP rose? I am speaking, of course, in terms of real value. The answer is clearly, "No". New aircraft, new surface to air missiles and new radars cost far more than their predecessors, at the same time as improvements in the sophistication of our own weapon systems tend to be cancelled out by those of our enemies' weapons. A more expensive offensive system is potentially countered by an even more expensive defence. The net result is an increase in expenditure on defence equipment by both parties in the race and, usually, an increase in the security of neither. More than this, we also see that other kinds of warfare can still continue—as the world now knows to its cost—however sophisticated the technological umbrella of armaments of the greater Powers. The economic consequences of the increasing sophistication of weapons can only be abated; they can never be escaped.

The first measure which to some extent mitigates is choosing weapons that are being produced in great quantities than the ones they replace. In practice this would mean a smaller variety of equipment and, since weapons are usually highly specialised for different roles, the result would be having to give up certain military roles and defence commitments. I will refer again to that in a moment. Another measure which could mitigate would be to lessen the load of research and development costs—which in our case have been as much as one-half of the resulting production cost—by cooperating with other countries. A third related measure is trying to avoid the research and development costs entirely, if possible, by buying weapons that are being produced abroad in quantity for several countries. The cost of developing a weapon system of a given degree of sophistication is much the same in all advanced industrialised countries. But the greater the "buy" over which these costs can be spread, the lower the resultant unit cost. For this reason alone, the United States and the Soviet Union can, by their very size, always expect to produce sophisticated weapon systems more cheaply than we can, or more cheaply than we could do in co-operation with our NATO allies, excluding the United States.

Not one of these measures is more than a palliative. The long-term consequences of the arms race are inescapable for all countries. If the United Kingdom is to be efficient in defence, we cannot plan on allowing our equipment to become obsolete. Equally, we have learned that whatever may happen during war, a rising share of the gross national product will not be allotted to defence in peacetime. For too long now, if I may paraphrase what Aneurin Bevan once said to me, we have been promising too much, too fast, to too many. And I know that there are those who would say that today too many are demanding too much too fast, from too few. The alternatives to which the arms race has always driven us are to plan on altering our tasks and commitments, so as to avoid the need to introduce some of the most expensive new wepons systems, to make our Forces smaller or to combine both these measures.

I have been looking at the figures to see what has happened since I was first allowed to enunciate this kind of logic in what was then called "the inexorable law of military R and D". In looking at what has happened over these past 15 years, I see that our gross national product has multiplied itself three and a half times, in money terms. What this means in today's values I do not know, because comparisons of this kind are beset with pitfalls, as we all know. Our total public expenditure is four times what it was, again in money terms. But in 1960 defence took one-sixth of all public expenditure. That proportion has gradually fallen, until today it takes less than one-tenth. The number of our uniformed men has fallen from 528,000 in 1960, to 340,000 today. At the same time, military research and development and procurement are somewhat less today in real terms than they were in 1960, although both now cater for only two-thirds of the Forces we had before. There are figures and figures to prove that today it costs far more to arm a man than it did yesterday.

On top of cutting our Forces and their equipment, we have had to cut—or history has forced us to cut—our overseas commitments. We were a world-wide Power in 1960; today we are merely part of an Atlantic Alliance. This all belongs to the recent past, but the future cannot but continue along the same trend if we do not change our ways. So where do we go, in the face of the logic of the arms race? I myself have no doubt at all that whatever other reasons, and indeed whatever noble reasons, may underlie the SALT talks between the USA and the USSR, at least one is provided by the same logic which has affected us over the post-war decades. The logic of the arms race is the same logic for all.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to the need for standardisation. The same point was taken up during the defence debate in another place, when it was said that it had been proved time and time again that 50 per cent. of what is spent on research and development is wasted through duplication. On relinquishing his post as Supreme Commander of NATO not so long ago, General Goodpaster said that the lack of standardisation—not R and D—costs NATO 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. of its potential capability. I do not know what the real figures are either for R and D or for standardisation. But I imagine that neither Mr. Wall, who spoke in another place, nor General Goodpaster had in mind the enormous waste of money that also comes about, not just from simple duplication or competition, but from totally abortive R and D.

I can think of no field to which the lesson about co-operation, which was enunciated a few weeks ago by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, applies more than it does to defence. Equally, I know of no simple procedure whereby it can be brought about. In the years when I was Chief Scientific Adviser for defence, I tried with each of my three successive American opposite numbers to devise criteria whereby we could make a fair share of our respective R and D burdens. Of course, during the Second World War we in the United Kingdom, as we all know, covered the whole water front of R and D. We were leaders in almost every field.

By the time I started my discussions with the Americans, they were spending in absolute terms five to 10 times what we were spending in the development of new weapons. But they agreed that a dollar bought more R and D in the United Kingdom than it did in America. So we compromised and arbitrarily agreed that the ratio of our respective efforts was not 5 to 1 or 10 to 1 but 3 to 1. We also then agreed that the United Kingdom would concentrate in certain areas and we would look to them in the others in the proportion of 1 to 3—very simple and very amiable. But, unfortunately, the understanding we reached at our own level could not be put into practice. Nor were other approaches to the problem successful. The knowledge in the Pentagon of what happened in industry, and its control of what happened was too limited—as it then also was in Whitehall. The industrial lobbies concerned in these matters were too powerful. Ideas in the defence field are the brain-children of individuals. They crop up in secret, they are developed in secret and by the time they can become the object of secret negotiations too much has been committed nationally in terms of resources, and especially in manpower, to make the matter easy to negotiate.

From the start, NATO has had standardisation committees. There is nothing new about this suggestion. But what have they achieved?—certainly not enough. The competition to sell arms still goes on. We have just lost out, so I understand, on a ground to air missile. The French are losing out on the new tighter-bomber—and so it goes on. It has been suggested in the debate in another place that we could make a move towards a European arms agency if each NATO Government allocated 1 per cent. of their R and D expenditure to NATO for this purpose. I only wish I could believe that this would be a solution. I fear it would hardly pay the typists' salaries. My own view is that so long as NATO exists, so long as we are involved, however reluctantly, in an arms race, our only hope is to work for closer union and for a rational kind of competition in industrial development, which I believe to be implicit in the concept of the European Economic Community. The process will be slow. I know it will be painful and that it will take time. When, in order to avoid economic ruin, public expenditure has to be restrained we cannot expect more of the national cake to go to defence. And more of what can go has to be devoted to the cost of manpower, with less and less left for R and D and procurement.

We in the United Kingdom still have experience. We still have scientific and technological skills and ideas. But we simply do not have the resources to develop them in isolation. Nor can we do so behind a presumed wall of protection. Modern technology cannot be protected and nurtured by tariff barriers in the way the Corn Laws once protected landowners. We cannot borrow time in the R and D field; the competition is too fierce both in the civil and the military fields. Nor can we do our R and D, or continue to do much of it, on borrowed money. We shall continue as an advanced technological Power only through cooperation as well as competition, not only in military but also in civil R and D in the public sector. We shall always need competition in ideas. But surely we do not all need national laboratories, whether privately or publicly financed, to do development work in the military field, or road research or water pollution research in the civil field. Roads and water are the same everywhere. How long we shall be able to go on wasting resources in this way?

I have spoken too long, my Lords. In the end, may I repeat that I feel the solution for NATO is the rationalisation of our separate R and D budgets, and the formation of a single authority to control the processes whereby decisions about how to use them are taken. After that, and only then, comes the rationalisation of the arms industries of the Western Powers. The conditions for the USSR, we keep forgetting, are such that they do not need to dissipate their corresponding resources, whatever their scale, through wasteful duplication or unnecessary competition. If we are to get value for what resources we can devote to R and D; if we are to minimise the waste of our diminishing resources; if the weaker partners in NATO are each to avoid fielding armies of chocolate soldiers; if we are to derive any of the slender benefits from the spill-over of technology from defence to the civil sector, we must surely work in a European and in a wider NATO framework. So far as I can see, the European framework comes first and we dare not turn our backs on it.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has made a powerful speech for rationalisation, pointing out also that peace is expensive. But at least it is still peace. We have had peace for longer in the history of our country, I suppose, than for many years. If it is put that way, I should have thought it was reasonably cheap at the price. We still make arms. We still sell arms. Somebody is going to buy them from somewhere else if they do not buy them from us. There is nothing moral about defence or arms dealing, I accept, but it is going to be done; and would it not help our finances if we went on selling? I know it is policy that Her Majesty's Government never give information on possible arms sales, but it is surely right that we should sell to those who are friends and those who want to buy British. If we look at it in its worst light, we can always keep control afterwards by the spares and the ammunition.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, ended his speech by saying that he thought the White Paper was lacking in imagination but that the cuts were about right. I should have thought that it had plenty of imagination but that the cuts were about wrong. A more beautifully produced White Paper I have not seen for years. The diagrams are eminently clear; the figures are excellent; the threat is extraordinarily clear. I should have thought it showed enormous powers of imagination. As to the costs, though, which also are clear—my noble friend Lord Balniel has already mentioned this point—would it not be possible for the Minister answering the debate to tell us approximately what is the cost of Service families in regard to medical treatment, housing and education, and the cost of retired pensions, so that we have some idea? I do not suggest that so that we can expect to see those costs put on another Vote, but so that the public knows that that amount of the defence Vote is not true defence. How is the money to Mozambique going to be shown? Is that to replace the Beira patrol, which is defence? Where the Beira patrol is going to operate from later on, I do not know. We give £14 million (I believe that is the figure) to Mozambique to stop them from trading with Rhodesia. That is going to be another £14 million—I do not know about "down the drain", but lost. Is that on the defence Vote or on another Vote?

Some of your Lordships may have watched last night "KGB" on BBC 1 television. Is that what we want to be like? That is the threat. It could not have been more clearly put in a brilliant production. Again, my noble friend Lord Balniel stressed what is the real present danger: it is the Southern flank of NATO. None of us feels there is an enormous danger—while we accept the deterrent as being a deterrent and not a winning or defence weapon—in the central front. The danger is on the Mediterranean South flank, for the reasons that my noble friend outlined. So when we have to cut—and we all accept that defence must have some reduction to keep it even steady in those days of inflation—what is needed most is intelligence, surveillance and communications. It is not clear from the White Paper how those three things will continue and how efficient they will be. Are we going to keep the communications posts at Gan, Mauritius and Cape South? If not, by what will they be replaced? It is the importance nowadays of intelligence communications that they may even prevent a minor war from breaking out.

One noble Lord mentioned Yugoslavia. The Peace Game posed the scenario of what might happen in 1978. However, they left out one important country, and that is why I thought it was so bad; they left out China. The influence of China in Albania creates a real danger on that same flank of NATO. Perhaps the paramount danger to peace is not that but rather Sino-Soviet ill-feeling. Still they continue to plan against each other.

As usual, it is the unforeseen which always happens. One has only to look at the minor unforeseen events which have occurred during the last 20 to 30 years where British forces have been used. We do not seem to have any reserves anywhere for the unforeseen. Should we not have Territorial yeomanry forces ready for general unforeseen duties? So much of our Territorial force is committed to BAOR in the event of mobilisation. Because of the cuts in Transport Command, I am not so sure how it gets there quickly enough to mobilise. I imagine that one could requisition civilian as well as military aircraft.

It would help at this stage not to increase the financial difficulties of the Reserve forces but to allow those who over-recruit to continue to over-recruit and to cut off the ceiling from those who are unable to do so. In other words, a good military dictum is to reinforce success. The extra troops recruited should not be part of the earmarked force for operations, nor need they have the expensive armoured vehicles that those forces have. Above all, instead they should be able to have radios for communication, transport of some kind—Land Rovers, for instance—and personal arms. They would be disciplined bodies of men available to serve the Crown anywhere at reasonably short notice. This would be popular. Anything mobile is popular. Rather than have people joining private armies, let them join the Reserve forces, the Special Constabulary and the St. John Ambulance Brigade where they are wanted at the present time.

We are grateful to the Government for increasing the pay of the Armed Forces. However, I am not yet clear about one point. Perhaps we can hear at the end of the debate what is the percentage increase in the cost to the Armed Forces of their housing and food. Does it still come out all right—from a colonel to a trooper? Will they gain on the increase in pay, or will they have to pay so much more tax and so much more for their rent and their food that it will not be so good for them in the end? In order to satisfy those who may be thinking of joining the Armed Forces, I should like to know the answer to that question.

May I end by asking the Government what plans are being made to help those soldiers and officers who compulsorily will have to leave the Armed Forces in the next few years. They will be coming out of the Armed Forces at a most difficult time. People in civilian life are already losing their jobs and having difficulty in finding new ones. Will something be done for those who have served the Crown in various actions all over the world, so as to help them over this most difficult period?

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose it may be regarded as an impertinence if I dare to enter into a dialogue with the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. His association in the past with research and technology has proved invaluable. I, for my part, have no knowledge of either of those subjects. Nevertheless, it is not always desirable to bow to authority—to those in whom all wisdom is alleged to reside. Therefore I say at once, without further ado, that although I listened with absorbed interest to his assessment of the present situation vis-à-vis the production of sophisticated weapons et cetera, I reject entirely his conclusion.

In the previous Defence debate when we were engaged in discussing the "nuts and bolts"—that is only natural in Defence debates; we discussed manpower, equipment, hardware and the like—there was an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, concerning the need for internal security. His intervention rather spoiled the debate. Now we have another intervention which revives a subject that I thought we had put into cold storage for a week or two until we had finally disposed of it; namely, whether we should rely for our security in the future on our association with the EEC. That is the conclusion to which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, came at the end of his dissertation. No doubt he will correct me if I am wrong. His conclusion was that there should be a central organisation exercising control over industrial matters and, presumably, political matters and also over matters concerned with our security.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will allow me to correct the impression he has gained from what I have said. Certainly I do not see the road ending anywhere except in the total dissipation of our resources for research and development unless we join together in a co-operative effort of which we should be part and in which we should have at least as big a voice as any other member country of NATO. I say that we should start in the European Economic Community because at the start I do not believe that it would be possible, for practical reasons, to engage fully the resources of the United States.


My Lords, my only observation in reply to the intervention of the noble Lord is that it has nothing to do with the subject of our security—nothing at all. We may enter into agreements with the countries of the Nine. We may remain in the EEC after the Referendum question has been disposed of. However, we shall still have to face the disparity in the position of sophisticated weapons and manpower as between the countries associated with the Warsaw Pact and the countries associated with NATO. That is the problem with which the White Paper attempted to deal but with which it has completely failed to deal.

May I begin my observations on the White Paper by excluding the Secretary of State for Defence from any criticism. The Secretary of State for Defence, like previous Secretaries of State for Defence and those associated with Service Departments, is always under criticism and pressure from one side or the other—either from the Treasury on the one hand or from dissenting elements in the political Party with which he is associated on the other. In the circumstances, the Secretary of State for Defence has done a very good job. He has reduced expenditure over a period of years. Over that period of years it may well be that circumstances change to such an extent that instead of expenditure being reduced it may inevitably have to be increased. But that is by the way. It is imperative to satisfy those who are demanding a reduction in military expenditure while at the same time trying to maintain an appearance, if not reality, in our military security.

My objection to the White Paper is based on quite different grounds. When I listened to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, I agreed with almost everything he said. I hope that is not regarded as being disloyal to my Party. I agreed with almost everything he said, except one thing; namely, when he referred to the perimeter outside NATO as being of less consequence than the need for devoting all our military strength to NATO. Let there be no doubt about it at all, what we have done in this White Paper is to abandon every one of our commitments outside NATO. I challenge contradiction on the basis of the White Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, referred to the Mediterranean, as also did the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley. The Mediterranean is out; in a year or two Malta will be out. I wonder why Gibraltar has been left in? Is it really of any consequence if we are out of the Mediterranean? Moreover, it is extremely likely that Soviet warships, along with other Soviet vessels, will find access through the Suez Canal and will not require to come through the Straits of Gibraltar. Why should Gibraltar have remained in the White Paper, except for emotional and sentimental reasons?—an ornament, with no substance and no reality.

We have lost a great Empire. I say that, not so much to the members on my own side of the House, who in the past have perhaps not concerned themselves too much with our great Empire. We have practically abandoned the Commonwealth. There was something of a revival a week or so ago in Jamaica, with perhaps no reality in it, only the appearance of a revival. The White Paper—and I challenge contradiction on this point—on almost every page indicates that so far as our security is concerned we have to concentrate on NATO. The rest is out, abandoned. That is the situation. In short, as a result of our concentration on NATO we are to become an off-shore island of France. That is exactly the position.

I protest against it. I protest against the change in the situation, first because of its effect on our security, and secondly because it was unnecessary. There was no reason at all why we should have abandoned any of our commitments in the Pacific or in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, when we reflect on a possible situation that may emerge if Australia or New Zealand is likely to be attacked or is forced into some conflict with an enemy, and bearing in mind the help they gave the United Kingdom in the past two great wars, what is to be the attitude of the United Kingdom? Are those countries then to be abandoned, with no commitment whatever? That is implicit in the White Paper. It is implicit that Australia can look after itself; so can New Zealand—so can all our interests in that area.

If, as a result of the abandonment of our commitments in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean and the Far East, apart from a battalion or so in Hong Kong which is intended for the purpose of maintaining law and order and for practically no other reason, we were to parade a military strength in NATO capable of deterring an enemy from an act of aggression, I should be ready to accept it. But what is the situation? A Question was asked yesterday in your Lordships' House to which I ventured to get an Answer. It was, in effect: "What is the situation of the NATO countries; were they ready to make an additional contribution to military expenditure in view of our inability to maintain our expenditure on the past level?" I was told by the Minister responsible, who is to reply at the end of this debate, that he could not reply for the NATO countries. Then when are we going to get information about the situation in the NATO countries?

Let me put it quite bluntly: what is the strength of Germany—West Germany? What is the strength of Belgium? What is the strength of the Scandinavian countries associated with NATO? What is the strength of the Netherlands? In other words—this is the language of the White Paper—are we in a position, as a result of concentrating on NATO, to deter an act of aggression by the Soviet Union or any other potential enemy? It is a fair question. The answer must be in the negative. The fact is that we do not know the strength of the NATO countries; and when we hear about the manpower being almost equivalent to the manpower available to the Warsaw Pact countries, what do we mean by "strength of manpower"? Are we referring to the number of divisions? And what about the content of those divisions? We require a great deal of information before we are in a position to judge whether NATO is as strong as it is sometimes represented to be. That is why frequently I and other Members of your Lordships' House, and Members in another place, have requested the Government of the day to form a defence committee of all Parties so that members of all Parties should be acquainted with the facts related to our security; not necessarily with matters which are of a secretive or private and confidential character, but to provide some assessment, some understanding, of the strength of the association with which we are connected.

That is the case I present. When I hear Members of your Lordships' House discussing manpower and the production of this or that kind of weapon, it occurs to me that it is of no consequence whatever unless we determine the nature of our strategy in the future. I mean by that whether we are going to concentrate in the future on NATO as it is represented in the White Paper, or whether we are to reconsider the position and take account of the implications that are inevitable, and are associated with the countries of the Commonwealth, and indeed with nonaligned countries in other parts of the world. I should like an answer from the Minister on that issue tonight.

On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, about the use of tactical weapons, may I inform your Lordships' House that that matter was discussed many years ago in another place after the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, produced his White Paper in 1957, in which he postulated that in future we must concentrate our attention on nuclear weapons rather than on conventional weapons, although it might be possible to use tactical nuclear weapons if the circumstances made it necessary. It was quite clear in the course of our discussions at that time, as it is obvious at the present time and, indeed, implicit in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, that once we use tactical nuclear weapons—if, indeed, there are weapons of that character—escalation is inevitable, and the full nuclear strength will be utilised by one side or the other.

I must confess that I despair about our defence position. Year after year we have these Defence White Papers. Year after year we have the conflict in the Labour Party, not so much in the Party opposite, as to whether we ought to indulge in military expenditure, or whether we should reduce it or, indeed, even abandon it. Not long ago there was a demand at the Labour Party Conference that military expenditure in the United Kingdom should be reduced by £1,000 million. It occurred to me at the time, and it occurs to me now, that if we are to do that, we might as well abandon defence altogether. Better have no defence at all than an inadequate defence; it would be a pretence. Moreover, some reductions proposed by the Minister of Defence, although they seem to be essential because of the economic position, are unnecessary.

So what are we to do about defence?—leave it entirely in the hands of NATO? There was a suggestion during Question Time yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that France might be requested to return to NATO. It seems unlikely that she would do so. Meanwhile, we must depend upon an organisation about which we know little or nothing, the actual strength of which has never been revealed, and the potential of which seems to be far less than is required if a potential enemy is to be deterred from an act of aggression.

My inclination before this debate was to take no part in it at all because of my despair on this subject. I know there are some in my own Party, sincere people with genuine convictions, who have no belief at all in defence preparations. I can understand that, but I do not accept it; I never have done. I am convinced that a country like ours, even if it be economically weak though capable of recovery, does require a measure of defence. It is essential also to have allies. In every war in which we have engaged in this century we have had allies, without whom we should not have achieved victory. But whoever our allies may be, we must have a measure of defence—that is essential, and the money has to be found for it.

I agree that if there is a choice between spending money on defence or spending it on housing or social services, naturally the choice in the Labour Party and, indeed, for all who are concerned about social reform, is that the money should go to the most likely quarter. Nevertheless, defence is essential, and more so now than ever. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, mentioned the film shown the other night about the Secret Service in the Soviet Union. It was horrifying. But there is something even worse than that: the gradual, subtle penetration of the Soviet Union without engaging in war, without any conflict; a gradual penetration not only throughout the whole of Europe, but in other parts of the world, as we have seen in South-East Asia and as we now see in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Before long we may discover there are more South Vietnams in other parts of the world, to the detriment of the Western civilised nations and to the advantage of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. I want to try to prevent it.

The last observation I want to make is this. The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, rightly said there is little interest among the public in matters of defence. But it is not only the public who are apathetic. Go to the other place when they are discussing defence, and the Benches are empty. Even in this House, when matters of defence are discussed, the Benches are practically empty. Even at the beginning of the debate, when it is expected that Members will want to hear what the Leaders on both sides have to say, the Benches are practically empty. Few have any concern about defence. It was the same in the pre-Chamberlain period, and we suffered for lack of preparation. Thousands, perhaps millions, of lives were lost in consequence. It is the same today. Talk about reduction in expenditure; talk about détente; the SALT talks; the mutual and balanced force reduction talks; the Geneva conferences; the pleas so frequently made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that there should be conferences here, there and everywhere for the purpose of coming to some agrement in order to avoid military expenditure or conflict, and so on—how nonsensical it all is! Over the period of years that I have been associated with political life in this country I have listened to all the pleas for disarmament; I have attended many conferences on disarmament; I have read many, many books on disarmament—and look at the present situation! The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are stronger than ever; South-East Asia has gone to the wall. What comes next?—the Philippines, or Malaysia? In the course of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, I think referred to some little trouble in Malaysia. It will develop, it will go on. That is the situation.

Meanwhile, we accept a reduction in our expenditure and concentrate on something which, in my judgment, has no real substance. For the rest, what is to follow? Who can tell? Nothing would suit me better—and this applies to every Member of your Lordships' House—than that we should be able to come to agreement with other countries, perhaps through the United Nations or through some other conference, in order to prevent conflict. But it is most unlikely, and in those circumstances, in my judgment we must pay for defence, or accept the consequences.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, whom I remember as such a distinguished Secretary of State for War, and whose interest in the Army and in defence matters has been so appreciated by us all. Certainly this Defence Review must be regarded as one of the most important ever undertaken by this country, not only because it proposed far-reaching and fundamental changes in our defence policy, but also because it comes at a time when the whole economic structure of this country is under extreme pressure.

The Review itself is most comprehensive; it has undergone a longer period of review, and even negotiation, than is normal, and in its content it provides a great deal of detailed and valuable information. That our present economic plight demands cuts in Government spending there is no doubt. That defence must play its part in those cuts is equally in no doubt. But defence should not be required to bear more than its fair share of cuts, nor can it be reduced below the limits of safety. One hears a great deal about loss of sovereignty these days, but the surest way for a nation to lose its sovereignty is to gamble its security by cutting its defence to the bone.

One of the problems in considering this particular Review is the speed with which our economic situation is deteriorating. Even since the Review was published on 19th March inflation has continued to accelerate rapidly. An additional £110 million has been cut in the Chancellor's recent Budget, and Forces pay, quite rightly to counter raging inflation, has gone up 30 per cent. Nevertheless, in my opinion, these cuts have been too drastic. When they have taken effect they will leave our ground forces, and to a great extent the Royal Air Force, with only one main option, to play our part in defending Central Europe, and the emphasis there is on Central Europe. The Review is certainly very honest about the reaction to it all of NATO. Perhaps it is best described as a dignified rebuke.

I do not intend to argue with the proposed cuts in our non-NATO commitments, nor with our gradual withdrawal from the Mediterranean. Indeed, in this latter case it has had the excellent effect of stirring our French friends into taking over some of our responsibilities by deploying more naval forces in that area. It is with our defence posture much nearer home that I am concerned, because when this Review has run its course it will, in my opinion, have thrown our posture completely out of balance.

We are a maritime nation, whether we like it or not. Our country is surrounded by the sea, and we are adjacent to, if not part of, the Northern flank of Europe, which is a key area to NATO. Our natural resources now extend far into the North Sea. These oil resources are not only of great potential wealth to this country but they are also of vital strategic importance to ourselves and to NATO. As I said in the defence debate in your Lordships' House on 17th December last, our first priority for defence must be the security of the United Kingdom, and by this I mean not only the security of the United Kingdom base but also the vital sea communications immediately around us. The British taxpayer has a right to be told that this is our first priority in our defence spending, and it is because this has not been spelled out properly in this Review that the British defence posture during the next 10 years will progress into such a state of imbalance.

In my opinion this Defence Review actually plays down the importance of defence and security of these Islands and the sea communications around us. In paragraph 17 of Chapter I it says: NATO—the finch pin of British security—should remain the first and overriding charge on the resources available for defence. This is true; but it rather implies that NATO will do it all for us, and of course it will not. We ourselves have got to secure our own Island and the surrounding area. Again, in paragraph 25 of Chapter I, which indicates the areas where the United Kingdom can best contribute—the United Kingdom lying, I may say, third in the list—it admits that the security of the United Kingdom is an area without which no United Kingdom, contribution to the security of our Allies and no reinforcement of our forward-based forces would be possible. Again this is true; but, in my opinion, it should be listed as first priority and not as third priority in that list. Incidentally I can find no other positive reference in the whole Review to the defence of the United Kingdom base.

The Northern flank of NATO is vital to NATO and vital to ourselves. It is vital to our security and, what is more relevant, it is the area in which we live. We share these areas with and we are adjacent to Norway; indeed, we are Norway's nearest neighbour. One could argue against that, but four-fifths of the 1,000 miles coastline of Norway are nearer to us than to any other NATO country, and she should naturally expect effective support from us before all our other allies. This is very clearly demonstrated in the excellent map at Figure 3 on page 6 of the Review.

For this reason, I deplore the reductions in our contribution to the flanks of NATO. We have reduced the United Kingdom mobile force by two-thirds. We have virtually abandoned the United Kingdom Joint Airborne Task Force, and we have reduced the amphibious force by one Commando and one Wessex helicopter squadron. HMS "Hermes" is available as a commando ship only in a secondary role. Even then, the only firm commitment to the flanks of NATO will be our contribution of perhaps 1,500 men to the ACE mobilo force, and one Royal Marine Commando specially trained and equipped for mountain and Arctic warfare, and available for deployment to the North of Norway all the year round.

I should like to say a word about the ACE Mobile Force, and I do so in no disparaging manner. Very great importance is attached to our contribution to this force, yet our contribution is only one battalion of supporting troops with a total of about 1,500 men. The ACE mobile force itself could best be described as a division in strength, so that our share of that force is a very small one. One must remember that the ACE mobile force is primarily a training expedient. It is primarily designed to bring the units of the various NATO nations together, to train together, with the problems of language, different techniques and different equipment; and as a training expedient it is quite outstanding. I am sure that in combat every man in that force would fight to the best of his ability, and it is not my intention to prove otherwise. But that force would have enormus difficulties because the units of which it is formed are rarely allocated to the ACE mobile force more than once or twice on manoeuvres; there are different units all the time. They have got the language problem, the different nationality problem. Coming together as a combat division in combat the force would have an enormous problem. I think we must not boast too much about that as being a magnificent contribution to the Northern flank. It is excellent in its way, but we need a great deal more, in my opinion.

It is perfectly true, too, that there is one remaining air-portable brigade group of the United Kingdom mobile force available for deployment either to the Central or Northern Regions of NATO. Here again, I strongly suspect that the flexibility for deploying this force to Norway would be seriously limited by lack of adequate logistic support, and that in practice it could only go to the Central Region, where logistic support already exists.

What I am asking is that we keep the Royal Marine Commando, 41 Commando, which is due to be disbanded in 1978; that we establish adequate logistic units to ensure that the necessary forces can be deployed and maintained in action on the Northern flank. I believe that these logistic units might well be provided by the Territorial and Volunteer Reserve Army. The TAVR is ideally suited to provide logistic forces, and provided those units have a good element of regular staff, a rather more generous allocation of regular staff than most TA units have, they could do a fine job—and this itself must attract in anything one says—at a very reasonable price.

I also propose that we reduce the United Kingdom mobile force by only one-third instead of the two-thirds which the Review proposes. This would leave two brigade groups available for deployment to NATO. If we are going to deploy ground forces on the Northern flank to support Norway, our near NATO neighbour, we must have sufficient combat aircraft to support this force. This proposal, if it is accepted, would give us two main options instead of the one we have now. It would give us our continued support for the Central Region with the British Army of the Rhine and our tactical air force there, and it would give us an option in our own immediate sphere of the Northern flank and the North Sea area. It would give us a much more flexible defence posture. It would enable us to cope better than we can at the moment with the unforeseen, and the presence in this country of the additional brigade group would provide much better security in the United Kingdom during that very difficult period of rising tension leading up to war, when subversion, sabotage, and so forth, are likely to occur but before the TAVR has been mobilised and deployed. It would give us a defence posture more directly relevant to the security of this country, and it would enhance NATO's position in this Northern area.

What will all this cost? I believe that this defence posture of continuing support in Central Europe, combined with the seaborne task force able to operate in our own immediate area, represents the minimum defence policy that we can risk adopting, and that the reductions proposed in the Defence Review should be reduced to achieve this end. The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, has already indicated where compensatory cuts could and should be found, and with this I entirely agree. I realise that this is unlikely to be acceptable to the Government, but I am encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who said that if we cut too far it is best to have no defence at all, and that for the sake of a mere, I think he said, £1,000 million we would do much better to have a proper defence while we are at it. I entirely agree with that, and £1,000 million is the sort of figure I was thinking of. If you reduce the proposed cuts by one-fifth, I think you get more or less that figure; and that figure could, if we really wanted it, be found from elsewhere.

It is essential to continue to maintain a strong allied defence in the central region which establishes the deterrence, and one hopes also the deadlock, on which peace depends. We must continue to play our share in providing this deterrence and in prolonging it. It is tempting to adjust the balance between the central region and the Northern region by withdrawing a brigade group from the central region in order to re-establish the balance. Incidentally, it is tempting to speculate whether, if NATO had been formed for exactly the same reason and consisted of exactly the same allies, but the last war had not occurred—in other words, if the British Army of the Rhine had not already been deployed in West Germany when NATO was formed—we would either have allocated, or been asked to allocate, such a high proportion of our defence effort to this area. Probably the answer is No, but as we are already in the British Army of the Rhine I must discard the idea—although I have certainly had to consider it—of withdrawing any troops from the central region. We have to find the additional troops necessary to make our support to the Northern flank a stronger proposition by other means.

I must say that the situation in Western Europe and in the Eastern Atlantic has changed dramatically since we undertook in the Brussels Treaty to maintain an Army force of 55,000 men and a tactical air force in the Central Region, because, first, Germany has not only developed her own powerful defence forces but has proved herself to be the richest, the most successful, and one of the staunchest members of NATO in Europe, apart from America. The Soviet Navy is now immensely strong in the Eastern Atlantic and around our coastline, and a final change which we must consider is that North Sea oil has extended our defence commitments far out into the North Sea. Therefore, I submit that it is imperative that the imbalance which will result from this Defence Review must be repaired so that we are not so fully committed to our one option.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, as a professional soldier, I should like to endorse what has been said by previous speakers about the great importance of this Defence White Paper. It is important in two respects. It makes major changes in our defence policy, our strategy, and it makes severe reductions in the strength and fighting potential of our Armed Forces. In my younger days, in the 1920s, we were taught in the Army that the British defence strategy rested on three pillars: the Low Countries, the Suez Canal, and Singapore. Translating those areas into modern terms it is NATO, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. That strategic philosophy was based on our total dependence on world trade and on the overseas sources of supplies of food and raw materials. In those respects, I do not think that any changes have taken place as of today. Perhaps the only change is that, added to the importance of unimpeded use of the sea routes, we must add unimpeded use of the air routes across the world.

If I may take these in the reverse order in which I have mentioned them, may I start with South-East Asia? We have now opted out completely, but its vulnerability, as has already been pointed out by other noble Lords, has increased with the American evacuation of Vietnam. The Thais, I believe, under pressure will go the way they have gone in the past, the way of the wind, and that will expose Malaya and Singapore to the threat which has been so well described by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. Further still there lie Australia and New Zealand. We are unable to do anything under these new arrangements to help our friends in those parts of the world. I fully understand that in our straitened circumstances we must cut our coat according to our cloth, but I would urge Her Majesty's Government not to lose sight of the importance of those areas and of our connections with them, not to lose sight of the dangerous position in which they will undoubtedly shortly be placed and be prepared, in the event of an emergency, to produce and give help in case of need or should it be sought, and that we can only do from our now reduced forces in Western Europe. We have a continuing responsibility and interest in that part of the world.

I come to the Middle East. Since I was taught that the Suez Canal was a vital pillar of British strategy, the emphasis, with the increased importance of oil, has shifted to the Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Cape route. Despite the bonus that we hope to get from the North Sea oil, I maintain that the sea and air routes through and over the Indian Ocean will still be of great importance to us and our friends. There will be the great importance of access to the sources of oil and free transit of the oil which will mainly go to the West round the Cape. I strongly hoped that the Government's policy in regard to that part of the world would include a continuing British maritime presence in the Indian Ocean. I think it is perfecly possible to improve the situation in the Indian Ocean to our benefit in another way. If our high moral principles enable us to pursue a policy of détente and co-operation with Russia, why cannot we do so with South Africa? If we were able to come to good arrangements with South Africa, they could substantially help to adjust the balance of military power in the Mediterranean. But this calls for complete co-operation and understanding in due course between us and the South African Government.

In considering NATO, I would remind your Lordships of what has already been said—that the NATO front stretches from the Arctic to the Caucasus; the centre is only part of it. I agree with the Government's policy to give priority to our contribution to NATO, and I use the word "priority" deliberately; not complete concentration over everything else in our defence strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, has already emphasised the weakness and dangers presented by the present dissension, disagreement and disturbance on the Southern flank of NATO. I have not been very impressed, I must admit, by Governmental policy in this country in recent years over the situation in Cyprus, leading up to the present disagreement and dissension between Turkey and Greece. I believe that the British Government should pursue a much more vigorous and active policy in trying to sort out these problems and troubles and that we should not just leave them to other people. I know the difficulties and as your Lordships know, I know something about Cyprus, and I am sure that a more vigorous and active policy from the very beginning, from the time we signed the London-Zurich Agreement, in making sure that that was kept and that the Constitution was properly carried through, might well have avoided the present situation. I appreciate that it is no good jobbing back, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government must exert all their efforts to produce a solution of the Cyprus problem and get agreement between Greece and Turkey so that they can once again become fully active and valuable members of NATO and thus help on the Southern flank. The Northern flank I am less acquainted with, but the importance of that was emphasised by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart.

NATO is therefore in danger on both flanks and now in the rear. Recent developments in Portugal have produced a threat there. I need hardly remind your Lordships that one of the major steps in the destruction of Napoleon's dream of a European Empire was Wellington's operations based on Portugal, and woe betide NATO if it finds itself with yet another front on the Pyrenees. Mention has been made of what might happen in Yugoslavia. These are all important matters which have a strong political connotation and it is not for me to express views about it in a military way, but I suggest that the Governments concerned within NATO have to work very hard indeed to prevent a serious threat from developing to the rear of NATO and the threat to the Southern flank increasing and further erosion taking place. I do not make any apology for glancing briefly over the world in this way because, in my experience, it is impossible to see our own defence problems in perspective unless we review the world situation as a whole, and that I have done. I hope I have pointed out some of the political actions which should or could or must be taken if our defence strategy is to be effective.

I come to the Army. The cuts are severe and will be painful, and they could be damaging both to morale and operational efficiency. When I first read the White Paper I was very concerned indeed by the cuts in the Army, but since then I have had the benefit of attending a full day's briefing for senior retired officers, organised by the Chief of the General Staff and conducted by him and his military colleagues on the Army Board. They explained to us what the Army is doing to compensate for the cuts in manpower and the cutback in the weapons programme in terms of increased efficiency. I am satisfied that following the old Army principle, the Army is intent on doing and will be doing the best it can with what it has—with what it has left, anyway—through increased efficiency.

But there are certain important implications which should be borne in mind. As your Lordships will be aware, the Army owns a lot of ironmongery and possesses a great deal of real estate, but it is a human organisation and it is the human element that is all important. It is important for the future of the Army for its efficiency, morale and confidence, that the Government do everything that is necessary to maintain standards of skill, performance, character and integrity among all ranks. That means that conditions and terms of service, pay, amenities and the rest must not be allowed to fall in standard. In fact, they will need to be increased as time goes on. I was glad to hear that Her Majesty's Government had accepted the recent recommendations of the Review Body on Armed Forces Pay, but the position will need watching, with regular reviews, to ensure that these standards are maintained.

That leads me on to this point: change in what is called the span of command, the elimination of the brigade level of command. Like many other noble Lords, I have had personal experience of command at a number of different levels, in fact most levels, only excluding brigade level, curiously enough, and I know something of the strain and stress of commanding troops in battle and the strains that are imposed, for example, on a divisional commander. Under the new arrangement a divisional commander will have, I think, five battle groups to handle. In addition he will have his ancillary troops—gunners, sappers and his logistic centre. He will have his corps commander behind him, pushing and shoving and wanting to know this, that and the other. This demands a high standard of physical and mental robustness, of resource and calmness and coolness. That goes all the way down the chain to the troop commander and the private soldier. The implications from these changes in operational organisation are for me that the standard of character, intelligence and skill at arms and ability must be maintained and increased.

The cuts in equipment will have the same effect. The more you are denied the full range of up-to-date equipment the better use you have to make of what you have. You must have a higher standard of efficiency in the weapons that remain to you. That means that to reach that standard of efficiency and to keep it there must be no cheeseparing whatsoever in the supply of training facilities, ammunition, mileage for vehicles and so on. That is very important in improving efficiency in relation to manpower. The Army will have to rely to an increasing extent on the TAVR and it is essential that Her Majesty's Government make it clear that they accept this and recognise that they will have to rely on the TAVR—that we all rely on the TAVR—to make a major contribution to our defence system. It must be made clear that the TAVR has the full support of the Government of the day and that they will do all they can to encourage our young men and women to join it.

I come now to the Gurkhas. I regret very much indeed that Her Majesty's Government have decided to reduce the strength of the Brigade of Gurkhas by one battalion. They are infantry of a standard second to none, and in my estimation we cannot afford to do without them, especially as the Sultan of Brunei—as has already been said by another noble Lord—has agreed to pay every penny of the cost of keeping the battalion in being and it is now stationed in Brunei. I cannot understand why it is necessary to cut one battalion. I know that the General Staff feel that the Brigade of Gurkhas should take their share of the cuts that are being imposed on the Army as a whole. But the Gurkhas are in a peculiarly important position, and by ceasing to maintain the Brigade of Gurkhas at their present strength we are not only depriving ourselves of an excellent body of men—versatile, adaptable, splendid fighters—but we are also causing some loss of the indirect support which we give to that not particularly rich or well placed country, Nepal.

My Lords, every organisation has a critical mass. This is the basis of its credibility in terms of its ability to carry out its functions and discharge its responsibilities. I agree with the noble Lord. Lord Shinwell, that it is a good thing that the cuts now taking place, or which are about to take place, are to be spread over a period, but I would remind your Lordships that you cannot treat the Armed Forces as you treat your fire—you cannot turn on the taps of manpower and materials and expect them to improve rapidly in strength and in fighting capacity. It takes time. It is a good thing that the cuts are to be spread over a period of years. This will enable changes to be made, although they will take time. In my view these cuts will reduce the Armed Forces of the Crown to the bottom of the bracket of credibility. I would urge Her Majesty's Government to watch the situation very closely and carefully and be prepared to take immediate action to redress the situation if the world situation changes in a way that would demand the increased availability of forces on our part or if there was evidence of serious damage being caused to the morale and efficiency of the Armed Forces.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I want to limit my very brief remarks this afternoon to the maritime aspects of defence. The White Paper gives me an overall impression of modest size and dwindling force, up to date and efficient but too small for the job it has to do and therefore leaning heavily on NATO, which itself is insufficiently armed for its job. I think the best way of dealing with this subject is to comment very briefly, and in the main favourably, on a few of the more important points referred to in the White Paper, and then to comment less favourably on the proposed size and deployment of the Fleet. Though this does not arise from the White Paper, it is very good indeed to hear that two more "Invincibles" have been approved, together with the Harriers to go with them. I am glad, too, to hear that they appear to have changed their type name from "through deck command cruiser" to "anti-submarine cruiser", which to me seems more appropriate and is also easier to say. I hope, and expect, that they will be a great improvement on the old "Tiger" class which I understand they will succeed.

I am also very glad to read that our submarine building programme is to be concentrated entirely on nuclear-powered submarines. They are, of course, very expensive, but as one who has spent many years in submarines I can say without fear of contradiction that they are marvellous ships and worth every penny. I am thankful, too, to read that a modern and improved submarine-launched torpedo, the Tigerfish, has entered service. We have waited a long time for it, and I very much hope that it will come up to expectations. Next on my list is the Type 42 guided missile destroyer "Sheffield", which has just been commissioned. I have heard a lot about her and it sounds as if she is a first-class little ship. What is more important is that there are five more to follow on after her.

Now, my Lords, for redundancies. They are bound to follow a reduction in manpower, although the Navy, thank goodness, has got off fairly lightly this time. Judging by previous experience, I am quite sure that the Ministry of Defence will handle the matter sympathetically and successfully They have done it before on more than one occasion, and I feel sure they will do it again and that there need be no anxiety on this score. The pity of it is that Service personnel are now bound to lose confidence in their political masters. For some years a big publicity campaign has been conducted to popularise the Services and to improve recruiting. With these new and unexpected reductions, most of the good it has done will go overboard.

I shall now say a word about North Sea oil. As the years go by, this will become more and more important. It will be a very attractive target for possible enemies. I do not know the techniques of defending these targets, but I am sure that they will have to be very effective. We are given a glimpse of how this is done on page 36 of the White Paper, but the wording leads me to suppose that the measures are limited to a form of peacetime policing, rather than a full-blooded naval defence against wartime attack. I should have liked to hear something about that today, though I do not ask for detailed information this afternoon as I take it that it is still on the classified list.

I come now to the size and deployment of the Fleet. Like my noble friend Lord Balniel, I have never much cared for the tying of the size of our Forces to the country's gross national product, which is what the White Paper indicates on Page 4. Of course cost comes into it, and the White Paper naturally points that out, but surely the safety of our seaborne trade must be the true yardstick. As I see it, that trade, particularly in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, will shortly be almost entirely unprotected. Over the last 18 years, I have addressed your Lordships during defence debates and, in general, I have drawn attention to the importance of our oil imports from the Persian Gulf. With North Sea oil now coming along, Gulf oil will become less important and North Sea oil more important; but, even so, for some years to come, we shall still require substantial oil imports from the Gulf. There are other vital imports also, such as rubber and tin from Malaysia and an immense trade with Australia and New Zealand, most of which comes home through the Indian Ocean.

As the White Paper tells us, NATO will continue to be the hinge on which our maritime defence depends. In future, the main strength of the Fleet will be concentrated in the Eastern Atlantic and the English Channel. At the same time, we must bear in mind the unpleasant possibility that our allies may not invariably be ready and willing to come to our aid just when we need them most. We were on our own in the last war for an uncomfortably long time. At the moment, Turkey, Greece and even Portugal look rather uncertain as allies and the Southern flank of NATO is not as firmly held as we should like. As I read it, by next year the Royal Navy will have completely withdrawn from the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, Already, a substantial Russian Fleet has arrived to take its place. There are Press reports of stockpiling of naval surface to surface missiles in Somalia, and a communications station has been set up on the island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden. I hear that there is now talk of the possibility of a base being set up at Cam Ranh Bay in the South China Sea. With the reopening of the Suez Canal in about a fortnight's time, the Russians will have largely solved their problems of maritime mobility and flexibility.

This seems a dangerous time to be reducing our forces. I do not doubt that Her Majesty's Government have their own good reasons for withdrawing our maritime forces from all the more distant quarters of the world. Defence costs will be reduced, and overstretch in home waters will be eased and these are both important matters. Do not let us forget, however, that having reduced our Fleet and having withdrawn from our more distant stations we cannot expand again at short notice. It takes five years to build new ships and years to recruit and train crews, and in that time the Russians could easily bring our trade to a standstill and dictate their own terms. Surely, it is clear that our maritime forces must be kept available, fully manned, trained and on or near their war stations and not at five years' notice. Yet, with our eyes wide open, we now plan the drastic reduction of our Fleet and its virtual withdrawal from all foreign waters. I understand the argument but I cannot agree with it. A powerful Russian Fleet has not been built for fun.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, just over a fortnight ago, I asked a Starred Question as to what, if any, commitment we had to Thailand and Malaysia following the recent events in Vietnam. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, was having considerable difficulty in answering the innumerable supplementaries, but he tried to imply that we should stick by our bond but that the Government's idea of honouring our military commitment was to have consultations.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, trotted out the old and outmoded riposte about being policemen to the world. I could not agree more with him that that concept went out many years ago. We need not be policemen to the world but, surely, with the noble Lord's importance in the world of platinum, he should realise that we need to provide some sort of escort, if nothing else, for our trade. In fact, I doubt whether any of our politicians would be prepared to cross his heart and say that there were anywhere in the world where he would be prepared to come out of his moral straitjacket and put up any resistance at all against those forces which specialise in totalitarian liberation.

As other noble Lords have done, I take Yugoslavia as an example. As an Australian-born Member of your Lordships' House, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, for mentioning the country of my birth. Because of that I am taking Yugoslavia rather than Australia as my example. In Yugoslavia, under Tito's brand of Communism, there is at least some sort of religious toleration and decentralisation. The country is practically surrounded by centrist régimes. What do the Government think will happen when Tito dies, an event which cannot be far distant? When the Russians move in, probably under the guise of Bulgarian claims, to protect the country from the forces of reaction, as they did in Hungary in 1958 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, what will the Government do? Doubtless they will hold consultations. Then there will be a repetition of the stiff diplomatic notes that have been so successful in halting Communist aggression in the past. After all, we do not want to police the world. We do no want to become involved in any nasty little wars, do we? We're all right, Jack! We have justice, freedom, et cetera, on our side.

Of course there is Henry Kissinger's détente—the international version of the social contract—on our side. What price Neville Chamberlain? With a Warsaw Pact 6 to 1 infantry superiority and a 3 to 1 tank superiority over NATO and the biggest navy the world has ever known hanging around our prospective oil fields, no wonder the Tribune group takes the line it does on defence, especially as NATO can confound the Communists by Greek and Turkish solidarity on the Southern Flank, and with our oldest ally staunchly guarding the window of the Atlantic—like Hell!—and with the United States prepared—and I quote to pay any price, bear any burden in the fight for freedom, how can we lose, especially with the Government's grim determination to have defence forces second only to Andorra.

My Lords, the biggest mistake made by any Government in this country was the abolition of National Service. From that time dated the "mods and rockers", the "bovver" boys, gang warfare, and football hooligans, and it signalled the end of national, individual and industrial discipline—


Would the noble Lord please give way for just a moment? I am very grateful to him. One must not assume that because a country has conscription it will not have "mods and rockers". I remember the riots in Paris, with students and others. Because we have a voluntary Army, we must not make the assumption that that is the only reason why we have a few "mods and rockers" enjoying themselves.


But from the strategic and tactical point of view it got rid of that essential for national defence—adequate reserves. This has been touched on by the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley.

Then came Healey, who finished off the remaining reserves by truncating the Territorial Army; and for good measure that Labour Government abolished a good and working civil defence. I maintain that the irresponsibility is now very clearly seen. What is the position 30 years after VE Day? We should be grateful that peace has been kept in Europe, apart, of course, from Russian aggression in Hungary and Czechoslavakia, and Stalin's attempt in 1948 to freeze the Western Allies out of Berlin. We stood firm then under a Labour Prime Minister and have since loyally backed NATO.

But now the Government are under attack from their Left-Wing, who are not satisfied with the pitiable state to which we have been reduced, for no matter what cuts are made they ask for more. They profess to regard unemployment as a sin, but are always anxious to put out of work the men in the Forces and the thousands who work for defence in other spheres. They think we can scrap our nuclear weapons, decimate the Fleet, and leave ourselves without allies or bases, relying doubtless on the Americans, whom they continually deride, to save us.

My Lords, I turn from the strategic to the particular. Let us first take Northern Ireland. To my mind we should have had a United Kingdom mobile riot police to nip like situations in the bud—whether they be IRA thugs or the International Socialists "rent-a-crowd" chaps, such as we saw in the building strike. But having sent in the Army, we shoud have done the job properly. We could learn a thing or two here from the Russians. If we had shot half a dozen in that first provocative march we would have saved a thousand casualties since. As it is, we send our soldiers in, with their restrictive yellow cards in their pockets, and waste £400 million a year of good taxpayers' money to keep them bashing off at each other and ourselves into the bargain. Where has it got us? Look at their last election. Look at their nice little habit of kneecapping—I see there were 83 Fenians and 39 "Prots" last year. Nice people!

I should like to say to the politicians: "you are ruddy lucky to have the Army you have". The fact is that the professional rightly despises politicians and gets on with the job, however distasteful. The GOC was quite right to make the remarks he did—it is his soldiers who are killed as a result of the politicians' mistakes. Yet the same hunch of "lefties" howled for his head. If it is any comfort to the Government, I tell your Lordships that my information from Lisburn is that the soldier prefers this bunch to the previous bunch of politicians.

What I want to protest about is the insulting remuneration and compensation you pay to the Serviceman in that part of the world. How squalid to haggle over the price of a body! But the bitterness in the Forces is caused by the fact that the IRA families have been compensated while so many soldiers' cases are outstanding. To halt this effrontery the Government should announce that no compensation is to be paid to the families of killed or mained extremists until there is peace; and no more nonsensical legal prosecutions, as in the case of Corporal Foxglove and Second Lieutenant Willoughby, whose father is not here at the moment. The families of the two young soldiers killed by the Guildford IRA bombs were paid less than it costs to train a recruit to the standard of a trained soldier, while in Northern Ireland you pay them 50p a day extra—taxed. Those sent to remove the rubbish in Glasgow got less than a quarter of those who were threatening the city's health, but they did the job better, quicker and more efficiently. The troops who co-operate with the police in the exercises at Heathrow—especially at weekends, such as when King Hussein arrived recently—get less than the police and do not get overtime. An officer, who spent the last two years at headquarters in Northern Ireland, and is now stationed on the outskirts of London District, had to go to a conference on Northern Ireland, near Wilton. What did he do? He had to take a "clapped-out" Landrover, which did 15 miles to the gallon—to waste a whole day, whereas if he had been paid a reasonable allowance, he could have taken his own car which did 30 miles to the gallon. But for using his own car on Government business he is paid only 2p per mile, which does not compare all that favourably with your Lordships' 7.7p.

There are other penny-pinching arrangements. You cut the establishments of training depots, so much so that they cannot do their job without borrowing good NCOs from the serving units. This is an old story; it has happened before. But it is awful that it is happening again. There has been more than one reference today—the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, did so—about the new idea of cutting out brigade headquarters. You hoodwink your allies to the effect that your numbers and formations are right, but you move that equivalent from the distant planners to the man with the baked bean tin. It saves the pay of a couple of brigadiers. But does it work?

By 1984 we will be the laughing stock of our allies, since in the defence cuts we have scrapped the Vixen scout car and will still be using the Ferret, which came into service in 1952. No wonder the soldier says: "What's the point?" Thank God you have at last decided to have the Sea Harrier. Make sure the Navy fly them! If you want to save on overheads, then have a Fleet Air Arm and an Army Air Corps, as in America.

Your Lordships may remember that not long ago the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and I tried to stop a publican having his licence renewed on the grounds that he discriminated against Servicemen. We failed, but we thought that the publicity had done some good. But no! On 9th May, early in the evening, two sergeants, dressed in collars and ties and three-piece suits, went into the Greyhound—that is the name of the pub. They were asked if they were soldiers, and on answering in the affirmative, were evicted. If I give to the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate the details of this matter, would he see that the culprit is dealt with? If I was still serving I should take the matter into my own hands, but soldiers today are better disciplined than we were.

Surely if the Prime Minister has a right to quote Kipling—as he did recently—I may be allowed to quote just two small verses: I went into a public house to get a pint o'beer The publican he ups and says We serve no Redcoats here'. The girls be'ind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I 'Oh, its Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' Tommy go away' But it's 'Thank you, Mr. Atkins, when the band begins to play'. I went into a theatre as sober as could be, They gave a drunk civilian room, but a'dn't none for me. They sent me to the gallery, or round the music 'alts, But when it comes to fighting. Lord, they'll shove me in the stalls". You know the rest of that, my Lords. What I object to is that we pass extensive legislation to stop discrimination on grounds of race, religion, creed or colour, and yet we permit discrimination against our own Servicemen. I wonder that his pub is still standing. I'd tar and feather the b—.

Finally, my Lords, this latest pay award. One of the recent scandals of Servicemen's pay has been that some of the lower-paid married men have had to put in for supplementary benefits in order to live. Before this award the "buzz" was that the increase would be just enough to stop him having to claim supplementary benefits. That means—and if this is true I should like confirmation—that the chap would end up where he was before. I hope that that is wrong. Furthermore, is it true that a married soldier's rent has gone up 70 per cent.? Knowing who rules this country, would it not be a simple method of adjudicating on Servicemen's pay to say, "Tie it to the miners' pay!" Mr. Gormley has just told us that they will never be other than "top of the pops". Do their tied house rents go up every time they get a pay rise? My Lords, I suppose I must declare my interest. I am the father-in-law of a sailor and the father of a soldier, and I am getting a bit worried and anxious about how they are going to keep me in my old age.

6.13 p.m.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, need worry about his old age. I have a suspicion that there are plenty of people ready to rally round. There will always be room, at least in most rational societies, for his particular blend of Australian common sense, well-informed knowledge and invective—for that has its place in our society and in our deliberations. I am prepared to pay for that the very small price of his almost total lack of understanding of Northern Ireland politics. But, my Lords, we cannot have it both ways. He will forgive me if I do not follow him further in the ramifications of his speech, but I want to be very brief.

I am not going to say anything in detail about the White Paper, except that I should like to ask a question on a point which has been touched on by my noble friend Lord Balniel, and considerably more heavily so by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding; that is, the matter of the Gurkha battalion in Brunei. I wish to ask this direct question to which I hope the Minister will give an answer when he winds up. Why is the Gurkha battalion being withdrawn from Brunei? That is all. He must know the answer, so may we please have it?

My Lords, I think that I am on the whole a cheerful type, but I confess that on this annual occasion—bi-annual this time—that I experience a falling of the spirits and of those who have earlier spoken I find myself more in tune with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, than perhaps with any other. That great patriot speaks with sadness, and I experience sadness as well; and it is greater this year than it has been before—there is always a touch of it—which arises from a sense of frustration. Defence White Papers are, on the whole, frustrating in my experience. They are, presumably, to the Minister who composes them and certainly are to your Lordships as a whole, whether or not we individually experience this frustration. We discuss and criticise them, but we are quite certain it will not make the slightest difference. Somebody in the other place said that these matters are discussed more authoritatively in this place; but still it is all banging against the wall" for nothing will be done. There is this curious feeling of unreality which comes from the fact that interest is one-sided.

The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said that both Houses are always thin for a defence debate, but it is a curiously one-sided debate as well. In this debate the Government have only one supporter left on the Back Benches. They might have started off with two—or somebody who had never heard Lord Shinwell speak on defence before might have supposed this—but he is on our side, so there only remains the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek.


How does the noble Earl know that?

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, I do not know. That leaves the noble Lord as the only Back Bencher on the other side whose name is still on the list of speakers. What he is going to say, I do not know. If he does not support the Government, they will have no friends whatever in this House. That is perfectly all right with me.

But, my Lords, this is not a matter for joking. This White Paper comes out surrounded by an aura almost of disaster. That has not happened before. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred to its background of an exceptionally sombre economic environment. We all know about that. That is not what this debate is about; I am speaking about something else. He also said that we must demonstrate and maintain our confidence in our allies. All right, my Lords! But it is equally important that we should ensure, if we can, that our allies will demonstrate and maintain their confidence in us. Will they? Does this White Paper give them any reason to do any such thing? I confess that for my own part I cannot believe that it does.

The reason, which is peculiar to this White Paper, is this. The Government have demonstrated—in fact they have almost stated, but not in so many words—that they no longer believe in the sanctity of international treaties. By proposing to hold a referendum on the Common Market, they have stated that a treaty—the Treaty of Accession—shall be unilaterally denounced if some small majority of persons in the United Kingdom says so. This is in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister himself has declared himself to be in favour of the Treaty and that we should maintain it. There is nothing against it as a treaty. I am not interested in the least in the arguments for or against it, and neither has that anything to do with this debate. What has something to do with the debate is the fact that if the British Government—and this implies in the eyes of persons overseas the British people—are prepared for some totally inadequate reason (as it must appear to them) to denounce an important international treaty signed and ratified by Parliament, what faith will they put on any British Government's signature again?

This appears to me to be a situation of almost total tragedy for this nation. I do not think it has been very much mentioned in the debate, except perhaps in a casual way. I would not mention it now if it were not for the fact that J believe it is contributing to the undermining of our whole status vis-é-vis NATO and the United States and the defence of the West against possible aggression elsewhere.

I cannot say this without imputing shame to the authors of this act. I would if I could, but I cannot do it. I do not understand the situation. The people responsible for this action are honourable men, and yet they do this. We stand now degraded in the eyes of the world in terms of honour. Can the Government in connection with this White Paper, with their defence policies, with their support of NATO, do anything to restore confidence to make it perfectly plain that they really intend never to go back on their defence commitments? I do not believe, if pressure were put on them hard enough—and it will be in the next couple of years—that the Government would not go back on these defence agreements. My Lords, I beseech the Government to think what they can do to bolster up their own credibility and restore the confidence of our allies and our friends.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Earl. We travelled together in the Far East and he made excellent contributions in an international conference in Tokyo, strung through as usual with his wisdom and a little of his background of Irish sense of humour. I could not gather what he was driving at in the last moments of his speech. It is unfortunate that there are only two speakers on this side of the House who have taken part. Maybe that is due to the fact that the House of Lords is full of noble and gallant Lords who have served their country well, with bravery and courage in the Army, Navy and Air Force. I find it fascinating in the year 1975 to listen to analyses of strategy and logistics that are as old as the hills. Let me analyse some of this and, with deference and humility, put a few points of view which may differ.

I thrilled to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. As long ago as 1960, I wrote about this problem; I tried to write with understanding, according to the limits of my ability, about the use of nuclear weapons. We had better understand what we are talking about. It is clear that the White Paper extends our nuclear activities. It is not sure what we are doing about Polaris, but it is driving out into more nuclear involvement. The future of Britain's Polaris fleet is still something of a mystery, but on 11th February the honourable gentleman the Minister of Defence, said: We are not purchasing Poseidon. We are not MIRV-ing the warheads"—[Official Report; Commons; col. 187]. Military equipment, like scientific equipment, is full of these acronyms. Nine people out of 10 do not take the trouble to look up what they mean. He continued: We are not embarking upon a new generation of strategic missiles. But we are maintaining the effectiveness of the present generation. The present generation is as old as Adam. How is this to be done? On 13th January it was hinted that a nuclear test should be taken seriously.

It is noted, too, that we are spending £554 million on research and development. We are not spending less, it has been increased from the £418 million which it was in 1973/74. Do not let us run away with the idea that we have made great cuts, because in 1972 the noble Earl's Government, which was in charge of this country then, cut defence by £290 million. I will now pose a question. Are noble Lords who have been speaking today against cuts in defence? There is no answer from noble Lords. But they ask us to map the entire world with ships and submarines and, in some cases, strategic missiles. Let us understand the reality. The Opposition now accept that it is a fair statement of their case right at the beginning to say they, too, do not object to cuts in defence. Their own Party, when in power, did it. It is no part of today's case that there can be no saving on defence.

In 1601, the poor old soldiers in the front line—a lot of Welsh soldiers who were the last to run away—were fighting for the Tudors. I realised the other day that they received sixpence a day, but had to pay for their own gunpowder. We are getting to that position in the way we are talking today. The Opposition—not the Government—have a tendency to romance. They are the romantics in war. They still find it difficult to cope with and understand what the late President Eisenhower, in his Report to Congress in 1960, called the, "Revolution of Rising Expectations." That was his dynamic phrase redolent with what is happening all over the world. You cannot stop it. It is, as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, implied, the logic of history. He used some beautiful dialectics about expense. I wish he had had time to develop that argument. If ever he lectures on it, I shall waddle along to listen to it. He referred to the expense of modern sophisticated instruments and the implication of society with its modern tooling up.

The United States of America tried to fight the Vietnam war—and I went there many times—with computers, but there are times when human flesh and blood mystifies mechanics. Napoleon's armies fought on unpaid for months and years hungry, because they had belief. Let us get rid of the view that wherever we see a revolution of awakening expectation it is always "Commies" who have started it. Twenty million people died in the battle of Stalingrad and in the battles in Leningrad, not because they were Communist but for Mother Russia as much as for Communism. We were alone for a year in the war without the Russians or the Americans—and here one has to pay tribute to the Churchillian leadership at that moment. But the Russians at that moment saved what we now call civilisation, or they saved the Free World. So when we are talking about détente and the arms race, is there anything sloppy in trying to get a modus vivendi with a nation that lost 20 million dead and had 30 million casualties? Did any noble Lord here see Stalingrad after those battles?

I am now more years away from the Second World War, than I was from the First World War when the second war started. But no sensible defence policy can be evolved whenever the revolution of rising expectations explodes into violence against authoritarian régimes. Where does NATO fall down? Noble Lords must face this and must "waffle". Why did Portugal collapse? I do not want to write a thesis on this, but it collapsed because it was an authoritarian régime. In fact, a fellow with the same name as mine who kept a pub in Brecon was put in the "calaboose" in Lisbon, because they thought they had arrested me! He had gone with his dear wife for a holiday. I received a telegram saying, "Davies, save me!" I dare not go into his pub in Brecon now in case he does something to me! Although Portugal is one of our oldest allies, I did not like the look of things. I have no illusions. Portugal collapsed because it refused to apply to its system of Government what we supposed NATO was to defend—the Free World. I will not jump to conclusions because I have not analysed the situation, but things in Portugal at the moment are very dangerous indeed. We are told that that flank of NATO needs to be safe, but it looks as if NATO is crumbling.

To turn now to the other end of the world, the Greek colonels: are our boys going into battle singing songs of freedom for the Greek colonels? And Ankara—are they chewing Turkish delight there and dying cheerfully? For goodness sake!, let us look at the realities of both ends of the NATO span. We must look at them carefully. It seems that something must be done and we have tried to do it. Look at the lesson in Asia. Asia can be won for democracy. I once made a speech in Boston with 26 mounted police on motorbikes outside. It was in the McCarthy days, after I had been round China, and was talking about it. It may be just Celtic romance, but had the United States spent one-tenth of their energy, cash and treasure on subsidising the régime of Bao Dai or Ho Chi Minh, but not Diem, they could have modified any venomous directions of a revolution. But the economic aid did not come. Fifty-five thousand troops lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were wounded.

The noble Earl and I stood bareheaded in Korea by the graves of some of our troops—the Gloucesters and others—who had given their lives in the battle of North Korea. And now I warn this House. We have had a statement from President Ford that if North Korea moves down into South Korea, they will move in. Have noble Lords on both sides of this House forgotten the statement of the 16 nations who fought in Korea? They said, "Never again". The very beginning of that war is still in shadow and we are waiting for the documents so that we may one day be able to look into it. When one is asking what will happen in the future and whether this Government will honour the White Paper, let us see what President Eisenhower said. I wrote this some time ago but it is still relevant. While the nuclear frenzies of the 'fifties were slowly disappearing, during a Press conference on 11th March 1959 the dilemma of NATO was presented to President Eisenhower and he was asked whether the United States would use nuclear weapons to defend Free Berlin. He said: Well, I don't know how you could free anything with nuclear weapons. That was Eisenhower, not Davies of Leek.

He then said: I think we might as well understand this: I didn't say that nuclear war is a complete impossibility, but a nuclear war as a general thing looks to me a self-defeating thing to all of us. I then added: As NATO Commander in 1951–52, Eisenhower urged the West to increase their divisions to 96. Then he added: What would you do with more ground forces in Europe? He added: We are certainly not going to fight a ground war in Europe. I think politicians and those who write all these articles about survival at the Institute of Strategic Studies had better find out what the United States' attitude is to a ground war in Europe before we commit ourselves to nations, willy-nilly, I do not want to make an anti-Common Market speech at the present time, but we had better find out where the Common Market stands on this issue.

If my noble friends can stand the strain for just a few more minutes, I would say that another question arises: does the Left Wing believe in defence? Do not say "No", because Left, Right and Centre—it would be wicked not to agree—died as much for Britain as for some of their philosophical and ideological beliefs. That is true of every country in the world. Of course we believe in defence—and the Russians are most Left of all; and the Chinese believe in it more than anybody. So let us get rid of the idea that the Left does not believe. What I am against is the Left that wants to give in to another Left and have philosophies imposed on it by force.

Another of those vague "slogan" questions imputes subversive motives to all who do not accept the main elements of our acquisitive society. We have heard quite a lot about this. I was accused the other day of knowing quite a bit about platinum. When we are talking about defence and soldiers, I ask what is the good of defence if your economic base is not sound? You must ask where the sources of your raw materials are. Where are the oils, greases and fats coming from?—Asia, Africa and Latin America. Let us have the figures. Ninety-eight per cent. of the industrial diamonds—and anybody who is an engineer knows their use—come from Africa to the Western bloc; Columbium tantalum, 80 per cent.; cobalt, 70 per cent.; platinum, 57 per cent.; chromite, 38 per cent.; manganese—and you cannot make the kind of steel we want without it—38 per cent.; copper, 25 per cent.; antimony, 38 per cent.; and another lot of copper comes from Latin America, as well as uranium. One jet plane needs chrome, nickel, aluminium, copper and cobalt, and the United States of America, before it can build a jet plane, has to import 92 per cent, of its chrome, 97 per cent. of its nickel, 76 per cent. of its aluminium, 35 per cent. of its copper and 88 per cent. of its cobalt. I will not bore the House by proceeding any further with those statistics; but they show the reality of the world we are moving into. Unless we have our fingers on the essential materials that can keep the machines ticking over, what is the good of rearmament at home without a strong economic base? I agree that food, steel and routes to those areas must be maintained.

I do not like it, because there is a nasty element. I try to discipline myself when I listen to some of the wonderful speeches that are made here, but I feel sorry when grobian remarks are made by so-called cultured people such as lawyers and judges. One grobian remark was made by a noble Lord about Anthony Wedgwood Benn. It was quoted in the Financial Times and splashed by other newspapers. I will not name the noble Lord, but he said: The Industry Secretary is a man who wants to divide and destroy Britain's civilised and democratic way of life". For God's sake, come off it! This is absolutely wicked—that a noble Lord who once said, "We are the masters now", should pass a remark like that. I expected higher things from Members of this House. Hyperbolic language with intent to deceive is wrong; and it is not helping us in the difficult world in which we are living.

The old balance-of-power theory—many noble Lords pay lip-service to this—has given way to the balance of terror, and the balance of terror has increased our nuclear involvement. The world could now commit suicide by atomic accident alone. If somebody does some elementary mathematics on a series of chance happenings, taking into account the number of atomic bases in the world, and calculates the possibility of an atomic accident, he will find that every day the possibility increases. Only a month or so ago at the Institute of Technology at Massachusetts two students made an atomic bomb. I remember saying not so long ago that ultimately individuals would do this because the know-how is around and about. Before we think of exploring overseas, let us defend our own moat. We might use our Army here in watching the growth of terrorism. And has NATO ever lost any atomic bombs? I do not want the answer, but has it? These are questions that need to be thought about.

Our policy of negotiation from strength now suddenly depends as much as anything not merely on arms but on our economic background. How many pacts have there been not one of which stands up—CENTO, SEATO? NATO is in dire trouble. Some people are still saying we are backing them up. We are buried in a sarcophagus containing dead military commitments under old military treaties built up when we still thought we had an Empire. Let us look to our own moat and make our garment according to the cloth we have. I agree with Lieutenant-General Sir John Cowley, Controller of Munitions years ago, who told the world: "Unless we bring the nuclear deterrent into play we are bound to be beaten. But if we bring it into play we are bound to commit suicide." That is the impasse that modern nuclear society faces. Whether you like the Russians, or even Fascists who are strong, or whether I like them, the time has come when men must get around the table and seek détente. Otherwise, my Lords, civilisation is finished.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, I find it most difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, because I want to speak merely on some details in the Defence White Paper. I do not wish to speak on strategy or such matters but on the human part of the Army—the men who are in it and upon whom we must rely. I was not very taken with the White Paper when I read it. I felt that the Army particularly, of which I know most, having suffered from some of these White Papers, was not getting a very good deal. To have an Army at all, irrespective of its location, there must be people who are prepared to make a career of it. I read this Defence White Paper with the greatest unhappiness because one sees that a career future as outlined in its proposals is rapidly vanishing. Until a career future can be provided in the Services as one can provide it, or should he able to, in industry, the Services will never get their best people. By doing away with formations such as brigades and so forth the whole career structure is being cut out. I feel that this is not going to be a help to recruitment in any way at all.

I was interested to read in the Defence White Paper what was said on the subject of recruiting. I understand that recruiting is just about holding its own in adult manpower but is making a fast advance in apprentices. The White Paper also states that the Forces, particularly the Army, are experiencing a high loss at the break age of 18. One has the feeling that the present industrial upsets and the recession we are experiencing are having the same effect as recessions had in the past. As soon as we had a recession we also had an increase in recruiting for the Army because it was a job that was there and would bring in money. I hope we are not going through that experience again. I hope that the Army is not taking on apprentices and training them so that they are getting their training with pay while hoping that things in industry will be looking up again at the end of their service: they can then break with the Services at 18 and will be able to use their Service training in industry. I have no complaint against the fact that training in the Army can be used in industry. During the time I was in the Services I was involved in many negotiations to try to get trade structures accepted throughout industry. It was an enormous help—and still is, no doubt—in times when redundancies had to be declared in various parts of the Army, to have Service men accepted in industry. Nevertheless, I feel that, particularly in times of inflation and rising unemployment, we must watch with the greatest care to ensure that the Services are not merely going to be used by people to carry them over a bad period.

As has been said by a number of noble Lords, we are coming to rely more and more on the TAVR. I have a horrible feeling—I hope I am wrong—that this is where I came in. I joined the Territorial Army in 1926 and went right through with it up to the outbreak of war. I have a horrible suspicion that we are almost back into 1937, 1938 and 1939; and that while it is easy to write in the White Paper that the Territorial Army and its units will reinforce the British Army of the Rhine (which, incidentally, I do not think has ever been up to the strength it should have been), the units we propose to provide may not be in a suitable state to do so. I do not know their present strength, but I hope that it is rising. But even if you have the men in the TAVR, it is quite useless to train them if you cannot train them with the weapons they are expected to use if they ever have to reinforce BAOR. It would be very nice to hear from the Government that the training of the TAVR is in line with the training of BAOR in terms of the weapons which the men will be expected to use.

I have the greatest admiration for the TAVR and for all the people who volunteer for it. I think that they volunteer out of a great sense of responsibility and interest. Also, they get a great deal of amusement and fun out of it—which is half the reason why people volunteer for the TAVR. May I ask the Government to try to keep the training of the TAVR up to the level of the Regular Army and provide them with the same equipment.

I have no more to say, but may I apologise to the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate if I am not in my place then. The reason is a long-standing engagement which I must attend.

6.52 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I am rather diffident about joining in a debate in this House where so many noble Lords have much better knowledge about defence than I have. However, having taken part in many defence debates in the other place, and having for 19 years been a Member of Parliament for Devonport. I have had the opportunity to study the subject and have had very good teachers in the members of the Armed Forces. Also, I have seen a great many changes. I served on the WEU and, together with other noble Lords. I am depressed that still we do not have standardisation of equipment. Twice I have been thrown across from ship to ship on a jackstay. I have been submerged in a submarine. Also, I have visited Malaysia, Singapore, Aden, Borneo, Belize, Guyana, Bahrain, Devonport (New Zealand), Malta and Gibraltar, and have worked with Her Majesty's Services in Indonesia. I have been to Ulster several times and this has made me aware of what was said by the noble Lord who opened this debate; namely, that we have the most marvellous men and women in the Armed Forces and are very well served by them. We should be very proud of the long-standing and loyal service which they have given to their country, in helping both to keep and to restore the peace in many countries.

I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. He referred to the overseas work of the Armed Forces when we had an Empire. I saw them in action in the Borneo confrontation. In Ulster I have seen the patrolling parties. I was there one day when a soldier whom I had met in Aden turned to me and said, "I met you in Aden, Miss. Things were very different there. I knew who my enemy was. In Ulster, of course, I do not." This work is very difficult, and I then realised even more the great service that these men and women are giving to this country.

In regard to Service pay, I should be grateful if we could be told what expenses these men will have to bear in regard to their food, rent and so on. It has been brought to my notice that quite a number of them have had difficulty in the past. They would like to be assured that all of this extra pay will not be taken away from them because of the additional expenses they will have to bear. Also, may I ask whether widows will receive any extra money. As noble Lords know, there are still quite a number of widows who do not receive any pension. I should be grateful if I could be told whether their position will be considered in the future.

As I understand it, there is a political commitment to the NATO Alliance. However, this White Paper pays only lip service to that commitment. A maritime strategy designed to support the essential requirements of the Alliance is essential to the needs of the United Kingdom. It seems to me that the threat to our security is our position on the seas rather than the frontiers of Western Europe. As has been mentioned already, we need to protect our oil rigs, our Merchant Navy and our island home. It is unlikely that Russia will attack Western Europe, because this would mean that she would eventually provoke a nuclear strike. As has been intimated by several noble Lords, she can get all she wants by political means. Russia has shown that at sea she can apply unhindered all the pressure she wishes. This is what worries me.

My reason for saying this is to consider the sea route from London to Hong Kong via the Suez Canal as it was in 1966, and as it is now in 1975. In less than a decade, the West—and the United Kingdom in particular—has surrendered to Russia the ability to influence the situation along this route. Paragraph 42 on page 15 of the White Paper says: … enter into discussions to terminate the Simonstown agreement". I think this is most unfortunate. It is doing its best to make the route around the Cape equally perilous. We know, for instance, how many ships go around the Cape route. We know that 12,000 ships a year visit South African ports; 66 ships a day carry 1 million tons of oil to the West, passing Cape Town; and 57 per cent. of these ships belong to NATO nations. Germany started the battle of the Atlantic with only 66 submarines, and we know what damage she did. By the 1980s, Russia will have 255 submarines. May I suggest that we shall have to consider our future naval strategy.

As the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has come back, having seen them in action I should like to support his plea for the Gurkhas. In Borneo they received fantastically low pay. In many cases, they were quite unable to send back money to their families. In the past, they have not been treated as well as they should have been. The noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, was the chairman of a very fine fund which raised £1 million to help them. Again, we are going to pay lip service to helping the developing countries. At no expense to this country, we have allowed these gallant men to earn their living in this noble way and to serve this country well. It is disgraceful action that we are taking, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will change their mind.

At the invitation of Air Vice-Marshal Hodges, who is an excellent officer, I visited the Headquarters of AFCENT in February. There is a German General in command—General Ernst Ferber. He is about to leave, and he has given great service. But not for the first time I began to wonder about NATO. There are 15 sovereign nations and jointly they have to decide on any action they are going to take. As I understand it, no member country can impose its will on another and decisions have to be taken by common consent. I am quite certain that 15 nations will realise that this is an extremely lengthy process. After 25 years, regrettably, we shall still have—and this was discussed time and time again in WEU—weapons that are not interchangeable.

There is a magazine called Vigilance, which is an AFCENT document, and at the conclusion of an article it is stated: There is a satisfactory balance in the field of nuclear forces in the central region. We know that in the field of conventional forces the ratio is much to the disadvantage of NATO". Somerset Maugham wrote that if a nation values anything more than freedom it will lose its freedom, and the irony is that if it is comfort or money that it values more it will lose that, too. What Somerset Maugham said many years ago is equally valid today. As the maritime policy of a seafaring nation, I think we need to have a continuing presence in the local points of interest and be able to support these points should the need arise. This point was made very well by the noble and gallant Lord Harding of Petherton. In other words, if we are not careful the millions of pounds we are now spending on defence will be wasted, because should the need arise we would not have an effective force.

To go back to what NATO has in the way of nuclear weapons, we used to have the advantage here. Under the SALT agreement, however, the United States of America is allowed 1,054 ICBMs, 710 of them for their 44 submarines, but for some unknown reason Russia was allowed to have 1,618 ICBMs and they had 62 submarines, which were allowed 950 of these. I understand that the Americans conceded this, because they considered they had the advantage with the number of MIRVs. I personally think this was most unwise and I hope that in the next SALT talks, as we understand that America is not going to build any more of the ICBMs and Russia is bringing forward new ones, that they will get a better balance. I do not know how Minuteman is getting on, and whether they are going to put all their money into that. Therefore, the cut that we in this country are making of over £3,000 million in respect of research will be unfortunate, because if it is necessary to send people into battle they should surely have the best possible equipment.

I should like to support what the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, said in regard to the Royal Marines. It is most unfortunate, in view of what I have said previously, that the strength of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Marines should be included in these economies, because according to the White Paper shore support and training will be lowered which will cause unemployment. I should have thought the last thing the Government would want to do now is to create more unemployment, especially as they have to give these people unemployment pay. Surely it is better to keep them in jobs and pay them to be active.

The Royal Marines won the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for improving community relations in Ulster, and in Belfast in particular, and of course they have been in Cyprus, the West Indies, the Falkland Islands and Malta. They have trained in Norway, they have done NATO exercises in Norway, they have recently spent five weeks training in Canada and they have done exercises in Denmark, France, Malta, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles. Norway and Turkey. I wish to suggest that this is more than any other regiment has done and is a magnificent record. But tonight I am not going to suggest which other regiment might be cut instead, because I got into trouble the other day for doing so at a meeting.

If it would be of any interest to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who asked about the figures of GNP, and if the Minister does not have them, I have a very handy gadget which gives details of all 15 countries. By turning it round you can see exactly how many people they have in the Army, Navy and Air Force and what is their per capita in dollars. I got this in February so it is fairly up to date, and I should be pleased to show it to any noble Lord who wishes to see it. I should now like to refer to the sum of £260 million spent on medical and educational services and married Service quarters. The first two, I should have thought, ought to have been credited to the normal Departments dealing with them. That is even more important in regard to health, because so many of the Service hospitals take in civilians which will cut down the expenditure on Her Majesty's Services.

I should now like to ask one or two questions. First, what is the expectation of life of HMS "Ark Royal"? The White Paper refers to the late 'seventies. We have heard so many times that the poor old "Ark Royal" is to be abolished. She is now our only aircraft carrier, she is in very good fettle and I hope she will not be abolished until there is absolutely no need for her. In regard to the recruitment of cadet forces, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, is not in the Chamber, because recruiting here is extremely low—only 130,000. I think that more advertising for recruits should be done in order to get these young people into the Services. Once they are in they enjoy it very much, as I know, because for a long time I have taken an interest in cadets for the Royal Marines. Are the Government going to think any more about the question of the school leaving age? Twenty per cent. of the school leavers at the age of 15 went into the Services.

I have done quite a study of this subject, not only in the West Country but also in the London area, and I understand that there are a great many youngsters who do not attend school once they get to the age of 16, because they feel they cannot learn any more, as they put it. If they were told that they could leave school if they went into one of the Services—and we know that they have the option after a period to opt out if they do not like it—they would get a very good education there. I have been to some of these educational establishments. There are very few pupils to a class, with excellent teachers and, in many cases, I think the young people would prefer this to being unemployed or roaming the streets.

I should also like to ask about the future of the WRNS, which is mentioned on page 66 of the White Paper. Dame Vera Laughton Matthews fought very hard for the WRNS to come under the Naval Discipline Act. She thought it would increase their status, but their Lordships at that time were not ready to accept her advice because they thought the Act was a hard one, designed for men at sea. But the WRNS would very much like to know what is to be their position in the future, and whether they will get the rate for the job; in other words, are they going to get equal pay, like the civilians, as they do not enjoy this at the present time.

There is an excellent report by Lord Seebohm in regard to the Naval Welfare Committee. This would be an excellent subject for an adjournment debate if we had one in this House. I do not anticipate getting answers today, but there is one point on the 29 recommendations which I should like to mention in particular. It was suggested that the period of separation for all serving members should be reduced to six months at the earliest opportunity, and I hope this may be done. This would help with recruitment. A lot of men marry very young nowadays and their wives do not like them to be away too long. In the olden days, as one knows from the older people still living in the Service towns, they often went three years without seeing their husbands, but that is not the attitude of young people today. Perhaps mention might be made of something that has not been referred to today; namely, the through-deck cruisers and how they are progressing.

Finally, there is another point which has not been mentioned; namely, the Royal Dockyards. There seem to be some very contradictory statements in the White Paper. On page 76, at paragraph 27, the Statement says: The Royal Dockyards are having difficulty in recruiting and retaining labour. It will be necessary to continue and intensify measures to improve recruitment and productivity if the Dockyards are to undertake their planned programmes successfully. It appears that £150 million will be spent on Devonport for a complex to deal with specialised refitting of Leanders and later class vessels. When finished it will be the most up-to-date nuclear submarine dockyard in the world. In paragraph 74 on page 23, the Statement says: It is intended to maintain the capacity of the Royal Dockyards at about the present level … This load will not be greatly reduced … Some spare capacity is expected to arise, mainly from 1977–78 onwards. So why do we want extra recruits if this is going to happen? It will only cause more redundancy. The Statement then says: It is not possible to predict how it will be filled … Suitable additional repayment work will also be undertaken. In filling spare capacity full regard will be paid to the possible effects on employment elsewhere. This is extremely complicated, as I am sure your Lordships will agree.

My Lords, paragraph 27 points out the need to improve recruitment. In paragraph 29 it says: Improvements to management systems include new procedures for dockyard resources allocation, refit planning and production control. Action is being taken to introduce a separate Dockyard Vote into the Defence Estimates of 1976–77. This makes it all the more worrying for those working in the yards. The paragraph continues: This will provide clearer accountability to Parliament and an added stimulus to efficiency". There is a need for improvement, as the recent strike in Devonport has shown.

With reference to apprentices, will apprentices continue to be taken on, both men and women? Is this a good form of recruiting? Possibly I shall not receive answers tonight to all these points, but I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will write to me, because some of these matters are important to the people working in these areas.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, several noble Lords have made speeches which have covered the points which I was going to raise, so my own speech will be very much shorter. The noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal in opening remarked that defence must make its fair contribution. According to my figures, which admittedly I got from the newspapers, the 1974 Defence survey figure was £3,818 million, and in fact comes fourth or fifth on the list. I cannot understand, and never have understood, why education, which costs a good deal more than defence, £4,753 million, health on which is spent £4,093 million and roads on which are spent £1,781 million, should not share the cuts. I entirely agree with the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that, for economic reasons we can all understand, the cuts have to be made. But this is a question which I have asked at least twice before, and which has never been answered. Defence is a fundamental function of government. Most would admit that our country is worth defending, as we have shown twice in this century. Why should we not have annual Statements on education, health and roads? They then could be debated, as we debate defence.

My Lords, when threatened, this country has always fought with allies. I am not talking about overseas wars. Twice in this century our existence has been threatened, and we have had loyal allies. But it is equally important to be a good ally in peace as well as in war. We are now a bad ally, at a time when our allies in NATO have similar economic difficulties. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, recently reminded us that the balance of world power, which the noble Lord, Lord Davis of Leek, does not seem to like as an expression, has been changed by the withdrawal of the United States from Indo-China. One thing that is good about the Statement is the clear summary of Soviet superiority in all major weapons. They also have people who are prepared to die for their country. We make a great mistake if we underestimate them. We in this country have people willing to die for their country, but we have always taken this slightly superior view.

Turning to NATO strategy, the Secretary of State for Defence went to considerable trouble in this White Paper to emphasise that no reductions have been made on the Central Region. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, that he entirely supported this theory. But fortress lines or their equivalent defensive lines have often been turned on flanks, and it is the flanks we ought to be worrying about. The honourable gentleman Mr. Younger in another place mentioned the flanks in considerably more detail, for example in the Eastern Mediterranean. We have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, a great deal about the Northern flank North of Norway; but I should like to emphasise the row going on between Turkey and Greece, two countries really at loggerheads. In addition, the Soviets have friendly countries in Damascus, Syria, Egypt, Libya, all along the South coast of the Mediterranean.

We should remind ourselves that Northern Ireland takes six BAOR units. I take this opportunity of congratulating the soldiers in Northern Ireland on their excellent and brave behaviour. Observing that a unit of 500 men is away from BAOR for six months, if not more, for the tour of duty, and there is one month for leave and two months for training at the beginning, we must realise that this adds up to a large amount of time. Also, it is a 10 per cent., 15 per cent., or even possibly a 20 per cent., reduction in BAOR strength—I cannot work it out.

The defence of sea communications gets a mention for the very first time. I should like to congratulate whoever wrote the White Paper for this. But there is also a warning, which I will quote. The White Paper says: If the balance of maritime power were allowed to shift so far in favour of the Warsaw Pact that it had an evident ability in a period of tension to isolate Europe by sea, the effect on allied confidence and political cohesion would be profound. I entirely agree with that. This is a polite way of saying that the United Kingdom might in fact starve. Western Europe would not starve because it is agriculturally self-supporting. We have had such a thing happen twice in this century, and we would risk starvation. Therefore, this is not the time to reduce our already small Royal Navy.

My Lords, figures have been repeated. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, if my figures differ from hers. According to me, Hitler had 71 submarines when he started, and we had 158 escorts which we quickly increased to 400. Today, the position is much worse. The Soviets have 257 submarines in their Western fleets, while we have 52 escorts which we are reducing to 45.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I was referring only to the Atlantic.


Well, my Lords, we agree with each other; it is a terrible threat. There is no inferiority like this in the Central Region. It is bad enough there, but it is nothing like what the Navy have to face. Therefore, I consider that the Navy should get top priority. Similarly, RAF Transport Command is to be halved, according to this White Paper. If we have any regard for the flanks, this force of 115 aircraft, of which only one-third are on duty and operational every day and which cannot be replaced, according to my information, by civilian aircraft, ought to be looked at again very carefully. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in what he said in today's letter to the Daily Telegraph. Having spoken about the Soviet Union not involving war et cetera, he then made this point: The enormous armed strength of the Soviet Union could be successfully employed to encourage the formation of pro-Soviet Governments in Western Europe, and thus in effect to extend the Soviet Empire to the Eastern shores of the Atlantic. We have seen it happen in the Far East. The Russians have not had any casualties; they have only provided weapons, and they have achieved their aims.

To go outside Europe, when the United States has suffered a defeat by the Communists, and therefore a change in the balance of power has taken place, we have decided to withdraw our small and cheap contribution to the Five-power defence arrangement, which was five frigates East of Suez, one battalion group, one squadron of Nimrods and a few helicopters. This, by the way, cost only £10 million, according to present figures. This is why, in my opinion, the Asian Foreign Ministers who met last week in Kuala Lumpur made a mistake when they ought possibly to be asked to join. The reviewed the situation and said that they thought that Vietnam and Cambodia Communists are not in a hurry, by the way. They waited ten years for the United States to clear out of South Vietnam. The only thing they recognise is strength. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who said, "I want to prevent more South Vietnams".

It is not very long ago, 1966, when the same Government wrote a Review to end all Reviews, in which they said: We believe it is right that Britain should continue to maintain a military presence in this area. They wrote that in 1966 and they said—they have done it again now, quite rightly—that we must look at least a decade ahead, because gestating a weapon and indeed forecasting the policy takes that time. They also forecast that the greatest danger to peace might lie in the next decade in the Far East and Southern Asia. Why have they changed their minds? I have asked this question before; I did not get an answer. Since 1966, when this was written, there have been constant wars, either in the Middle East or the Far East. In fact the only place there has not been a war has been in the NATO area. Why have we withdrawn our small contribution to the Five-power defence arrangement? Although we continue to promise to consult, we are not taking an active part, a visible part, any more. We are, in my opinion, letting down our allies, not only in NATO but also in the Far East. One thing is quite clear that finance has taken over. I sympathise with the Government in this matter, of course, but the fact remains, and they have written it down quite clearly in paragraph 30 of Chapter I of the 1975 Review: …. capabilities must be met from within the total of resources which the Government decided last December it could in future allocate to defence. Clearly finance has come before military commitments. They pretended in paragraph 9 earlier on that it was the other way round, but it is obviously not so.

I should like now to come to my conclusions, which are three. The Defence Review, through no fault of the Government, is already out of date owing to events; it ought to be re-written. It is a dangerous document because it weakens our defences. The second conclusion is that the spending Departments should share the cuts, and the third conclusion is that the Royal Navy should be top priority in NATO, as NATO flanks are vulnerable and the United Kingdom can still starve. I finish with a quotation from President Ford. Quite recently he said: Defence spending provides no benefit except the most precious benefit of all, the freedom of our country.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, we have heard many excellent speeches on defence this afternoon. I think most of your Lordships will agree with me that we heard two outstanding speeches, one from the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, and one from the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. When the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was speaking, I felt that it was a pity that there are not more patriotic Englishmen in this country like him. My Lords, the prime duty of any Government is to defend and protect its people. If it does not provide this essential, everything else becomes totally irrelevant. There are, as we all know, two super-powers, and as a result I hope and I think that the probability of a nuclear war is very remote; I hope I am not optimistic. But, unfortunately, the door is left open for local, and maybe not so local, conventional wars, and in this I include terrorism and sabotage by subversives. In my humble opinion, we ought to try to deal with these probabilities by taking them into account in three ways. I must agree with other noble Lords that if anything our NATO contribution should be increased, and also that more weapons should be, to use that horrible word, standardised. I will not go into that any more.

The second point that arises is the acute lack of mobility and flexibility of the Navy and the Army. I find it strange that in the White Paper no mention whatsoever is made of large infantry-carrying helicopters. The tank today, as we know, is highly vulnerable to missiles. I agree that there are great arguments that one can have helicopter-borne antitank missiles; but surely, if trouble breaks out it is much better to get your soldiers quickly on to the ground where the trouble is and let them use the missiles from the ground.

The third point I want to raise has been brought forward by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal and other noble Lords, and is what I consider our Achilles heel, which is our own oil. At the moment there are 30 rigs in existence and 19 are under construction, and they cover a vast area of 107,630 square kilo-metres, which is an awful lot of ocean. I agree that this can be broken down into five areas: the North Sea; the West of the Shetlands; the Celtic Sea; the Irish Sea; and Cardigan—perhaps you can call the Irish Sea and Cardigan one. In the Defence White Paper one paragraph only in Chapter 2, paragraph 49, so far as I can make out, deals with our off-shire protection.

As the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal said, we have five new ships being built, some of our Air Force aircraft are being modified for offshore surveillance, and certain Royal Air Force and Navy patrols are going to be augmented by two additional vessels this year: the tug "Reward", and the Scottish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's protection vessel. This is like a policeman on a country beat being given a bicycle, when what he needs is a fast patrol car. May I suggest that we might think about trying to form a separate offshore force on the lines of the United States and Canadian coastguards, comprised of some frigates—I cannot tell your Lordships the number—which need not necessarily be conventionally fitted out, but could act more or less as a police force, and perhaps two flotillas (if not two, one flotilla) of high-speed E type boats or hydrofoils capable of 50 knots or more, because in the incidence of an oil rig being in danger speed is of the essence. Could we have a few Maritime Harriers based on certain selected oil rigs? These could be used both offensively and defensively, and also for air-sea rescue. Then if we could have a few helicopters, perhaps Sea Kings, I should sleep a lot happier at night and feel that our oil would be slightly safer.

I raise one point that I think has not been mentioned. It might be very expensive, but would it not be a good idea to put a satellite permanently in orbit over the North Sea fields, watching them the whole time? The expected investment to be made in oil by 1982 will come to approximately £12½ billion. I should have thought that with a total sum of money invested of £12,000 million, we should spend a little more in looking after that oil. It has been said before this afternoon that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to protect the United Kingdom. To me, as to other noble Lords, it seems like Alice in Wonderland that we should limit our budget to £x million because it is x per cent. of our gross national product. We must decide what is needed to defend our country and we must then find a way to finance it. Perhaps we can export some arms to help pay for it. Surely if the national interest decrees that we need to spend a larger percentage on defence, we must do it. If there is no other way of doing it, we must cut back on other Government expenditure, whether on nationalisation or whatever it may be. The last point I should like to make is that I think that Lord Shinwell's proposal, in his Question yesterday and what he said this afternoon, of an all-Party defence committee is an excellent idea.

7.36 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal was at his blandest when he introduced the debate this afternoon. I will not go so far as to say that I am accusing him of being smug, but I thought he was trying to assure us that in difficult circumstances all was well in the defence field. Certainly we have to congratulate the Minister of Defence for the skill with which he has navigated his rapidly diminishing ship through the Scylla of his Party's Left Wing on the one hand and the Charybdis of Mr. Healey's budgetary cuts on the other.

Some two weeks ago we had in this House a rather sombre economic debate. It is not therefore altogether surprising that it has been a somewhat sombre debate this afternoon on the question of defence, as we face the fact that we are in grave difficulty in affording an adequate shield to cover the rather wide-flung body of our interests. We are basing our debate on a masterly White Paper, and we have started by considering whether the size of our defence effort is sufficient. There seems to have been a considerable measure of agreement from all sides that it is probably dangerous for us to deploy the relative GNP argument when we compare our effort with those of our allies. One can always set against this the per capita argument, but surely my noble friend Lord Balniel and many others were right in saying that these are not the proper criteria on which we should assess what our effort ought to be. This must be determined by our assessment of the relative magnitude of the threat we face.

I will not go through all the figures which have been deployed. We have heard them many times before in this House. The fact is that we are under a considerable threat, and we have to face the fact that we probably cannot defend ourselves in the way we should like to do. Although I found Lord Shinwell's massive assertion of our independence inspiring, I am sorry to say that I think there is an element of unrealism about that kind of attitude. Perhaps it is trailing my coat if I say that it is the same kind of unrealistic sovereignty argument that we sometimes hear deployed in a rather different debate. Then we ask ourselves: Are we doing the right thing? Are we defining the right objectives? I will come back to that point in a moment. We go on to say, "Let us look at our equipment and, in our straitened circumstances, are we sure that we are getting the best value for money from our equipment." We then, as an extension of this argument, move on to the difficult question of how long we can afford to leave ordering equipment which frequently has a very long lead time; and always the technicians say, "If only you will give us another one or two years before placing your order we will be able to produce something a great deal better," and then the defence chiefs produce a splendid word called "slippage". It is a very useful word and is often deployed as meaning that things are late on schedule, which helps the budget but unfortunately they always cost more when they finally arrive, though sometimes they are a little more up to date.

We could argue, and the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, did argue, about the relative priorities that we should place on the essentials, but I think that, broadly speaking, we have to agree that the Defence White Paper is right in saying that our four principal priorities must be NATO, our own security, keeping open the East Atlantic, and looking to keeping bright the ultimate deterrent. This does not alter the fact that we all worry greatly about the flanks of NATO, which can be a threat to the centre; and a number of noble Lords on both sides have called attention to the real threat that exists to the trade routes and in particular the Indian Ocean, and this is probably exacerbated by the imminent opening of the Suez Canal.

There is one bright spot that now and then we have had played on the wall. It is the extremely difficult question of standardisation and rationalisation of the R and D between the various nations, particularly in NATO. It has been expressed in a number of ways, but I would broadly classify it as being what one might call the Eurogroup concept, and a number of figures have been bandied about. The suggestion seems to be that by standardisation one can save about 20 per cent. or get 20 per cent. more for the same money; and if I understand the argument correctly, we were also being told that one could save at least 20 per cent. in one's R and D, which is 50 per cent., and if one adds these two together it seems to me that one should be able to get about one-third more for the same money, if only we could do something about rationalisation. In varying degrees this argument was strongly deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman.

The Economist newspaper has an excellent article in the current issue on this very question, and it suggests that the United States is our biggest problem here. It suggests that the United States has dominated the defence field, will go on doing so and that this is a problem we have to tackle. Does the Minister believe this is true? If so, could he tell us whether the recent assertions in one Sunday newspaper, that we have lost out on our Rapier orders for export as a result of political pressures which the Americans were asked to exert by the defence industries in that country? This raises the fact that we have to recognise the enormous strength of these influences in the United States. Those who know anything about the way in which the American Government is run will be well aware that some of these great industries exert pressures which are, it is probably true to say, unheard of in this country. We have to recognise that fact.

We thank the Government for making the happy decision about the Harrier. For this we are all profoundly grateful. My personal frustration is that I was not in the Air Force long enough to get a ride in it, but any time the noble Lord wishes to issue an invitation I shall not be frightened to accept it. I was interested in some figures produced by the Hawker Siddeley workpeople themselves, who are suggesting—I thought that this was extremely indicative of the possibilities here—that the balance of payments return should be of the order of £300 million from Harrier export orders over the next 12 years, as against the £60 million which it will cost us for the Royal Navy Harriers, including the 24 production aircraft and spares for 10 years' service. If these figures are correct, they surely show the possibilities for this country in the export of high technology, if only we could sort out who is going to do what and concentrate on the what.

I wish at this point to make two pleas. Surely it is unrealistic to suggest that we can go on covering the whole field in order to maintain some semblance of independence. We must specialise and find a way of allocating different spheres of influence; goodness knows how we do it, but it must be done. The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, referred to his efforts, and I sincerely hope that those efforts are being pursued. I was delighted to hear the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, all calling for a note of realism in our attitude towards defence sales. I am bound to tell the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, that I believe that I have heard rather different messages from his Front Bench in the past, certainly so far as South Africa is concerned. At times we may not like selling arms to certain nations, and certainly the whole business of arms sales is not a particularly pleasant trade; but I do not believe that we are in a position to take a very high moral tone over this sort of thing when the country is in our sort of economic condition. Furthermore, I think that some of the attitudes over which we work ourselves into a lather are sometimes reasonably hypercritical. I hope that the Government will give every possible encouragement they can to defence sales within the Ministry and to defence sales by private firms, and I hope that we will not see a repetition of some of the many cases we have had in the past where this trade has been actively interfered with.

I have some specific questions to ask. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned a management review going on in the Ministry. Is this in any way going to affect the Hardman Report on the dispersal of staff? I see the noble Lord nodding his head.


I shook my head, my Lords.


My Lords, I also support the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, in asking for details on the question of family costs associated with Servicemen. This would help us to lay some of the accusations which are sometimes made against us. It would help us to identify the total human cost as distinct from the material cost in our Armed Forces. I was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, did not mention the enemy within. This question was raised by several noble Lords, and when we had a debate a few weeks back introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, was a little over-dismissive of the possibility of some kind of supporting force between the police and the military. I think this was one of the ideas that went through the plea of the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, for reserve forces, with particular emphasis on the contribution that they could make in the communications role, the vital nature of which all of us understand.

Then there was a question raised by a number of noble Lords and one noble Baroness—the Gurkhas in Brunei. If we are claiming that poverty is one reason why we are drawing in our horns and cannot do all the things we would wish to do, is it not strange to be turning down an opportunity to do somethng which we should like to do, and which would not cost us anything? The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton and the noble Baroness. Lady Vickers, all raised the question, which has been raised before in your Lordships' House—the security of the North Sea oilrigs. I think the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, first raised it and it was mentioned again by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, and I would wholly go along with the concept that we should have some form of small light forces made available. In the past we have shown great pre-eminence in the field of fast patrol boats, hovercraft and hydrofoils. Would this not be a great opportunity to do a good technical job and at the same time give ourselves a little more confidence in our ability to defend extremely vulnerable installations? So much for the specifics.

To return to a more general question, I believe that the extent to which we in this country are able to put our defence in a little watertight compartment, and deal with it as a separate issue, is not widely understood by our allies. Regrettably, as some noble Lords have said, it is a somewhat specialised branch of interest in Parliament and not many people pay attention to it. On the other hand, our allies in Europe, many of whom have been skilful or fortunate enough not to get themselves into the kind of economic trouble we are in, do not regard their defence in this way. They see it as part of a totality, embracing foreign policy as well as monetary and trade policy. I suggest that if they feel we are welshing on our commitments to the alliance, we must expect to find them looking askance at the idea of supporting us—and we are going to need the support, God knows!, of organisations like the International Monetary Fund. Let us bear in mind this difference of attitude, which is something of which we should be well aware.

Many of us feel that the insurance policy we are now taking out does not give us adequate cover. We probably have to accept that we cannot pay higher premiums, but let us recognise that the coverage we now have is the very barest minimum, and any talk of taking a further £100 million out of defence at this time would do irreparable damage to an already emaciated body. I cannot believe that £100 million would make a major contribution, in relation to the £23,000 million which we are spending annually. We have pared our defence down to the very bedrock. I hope the Government will say firmly, particularly to those on their own side, that this is indeed the end of the line in defence.

7.54 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know in how many defence debates I have taken part in your Lordships' House—they are becoming quite numerous. I hope your Lordships will not think that I am patronising when I say that this is one of the best and most interesting debates that I have heard. The experience and expertise deployed were outstanding, and I have found it extraordinarily interesting and stimulating. I will do my best to reply to the arguments put to me. First of all, may I say that I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, performed to perfection his function as the main critic of Government policy. He was temperate and constructive and did his duty in pointing out those areas in which he believed that the Government's policy fell short of perfection—as I am afraid we must always accept that all policies must fall short of perfection.

Before I launch into a discussion of the points raised in the debate I should like to answer as best I can the argument which he and other noble Lords deployed, that to try to base upon the gross national product a defence policy devoted to defence by your allies and not to the threat that you face is illogical. I believe that, stated crudely like that, it is illogical. Nevertheless, the defence effort that we, as a member of an alliance, are putting in is the best measure we can get. We are saying at the moment that we are spending something like 5½ per cent. of our gross national product, and over ten years we hope to reduce it to 4½ per cent. I also agree that there are other factors to be taken into consideration: the question of the comparison of per capita expenditure. This is interesting and important. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, queried whether we are comparing like with like when we talk about our expenditure on defence, considering that within the Defence Vote we have the cost of families, schools, pensions and many things that are related to defence but not in any way connected with the actual defence of the Realm. We tried to give some indication of the figure in Annex A of the Defence White Paper, but that is in rather large terms and I will try to get a common standard of judgment which I will send to the noble Lord. I believe some such standard exists when these matters are discussed within the alliance, and I will try to find out what it is.

I would also stress that the way in which we have tackled this review of our defence forces and the reduction of our resources does not involve a sudden cut. We are trying to move from one position to another with the minimum of disturbance, loss of morale and suffering to individuals. In fact we are talking of a 10-year period. Noble Lords will agree that none of us can peer 10 years into the future. If the threat should grow, obviously public concern will grow and willingness to spend on defence will also grow. The second point is that I am, in the longish term, the mid-term, quite optimistic about the solution of our economic problems. I know that the situation is politically and economically difficult; nevertheless, I am a firm believer in the common sense, capacity and resilience of the British people, and that it will not be too long before the immediate and severe economic problems will be mitigated, if not solved. Nothing has been done that will damage irrevocably the long-term strength of the Forces.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, mentioned the question of the critical mass, the point beyond which if you cut defence forces there is a quantum change and something goes fundamentally wrong with those forces. I know that this is a factor which has been taken into account during the Defence Review, and without doubt it will be watched most carefully. May I turn to the noble Lord's second point. I believe that morale, which people have not talked about, is fundamental. The noble Lord touched upon it early in his speech. There is the old remark about the ratio between morale and material—I believe it to be true. One can see in Vietnam that morale on one side was high and on the other side material was high, but it was morale that decided the day. While I agree that defence is not a subject which everybody talks about when they go home after a day's work, nevertheless I cannot believe that there is a lack of interest. I believe that recruitment would be in a very much worse state than it now is if national interest in defence were as low as people think.

In the circumstances, I feel that morale is not too bad, particularly as so many good young men are coming into the Forces. Admittedly, there is the influence of an unstable economic scene, but I do not believe that this is the main reason for the improvement in recruiting. I believe that many parents see in the Armed Forces an area where young men in their teens can get a first-class training, experience of life and a discipline which will last throughout their lives. For this reason, young men are being encouraged by their parents to go into the Armed Forces. I live quite close to the Army Apprentices' College and I know what goes on there. I am immensely encouraged by what I see of the quality of the young men there, and the very good reception figures which the College has at the moment.

It was interesting to hear the reactions of two of my noble friends. The morale of my noble friend Lord Shinwell seemed somewhat damaged by the present situation, but his reaction was to turn and fight. That is typical of the man, if I may say so. My noble friend Lord Davies of Leek also seemed to despair, but I did not quite catch the message. It was pure poetry but, at the end of the day, I was not quite certain what I was supposed to do.


There is nothing my noble friend can do.


My Lords, I hope my noble friend will not think it unkind if I say that he despaired and talked. However, that is another point. I myself do not despair because many people talk as if we were facing this threat alone—we are not. We are facing this threat in alliance with, if not the most powerful, one of the most powerful military nations in the world. As the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, said, America has had a very severe psychological shock, but it is politically and nationally powerful enough to overcome that shock and, indeed, at the end of the day it may prove beneficial. We are not facing these vast forces alone. We are facing them within a framework consisting of Europe, which has 250 million people, and the United States, which has 200 million people. Supported by these allies, as long as we do our best within our resources I do not despair.

I should like to touch on another point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, in his opening remarks. On this question of morale, I believe that the role of the TAVR is much more important than the simple one of providing a reinforcement capability. I believe that their presence in society at all levels throughout the country is part of the social machinery which maintains interest in defence. That is because, though people do not worry about whether we are buying Rapier or Roland or about the total Russian capability, they know that Willie belongs to a TAVR unit and they are interested. I believe that the importance of the TAVR is mirrored in a large number of other organisations, such as the Cadet Corps and, particularly, the University Air Squadrons. I believe we should not forget the importance of the University Air Squadrons because, within those fortresses of radical thoughts which are the universities, the University Air Squadrons shine as a bright light.

I should like to underline the support for the TAVR expressed by so many noble Lords. Those who are interested in the subject will know that there was a recruiting drive for the TAVR this spring. It is too early to evaluate the results, but we believe that the challenge to the TAVR provided by the cuts in the size of the Regular Army and the closer liaison which is being arranged between Regular reserve units, can only he to the good. I know the views of the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, and I will make certain that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State knows his views about recruiting up to the ceiling, even if it means that certain successful units over-recruit. Then, if we have a kind of second level TAVR, with transport and communications equipment, that would be a cheap method of introducing a very useful function into that organisation.

If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, correctly, I linked this point of reinforcement facility and movement with something he said. He asked whether we were really maintaining our strength in the centre at the level we said we were. The slight doubt which he cast arose, I believe, from the fact that, since so much of the reinforcement strength came from the reserve forces, and the TAVR in particular, we might, because of the cuts in our ability to transport troops, be weakening our strength in the centre. Did I understand the noble Lord correctly?


My Lords, that was not really my point, though it was on that theme. It was that the UKLMF, which I thought had a reinforcement capabity not only for the flanks but also for the centre, was being cut. I therefore wondered whether it was correct to say that we were completely keeping the strength of the central front. I ask this particularly because I believe we have given an undertaking to our allies not to reduce our forces while the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks are going on. It is the UKLMF, not the Territorial Army reserve with which I am concerned.


My Lords, I will bear that in mind. Of course this concept of using the TAVR to reinforce the troops on the flank was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart. He suggested that it was an area in which they might be particularly useful. I think we all agree on the importance of the role of these troops, particularly as they are an integral part of society, comparatively inexpensive and, more important still, built up of volunteers, in the best sense. They give their private time for little money in the service of their country and these always make the best soldiers.

To turn for a moment to the problems of equipment, I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, quite extraordinarily interesting. I intend to read the paper in the learned document which he mentioned, and I shall see whether it changes my views. I found his presentation of the problems of the cost of research and development in an age of increasing technology most interesting. He referred to the iron law of research and development. I am afraid there is a great deal of truth in that. The noble Lord's solution was what has always been my solution. As an alliance, we must get together and somehow agree to trust each other sufficiently so that we each perform specific roles and build specific types of equipment.

I had the interesting experience towards the end of my last incarnation at the Ministry of Defence of attending a Euro-Dinner, as they were then called. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then the Secretary of State for Defence, was trying to create a European entity within NATO. This idea has now struck roots and we have a Eurogroup. The roots drive down and start branching out and we have all sorts of organisations springing up in NATO. There is Euronad, Eurolog, and my favourite sub-organisation, Euro-Long Term, which is perhaps the most important of all. I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Shinwell who quite rightly pointed out that one really cannot have a rational equipment policy unless one can have an agreed strategy and agreed technical policies. You must know the sort of war you expect to fight and how you expect to fight it, before you can decide on the type of equipment which you will design in the long term. It is possibly the most important development so far that we now have an organisation within Eurogroup to try to decide how we in Europe will fight a future war, and therefore we can start deciding what is the equipment required to do it.

The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said that the first thing he would like to see is a central research department for this function, and that within this research department the work for development would be allocated among various member nations, and we would then standardise and thus cut unit costs of weapons because of long runs. Perhaps most important of all—but I think a long way ahead—is that we might reach the point where we have a European defence community. But, basically, trust is the beginning of all this. What we must do—my noble friend the Leader of the House raised this point—is try to build trust within allies, because from this trust comes everything else.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, in commenting on, and I think in supporting, this general view raised the question of a possible forecast of savings. Percentages have been bandied about, but I am personally convinced that the saving will be very high indeed if we can get a common logistic base. In my view, this is possibly the greatest strength of the Warsaw Pact countries. I would not say that morale is very good. I would not like to be a Russian General with the Poles to my left and the Czechs to my right. I would be looking sideways as much as looking forward. Nevertheless they have this immense advantage of a common logistic base.

I agree with another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal—and it touched on one made by my noble friend the Leader of the House—that we must get the two-way street across the Atlantic. It is a pity that the two-way street opened with the decision by the Americans to buy Roland rather than Rapier, particularly since Rapier is an operational weapon and Roland is about four years off. Nevertheless, perhaps this is the first car driving down the two-way highway and we will see more of it. Of course, standardisation within the Alliance means the United States as well as ourselves.

The third point which awakened great interest in the debate was the question of the flanks. I think we are in general agreement that the centre must hold. That was important. But I found it rather interesting that whereas the noble Earl. Lord Cathcart, was, if I may say, a Northern flank man, the rest—the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, and the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Harding of Petherton—were Southern flank men, which shows the sort of problem which drafters of defence policies have to face. Nevertheless, I think that noble Lords are right to draw attention to Norway, for instance, with its vast coastline, and its shared oil and gas resources. When we talk about British oil, we must not forget Norwegian oil, because I think it is the Frigg which delivers both to Norway and Britain, because it is a two-way traffic, and along the centre dividing line lie most of the great oil fields. Nevertheless, this fact must have been taken into consideration when the defence policy was being reshaped.

I have noted very carefully what the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, said about retaining certain mobile elements—marine commando, two brigades instead of one in the mobile forces, and so on. I shall ensure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State knows the views of the noble Earl, if he does not know them already. This has been a very useful discussion. I wish to point out that we are not leaving either Gibraltar or Cyprus, although we are reducing our involvement in Cyprus. The reason why we are leaving Malta is, in the main, because the Maltese wish us to go. Our treaty with Malta runs out in 1979 and we would have to leave then in any case. That, I assume, is the reason why the date for the run down of the 41 Commando must be based on this factor. I hope, with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, that we will be able to sort out this nonsensical situation in Cyprus, and restore an area of stability in that part of the world where we still have very vital interests, if only as a watching post to see the movements of Russian ships and aircraft throughout that vital area. Our facilities there enable us to do just that.

Time is moving on, my Lords, and I have spoken as long as 40 minutes. I have not quite recovered from the shame which came from that situation. However, as I said earlier, I believe that this is one of the most stimulating and interesting defence debates in which I have taken part. Where I have not been able to answer individual noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have taken part, I shall write to them in order to answer their points. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, for her understanding of the problem that people in my position face—

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for a moment. I gather that he is not to answer any more individual questions—


Just one or two. I shall now come to the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, regarding the question of the Gurkhas. I understand that this is not basically a problem of money. I quite agree that to keep the Gurkhas in Brunei would cost us nothing. The Defence Review was conducted primarily as a military exercise in which this Government's commitments and capabilities were examined in accordance with clear strategic priorities, and not just as a financial exercise. The main priority was the concentration of resources on our contribution to NATO and the defence of the United Kingdom, and all our non-NATO commitments were considered case by case against the strategic priorities.

Against this background we considered that we should be prepared to reduce or withdraw the forces deployed outside NATO, unless they were required to support our commitments on remaining dependent territories, where the political effects of withdrawal militate against such a step. It was the considered position of the Government that they did not consider Brunei should be treated as an exception and consequently proposed to implement the 1968 decisions subject to our consultations with the Sultan.

There are one or two other points I should like to answer immediately, again on the question of Mauritius. They are important points. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and one or two other noble Lords raised these points. We are retaining our right to use Diego Garcia. With regard to Gan and Mauritius, I suspect that noble Lords are concerned whether the Russians or some unfriendly or neutral Power may move in and take them. This problem has been the subject of discussions between Governments. Perhaps contingency plans exist should such a situation arise. But these particular bases are no longer required now that we are withdrawing into Europe as our main area of defence responsibility.

The noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, mentioned large helicopters. In the days when I was connected with the Royal Air Force this was a facility which we wished we had. Perhaps the large helicopter might be the best way of getting troops to a rig quickly, rather than the type of fast patrol craft which the noble Earl mentioned. I should have thought that there is no immediate risk of a military assault on rigs but there is a real possibility of some guerrilla movement, or some politically motivated attempt to damage our economy by landing on a rig to destroy it. I should have thought that a helicopter force might be the sort of troops that one might use for the purpose of defending a rig. The idea is interesting and I know that it will be noted. The suggestion of a force rather like the US Coastguard is interesting. I do not know to what extent a satellite could watch the movement of ships or aircraft. These are so sophisticated that I feel sure they could do it some day, if not now.

Finally, my Lords, may I join with the view of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, about the concept of an all-Party defence committee. In a sense one has it in the Select Committee on Expenditure. If it could be a promotional, rather than a critical, operation many would welcome it. I certainly would. My Lords, I think I have spoken enough. All that is left is to thank noble Lords for their contributions and to say how interesting and stimulating I found them.

On Question, Motion agreed to.