HL Deb 07 December 1977 vol 387 cc1620-733

3.4 p.m.

Lord CARRINGTON rose to move to resolve, That, in view of the increasing disparity in the conventional defence strengths of the Warsaw Pact and NATO Forces, this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to restore their planned defence cut of £267 million and honour their pledge to NATO to spend in real terms 3 per cent. more and to improve the remuneration of the Armed Forces in April, and, as soon as possible thereafter, to restore full comparability. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. I should like to thank in advance the formidable number of your Lordships, including two maiden speakers whom we welcome to the active ranks of this House, who have said that they are going to take part this afternoon.

Your Lordships will see that I am asking the Government for three things. First, to restore their most recent defence cut. I am not entirely sure about the figure of £267 million, but no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Peart, will put me right. I think that it may be nearer £300 million. Secondly, to honour the pledge that they made to NATO to aim to increase in real terms their contribution to the Alliance; and, lastly, to take steps as soon as possible to put right the pay of the Armed Forces. I ask for this in the context—as I say in my Motion—of the increasing disparity in conventional defence strengths of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO Forces.

I do not think that the Government will deny the truth of that last statement. It is obvious to all of us; it is a fact. Each year the Soviet Union increase their defence expenditure by something like 5 per cent. The Soviet Union spend between 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. of their gross national product on defence, nearly three times the NATO average. In real terms they spend something like 30 per cent. more than the United States. We in Britain spend about 5 per cent. of our gross national product on defence. There is no doubt that the gap in quality and capacity which was greatly in favour of NATO for many years after the war has diminished until it has very largely disappeared. Your Lordships will no doubt remember the paper written by the International Institute of Strategic Studies for this year in which it is stated that in general the pattern is one of a military balance moving steadily against the West.

Certainly in terms of quality, the money that the Russians have spent on research and development, which is now being translated into production, has transformed the capacity of their forces. There is a relentless growth in Soviet military power and capacity, and the preponderance of American strength in strategic nuclear weapons has dwindled to parity. The Soviet fleet—more modern than its potential adversaries—is a worldwide navy operating in all the oceans of the world, with bases in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, equipped now with aircraft carriers as well as both "hunter killer" and "missile firing" nuclear submarines.

In addition, the Warsaw Pact has a number of advantages over its NATO rival. It is centralised in the sense that geographically it can act much more quickly and is capable of more rapid reinforcement. By virtue of the dominance of the Soviet Union, its weapons are standardised and ours are not. Its manpower is much cheaper than that of the West, enabling a greater share of money available for research into and procurement of modern weapons. None of this is in dispute. The United States is becoming increasingly worried about this, and a reassessment of the strategic nuclear position, both as a result of growing Soviet power and SALT II talks, is taking place.

Not even British Secretaries of State in the Labour Government have sought to dispute the growing Soviet power. Indeed, in every White Paper and every speech made by a Labour Secretary for Defence there has been an emphasis on increasing Russian capability. Of course the White Papers—and perhaps the speeches—were written by the Ministry of Defence; but one had hoped that the Secretary of State actually believed what he was saying. But what was the response to all this? Last year they slashed nearly £600 million off the defence budget. This year the figure is £953 million and next year it will be just under £1,200 million. In total their planned reduction projected until 1983 is £8,400 million at 1966 prices. At first blush a somewhat remarkable response to the acknowledged increase in the threat from the potential aggressor.

There are other reasons for querying the wisdom of the Government's actions over defence expenditure. Not so very long ago, partly as a result of the Vietnam War and partly because of a growing belief that the financial responsibility undertaken by the United States Government in defence of the West was totally disproportionate to that of its NATO allies, there was a move in America to reduce their involvement in Europe unless there was a significant increase in European expenditure. It is fair to say that in 1972 and 1973 there was a response to that pressure. It would be a mistake to assume that their decisions to cut down on defence have gone unnoticed in the United States, or that our repeated further cuts in defence have not caused the greatest concern among our allies. Without American participation, NATO is as unreal as is the Warsaw Pact without the Russians.

We in Europe have no nuclear capability of a kind which would enable us either to withstand or deter the Soviet bloc. Without American involvement in Europe with ground forces, a number of our allies would not find it attractive or necessarily advantageous to remain in the Alliance, for it is the guarantee of American involvement that makes Western Europe secure. The Government should consider very carefully not just the military effect of their defence policy in terms of decreasing capability of British forces in equipment and numbers, and with that diminishing capability the effect that it has on the Alliance as a whole; they should also consider the effect it has on our allies, and particularly on the most important of them all.

President Carter, at the very outset of his term of office as President of the United States, attended the NATO Summit meeting in London and he put the United States, under him, wholeheartedly behind NATO. That was a most significant and welcome development. But he also made it abundantly plain on that occasion that further effort was needed on the part of the European allies to increase their spending to meet the increasing threat from the Soviet bloc. He asked for more, and subsequently it was agreed in Brussels that the aim should be to increase defence spending in real terms by 3 per cent. annually.

Among those who agreed to that were Her Majesty's present Government. I hope that the Secretary of State did not agree to that just to get himself out of a difficulty. Of course, it is easy to say that your aim is to increase by 3 per cent.: it does not commit you to anything. No doubt it would have been very difficult at that stage not to have gone along with the rest of the Alliance; but a solemn pledge of intention of that kind cannot just be ignored as easily as that, nor can the consequences to American commitments in Europe be glossed over on a play of words.

We should do equally well not to ignore the feelings of our European neighbours who have watched our contribution decline in these last four years. We in this country have always been the bastion of the European side of NATO. We have been regarded both as reliable and as a nation which will contribute with certainty and with sacrifice to the common aims of NATO. That is not the feeling that our allies have about us at the present time. Your Lordships will no doubt have noticed the acid rebuke made on behalf of NATO by Dr. Luns to the Government of this country. It will, of course, be said that all this has been due to our economic situation. I think it has been due just as much to the priorities which the Labour Party have given to the defence of this country—

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


My Lords, defence was the first area to be selected immediately after the Government were elected and it has taken a disproportionate share of the cuts ever since. I hope this afternoon that we shall not hear that old argument about how we spend more of our gross national product on defence than others. I have no doubt that we spend more on education than a number of other countries, or on roads; but is that a good reason for cutting down expenditure on education or roads? It is only a good reason if you believe that education and roads are a bad thing or, to put it another way, it is only because the Labour Government put a low priority and importance upon the defence and security of this country, in comparison with those other activities, that they single it out for special cuts.

It is futile to determine defence spending on the basis of a quite arbitrary mathematical formula based on GNP percentages. The aim should be to assess the nature of the threat and the resources other allies are making available, and then see what further contribution from the United Kingdom is necessary. I am absolutely sure that the Leader of the House will agree with that last remark; indeed, I am surprised that he is not already nodding, for those were the words of Mr. Mulley's deputy, Dr. Gilbert, at the Ministry of Defence, reported in the Financial Times on 23rd September, when seeking to rebut a pamphlet issued by the Labour Party called Sense about Defence.

Even so, let us suppose that the argument about the economy in these past four years was so overriding that what was done had to be done. In my Motion I am not seeking to restore the cuts in full; I am asking only for the last defence cuts to be restored and for the Government to honour, the year after this, their aim to spend 3 per cent. more in real terms. Is it really true that we cannot afford that? Is the economy not to grow in the future? Are we not assured by Government Ministers almost daily that an economic miracle has occurred? Thy country is in a much better shape to face the future than it has been at any other time in this decade", said the Prime Minister. By the end of next year", said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in one of his many speeches of recent years—and that means this year— we shall really be on our way to that so-called economic miracle". My Lords, either we have or we have not; you cannot have it both ways.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


Did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his recent Budget, increase public expenditure by £1,000 million next year? There was, of course, no mention of spending more on defence, but then defence does not loom very large in the Government's thinking. Yet £400 million, as I understand it, was to go to the construction industry. Would not an increase in the defence budget have provided almost as much employment? That is a theme which I think will be taken up by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing. What about shipbuilding? France and other countries build warships "on spec". If they sell them, well and good; if they do not, they are absorbed into the navy of the country concerned. Would not that be a better way of doing things than the rather doubtful deal with the Poles? We should in the end at least have got something which would be useful to this country. I remember, when I was Secretary of State for Defence at the time when we were worried about unemployment—which then involved less than two-thirds of the present numbers—doing precisely that, and ordering more warships to provide employment in the shipyards. Three per cent. of our defence budget is about £200 million. Is it really conceivable that a country with an economy as big as ours cannot afford such a comparatively small sum?

Lastly, I ask for the Government, at the earliest possible opportunity, which is next April, to improve the pay of the Armed Forces and, as soon thereafter as they can, to restore full comparability. There is no need in this House for me to labour the situation which has developed over the pay of the Armed Forces; it is well known. I must say that I do not understand why, if there has been fairness all round since the Labour Government were elected, the Forces seem to have done worse than anybody else, and I should be interested if the Leader of the House could explain this to me. I am told that even if the Government pay the Forces 10 per cent. more next April they will still be 30 per cent. behind in comparability with what they were before. In real terms, since the Labour Government were elected, the pay of a lieutenant-colonel has dropped by 18 per cent., that of a captain, 11 per cent.; a sergeant has dropped by 10½ per cent. and a private soldier by nearly 9 per cent. Yet we expect the Armed Services to do almost any job which other people in this country refuse to do or are unwilling to do.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


My Lords, they are not paid as well as the firemen; yet they are doing the firemen's job. They are suddenly sent to Bermuda; they have just come back from Northern Ireland, or they have just been at sea. They may be asked in the near future to carry out other tasks which striking workers are unwilling to do but which we expect the Services to do with discipline, with efficiency, without grumbling and with a significantly lower reward. It is wrong to talk about low morale over scales of pay for, in the end, I have no doubt that discipline and loyalty in the Services will prevail. But let the Government be under no illusion about the resentment that is felt in the Forces. Nor let them be under any illusion about the numbers of good officers and men who are not re-engaging.

If I had to say what was the biggest success story of the post-war years in Britain, I would say that it was the continued and increased excellence and discipline and morale and efficiency of that voluntary body of men and women who make up the Armed Services, and who do it in a climate of permissiveness and relaxed standards. The Government have not only the duty to see that the Forces are properly rewarded, for they have no union—they cannot strike—but they would be guilty of an inconceivable folly if they threw away the achievements of these last 30 years.

Two noble Lords have sought to amend my Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Shin-well, if I understand his Amendment correctly, does not disagree with my essential proposition, but wishes to pay the Services straight away—a proposal that would breach the Government's 12-month rule. In putting down this Motion, it has not been my object to ask the Government to break their pay policy in what is obviously a difficult situation. My object has been to point out to them that they have a choice of priorities in public expenditure, a choice which until now I believe they have made wrongly.

If I may say so, I think that the Government are extremely lucky that, unlike the Conservative Government of 1973, they have an Opposition which is not at every turn seeking to wreck their economic policy. Our memories are not so short that we can forget the kind of remarks made by the Prime Minister, during the General Election of 1974, about miners' pay. But we do not intend to follow that example. Therefore, though I should like to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I do not feel that I could ask my noble friends to accept his Amendment, nor do I wish the Government to use the 12-month rule as an excuse for not accepting my Motion. What they should do is announce, and announce now, their intention as regards Forces pay so that they can allay the doubts and suspicions which exist in the Forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on the other hand, walking sturdily and swiftly, crook in hand, to the aid of his defenceless sheep, seeks to move an Amendment which they can accept and which sounds nice, but which has no effect of any kind, whether good or ill, on what is happening at the present moment. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, knowing him as I do, will argue persuasively and well. But what does his Amendment mean?

First, he is, in effect, asking us to call upon the Government to do something that they are already doing, and which he and I know perfectly well does not have the remotest prospect of success. The prospect of success for mutual and balanced force withdrawals was virtually thrown away when the Helsinki Agreement was signed without any progress being made in Vienna. Of course, it would be splendid if it were possible to achieve balanced reductions on the Central Front in Europe—splendid. I am all in favour of seeking mutual and balanced force reductions. I also believe in world disarmament, everlasting peace and the desirability of having a Labour Party always in Opposition; but to put that down as an Amendment to the Motion would not help me.

The second part of the noble Lord's Amendment means, of course, precisely nothing, because the Government will say that the time has not come. And they will be able to go on saying that the time has not come until such time as they no longer have the support of the people of this country to direct our affairs. I admire the noble Lord's gallantry, but, before he presses his Amendment, let him consider those well-known lines from A King Lear: Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd? Thy sheep be in the corn". In forming any British defence policy, one has to take account both of Soviet intentions and of the potential threat which their Forces pose. I do not know, nor indeed can anyone know, what is in the minds of the Soviet leaders. It may very well be that Soviet intentions are wholly peaceful, that there is some simple explanation for the build-up of their military forces. It may be fear of the United States and NATO, though I find that increasingly difficult to believe. Maybe it is the continuation of a momentum, aided by a military bureaucracy which goes on ordering and ordering more and more weapons—maybe not. Even the most experienced Soviet watcher does not, and cannot, know for certain what is in the minds of the Soviet rulers. But whatever may be in their minds, we can see the military potential as a fact. How can we ignore the continuing build-up? If we believe that our independence, together with that of our allies, is the most precious thing we have, then surely it is not only worth some sacrifice, but should be regarded as of greater importance than some of the more electorally attractive programmes.

I am not asking very much of the Government; indeed, perhaps I am asking too little. I do not see any reason why they should not accept my Motion. But, if they refuse, then we shall all of us know that their understanding of the problem and their resolution to maintain adequate defence forces is sadly lacking, and I shall ask your Lordships to come into the Lobby with me to show your disapproval and your dismay. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That, in view of the increasing disparity in the conventional defence strengths of the Warsaw Pact and NATO Forces, this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to restore their planned defence cut of £267 million and honour their pledge to NATO to spend in real terms 3 per cent. more and to improve the remuneration of the Armed Forces in April, and, as soon as possible thereafter, to restore full comparability.—(Lord Carrington.)

3.27 p.m.

Lord SHEPHERD rose to move as an Amendment to the resolution in the I name of Lord Carrington to leave out all the words after (" Government ") and insert (" with their NATO allies to pursue negotiations for mutual and balanced force reductions and to seek within the prevailing financial limitations to provide the most effective United Kingdom military contribution to NATO."). The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, had a very nice quotation. I would only say to him: Always look before you jump. It may well be that when I have sat down he will find that I am closer to him than to my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal. But we shall know that only at the end of the debate.

The House will note that my Amendment, which I formally move, leaves in the Resolution the words dealing with the disparity between the conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO. There was a time when such a disparity could be lived with, because it was balanced by the existence of the nuclear capability both of the United States and of the United Kingdom. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that the growth in size and quality of the conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact countries creates a completely new situation. These forces can no longer be claimed to be forces of a defensive character. They have a potential for an aggressive act, although, having said that, I do not myself see within Soviet policy today the thought of a military act of aggression, particularly in Europe.

Before I leave that, I should like to say to the Government that I do not myself believe—and this is very much a personal speech; it is not coming to the aid of the Government—that it is right and proper that we, the European members of NATO, should rely upon the nuclear capability of the United States. I believe that the British nuclear capability should be not only maintained but updated. Therefore, I hope that in their most anxious consideration of defence matters the Government will bear in mind the necessity to have within the European NATO Alliance a nuclear capability as advanced in quality as we can provide.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned Forces' pay. I do not believe it was the intention of the noble Lord that Forces' pay should become part of a political football. Much of the difficulty that exists at the moment over Services' pay is due to the decision taken by a Labour Government in 1969 to accept the recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board that Servicemen should have an income comparable with their opposite numbers (if one may use that phrase) in civilian life and that, like others, they should pay for their food and lodgings. That decision was, as I say, taken by a Labour Government but the machinery under which we are now operating was the responsibility of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

I believe that the decision of the Labour Government and of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was right. However, we did not foresee, in particular taking into account the date when this recommendation was made by an independent body, the effect of the kind of increases in pay that occurred during 1975. The system is not wrong. The difficulties have been caused by the major increases in pay during the middle and latter part of 1975. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that, like all public servants, the Services should be adequately paid and that the Government should be a good paymaster. However, I do not believe—and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was quite specific about this—that in the present circumstances the Government should break the pay policy. Nevertheless, when the review of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body is published—I suppose in the early part of next year—I hope that if a 10 per cent. recommendation is made there will be no question of the British Government not fulfilling the recommendation that the Services should receive the maximum amount permitted under the guidelines.

The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, goes beyond that. His Motion refers to comparability. I wish comparability to be restored, but I foresee difficulties. There are very many other bodies of a public nature which are in a similar situation. Most of them are governed by independent bodies and work in complete isolation from each other. Recognising the anomalies and the very great complexity surrounding the various professions within the public service, I hope that the Government will consider whether or not it is right and proper now to set up a private review body to review all the existing anomalies and difficulties in order to have a programme to place before the Government. When the economic circumstances and the pay guidelines permit, and when something can be done, the machinery will then be there, the decisions as to how, having been made, the programme may be accomplished. Then one could immediately start to implement those decisions. I believe that it would be quite unfair to the Services if we were to wait until circumstances permitted an improvement in pay and if we were then to sit down to find out how we were going to deal with it. I should like to ask my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal to consider this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, then said of his Motion, which I am seeking to amend, that the Government should restore the defence cuts. I agree with the noble Lord that there is a certain amount of dispute about whether the figure is £260 million or £300 million. We have short memories. I was a member of the Cabinet when the particular decision was taken. I remember the very bitter criticism that was launched by the Conservatives upon the Labour Government: that we had limited our cuts in capital expenditure by only £1,000 million. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and his friends wanted public expenditure cuts amounting to £2,000 million. Never at any stage did they say where those cuts were to be made. They never said whether the savings should come from roads or schools, or from here or from there. They just spoke of global figures, and of course the situation is the same today.

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I, as a member of that Cabinet, was aware of the very deep concern about where those cuts were to be borne. I am not going to quote the words of Lord Carrington, but he used words not dissimilar to those which I used when I was on the Front Bench: that when you are making cuts in capital expenditure, defence must bear its own share. May I suggest to the noble Lord that he should look at the words he used in the 1970 debate?

It may be that there is a different climate now. The Government were right in 1976 to make these cuts. We recognised that we were getting very close to the bone so far as defence was concerned, but we felt that those cuts were necessary. However, as I say, there is a new climate now. The noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, and my noble friend Lord Peart spoke the other day of the major transformation of the financial situation of this country. It is very much to be welcomed. I share the views that were expressed by my noble friend Lord Robbins, if I may call him that, when he acknowledged the improvements during the last 14 months. Nevertheless, he said that, taking the world situation as a whole, it would be a very brave man indeed who could honestly say what the future is likely to be. I hope that the economic progress of this country makes it possible for the kind of cuts that were imposed by the Government in 1976 to be restored.

To me, the most significant matter, if we are to have a serious debate about defence, is the agreement that was entered into by the Ministers at the NATO Summit: that in the light of the growth in Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces the NATO allies should seek to increase their annual expenditure on defence by 3 per cent. from 1979 to 1984. But there was a general understanding and recognition, which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not touch upon, that for some countries within the NATO Alliance such a target would be unacceptable because it would place too great a strain upon their economies. An ally within NATO has not only a duty to provide the most effective military contribution but a duty also to ensure that it has a firm, sound, economic base. I believe that to be the essential.

However, I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about the ability of this country: if we only have the will to do it, we have the capacity to provide this sort of figure. But the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is asking the Government to commit themselves to a figure regarding which there can at this present moment, taking the possible economic situation, be a doubt as to whether we should be able to fulfil a particular pledge. I sincerely hope that the Government will be able, in terms of the restoration of cuts, to go a good way towards what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said this afternoon. In this respect, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has greater experience than myself as to whether it would be possible at this stage effectively to spend such a sum of money if it were to become available. But I hope that the Government will say a little more and will give many of us on this side of the House assurances in regard to the undertakings that were made by our Secretary of State at the NATO Ministerial meeting.

I know my senior Ministers very well and I do not believe that they would wish in any way, if the money were available and the financial ability were there, either to deny proper equipment to our Servicemen or to deny the necessary contribution to our allies within NATO. I would only say again to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that it has always been the philosophy of the Labour Party, going back to well before the war, that collective security was the one sure means by which a country could secure its boundaries. Therefore, we not only have an interest in the maintenance of NATO but there is—if I may use the word—an ideological sense of support to mutual defence.

So, my Lords, why did I put this Amendment on the Order Paper? I tabled the Amendment because I believe the resolution that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to be premature. I believe that if the Conservatives or, for that matter, your Lordships' House feel that there is an economic capability not only for the restoration of these cuts but also for the honouring of the 3 per cent., then the time for such a vote of censure is not today but when the Budget Statement and the public expenditure figures are known and when the Defence Review is published and debated.

When the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, tabled this Motion he can hardly have believed that the Government could possibly accept it. I tabled an Amendment because I believed it to be an Amendment that pretty well every Member of your Lordships' House would support. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, poured cold water on it and spoke with derision about that part of my Amendment which called upon Her Majesty's Government to pursue policies for mutual and balanced force reductions. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that we are all disappointed—perhaps dismayed—at the small amount of progress that has been made. However, some weeks ago, we spoke in the same terms of the situation in the Middle East; and now, because of an imaginative act by President Sadat, we have a new situation with new possibilities.

We must pursue negotiations for disarmament. If we do not, then the end can only be one of complete horror and destruction. Disappointment we shall have, but we need to pursue disarmament. I therefore thought that those words ought to be in an Amendment and I challenge any noble Lords on any other side of the House to vote against such a call.

My last words were of a general nature: they called upon Her Majesty's Government, within the prevailing financial limitations to provide the most effective forces to NATO. Whatever criticisms the noble Lord may have made about cuts, this country has undoubtedly played its full and honourable part in NATO. We provide the best equipped soldiers and the best trained soldiers. We have made a notable contribution to NATO, and I believe that this Government will continue, as have previous Governments, to maintain that particular record. At this particular moment, the noble Lord is asking too much in his Motion. The time for a vote of censure of this nature will be in the spring of next year when we have the Defence Review before the House. I beg to move the Amendment.

Moved, as an Amendment to the resolution in the name of Lord Carrington, to leave out all the words after ("Government") and insert ("with their NATO allies to pursue negotiations for mutual and balanced force reductions and to seek within the prevailing financial limitations to provide the most effective United Kingdom military contribution to NATO.").—(Lord Shepherd.)

3.47 p.m.

Lord SHINWELL rose to move, as an Amendment to the resolution in the name of Lord Carrington, after ("more") to insert ("as and when our economic and financial circumstances improve; and meanwhile in view of the unusual and special services arising from the firemen's strike to compensate all ranks in Her Majesty's Forces within the guidelines laid down by Her Majesty's Government;"). The noble Lord said: My Lords, at this period of time when your Lordships' House is subjected to criticism, much of it misguided, it appears desirable in the course of an important debate to dispense with partisanship and to pursue the subject with the utmost objectivity. That is a philosophy which I have ventured to advocate for some considerable time in your Lordships' House in a different context from that which occupies our time today.

I understand that brevity is the order of the day, according to my instructions from the appropriate quarter. Whether I respond will depend almost exclusively on what happens to occur to me. Instructions are not a matter of which I wholeheartedly approve. As for felicitations, which are customary in the course of a debate, they would appear to be quite unnecessary. Congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would be superfluous. He is a professional of the highest calibre. He can see both sides of the question—he can advocate them, too ! Nor do I need to indulge in congratulations to my noble friend the former Leader of the House, except to say that since the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has treated us to a quotation from Shakespeare, perhaps I may counter it with a few lines from Omar Khayyám: Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Sage, and heard great argument About it and about; but evermore Came out by the same door as in I went". That is almost all that is necessary to say about my noble friend Lord Shepherd. How often have I heard it said that we must advocate balanced forces. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, completely disposed of that with the assistance of his formidable opponent, Lord Shepherd, for they both spoke in words of wisdom of the disparity between the forces of Moscow and the forces of NATO. We are agreed about that.

So I beg of my noble friend Lord Shepherd and my noble friend the Leader of the House and in particular the Chief Whip of my Party in this House, not to expect me at the end of the debate to vote for a vacuum. One should never vote for a vacuum, for something that means nothing. The record that my noble friend played is getting very frayed at the edges. The concept that some people appear to hold—they anchor themselves to it; they have nothing else to grasp—is that the Russians, when they speak of détente, mean what they say. All that the term "détente" in the Russian language means is balanced forces, by which we interpret that both sides should have the same number of men in the forces—or women for that matter—with the same number of tanks and the same number of missiles, et cetera. Is there anybody who really believes that that is a practical idea that could ever be implemented? The Russians are taking jolly good care that it never will, despite all that the United States can produce or NATO can produce or the rest of our allies in co-operation with us can produce. Let us dismiss it; it simply will not work.

Of course, it is a delightful, idealistic concept, the idea of peace in this world, this crazy anguished world. Of course, in theory I plead affirmative, but in practice and implementation, negative. I only wish it were so; I wish I could speak as my noble friend Lord Brockway can, as my noble friend the Reverend Donald Soper speaks, or perhaps my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker, who I understand is to make his maiden speech today. They have pleaded for disarmament and balanced forces whenever there was the need for defence, for as long as one can remember. That it has failed is not due to anything they have done; it has failed in spite of them. That is that.

Every country in this world, civilised and uncivilised—and, unfortunately, there are far too many of them still uncivilised, in behaviour, in ideas, in practice—must have defence, however small; they must have defence. If we are to have defence—and let this be clearly understood—it should be adequate, or let us not have any at all. Let us not have a military nonsense. Of course, one does not mean by that that we must always strive to have as many men as those available to the Warsaw Pact, or as many tanks or missiles and the like. But, at any rate, we must be strong enough, even if we never have to go to war—and I hope we never have to go to war—to deter the other fellow from going to war. This is essential.

After all, what does the Warsaw Pact understand? What is their language? It is the language of force, of military strength. Perhaps it could have been otherwise if in 1917 Lenin and company, instead of embarking on such military adventures as we have seen and experienced over the years, had embarked on industrial development. They could have conquered the world, as indeed China may do, with its vast manpower and potential. But we have to face what exists; we have this disparity.

I have not entirely disposed of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, but of his Amendment—I do not want to dispose of him personally, but his Amendment seems to me to be a vacuum, outmoded, outdated; the record has been played out. Now I come to Lord Carrington. I must confess I was not amazed, not even amused, but interested, if that is the right term, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said he was entirely on the Government's side in connection with the 12-month rule. That is something. Let it be clearly understood in the country that the Leader of the Opposition, no doubt speaking for those behind him and his supporters in the country, is in favour of the Government's economic policy, maintenance of the 12-month rule. "Oh, no, whether it is the soldiers or the firemen or anybody else, we must maintain the 12-month rule". That is something.

So the condemnation of the Government which is implicit in the Motion before the House, submitted by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is split into two parts; it condemns the Government because of the cuts but praises the Government for the maintenance of the 12-month rule. So the poor men in the Forces, now having to shoulder these responsibilities, for which there was no contract, no undertaking, when they became recruits, or at any other time—oh, yes, to come to the aid of the police if there was disorder, but not when there were fires or anything of that kind—are to get nothing until April next. Meantime, they suffer all the inconveniences created by another section who have actually gone on strike and will not accept the 12-month rule. There is a situation. How contradictory, how anomalous it is I am really surprised that perhaps one of the cleverest politicians in this country, one of the most professional, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, ventured an argument of that kind.

So let us dispose of the 12-month rule and let us do something for the soldiers. And why now? What guarantee have we that in April anything will be done? Now is the time to do something. Now is the time for the soldiers to get something. Now is the time, if they are not going to get 12 per cent. in cash, to give them, at any rate, some improvement in conditions, some reduction in the rent of married quarters, perhaps not having to pay for accommodation to the extent that they do or for the food that they get. Indeed, the amount required to restore the cuts the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wants restored could be utilised for the purpose of providing some benefits and improvements for the men in the Forces. That is the purpose of my Amendment.

If one looks at the various Motions on the Order Paper one discovers that originally the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not think of the soldiers and others—or he omitted to mention them. That was an afterthought. But in fact he has become a follower of mine. I put it down as an Amendment, and I add him as one of my few followers in the country because he has accepted it, and I want the House to accept it. I venture to go so far as to challenge anyone who opposes it, who says that we cannot do something for the soldiers, the airmen and the Navy who are helping to deal with the outbreaks of fire in the country and who says they have to wait until April because the Tory Party says they should. The Tory Party believes in the maintenance of the 12-month rule. This is an astonishing state of affairs.

We now come to another point. It is not for the Conservative Party to talk about cuts in defence. After all, like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I also have been associated with defence—indeed for longer than anybody in this House. I became Financial Secretary to the War Office as long ago as 1929. Even before then, in the First World War, I was associated with the two Government Departments undertaking work which has hardly even been mentioned. Therefore, I know something about it. Before the First World War who was responsible for lack of preparation?—the Liberal Government. Who was responsible before the Second World War (and I bring to my aid Sir Winston Churchill) for the lack of preparation of the Conservative Government? Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Mr. Baldwin. There was no preparation; there were cuts and cuts and cuts. And not so long ago, when the question arose in another place about our auxiliary forces, the Territorials, and about creating reserves of that character, it was the Conservative Government that reduced the numbers. It is not for them to talk about cuts.

Nevertheless, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. Of course he is right. I am against cuts in defence, not because I believe that a matter of £300 million would make all the difference in Brussels or in Bonn or in any other place on the Continent where NATO undertakes its operations. It requires more than that. A matter of £300 million is nothing. As a matter of fact, we are spending nearly £3,000 million a year on manpower in the Forces. Almost 50 per cent, of the total cost of defence goes in manpower. In the last 10 years, under the Labour Governments and a Conservative Government we have actually spent £57,000 million on defence, and what have we got at the end of it? We are still short of what we need.

In order to build up our defence to anything like that which the Warsaw Pact has undertaken we have to spend not another £200 million, £300 million or even £1,000 million, but many thousands of millions. We cannot do it. Therefore, in my Amendment I put what I thought was a practical proposition. Of course, if it is merely a question of condemning the Government, if it is a motion of censure, I understand it. If it is to be practical a politician keeps his options open and says, "We will not do it just now because we know we shall not get anything from the Government". You can pass the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, tonight by an overwhelming majority but it does not mean that next week the Government will restore the cuts. We shall have to wait for a favourable opportunity to come along. That is the purpose of my Amendment.

So I want the House, first, to vote for the restoration of the cuts and the provision of adequate defence as and when the country is in the position to undertake the task. Secondly, now is the time to provide some benefit for the men in the Forces for the work they are undertaking, for their marvellous and gallant services to the country.

Moved, as an Amendment to the resolution in the name of Lord Carrington, after ("more") to insert ("as and when our economic and financial circumstances improve; and meanwhile in view of the unusual and special services arising from the firemen's strike to compensate all ranks in Her Majesty's Forces within the guidelines laid down by Her Majesty's Government;")—(Lord Shinwell.)

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, we have before us this afternoon a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, calling upon the Government to restore the cuts in our defence expenditure planned for 1978–79; to honour their pledge to spend 3 per cent. more on our defence rather than less; and to improve the remuneration of the Armed Forces in April—it is not said by how much, but at least to raise the present pay level by that date. That is a suggestion which I believe is more or less accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell; at least it is not out of harmony with the suggestion made by the noble Lord, except that, as I understand it, his Amendment may perhaps be considered to be a breach of the pay code.

We also have an Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, which strikes all this out and simply asks us—and I hope I shall not be considered by the noble Lord to be in any way cynical—pending some miracle, to contemplate an indefinite continuation of the obviously bogged-down negotiations for MBFR in Vienna, and to agree that Her Majesty's Government should make the most effective contribution to NATO within the prevailing financial limitations. My Lords, sharing the view of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I would regard all this as a kind of truism.

In spite of its unexceptionable wording we can, indeed, only take the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, as being in effect a rejection of the proposals made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and hence as a concealed indication of a Governmental intention—or what he assumes to be a Governmental intention—to go back on their obligations. We shall therefore, if necessary, vote against it. We shall vote against it because, as we see it, our financial situation, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would admit, has improved since last May when the whole question of cuts was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. At that time, as your Lordships know, I said that Liberals had grave apprehensions regarding the proposed cuts for 1978–79 and would seek to have them abandoned, or at least reduced, if our economic situation should have taken a turn for the better, and it has taken a turn for the better. We shall also vote against it because the disparity between the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe has increased even further since last May and, whether we like it or not, is becoming a matter of real concern for all members of the Atlantic Alliance.

Besides, everybody knows—indeed nobody has denied—that, failing the construction of some new forward defensive system in the North German plain which could in theory be established over the years at less expense than is now being devoted to defence, the one hope of checking, without resort to nuclear weapons, any Soviet armoured thrust before it reaches the Rhine would be to bring our Armed Forces right up to strength by the mobilisation of our available reserves.

Everybody also knows that this process, vital as it is in default of the possibility of some kind of forward strategy which I have been suggesting for the last 10 years, will have only some chance of success if there is a warning period of at least a week. For, if it is less than that, then the reserves will never get there owing to the likely destruction of airfields and ports and, of course, the intervention of Soviet submarines. So, clearly, nothing whatever should be done to weaken our capacity for transporting our exiguous reserves with the utmost despatch, more especially since with the improvement in Soviet infrastructure and communications, the so-called "warning period" is getting shorter and shorter and may even, in the foreseeable future, be reduced to zero.

It is precisely here that the proposed cuts for 1978–79—corning on top of the three previous cuts—may have a deplorable, and even, I submit, a disastrous effect. I know that the exact nature of these further cuts has not yet been revealed—anyway that is what I understand—and that the assumption must be that, if they do take place, they will for a large part consist of yet further postponement of projected plans for essential equipment. But there must also be a temptation—at least a temptation—to economise on air and sea transport for the reserves, and even perhaps, God forbid, to weaken the TAVR itself. I only say that it may be a temptation, because I do not know what the cuts will be. But temptations are seldom resisted.

Be that as it may, what is really impossible to understand (at least I cannot understand it) is how the Government can decrease expenditure on defence by a considerable sum—£267 million has been mentioned, but I now understand it may be anything up to £300 million—and, at the same time, in accordance with their obligations, increase it by 3 per cent.; that is, by about £220 million. To do both would presumably result only in a cut of about—taking the higher figure —£70 million, and that, of course, would be a welcome relief in itself. But at the same time it would obviously be irreconcilable with our assurance to our allies, and notably with our assurance to the Americans. The two things cannot be reconciled.

What the reaction of Congress, and indeed of an otherwise friendly American Administration would be to such a proposal, still more what the reaction would be if the cuts are made and there is no increase in expenditure on balance, can safely be left to the imagination. Indeed, I think that the American Secretary for Defence, Mr. Brown, has been saying something on that subject recently in Brussels. But there will be many among our foreign friends who will say that the Left, or neutralist, Wing of the Labour Party, working behind the scenes, is doing its best not only to undermine the European Economic Community which, of course, it is, but also to undermine the whole Atlantic Alliance.

Therefore, if the cuts are proceeded with, we can only conclude that the Government are running fearful risks with their eyes open. What it seems to amount to is that, if the Government persist in maintaining the cuts, they will not only be repudiating an obligation essential to our safety but will, as it were, be doubly repudiating it. What we want them to do and what everybody who has the defence of this country at heart must want them to do, is not only to admit that our improved financial position now makes the proposed cuts for 1978–79 unnecessary, but also to explain to us in exactly what spheres the promised, and welcome, 3 per cent. increase in out total defence expenditure will take place. We shall also expect them to announce when they contemplate an increase in the pay of members of the Services, many of whose wives, if we may believe the Press, now enjoy a rather lower standard of living than those of some unemployed workers—an absurd paradox which simply must not be allowed to continue after next April.

I have said that for the reasons given we shall vote against the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, if it is formally moved. Whether we vote in favour of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—again if pressed to a vote—will largely depend on the attitude taken towards it by the Government when they wind up the debate. If we do vote for the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I must point out that our vote must not be taken as a technical vote of censure against the Government, but rather as an expression of our own point of view.

In the debate last May I explained that we did not think it was the function of this House to pass votes of censure on the Government, at least in respect of measures with financial implications which had been approved in another place, seeing that clearly no such censure, if forthcoming, could have any positive effect, and would thus be a rather futile gesture. But it is certainly desirable that on any great issue—and this is a great issue—this House should be able at least to make its collective view known, and I have little doubt what its collective view on this issue will be. Perhaps even some Government supporters may be found to favour the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, rather than the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. In any case, it looks as if at least one Government supporter will do so, if not more.

To resume, it surely must be clear to all that a Soviet preponderance of power—because that is what it really comes down to, even in the nuclear sphere—can be countered only by what is called a "credible" defence. In other words, it must be countered by a build-up of the conventional forces of the West sufficient, or deemed to be sufficient, to hold any conventional Soviet aggression by purely conventional means. Reliance on the first use of so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons, whether they be neutron bombs, "mini-nukes" or Cruise missiles or whatever—however essential these may be thought to be as deterrents, and however desirable an early debate on them and indeed on their strategic implications may be—will not prevent the American President, on whose willingness to press the button their use depends, from being placed in an increasingly terrible position. Yet, if we cannot build up our conventional forces, his position will become more and more terrible as time goes on. For, of course, if even a single mini-nuke is released, the chances that the nuclear war will escalate, or at least become general in Europe, are extremely high. Would Mr. Carter have, for instance, to obtain the prior consent of Congress? Might he not in any case be obliged, in the absence of strong conventional resistance, to delay any decision? After all, it might well be a matter of life and death for the United States.

The trouble is that the more the Government cheese-pare on defence the more such doubts as these arise. The time has passed when they can plead détente as a reason for not strengthening our conventional—and I repeat our conventional—forces, more especially as they can now do this without any evil economic consequences. As for actually weakening our forces, that is something which we can hardly imagine that they will consciously agree to at the present time. That is why we are now eagerly awaiting any reassurance which may, perhaps, put our minds at rest.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, I reckon that we have been here before. We have often had a debate on defence spending, or defence cuts as they have turned out to be, and it is not the slightest good. It is always too late. On this occasion I hope that it will be in time. I shall emphasise only two points, so will be short. Others will give their views on pay, which has rightly been included in Lord Carrington's Motion, and I will not.

My two reasons for speaking are both strategic: First, the effect of the cuts and, secondly, the importance of increasing our defence spending by an annual 3 per cent. in real terms. On the effects of the cuts, the £267 million may, or may not, be absolutely right, but it is merely a succession of cuts by the Labour Government. The only exception to this rule involved the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, himself when he restored, so far as the Army is concerned, four battalions. I cannot remember this, I think he also kept the "Ark Royal" going. I shall turn it up if necessary.

I have often pointed out that health and education and transport, and the pouring of money—our money, incidentally—into the nationalised industries is less important than defence. I have often quoted the then President of the United States when he said: Defence spending provides no benefit except the most precious benefit of all, the freedom of our country". To prove it, the United States spends 460 dollars per head, whereas we spend only 209 dollars. There I am quoting from the Defence Paper. The Cabinet is split on this. They have a very strong Left-Wing element which apparently can only be pacified when other elements give way.

In case it is thought that defence spending is a waste of resources, the all-Party Report of the Expenditure Committee (and I said there was going to be a lot of repetition to the House) said: We are bound to report to the House that we have come to the conclusion that the cumulative effect of the cuts has been, and is likely to be, increasingly felt not only by the Services support structure, itself important, but also by the frontline forces". Forgive me for repeating that injunction, but I have a feeling that it is the answer. To take my arm, the Army, for example, one effect of the Expenditure Committee Report is that it will have fewer modern weapons than its allies. They went on to give examples. Apart from weakening the flanks of NATO, to which the Supreme Commander objected like anything, the chief strategic effect is automatically to bring nearer the nuclear threshold. Incidentally, the Royal Marines have to go to Norway in their pre-planned adventure in a civilian ship. I cannot imagine they will be very pleased about that. Because of the Warsaw Pact superiority the nuclear threshold is already near enough.

The annual increase of 3 per cent. applies to all allies of NATO and was originally President Carter's idea. It was immediately taken up by the Ministers at NATO on 18th May 1977, on which day they issued a communiqué in Brussels taking note of the power and flexibility of the Warsaw Pact forces and the need for NATO to improve its defensive capabilities. The Ministers then went on in an annexe called Ministerial Guidance to give Ministerial guidance. This was only in May this year. In this annexe they noted a Soviet expenditure of 11 per cent. to 13 per cent. of gross national product, and an annual increase of 5 per cent., which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

On the last occasion I spoke in your Lordships' House I was only able to quote the Supreme Commander, General Haig, but this time I am in a position to quote the communiqué. In case there is any doubt about it I am ready to quote from it. That said that the target to be aimed at by all the allies was an annual increase of 3 per cent., recognising that economic circumstances will affect what can be achieved. If NATO achieves the target of 3 per cent.—which I rather doubt—then we will be losing 2 per cent. in the future, let alone the past. NATO recognised this because it says in paragraph 4 of its communiqué that the disparity continues to widen. In spite of this widening, which they knew all about, the British received a letter from Dr. Luns. They only pledged their 3 per cent. in May; in September Dr. Luns felt it necessary to write a rather stiff letter to the Ministry of Defence, and got a complacent reply.

Thus, in pursuing our policy of flexible response we automatically bring the nuclear threshold closer. I suggest that this cannot be our policy. After all, what is NATO for? If it is for sufficient conventional forces—and I asked General Brown about this and I got the favourable reply "conventional"—to resist, do not forget that the force of example is very great in NATO. Whatever we do is likely to be followed by our allies. In other words, we have to pay at least an increase of 3 per cent. in order to live, because we are determined to live on.

The British public are, or ought to be, told what they are in for. It does not matter about our children, or even our grandchildren, but it matters very much in regard to our successors all over the country. If the effect is to bring forward nuclear day from D.14 to D.7, or even closer, surely that cannot be our aim. Surely it is worth spending a few hundred million pounds instead of having a new school or new hospital. Surely that is better.

The reason the successive cuts have had no physical effect on NATO yet is that the Warsaw Pact forces, despite their superiority, have not yet attacked. I have two conclusions. As I said in May, the Russians are doing quite well in the Mediterranean and in East and West Africa without firing a shot. If we do not look out, they will do the same in Europe. Why make it easy for them? The chief reason I have for supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is that this country keeps its pledges, and I hope that we will keep this one.

4.32 p.m.

Viscount ADDISON

My Lords, I very much welcome this opportunity to thank your Lordships individually and collectively for the very warm and friendly way in which I have been received here. I will not say "treated"; I have not been treated yet! I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, for enabling us so kindly to laugh with him, and thereby to release some of the tension. I am aware that I stand here only because of the great achievements of my father, and of the fact that my dear brother died without a son to succeed him. I will try to earn the goodwill which your Lordships have shown to me. I am also aware that it is not customary for Peers to speak on subjects about which they know little. I am not qualified to speak about the larger matters of defence finance, but I can speak from personal knowledge of the kind of effect this Motion may have on those who work in the Civil Service Departments on which the fighting Services depend.

Of the 30 years for which I survived in the Civil Service, 12 years, from 1951 to 1963, were spent in the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aviation, mostly in the establishment division and training branch, and I met and got to know a very wide cross-section of engineers, scientists, and technical staff of all kinds. I found out what made them tick, and how they related to the ordinary civil servants like myself. Much of my work was concerned with ensuring that those relations were good.

In the late 1950s a certain very senior, and I think very perspicacious, civil servant coined, or perhaps let slip, the phrase "soggy middle layer" to denote those middle management strata of the Civil Service, and particularly the upper levels of the executive class to which I belonged, and from which, as your Lordships will know, most of the training staff of the Civil Service are drawn. Following that, there were introduced what were called conference on the conduct of public business. They were called conferences because the Treasury rules provided that one got one's money back quicker if one went to a conference than one would if one went to a course. They were, in fact, courses, and I ran a large number of them. They may have had some good effect; there is no means of judging. But they led to one very important development; namely, the introduction of middle management courses, to which were brought members of the professional, engineering, and scientific staffs, and the technical staffs, along with the ordinary civil servants, in approximately equal proportions.

So there was a management course composed of about four quite different elements. It was fascinating to watch those people discovering that they were, in fact, all the same, and that the cloven hooves and horned tails which they had expected were not present. When we had succeeded in demonstrating to them that they were all really doing the same work but using different tools, and that their management skills were interchangeable, they showed a remarkable ability and liking for working together as a team.

When I left the Civil Service I went into what is called management education. Management education, like other modern pseudo-scientific disciplines, is apt to rediscover the wheel every decade or so, and it has recently discovered the importance of the team in management. This has been well known to the fighting Services almost certainly for centuries, and it is also well known to the Departments which support them.

What, in fact, I have learned from my management training experience has been that any group of people will work happily and successfully together if they have an objective which is clear and which they understand and agree upon; and that is the kind of situation which most likely exists in the fighting Services. I am trying to make the point that the fighting Services and the Civil Service Departments which support them have already a long tradition of good management and good training. I am sure they could do with much better management and much better training, but there is a great potential there. They are also Departments which contain within them research and development establishments of a very wide range, and the civil applications of whose work go far beyond the ordinary meaning of defence.

There is the other thing which civil servants soon learn; that is, that the better managed a particular branch, department or establishment is, the more it suffers from any finance cuts. What I wish to say particularly to your Lordships is that here there is a proposal to cut further money which will most affect parts of our Services and the Departments which support them much more acutely than might otherwise be the case with other Departments. These people not only deserve encouragement, they need it, and they are equipped to use it. My reason for supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is that I think it would be disastrous if they were further discouraged.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, on a masterly speech. It seemed to have every merit. First, it was short and to the point. Secondly, it was done entirely without notes, and it was most acceptably and beautifully delivered. Thirdly, it mirrored the fact that he comes from a very distinguished family, which has long given service to our country and to Parliament. The more we hear the noble Viscount the better it will be for this House.

I liked the noble Viscount's story about the Civil Service and the difference between a conference and a course. I had a similar experience in the Admiralty when I was Civil Lord there for five years. At that time the dirty term was "aircraft carrier", so it had to be called a "through-deck cruiser". We used to call it a "see-through cruiser", because I am sure that the Treasury saw through the bluff just as quickly as we did. Then cruisers of 6,000 tons had to be called destroyers, whatever their displacement. I do not know who this deceived, but at any rate we got it through the estimates. So the noble Viscount is not unique in quoting the odd meanderings and diversions we had to make in order to get business through.

My Lords, on the 12th May I moved an Amendment to the Government's Motion that we take note of their Defence White Paper; and, six months having gone by, I have a feeling that this is a follow-up Motion. That Amendment which I moved was accepted by the Government. I am not sure whether that was because their heart was behind the Amendment or whether it was because they had so little support on their Benches that evening, when there was not a single speaker from their Back-Benches. However, the poor outcome of that debate is that absolutely no action has resulted; and, meanwhile, the disparity between our own strength and the strength of the Warsaw Pact countries has grown wider and wider. That is why my noble friend has spoken so aptly on his Motion today.

I was in the House of Commons, on our Bench, to listen to (I think it was) the twelfth Budget which Mr. Healey had introduced, and I was pleased when he said at column 1349 [Official Report, Commons, 26/10/77]: Allowing for these decisions and the measures announced in the summer, public expenditure next year is being increased by £1 billion at 1977 Survey prices". I had hoped that that would mean that at least a portion of that money would go to the defence of our country. My Lords, £475 million was to go to manpower training to reduce unemployment; and £400 million was to go to the construction industry, again to reduce unemployment in an industry which is sore beset. That was a strange apportionment, I think, because the last cuts, which we are discussing this evening, included a £53 million cut in defence works. It seems surprising to inject £400 million in the Budget while cutting £53 million at this time. Then, there was an extra £20 million to be given to overseas aid, a portion of which, £5 million, was to go to Mozambique. That seemed to many of us a strange interpretation of priorities, and not much help to our friends in that part of the world.

My Lords, if money of this sort is available for such projects, surely now is the moment to say, "Yes, we can spend a bit more on defence". The Government do not lack funds for those things for which their Left Wing feel enthusiasm, whether it is nationalisation, semi-nationalisation or expenditure by the National Enterprise Board. Nearly £500 million has been spent by the National Enterprise Board; and £246 million has been promised to British Leyland—and no one is certain that that company is by any means out of its troubles—with further loans to support it and keep it going. This is all to help the unemployment situation. This week, we had Fairey Aviation being bought, despite the fact that other people wanted it. The National Enterprise Board paid another £20 million. Then, the British North Sea Oil Corporation is to spend £2,000 million in the next five years—an average of £400 million a year—to share the development costs in the North Sea, although the companies which are there are perfectly prepared to pay for it themselves. This is the price of dogma. There is always money for the Left-Wing sacred cows, but there never seem to be any money for improving our defence in the face of threats.

In speeches on the 12th May and on the 10th November, I appealed on patriotic grounds and I appealed on the need to support the NATO Alliance. Today, I want to add a further argument, and that is to help the unemployment situation. Why not place orders now for some warships? In view of the threat from the growing submarine fleet of the USSR, perhaps the most suitable might be frigates with a strong anti-submarine capability. If someone comes to our country from the Free World and wants to buy ships, they are quoted for delivery in four or five years' time. How much more likely are we to get an order if we are able to deliver almost from stock? The French and the Italian Governments do just this, and if no purchaser arrives then these ships add to the strength of the French Navy or the Italian Navy, and thereby to NATO. Surely this is a course the Government could reasonably adopt. My noble friend who opened this debate did just that when he was responsible. Why has this not been done again?

Moreover, it would help not just the warship builders, it would help not just the shipyards. It would help the engineering industry, too; because, whereas for every one man who is employed in a shipyard building merchant ships there are two men employed in the engineering industry on the equipment for those ships, in the warships sphere, for every one man in the shipyard there are five in the engineering industry to equip and fit those ships. So, to adopt such a course would be of tremendous help, and both those industries, engineering and shipbuilding, are in sore need of some help. Is this not a very much better investment than the £115 million which is being given (with, I believe, £50 million of subsidies) to build ships for Poland? They are merchant ships which will be in competition for world trade, and in violent competition with our own merchant fleet. Does it not seem more logical, in the present state of our defences, to spend money on building warships?

I should have liked to develop the case, which others have already mentioned, for extra provision in pay for our Armed Forces, but I have no doubt that other noble Lords will develop that case. However, I must just point to one extraordinary anomaly. Recently we had a strike of the assistant air-traffic control officers, and I was looking at the figures involved. I find that a flight-lieutenant with extensive experience is paid £5,500 a year. A civilian air-traffic controller, alongside him in the same room, is paid £8,500 a year. Surely this disparity, which can be quoted in almost any sphere of our Armed Forces, has grown too wide to be sensible, to be logical and to make sure that we get the best men serving in our forces.

On the 12th May the Lord Privy Seal and the Chief Whip of the Government Benches accepted our Amendment, but they did not take action. This time, I understand, they have a three-line whip; and if, by the combined support of Conservatives, Liberals, Cross-Benchers and, it may be, several Labour Peers, too, this Motion moved by my noble friend is carried, I hope that the Government will accept it and will implement the action proposed. I remember watching television and listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, when she staunchly supported the work being done by this House. I am afraid she did not carry the day at the Brighton Labour Party conference, but, anyhow, she spoke up with great vigour, telling of all the good things we have done here. Nothing is more important than to accept the democratic decision of this House, particularly when it is widely supported. I hope the noble Baroness will do that, and that the Lord Privy Seal, when he comes to answer, will say that he is prepared to accept at least some of the points in this Motion. We want them all accepted, and if he does not accept them all then we shall, I hope, record a vote in support of an expansion.

By implementing this Motion the Government would accept what Lord Carver said in July 1976, that our forces are down to bedrock; and, as Lord Gladwyn has said, a lot has happened to strengthen the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact countries since then. Just about a year ago the Chiefs of Staff—and this is not usual—demanded to seethe Prime Minister of the day, to say that the defence cuts had become so serious that he must stop any further cuts and try to restore, as early as possible, the correct position. I think we could not complain about our allies in NATO: they have been understanding, they have been tolerant and they have been extremely patient about our difficulties. They have been waiting for Britain to pull her weight. Let this Government show by their actions that they reject the pressure of the Left-Wing of their Party and that they accept the argument of their military advisers and the vast majority of the citizens of this country, and let them now start spending more on defence. Nothing could give our allies in NATO more encouragement and show more convincingly that we had turned the corner.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I crave indulgence for a second maiden speech in this Palace of Westminster. My first was in another place nearly half a century ago, in November 1929. Coming back to Parliament after a long time away, I am forcibly reminded of the Press conference given by the late Lord Attlee on his 80th birthday. A bright young spark among the newsmen asked him, "Lord Attlee, tell us, what does it feel like to be 80?" In a flash, Lord Attlee answered, "When I think of the alternative, it feels wonderful." It feels wonderful for me to come back to Parliament to debate the affairs of Britain and the world with men and women of wisdom, knowledge and experience. I express my gratitude for the privilege that is mine.

When I first read the Motion on the Order Paper—a Motion moved, if I may say so without impertinence, with such high personal authority and with what I found to be such magnetic charm, by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—I felt that the first thing that I must say was that I had never been a unilateral disarmer. Year after year, I have argued at our Party conferences that unilateral gestures will not promote the cause that we all desire; that only world disarmament—multilateral disarmament—can give the nations ordered peace. But, when I contemplate the appalling burden of our defence expenditure today, I am bound to add that I fear for the whole system of our social services of which we are so proud and I ask myself whether, for the long, future greatness of our nation, the cuts in education are not really worse than any cuts we may make now in defence.

My Lords, looking at the Motion, I feel that many people of little sophistication outside Parliament may feel that any increase in our expenditure on arms will strengthen our national defence. On that proposition, I hope I may, without controversy, offer three reflections. First, it was President John Kennedy who said that, in a spiralling arms race, a nation's security may grow less even as its armaments increase. He had good reason to say it. In 1940, Adolf Hitler, with bitter chagrin, said that the United States were invulnerable to attack from any quarter by any enemy however strong. Today, in the 1970s, Every citizen of the United States"— and these words are not mine; I quote Dr. Albert York, who was for years the Chief Secretary of State in the Pentagon— knows that his nation can be destroyed in half an hour and that there is nothing—repeat nothing—that he can do about it". When the Americans began to build up their stocks, the Russians had no nuclear weapons; they had no missiles. But today the safety of the people of the United States depends upon the whim, the sanity, the misinformation, of a Kremlin potentate. That is how the arms race works.

Secondly, the modern weapons are not weapons of defence; they are weapons of attack, of offence, of, if you like, unprovoked aggression. Against them, there is no known and no probable system of defence. That is true of the nuclears, it is true of the nerve gases, it is true of the biologicals, it is true of the radiologicals, of which the first is the neutron bomb. There is no defence. Those weapons, with great respect, may be essential but they do not help to save our people from dangers of war except in so far as you believe in the doubtful doctrine of deterrence; and they may be a grievous menace to our nation and to the world.

Thirdly, in an arms race, it is not only what you do that matters but also what your potential enemy may do. NATO may increase by 3 per cent; the Russians may reply with 6 per cent. That is very likely and we take a dangerous gamble if we believe that we can certainly outspend them. Therefore, I conclude that, in an arms race, the only rational, realistic policy is to end it—to end it by both sides giving up the armaments which bred the fear and the distrust in which the race began.

I am sure that by now, some of your Lordships are saying to themselves, although they are too courteous to say it aloud: "How can this man go on repeating the foolish things he said when he was young? Cannot he see that the whole of history since then has proved him wrong? Is he blind to the realities of our imperfect world today?" If I may, I will use this opportunity—to me a significant one—to say why I go on repeating now what I said when I was young, and what David Lloyd George said in the debate when I made my first maiden speech. He predicted, as, later in the debate, did another great man, Arthur Henderson, that, unless the League of Nations could make the policy of world disarmament succeed, there would inevitably be a second world war and that war would break up the British Empire.

My Lords, why do I go on saying the things which Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson said then and which I have tried to support throughout my life? It is, first, because I feel with deep conviction that history since then has proved not that Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson were wrong but that the warnings which they gave were right and that the principles which they stood for then apply even more strongly today. I say it; and I go on saying these things because, on his death bed, Albert Einstein repeated what Edward Grey, Lord Grey of Falloden, said fifty years ago: The nations must disarm or perish". Albert Einstein was in anguish when he died because he feared that, by helping to release atomic energy, he had prepared the suicide of man. I say it and go on repeating it because President Eisenhower—surely an authority on armaments and war—said that war today is an anachronism. He said that the risks of disarmament are as nothing to the risks of not disarming, of sitting on your hands. He said that we must take every care that the military industrial complex—the vested interests—did not prevent the world disarmament that we ought to have.

I go on repeating it because Eisenhower's chief scientific adviser, Isidor Rabi—one of the greatest weapons experts in the world—said that the facts of nuclear war just had not penetrated. That, said Rabi, goes for the heads of governments. Otherwise, they would ponder those facts every day as their number one daily problem. I go on repeating it because I am convinced that, if men of faith had not built up the League of Nations and the United Nations, had not worked for world disarmament, had not solved—as they have solved—the technical problems which disarmament involves, if these men had not laboured, we should face the future today with little hope that we could escape a nuclear doom.

It is very easy to be pessimistic in 1977, and to say with that English poet: Behind us lies the thousands and the thousands and the thousands years; Vexed and terrible, and still we use the cures that never cure". It is easy to share his pessimism; but, faced with nuclear doom, defeatism is the deadly unforgiven sin.

On the house where I live in London there is a blue plaque which bears the legend: Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, creator of the League of Nations, lived here". Lord Cecil was for more than 30 years a Member of your Lordships' House. It was the most precious privilege of my life to work for him from the end of the First World War until he died. In 1941, when the League had broken down, when his lifework seemed in ruins, when there was war in every continent and Hitler's bombs were falling round his London and Sussex homes, Lord Cecil wrote a book, A Great Experiment, to defend the League. On the title page of the copy that he gave me he wrote the words, "Le jour viendra".

Standing here within a yard of the place where Lord Cecil stood so often when he addressed your Lordships' House, I say with deep conviction that hope is not dead: morality has not perished from the hearts and minds of men. Reason can still triumph over violence; law can still rule all men and nations as it rules us in Britain. Standing here within a yard of where Lord Cecil stood so often, I say with deep conviction, "Le jour viendra"— the day will come.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, it is my privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, and to be the first to congratulate him on his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. Shortly before I came into the Chamber, I went to the reference books to remind myself of a point in his distinguished career of service to this country. I could not help feeling, as I read of his long career, that the ordeal through which he has just come cannot have been as awful as it was for the rest of us in making our maiden speeches. His great experience and wisdom on so many and varied subjects will add very much to the conduct of our work in this House. We hope that we shall enjoy his speeches on many more occasions. We have enjoyed his wise and charming speech very much this afternoon. I should also like to add my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, on his maiden speech.

Turning to the subject of the debate, I wish to begin by saying that I strongly support the contention that the successive and continuous round of cuts which this Government has inflicted on our defence expenditure has gone too far and is now making serious inroads into the capabilities of our Armed Forces. These cuts have brought us to the position that our contribution to NATO in real terms now lags behind at least six of our immediate allies and neighbours. The battlefield capability of the British Army of the Rhine is impaired by shortcomings and, in some cases, it lacks an essential modern weapons system. At the same time there is grave disquiet among all ranks in all three Services that the Armed Services Pay Review Body has not successfully represented their best interests; they are all convinced that they are at the tail end of the pay cycle, and that the so-called military salary is fast falling behind the wages and other privileges of their counterparts in civilian life.

But in my opinion by far the most serious effect on this continuous round of reductions in defence expenditure is overstretch. It is that which I wish to emphasise this afternoon. Overstretch affects the everyday lives of not only the Servicemen themselves but their families as well, to an extent which it is hard for us to appreciate. With fewer men doing the same number of tasks, it means longer hours of work, more weekends on duty, and for the married men it means more frequent separations and turbulence in their lives. Leave rosters get cancelled, and planned holidays with families are more difficult to arrange.

I want to give a number of examples of overstretch, and I am using the Army as my example because naturally I have more experience in that arm. Under the cuts already announced, the total establishment of certain units are each to be reduced by between 30 and 50 men according to the role of the unit. This will merely aggravate the existing overstretch that I have mentioned as even fewer men will have to do the same work. In addition to training and the normal life of the battalion, such as vehicle maintenance and other tasks, battalions will still be required to go to Belize on operations, or to Bermuda, and they will still be required to carry out a variety of civilian emergency tasks which are too well-known for me to list today.

Another example of overstretch occurred within the British Army of the Rhine. It was decided to abolish all brigade headquarters and to require divisional headquarters to command on manoeuvres a greater number of out-stations. Naturally, that would save a large number of staff officers and other staff. But, as reported in The Times yesterday, this restructuring experiment has failed and the British Army of the Rhine now needs a further 2,500 men in order to carry out its rôle properly. In all probability, it will not get these extra men; they will have to be found by extracting individuals from other battalions and regiments serving in the British Army of the Rhine. This, again, will still further aggravate the overstretch.

My final example, which I must admit is an unexpected one—but a soldier learns that the unexpected always happens—we read in this morning's papers that newly-joined recruits are being sent home because the instructors are too busy fighting fires to deal with them. That is fair enough. But what about those instructors when the strike is over and they have an enormous backlog of training to face? What are their prospects of leave? My Lords, you may think that leave is a frivolous subject, but I would ask you to remember that most civilians can expect every weekend off, whereas the average soldier nowadays can only expect two weekends in a month.

I have not mentioned Northern Ireland, but the situation there, certainly after six years, cannot be termed unexpected. It causes considerable overstretch, especially in the British Army of the Rhine, from which many units are drawn for service. Because of this overstretch—I have given only four examples, but there are many more I could give—it is not surprising that a serving officer, writing to The Times on 24th November, had this to say about the state of the Army: Morale is low, and if pay and conditions continue to deteriorate the numbers applying to leave may reach stampede proportions". Since that letter appeared, I have talked to a number of commanding officers and other serving officers. As a result of those conversations, I am not prepared to accept that morale is low—because that would be a very serious matter indeed. Our Army is far too loyal and dedicated for that; but we must not take advantage of that loyalty in any way, which, in my opinion, we are now doing.

I am convinced that there is a widespread anxiety and even dismay amongst all ranks at the treatment they are receiving. I am further convinced that unless Her Majesty's Government take some action now as a matter of urgency, many valuable trained and experienced officers and non-commissioned officers will protest by the only means available to them. As one commanding officer put it to me: They will protest with their feet and go by retiring early or purchasing their discharge". There is no doubt, in my opinion, that commanding officers with responsibility for holding their units together as efficient, effective and happy units are now gravely worried at the prospect of losing their best and most highly-trained men.

One commanding officer to whom I spoke told me that he feared the exodus had already begun. In his regiment, during the next six months eight officers, five of them married and all between the ages of 30 and 40, are retiring because they can find better prospects outside. These men are captains and majors with not less than 10 years' service, and although the numbers may appear to be small, the loss of eight experienced, middle-piece officers in one regiment will make a serious gap which it will be very hard to fill.

I have no reason to believe that this regiment is in any way exceptional. In the same regiment, in the first 10 months of this year 50 soldiers have purchased their discharge from the Army and 14 of those 50 gave a variety of reasons for doing so, such as "domestic" or "compassionate" reasons. Thirty-six gave as their reason dissatisfaction with the pay and conditions in the Army and said that they could find better opportunities outside. All were trained and qualified personnel which this regiment could ill-afford to lose. Incidentally, by "better opportunities" they mean not only better opportunities for employment or an alternative career, but better opportunities in civilian life to earn all those privileges and "perks" which are not normally available to Servicemen and which can be gained in civilian life, but which are not included in the Government's 10 per cent. pay policy.

What do I mean by that? I mean the privilege of having every weekend free, which most people have; I mean time off to "moonlight"; I mean the ability to earn overtime, in some cases after 40 hours' work per week, and, of course, the ability to earn double overtime at weekends and holiday periods. I doubt whether any soldier serving today in the Army does less than 55 hours a week on duty. I also mean bonus payments for the completion of a task or for other reasons, which some workers get; I mean special mortgage facilities for home buyers which some employers—including, incidentally, the Fire Service—give to their employees; I mean discount arrangements in certain shops, and so on.

At the other end of the scale, quite rightly, under the Donaldson Report a young soldier who commits himself to an engagement in the Army before he is 18 years old has the privilege, on reaching his 18th birthday, of reducing the length of his engagement. In this same regiment which I have used to give examples, the numbers reducing their engagements in the last three months have doubled.

Therefore, to conclude, I wish most strongly to support the Motion of my noble friend and leader, Lord Carrington, because I think it is imperative for Her Majesty's Government to cancel the defence cuts—and whether the amount involved is £250 million or £300 million, I am not going to argue—in order to restore our correct contribution to NATO and to have that in its rightful place; and also to alleviate the overstretch I have described. I would not be prepared to support the two Amendments which have been put forward because, in my opinion, they dilute the urgency and the effect of the Motion we are debating today.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, we have heard today two impressive maiden speeches, one from the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, and the other from my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker, who made a very moving speech which held the attention of the House from beginning to end. I hope we shall hear from both of them often in the future.

I wish to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Shepherd and therefore to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I think it is harder to assess the military balance between NATO and the Warsaw Pact than many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, seem to think. There are a variety of reasons for that, but for brevity's sake I shall concentrate on the one which I think is the most important. It is this: we are often too pessimistic about the balance of forces, because we look at the problem solely from our own point of view. We should also attempt to look at it from the point of view of the Soviet Union.

The noble Viscount said that no one can look into the Soviet mind. That is perfectly true, but there are some things that one can say about the difficulties which the Soviet Union faces which we often overlook. I am sure that the same sort of arguments prevail in the Kremlin about the balance of forces and about the balance of expenditure between defence and other objectives such as we have in this country. The only difference is that ours are public and theirs are private. But it is quite obvious that they must have many difficult problems in settling this very balance. But that is not the main point that I want to make.

It seems to me that the Soviet Union has two great problems which we do not have to face. The first is that it fears a war on two fronts. This is not true, I am glad to say, of NATO and ourselves. I am told that there are something like 40 Soviet divisions in the Far East, at the end of very long and difficult lines of communication, and the large forces there must be very expensive to maintain and rotate. This must weaken the Soviet Union in the West, too. Even if the Soviet forces in the West have not been directly reduced, those forces in the Far East must come from somewhere, and presumably they come from some central reserve and are therefore no longer available to the same extent as they were before for use in the West.

The second weakness of the Soviet Union, which has not been mentioned, is that it cannot confidently rely on its Warsaw Pact partners. In the case of a conventional war, Russian lines of communication through those countries would be rather precarious. The Soviet Union cannot ignore the possibility that it may have to divert forces to safeguard its lines of communication, and if it has those thoughts it is already setting such forces aside. Even the fighting forces of the Warsaw Pact countries are not entirely reliable from the Russian point of view. Therefore, we cannot assess the military strength of the Warsaw Pact by simply adding together the strength of the Soviet forces and the strength of the Warsaw Pact forces. In fact, to some extent one may have to do some subtractions in order to get a proper sum.

Despite the confrontation between ourselves and NATO on our side, and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact on the other, the two sides have certain interests in common. Certainly they want to avoid nuclear war—that is a common and mutual interest—because it would destroy both of them. Therefore, they really have to avoid any war, because any war could very easily escalate into a nuclear war. Furthermore, they both have the interest of trying to save military expenditure because they want to spend money on other things. One way of achieving these mutual aims is the proposal of my noble friend Lord Shepherd for balanced force reduction talks to continue, and in the end, to succeed.

It is, of course, very difficult to bring these talks to a successful conclusion, because we need differential reductions. The Soviet Union has bigger forces in the West than we have, and therefore to get a balanced reduction there must be bigger reductions in the Soviet forces than in ours. Of course, it is very difficult to persuade the Russians of this. They want to make a very simple percentage reduction of forces on both sides, so that their superiority will remain all the time. But I do not think it is right to dismiss this proposition, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did, in a few phrases.

We must go on trying to get this agreement on balanced force reductions, even if it takes us a great many years to get it. It is the best hope of progress towards a proper kind of détente, and the best hope of reducing military expenditure; and although many noble Lords want to increase military expenditure at the moment—and I somewhat agree with them—it must be our great aim to reduce military expenditure by reducing the risks on both sides. Meantime, while we must continue to support NATO adequately and try to build up the forces of NATO, we should avoid some of the over-pitched and exaggerated assessments of the military balance between East and West that we have heard in some quarters today. The first necessity, it seems to me, is to make as sober and as accurate an assessment as we possibly can of the military balance between the West and the Warsaw Pact.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Carrington. The first and overriding duty of any Government is to provide security against external attack. I emphasise the word "overriding", because defence must without question be accorded the highest priority in any plans for public expenditure. As the Secretary-General of NATO emphasised recently: There must be no direct correlation between defence and temporary fluctuations in the state of our economies. If our defence is to be credible there must", said Dr. Luns, be a genuine balance in military strength between NATO and the Warsaw Pact". Instead of this balance, the disparity between the two sides is staggering and is increasing all the time.

The noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, explained that the Soviet Union, unhappily, had also to deploy forces in the Far East, and therefore could not concentrate all its strength against us. I quite agree with him that, in estimating relative strength, it is unrealistic—and I do not think that it is being done—to count up all the Soviet forces all over the world, including the forces which they have in the Far East on the Chinese border. Therefore, I shall refer only to the Central Front.

On the critical Central Front the Warsaw Pact has twice as many divisions as NATO, three times as many tanks and six times as many guns. In the last five years, Soviet ground forces have increased by about 100,000 men and in the last two years the number of their fighter bombers has trebled. A report to the United States Senate estimates that, thanks to their incomparably higher state of readiness, the Soviet forces might well be able to reach the Rhine before the NATO Powers could make up their minds whether or not they would use tactical nuclear weapons. On top of all this, the recent interventions of the Soviet Union in disputes in different parts of Africa clearly indicate their intention to establish a military presence in the African continent which, in the event of war in Europe, could most seriously threaten our vital sea communications.

Against this grave background, we surely have the inescapable obligation to bear our fair and full share of NATO's essential requirements. Moreover, we are concerned not only with our duty to our NATO allies. We are also concerned with our duty to our own British Servicemen. They must be properly paid and properly equipped. Pay has fallen seriously behind the level of average industrial earnings. At the same time, the extent of the Government's cuts in defence expenditure has reached the point where, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, our front line Forces are being deprived of essential modern equipment. This cannot be excused or justified.

In his Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, refers to: negotiations for … force reductions". Of course, we can all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, in his moving maiden speech today, that we must strive by every means in our power to achieve the ultimate aim of general disarmament. The present arms race involves a monstrous and absurd waste of human resources. But, whether it be at Helsinki, Belgrade or anywhere else, we have no hope whatsoever of persuading the Soviet Union to agree to general disarmament, so long as we are negotiating from a position of weakness. The best contribution which we and our allies can make to the establishment of permanent peace and general disarmament is to demonstrate our preparedness for war and to show beyond doubt our will and our ability to protect the freedom and independence of our peoples.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, if I understand the noble Lord aright, his priority is defence, first and foremost. I wonder whether the noble Lord would be good enough to tell the House at what stage in his approach to the problem he changed his mind. I suffer, unfortunately, from a memory which is perhaps not so patchy as that of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I remember the lot. I remember, of course, when he was Minister of Defence. I have been reading his 1957 White Paper.

Whether noble Lords like it or not, what they are debating today is not exclusively the shortcomings and failures of the present Government to do certain things or the fact that they are doing things which are wrong. Today we are discussing the defence policy of this country as it has evolved over the last 20 years. Not a single Member of this House who makes a serious claim to have studied the subject will deny that there are no short-term policies in relation to defence. Defence is essentially a long-term question, one of decades.

Before I deal in detail with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, may I say that I have looked at the Benches opposite. I do not want to upset the noble Lord the Leader of the House, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the Government will be beaten tonight in the Lobbies, because the backwoodsmen have arrived. A Motion of censure on a subject so emotional as defence must be seriously regarded. One face, however, is missing. I have looked to see whether one of the most distinguished Ministers of Defence of all periods is present. I mean Lord Head. I fought with him often, but also I shared objectives with him. The noble Viscount, Lord Head, refused to introduce the 1957 White Paper because he, as an honourable man, knew that this country ought not to be left so weak as it would be over a period of many years, as has most certainly happened as a result of the Defence White Paper.


My Lords, is the noble Lord suggesting that I am a dishonourable man?


No, my Lords, on the contrary. All I am saying is that if the cap fits, wear it. I am saying that the noble Lord has come to this House today and has said that the top priority is defence, exclusive of other considerations.


My Lords, I did not say that the top priority is defence, exclusive of all other considerations.


Then, my Lords, my hearing must be a little bad. The noble Lord stressed that the priority was defence.


Yes, my Lords.


My Lords, in paragraph 6 of the 1957 White Paper the noble Lord said that it was therefore in the true interests of defence that the claims of military expenditure should be considered in conjunction, to maintain the country's financial and economic strength. This is exactly what the Government have been doing. But that is not all that the noble Lord did; he abolished conscription.


Quite rightly, my Lords.


My Lords, the noble Lord did not break down the overall number; he left that for two years. What he did was to introduce and set a target for the Army—not the Army's needs, nor the 185,000 which was the minimum. The target, as it was revealed the following year, was 165,000. The 165,000 target was not what this country required to avoid overstretch, or in order to fulfil its commitments; this was the number that the noble Lord's actuaries told him he might be able to recruit. And what were we going to do? We were going to save money. What was the gross domestic product percentage when the noble Lord was Minister of Defence? It was 8.7 per cent. It is now 5.7 per cent. The noble Lord was going to save money because he intended to depend upon an atomic deterrent, Blue Streak. This was one of the lame ducks. All we got was the bill for Blue Streak. Then it was to be Skybolt; but the Americans scuppered it, so Skybolt was cancelled. Then we had—what? We had Polaris, a year after the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, had said that Polaris was no good.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord could turn this way because I want to hear him.


My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon. A year after the noble Lord said that it was no good, we had Polaris. Now we have four of them, armed with A.3s and targeted on American targets. When the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, was Prime Minister he announced on 1st October 1963 that the Polaris, our great atomic deterrent, was targeted in accordance with the NATO plan.

Now may I turn to the commitment—


My Lords, the noble Lord is getting his facts wrong.


—on which the Government have reneged. What was our NATO commitment? It was an undertaking given by the late Lord Avon, then Mr. Anthony Eden, who went to Paris and committed this country—the details are published in the White Paper—to maintain four divisions and the Second Tactical Air Force to the end of this century on the European land mass. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, in his 1957 White Paper, the British Army of the Rhine content was 64,000. We have never had 64,000 in the Rhine Army; the number was whittled down to 55,000. If noble Lords care to refresh their memories, may I ask them to read page 601 of Lord Moran's diary for 1st October 1954. I have referred to this on many occasions. Lord Moran went to see the Prime Minister because he wanted to speak to him about the great success of Eden—how he had been clapped on the back by Dulles, and how Mendes-France had shaken his hand. Britain had saved Europe. Four divisions were to be deployed on the European land mass. What did Sir Winston say? He said, "I don't believe a word of it. We can renounce the undertaking at any time we like. We do not intend to fulfil that obligation". And we never have fulfilled it from the day that the undertaking was given.


My Lords, I had no notice that this attack was going to be made upon me. I am a little surprised that if the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, intended to make this detailed and profound attack upon me—the same attack which he made 20 years ago in the House of Commons and which he is repeating here today—he should have changed the order of speakers on the list of speakers in order to speak after, and not before me, thereby denying me the opportunity to reply, as I could, to many of the points which he has made.


My Lords, I am sorry, but I am not making an attack upon the noble Lord. The undertaking that was given to maintain four divisions on the European land mass was made not by the noble Lord; it was made by Lord Avon. This is a speech which I have made many times before. I changed the order of speaking for very good reasons which I explained to our Chief Whip. Whether I have spoken before or after the noble Lord, I am saying what is on the record. That is not an attack; it is merely recalling to your Lordships' minds facts which have been established over and over again.

I would vote for the Opposition Amendment on one condition: on the only condition upon which it can be fulfilled. We cannot fulfil the commitment to NATO, we cannot avoid overstretch, we cannot have the Armed Forces we want unless we have conscription because once we abandon concription we abandon any possibility of maintaining our Forces within a sum which will enable us to pay them properly and to equip them properly. If this is an attack, please forgive me, because if I really started to al tack I should certainly give notice and I should have something to say.

What has happened is that the noble Lord did something that Lord Head would not do: he introduced the 1957 White Paper. This country and both Houses of Parliament are lumbered with the consequences of that White Paper. The bill for defence since the end of the war is no less than £71,000 million. We boast about what the oil revenue will be in 1985: it will not equal the cost of defence and certainly if the price we had to pay for our freedom was that, I would face it; but that is not so, because our strategy is wrong. We have neither the economic nor the military strength to sustain the obligations on which we have entered. That is why successive Conservative Governments followed by Labour Governments have reneged on the commitment to keep four divisions on the European land mass.

The first weakness is that we cannot provide the equipment. Why? Because only 37 per cent. is being spent on the equipment: the rest is going on pay, allowances, non-effective pay, research and development, and so on. So the first thing is that we cannot equip, and then the second stage is—and it has happened in America as well—that we cannot afford to pay the Armed Forces what they ought to be paid. The noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, did not realise this. If you get rid of conscription you have to start bidding in the market place to get the specialists you want because you teach them trades and when they have learned their trades they can go outside and can get much higher rates of pay. But that is not all: whereas in the days when I was soldiering you could not get the marriage allowance before you were 26 if you were an other rank, and if you were an officer you could not get allowances until you were 30, now you can marry as soon as you like, you get allowances, you get a house, your children are educated and we reach the position where we have more women and children on the strength of the defence budget than there are soldiers, sailors and airmen in the Armed Forces. This is supposed to be a defence policy.

So if the Opposition want to do what they say, they must go out into the market place, to the hustings, and persuade their fellow countrymen. If they want to carry out their obligations, be they in defence of the civil powers, the provision of firemen, flying off to Bermuda or wherever it happens to be, supporting the civil power in Northern Ireland—if you want that, and you want to be able to keep four divisions on the European land mass, then you will reintroduce conscription. But the day you got rid of conscription any possibility of having any more than the bill vanished from the defence concept of this country. This is no Party point and I am attacking no individuals.

I honour Lord Head; I honour people like Fitzroy Maclean and Brian Harrison whose political careers were rubbed out because, although they were Tories, they had the guts to put their country before their Party. I have tried to do the same. I have always said that we must have conscription if we want to make a contribution to NATO within our capacity to pay. If we do not do it, then noble Lords on that side of the House who go into the Lobby in support of the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, are humbugs.

5. 46 p.m.


My Lords, it is always difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. With a great deal of what he said I find myself in complete agreement, but there are certain differences which I will not follow this evening. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for moving this Motion today and I apologise to him in his absence and to the House for being absent from the House for the first part of his speech. As I shall explain to the noble Lord privately, the circumstances were beyond my control. But his speech and the long list of other speakers today reflects the growing concern among thinking people in this country about the security of the Western world.

Perhaps I may here mention the two remarkable maiden speeches which we have heard today: that of the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, and I hope he will forgive me if I say especially that of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, one of the greatest figures in the history of the long struggle for disarmament; as one might have predicted he made a moving and distinguished maiden speech.

I shall not rehearse in detail the evidence of the increasing disparity between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. All these sombre facts and figures have been spelled out again and again by Western defence advisers, by those politicians who take the trouble to acquaint themselves of the facts, and of course in the Press, on radio and on television. They have been emphasised again today in speeches in your Lordships' House, notably in the distinguished contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, who speaks with great experience and authority on these matters; and I take it that no one is any longer in any doubt about the underlying assumption of this debate, namely, that the military strength of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact is growing daily in almost every way, while that of the Western Alliance is, at the very best, static, and in some cases it is even deteriorating in absolute terms.

But I should like to broaden the debate and to suggest that too often we tend to regard this great confrontation between international communism and the Free World as one with its focus completely in Western Europe. To a very great extent Western Europe relies for its security upon the massive deterrent strength of the United States of America. Even if this assumption were valid it is possible to argue that the strategy of NATO is no longer relevant to the new dimensions of the threat.

I do not for one moment criticise the quality of the troops who man the navies, armies and air forces of the Western Alliance, nor do I criticise the quality of their military leadership. Indeed, if some of the political leaders of the West had shown half the courage and perception of their military advisers we might not be in the perilous state we are in today. I believe it is a perilous state, because my contention is that NATO has allowed itself to be overtaken by changes in Soviet foreign and military policy and by the impact of technology on modern warfare. Furthermore, I contend that NATO has become debilitated by a tendency to regard such concepts as détente, mutual force reductions and other desirable long-term aims as a substitute for an effective and adequate military defence.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in moving his Amendment, challenged anyone to refute the validity of the negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions. I challenge them, and I challenge them on the grounds which were so ably explained by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker. They are simply these, that the mutual and balanced force reductions are based upon a logical fallacy. The Soviet Union is determined that any reductions shall be differential in their sense, not in ours, so that the reductions are balanced, leaving the Soviet Union with the immense superiority that it has now. Of course, it does not require a mathematical genius to show that if that argument is carried to its logical conclusion we shall end with NATO having no forces at all and the Soviet Union still with a very strong military capability. On the other hand, it is the firm intention of the Western Alliance that this shall not happen but that any reductions shall leave the two forces mutually balanced; in other words, that the reductions must be differential in the Western sense. It seems to me that there are two totally incompatible aims here, and whatever one may say, whatever pious hopes one may express about mutual and balanced force reductions, my own contention, from a not inconsiderable experience of disarmament negotiations, is that they are impossible to achieve, however hard we may try to achieve them.

If we allow ourselves to be preoccupied with this narrow concept of the confrontation in Western Europe, even if we accept that that is where the main confrontation is, I would advance the proposition that almost every single assumption upon which the conventional defence of Europe is based is now out of date and irrelevant. The present doctrine for the defence of Western Europe depends on totally unrealistic assumptions about the warning time that might be available before a military attack, in spite of the persistent warnings of our military advisers that the Soviet Union has now achieved what is called, in the military jargon, the capacity for attack without prior reinforcement. Translated into simple English that means a surprise attack. The Soviet Union now has, or is rapidly achieving, that capacity. Similarly, we make overoptimistic assumptions about the availability of reserve forces and equipment and the ability of NATO to deliver them to the theatre of operations in time to have any positive effect on the battle. This is a natural corollary of exaggerated assumptions about warning time.

We assume also, in that context, the ability of the United States to reinforce Western Europe by sea at a time when the massive and growing strength of the Soviet Navy has enabled the Russians, if not to dominate the Atlantic sea routes, at least to pose a very great threat to their security. More than one senior naval adviser in the Western Alliance has recently underlined with devastating clarity the simple fact that we cannot guarantee in time of war to keep open the sea lanes between the United States and Western Europe except at appalling and crippling cost. I believe that we are also making rash assumptions about the implications of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, in spite of the fact that, quite apart from what may be available from intelligence sources, there is incontrovertible published evidence that the Soviet Union does not subscribe to the concept of a tactical nuclear war in Europe fought according to some cosy and well-defined Queensberry Rules.

Given all these out of date assumptions, it seems to me not surprising that the current posture of NATO gives rise to some very considerable concern. The more obvious weaknesses have been well publicised. General Alexander Haig, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, has spoken of "strategic and tactical maldeployment". What he means by that is, quite simply, that in strategic terms the forces of NATO are where they are today because that is where they were when the war ended. Their disposition bears no relation to military defence at all. The strongest forces are where the point of attack is least likely to come, and where the attack is most likely to come our forces are weakest. By "tactical maldeployment" he means that the troops are in barracks some considerable distance from where they would have to fight. Even those who are closest to where their defensive areas would be would take hours to get there. In the extreme case of the Dutch troops, the Netherlands Corps of two divisions, all those two divisions, with the exception of one brigade, are in barracks in Holland, three days away from where they would have to fight the battle. Indeed, in the context of a surprise attack they need hardly bother to leave their barracks at all. There are other weaknesses too, which at this stage of the debate I will not go into. They have been publicised—difficulties of standardisation, inter-operability and so on.

I know that it will be said that this is an over-pessimistic view and that things are not as bad as I have painted them. Let me say at this stage that I believe that if there were an attack in Western Europe NATO forces would give a very good account of themselves. I have no doubt about that. But what I do say—and I hope that noble Lords will accept this—is that the trend is moving steadily against the West every day, and unless the countries of the West, and especially of Western Europe, are prepared to face this unpleasant fact and spend a little more—not only in the way of treasure but in the way of courage and imagination as well—then we shall before too long be in a position in which the Soviet Union will be able to achieve one of its principal foreign I policy aims, which is the isolation of Western Europe from America, its "Finlandisation" and then its subjugation without a single shot being fired. That is what we will have achieved if we bury our heads in the sand.

But I would go further, my Lords, in the short time left at my disposal, and say that even if we could get the defence position right in Western Europe, we would still be light-years away from understanding and meeting the long-term underlying threat to Western political systems and to the liberty of the people of the Free World. We must begin to realise that this is not a regional threat, this is a global threat; it is a threat which is posed across the whole spectrum of geopolitical strategy. It is a struggle of economies, of technology, of research and development, of intelligence, of subversion. It is a total global struggle. It is reflected in this, just to give one small example; that in the context of the growth of the Soviet Navy itself there has also been an astonishing growth in the strength of its merchant fleet, which is regarded by the Soviet Union, as in effect, a massive complex of logistical support for Soviet global strategy. It is reflected in the apparent ability of Soviet strategists, political theorists, and political activists for that matter, to pick off African and Asian countries one by one, and gradually to establish a stranglehold over the communications between the countries of the Free World and those which supply them with the resources and raw materials upon which their security and their very survival depends.

It is time, in my view, that the Free World adopted a global view of the policy which lies behind the threat of international Communism. As the American General, General Graham, has put it, and I could put it no better: The grand strategy of this adversary is every bit as totalitarian as its internal politics.". He went on to say: All facets of international intercourse, political, economic, military and psychological, are being orchestrated by the Kremlin into a strategy designed to bring down the free institutions and Governments of the West". Meanwhile, in the face of this relentless global threat, NATO remains, just to give an example of the contrast, solemnly bound to some convention that it may not operate South of an imaginary line of latitude drawn on a map of the world. This is one of the paradoxes which reflects the principal difference between the two great ideological groupings of the world. The Soviet Union and its allies are motivated by an almost messianic imperial ideology, while the West seems to be unable to summon up the vision or the political will to take those measures, which might in certain circumstances be both expensive and unpopular, to ensure that their institutions and their liberty survive.

Although it will be a provocative and unpopular thing to say, I believe it is time we recognised the community of interests which exists between NATO as it is at present constructed and such countries as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, South Korea and South Africa. At once it will be pointed out that some of these countries have Governments whose internal policies we find repugnant. My answer to that is that, repugnant as they may be, none of them poses an immediate threat to our security, our liberty and our survival. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, whose internal regimes are as repugnant and oppressive as any in the world, do pose such a threat and if we want to survive we had better get some of our priorities right.

What is now needed is some kind of central political and strategic direction for all those countries of the world which share with us a determination not to be engulfed by Soviet imperialism. It is in this context that I wholeheartedly support the aims which lie behind the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. This country can play an important role in the Western Alliance and in the defence of the Free World if it has the courage and the will to do so. If it is going to do so, it must recognise the importance of strong defences furnished with modern weapons and manned by soldiers, sailors and airmen who are adequately paid and looked after as valuable and indispensable servants of the State—not as people whose interests can be ignored and whose loyalty can be taken for granted every time an economic crisis forces upon this Government or that a need for cuts in public expenditure.

Just in case I should be accused of excessive pessimism and doomwatching—the usual criticisms levelled at this kind of analysis—I should like to end by saying that, in my view, the West and the Free World are potentially stronger, morally, materially and economically, and even potentially militarily stronger, than the forces which threaten our freedom and our very existence. The Free World is capable of defending itself successfully against any threat, external or internal, if only it will recognise the threat, combine against it and then have the courage to meet it at its own level with thoroughness and relentless determination. Britain, our country, should be in the vanguard of this struggle, not trailing along in the rear like a poor relation in the family of free nations, making pathetic noises of economic weakness, defeatism and appeasement.

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support the Motion for two reasons: first, for the reason so ably expounded, that we should play a greater part in the Western Alliance. But I wish to try to prove that, in addition, the present reduced expenditure does not allow manpower and equipment that we do have to be used effectively and that there is therefore an unnecessary shortfall in cost efficiency through false economies; and to refer to two branches of the Services.

I should like first to mention the Territorial Volunteer Reserve. The majority of units have a direct reinforcement role on mobilisation to the extent of 30 per cent. of the BAOR NATO requirement. This commitment is met by a force which costs no more than 3 per cent. of the total defence budget. The TA is therefore a highly effective and very cheap reserve. However, the role of many of the BAOR battalions of the Territorial Army is based on company groups with tasks which involve wide dispersal. In many cases the battalions, already scaled down to the minimum, will lack the strength to cover their tasks adequately. Yet this shortfall could easily be made up by increasing the scale of the TA reinforcements, which would directly increase the defence capacity of BAOR at the least cost and without the conscription of which we were warned by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg.

However, this would require a number of new drill halls, buildings. A large number of TAVR centres throughout the country were built many years ago when the requirements of TA training were very different from today's. They are no longer located in areas which adequately cover changes in population and the growth of new towns, and some centres have become isolated due to urban development and changes in road communications. Others are old and provide inadequate training and storage facilities, and involve heavy and uneconomical and costly maintenance commitments. The cost of providing facilities to look after the sophisticated and expensive equipment, and to train properly the volunteers, must be very small compared with the overall cost of the whole force. It must be an extremely false economy to have that situation prevailing in a number of units as it does, where the equipment cannot be used to best effect; its full use cannot be realised and it suffers from deterioration or theft; where there is inadequate accommodation to train the volunteers and where the maintenance and heating of outdated centres involves unnecessary waste of expenditure.

Further, there is a great wastage problem in the TAVR which very much reduces the cost effectiveness of the force. While it appears that the AVR is recruited up to 85 per cent. of establishment, the wastage often runs to 20 per cent. per annum. Of course, some people move out of their area, but most of the wastage is due to the financial strain on the volunteers. Due to the serious financial hardship that their service with the TA at camp and weekends involves, people who have good civilian jobs are tending to terminate their services sooner than in the past. This is particularly so for people working in small firms and especially those self-employed, and there is a growing resistance from volunteers, and particularly from their wives, against their staying in the reserve, hence the 20 per cent. wastage.

Despite the apparently favourable recruiting situation, it is essential to encourage volunteers to prolong their service. To do this it is essential to increase the scale of training bounty by some 33 per cent. or about £30 each, particularly for those with two or more years' service, even if this is at the cost of losing the liability bounty. Obviously fully trained volunteers of longer service are far better value for money than a reserve existing largely of volunteers of only one or two years' service who can never be completely trained.

Expansion of the TAVR would be by far the most cost effective means of increasing our NATO contribution. There have been considerable improvements in the equipment issued to the Volunteer Reserve but the existing remaining discrepancies between the Regular Army and the Reserve must be made up if full use is to be made of the expenditure on the TA as an effective reserve and to get the best value for money.

To take an example, on exercise recently a TA unit joined its BAOR formation and started for its formation area. The regular unit with tracked vehicles went ahead but the TA unit, with old wheeled vehicles, could not follow, and the whole formation had to be resited. That was just an exercise, but ponder the effect if it were the real thing. What a waste of expense if the troops cannot perform when the crunch comes.

I should like now to turn to the Royal Air Force and refer first to the Central Flying School. This has always been responsible for pure flying standards in the RAF, and these standards, which are checked annually by the examining wing, have always been extremely high. As an economy measure the CFS now has to share its airfield with three other non-associated flying units, and it will be difficult for it to carry out some of its corporate tasks in competition with other units, leading to a lessening of efficiency and cost effectiveness. Due to the economies taken, there are now only two basic flying training schools and one advanced school for fast jets. Even at full capacity these schools cannot produce enough pilots to maintain the flow into the front line because of the high failure rate in training. So the Service is entering a situation where the front line will not be fully manned because of the outflow from squadrons caused by normal rotation, wastage, promotion and so on.

There is an urgent need for the opening of another basic flying school and, possibly, another advanced school. That would allow an adequate number of pilots to be trained to serve the aircraft, and in addition, allow room for expansion; it would allow the training of foreign pilots, with political and financial advantages; and it would prepare for the start of the Tornado programme. Surely it must be false economy to have expensive front line aircraft and yet have an inadequate number of pilots to man them.

However, much worse than the lack of pilots, is the fact that, due to the dwindling fast-jet experience, qualified instructors are becoming scarce. While the CFS were, until recently, able to pick and choose, flying units are increasingly loath to give up their best instructors, and the cream are no longer going to the CFS. Already the basic schools are seven flying instructors short and it is estimated that next summer the deficiency will be 20. It must surely be irresponsible of a Government to place an Air Force in a situation where the numbers of qualified instructors are inadequate to train enough pilots, let alone to expand in an emergency.

A further waste of resources is evident with the Hawk. Only a third of those aircraft are fitted for weapons training, while if they were all equipped they could be rotated between flying and weapons schools and there would be a lessening in fatigue life. Therefore, we have a lot of expensive equipment, such as the Hawks, and yet we cannot get the best use out of it for the sake of the comparatively small extra cost of fitting them all for weapons training.

Finally, I should like to say a little about pay, which is a concern for all ranks in the Services. I should like to take just one example. To get the best results from defence expenditure, the excellence of the commander at each level must surely be one of the most important factors. Yet, in the past 18 months, of 15 Ground Branch Station commands available, no less than five qualified officers refused promotion to take the posts. Refusal is not a decision that an officer would take lightly, but these refusals were made because the officers could not undertake the financial commitments of the appointment. This relates particularly to the cost of service housing. If those officers were the first choice, then the officers finally chosen must, presumably, have been the second choice.

I have already recounted how instructors will become scarcer. The trend points towards a lowering of efficiency of command, of flying and of flying staff which can only mean a loss of cost-effectiveness, possibly even wastage of aircraft, through false economies. I believe that it is urgent that the defence expenditure should be increased, not only to fulfil our proper role in NATO, but just to make the best use of the equipment and the personnel we already have.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to congratulate the two noble Lords who made their maiden speeches this afternoon, although it is impertinent to congratulate so eminent and distinguished a man as the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. I am intervening in the debate for two reason. For a number of years I have had the privilege of taking part in courses for the training of senior officers in our Armed Forces. In so doing I have come to have the highest possible regard for their skill, their sophistication, their breadth of mind, their genuine enthusiasm for their work and, of course, their patriotism. Today I wish to speak a little about their field of work where extremely important developments are taking place.

Another reason why I wish to speak today is that my university has, over the past few years, produced a fairly substantial volume of work on the economics of defence—a subject not studied very much in this country, although a great deal of work has, of course, been done on it in the United States and Canada. Therefore, my university is a repository of some expertise in the economics of defence and I intend to say a little about it today as it is, in fact, central to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and to the two Amendments.

Like everyone else who has taken part in the debate, I do so with a sense of gravity and some sense of despair. I know that the House will forgive me if my first point is a slightly Party one. The Labour Party has a long and honourable record in defence. After all, it was the Labour Party which brought Winston Churchill to power in 1940, and it was Ernest Bevin, Lord Shinwell and Hugh Dalton who kept up our defence capability in those terrible years of the Stalin terror at the end of the Second World War. Hugh Gaitskell almost wrecked his career on defence, and I should have thought that Mr. Healey was a powerful and formidable Minister. Labour has a pacifist wing and a pro-Soviet wing, but I should have thought that realism and patriotism have been its principal guiding lights. I hope that I shall be forgiven for this slightly partisan opening, but it seems to me important that we should put on record at this stage the matter to which my noble friend Lord Shepherd alluded. I do not think that there is any division in the House between our commitment to defence. We are arguing about the means and not about the ultimate ends.

My second point is that we are cutting the defence budget as part of the general policy of restraining public expenditure. Up to a point I am a supporter of the policy of cutting expenditure. Twice in recent years public expenditure has become out of control: once under Mr. Heath, and then in the first year of the present Administration or rather Sir Harold Wilson's Administration. The major ground for my support of the present policy of restraints in public expenditure is that the Government in these boosts were wasting a great deal of resources on purposes that, in my opinion anyway, were of a lower priority than higher personal expenditure and, above all, productive investment. Yet, having said that, I am a supporter of higher public expenditure in some areas, especially defence. I shall explain why a little later, if the House will bear with me.

I wish to make the point that in a country with 1½ million unemployed I believe, quite frankly, that there is room for substantial economic expansion fuelled by substantial tax reductions and by some substantial public expenditure increases. In the old days, defence expenditure was limited by absolute physical constraints, especially on manpower. Noble Lords will recall that the Defence Estimates introduced by Mr. Gaitskell when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer were, in fact, too large for the productive capacity and the manpower of the country, and they were cut back by Sir Winston Churchill's Government which came into power in October 1951.

Public expenditure is not now limited by physical constraints and manpower constraints. It is limited by economic doctrine, particularly monetarists' doctrine. Those who support these doctrines have, in fact, committed the nation to what I regard as a wholly unnecessary, and therefore unacceptable, level of unemployment. In other words, in my judgment, defence expenditure could rise and taxes could fall if only we swung back to full employment policies. I am singing an old tune but I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I think that it is a correct and proper one.

I now turn briefly to the two main points that I wish to make. The evidence, which over the years one has assembled, has suggested to me, as it has suggested to virtually everyone else who has taken part in the debate, that this country, given the present strategies, needs to strengthen its defences. In one respect, it needs to strengthen them in a way that is rarely publicly stated, and in publicly stating it one is, I think, in grave danger of misinterpretation. Nevertheless, that is not necessarily a reason for not stating it. I should have thought that it is reasonable to assume that the risks of serious internal dissent are now more probable in Western constitutional democracies like our own than they have been for many years. Northern Ireland, hijackings and mass picketing seem to me to be likely to be the pattern of the future, only probably more so rather than less so. I am not advocating that; I am saying that this is my judgment of the way in which things are likely to turn out. Of course, one hopes that that will not be so. But it would seem to me to be most imprudent not to plan for it and, of course, the Armed Services do so. The risks are great.

The skill and the loyalty of the Armed Forces and, one must add, of the police, are surely integral to the survival of constitutional government in this country. On the basis of my own experience, I do not believe that that skill and loyalty can necessarily be taken for granted, particularly if the Armed Forces do not think that they are being given either the resources or the standing in public life to do the job. Above all—and this is the reference to training which I said I would make—we must not neglect the training and education of our officers. Never before have they required such sophistication, such delicacy, and such restraint; and that means substantial increases in training—training which at the present time is being cut back.

This possible extension of the role of the Armed Forces in constraining internal defence—in fact, it is actually happening in Northern Ireland and during the firemen's strike—is clearly allied to their capacity to contribute to Western defence as a whole. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I see little true evidence that Soviet Communism or its other variant, Euro-Communism, have changed their nature. Since Leninists broke away from the major Party, they have always been opposed to any form of constitutionl democracy or pluralism. I see no evidence whatsoever that there has been any change in Soviet ideology on that point. They remain committed foes of individualist, pluralist societies and, above all, committed foes of Social Democrats. If the Soviet Army landed here, it would be this side of the House that was strung up on the lamp posts first. I think we know that the USSR and their friends will not hesitate to ferment internal dissent in the West by every means, as they are, of course, already doing.

I conclude by drawing together the threads of my argument. I believe that the threats to our security, both internal and external, are increasing and are not decreasing. I believe that détente is an illusion. I believe that we must be prepared to meet these threats with a highly sophisticated, highly complex and intensely loyal Armed Forces—loyal to the Constitution and to Parliamentary democracy. I see no convincing economic case for continually depressing defence expenditure in these circumstances. I plead with the Government that the time has come not only to begin to amend their economic policies, but to cease the continual process of cutting the defence budget.

6.24 p.m.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, I should like to begin by joining in the tributes that have been paid to the two maiden speakers this afternoon, and to say what a delight it was once again to listen to the unrivalled eloquence of my old and respected friend Lord Noel-Baker.

Only once before have I spoken in a defence debate—a subject in which I have little expertise—and I do so now with extreme brevity simply because I want to add my support to the case that my noble friend Lord Carrington has put forward this afternoon in moving his Motion. I have always had something like a horror of political Parties—and perhaps most so, my own political Party—which give pledges about future Government expenditure. When I was a Treasury Minister even at the risk of being torn asunder, wild horses would never persuade me to do so.

It is, therefore, not light-heartedly that I say that I, personally, hope that my Party will give a firm commitment, without qualification, to restore the cuts in defence expenditure which have been made or proposed during the past two or three years by the present Government, if those cuts have not been restored when my Party takes office again. I say that because, even in the economic situation which has prevailed over the past few years, those cuts were, in my opinion, irresponsible. So far as I know, they were not backed by any professional advice and, indeed, one understood that the positive advice given by the Government's chief professional advisers was very definitely against the cuts.

Ministers have advanced as justification the fact that our contribution to NATO is larger in relation to our GNP than that of certain other members. But surely, in an honourable alliance, the partners do not compete with one another as to how little each can contribute; they compete as to how much of the joint burden each can manage to shoulder. If we carry a bigger-than-average share of the burden, we should feel proud of being able to do so.

Who can claim, from an analysis of the total expenditure in the civil field, that the figures we are debating this afternoon are beyond our capacity? One would have thought that memories of the 1930s would have warned us that, when the Armed Services are starved of resources—of either manpower or equipment—to a point where training becomes unrealistic, efficiency and morale are bound to suffer and will take a long time to restore.

The quality of the personnel in our Armed Forces today has never been equalled and has certainly never been bettered. Let us, for our part, give them a fair chance of measuring up to the potentialities and the good performance of which they are so capable if they are given the opportunity. A French statesman said that to govern is to choose. Yes, indeed. With public expenditure, the right priorities must be decided on and resolutely adhered to. It is my opinion that, in choosing the cuts in the defence expenditure that have been made in preference to further cuts in the wide field of civil expenditure, the Government chose the wrong priorities in order to placate a section of their Party.

I hope that we shall all support the Motion which my noble friend Lord Carrington has moved this afternoon and, by doing so, show confidence that in the Defence Services we have a quality which has never been bettered. I believe that the argument that my noble friend has so persuasively advocated this afternoon is the only one which is consistent with our national duty.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to begin by congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, on his maiden speech. As I myself have a certain acquaintanceship with personnel and training, I have great sympathy for the experiences that he has had. It is also a privilege to congratulate that statesman, the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, on his maiden speech. It was nice to hear that, contrary to what I think my noble Leader felt, he does not agree with unilateral disarmament. However, he did talk about disarmament, and disarmament, if not unilateral, falls into the Amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has tabled. I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, dealt completely with this Amendment. It is quite clear that to get some sort of mutual force reduction on terms which could be acceptable to us is but a dream at this present time.

The Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is a little more difficult because he goes a certain amount of the way in the right direction but, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, there is a great deal in deciding on the right priorities. I should have thought your Lordships might agree that the priority which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, gives to the Services' pay—in passing, throwing the 12-month agreement out of the window—is perhaps out of place when one realises that it takes a long time to recover from massive cuts and to build up the sort of Forces we need to provide a proper contribution to NATO.

As the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, reminds us, cuts have been with us ever since the end of the last war. I remember sitting as a very juinor officer in the Admiralty in 1953 and having to deal with the cuts which were then being imposed on us by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. We did not like these much, but we did not really mind them in the way that they later came to be minded. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, put his finger on it when he said that in those immediate post-war days we had resources built up during the war which were more than we could really use for a peace-time Navy. No doubt that applied to the other Services as well.

It is reasonable to say that the earlier part of the cutting in this post-war period had a point to it, and of course there was the Korean War which had effects, and there were various other engagements. It was not until the mid-1960s that the cuts started to go beyond what was reasonable. Of course, ever since then we have been involved in debates trying to decide what is reasonable. The only thing to say now is that one cannot easily put a finger on it. The best one can do is to talk to senior officers—and I am fortunate in having some who are friends of mine—and, rather as the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, was recounting what happened at regimental level, my message from senior officers over the last couple of years has been, "For Heaven's sake, be careful about not losing the Americans!"

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, put a point on this because maybe the present Government of the United States has made all sorts of declarations, and we are reasonably happy that President Carter understands what is required, but when we are talking about cuts, and building up, and strengths of equipment, we are not talking in terms of one or two years but in terms of decades. We have had a steady downturn since 1945, and we must bottom off and go up again. Where we go to is a matter of judgment, but we must not go on down—this is the important thing—or we shall lose the confidence not only of our European neighbours but, more especially, of the United States.

The problem which was touched on by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing was the question of the number of escorts, and other craft, for defending the American convoys coming across the North Atlantic. It is a matter of opinion as to whether these convoys could get to us in time if a war broke out. But the important thing is that the American people must think that "their boys in Europe" are supportable. That is much more important than many other things that we might provide forces for. If there is any question in our minds—and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, spelled out very well why there should be a question in our minds—as to whether the United States might come to the opinion that we need greater strength on the part of NATO as a whole to ensure that their people were properly protected at sea, then this is the reason why we have to stop this general decline.

It is important that the Government tackle this problem with the right priorities; look at the facts in the terms of my noble friend's Motion; look at the fact of what to do about the Government's commitment to NATO—because the Government have made a commitment which they are honour bound to undertake. And the Government must not let this drift so that they say, rather on the lines of Lord Shinwell's Amendment, "Let us put it off until tomorrow" because "tomorrow" is already past—if that is not too Irish for your Lordships. "Tomorrow" is already past, and we have gone beyond the stage at which we can make a reasonable contribution to the sort of things which our allies are expecting of us. I implore your Lordships to join with my noble friend in supporting his Motion. I hope desperately that the Government will take great care to heed it in the event that they find themselves being invited so to do.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, my first word tonight must be one of appreciation of the maiden speech which we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. I have never heard a maiden speech so noteworthy in either a long membership of another place or in this House. I believe that that speech will be remembered and quoted in the future when all other speeches in this debate are forgotten. It is not only in recognition of Lord Noel-Baker's service to peace and disarmament that he should be welcomed as a Member of this House: I feel that his presence is an honour to us all. I apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that I was not present when he made his maiden speech. I am quite sure that that was my misfortune.

Because of the large number of speakers, and the time at which this debate is taking place, I do no intend to make the survey of the defence situation that I had previously intended. If I may insert a commercial, I am more ready to do this because, in association with the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, we shall be publishing tomorrow a detailed survey.

I want to ask two questions of Her Majesty's Government before I turn to my major theme. The first is this: Is it the intention to use the Cruise missile, 200 times more destructive than the bomb which fell on Hiroshima, as an alternative to our present Polaris submarines when they become obsolete? Secondly, I wish to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are supporting the proposals now being made that the neutron bomb—which surely is the climax of destruction, which can end all life and allow buildings to remain—should be included in NATO.

I want to say a few words about the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I am almost inclined to vote for it, because I am so deeply in favour of his appeal that the members of the Armed Forces should be paid more than they are paid at present. I take the view that all those who risk their lives to save the lives of others, whether they are firemen, policemen, or members of the Armed Forces (so long as our Forces continue) are a special case and should have priority when we are discussing the present 10 per cent. limit.

The main theme on which I want to speak is in reply to a number of points expressed today by many speakers, among them the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. It is said that those of us who have been arguing for peace and disarmament for 70 years now are Utopian idealists and romanticists. In contrast with that I believe that we have now reached a stage where disarmament has become a practical proposal. I am confident that all the activity of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, recipient of the Nobel Peace award, will be realised within the next decade.

We have the SALT talks and the Vienna talks. I agree again with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, when he says that these discussions about limitation of our armaments are of little avail. The International Institute for Strategic Studies says that despite the SALT talks and their likely agreement, the number of warheads carried on Soviet missiles is likely to rise from 3,600 to 7,500 by the early 'eighties, and those of the United States from 11,000 to 14,000, despite the fall in the number of launchers. These proposals for the limitation of armed forces are resulting in a reduction of the actual missiles, but the warheads on the missiles are becoming so destructive that the danger of human annihilation is all the time becoming greater. Despite all the disarmament conferences that have been held and the millions of words which have been uttered, the power of armaments to destroy grows greater and greater, and the danger of them killing and mutilating more people becomes larger and larger. Therefore I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, when he says that this effort to secure a balance of power between the two sides is doomed to failure.

Are we, therefore, to take the alternative of building up our own defences in this situation? My answer is, No. My answer is that we have now reached a stage where there can be a breakthrough in the arms race in the world, and I base that on the fact that the two great super-Powers, through President Carter in America and Mr. Brezhnev in the Soviet Union, have both made proposals which can be the beginning of the end of the armaments race.

I take the proposals of President Carter first: the abolition of nuclear tests; no distribution of nuclear weapons; reciprocal reduction of nuclear weapons by 50 per cent; a ban on all chemical and radiological weapons; an end to the abuses of the arms trade. Aside from armaments is his proposal for the neutralisation of the Indian Ocean, which might be so important for other seas in the world. Those are the proposals of the head of one of today's great super-Powers. Before we look at the proposals of Mr. Brezhnev, I should like to add one very far-reaching statement by President Carter. He said at Des Moines, as reported in The Times on 24th October: We will proceed towards my ultimate goal of reducing nuclear weapons in the world to zero. That is the statement of the most powerful head of any State in the world today.

Now, on the other hand, I take the statements of Mr. Brezhnev for the Soviet Union. He wishes to go even further—the destruction of all nuclear stockpiles; and then he proposes that the measures which President Carter has suggested should serve only as a preliminary to a staged progress to complete disarmament over a stated period of years. Thus we have the heads of the two great super-Powers today making proposals for disarmament which could be a beginning of a movement towards complete disarmament in the future.

Her Majesty's Government have said, in answer to Questions which I have put, that they agree with these objectives, but that their realisation depends on verification. We are now in the situation where the Soviet Union has repeatedly stated that it accepts the principle of verification, and where in the one case in negotiation about nuclear tests, tests for peaceful purposes, the Soviet Union and the United States have come to an agreement about inspection on the spot and verification. Therefore, a position has now been reached where practical, positive negotiation for disarmament can take place.

My Lords, there are not only these proposals: there are now suggestions as to the way in which they should be implemented. Next spring the General Assembly of the United Nations is to hold a special meeting to discuss disarmament. No doubt both the US and the USSR will make their proposals to that special meeting. There is not the least doubt that there will be overwhelming support for the proposals which President Carter and Mr. Brezhnev have made, nor that that special meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations will be followed by a majority decision for a world disarmament conference in which these proposals can be worked out in detail. This is a great opportunity for peace and disarmament, and I hope that our Government, in the traditions of our Socialist Movement over the years for peace in the world, will give support when these proposals come before the General Assembly of the United Nations.

My Lords, one final word. We can hardly look at the world today without being utterly dismayed and almost mentally destroyed by its condition. Half of the world is hungry; even in our developed, industrialised nations, there are millions of unemployed; everywhere, there are human needs requiring expenditure on constructive proposals. The world is spending £600 million a day on weapons of destruction. How much that money could be used for construction, so that all may have a full life! I take two examples. The New Tornado multi-role combat aircraft project costs £7,000 million. That is more than the total cost of Britain's health and social services for 1976–77. The frigate "Ambuscade" costs £16 million. That money would provide a 508-bed hospital. The submarine "Superb" is more expensive than the building of 4,000 houses, when so many are homeless. We have been discussing defence—defence of human life. The greatest defence of human life would be to turn our expenditure on armaments into constructive projects by which human life could be saved.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, as I was not able to be here last week to ask a supplementary question on the Question on Forces' pay set down by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, I should now like to make quite clear the shocking and bare facts of the pay received by members of the Armed Forces. My examples are the compared earnings of two representative soldiers before and after the April 1977 pay rise. Remember that this year's tax changes have been included, and have improved the position of both these examples. However, the changes have affected all taxpayers, so the relative position of servicemen has not been improved.

My first example is a grade 1 private soldier. He is on a six-year engagement and has completed two years' service; he is married with two children, and lives in an Army quarter in England. The second example shows the pay of a second lieutenant. He is unmarried, lives in barracks in England and has no private income which would affect his tax position. Incidentally, a married second lieutenant would have to earn only 17p less than he does and he would qualify for free school meals.

This is the situation. Before the April 1977 pay rise, the private soldier earned a gross wage of £48.28; his deductions were £18.06; his take-home pay was £30.22. After the pay rise, his take-home pay is now £32.27. As for the second lieutenant, his pre-April 1977 pay was £57.26; his deductions were £24.84; his take-home pay was £32.42. Now, his take-home pay is £33.38. That is per week. These rates of pay do not compare in any way with either the police force or the fire service, or with any other basic wage; maybe they do not even compare with the dole.

The private soldier's take-home pay is £32. From this, he has to pay a weekly food bill for himself and his family which cannot be less than £18, or 64p per head per day. He is left with £14 for everything else. Every three months, he will be faced with a fuel bill of at least £60. If he is unlucky enough to occupy one of the new quarters, which are serviced only by electricity, his winter fuel bill will be much higher. If he is sensible, he will not turn on his underfloor blower-heaters. He cannot afford to be warm. In BAOR, soldiers pay about £5 a week for fuel. This money, along with the quartering charge, is stopped from his pay at source. Thus, unlike in the United Kingdom, the soldier is not confronted with a bill for £60 each quarter while he has only £14 in his pocket. It might be a help if a similar scheme could be introduced in this country.

But the real problem for the soldier is the shortage of money and the ever-widening gap between the pay of soldiers and civilians. The average industrial wage is £79 a week. A private receives £51. If this year's pay rises are kept within the Government's target of 10 per cent., the average wage in 1978 will be £87 and a private will receive £56. The gap will already have widened. If, as seems more likely, the average wage rises by 15 per cent. and soldiers' pay is increased by only 10 per cent. the gap will be even wider.

The soldiers have been taught to be cynics by the confidence tricks of past pay rises. They have lost faith in the Government and the Pay Review Body. It is the middle rank of serving officers who have to answer, face to face, the grumbles of their men, and who have to help them with their financial problems. It is the colonels and the majors who see the injustice of it all, and who are beginning the murmur of dissatisfaction. Unless something is done, this murmur will before long rise to such a roar that even the Minister will be roused from his slumber.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, I was brought up to believe that the first and probably the most important of the responsibilities of Government was the defence of the country, but during recent years the tendency seems to have been for that to be forgotten, for whenever economies have to be made the Estimates of the Defence Forces are very severely pruned. We seemingly have not got money for defence, but at the same time we continue to spend lavishly in other directions—worthy, no doubt, but not vital for the safety of our country and the nation. I can remember that before the First World War, in the interests of economy, four battleships were to be cut out of the Navy Estimates. In those days the Navy League was a powerful, national institution, and with the cry of "We want eight and we won't wait!" it succeeded in rousing the country and getting the four ships replaced in the programme. Seven of these ships joined the Grand Fleet in 1916, whether before or after Jutland I do not remember. But if before, they no doubt made an impression on the German High Command; and if after, they made good the losses that we had suffered at Jutland so that, again, if we were given the chance we were confident of the outcome.

In that war, we had the most generous help from the Dominions and the Colonies and from the Indian Empire. Latterly the sea and land forces of the United States helped us also, and that help we again received in World War II, but which we cannot definitely feel we shall continue to have at all times in the future. Do let us remember that wars, although as anticipated as possible, can come very suddenly upon us.

In 1914 I was serving in the first division of the Second Battle Squadron which was composed of the four latest of our battleships. With us also were the Second Light Cruiser Squadron which was composed of the last word in ships of that type. In June we were at Kiel with the Kiel Regatta. During the festivities I was present at a party where the men of both our Fleet and the German fleet were gathered together. I saw and listened to a German commodore proposing our health and, with that, vowing eternal friendship between our two nations. On 20th June we joined with their High Sea Fleet in firing a 21-gun salute for the German Emperor on his arrival on the "Hohenzollern". Six weeks later we were at war. If the Government and Admiralty had thought that that was a possibility at all, I am certain that we should not have been at Kiel, and I am also certain that Sir David Beatty and the battle cruisers would not have been at Reval. The Germans did not do anything about it, and so we were able to take up war stations at full strength and in good time.

In World War II we were also fortunate. Those who are frequently scorned as the "appeasers of Munich" gained for us a year's respite during which aircraft production was pushed ahead and a small consignment of modern aircraft was delivered to the RAF. These, as your Lordships will remember, were handled with superb skill and great courage which enabled the Royal Air Force not only to play a great part in rescuing our Army from Dunkirk but also to win the Battle of Britain. I cite these examples of war coming suddenly, without giving time to make good deficiencies resulting from economies imposed in time of peace. In those two wars we were fortunate in our allies and otherwise in circumstances that may never occur in the future. I cite them in the hope that Her Majesty's Government will always remember that the sure defence of our people and country is one of the greatest responsibilities of Government.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, as usual I shall be brief, and I hope that I shall be honest and down to earth. The morale of the Forces is good where there is something to be done—in aircraft, in ships, in Ireland, or on fire fighting. At present—and perhaps only an ex-Serviceman can say this—the morale of the Forces is the lowest that I have ever known in the 40 years I have been in uniform. This will be repudiated by noble Lords on both sides, but I can assure them that it is true. It is true on three counts. First, pay. There is not a mess in any Service, whether it is an officers' mess, sergeants' mess, corporals' mess or soldiers' mess, where the word "pay" is not mentioned. Having said that I shall be honest—I shall be more than honest. The Party on this side of the House is partly to blame for the situation of the pay of the Forces as it now stands. It is a desperate situation and I only hope that the Government of the moment realise it. Cannot something be done for those who have no right to strike?—and no one would ever want them to strike; nor do they want to join a union. Can they not, for that very reason, have some special weighting in pay? Why need the Services wait until April to get something of that put right? In one unit now serving in London fire fighting, 30 per cent. of the junior NCOs' families are claiming rate rebate. A lot are on social security. Can you think that that is good for morale? I reiterate that it means that the morale of the Forces is low, very low.

The second reason for that is that the previous idea that the Forces were professional is beginning to go out of the window. They were professional because they had trained men and first-class equipment; but that is no longer so. They have the equipment in Germany and not the men to keep it. In Britain, they have some of the men and not the equipment. This very month a Regular unit in Kent had not sufficient transport to do the ordinary things of life. When a soldier was injured an officer had to go out on to the main road, put up his hand, flag down a vehicle and give the driver a "quid" to get the man to hospital. Can you think that morale is good in that unit? I assure you that it is not.

Finally, the morale is bad and low because they feel that there are no prospects, no future. Does the country, through the Government, want a reasonable size force in the Services? They begin to doubt it. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, to try to find out how many officers had put in their papers during the last six months and during the previous six months. I know that he is at the moment unable to answer the question. But I can give another example which illustrates the kind of thing I think is happening. A year ago, in a certain part of the Services, 37 people applied to go. This year 134 have done so. Those were officers, and I can assure your Lordships that for the most part they are good officers—the reason being that it is only the good officer who can be reasonably certain that he is going to get a job outside and will take the risk of going. That is bad for morale. It is an indication of this. The Services have always been marvellous at improvisation, but you have to have something to improvise with. This is beginning to be doubtful now.

I shall be attacked, I know, because it is a convention never to attack the morale of the Services. It is almost an annual ritual to congratulate them on their wonderful morale. I repeat that when there is a job to be done, whether fighting, fire fighting, or any other thing to save human life, then morale is good. It is good and loyal to the regiment, to the ship, to the squadron in the Air Force. There is no doubt about that. But when they get home—and nowadays there are 300 families in a regiment—the morale is really low. I believe that some special arrangements should be made to look after this situation.

Perhaps I should be honest also to say that the morale among the senior people in the Services within the Ministry of Defence is equally low. The trust which should exist between the intermediate political masters, the sovereign commander in-chief of the Forces and the Forces themselves is bad. The trust is going fast. I say this as one who was, and is, a personal friend of the Secretary of State. He knows that what I am saying is right. A lack of trust is growing. Surely we must put that right. My Lords, I am not a politician; I do not understand the niceties of these various Amendments and points put forward in the main Motion. All I know is that a message should go out that something must be done. The Forces are slowly disintegrating. They will always remain loyal, but they need your Lordships' help.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley has made some powerful and worrying points, as one would expect. I am a much smaller "gun", but I hope that I can put some points with equal accuracy and equally effectively. In times of economic stress all Governments have to look at public expenditure to find essential economies. This applies, naturally, as much to Defence as to any other Department of State. But there is all the difference between economies and arbitrary cuts. If arbitrary defence cuts which are made appear to impair the present and future strength and fighting efficiency of our Armed Forces, then the Government have a clear duty to justify their decision to Parliament and to our allies. In this case, and where previous cuts are concerned, that has not been done.

The failure to do so forces one to the conclusion that the Government have got their priorities dangerously wrong, which is something that my noble friend Lord Carrington, in moving the Motion, said from the Front Bench. This could be either through a blind refusal to face the facts or from a desire to maintain Party unity, bearing in mind the heavy pressure under which the Government come all the time from their extreme Left-Wing. Perhaps the correct answer is that there is a little of each. The former is a more charitable explanation. Has there been too much wishful thinking about so called détente with the Soviet Union, and has there been too much wishful thinking about progress and the hope of progress in disarmament? It looks very much like that to me.

If by "détente" we mean "the cessation of strained relations between States"— which is what my dictionary tells me—I confess that I see no sign of it whatsoever. The Kremlin's strategy remains unchanged, and they say so themselves on many occasions. I see no reason why we should disbelieve them. The driving force in the Kremlin is the Marxist/Leninist dogma coupled with Russian ambitions which have led, to agrowing extent, to the domination of the Soviet Union by what I may call the military juggernaut. Under the Brezhnev doctrine the Soviet Union claims the right to invade and occupy Czechoslovakia, or any other "Socialist" country, to maintain their minions in power; but we are sharply told in Belgrade that the bravery of nearly 1,000 men and women who have dared to sign Charter '77 in Czechoslovakia is none of our business. All they have been doing is drawing attention to the promises, made by their own Government at the Helsinki Agreement, where human rights are concerned. The Brezhnev doctrine is not confined to Europe: witness, for example, the actions of Russia's Cuban mercenaries in Africa.

So let us please not be told that there is some justification for the last defence cut arising from a reduced politico-military threat from the Soviet Union. Sadly, this is the opposite of the truth, though we all pray that the efforts to relax tension and so reduce the threat will not only continue but somehow succeed. I believe that exactly the same principles apply to disarmament. As with détente, we must be right to make every conceivable effort to make a start with mutual and balanced force reductions under a reliable system of verification which the Soviet Union still insists on regarding as spying. We are making such efforts, my Lords, though for some strange reason the bogged-down Vienna talks are only about the Central Front in Europe, where the threat to NATO is not by any means the greatest, and they ignore completely the overall military imbalance about which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made such a dramatic and impressive speech.

Despite the millions of words at hundreds of conferences in the past 25 years, the preponderant strength of the Warsaw bloc forces has not been reduced by one man, one vehicle or one weapon. Our high hopes that the limitation on nuclear testing (the only real breakthrough since the war ended in the disarmament field) might lead on to other achievements have not been realised. I do not think any noble Lord has drawn attention to this point, though I have missed one or two speeches. If account is not taken of medium-range Soviet missiles in the SALT talks—particularly the SS.20—the so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons, and the back-fire bomber which directly threaten Western Europe we could find ourselves in Europe more and not less exposed. There has been attention drawn to this matter in the past few days in The Times and the Financial Times. It is a real anxiety.

The lack of direct European involvement at all stages of the SALT talks is something which has always surprised me. They are solely concerned with strategic weapons of the super-Powers, which have parity in overkill several times over. I hope that this is something to which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, will be able to refer as it is very much in the public mind at the moment. So, as with détente, the most recent defence cut has no justification whatsoever in any progress towards disarmament. Unhappily, there has been none. Yet the mood of wishful thinking, as with détente, is nurtured and encouraged by hints that some real chance of progress is just around the corner. I pray that it is.

My Lords, what I have said so far sounds perhaps as if I am obsessive about the possible threat of war with the Soviet Union. That is certainly not the case. None the less, the steady build up of Soviet forces so clearly designed for aggression, to which several noble Lords have drawn attention—I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was the first to do so—has been made all the easier by the progressive relaxation of strategic controls over exports; and the provision of cheap credits for the Soviet bloc is a harsh fact of which we have all been taking careful account. That latter point, of progressive relaxation of strategic controls over exports to the Soviet bloc, is a subject to which your Lordships might well return. It may be worthy of a debate. I am only too well aware that, despite having shed almost all of our commitments outside NATO, our seriously over-stretched forces may still be required for peace-keeping purposes in difficult circumstances and at great distances from the United Kingdom. I remark in passing that one quarter of the Army's total combat strength is involved in keeping the peace in the United Kingdom, and that practically the whole of our available Reserves—pledged, incidentally, to BAOR—have all turned into full-time firemen.

So, my Lords, I come to my conclusion. The question that we are asking the Government today is whether they regard adequate defence—by which I mean ever-ready, well equipped, properly paid Armed Forces—as taking precedence over all other demands on the taxpayer. This was well put in a brilliant lecture by Mr. Ian Smart at the RUSI in May. He wrote: Defence which is necessary, represents a debenture or preference share in the national economy, simply because the economy, as a national asset, may be rendered worthless if defence, which is genuinely necessary, is not provided". It could hardly be put better. Twice in this century British Governments have failed the nation in this respect. I ask: Is history repeating itself? It looks horribly like it to me. I believe that as a result of successive cuts made by this Government a measure of defence "which is genuinely necessary" is already lacking, and I deplore the total failure of the Government to attempt to justify this. The Government do not come under much public pressure, and that is hardly surprising when one remembers that a man of 50 today was only 18 when the war ended. So the obligation on the Government to face the facts and tell the whole truth is inescapable, and it is their primary duty. I hope, my Lords, that a crushing defeat in the Vote tonight will drive this message home.

7.22 p.m.

The Earl of GLASGOW

My Lords, may I first pay tribute to our two maiden speakers. I thought they were both magnificent and I hope we shall hear them often again.

A fortnight ago today we had an exceedingly good debate in this House on the review of overseas representation, which was initiated by my noble cousin, Lord Ballantrae. We discussed the parts played in this task by the Foreign Service, by BBC foreign broadcasts and by the British Council; but I do not think any noble Lord mentioned the contribution made by the Armed Forces. I feel that this is perhaps a suitable moment to correct the omission, even though it may be a slight diversion from the main theme of our debate tonight.

"Showing the flag" sounds nowadays a little old-fashioned and smacks perhaps of the days of Empire. That is absolute nonsense. The Russians are doing it today with extremely good effect, and we ourselves can do it a great deal better. I am sure that many of your Lordships who have been governors, ambassadors or businessmen working in foreign parts will bear witness to the beneficial results of the visit of a naval squadron or even of a single ship to a foreign port. Such a visit is a very broad exercise in international public relations and involves all strata of society. It starts with the smart appearance of the ship and her company and the expertise, almost the panache, with which she is brought into harbour or secured alongside. Then follow the official calls and the exchange of hospitality between the host country and British Residents and the commanding officers, the wardrooms and, in these days, the chiefs' and petty officers' messes of the visiting ships. By this time the starboard watch has been given shore leave and British sailors are mingling ashore with the local population in the bars, restaurants and cafés.

I always maintained that the old-fashioned British sailor of my young days was the finest ambassador we ever had, and I have no reason to suppose that his successor in the modern Navy is any less accomplished. Ships will then be open for visits on certain days and there is nearly always a children's party on board. I have frequently seen tears in the eyes of the most unlikely foreigners watching the Royal Marines beat retreat on the jetty in the dusk at the end of the official cocktail party—and that is not only a tribute to the excellence of the liquor. It is hard to put one's finger on a concrete achievement, such as the gaining of a large order or the solution of a knotty diplomatic problem as a direct result of a successful visit, but the cumulative effect must do something towards preparing the ground.

The Pax Britannica of the last century was made possible largely by the fact that on any given day the white ensign was flying in all major and many minor ports across the world. I am not suggesting that we could operate on that sort of scale today, but with a few more ships we could do a great deal more. Those ships need not necessarily be the very expensive, highly sophisticated destroyers and frigates of the modern Fleet—of which we have far too few in any case—but an order for larger numbers of cheaper and possibly more specialised ships would give a shot in the arm to our ailing shipbuilding industry. I believe that "showing the flag" is a very important role for the Navy in peacetime, and I was interested to hear General George Brown, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, laying great stress on it when he spoke to us last Thursday.

My Lords, I want to end on a more general and fundamental note. The only way to prevent a future war is to demonstrate to our allies and to our potential enemies alike, beyond all shadow of doubt, that we have the will to resist aggression and the resources to make that resistance effective. That is what this Government have failed dismally to do, and no amount of talking is any substitute. The repeated cuts in our defence budget and the indifference, almost the hostility, of so many Government supporters in another place towards the defence of the realm tend to give the opposite impression. This attitude has got to be reversed; and if only for that reason I hope that noble Lords will follow my noble friend Lord Carrington into the Division Lobby tonight.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, the Government already appear to be running the Armed Forces on a shoestring. If the proposed cut in the defence budget of £267 million takes place, the shoestring will be very frayed indeed and will be liable to snap at the slightest additional pressure. No one doubts the need to make cuts in Government expenditure in this period of economic crisis, but these planned cuts will put the country in a position where we could well not be able to deal with any threat from the Warsaw Pact, or indeed to deal with problems that arise in many parts of the world.

Our front line of defence is formed by our Forces in Germany and by the forces of our NATO allies. I understand that even within the current budget certain of the more expensive weapons can be fired in training only once or twice in any one year. I believe that in a conventional conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries the experts anticipate that the East European Powers would start by launching a massive armoured attack. Asking our troops to stop that armour without having had adequate live firing practice with their weapons is like asking a violinist to rehearse a concerto with a violin that has no strings.

Similar restrictions, I am sure, are attached to the training of the other Services. Not too long ago it was suggested that we should not build ships capable of delivering our Reserve Forces to the Continent but that we should use civilian ferries instead. What would be the position if we had to use those ships to transport troops with armour, say, to Norway during the major holiday season of the year? Enormous numbers of British tourists could be stranded on the Continent, in danger of being caught up in any conflict taking place. One can imagine a second Dunkirk, this time with only civilians involved. I feel it is essential that this House supports the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

7.30 p.m.

The Earl of AVON

My Lords, I should like to concentrate my remarks this evening on the subject of manning in the Services, particularly related to this Motion. We have heard some extremely interesting speeches, especially that by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on global policies, but none of these wonderful things can come about unless our Forces are properly manned. Over the last decade, we have all been hopeful that there would be a lessening of tension, a lessening of the arms race; in fact, that we might have real détente. We have been hopeful that there might be a solution in Northern Ireland. We have been hopeful that industrial relations would improve. But none of these things has happened, and it is sad that this is so. We have the President of the United States asking us to improve the effectiveness of the NATO Alliance. We have the gruelling involvement of our Services continuing in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile at home, industrial relations are more troublesome than ever and we have the Armed Forces taking over the duties of a public service. This has stretched the Armed Forces to their limit.

There was the recent case of a unit returning from Northern Ireland, expecting their well-earned leave; instead, they were sent straight out on fire duties. I gather that an intelligent counter-order saved a walk-out. One station is manned not, as one might think, by a trained band, a trained integral unit of the Army, but—and I mean no disrespect to another Service—by airmen trained in very different trades and locations. Your Lordships have already heard that in Germany we are 2,500 troops short, which means that we are unable to exercise some equipment. The well-knit regimental life, on which much morale was built, has already been undermined by wives of soldiers having to go out to work to supplement their pay. Soldiers, too, have begun to "moonlight". I understand that there was a recent case of a soldier being none too pleased when he found that his moonlighting job had been taken over by a striking fireman.

But most serious of all is the wastage, or failure to re-enlist, of good Servicemen, and a number of noble Lords have already spoken on this point. If the Secretary of State wants proof of the state of his Forces, surely this is the best yardstick. It is the bright young corporal and the captain with potential who are leaving the Services. As my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley said, it is the intelligent man, the very person who is most needed, who realises the abysmal comparison between his pay and the wages in Civvy Street, and in order to look after his family he feels compelled to leave the Services.

I am informed that the rate of premature voluntary retirement—PVR, as I believe it is called—in the first nine months of this year has increased steadily month by month. The reasons, about which we have already heard, are not difficult to find and the primary one is, of course, pay. Servicemen need to earn enough to live in reasonable comfort, and to stop their wives from pressurising them to leave the Army. They are now separated from their families for too long, and this adds weight to their wives' first argument. I gather that separation is reaching an average of five months each year in an infantry battalion. So we have moonlighting, an inability to afford holidays and cars and a lot of wives going out to work. Incidentally, because they move about so much, these wives can seldom get a decent job. For instance, the only jobs available overseas are on MOD posts and those are very hard to come by.

Last in this list of complaints is the cost of married quarters. It now makes sense for soldiers to buy their own homes and pay off mortgages, rather than pay the rental for a quarter; at least the former is an investment. I wonder why the fireman and policeman is better treated in this respect. This last factor also leads to the family spending more time apart, and it would be interesting to learn of the divorce statistics among Service families.

The one factor which helps the Government in their recruitment for the Armed Forces is a sad one; it is the dismal unemployment position. But, if the Government succeed in cutting back the number of unemployed, where do they expect to find their recruits? Meanwhile, there is a steady drain on the excellent material which has been built up over the last decade, and it will take years to replace this. With good men leaving and with recruiting doubtful, how do the Government intend to maintain their Forces at the present level, let alone replace the shortfall? Have they some pay-linked incentive scheme which they are ready to publish; are they going to pay substantial tax-free bonuses on re-enlistment, or are they looking to the rundown of the professional Serviceman and a return to conscription? The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, made some points about conscription. I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work of the professional Army since 1957, when conscription ended. It has been two decades when the Services have done particularly well.

The present policy of cuts and lack of support from the Government must come to an end, and this is surely the moment to halt the downward trend. The Government have specialised in giving too little too late, and I hope that the Armed Forces will be an exception. I find that neither of the Amendments tabled is designed to give the necessary confidence, and the Government must give back confidence to the Services now. The Armed Forces do not want a union, they do not want overtime, they do not mind bad conditions—they just want a fair deal.

First, I should like to see the Government stand up to their own Left Wing critics and give the Armed Forces full support. This is best done, and shown to be done, by restoring the defence cuts of £267 million. Secondly, I should like to see them honour the pledge to spend, in real terms, 3 per cent. more on NATO. This will not only relieve and please our allies, but also persuade the Servicemen that there is a future in the Armed Forces. Thirdly, when the next pay reviews are due, the Government must work for the Services and not against them. Others who are keeping to the 10 per cent. limit get reductions in hours, and they get perks, holidays and free travel. What happens to the Services? They get their accommodation and food charges increased.

The last pay rise has become famous as the "Irishman's rise". It is no joke and, what is more, the ordinary soldier will agree that it is no joke. The comments on the increased contributions, which I saw written on some notice boards, were unparliamentary in the extreme. Here was no 5 per cent. in real terms, or in any terms. The net gain in some cases was 51p. It is no wonder that the Serviceman thinks he was conned. The Ministry of Defence is the employer of more than 300,000 Servicemen, and of a total of more than 600,000 people. The Ministers responsible have lost the confidence of their workforce, and they can regain that confidence only by showing a lead. While Northern Ireland, public sector strikes, NATO obligations and the increasing need to back up law and order continue to hit the headlines, surely the Ministers concerned can hit the headlines, too, by telling the Cabinet, the Treasury and their Left Wing that here, unless they act now, is a real crisis of national security. Nothing short of this Motion will help.

Just before closing, I should like to say something on the NATO Alliance. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, made some peripheral remarks about my father and the NATO Alliance. I should like to say that I am an unequivocal supporter of the NATO Alliance. I believe that the presence of a NATO force, and its preparedness against agression, has ensured the last 32 years of peace for Europe. It would be the utmost folly in any way to jeopardise that Alliance today. I take much pleasure in supporting my noble friend Lord Carrington in this Motion.

7.40 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, before commencing my speech may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, how much I appreciated his speech. As I was in the other place with the noble Lord, perhaps I may also be permitted to say that although one may not always have agreed with what he had to say throughout his career, he had the courage to say it, and that is what we admire about him.

I wish to confine my remarks to the defence medical services, because they form a very important part of defence. There was an article in the July edition of the Medical Department Bulletin which contained a quotation from Petronius Arbiter in 210 B.C. He said: We train hard … But it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised … I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation". That is equally true today, because it seems to fit the present situation.

In the last four years there have been many inquiries into the defence medical services. There has been the Jarrett Inquiry, the Defence Expenditure review, the Barraclough-Godber Committee and the Edwards Committee. I understand that the findings of the Barraclough Committee were not agreed to by those who could have brought about a change. I understand—perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate can confirm it—that another inquiry is now being held. This is having a disastrous effect upon recruitment to the medical services of the Royal Navy. Out of 149 who answered an advertisement to become doctors in the Navy, only eight attended the interview and seven short service commissions were awarded.

Perhaps I may be allowed to give the present shortfalls in the medical officer manning in the three Services. In the case of the Royal Navy, the shortfall is 34 out of 330 —that is, 10 per cent.; in the case of the Army, 85 out of 594–14 per cent.; and in the case of the RAF, 20 out of 442–5 per cent. I understand that this is partly attributable to failure to recruit new entrants—at present all three Services are unable to recruit more than one-third of their target—and has to be coupled with a high rate of PVR (which was 14 in the Royal Navy last year, 164 in the Army and 20 in the Royal Air Force) that is outstripping recruitment and involves both senior and consultant staff. Regrettably, too, the more junior staff who would normally replace them are not there.

This problem is exacerbated by an increasing reluctance to transfer from short service to longer service commissions. The shortages of doctors and consultants result in overwork for those remaining and inability for junior and middle rank personnel to be spared for the consultancy and specialist training which they have a right to expect as part of their normal medical careers. This situation increases the trend towards PVR and early retirement, which produces a self-generating downward spiral. From those few words, noble Lords will realise that the position is critical and that a period of stability is vital.

Thanks must be expressed to the Royal Naval Reserve. During 1976–77, 59 medical officers and one nursing service officer volunteered for recall to active service with the Royal Navy to fill essential complements in ships' establishments and Royal Naval Hospitals at home and abroad. Some of them served for six days and some for up to 134 days. In total, 1,246 days were given by volunteers. All of these personnel have full-time civilian jobs and often have to pay locum tenens while they undertake their naval duties. Again this highlights the present appalling situation.

The dental service is in the same difficulty. The service has only five direct entries, one being a woman. It has to be remembered also that the Royal Navy medical service is the only service dealing with training in survival medicine. It trains also the Royal Marines, the Merchant Navy and personnel for Shell. It deals, too, with underwater medicine, which is very useful to those who are working on oil rigs.

It is often said that the National Health Service is cheaper than the services provided by the defence medical services. Under 2 per cent. of the defence budget is spent on medical services. I believe that the defence medical services do a very special job. They have to ensure that anybody in the three Services who needs to go to hospital can go there at once, obtain adequate treatment and return to his Service as soon as possible. It has been said that Service personnel eat more than patients in the National Health Service, but they are mostly young, active men and women who need the extra food and services which are provided by the defence medical services.

Also, the position in regard to officers in the medical and dental services is very unfair. They are given acting ranks. When a person holds an acting rank he does not get the pay for it, and when he retires his pension is affected. The rank ceiling must be raised in order to maintain a realistic career structure. Many personnel are leaving now at the age of 53 because they can get 12 years' work in civilian employment. Naturally, this helps them with their final pension.

Cadets also represent a difficulty. At a recent board, of the 14 who applied, 9 were accepted and one changed his mind. Regarding promotion to surgeon captain, only two could be selected last June; two promotions are expected this month, and only one promotion will be possible each time in the future. This will be very detrimental to the service. The one service which is recruiting well is the nursing service. The position there is slightly easier because most of the nurses are single women, with no families.

The Government could easily solve this problem by coming to a definite policy at once. When the Minister answers, perhaps I may be told whether the inquiry which is taking place will terminate in the near future and whether a policy direction can be given. I hope that in these few words I have shown that action now is essential if this excellent and necessary service is to keep up its standards.

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin, if I may do so without presumption, by joining in the congratulations which have been offered to the two maiden speakers today: the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, and the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. I am sure that the House will benefit greatly from their future contributions to our debates.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has raised today a matter which is vital to our survival. When discussing it, it is important to be neither alarmist on the one hand nor complacent on the other. It cannot be denied that in recent years we have seen a marked tilting of the balance in conventional armament in favour of the Warsaw Pact countries, and plenty of evidence to that effect has been presented to the House today.

The noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, reminded us that 100,000 men have been added to the forces facing us in Western Europe and that there has been an increase of 40 per cent. in tanks and between 50 and 100 per cent. in artillery. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, spoke about dramatic improvements in Soviet land and air mobility, enabling an attack to be launched without being reinforced beforehand. Also, there has been a fundamental change in the character of the Soviet air arm from what was once essentially an air defence force to what is now an offensive striking arm with the range to attack deep into Western territory. We must add to that the fact that NATO's technical superiority is being eroded, that the Warsaw Pact is stronger in mechanised formations and that the Warsaw Pact weapons are standardised, whereas NATO's are not. Then there is the build-up in the Soviet Navy and the Soviet Merchant Navy to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, reminded us that the Soviet Union is spending between 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. of its GNP with a 5 per cent. annual increase, but of course there are things to be said against this. There is the fact that NATO has greater economic resources; there is the fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, said earlier, that the Soviet Union has the fear of a war on two fronts, and there is the fact that NATO still maintains a formidable array of armaments. I have no doubt that, even allowing for the tilting in the balance to which I have referred, military aggression remains at the present time an unattractive possibility for any potential aggressor.

But we cannot ignore the trend, and it is not surprising that the Ministerial session of the NATO Defence Planning Committee which met in Brussels on the 17th and 18th May of this year should have expressed their concern—I quote from the final communiqué: ..at the steady expansion of Warsaw Pact military capabilities which have greatly increased the power and flexibility of the Warsaw Pact forces. They noted that these forces had become increasingly offensive in posture and were now capable of projecting Soviet power on a global scale. In the light of these developments they stressed the urgent need for NATO to maintain and improve its Defence capabilities". Of course it was out of this assessment that there came the agreement to aim for a 3 per cent. annual increase, and it is against the situation which I have described, against that agreed intention and in the light of the other cuts which have preceded it, that the proposed cut for 1978–79 of £267 million should be viewed.

During the course of the debate we have been reminded of the letter from the Secretary General of NATO in which he said that the cut "cannot but be detrimental to the effectiveness of the United Kingdom's Forces". The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, spoke of the adverse opinion of the House of Commons Expenditure Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, spoke of the Chiefs of Staff going to see the Prime Minister about these cuts, and we on these Benches share the misgivings about the changing balance. We accept the need for the 3 per cent. per annum increase; we oppose the cut of £267 million for 1978–79 and our colleagues in another place have voted in that sense.

So we support the Motion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington; we fully support what it says about the remuneration of the Forces. But we cannot accept the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, because, as has already been pointed out, it involves a breach of the Government pay policy and to the support of that policy we are fully committed.

With regard to the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, of course we accept what he says about mutual and balanced force reductions. We would certainly like to see an end to the deadlock there—a deadlock to which several speakers have referred today—and we do not accept the gloomy view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he seems to suggest that nothing will ever come from that venture. We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, that it is right to persist in seeking these mutual and balanced force reductions, but we cannot accept the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, because it omits the restoration of the cut and also it omits the commitment to aim for 3 per cent. per annum. It cuts those out. We believe that those matters are necessary if we are to preserve a credible balance.

A credible balance is required to maintain peace. It may well be asked how long such a balance can be maintained. The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, referred to 32 years of peace; but we are witnessing an unprecedented peace-time build-up of armaments, and that is a sobering thought. But what are the alternatives for the NATO countries? Surely they are these: either to abandon any attempt to defend ourselves and thus to place our freedom and our independence in jeopardy, or to provide ourselves with adequate arms to maintain a credible balance while vigorously seeking détente and disarmament. A case can be made for either of these options, but I am quite certain that the overwhelming majority of the Members of your Lordships' House in all parts of the House, would choose the second of those alternatives. The mistake would be to opt for the second course while failing to provide sufficient strength to make it credible.

7.55 p.m.


My Lords, the charge being made against the Government this evening is a grave one. It is no less than hazarding the security of the Realm through neglect and, in the process, alienating our allies and forfeiting the respect in which the world used to hold this country. This debate has happily attracted distinguished contributions from two maiden speakers and we welcome them to our presence. I find it somewhat daunting that we are conducting this debate in the presence of so many ex-Ministers of Defence. I should like to take this opportunity of welcoming back my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft, after his recent illness.

We have listened this evening to speaker after speaker giving concrete examples which have added specific and real illustrations to the otherwise rather esoteric and abstruse nature of the much discussed cuts. We have already heard of the state of our Armed Forces and what has happened, and yet we still have in the pipeline another cut which we believe should be restored. The Government excuse themselves for their policy apparently on four counts. First, they say that the threat has been overstated; secondly, that the defence budget is adequate for the task in hand; thirdly, that their effort compares favourably with that of their allies, and anyway they say, finally, "We are doing all that we can afford". I think most of us in this House find these excuses both individually and collectively unconvincing.

The potential challenge has been restated many times previously and again today, in a number of different ways. Perhaps in a characteristically authoritative view, I would single out the summary given by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, as illustrating the state of the basic balance. Under the umbrella of the mutual strategic balance between the USSR and the US, we find Soviet Russia continuing to increase her massive preponderance of conventional land and air forces. She is constantly and rapidly uprating their technical excellence at the same time as maintaining their numerical superiority.

Not content with these alarming manifestations, this land-locked and historically expansionist Power has chosen over the last 15 years to build a formidable fleet of submarines whose function cannot by any definition be destribed as a defensive one. This force is matched by an impressive modern world-scale navy which in turn is supported by an ever-expanding merchant fleet. I have no doubt that, in spite of the recent setbacks experienced by the Soviets in parts of Africa, they will continue to deploy these forces in support of a politically expansionist Power and they will create mischief wherever they can.

Here we see countries—the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact Powers—with a crying need to improve the standard of living of their peoples, and yet, as my noble friend said, they elect to spend some 13 per cent. of their gross national product on armaments. And although, as I shall be saying in a moment, we must be careful how we use these statistics, by any standards this represents something of the order of three times the equivalent effort being put in by the West. These facts, I suggest, speak for themselves.

There is one other point that we ought to make. For us unilaterally to announce cuts in our defence spending in the middle of negotiations about mutual disarmament must surely undermine our bargaining position, and I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, say that he counted himself among those who do not believe in unilateral disarmament. I do believe the risks have been demonstrated to be palpable to anyone who will not refuse to recognise them.

So what of the assessment of the appropriate force level to counteract the threat? By the Government's own admission, they were down to bedrock two cuts ago, and many informed observers now think the situation is a good deal worse than that. It is surely sufficient to point out that we have already endured one reduction since we were told that we had cut to the bone, and we are now threatened with another cut of £267 million or £300 million—the exact detail is really not important. I hear that even today it is reported that the NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels have issued a statement expressing concern about the growing strength of the Warsaw Pact, but that they have welcomed the resolve of the NATO Powers to redress the balance. They ought to know. So surely the only conclusion we can draw from this is that the Government know very well that our Forces are already inadequate for the tasks they are liable to be asked to undertake on any reasonable expectation, and that our relative position is deteriorating year by year. This is without the additional burdens that are being placed on our underpaid Servicemen by the special services they are being asked to perform in connection with firefighting, and possibly policing a unilaterally declared 50-mile fishing limit where we might find ourselves having to drive out some of our EEC allies.

All this is serious enough, but I suggest that it is further compounded by the effect of this country's behaviour on our NATO allies. They are bound to be tempted to follow our example, or at least to use our behaviour as an excuse or ample justification for them to make similar cuts. And yet only a month ago when we had the Foreign Affairs and Defence day on the Queen's Speech, we were depressingly reminded of the situation by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who trotted out the old familiar canard and the misleading and complacent claim that the UK is second in the NATO league table for defence spending. In fact, a number of noble Lords have pointed out—I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, who brought out the point this evening—that, on a proper assessment, our place is at least sixth in the league and may well be eighth out of nine. Small wonder, then, that General George E. Brown, when he was over here last week, having first of all said: Peace and security are the best protected by strength", went on to answer a question about attitude of the United States to the European contributions by saying: They are not enough; they never are". Then he went on: But obviously we are particularly disappointed when some of the larger nations do no more than smaller ones like Denmark, for example". Well, the General is a very tactful man, although he denies it. I believe all of us know what he meant by that remark, and I think this was a point made by my noble friend, Lord Mottistone, in his speech.

This brings me to the fourth of the Government's arguments. When unable to convince their critics that our contribution is an appropriate and fair share, the final resort is to fall back on the plea of poverty, and to say that we cannot afford more. I was particularly glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, say from the Government's own Benches that no convincing economic case exists for continuing to depress defence spending in the present circumstances. This is the real point of the timing of this debate this evening. Indeed, we have listened to ministerial utterances over the recent months in which they have started to count the chickens which will be hatched by North Sea oil. I certainly hope they are right, that this is going to lead us to the economic recovery so long overdue. Mr. Benn and Mr. Healey are reported to have produced a list of options for using the oil revenues, but conspicuously absent from those six options, in any report I have seen, has been any mention whatever of increases in defence spending.

I should make one further point. Let us not underrate the difficult task that would confront us if we let our defence spending fall to too low a level. It is always difficult to reverse any trend. It is particularly difficult to pick up off the floor a complete organisation of the magnitude of the defence machine if it is once allowed to fall below a certain level. The more major the surgery—and we have seen many amputations in recent months—the longer is likely to be the recovery.

The real point, I think, is the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, when he asked how the Government square the signing of the NATO declaration to increase the defence spending by 3 per cent. with their apparent intention to continue to cut the expenditure on defence. Did we never intend to honour this declaration? Was it merely a platitudinous assertion that seemed convenient at the time? Was it only a genuflection towards some symbol in which the Government do not sincerely believe? If so, I suggest that this would be the most abysmal hypocrisy.

We are not calling for immediate expenditure now. We are saying to the Government, "If you say that things are improving, give a commitment now that Servicemen's pay and defence spending are at the top of the shopping list, now that the years of misery and miserly entrenchment are happily passed". In spite of a quotation from the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, I would suggest that those who are opposed to all defence expenditure should be reminded that it is not all waste; it yields tangible dividends in technical achievement and in overseas sales, and it can contribute substantially to redressing unemployment, both directly and indirectly. This was a point made by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and also, I believe, by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. I believe that a forthright assertion would now go a long way to reassuring opinion, both inside and outside the country, that confidence here is reawakening.

We on this side liked the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, a good deal better than we like the text of his Amendment. I think it was he who suggested that this Motion was premature and could not result in Government action. I have tried to point out that this is not consistent with the utterances of the Government Ministers themselves. We cannot support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, brilliantly showed had an element of unrealism about it, and it seemed to me that in an attempt to invite us to be with the angels he was asking us to step off a cloud into the vacuum of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, where we must decline to follow him.

I hope that if the Government will not accept my noble friend's Motion then, happily supported by the Liberals, this House will go on record with a clear verdict of protest against the Government's reluctance to give a clear undertaking that neglect of defence and those who serve in it is to stop, and let us insist that our Government in no way go back on their commitments to our allies to make a proper contribution in the future to our collective defence.

8.12 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very fine and interesting debate. After all, it is a vote of censure on the Government. I emphasise that. I am certain that noble Lords have come to vote strongly for their point of view. I am not complaining, but it is a vote of censure. First, I should like to pay my tribute to two excellent maiden speeches. I would say to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that I always think of his father not only as the Leader of the House of Lords as he was, and Lord Privy Seal at one period, but also as a very successful Minister of Agriculture. He was a great man in that field and in many other ways. I also wish to congratulate my noble friend on his wonderful speech. It was a speech that shows what an asset he is in this House. Whatever one's views, I think it was a remarkable speech and I am so glad that he has now joined us.

Our debate this afternoon is essentially about the level of resources to be committed to defence. But as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has recognised in the wording of his Motion, we can only realistically consider this question in the context of the threats facing us. It was on this basis that NATO Ministers agreed earlier this year on guidelines for defence expenditure.

There is no denying that the military strength of the Warsaw Pact forces is formidable. Over and over again experts on defence—and there are many in this House—have emphasised this. But we must resist the temptation of thinking about defence in a purely national context. We are not in this alone, and only today we have heard a communiqué from NATO—incidentally a copy of this will be put in the Library of your Lordships' House—outlining more or less what has been said by most speakers during our debate today.

The Warsaw Pact poses a threat not only to the United Kingdom but also to the nations of Western Europe generally. It was for this reason that the North Atlantic Alliance was founded. Of course, even on this viewing of the situation there is still a substantial numerical imbalance of military strength. Again noble Lords have stressed this, but it has to be remembered that NATO is a defensive Alliance. It exists to deter aggression against its members and, should aggression occur, to defend NATO territory.

To achieve an adequate level of deterrence it is not necessary for NATO to match the Warsaw Pact's impressive military might man for man or gun for gun, so to speak. What is necessary is to demonstrate to the Warsaw Pact countries that in the event of agression against any member country the Alliance as a whole has both the political will and the military capability to inflict enough retaliatory damage to make such a venture not worth while. Though its conventional forces are undeniably smaller than those of the Soviet bloc, NATO deploys for deterrence and defence the full range of capabilities, comprising strategic nuclear, tactical nuclear and conventional forces. This comprehensive armoury would enable the Alliance, in the event of aggression, to employ a mix of forces to suit the size and nature of the attack. For its success this strategy of flexible response depends to a large extent on sufficient NATO conventional forces being stationed in a forward position, so as to react quickly to an attack, to preserve the territorial integrity of member nations and to provide time for diplomatic measures to be brought to bear on an aggressor in an effort to end hostilities.

There are other considerations which have to be taken into account in assessing the effective balance of forces. My noble friend Lord Gordon-Walker effectively spoke about these in his contribution. For example, the quality of Eastern bloc equipment is uneven—at least three generations of battle tank are pressed into service. Furthermore, one should not totally discount the possibility that the Soviet Union could not, and would not, place complete reliance on its allies to support an act of aggression against NATO. An additional factor in the equation is that a substantial proportion of NATO manpower, in particular our own and the United States forces, now consists of professional, all volunteer, regular forces, as opposed to the Warsaw Pact which consists very largely of conscripts. These are imponderables, but overall they are significant factors which much he entered into any comparison between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In other words, the point I am making is that their figures—which leave quality out of account—are not the end of the story.

I turn now to another aspect of our debate—namely, how much we as a nation should be prepared in future to spend on defence. Let me start with some facts. This year the United Kingdom is spending over £6¼ billion on defence. Next year, even after the reduction in the defence budget to which the Motion refers, we shall be spending a similar amount in real terms. Now this is an impressive budget by any standards. The United Kingdom ranks third among its NATO allies as regards the proportion of national wealth devoted to defence. It is no use groaning—these are the facts. From the start, therefore, let us put aside any notion that, as a member of the Alliance, this country is dragging its feet or not bearing a fair share of the economic burden of defence. On the contrary, if every member of NATO contributed in accordance with its financial resources on the same scale as the United Kingdom the problems of the Alliance would be substantially reduced.

Against this background, I should now like to address myself to the first part of the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has moved—that, in view of the military imbalance between NATO and the Soviet bloc forces, the Government should restore the planned reduction in the defence budget for 1978–79 and give an undertaking to increase defence spending in accordance with the guidelines agreed by NATO defence Ministers earlier this year.

I shall take these two subjects separately. First, the reduction in defence spending next year. Noble Lords will recall that this was announced by the Government in December last year as a cut of £230 million in the defence budget planned for 1978–79. That figure was subsequently revalued at £267 million in terms of what we know as 1977 Survey prices. In deciding where this reduction should fall, the Government were guided by the overriding principle that any cuts in the programme which had to be made should be those which would minimise the effect on our front line contribution to NATO and its essential support. On that basis, a number of savings measures were identified during the first half of 1977 and put before our NATO allies to serve, in accordance with our promise, as the basis of consultation.

It was made quite clear to NATO that at that stage the package could be no more than provisional, and that final decisions on the size and composition of savings measures could not be taken until the beginning of 1978 when the work of preparing detailed estimates for the financial year ahead was complete. Only then would we have a clearer picture of the cash flow required for the programme in 1978–79. NATO was also assured that its views on the proposed package would be considered fully by Ministers before final decisions were taken.

NATO's response was frank and constructive. There was naturally concern that we had found it necessary to make a temporary reduction in defence spending, particularly at a time when the Warsaw Pact's military power was growing, and that the 1978–79 reduction was not the first of its kind since the Defence Review of 1974. On the other hand, NATO recognised the economic background of the Government's decision and the thoroughness of our examination of the defence programme to identify measures which would prove the least damaging to the Alliance's defence posture. Our allies had no alternative measures to suggest for achieving the required reduction.

We are now, my Lords, at the stage of preparing final estimates of the cash flow which will be required in 1978–79 to support the defence programme. It is, I am afraid, yet too early to say whether this will confirm the original package of measures in full or suggest one or two alternative ways of adjusting the programme for next year to the defence budget total. The Government will, of course, give an account of their final decisions on the savings measures in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, which will be presented to Parliament in the spring.

The noble Lord's Motion calls for the restoration of the £267 million cut. My Lords, that is something that the Government cannot do. I hear what the noble Lord says about the threat and the various other reasons he has adduced for restoring the defence budget next year to its original level. But the fact is that the reduction of £267 million in defence expenditure is an integral part of the Government's reduction in public expenditure as a whole for next year. In any case, it is not possible to increase expenditure on defence at the drop of a hat. I have over and over again chided the Opposition for their imprecision on cuts in expenditure. The Leader of the Conservative Party in another place has talked over and over again about cuts in public expenditure, but when it comes to defence that is a different matter. The Leader of the Party opposite has never come clean on this matter and I repeat what I have said tonight

In planning the defence programme for 1978–79 we have worked on the assumption that the reduction will take effect. Thus, we have in a number of areas been marking time, so to speak, in order to be able to accommodate as much of the reduction as possible by means of planned deferments and without recourse to cancellations. Having done this, we cannot simply reactivate the original programme some four months before the beginning of the financial year and expect everything to fall into place as if nothing untoward had happened. In other words, however much one may sympathise with the intentions behind the noble Lord's Motion, there are good reasons both of principle and of practice why the Government cannot do as the noble Lord recommends.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Is he telling the House that the Ministry of Defence would actually refuse an extra £267 million if it was offered it? Please will he also explain why it is impossible to restore money to defence when they have already given another £1,000 million on the Budget next year?


My Lords, I do not deny that. However, the Government have decided to make a cut and, as I have said, Ministers are carefully considering this matter and where the cut will fall. I think that answers fully the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. The noble Lord is entitled to lead his Party against these cuts but, as I shall show, on previous occasions the noble Lord has been responsible for many major cuts and so has the Tory Party. This is not the first time that we have had cuts of this kind in defence expenditure. We simply cannot reactivate the original programme some four months before the beginning of the financial year and expect everything to fall into place as if nothing untoward had happened. As I have said, the Government have made their policy clear.

I turn now to the agreement by NATO Ministers earlier this year to aim at an increase in defence expenditure of 3 per cent. per annum in real terms. The noble Lord's motion calls on the Government, if I may quote verbatim, To honour their pledge to NATO". First, there was no "pledge" in the sense in which that word is usually understood but in its place there is a recognition that countries should aim at real annual increases in the region of 3 per cent. What were agreed by NATO Ministers were guidelines for future defence expenditure, and, indeed, it was specifically recognised that for some Member countries their economic circumstances would affect the level of their defence spending. At this stage, I would simply say that the Government are aware of NATO's concern that defence spending by Member countries should grow in real terms. They will also see whether, in the light of economic circumstances, it is possible for the United Kingdom to meet the 3 per cent growth target.

I have not heard any Opposition spokesman in this House or elsewhere say that they would restore the £267 million cut and spend 3 per cent. more a year on defence. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, knows very well that, even if the Tories came into office tomorrow—which they will not—they could not restore the 1978–1979 cut.

The second part of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, draws the attention of this House to the emoluments of the Armed Forces and the need to improve these within the guidelines of the current pay policy. I am grateful to the noble Lords for raising this very important subject. The military salary concept was introduced some years ago, and is now well known. I do not need to go into the detail of how the basic comparisons are worked out. But I would say that it is a very complicated and comprehensive process. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body, which is an independent body reporting to the Prime Minister, gathers the information from many sources and then makes its assessment.

The Government are aware that at present Service pay rates do not reflect full comparability. We and the Armed Forces must await the recommendations of the Review Body. The implementation of the pay award on 1st April next year is bound to take full account of the Government's pay policy, which is itself in the overall national interest. But the Armed Forces should be in no doubt that the Government intend as soon as the situation allows to restore and return them to the fully comparable pay position implicit in the military salary concept.

The Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, rightly draws attention to the disparity, particularly in the Central region of Europe, between the conventional forces deployed by the Warsaw Pact countries and those deployed by NATO. I welcome the emphasis in the Amendment on Britain's contribution to NATO. It was of course the Defence Review, initiated shortly after this Government came into office, which concentrated the United Kingdom's defence effort upon the Alliance. In particular, it was a consequence of the Government's desire to make the most effective use of our Armed Services that the Defence Review identified those areas where they would be most effectively and efficiently deployed.

To enable our Armed Forces to maintain their current effectiveness in their roles, a continuous effort has been made to improve and modernise their equipment. These improvements, which I shall not list now, are all clearly relevant to the tasks assigned by NATO to our Forces. But while we must always prepare ouselves with adequate defensive measures, in collaboration with out allies, against the possibility of any hostile Soviet intentions, we must also pursue vigorously the possibilities open to us for some form of negotiated reductions in the forces deployed in Central Europe, which would genuinely improve stability without harming the security of either side.

It is with this object in mind that we must continue to approach the talks in Vienna on the mutual and balanced reduction of forces in a constructive and positive way. Indeed, the principles on which we have based our demands in these negotiations are carefully designed to secure the agreed objectives of the negotiations and to meet the legitimate defensive needs of the participants. We are, therefore, proposing that the outcome of the negotiations should be the achievement of approximate parity between the ground forces of the two sides so that neither side need feel threatened by the other.

Since advancing proposals at the outset of the talks, the West has further developed its position by offering to withdraw significant numbers of United States nuclear weapons from the area, without requiring any further cuts from the East. It is extremely unfortunate that the Soviet Union have not so far taken the constructive attitude and have stuck to their original demands which would have the effect of contractualising the present force imbalance, albeit at a slightly lower level of force. But although progress has so far been disappointing, we must continue to strive for a satisfactory outcome by demonstrating to the East that the solidarity of Western participants will not allow the equitable principles on which our demands are based to be undermined by delay and prevarication.

The Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, does two things. It makes the pertinent point that decisions on the defence budget cannot be divorced from wider considerations of the country's economic wellbeing. That is a proposition from which, I venture to suggest, few noble Lords would dissent, and the noble Lord's reminder is therefore timely. Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, has drawn attention to the courage and determination of members of all three Services who are involved in firefighting duties during the firemen's strike. I, too, should like to pay tribute to them and also to those serving in Northern Ireland.

If I may, I should like to reply to one or two of the matters raised in the debate. I cannot cover every point. I have listened to practically the whole of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that, in response to the Warsaw Pact threat, the Government have cut £600 million from last year's defence budget, £953 million from this year's budget, £1,200 million from next year's budget and, at 1976 prices, a total of £8,400 million up to 1983. It is quite true that in the economic circumstances facing them the Government have reduced the inflated long-term programme which they inherited from the Tories. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, chose 1976 prices and produced some dramatic figures.

However, as I said earlier, defence cuts are not a new phenomenon. The noble Lord was a distinguished member of a Government and he supported defence cuts. If we take figures at 1977 prices, we have a picture which shows that actual expenditure on the defence budget for 1969–70 was £6,555 million; for 1972–73 it was £6,505 million; for 1973–74 it was £6,415 million. In 1974–1975 it was only £6,164 million as a result of the cuts in the defence budget for 1974–1975 of no less than £510 million which the Tories announced in the course of one year—1973. One could go on giving examples.

I should like to answer one or two other points. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, said that the British Army of the Rhine needed 2,500 more men. The British Army of the Rhine is currently undergoing a major restructuring which will improve the weapon-to-man-ratio and thus improve efficiency. My Lords, this is no laughing matter. Extensive trials have generally validated the new organisation. It is only to be expected that we shall identify the need for some adjustments as the reorganisation is implemented, but these are likely to be minor. We acknowledge that commitments have caused strain in the Armed Forces, particularly in the Army, and the Government have means of alleviating the position under constant review.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked whether it was the Government's intention to use the Cruise missile as an alternative to present Polaris submarines when they become obsolete. The Government have no plans to develop a long-range Cruise missile system or to develop a new strategic deterrent. We have no plans to replace Polaris, which has many years of effective life yet. The noble Lord also asked me whether the Government support the proposal being made that the neutron bomb should be included in NATO. One of our nuclear options is the so-called neutron bomb. It is not true to say that that bomb would kill people and leave property intact. Its effects are limited to the battlefield and would thus prevent injuries to civilians and friendly forces. That is all I can say at this stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Bourne, chided the Government for their considerable expenditure on nationalised industries. I would say to him that the nationalised steel industry is vital to defence, as are the coal and energy industries and so also is the strength of our economy. What is happening now? Under this Labour Government the economy will be put right. We can only afford adequate defence if we have a strong economy. It is for that reason that we reject the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

8.39 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Shepherd shall he agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents 70; Not-Contents, 166.

Ardwick, L. Hale, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Aylestone, L. Harris of Greenwich, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Birk, B. Henderson, L. Raglan, L.
Brimelow, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Segal, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Jacobson, L. Serota, B.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Jacques, L. Shackleton, L.
Champion, L. Janner, E. Shepherd, L.
Collison, L. Kagan, L. Snow, L.
Crook, L. Kirkhill, L. Stedman, B.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Leatherland, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stone, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Diamond, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Vaizey, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. McCarthy, L. Wall, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. McCluskey, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor) Maelor, L. Walston, L.
Fisher of Camden, L. Melchett, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Gardiner, L. Morris of Kenwood, L. White, B.
Gordon-Walker, L. Noel-Baker, L. Wilson of High Wray, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Northfield, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Greene of Harrow Weald, L. Oram, L. Winterbottom, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Pargiter, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Gregson, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal)
Addison, L, Drumalbyn, L. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Adrian, L. Dulverton, L. Howe, E.
Ailsa, M. Duncan-Sandys, L. Hunt of Fawley, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Ebbisham, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Eccles, V. Inglewood, L.
Amory, V. Effingham, E. Kemlsey, V.
Ampthill, L. Elgin and Kincardine, E. Killearn, L.
Auckland, L. Ellenborough, L. Kinnaird, L.
Audley, L. Elles, B. Kinnoull, E.
Avon, E. Elliot of Harwood, B. Kinross, L.
Baker, L. Elton, L. Lauderdale, E.
Balerno, L. Exeter, M. Liverpool, E.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Faithfull, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Banks, L. Falkland, V. Luke, L.
Barnby, L. Falmoutn, V. Lyell, L.
Belstead, L. Ferrers, E. McFadzean, L.
Bledisloe, V. Forester, L. Mancroft, L.
Boothby, L. Fortescue, E. Margadale, L.
Bourne, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Mersey, V.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Furness, V. Middleton, L.
Bradford, E. Gage, V. Monck, V.
Bridgeman, V. Gainford, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Gainsborough, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Garner, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Brookeborough, V. Gisborough, L. Morris, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gladwyn, L. Mottistone, L.
Burton, L. Glasgow, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Camoys, L. Glendevon, L. Nelson of Stafford, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Glenkinglas, L. Noel-Buxton, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Gore-Booth, L. Northchutch, B.
Carrington, L. Gowrie, E. Northesk, E.
Cathcart, E. Gray, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Chalfont, L. Greenway, L. O'Hagan, L.
Chelwood, L. Grey, E. Orr-Ewing, L.
Chesham, L. Gridley, L. Pender, L.
Clitheroe, L. Grimthorpe, L. Penrhyn, L.
Cobham, V. Haig, E. Rankeillour, L.
Cottesloe, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Reading, M.
Croft, L. Renwick, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Hampton, L. Rochdale, V.
Daventry, V. Hanworth, V. Romney, E.
Davidson, V. Harmer-Nicholls, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
de Clifford, L. Hatherton, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Hereford, V. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Deramore, L. Home of the Hirsel, L. St. Davids, V.
St. Helens, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V. Trenchard, V.
Sandys, L. Sudeley, L. Trevelyan, L.
Seear, B. Suffield, L. Vickers, B.
Sempill, Ly. Swansea, L. Vivian, L.
Sharples, B. Swinfen, L. Wade, L.
Skelmersdale, L. Terrington, L. Waldegrave, E.
Slim, V. Teviot, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Stamp, L. Thomas, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Strathclyde, L. Thorneycroft, L. Westbury, L.
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Torphichen, L. Winstanley, L.
Strathspey, L. Trefgarne, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

8.50 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will take note of the general feeling about the need for adequate defence in order to ensure the security of our country. I am less influenced by what I have heard in the course of a debate than I have been in the past two years as chairman of the All-Party Defence Group listening to military experts from all parts of the world, including those from the Warsaw Pact. The only other observation I wish to make is that I take

note of what my noble friend said about the intention of the Government to take into account what has been said in the course of the debate about the need for remedying defects in payment et cetera to members of our Forces, and I hope that something will be done in that regard. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

8.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the original Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 163; Not-Contents, 71.

Addison, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Gridley, L.
Adrian, L. Daventry, V. Grimthorpe, L.
Ailsa, M. Davidson, V. Haig, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. de Clifford, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Denham, L. [Teller]
Amory, V. Deramore, L. Hampton, L.
Ampthill, L. Drumalbyn, L. Hanworth, V.
Auckland, L. Dulverton, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Audley, L. Duncan-Sandys, L. Hatherton, L.
Avon, E. Ebbisham, L. Hereford, V.
Baker, L. Eccles, V. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Balerno, L. Effingham, E. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Elgin and Kincardine, E. Howe, E.
Banks, L. Ellenborough, L. Hunt of Fawley, L.
Barnby, L. Elles, B. Hylton-Foster, B.
Belstead, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Inglewood, L.
Bledisloe, V. Elton, L. Kemsley, V.
Boothby, L. Exeter, M. Killearn, L.
Bourne, L. Faithfull, B. Kinnaird, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Falkland, V. Kinnoull, E.
Bradford, E. Falmouth, V. Kinross, L.
Bridgeman, V. Ferrers, E. Lauderdale, E.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Forester, L. Liverpool, E.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Fortescue, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Brookeborough, V. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Luke, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Furness, V. Lyell, L.
Burton, L. Gage, V. McFadzean, L.
Camoys, L. Gainford, L. Mancroft, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gainsborough, E. Margadale, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Gisborough, L. Mersey, V.
Carrington, L. Gladwyn, L. Middleton, L.
Cathcart, E. Glasgow, E. Monck, V.
Chalfont, L. Glendevon, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Chelwood, L. Glenkinglas, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Chesham, L. Gore-Booth, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Clitheroe, L. Gowrie, E. Morris, L.
Cobham, V. Gray, L. Mottistone, L.
Cottesloe, L. Greenway, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Croft, L. Grey, E. Nelson of Stafford, L.
Northchurch, B. Sandys, L. Teviot, L.
Northesk, E. Seear, B. Thomas, L.
O'Hagan, L. Sempill, Ly. Thorneycroft, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Sharples, B. Torphichen, L.
Pender, L. Skelmersdale, L. Trefgarne, L.
Penrhyn, L. Slim, V. Trenchard, V.
Rankeillour, L. Stamp, L. Trevelyan, L.
Reading, M. Strathclyde, L. Vickers, B.
Renwick, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Vivian, L.
Rochdale, V. Strathspey, L. Wade, L.
Romney, E. Stuart of Findhorn, V. Waldegrave, E.
Russell of Liverpool, L. Sudeley, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Suffield, L. Ward of Witley, V.
St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller] Swansea, L. Westbury, L.
St. Davids, V. Swinfen, L. Winstanley, L.
St. Helens, L. Terrington, L.
Ardwick, L. Hale, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Aylestone, L. Harris of Greenwich, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Birk, B. Henderson, L. Segal, L.
Brimelow, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Serota, B.
Brockway, L. Jacobson, L. Shackleton, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Jacques, L. Shepherd, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Janner, L. Shinwell, L.
Champion, L. Kagan, L. Snow, L.
Collison, L. Kirkhill, L. Stedman, B.
Crook, L. Leatherland, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stone, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller] Strabolgi, L. [Teller]
Davies of Penrhys, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Lovell-Davis, L. Vaizey, L.
Diamond, L. McCarthy, L. Wall, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. McCluskey, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Maelor, L. Walston, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Melchett, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Fisher of Camden, L. Morris of Kenwood, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Gardiner, L. Noel-Baker, L. White, B.
Gordon-Walker, L. Northfield, L. Wigg, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Oram, L. Wilson of High Wray, L.
Greene of Harrow Weald, L. Pargiter, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal) Winterbottom, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.